Self Driving Car Fan Fiction

Lobbyists for Autonomous Vehicle companies (Waymo, GM Cruise, Amazon, etc.) are scrambling across every state in America to promote unproven benefits of AVs, and to craft state and federal laws that favor AV manufacturers, putting consumers at risk and keeping local authorities powerless.

FICTION: "China is going to beat the US!"

While it is clear that China poses a security threat, any suggestion that China is approaching a competitive advantage over the US automated vehicle industry is sheer nonsense.  China and a number of other nations are working to develop AVs, but our review of the industry suggests that US AV companies are far ahead of China. They are not only backed by traditional auto manufacturer and supplier giants in the US, Europe, and Japan, but also being touted by Google, Apple, Amazon and a number of other tech behemoths.

Security concerns can be addressed by mandating strong vehicle cybersecurity rules - there are currently none in place thanks to the auto industry's continued resistance. These rules should be put in place regardless of whether AVs ever prove to be a safe and proven form of transportation for Americans. As our cars turn into computers on wheels, it is critical that vehicle manufacturers get with the program, or the results could be disastrous.

Should the US loosen safety regulations so that we can mimic a one-party communist dictatorship with a history of disregard for human life, to enable investment in and production of vehicles with as-yet unproven benefits? Kyle Vogt, teenage fan of self driving cars, and current CEO of GM Cruise seems to think so.  We have a better suggestion, make your cars safer AND secure from foreign and domestic threats, instead of supporting measures that lower the bar for public safety.


FICTION: “Autonomous vehicles are a game changer for people with disabilities"

cropped image of man using wheelchair on street

We would really like that to be the case one day and hope that it becomes a reality, but right now this vision of what AVs MAY provide in the future is being used to promote legislation that ultimately harms consumers and could negatively impact other federal and state laws intended to protect people with disabilities.

There is little evidence that current AVs are providing (or actually even being equipped to provide) any real benefits to people with disabilities.  Ensuring that automated vehicles provide these services in the future in a manner that benefits people with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs and other assisted devices will require strong federal, state, and local regulations. Guess who is lobbying to eliminate state and local laws from applying to automated vehicles?

We believe that the aspirational future benefits touted by the AV industry should not outweigh the safety of people on our roads today, and that loosening current laws and regulations to enable this future fantasy will ultimately harm everyone using America’s roads.

FICTION: "Within 10 years, driving will be a hobby like riding horses is today."

Another real gem from GM Cruise’s CEO.  If Elon Musk has taught us anything, it’s that self-driving prophecies don’t age well over the decades, and this one is no different. The idea that Americans will have abandoned vehicles with traditional controls in a decade is sheer lunacy.

The truth is that the act of driving a car is nowhere close to becoming a hobby, and for many of us it remains a chore, which is why the promise of autonomy makes so many people want to believe that “it” is already here.  Not having to drive may sound like a great thing – but safe autonomy remains many years away, and particularly so outside of major cities. If you live in rural America – keep your horse and your steering wheel – you will need them!

Horse photo

FICTION: "Humans are terrible drivers."

Man that might be a poor driver
Maybe this human is a terrible driver.

Terrible is a bit extreme, although some human drivers certainly qualify. Are humans imperfect? Sure. According to NHTSA's data there were 1.34 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles travelled (VMT) in 2020. We want that rate to be much smaller, but it in no way supports the "terrible human driver" myth. That 1.34 fatalities per 100 million VMT includes the worst driving performed by mankind - drunk, drugged, distracted, reckless, fleeing police, and driving in some of the worst conditions imaginable.  Meanwhile, GM Cruise vehicles are interfering with police officers and emergency responders at the rate of once every 15,000 miles.

The AV industry has been shamelessly repeating this "terrible human driver" idea for more than a decade now.  It is nothing more than a false dilemma created to mislead the public and policymakers.

Bottom Line: No AV manufacturer has ever provided the public with data suggesting that they can meet even the lowest bar for safe driving. In our opinion, automated vehicles are not even close to performing as well as the average human driver, much less a well-trained, safety conscious driver, in an equivalent set of on-road miles.

FICTION: The AV industry can regulate itself

Despite decades of evidence suggesting that we should do otherwise when it comes to safety, AV manufacturers want people to trust them to do the right thing as they roll out hundreds of thousands of vehicles exempt from federal safety standards onto city streets across America.  That's not good enough - without federal rules to require detailed and independent evaluations of these vehicles, Americans will have little assurance that vehicles have been tested and validated to ensure safety.

FACT: AV’s never drive distracted, drowsy, or drunk.

That’s a fact! But consider this - no human driver’s judgment has ever been compromised by a cyber breach, software defect, short circuit, data bus timing error, or artificial intelligence training error. Those are serious concerns with AVs, not to mention the vehicles on the road today, and require stronger regulations in place to ensure reliability and security of vehicle electronics.

The reality of Self Driving Cars

Automated vehicles continue to disrupt traffic and risk public safety in the communities in which they currently operate. They often present police and emergency responders, as well as everyone else on or near the road, with novel situations that humans ultimately end up solving.

The people most affected by AV deployment are finding that local voices are being ignored as the industry continues to seek passage of laws that make cities and ultimately states powerless.  All of this to boost an industry that remains highly speculative, is far from proven safe and has yet to show true human benefits.  We don’t believe that humans should be used as test subjects in corporate experiments on our streets, and are urging our members and friends to speak up on the issue of unproven automation - you never know when it's coming to your neighborhood!

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