OJ Simpson:

Envision an Autonomous Car Chase Scene

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Source: George Peterson

Volkswagen XL Diesel Hybrids in Wolfsburg, Germany. Not Autonomous

I was watching “Live Free or Die Hard” recently.  As with most of the Bruce Willis “Die Hard” genre, there were exciting chase scenes where dozens of Crown Victorias get smashed up or full of bullet holes.  That is the name of the game for the “Die Hard” movies.  Chase scenes where the hero invariably gets injured but comes back to battle the bad guys after no recuperation time are the norm.  There were five “Die Hard” movies.  There were 8.5 “Fast and Furious” movies.  Epic chase scenes abound from “Bullitt”, “The French Connection”, Ronin, every James Bond movie, “The Blues Brothers” mall chase scene.  Chase scenes are too numerous to count, but what impact is the autonomous car going to have on screenwriters going forward?

Some films have dealt with that in the past. In 1990’s “Total Recall”, a frustrated Arnold Schwarzenegger rips the robot out of the Johnny Cab he was trying to use as a getaway car.   Speech recognition was not the same in 1990 as it is in 2017.  Siri could have handled Arnold.  “Demolition Man” uses a non-autonomous car to wreak havoc through the self-driving police fleet.  Agent Coulsen, the head guy in Marvel’s “Agents of Shield” franchise carries his 1962 Corvette roadster where ever he goes.  When there is an Electro-Magnetic Pulse that puts modern cars out of commission, the Corvette runs just fine.

Questions for Future Screen Writers – Smart Cars Impact on the Chase  If the mobility world changes the way the prognosticators are prognosticating, what will the films in the future look like?  Will they all be set in the past so Crown Vics can still duel it out with today’s Chargers?  Are they set in the “now” where old vehicles interact with new autonomous vehicles?  Are the bad guys hackers that can control not only their own autonomous car, but also control the surrounding traffic and the vehicle(s) chasing them?  Maybe the government outlaws a person driving a vehicle on public roads at all.  Driving becomes restricted to special tracks.  This will change the face of crime dramatically!

Smart Streets Impact on the Chase  Will the streets be so smart they could defeat the bad guys themselves?  Controlling stop lights and opening and closing lanes will probably be simple tasks for a smart street in the future.  Anti-traffic bollards could be raised from the streets to stop the chase.

Ethics of Vehicle Autonomy  Those are simple questions for the movies.  There are real world ethics questions over vehicle and traffic control.

Autonomous Vehicle MUST Follow the Law, or Must They?  If an autonomous car is programmed to exactly follow the speed limit, you can envision four abreast autonomous cars on a Los Angeles freeway traveling at exactly 55mph.  They may be driving at the speed limit, as per law.  But they are creating an extremely dangerous situation unless every vehicle is autonomous and following the same programming.  During the Jimmy Carter presidency, after implementation of the 55mph federal speed limit, drivers from Ann Arbor to Detroit drove the I-94 freeway two-or-three abreast at exactly 55mph.  This lasted a few days with motorists passing them on the shoulders and giving them the finger.  They were eventually cited by the Michigan State Police for impeding the flow of traffic.

Source: Los Angeles Times

OJ Simpson Slow Speed Chase – Los Angeles 1994

Autonomous vehicle ethics need to accommodate the reality of chaotic traffic flow, different vehicle capabilities, and, until everything is autonomous, different driving styles.

Remote Vehicle Control  Over the past twenty years in automotive research, AutoPacific has been asked by automakers and suppliers to research all sorts of autonomous car and autonomous-like features.  In Europe, a discussion of driver opinions of GPS systems with vehicle tracking capabilities results in,  “Sacre bleu!  I don’t want my boss to know where I am!  I don’t want my wife to know where I am!”  While drivers might not want vehicle tracking in their car or on their body, they may be too late in resisting.  After the Boston Marathon bombing, Mercedes-Benz USA located the Mercedes ML the bombers car-jacked.  So, today, vehicles with a navigation system can probably be tracked.  Most action thrillers on TV have the authorities or the bad guys locating folks on their smartphones. No problem.  It’s tough to hide anymore.

Another scenario is when the police are chasing the bad guys.  Think about OJ Simpson and his famous slow speed chase.  Today, if he had a fully up-to-date SUV, could the authorities put it into limp mode, and then into stop mode?

The certainty is that driving in the United States is going to dramatically evolve over the next ten years as technology, communications, regulations and consumer sentiment all converge on the idea of autonomous driving and its impact on our lives and culture.


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