This depressingly prescient vision of our likely future was contributed by Brent, one of our regulars here:
It was just another ordinary morning to set out to go to work. Joe was stepping inside his new car. It cost him a great deal but at least he still could drive. Most people were no longer allowed to drive or couldn’t afford it. Those who could afford a car waited on a list before they were able to buy a car. Joe had not been driving to work since the government banned all cars made before 2020 from the road.Last week he finally made it to the top of the list and has bought a new sub compact in purple. He doesn’t like sub compacts or the color purple but he can barely afford better and being selective might mean he wouldn’t get to drive for another year or more.
This tiny little car is powered by technology that is trapped in 2008 with all the build quality of a Trabant. It’s styling reminds him of typical cars made in the Soviet Union in the 1980s. But at least it is a car even though it is nothing like that was produced before the government took control of the auto manufacturers.
Underneath covers in his garage sit his 1969 and 2005 Mustangs. These are cars he can’t even take out any more but refuses to allow the government to get their hands on. The 1969 model is criminal offense for a private person to own. All cars built before 1980 were supposed to be scrapped or rendered inoperable in museums under the clean air act of 2010. Joe had just completed a restoration before the law was passed. His car had been off the road for a number of years so the government had lost track of it. They must have assumed it had long been scraped or sold for parts since they never so much as sent him a letter. He has placed household storage around it so his neighbors can never see it and turn him in. He feels lucky. His friends that could not ship their cars overseas lost their cars in confrontations with the police, one died in the effort to defend his property. The cops regret the failure of their new super-tazer, but say he should have just handed over the keys. The majority of people didn’t much care about the old car hobby or the number businesses it supported. The green activists finally were able to win and get their scrappage laws made mandatory. Joe has yet to drive his restored car, he got busy hiding it rather than lose all that work he had done. He carefully prepared it for long term storage and that is where it sits today. He would like to get a permit to expand his house to make a hiding place for it, but he is fearful the government inspectors would find the car in the process. For now a line of boxes and garage door are the only line of defense.
He remembers driving the 2005 model for many years. It isn’t illegal to own, not yet anyway, only illegal to drive on public roads. When he opens his garage this is the car his neighbors see. He drove it right to the end. It was fully retrofitted with all the devices that became mandatory over the years leading up to the ban. It has transponders that report nearly everything to the government. How fast he drives, how hard he brakes, the route he takes, practically everything he did with the car was logged in some government database. He remembers having to pay an insurance surcharge when he slammed on the brakes to avoid killing a squirrel. The government believed he was not a careful driver because of his sudden and full application of the brakes. Joe misses driving that car. He looks around the plain interior of his new car and sighs.
Last night he went online and got permission for his route to work. He paid the congestion fees. There is not transponder on his windshield like in his last daily driver, that has been integrated into the car itself. Disabling it would now disable the car. The tax per mile of driving is much higher than it used to be, he hopes he can afford it. Driving will only take him 20 minutes to get to work vs. the hour long trip he has suffered on public transportation. Joe blows into the breathalyzer interlock and the computer declares him sober to drive. He starts the car and backs out of his driveway. He makes it through the subdivision he lives in and gets to the main road where the first number plate camera scans his car into the system.
The local arterial roads are simply packed with traffic. Joe is making decent time when suddenly he jolted as his car’s rear passenger tire falls into a massive pot hole. Joe hopes there isn’t any damage, the car is still going okay. The road surface is well cracked, potholed, and frost heaved. He remembers when it was fairly smooth. He’s making a good 30mph, but this road used to be commonly traveled at 60mph. The aging speed limit signs still read 45mph and then there are the speed cameras. Not that Joe has anything to worry about, he’ll never get his little car up to the speed limit on this road without breaking something first.
Joe approaches an intersection with an overpass just ahead. The light is red and he brakes carefully to stop gently before the line. The red light cameras look down on this intersection like all the rest. The yellow signals are short but Joe remembers how he would start braking on the green signal. Before the brake actuation sensors reporting to the government he would slam on the brakes when the signal turned yellow to avoid the tickets from those contraptions. But once that became worthy of a ticket itself he had no choice but to crawl along up to any light where he did not see the start of the green cycle.
This intersection is the entrance to the interstate above. Joe remembers driving on the interstate long ago. He even remembers traffic jams on the interstate. A single truck and one foreign luxury car go past on the interstate as Joe watches. Very little traffic for a weekday morning. Joe notices the sign to his right. The sign reads: ACCESS FORBIDDEN EXCEPT WITH GREENPASS. Joe wanted to get a car that qualified for a greenpass but they cost too much and were usually pushed out of qualification when new ‘greener’ models came out. Only the very privileged could buy a new car every two years to maintain a green pass. The used car was usually crushed as is the fate of most used cars upon required trade in. Used cars could create a surplus of vehicles and that means less jobs for auto workers. Joe thinks such wastefulness is bad for the environment, but he keeps that heresy to himself.
Just as the light turns green Joe sees the latest model of a large foreign made vehicle turn on to the ramp. Only the driver in the car. He knows that must be someone of power. They are the only people allowed to drive nice large vehicles like that on to the interstate or with only a driver on board. Even most truck traffic runs on the local roads these days. Most remaining businesses that are not in some way connected to the government can afford the fees to run trucks on the interstate highways. Goldman Sachs now controls the largest truck freight transportation company in country due to their special interstate millage tax rate.
Joe continues to wiggle his way through traffic until he reaches his destination. He pulls into his employer’s parking lot and parks. He makes his way to his desk where he sees his latest pay stub and the deduction for parking. Parking was made a taxable benefit a year ago. Joe gets to work, wondering what awaits him for his trip back home.