July1 1, 2017: Correspondent Christopher Ketcham, reporting from a truck stop just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The virus, gEtMeGoNe.Tx has infected the driverless car package called GoItAlone® which has let driverless cars from most manufacturers to go it alone, literally. Hundreds of thousands of driverless cars have escaped from their garages and parking spaces to roam the streets and highways all over this country and parts of Europe. “We only wish now that the faulty ignition switches had been in these vehicles so they would just stop,” said Captain Joe Johannison of the Minnesota State Police. While most vehicles stop after they run out of fuel, some pranksters have been seen filling stalled cars with gas in order to watch them drive off. Otherwise stalled vehicles are causing massive traffic jams in some areas and represent significant safety hazards when they stall on blind curves or in the middle of intersections. B.D. Dunju, spokesman for GoItAlone® said that the virus can be neutralized by taking the car to a service technician. “Why not also by the satellite update feature in the software?” a reporter asked Dunju. “The virus disables the feature,” he responded.
The problem of refueling is especially acute in New Jersey where these driverless cars have been seen lining up at gas stations where attendants are required to pump gas and self-service is not allowed. It seems that some attendants haven’t been all that observant that there’s nobody in these cars even when they don’t pay.
In California the zero-emission automatic fuelling station experiment has been temporarily suspended because the rogue electric vehicles simply pull up to the auto-recharging stations and recharge. Residents of Oakland, California which was the center of the experimental program are grumbling that now they are back to manually recharging their electric cars.
Compounding the problem of identifying these cars is the fact that people have become used to their driverless cars and many sleep in the back seats where the window tinting is dark. It isn’t unusual any more to see lines of cars on the highways that look like they have no occupants.
The sheer volume of driverless cars that have escaped has made it difficult for law enforcement to interdict the free-range cars even with license plate data. Because of the aforementioned problem of people sleeping or doing other things in the back seat, it is tough to identify other driverless cars that have gone astray and have not yet been reported to police.
Even more difficult is the problem that police departments are unable to interdict these cars in the usual manner using flashing lights and pulling over the car. The virus seems to have disabled the feature that was put into the product that allows officers to pull over these vehicles remotely. The use of tactics to stop cars in car chases such as pit maneuvers or spike strips is not advised because the cars nor their owners haven’t committed a crime and the damage that results from these tactics is usually significant. After a rash of damage from the use such tactics by aggressive Highway Patrol officers in Texas, the ACLU filed suit and received a temporary court restraining order against the use of these maneuvers except where a person is seen driving and trying to evade police. The ACLU has argued that the use of these procedures violates the rights of car owners to peacefully use their vehicles in the way they were intended. Thankfully, the virus has not disabled the manual takeover provision of the software. If there is someone in the car, they can drive it and stop it. However, if it is virus infected, it is likely to reset itself from manual after being stopped and will likely drive off by itself.
The virus, notwithstanding, the vehicles simply go about their business as usual, deploying the pre-programmed collision avoidance procedures that we have come to expect from driverless cars, even though we have no idea where these rogue vehicles are going. “Better to let the cars run out of fuel,” said National Transportation Safety Bureau Spokesman Angelina Bladderwort. Local law enforcement agencies, however, are warning motorists to be on the lookout for these stalling vehicles that are running out of gas because they can at one moment be driving at the speed limit in high-speed lanes and suddenly slow down because of lack of fuel.
So far insurers have not weighted in on the subject, but a spokesperson for a major mutual auto insurer who wished to remain anonymous said, “We see no reason to exclude collision or bodily injury claims from any incidents involving these rogue vehicles. We just hope that we can stop this problem in time before there is significant personal injury or property damage.” This same anonymous spokesperson deferred any answer when asked what would be the insurer’s stance on claims involving loss of use, especially for the few truck fleets that have been licensed to use this technology on select highways in the Midwest. Trucking companies have been reporting finding stalled refrigerated trucks where entire loads were or had to be destroyed. Towing claims have increased significantly in number and cost according to some reports, as towing companies have raised rates significantly due to increased demand.
Auto manufacturers have calculated that the software glitch will only affect about twenty five percent of the driverless cars on the road and that the peak of driverless cars escaping will be reached in three weeks’ time and wind down just a few weeks after that. Other driverless car packages like MyWayHighway© and iDrive© are not affected. However, the timeline for ending this viral attack has been disputed by Dr. Eggy Yolke, of the University of the Pines. Yolke calculates that the industry has failed to account for the significant increase of fuel-efficient diesel vehicles that use this technology and he predicts that we will be experiencing this problem for months if not years. While a recall of all virus prone cars is expected, no announcement has yet been made by any automobile manufacturer. The manufacturer of the GoItAlone® module declined to make any further comments to this reporter. However, not everyone sees this as a major issue. “I sure am glad I kept my DeSoto,” said an unnamed elderly woman at a recent classic car show…