In National Review, Charles C.W. Cooke notes that driverless cars are right around the corner, and any day now the busybodies, the improvers, reformers, and holier-than-thous are going to begun to demand that we all turn in our driver’s licenses and car keys and use only safer, robotic self-driving cars controlled by a grand central intelligence, designed and supervised by scientific experts. If they succeed in getting their way, Americans are going to be a lot less free.
[E]veryone will suffer from the catastrophic loss of privacy. Any network of self-driving cars would, by definition, necessitate total and unceasing tracking of their occupants. I may know how to get to the local liquor store without a map, but my car most certainly does not. To make it there in a driverless model, Iâ€™d first have to tell it where I was going, and then it would have to ask the Internet, and the satellites, and, probably, my credit card. To the existing framework we would thus be adding a planet-wrapping exoskeleton with a perfect digital memory. The car, far from serving as a liberator, would become a telescreen on wheels â€” an FBI-approved bug, to be slipped beneath the chassis in plain sight of the surveilled. At a stroke, my autonomy would be gone. Without permission from the Web, I would be lost in space. A mere server glitch could render me immobile. The government, should it so choose, could stop me dead in my tracks. Yet again, I would be handing over my self-reliance to the government and to the corporations, and asking, plaintively, â€œPlease sir, may I move?â€
I refuse. …
he coming debate over driving is not really about driving at all, but about movement, autonomy, and reliance upon oneâ€™s self. Which is to say that the root question is whether free people are to be permitted to move themselves around without needing somebody else to agree to the transaction, or whether the government may interpose itself. This, naturally, is a perennial inquiry, not a contingent one. It would have been as pertinent in 1790 if there had been an anti-horse movement, and it will be necessary when the car has been replaced with the jetpack, or the rotocopter, or whatever is coming our way. May I move myself, or may I not?