Local Government

Self-Driving Cars Could Destroy Fine-Based City Government. What's the Downside?

Increasing automation limits the ability of authorities to profit off human error.


But who will pay the fines to pay the people who are supposed to build the roads, but don't?

One of the propelling concepts behind self-driving cars isn't just innovation for the sake of innovation, leading us to our sci-fi Jetsons future. If successfully implemented, it will make ground travel safer, particularly in higher population areas, increase transportation efficiency and ultimately human productivity.

But there's one little problem, noted by the government analysts of the Brooking Institution and subsequently highlighted by Wired: Local governments have become increasingly dependent on human screw-ups as a way to raise money. Speeding tickets. DUI citations. Parking violations. Those are all big money-makers for municipalities that could very well go away under a regime of self-driving cars. That's billions of dollars of revenue across the country. And that's not all the money governments could lose:

On top of that, if the theory that self-driving cars will lead people to own fewer cars holds up, revenue from registration fees will drop as well.

Again, great news for people who don't like, or can't afford, paying fines and fees. But that money finances things like transportation infrastructure and maintenance, public schools, judicial salaries, domestic violence advocacy, conservation, and many other public services, the report notes.

What an interesting list of government-financed uses they've chosen. Notice they left off "Poorly made third-party database software that will stop working properly in less than three years and that was purchased from somebody belonging to the same frat as the assistant city manager," "police abuse settlements," and "blatant pension spiking." And, as is so often the case, the argument acts as though just because the government collects revenue for these purposes that the government is actually spending the revenue on these tasks. If you think the $161 million in parking tickets Los Angeles collected last year is actually improving the roads here, I invite you to contribute to my GoFundMe page to purchase new shock absorbers for my car. And hiking gear for some of our sidewalks.

The report also notes that on the plus side, car crashes do have public costs, and those costs will go down as well. Responses to traffic accidents cost taxpayers billions each year. But this benefit will likely become a problem of its own because it means there will be lest demand or need for a significant number of public safety personnel, and just imagine how difficult it's going to be to eliminate those positions.

If vehicles become more efficient fuel-wise and there is much less revenue from fines and human error, it may naturally end up having to push governments to pay for infrastructure by taxing travelers based on use of roads, not through punitive systems or fuel taxes. The big fear would be government using a mileage tax as a supplement to other revenue generators rather than a replacement, trying to milk even more money out of citizens.

There's much more to the Brookings Institution report besides self-driving cars. The title of the report is "Local government 2035: Strategic trends and implications of new technologies." It talks about drone use and predicts that, if Amazon's experimentation for short-distance drone deliveries takes off, it could be the final nail in the coffin for the United States Postal Service (certainly something worth celebrating). It talks about fears of job losses due to the rise of computerization and automation. The report does not approach the subject with fear or with the idea that the government could or should stop such transitions, but rather with the abstract concept that local governments need to plan ahead, though this is not the kind of planning ahead governments are good at (see above: expensive, broken database programs purchased based on connections—and also Solyndra).

The report notes the growth of Bitcoin and the massive sharing economy, actually urging cities not to fear it and find places where government and private goals align (jobs—even short-term, "gig"-oriented ones). But then there is that one pesky issue, the reason why services offered through the "sharing economy" tend to be cheaper than what's being offered by the stagnant wage culture. It's the government, of course:

"A reason for local governments' unfavorable reaction to the sharing economy is the inability to tax most of these technologies. This is important because there's a lot of money to be made. The U.S. Travel Association reported that business and leisure travelers spent $887.9 billion in 2013, generating $134 billion in taxes."

The government's inability to tax such services means that participants on all sides of the sharing economy get to keep more of their money, which makes it all more accessible to the poor.

Then there's a section on "income inequality" where things get really weird, considering how much of the report is about how government gets revenue and from whom. After repeating the tiresome talking point and unlikely claim that the "middle class is disappearing," the report states:

"While these problems have existed for decades, recent places like Ferguson and Baltimore highlight that many communities are near a tipping point that, when reached, will manifest itself in violence, civil disobedience, extensive property damage, and long-term damage to the fabric of the community."

From this point, the report goes on to talk about how the number of billionaires have doubled and the number of people who have less than $10,000 in wealth, while anybody who has actually paid attention to Ferguson and Baltimore's governments are wondering how the hell the report got to this space.

Is Brookings actually trying to blame the gap between billionaires and the poor for the racial tension in Ferguson? Which venture capitalist was it who told the Ferguson police to step up fine collection to rake in more money for the city's coffers? Which hedge fund manager invented the bureaucratic court system in Ferguson and other St. Louis County cities designed to wring every last cent from any indigent minority who couldn't afford an attorney? Which Wall Street "fat cat" is adding additional fees to every little fine so that getting pulled over for something as simple as not signaling a turn could end up costing hundreds of dollars for somebody who could end up losing his license and his ability to even work?

The "one percent" may play a role in how horribly the poor are treated in communities like Ferguson and Baltimore, but the "one percent" we are talking about all have gotten their wealth by working for and running these very cities. It's absolutely remarkable after pointing out how cities stand to lose fine revenue thanks to technological innovation, these report writers completely, bafflingly fail to make any connection between fine-mongering and its impact on its poorer citizens.

It's all the more important that cities be forced to reckon with this mentality as the technological innovation from driverless cars pushes forward. Why? Because just like every cutting edge technology, it will be the richer citizens who are able to take advantage of it first. Eventually it will filter down to everybody else (go check out the prices for HDTVs these days), but until then, the first folks who will benefit from having to deal with less risk of police tickets and citations would be the rich. And that means, unless they are unwilling to make cutbacks, cities will be pressured to target their poorer citizens even more to make up for the losses. Cities will claim it's all for roads and infrastructure, but we all know by now it's often to maintain government salaries and pensions even as cities reduce their level of services.

Read the full Brookings Institution report here.

(Hat tip to CharlesWT)

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  1. Notice they left off "Poorly made third-party database software that will stop working properly in less than three years and that was purchased from somebody belonging to the same frat as the assistant city manager," "police abuse settlements," and "blatant pension spiking."

    Of course. Whenever a town has a budget shortfall, the first thing they do is threaten to sack the firemen.

    1. I saw a fireman shopping for groceries today and wondered whether they ever grow tired of people stopping them, shaking their hands, and thanking them for their (at least here, relatively well compensated) "service".

      1. The day they do get tired of the accolades is the day they start doing their shopping in mufti.

      2. Not a fireman, but when I was an active duty Marine I did start rolling my eyes at that stuff. It's such a cheap form of patting yourself on the back.

  2. You'll have to pardon my skepticism about the outcome of this - I try never to underestimate the shitheels' ability to figure out how to separate citizens from their money.

    1. Exactly that. The rise of Waze is already making speed traps obsolete. That will just mean they will find a new way to fine people.

      And self driving cars are further off than people think. The google cars are driving on roads that have been completely mapped in 3D. It is not really a self driving car. It is a dumb machine that has been given a really accurate map. That is great and all but it is not the same as a car that can see and react to its environment such that it doesn't need a 3D map.

      1. I think that's going to seem true, given the apparent current state of the art, right up until the moment it isn't. Self-driving cars have come a very long way in an incredibly short time. I watched an early DARPA autonomous car competition where the race was solely about getting cars to drive in a straight line or something very basic like that.

        1. It is an enormously difficult problem to get a machine to perceive and react to its environment. Perceive how? With what? Radar? That is okay if you only need to see blobs. Laser? That is good for distance but you still have to translate all of that information into binary form and then write some kind of unGodly algorithm so that the thing reacts to different objects appropriately.

          The 3D maps are an enormous shortcut around that. It allows them to create a dumb machine that navigates around the map and only has to see other cars and pedestrians and avoid them. That is a thousand times more simple than a true autonomous car.

          1. I'll just be happy if they do the speed limit. Not stay within it, but are able to travel up to it.

          2. That's just not true. Pattern rec has progressed significantly and the actual sensors on the cars are superior to the MK I eyeball. Modern autonomous vehicles can drive on unmapped roads at speed. The only real limitations are liability (hmm, where have I heard that one before) and the miniaturization/cost of the sensors.

          3. I expect that what will end up happening is that we'll have cars that drive themselves on specified well-mapped roads, and switch over to manual control on other roads. At first, the autonomous driving will be restricted to major highways (possibly equipped with little transmitters every mile or so to help the cars verify their position), and then as the cars get smarter and people and politicians get more comfortable with the technology, they'll gradually increase the places where the cars drive themselves, to lesser highways, busy city streets, and eventually residential neighbourhoods.

            Back country roads, alleys, and off-road driving will remain manual for a long time.

          4. John - sorry to break the news to you, but planes can fly themselves from gate to gate. Take-off to touchdown. That's three dimensional as a mother-fucker. Every year F/A-18 pilots flying aircraft to a ship have to do an annual re-qual where they go hands off to the deck of the carrier. It's called a Mode 1 approach and it uses something called ACLS. I mean no disrespect, but that technology is more than ready. The car can "see" through fog and rain way better than any eyeball - that technology has been around for quite some time, too.

            1. No the same as driving on a road. Planes fly in empty space and only have to avoid really big and predictable objects like storms and other planes.

              You guys are living in a fantasy land. It isn't going to work you think it will.

              1. You're showing your age, old man. Sucks to be out-of-touch with modern technology, doesn't it?

    2. Today, NJ passed an increase of 9% on bus/train fares. So, they're getting their money, bitch. One way or another.

      1. It's not so bad to have users paying for the service. Better this than a tax.

        1. I don't drive and use transit daily, and yes, Cytotoxic is right. If you use something, pay for it. And if it means some people can't use it, don't whine, help them yourself.

  3. City govts will simply increase licensing fees, impose new regulatory mandates, and other forms of taxation to make up for any revenue shortfalls. Nothing to fear.

    1. ^^...like I was sayin'....

  4. The downside is I can't gun it to zoom around some asshole who's car is going the speed limit.

    1. Hopefully the speed limits would be adjusted upward if humans were no longer piloting the machines.

      1. doesn't' matter. I need the ability to go faster than that if I want to!

        1. You will be able to purchase a "driver's license" to override the automation in your vehicle.

          The fee will be $5000 per year, plus whatever additional premium your insurance company charges. No one "needs" to override the automation.

      2. Hopefully the speed limits would be adjusted upward if humans were no longer piloting the machines.

        Nah. Watch them adjust the speed limits downwards and then gouge everyone to pay premium for a "fast" lane.

        1. Which will be based on carbon use/environmental impact. And with everything computerized and networked, charges will be easier to impose and collect. I predict a massive revenue bounty.

        2. So we need Road Neutrality!

        3. It won't work. Especially on short drives people break the speed limit for psychological reasons. You perceive a benefit that's not really that significant (so you get to work 60 seconds earlier, so what?). If you're no longer actively driving and paying attention to the road, then who cares?

          1. It won't work. Especially on short drives people break the speed limit for psychological reasons. You perceive a benefit that's not really that significant (so you get to work 60 seconds earlier, so what?). If you're no longer actively driving and paying attention to the road, then who cares?

            I was thinking more along the lines of trucking companies or couriers, for whom those extra minutes might matter a lot. All the more reason for greedy cities to impose premium fees for speed.

      3. I really can't see this being a one-size fits all solution. Considering how many people I pass every day going under the speed limit on 95, I can't see there being settings that determine the max speed allowed.

        Too many people drive like old people fuck. They won't be able to not freak out going 70 in a train of GoogleCars (Beta).

        1. I can't see there *not* being settings....

        2. Too many people drive like old people

          Including the Google cars. Maybe the programmers thought of this complaint and planned accordingly.

      4. Hopefully the speed limits would be adjusted upward if humans were no longer piloting the machines.

        The speed limit between Yuma and San Diego, on I8, is still 70 MPH except for one spot (going through the mountains near Ocatillo). Between Yuma and Ocatillo, the interstate is nearly laser-straight.

        There's no way that the speed limit would be increased - it makes it too easy to move to another city and commute in to work, and how are you going to collect taxes then?

        1. BC recently raised some speed limits.


          1. Yeah, but that's Canada. They don't count:) After all, who is a Canadian driver going to hit on the interstate? Another moose?

            wait - 120 kph? They raised them to 74 MPH?

            I do see that most of your speed limits seem to be 100kph (62mph) which are lower than here still.

            1. Yup, almost every time Canada does something good, it's, like, "hey, we almost caught up with shittiest of the states."

              For example, up here in BC, soon, we will be able to buy beer and wine in grocery stores!
              If they are in areas not well served by govt-run liquor stores.
              Well-served determined by government.

        2. Yup. Same way when you go east on 8 from Yuma - back when I lived there 10 years ago, once you got through Foothills it was pretty much straight as an arrow all the way to Gila Bend but still only a limit of 75. Made that drive many times going between Yuma and Phoenix.

    2. Interesting, you call the guy doing the limit an asshole. I'm just happy when everyone finally speeds up to the limit.

  5. "Excessive speed while operating under software version 4.2.19."

    1. Venality will find a way.

      1. Oh, I have no doubt.

        No more traffic fines? Here, have some crushing property taxes.

        1. Who is going to stop them? We're already ridiculously overtaxed, and they're spending far more money than they could ever hope to collect in revenues, so the endlessly open maw must be fed.

          1. Surely not this polity. Any proposed local tax cut will cause librarians to go on killing sprees, targeting cops and firemen exclusively .

            At least that's what I've heard.

            1. The sheer scale of the librarian menace is not fully appreciated.

              1. YOU. WILL. BE. QUIET!


            2. I thought we raped churches and burned nuns too?!?!?!

              1. "That's right, your honor! The whole church got the flu!"

              2. Are you a librarian, too?

            3. And kids! Don't forget how much we hate kids!

  6. The downside is that cities will turn from 'fine based' to 'license based'. So instead of having the *potential* to avoid the fines, you'll simply be hit with fees for safety inspections on vehicles, fees for engineering studies, fees for 'equal access', fees for emergency services, fees for *everything*.

    Oh, and you'll still have the fines. They'll be 10 times worse and the legislature will 'deem' that municipalities radar systems and a cop's 'observation' can go unchallenged as long as the police can produce some paperwork 'verifying' their accuracy (like with dogs).

    Don't forget the fines for failing to pay any of those fees on time - and they all will come due on different parts of the year.

    1. The doomsayers are as over-confident in their own predictions as ever. Why wouldn't the cities do these things anyway?

      1. Because its far easier, and with far less pushback, to just crate some more civil infractions, then add on fees and taxes and surtaxes with existing personnel to make up 'revenue' shortfalls than to try to stand up whole new agencies that the voters might notice.

        1. If the voters notice, then that's still an improvement. Puts the squeeze on the state.

      2. The doomsayers are as over-confident in their own predictions as ever. Why wouldn't the cities do these things anyway?

        Some locales already do these things. With self-driving cars, there'll be more abundant pretext and greater means of enforceability to tax & reg, so I'd fully expect additional locales to follow suit.

        1. More abundant pretext? Like what?

          1. More abundant pretext? Like what?

            It'd be a new technology and not something people are accustomed to in the status quo, so it'd be easier for legislators to propose the necessity for said regulations without as much fuss from the populace. Plus self-driving cars will be in the minority at 1st, so many won't care about the new mandates as they aren't directly affected by them?yet.

            A bit later, I imagine you'll also see penalties introduced on those who aren't using driverless cars, on the premise that driverless cars are beneficial to public health and what not.

      3. "Why wouldn't the cities do these things anyway?"

        They already do. You must live in a conservative rural place.

        Where I live, the city council is now currently debating charging a city tax on guns and ammunition.

        Composting is mandatory, your garbage is searched for recyclables with fines imposed if found. They passed a $15 minimum wage with little debate and 0% dissent.

        It costs you a fee to take a walk in the woods. We've got baba on vaping and other harmless activities.

          1. I liked at as "baba". Which is also a baby bottle, which is why sucking it feels so good. I finally found nicotine vapes I can mix to taste like bacon or smoked meat.

            A fee to walk in the woods? You mean a gate fee for a botanic garden?

            1. No, many forest roads now have signs saying that a day permit is required for hikers.

      4. This just came in on my feed while I was typing the above:

        "An initiative that would raise property taxes in order to create publicly financed election campaigns for Seattle city offices has qualified for the Emerald City's November ballot."

        Bottom line, don't be naive. There is literally no limit to the number of ways your public sector will extract blood from you and your family. No limit. None.

  7. Not enough Mexicans, Trump, and abortions

    1. Self-driving Donald Cars, driving Mexicans over the border for free abortions.

      1. Governments are going to love self-driving cars. Because they'll use them to automatically collect revenues from people and to ensure appropriate behavior. And, when you commit a crime in earshot of your car, it'll forcibly drive you to the cops.

        1. Whole new angle to 'bait cars'.

      2. Couldn't they be self-driving Donald Food Trucks?

  8. Just raise taxes on cigarettes. Duh.

  9. Sales taxes is what they'll do. Bastards love them some VAT. It's oh-so-fair and so progressive and intuitive and reasonable and easy to collect. And if you don't own the car, it'll be harder to drive out to the boonies to avoid the tax. Hell, with self-driving cars, they'll know where you drove, so they can hit you with smuggling checkpoint (kinda like DUI checkpoint, but they search your car straight up).

    1. 1) Sales tax is not such a bad idea.

      2) with self-driving cars, they'll know where you drove

      Not necessarily. That's now how 'self-driving' works.

      1. Sales taxes on what? I don't drive a car so I sure as hell don't want to have to pay for it.

        1. Sales taxes on what? I don't drive a car so I sure as hell don't want to have to pay for it.

          Then sales taxes on any kind of transportation service you might use.

        2. Sales tax on just about everything. Remember, this is not so people can get driverless cars. It's to make up for lack of revenue from fines that driverless cars (hypothetically) cause. For stuff like, I dunno, sewers, roadzzz, cleaning, whatever your city government normally does.

          Which is more decent than (voted down) proposal we had up here to have special 0.5% increase in sales tax in order to fund light rail, underground train and general transit expansion over the next ten years. Unbelievably, they only lost 61%-39%.

          1. I prefer a movement toward more user fees, not less.

  10. Self-Driving Cars Could Destroy Fine-Based City Government; David Frum says Rand Paul's Campaign is Dead.

  11. And of course the itineraries of your travels will never be provided to the government.

    1. Only if you get audited. Otherwise, you will be expected to pay your per-mile tax on the honor system.

    2. If the future is a fleet of taxi-like self driving cars (that's what Uber is angling for), then it would be trickier to track you (as long as they can't use the payment method to identify the passenger).

      Like many other techs, the amount of privacy we'll end up with depends on 1) how insanely intrusive the government decides to be, and 2) how much cooperation they get.

      Considering the current kerkuffle over encryption backdoors, the answer likely is 1) a lot and 2) less and less each year.

      1. In that future, *the owner* will be charged the 'per use' tax and will add it into the cost of using the service.

        1. I was responding to the privacy concerns, not the tax thing. The government will tax everything always.

  12. When we have self-driving cars, can we get rid of the stupid open container laws?

    1. Get rid of what? A law? We can't do that. The law is the law, handed down from above. None who live are fit to question them.

    2. Of course not. You'll be legally required to be alert, hands on wheel, sober 100% of the time just in case something happens.

  13. Saw an article of how, with the use of 'pay by phone' parking, parking tickets are going down since everyone has a phone but not everyone has 5 quarters.
    Of course that's a great burden on the city so they're talking of raising the parking fines.
    Which will push people to do just about anything to avoid a $50+ parking fine.
    And that leads to less loot for the city gov.

    Eventually they'll just be robbing random people to cover the pension shortfalls (and fine you for fleeing the city).

    1. In NYC, you pay a toll to enter via a tunnel or bridge. Soon we'll be paying to get out.

      1. Soooo, this remake of Escape From NY I heard about might actually have some relevance?

    2. Eventually they'll just be robbing random people to cover the pension shortfalls (and fine you for fleeing the city).

      Isn't that what civil asset forfeiture is?

    3. I loved it when parking meters started having credit card readers. There's nothing quite like only purchasing 25-50 cents worth is likely costing the city money due to credit card tx fees...

      1. I garbled that last sentence... should say: "There's nothing quite like only purchasing 25-50 cents worth knowing it is likely costing the city money due to credit card tx fees..."

    4. I am pretty sure they are doing that now with traffic cameras. The error rate on this things is enormous and most people just pay the fine and don't go to the trouble of fighting it. So essentially the cameras are just randomly taking pictures and robbing the cars in the picture.

      1. Yep. I got nailed a few years ago in MD by a speed scam camera. It was $40 I think, not worth fighting 4 hours away, and not worth ignoring for the potential future downside. So I sent a check with a scathing letter insulting everyone involved. Almost worth the $40.

  14. I'm all in for self-driving cars, but I shudder to imagine by what other means local governments will choose to fleece people.

  15. Oh, come on! I'm sure they'll just downsize the departments necessary for the fines, tickets, enforcement, etc. Or maybe they'll pass actual police reform so that hundreds of millions of dollars aren't regularly funneled to victims of police abuse. Problem solved.

    Just kidding! They'll just pass an "autonomous car licensing fee" to make up for it.

  16. Nothing will destroy the fine-based city government.

    1. A more positive attitude about progressive taxation would help. I'm not sure libertarians even get to bitch about the shakedown-based funding system cities use. Anti-tax dogma is what leads to that sort of thing.

      1. Anti-tax dogma is what leads to that sort of thing.

        No it isn't shithead. The places most likely to use the shakedown techniques are the most taxing and 'progressive' places already.

        1. Not sure where you get that. It's the funding-starved rural areas that are most dickish in my experience.

          1. Uh, wat?

            While Yuma county does have a fairly high sales tax (10% where 7-8 is more common in the rest of AZ), property taxes are low, regulatory burden is light - as an example, we have *tons* of independent 1 and 2 vehicle transport services along with plenty-O-food carts. And while we do have a 'recycling' bin along with a trash bin, nobodies searching it (it all goes to the same place anyway - the dump), strong laws limiting the deployment of speed traps by small towns.

            Seattle? 9.5% sales tax, $15 dollar minimum wage, smoking bans, traffic cameras (AZ *legislature* actually made the state police remove the speed cameras on the highway to Phoenix), regulation out the wazoo for everything.

            It ain't *rural* areas that are 'funding starved' as those rural areas don't let their government stick its nose into everything.

      2. As a cautious driver who hasn't received a ticket in over a decade, I have no sympathy for those who get hit with Draconian fines. You'd think poor people would drive more carefully since those fines disproportionately harm them, but most of the time they're the worst offenders of all. Still oppose nearly all forms of income-based taxation, though.

        1. You can get a fine for driving 35 in a 25. And not just while driving down a residential street.

          *Every* street in my little podunk town has a 25 mph limit - and some of them are 5 lanes wide.

          1. Last time I got a ticket (from the CHP) I was driving 68 in a 65 zone. Since then I always drive the speed limit, or make sure there's at least one other driver who is going faster than me. Why is driving the speed limit considered such a burden? Yeah, it's annoying. But it's better than enriching the city government at our expense. Just imagine the lost revenue if EVERYONE obeyed the traffic laws to the letter.

            1. By driving speed limit, you are wasting your life, and a lot of it.

              If you drive 15,000 miles per year, going on average 45 mph vs 40 mph will save you 42 hours per year. That's like a week of vacation every year. Well worth a ticket on occasion.

      3. Yeah, it's very progressive to tax people for providing for their families.

  17. I think it should be mandatory that all prius models should be self-driving.

  18. I do not understand Reason's enthusiasm for self driving cars. I can't imagine an easier way for government at any level to impede the freedom of movement of Americans than regulating self driving cars.

    Even Tony likes them. That should tell you all that you need to know.

    1. I can't imagine an easier way for government at any level to impede the freedom of movement of Americans than regulating self driving cars.

      There's nothing they could do that they can't already.

      1. They can't stop me from driving my car, only arrest me if they catch me doing it. With self driving cars, your car will be networked in with every other car and the government will have the ability to prevent you from using it not just arrest you if it catches you.

        1. A no-drive-list would be pretty scary indeed. The potential for government abuse is definitely there. I just don't think they'd get the political support to make it happen.

          The country's already split 50/50 on scaling back the NSA, and that's a more abstract topic where it's hard to convince the common person to care. No fly lists only exist because there's a government agency in charge of all airport security.

          Then again, often the pessimists are right.

        2. They can't stop me from driving my car

          Sure they can. Ignition interlock devices already exist. If you're only thinking of breathalyzers, you aren't thinking very hard. Imagine the possibilities.

          The worst case will the the most likely - all sorts of automation to prevent you from driving your car, but no way to let the car drive itself.

    2. Many Libertarians are various subspecies of nerd and have a Pavlovian response to any new technology. They just can't help themselves.

      1. Well, I think technology has been a liberating force in a lot of ways, and even the stuff that gets misused often has an upside for individuals. Frankly, if we could deploy self-driving cars that actually were highly reliable, the safety factor alone is a gigantic benefit--tens of thousands of dead people a year, and many more injured, not to mention the loss of property is something we should all want to avoid.

        Of course, whether we can achieve that anytime soon is a big question, and, of course, I fear the misuse of such technology by government. But that's true with many technological advances.

      2. Self-driving cars mean few traffic jams and almost no stop and go. You really get a kick out of driving. Most of the time I don't. Plus my wife can't drive. Self-driving cars would be very liberating for her (and me as I don't have to play taxi). This has nothing to do with geek factor and everything to do with convenience.

    3. I agree there's a risk, but I struggle to think of how they'd get a law passed mandating anything stricter than speed-limit obedience. Maybe I'm insufficiently cynical, but what do you have in mind?

      1. Mandatory annual safety certification inspections. With hefty fines for failing to obtain a certification certificate.

    4. Also, cars are icky. Jane Jacobs said so*. They cause suburbs, and pollution, and big-box stores, and all the horrible things that right-thinking people hate.

      *probably. good enough for argumentation

    5. And computers make it easier for them to track who I communicate with and what I spend my time doing, doesn't mean that computers don't make my life a thousand times better. Self-driving cars will increase the distance I am willing to travel on a daily commute, decrease the stress level of traveling anywhere, make it easier to go out to bars and get home again, and reduce my chances of being liable for a wreck or driving violation. It will make 'my' life better.

  19. The government's inability to tax such services means that participants on all sides of the sharing economy get to keep more of their money, which makes it all more accessible to the poor.

    You mean Uber drivers don't have to pay income tax or fuel taxes or license registration fees?

  20. joe boyles types hardest hit

  21. In a press release about filing financial disclosure forms, the campaign of Donald Trump says the candidate is worth $10 billion.

    So Fox News will have to have this guy at their debate, after all. It seem they were hoping/planning on not inviting him when they recently "clarified" that the financial disclosure filing was a requirement to participate in the debate.

    I have to say: up until this point, I just assumed Trump was an agent for Rubio -- who better for the Republicans to turn to after months of Trump's antics? -- and he would withdraw from the race before actually filing his financial disclosure. I'm not so sure anymore; Trump actually seems 100% serious he is in it for the Republican nomination and presidency. If he has the cash on hand, he can even wage a serious independent candidacy if the Republican bigwigs block him (let's not pretend the primaries are worth anything).

  22. Reminds me of a friend who knew how to bypass the speed governor on Ryder trucks. He said the police would be catching speeders, & no matter what the radar said, see a rental truck & assume it couldn't be speeding.

  23. I don't understand the problem.
    Yellow lights are already shortened, so they just have to set them a few milliseconds shorter than the SDC's thru/stop threshold.
    Better, they can "find" a broken light or some other excuse and if the SDC doesn't notice red and blle flashes they have evading, escape, or worse.
    SDCs can be a bigger cash cow. One zero-day exploit works on all until patched.

  24. The goal of automated cars is to the satisfy the control freaks of government and their supporters/followers not the revenue hunters. They see fines as a means to an end to enforce their religious dogma of "speed kills". They don't care much for the revenue side but have been useful for the revenue hunters and the people who want to define normal behavior as a violation of law to intrude into people's lives. The three combined give us the underposted speed limits and the like.

    The automated car will have taxes such as tax by mile and congestion taxes easily. Police will have overrides for automated vehicles w/law to allow them to use it at their whim. The automated vehicle is a dream for government types.

    Parking tickets are easily maintained by the same methods they are now. Constantly changing signage. The databases won't keep up when the changes are made to deliberately mislead the cars' programming.

    Sleeping it off in the backseat of a parked car with the keys in one's pocket is defined as being in control of the vehicle, hence is DUI. This means a drunk person in an automated vehicle will be guilty of DUI from a legal standpoint.

    Government will not cut back because it's services are no longer needed. Obsolete departments are generally kept. Government doesn't right size to market because there are no market forces, only force.

    At the end of the day automated cars are a giant plus for government because it will control the programming.

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