I think the author here is probably right:
At some point in the future, be it years, decades, or a century hence, the federal government will seek to ban driving.
At first blush the idea of a ban on driving sounds nuts. But it’s really not so far-fetched. Self driving cars will inevitably -probably not soon, but someday – be much safer on the road than human-driven cars. Robots *shouldn’t* get drunk, distracted or just plain stupid. It will be easy to argue that humans shouldn’t be allowed to drive, since it’s just plain unsafe. And by that point, it will probably be a reasonably popular opinion, held by a good fraction of the voting and non-driving public. hell, right now there are major cities were sizable fractions of the populations don’t drive, don’t own cars, wouldn’t even dream of it, because there are systems in place to transport them easily and quickly to the small, restricted set of destinations that they’ve been trained to accept as the only places worth going.
Science fiction has touched on this. The movie “I, Robot” had self-driving cars that could switch to manual… but it was considered nuts to do so.
And *reality* has already touched on this, sorta. A few years ago a California gun club and a Maryland gun shop made themselves *extremely* unpopular with the firearms-owning community by announcing that they were going to carry a new “smart gun,” the Armatix iP1. This is a pistol that can only be fired if the shooter is wearing a specific electronic wristband. Why did this raise a ruckus? It wasn’t that people were PO’ed that a gun shop was going to carry a really expensive, very complex pistol of potentially dubious reliability in emergency situations, it was due to a quirk in New Jersey law. The “New Jersey Childproof Handgun Law” said that three years from the introduction of a “smart gun,” the *only* pistols that would be legally allowed to be sold in New Jersey would be smart guns. So by introducing the Armatix iP1 in California, New Jersey handgun buyers would soon be forced to buy from a narrow list only really expensive pistols. This would effectively bar handguns from the poor… all based on the idea that electronic guns are safer than purely manual ones. The kerfuffle seemed to eventually blow over, but the problem remains.
The same sort of thing seems likely to happen with robocars at some point. No doubt some city, county or state will pass a law that says that once robocars are proven to be safer than manual cars, after a set period *only* robocars will be sold or allowed on the road. And a *lot* of people will be ok with that. A whole lot of people *now* are perfectly fine with the idea that safety trumps liberty. People will be happy to turn over the drudgery of driving to the robots, happily giving up the freedom that comes from driving wherever the heck you like by your own will… without having Big Brother constantly aware of every detail of your movements. And happily trading convenience for the knowledge that at a moments notice your car could decide to take you not where you want to go, but where some controlling authority wants you to go.
Self driving cars are far too useful of a technology to try to stop. But it’s never too early to tr to figure out what the problems with any new technology will be and to nip them in the bud. As the article suggests, a good approach may be to pre-emptively pass laws that make it illegal to ban manual driving.