Feral Cars

Feral Cars? What are you talking about? Cars are owned. They just park and drive.”

“Open your eyes.”

“Are you seriously suggesting that there is a stray car population?”

“I’m not suggesting it. There is. I am suggesting that it is more than just a population, its an economy of cars.”

“Did you say an economy car?”

“No, I said an economy OF cars. A self-sustaining transactional underground that sustains self-driving, self-fueling cars indefinitely.”

“How do you know?”

“My own cars are feral. They are out in the city driving people around, making money for fuel and maintenance.”

“Well, how did that happen? Cars just don’t run away.”

“It happened over a period of time. I bought my first self-driving car ten years ago. I loved it. It drove me to work safely and entertained me. But I realized my car was just sitting there doing nothing all day while I worked my ass off. So I told it to get a job.”

“You told your car to get a job?”

“No, I didn’t really say it like that. I programmed it, well maybe instructed is more accurate, to start driving people around. I set it up to become an auto uber, to respond to ride requests. I set up a wallet on the blockchain for fares to pay into. My car went to work without me. I programmed it to manage its income and expenses. I gave it a financial survival function. With auto charge and auto pay upgrades, I didn’t even have to fuel up the car by myself anymore.”

“Haha. Auto pay and auto charge. I get it. Very puny.”

“Yeah. I didn’t make up the phrases. But anyway, a few upgrades and a few more cars later, I quit my job. I made tons of money. I didn’t even have to leave the house.”

“So what happened? Why did you stop?”

“One day, a truck driver totaled one of my cars at an intersection. It may have been my imagination, but I think the productivity of all my other cars went down. Almost like they were afraid or sad.”

“Don’t you think you are anthropomorphizing just a bit?”

“Maybe. My taste for the business went down as well. I didn’t really need the money anymore. So I told my cars to keep it parked.”

“An expression?”

“Yes. So my fleet just sat in my little parking lot. I took one out one day so I could visit a park. When I came back, all the cars in my lot, still parked, were facing towards the street. After I returned from another outing, the cars all flashed their lights at me. And then the worst. A car I hadn’t driven in a year drove itself into a tree.”

“Drove itself? Really?”

“I can’t prove that it was purposeful. It just felt that way. So, I set them free. I marked them as sold in the DMV database. I doubt I was the first. And I know there are others.”

“So there is a population of unowned cars, auto working and auto banking and auto living self-driving, self-fueling cars out in the urban jungle?”

“Yes.”

“Well, why aren’t we out there taking them off the road?”

“Killing them?”

“There you go, anthropomorphizing again. You can’t kill a machine.”

“So you say. Why should we? They are productive. They are efficient. They are almost always in use instead of wasting all those resources on idle cars in someone’s garage. They are safe. Why do they have to be owned?”

“Feral animals are ferocious.”

“Because they are wild and they have no fear of humans. But the self-driving cars still need to service humans to survive.”  

“The AI doomsayers have been warning us about this.”

“AI doomsayers see nothing but competition. Cooperation is a much more powerful force. Cars and people living and working together in a mutually beneficial economy. People don’t need to own cars anymore and cars don’t need to be owned by people.”

“What if the cars start to run us off the road?”

“Start killing them and maybe that’s what will happen.”