Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"Truck hits bicycle path" - Where's the Driver?

"Truck hits bicycle path" (Were people involved?)
You've seen the headlines and stories already. While the lede is ok, "A terrorist in a rented pickup truck plowed through a busy bicycle path," the subhed is silly: "Truck hits bicycle path."

You might recall the last time this happened.

How it appeared in the Statesman, via USA Today
Some of the circumstances are different, but in both cases drivers used cars as lethal weapons. People, not cars, were in control and held the moral and effective agency in the resulting acts. People used the armor and horsepower of cars to hurt vulnerable bystanders. It is about power, lethal power.

But even in the plain face of intentional crime, our autoist rhetoric minimizes the role of humans, the lethality of autos, and the role of power. We erase the grammatical subject of the verbs and we erase the human subject responsible for the action. The rhetoric of "accident" still creeps in.

The agentless, autonomous car: No driver is responsible
"Truck hits bicycle path," "car rams protesters, " "struck by the FJ Cruiser." It is the truck or car or "Cruiser" that hits people and things, not the driver employing a car. We still treat it a little like an "oopsie" and erase the responsible human.

Cars are dangerous. Full Stop. Maybe we can't be trusted with them.

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