By Michael R. Shannon
I have seen humanity's future and its cargo. Not shipping cargo, but being cargo. One cannot pick up the newspaper without discovering a new area of transportation where human control will soon be superfluous.
I don't know whether to blame the auto–pilot or Roomba.
So much of flying today takes place while the aircraft is on auto that some safety experts believe the human pilots are at a disadvantage — due to lack of hands–on practice — when they have to seize control in an emergency.
AP reports Government Motors is working on a self–driving car in cooperation with Lyft that will automatically apply for a government bailout when the car is involved in a crash. Even better, if any of the humans at fault are illegal, the car's CPU will file an emergency asylum request.
Google is hard at work on a self–driving car just perfect for anyone that's ever considered human cannonball as a career option. The control freaks there are lobbying Congress to grant the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration "special, expedited permission" to allow it to sell cars that don't have steering wheels or brake pedals.
Even if you refuse to relinquish your steering wheel until its pried from your cold, dead, flattened hands — programmers can still affect your driving experience. Daimler, a major auto manufacturer from the country that gave the world the Panzer, is part of an umbrella body in Europe working on the self–driving truck.
AFP says the concept is called "'truck platooning' similar to concepts with self-driving cars" only there will be two to three trucks driving in a convoy where the lead truck determines the route, speed and who gets mashed on the way — much like the elephant march in the movie Dumbo.
Think of a traffic jam that has the power to move independently and is never cleared.
Melanie Schultz van Haegen, a cheerful EU bureaucrat, speaks with certainty when she says, "Truck platooning will ensure cleaner and more efficient transport. Self–driving vehicles also contribute to road safety because most accidents are caused by human failure." Meaning regardless of how it occurs, any time a "truck platoon" runs over your car, it's your insurance rates that will be increasing.
There's no refuge on the ocean either. The Telegraph has discovered Rolls' marine unit is developing "drone ships." These automated leviathans are destined to be controlled from land bases as they cruise from port to port. Rolls predicts the S.S. GetOutofMyWay will be in commercial use by the end of this decade.
"Sensors such as radar, lasers and computer programs will allow the ships to pilot themselves, with shore-based captains taking over if there is a problem or for complex docking procedures."
Don't let that reference to "complex docking procedures" get your hopes up for maintaining a modicum of control in your robot vehicle. The Israelis are working on taking that away, too.
Israel21c found the Unitronics Group is automating parking garages. Here's how it works: If the programmers at Google approve and you're allowed to go there in your self–driving vehicle, the car is directed into a 20' X 20' entry bay. At which point you need to step lively, because a "Unitronics robot scoots under the car, engages the wheels and lifts the vehicle" into it's parking spot.
No speed–demon valet parking attendants. No cellphone–under–the–ear idiot banging their door into your car. No car burglaries.
To retrieve the auto you swipe a credit card through the terminal and if your carbon footprint for that day is low enough, the car takes you home.
No wonder the Mail Online predicts if current trends continue — lack of exercise, gluttony and the common belief that a 16 oz. bag of Fritos is a single serving — "by 2025 18 percent of the world's men and 21 percent of women will be obese."
You may not even be able to use a Lark scooter to get to your car, if your waist is too large. But tech can solve that problem. Amazon is building robots that can load even the biggest cargo into the proper transportation. And Prime members will be able to choose between headfirst or feet first.
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at mandate.mmpr (at) gmail.com. He is also the author of Conservative Christian's Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!).