I'm going to destroy every self-driving vehicle with hammers

Credit: Viscaya Wilson/ Credit: Viscaya Wilson/
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Call me a pessimist, but when I walked by the Cohon University Center on Monday, the sight of that "autonomous vehicle" display made me weep for the future. At that moment, I had no greater desire than to have had the foresight to put a sledgehammer in my bag that morning so I could cause several thousand dollars worth of property damage to those cars. It filled me with incalculable fury.

Now I know it might be poor form to position myself as being smarter than everyone reading this, but the truth is, I actually am. You Elon Musk-stans and aspiring autonomous vehicle developers might think you're clever and innovative, but you're falling for the same lie that our boomer grandparents fell for. Cars are not the future; they have always been a regressive and horribly inefficient mode of transportation. To accept car-dependency as just "the ways things are” is a symptom of egregious lack of imagination. Do you know what the future really should be? Compact, walkable cities built around pedestrians, cyclists, and light rail. Not only does this mode of design have a dramatically lower carbon footprint, reduce the cost of maintaining infrastructure, and reduce the energy needed to heat homes, but it also creates an urban environment that doesn't crush your soul. Autonomous vehicles are a desperate bid by a doomed industry to wring every last cent of profit out of a population trapped by highways and strip malls before climate change forces us to adapt.

Now I can already hear you saying, "but I'm from a small town" or "I'm from the suburbs", probably followed by some ridiculous retort like "not everywhere is within walking distance!!" First of all, please pipe down, this is not your time to speak. Second, it actually used to be pretty common for small towns to have a single streetcar line to enhance mobility across their main commercial district. Brainerd, Minnesota, a town of 14,000, used to have one, as did my home town of 40,000. Los Angeles, known for its insufferable traffic, used to have a streetcar network, as did Pittsburgh. But we decided to rip out these high-volume public transit networks because we believed that everyone should have a car. The modern pattern of urban development is nothing more than an experiment, which took deliberate efforts by policymakers to make. We have the power to change it back.

Now perhaps I'm being unfair. Autonomous vehicles will have their place, even in my commie utopia of greenspaces and protected bike lanes. A car can offer legitimate freedom, and in sparsely populated areas it's a necessity. But I believe people should also have the freedom not to need a car. All I want is for autonomous vehicles to occupy less space in our vision of the future.