Network neutrality for self-driving cars

David Weinberger's Would a Google car sacrifice you for the sake of the many? explores many philosophical conundra regarding self-driving cars, including the possibility that the rich and powerful might literally buy their way into the fast-lane. This is the premise of my 2005 story "Human Readable," which appears in my collection With a Little Help (there's also a spectacular audio edition, read by Spider Robinson).

Or would Google let you pay a premium to take the “fast lane”? (For reasons of network optimization the fast lane probably wouldn't actually be a designated lane but well might look much more like how frequencies are dynamically assigned in an age of “smart radios.”) We presumably would be ok with letting emergency vehicles go faster than the rest of the swarm, but how about letting the rich folks pay to go faster by programming the other robot cars to give way when a car with its “Move aside!” bit is on?

Let’s say Google supports a strict version of Networked Road Neutrality. But, suppose Comcast starts to make cars, and programs them to get ahead of the cars that choose to play by the rules. Would Google cars take action to block the Comcast cars from switching lanes to gain a speed advantage —perhaps forming a cordon around them? Would that be legal? Would selling a virtual fast lane on a public roadway be legal in the first place? And who gets to decide? The FCC?

Would a Google car sacrifice you for the sake of the many? (Thanks, David!)

(Image: Bangkok traffic jam, Keng Susumpow, CC-BY)

Start the discussion at