WELCOME TO THE FUTURE
A (W.T2.F.) Sunday Series
–Short Story Time–
Looking out at downtown Los Angeles, Andy calmly observes the rare rain that streams down the windows of his auto car, and the thick fog that has made the city center resemble one of the many bleak landscapes of Blade Runner 2049.
This Monday night, traffic’s slow during the early hours of the morning. Occasionally a few cars zip by, but for the most part the roads are clear as Los Angelenos enjoy the advantages of their IOVs*.
A city known for its collection of luxury vehicles, it’s usually only these roadsters that zip by over the speed limit, autopilot disabled as the over zealous drivers enjoy the thrill of a turbo engine.
Of course there are exceptions to this class of speedy driver, as Andy observes an old truck zoom past. He doesn’t recognize the insignia, and chances are it’s one of the old HOV only vehicles that is just as rare a sighting as a rainy day in the city of angels.
His mind on this now, Andy considers these recent transformations in transportation. It was about 20 odd years ago that car dealerships partnered with tech companies to help owners refurbish HOVs with an add-on IOV system. As a full conversion ratio was absolutely ideal to safely integrate driverless roadways, it was only after a short period of time that the conversion process was heavily discounted, or offered with the option of interest free monthly payment plans.
Not only did the fair price appeal to consumers, but it saved manufacturers many legal battles and headaches down the road. The cross-over of HOVs and IOVs made too complex an arena for the IOV systems to operate without frequent accidents.
Just as Andy is about to reminisce to back in the days of good old stick shift, or to the near future of flying cars in mass production, a sudden screech interrupts the Max Richter melody that plays loud through the PorschAI stereos.
Thank goodness this is one of the rare times Andy obeyed the seat-belt regulations, as he’s thrown towards the front of the car.
What in the world?!
The air knocked out of his lungs, Andy staggers deep breaths and gathers his senses. “Open door” he pants, when he can finally breath again.
Outside, Andy sees that his car had swerved to dodge the lanes ahead that are entirely blocked in a three car accident. One, the speeding luxury Impala IOV, two the sleek red IOV that had dashed behind in what must have been some ego driven race, and three, the old HOV van.
The luxury vehicles must have slowed down in a stare off for the old HOV to have gotten anywhere near their tails, thinks Andy.
When the air ambulance and cops arrive (they had all taken to the sky pre-IOVs), they clumsily rush to tend to the other drivers. Now, the third rarity of the day has officially occurred- a car crash with a fatality.
Later, the cops fill in the details of the confusing scene. Apparently, a group of several pedestrians had run across the freeway ahead without looking for oncoming cars. The sports car drivers were alerted by the car AI and they slowed to a crawl as the hurtling HOV then crashed into them at top speed, unprepared for the hold up.
Luckily, the driver of the HOV had survived, but the driver of the speedy Impala was crushed as his car was plowed into the side rail. The Impala’s AI would have been aware of the oncoming vehicle, but with the pedestrians on the road ahead, it was unable to pull away and out of danger.
At the end of the day, it was the car AI that sealed the fate of the luxury car driver. In a tricky situation such as this, the system had run its code of ones and zeros, and came to the conclusion that the risk of impact, rather than plowing through the small group of pedestrians, was the most logical output action.
But what would the driver’s family say about this? What about the public, or the software developers? Andy wonders how the case will be resolved.
As another version of the Trolley Dilemma, there’s no doubt that unanimity would be a challenge.
A (W.T2.F.) Series
*IOV: Intelligently Operated Vehicle- as opposed to a HOV, or human operated vehicle. These signs (HOV +2) line the roadways in Los Angeles so that carpoolers can take advantage of an exclusive lane, while vehicles with single occupants line bumper to bumper in the alternative lanes during rush hours.