ImageWhen was the last time a politician or the government inspired us?  That they lifted up our collective aspirations and made us believe that a better world was possible, that together our reach could exceed our grasp?

Although I believe that Ronald Reagan had a lot of inspiring moments, the last politician to truly inspire us as a nation was John F. Kennedy.  He said…

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

May 25, 1961 Joint Session of Congress

A year later he followed this up with…

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

September 12, 1962 Rice University

Fifty plus years later, I still find these quotes inspirational.    The actions that followed showed that together we can accomplish great things.

Unfortunately, politics has become about telling us what is impossible rather than what is possible.

It’s impossible to select the health plan that is right for you and your family.  It’s impossible for you to decide that transfats are unhealthy.  It’s impossible for you to control yourself and not drink a 64 oz coke, or text while driving, you can’t decide to rent a room in your house for the weekend (airbnb vs. NYC), you can’t call an on demand car service (Uber vs. Washington DC).  At all levels of government and in all corners of our lives we are constantly told what we can’t do.  This erodes our freedom and stifles innovation.

There are many areas of our lives that could be transformational without stifling our rights.  I want to talk about one…. Autonomous Vehicles. 

The technology behind AV’s exists in the marketplace today.  Many car companies (GM, Mercedes Benz, Audi, Volvo) and most famously Google are working on the Autonomous car. 

The case for AV’s should bring in many constituencies. 

Green’s – it is estimated that AV’s will reduce fuel consumption 23 – 39%.  Safety and health lobby – 40% of fatal crashes involve alcohol, drugs, distraction or fatigue (all crashes are estimated to cost $300 Billion). 

All Drivers – congestion is estimated to be reduced by 8 – 13%.

AARP – renewed freedom to get around. 

Developers – free up land that is currently used for parking. 

Retailers – with AV’s one hassle of shopping (looking for parking) could be eliminated. 

Truck Fleet Operators – it is estimated that an additional 330,000 truck drivers will be needed by 2020, operators are currently experiencing shortages .

City Planners – imagine moving all freight deliveries to overnight like Fedex does with their planes.

But instead of coalescing around this BHG (Big Hairy Goal) people are focused on the minutia.  Everyone has their little policy initiatives that they are pushing.  CAFÉ standards, shutting off texting while a phone is moving so that no one can text and drive, putting monitors in cars so that we can be taxed based on our mileage, enforcing parking restrictions, requiring that all cars have back up monitors, the list goes on and on.  But the big one is High Speed Rail, low speed rail (Amtrak), light rail and the Billions that go into these projects both in terms of capital and operating subsidies.   

A couple of months ago I actually got a tweet from a former MA State Rep saying that MA was falling behind in PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) and needed to get in front by investing in R&D.  Wrong idea, wrong technology. 

So how could we be inspired.  First, a leader could connect the dots and explain to us how our lives could change for the better if all of these pieces fit together.  Imagine at a State of the Union, instead of the president talking about a $100 Billion high speed rail boondoogle in California, he spoke of how AV’s could change our lives.  Knit the pieces together and ask that states start to work on how they can enact laws to address the legal and insurance requirements to make them a reality. Then the could begin to remove the obstacles primarily legal and other wise.

Legal – who is responsible for an accident? If an autonomous car gets into an accident with one driven by a human, who is to blame? How do you assign fault to a computer program? Do you assume the human screwed up?

Insurance – will the Gecko insure you?  Without knowing the liability how can they create risk tables.

The best thing that leaders could do is after creating clear and simple regulations they should avoid all other impulses and get the hell out of the way.  Don’t try to invest in research, don’t try and pick winners, save jobs or any other impulse just let the market work.

What inspires you?

For more information on AV’s


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