How Self-Driving Cars Will Avenge the End of Net Neutrality

If they like free markets so much, let them choke on traffic markets.

byAlex Roy|
How Self-Driving Cars Will Avenge the End of Net Neutrality

Now that the payola-swilling, bribery-swaddled, kneepad-wearing FCC Chairman — the corporate shill also known as Ajit Pai — his done his part in securing a well-paid no-show job at the media company of his choice once he leaves government, it's time to discuss how to pay him back for selling out the American people in the name of free markets.

If Ajit Pai loves free markets so much, let him choke on them.

Justice? I give you self-driving cars and traffic markets, the ultimate tool of non-violent protest and vengeance. How so? Because, in our utopian future, suffering won't be defined by physical pain but by inconvenience.

The Net Neutrality Story

For those ignorant of the neutrality debate, it's basically this: should the internet be regulated like a public utility? Since 2015, all traffic has been treated equally, whether it's you putting up pictures of your bony a** on Wordpress or Business Insider posting clickbait about flying taxis. Good or bad, companies like AT&T — who own the pipes — can't favor one content creator or platform over another.

The overwhelming majority of Americans support net neutrality. All of the pipe owners oppose it. Tens of millions of public comments sent to the FCC supporting neutrality were ignored, as was the fact that someone (!) submitted millions of fake comments against it.

What a coincidence.

The FCC — like all bodies of government — is (ahem) supposed to be acting on behalf of the people. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai? Way more than a partisan hack planning his post-government career, Pai spent more time making this video mocking net neutrality supporters than he did investigating the propaganda/cyberwar waged against what was supposed to be a fair, open and unbiased process. You know, done the American way, or whatever that used to be.

With every recent regulatory vote falling on party lines, it's no surprise that net neutrality was voted down by the FCC 3-2. Pai's logic? Free markets! I'm all for free markets, but for markets to work they need regulation. Not too much. And not too little. Regulation has to be juuuuuuuust right.

The FCC vote is a betrayal.

The net neutrality battle will rage on, but in the meantime we need to start thinking about how we can serve up some free market thinking and deliver some payback to those who think markets work without a level playing field.

How Can Self-Driving Cars Solve This?

Self-driving cars are coming, sooner or later. Right now it looks like it's going to be later, which is too bad, because the sooner they get here, the sooner we can show Ajit Pai and his fellow sellouts what unregulated free markets really look like.

Forget net neutrality. We need to talk about traffic neutrality.

Haven't heard about traffic neutrality? No one has outside of some bar talk among transportation experts, and I don't mean the self-driving Kool-Aid idiots and the BS "mobility" experts. I mean real experts, as in the people who have been studying traffic theory their whole lives in a low-paid and under-appreciated careers.

Traffic experts and policy makers are the freedom fighters of the future.

Today, no matter what you drive, you are free to drive almost anywhere, anytime, limited only by traffic. Whether you're in a Trabant, Morgan, Mustang or Bentley, we're all in it together, most of the time. You can use Waze or Google Maps, but the more people that do, the less effective such platforms. (We'll talk about traffic equilibrium another time.)

At the end of the day, we're all in it together. For now.

Once Level 4+ self-driving cars arrive, all that will change, and all those people who say they are for free markets are in for a big frakkin' surprise once they do.

Once self-driving cars reach a tipping point, and especially once they become ubiquitous, I/you/we will still sit in traffic, but competing self-driving networks will negotiate to determine optimal speeds and path, until all such cars are traveling at the speed limit.

Then, like dark magic, the same people who brought you the end of net neutrality will argue that speed limits are too low, that everyone should be taxed/charged by the mile, and that self-driving cars should travel as fast as you are willing to pay.

The Rise of the Traffic Markets

Got cash? You can get there first. Sitting in traffic? I present to you traffic markets. Tap your phone, spend the extra $, and your self-driving car platform will instantly negotiate with other users on the same (and other) platforms to determine the fair price to save you a minute. Those who can't or won't pay/bid extra will see their self-driving cars move out of the way and slow down, and your car will speed up.

If you don't think this is coming, you haven't taken Econ 101. This goes way past converting HOV lanes to self-driving lanes. This is about speed to destination being determined not by car, or traffic, or driving style, but by income and auctions-in-motion.

It's going to be discrimination by wealth on the move. We already know time is money, so it makes perfect sense that time in motion is also money, and that everything that can be determined by wealth will be.

Everyone against net neutrality — as in "the people" — is going to hate it. People like Ajit Pai are going to love it.

But there's a solution. A way to strike back against all-or-nothing approaches to regulation and free markets, and the free market is the solution.

Crowdfunding Self-Driving Justice

The day after self-driving cars arrive and traffic neutrality ends, everyone — and I mean the entire American body politic — should sign up for the crowdsourced harassment campaign some wise person is going to set up. The goal? Crowdsourcing an endless mass of self-driving taxis for pickup in front of Ajit Rai's home. And office. And his favorite restaurant. His pay-for-speed option — determined by real-time traffic markets — will spike in price. Anytime he wants to leave the house in a self-driving car, it will cost him dearly. If 10, or 100, or 100,000, or the millions of people who supported net neutrality each contribute one $8 cancellation fee worth of unused pickups in front of Pai's home or office, he literally won't be able to afford to go anywhere by car, even if he wants to drive.

Suppose he wants to walk? We crowdsource 1,000 autonomous drone deliveries.

Free marketeers? Meet second and third order consequences. Pai is going to pray for regulation. You know, for time-on-target for curbside pickup. For robo-taxi orbit limits. For limiting drone deliveries in his neighborhood.

He's going to have to ride a bike. Unless he moves to Florida, winters are going to suck. Then we deploy something like Honda's autonomous motorcycles.

The free market works.

Alex Roy is Editor-at-Large for The Drive, Host of The Autonocast, co-host of /DRIVE on NBC Sports, author of The Driver and Founder of Noho Sound, has set numerous endurance driving records in Europe & the USA in the internal combustion, EV, 3-wheeler & Semi-Autonomous Classes, including the infamous Cannonball Run record. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.