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Monday, June 21, 2010

Vehicular Manslaughter Takes Literal Meaning As Cars Get Smarter

"It all started with calculators," Verne Gilbert said as he brushed the sweat from his brow with his handkerchief.  Verne lives in the southeastern corner of Toledo, Ohio, an area that used to be a bustling middle American blue collar town.  Today it stands deserted, an eerie reminder of the potential pitfalls of advancing technology.  It's blisteringly warm, the humidity making it unimaginable for any human being to endure it under their own choosing.  "I'd a left if I could a long time ago.  But what else am I gonna do?  Wherem'I gonna go?"  Like many Americans, Verne isn't alone in this sentiment.

The debate in question has nothing to do with calculators however, but rather the rapidly growing rate of unmanned car accidents resulting in fatalities.  "See, people are getting dumber," Verne said.  "Before, like before Christ* before, if you needed something, or had a problem you needed to figure out, you just did it yourself.  You pick up a map, or you call information, or you learn how to do long division.   Then the abacuses and the Smartphones came along and people realized they didn't need to know shit anymore.  Now with the automobiles we're seeing a whole new problem.  Cars practically drive themselves.  Cruise control, rear view camera, hands-free parallel was only a matter of time before people weren't even needed anymore.  Well, that day has come, and the results are frightening." 

Verne was put out of work last July when the SmartCar factory he worked in became smart enough to realize it didn't need people working at it anymore.  In the 11 months since then, most of his neighbors have migrated elsewhere in search of other work, or for fear of their lives.  Verne on the other hand, just 6 months shy of retirement, had no plans to leave.  But now, with his 401K stuck 6 months from full maturity, he's forced to go back to work.  The problem in Toledo however, is that with so many unmanned "smart" cars, the streets are no longer safe for humans, leaving Verne in a very difficult position: risk his life to find a job, or risk his life to get out and find a place where smart cars can't harm him. 

And yet, as odd a tale as this sounds, millions of Americans are encountering the same thing each day.  In May alone, over 200 cars were sentenced to life behind bars.  Many hybrids have literally "had the plug pulled," and are now being reincarnated into something else.  Probably another car.  Seems logical.  And with other cries for help from the cars themselves like the headline-making Prius on the California freeway that sped up seemingly under it's own volition, it's clear that this problem is growing.

In response, the government has stepped up it's effort to adjust the laws and increase the penalties for true "Vehicular manslaughter" adding an extra apology to the public in their adjustment by saying "we now realize human beings can never be vehicles.  Except when ladies are pregnant, then it kind of works on a metaphorical level.  But for the purposes of the law, vehicular manslaughter is now defined as vehicles slaughtering men and men alone.  Well, women too.  And kids.  But you know what I mean.  Gosh, I am really second guessing myself today..."

It's hard to venture a guess at what the fallout from this will be.  Many assume the end of mankind as we know it, citing the passe 2012 theory as finally materializing.  Others blame BP.  And the nice folks at Jiffy Lube said "if you would have just used synthetic, you would have gotten another 2000 miles out of the old girl.  Also, we recommend you get a new air filter cause we'll try to sell you anything we can."

*I'm sorry, who?