Will tomorrow’s cars lead to a loss of liberty?

I own an Xbox 360. It’s a great console. I don’t care what color it is or what it looks like. As long as I can get decent titles, I’ll continue to use it.

But I won’t be buying an Xbox One, which requires to be connected to the Internet at least once every 24 hours, and preferably all the time. Microsoft wants to analyze your data and give you tailored choices in game play and targeted content, which they hope you’ll purchase. I don’t want that just the same as I don’t want a pushy salesman in a showroom telling me what he thinks I should buy.

A game console is ready made to be autonomous. It is entirely electronic and connected to the internet. All you need to do is power it up, connect to wireless and interact. It doesn’t need a human to function. It could play games by itself all day long. In fact, it can analyze your previous actions and replicate them, as you, in online play. “You” can exist to other players – even if you are at work or asleep.

You might be wondering what this has to do with cars.

In recent years, the major development in cars have focused on efficiency and electronics. We peaked with refinement years ago. Most physical changes to cars have come about due to legislation and changing consumer demands.

Increased efficiency is a good thing. The world’s resources are dwindling, so it makes sense to utilize them as sparingly as possible. Increased reliance on electronics have certain safety benefits – as well as aiding efficiency. They can also make cars cheaper to produce.

As a result, modern cars have the ability to steer, brake, change gears, control the throttle and park by themselves. The human at the wheel merely uses the physically interactive elements to control the machine.

Driverless cars are just around the corner. The 2014 Mercedes S-Class will be able to drive itself at speeds of up to 25mph, Volvo will have a range of driverless cars on the market in 2014, and General Motors said they’ll be producing autonomous cars by 2015.

The thinking is that you can drive to the shops, arrive and tell the car to park itself.

With this technology it will theoretically be possible for the car to take control of the human driver’s actions whilst on the move. With always-on Internet connection, an external party could monitor your driving habits and decide that you are being too slow, too fast, too tired, too reckless or simply incompetent and take control of your car.

With electronic controls, you would be powerless to stop them.

Imagine a future where the government or a corporation allows acceptable limits and, if you overstep them, takes physical control of your vehicle – or drives you to the nearest police station.

Imagine if a manufacturer sells you a car and, as part of the warranty, allows you to only drive or behave within certain limits. If you exceed those limits, they have the authority to take over. Imagine if you can only get insurance for your car if the insurance company places stipulations on your driving. It may be that as part of your policy, you are not allowed to drive after dark, so the car turns around and drives itself back to your home at dusk, despite your protestations.

I don’t want an Xbox One – and I don’t want a car that can drive itself. Call me a Luddite if you like, but I believe in personal liberty and don’t want to make it easy for somebody else to drive my car without even being in it.