Driving is a Grandfathered Liberty

Frank J. is a comedy writer, but I think he's really on to something here.
Imagine if cars hadn’t been around for a century, but instead were just invented today. Is there any way they’d be approved for individual use? It’s an era of bans on incandescent bulbs; if you suggested putting millions of internal-combustion engines out there....

“So you’re proposing that people speed around in tons of metal? You must mean only really smart, well-trained people?” 
“No. Everyone. Even stupid people."
“Won’t millions be killed?”
“Oh, no. Not that many. Just a little more than 40,000 a year.”
“And injuries?”
“Oh . . . millions.”
There’s no way that would get approved today.
Driving is basically a grandfathered freedom from back when people cared less about pollution and danger and valued progress and liberty over safety.
The next question is, how long will this grandfathered freedom last?


Eric said...

Forever, practically. You couldn't run the country with no one able to drive.

Just wouldn't work. Period.

Grim said...

True enough, outside of the big cities. I wonder if you couldn't see urban cores closed to private vehicles. That actually would make a small amount of sense in small, high density areas, and in fact is already the case in the parts of D.C. right around the White House. Some universities do that too.

You could do that more broadly in some areas, if there were adequate public transit. People wouldn't care for it compared to being able to drive, but the government doesn't really care what you like.

Also, I want one of these things. How likely do you think a new liberty of this type is?

Eric said...

I don't think you'll ever see that in big cites either. Even in the most bike-friendly towns in the Netherlands, there are still plenty of autos.

As for the hover bike, who gets to regulate it? Is it a land vehicle or an air-craft?

Grim said...

That's a good question. It's like the flying car we never got, or at least haven't yet gotten, but it works right now: you could get on one and fly, tree-top level, as the crow flies to your place of business. It has no impact on road maintenance, and it ought to fly low enough to stay out of the usual commercial corridors (although Bill would have more to say about that than I have). Why not regulate it like an offroad motorcycle, i.e., not at all to speak of?

E Hines said...

The problem with airborne transportation is the lack of traffic density achievable--even with a third dimension into which to pack the things. Winds are too ubiquitous and too capricious to allow the bumper to bumper density of cars.

And you still have to park the things. Flying into a building at various floors to hit the parking ramp--possible with an airborne vehicle--presents its own unique problems. There's a reason even experienced pilots in heavy aircraft have cross-wind limits that must be honored in their approaches and landings. The building entrances also create their own wind shear problems. Plus, the simple existence of buildings creates their own wind shears, and we get eddies around their corners--mixing with the eddies of adjacent buildings. Additionally, any helicopter driver can tell you about the joys of hovering in a capricious winds, which hover drivers would be doing waiting their turns at the entrance.

Now add in drunk hover drivers....

Eric Hines

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Automatic parking is already coming in. Highways which support automated driving aren't that far off - and trucking will be a big user. Once those are in, how far off until the driver is unnecessary anywhere? Not too many years from now, highschool kids are going to increasingly think that driver's ed doesn't provide much they can't get elsewhere, which in turn will drive markets for automation.

A few children currently in elementary school - maybe a few percent - will be the last people who learn to drive a standard shift, BTW.

Anonymous said...

Landing to the north on the western parallel runway at Dekalb-Peachtree (PDK) with a west wind is fascinating to watch, or to do, if the wind is high enough. You have the trees, then a gap, then hangars, then another gap. We learned very quickly to anticipate where the excitement would be, and at what altitudes. It was a bit like going down the highway and seeing a "dangerous crosswinds" sign, except there was no sign, just the occasionally dangerous crosswind.

Although, after flying out in the Great Plains for nigh unto 20 years, crosswinds are a bit "meh." Low visibility (less than 5 miles and quit laughing Bill!) gets my blood pressure up.


E Hines said...

Low visibility (less than 5 miles....

300 and a half, night, heavy rain, 15 kt crosswind, gusting to 30.

Piece of cake.

In the simulator.

Eric Hines

Anonymous said...

This is an appropriate study:

The Orphaned Right: The Right to Travel by Automobile, 1890-1950, Roger Roots, 30 Okla. City U.L. Rev. 245, 2005. — Examines the history of the right to travel and operate a vehicle on public roads.

Available at this link: http://www.constitution.org/lrev/lrev.htm (or google it yourself)

douglas said...

"Why not regulate it like an offroad motorcycle, i.e., not at all to speak of?"

Grim, clearly you do not live in California (lucky you).

Resurrecting Pella said...

Naw, cars would still be allowed if they came out now. But we'd have to deal with all those damn warning stickers on everything and a voice coming on when you sit down saying, "Warning: turning ignition may be hazardous to your health..."