Meet George Jetson. One day he was behind the wheel of his self-driving car when it went berserk, ran a red light, hit several pedestrians, drove off the road and crashed into The Bean.

When questioned by police, Jetson admitted he was taking a nap at the time because Hazel, the voice of his computerized car, had assured him she was in full control.

He was jolted from his slumber by the emergency alarm on his vehicle notifying him the manual override had been activated and Jetson was now in full control.

OPINION

“You will be responsible for any injuries, property damage or criminal liability from this point forward,” the computer screamed, as George opened his eyes to see a woman using a walker bounce off his front bumper.

As Jetson tried to explain to police that he was not at fault, the law enforcement officers connected their squad car computer to the black box in Jetson’s car which reported that “the human operator of this vehicle is entirely at fault for this accident.”

Back at the dealership where Jetson had his car serviced, another computer instantly responded to a police inquiry, stating that it had performed all the proper maintenance required, but there appeared to be tampering. The car’s automated features had been modified by “an unauthorized individual.“

“As the chief computer supervisor for the service department, I can assure you that this dealership has no responsibility whatsoever for the accident that just occurred,” the dealership computer told the police computer.

The car manufacturer, alerted by satellite through the car’s onboard accident reporting system that an accident had occurred, also immediately issued a text and email to law enforcement, as well as a news release and Facebook post to the general public.

“We are confident that all automated systems on this 2028 vehicle were operating correctly and confirm the dealership’s conclusion that the incident was not our fault. Furthermore, Mr. Jetson was in full control of the car at the time and had been notified he was experiencing an emergency manual operating situation by our Offensive Operator Program System, also known as OOPS.”

Even as Jetson tried to explain to police that he had never tampered with his car and had no clue what had just happened, his insurance company tweeted, “Your liability insurance has been deactivated due to negligent operation of an automated vehicle.”

The insurance company had invested millions of dollars in robotic and automated vehicle research and its executives and corporate lawyers had spent countless hours working closely with government officials to craft new insurance regulations for the automotive industry designed to cope with liability in the era of self-driving vehicles.

Jetson, on the other hand, had spent hundreds of dollars on an automated car operating class (required by government regulation) but had spent no time with elected officials crafting liability laws for automated vehicles.

In fact, Jetson had paid little attention to the technological revolution around him, although he enjoyed many of its benefits and thought it was cool when Spacely Sprockets employed Gen X robots, reducing its human workforce by 70 percent, while increasing profits 33 percent.

As more reports from artificial intelligence sources instantaneously poured in to police computers with details on Jetson’s car accident, all confirmed he was to blame and, as a precautionary measure, his bank accounts were frozen until his total financial liability could be calculated when all court proceedings had been finalized.

“Human error,” pronounced the police officer on the scene, an Amazon 9 Law Enforcement Unit that also could deliver groceries.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com
Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com