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Jack Russells and Autonomous Cars

March 8, 2014

Back when Laura and I were living in Northern Virginia, we were walking around Old Town Alexandria one sunny Sunday afternoon. Outside a Starbuck’s on King Street, a woman stood wrangling two puppies. One was a skinny, Italian breed (as we later learned) that was so shy it would not get out from behind its master’s leg when Laura tried to pet it. The other was a Jack Russell, and as you might imagine it was not quite as shy.

In fact, of course, the Jack was jumping up and down, yanking at its leash, intrigued with everything around it. Laura’s problem in trying to pet it wasn’t the puppy’s reticence; it was trying to find a moment when the dog was still enough to be petted!

We chatted with the woman, who turned out to be a breeder/trainer, and with regard to the Jack Russell, she said,  “Oh, they’re great dogs, you just have to learn how to channel their energy.”

It was then we decided that if we ever got a dog, it would NOT be a Jack Russell. We flattered ourselves thinking we had better things to do than to figure out how to channel a dog’s energy.

Roll forward a number of years. We now seem to be faced with a cadre of people who think it would be a good idea if your car drove itself, at least part of the time, starting with freeways. (Google is a major proponent, an investor, by the way.) In any case, whatever you might think about the concept–and especially the reality–of “autonomous,” or self-driving, cars, a recent experience put what I suspect is a little-thought-about aspect of this possibility into focus for me.

Laura and I were on Interstate 75 heading to Naples, FL at about 4:00 in the afternoon. Traffic was heavy, but moving at the speed limit or better, when I noticed in my rear view mirror an older gold-colored Honda Accord with rims sticking out way past the side bodywork seriously weaving in and out of traffic. This wasn’t your garden variety weaving, as practiced fairly regularly in South Florida and elsewhere, this was professional grade, two lanes or more at a time and virtually no space into which to slide, but did it anyway, repeatedly.

In addition to thinking the usual why is there never a cop for this but I’ll probably get a ticket for going 81 in a 70, another, very different thought crossed my mind:  When we do get self-driving cars, how are we ever going to channel the energy of guys like this?

Now forgive me for being unkind (not to mention practicing psychiatry without a license), but my impression of such drivers (this one was male, and they usually are, although that seems to be changing a bit lately) is that they’re probably not the brightest folks in the world and are likely unhappy, unsuccessful people who feel they have to show the world how much better they are than everyone else in some way. Also, perhaps at least some of them are anti-social, dangerous in other ways, too, and possibly even criminal.

Anyway, if we were to take away their (perhaps only?) opportunity to “express” themselves/blow off steam, by eliminating their ability to demonstrate their extraordinary driving skills in such ways, what then?  How would they channel their energy? And what effect would it have on the rest of us?  I could speculate, but the fact is I have a bad feeling that whatever the answer turned out to be, the police and something more than a moving violation would be involved.

Self-driving cars are NOT a good idea, and this is yet another reason.

Okay, well, since this is a writer’s blog, I suppose I should mention that I’m about a third finished with my final read-through of the new Carina Quintana Mystery, Loose Canon.  Next step, Laura as usual gets to be the first person to read it. Hopefully, it’ll be published sometime in April.






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One Comment
  1. Robert permalink

    Enjoyed this post!

    Robert Gittess


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