Saturday, November 25, 2017

Will crime fiction lose its wheels?

One of the staples of crime and crime fiction may soon disappear. I'm talking about the get-away car.

To explain, the tech prognosticators are predicting that soon—within ten years, maybe five—the private car as we know it will be as obsolete as the horse-drawn buggy. According to this vision of tomorrow, to get around, instead of firing up the family jalopy, we'll summon a robotic Uber/Lyft that will whisk us to our destination. The traffic grid will be a commuters' paradise.

So how does crime figure into this? A common argument to fight "gun-violence" is that we ought to register guns like we do cars, ignoring the reality that registered cars are used to commit violent crimes all the time. Try kidnapping someone without a car (or other vehicle). In fact, getting kidnapped by car occurs so frequently that we even have slang for it: getting trunked. Cars are a favorite venue in which pedophiles sexually assault children. Cars are the most convenient and popular way to transport drugs for drug trafficking, which is a major source of violent crime. And cars are used in drive-by shootings and as get-away vehicles in robbery and homicide. If you were the chauffeur during those crimes, you can't excuse yourself by saying, "I was just the driver." Someone dies, you're on the hook as an accessory for murder one.

So how will violent crime happen in this future landscape of robotic cars? Consider that you won't own those cars; you'll sign up for a service that will keep your ID and credit card on file. There will be an extensive record of where and when you were in the car. So much for phony alibis. Plus, the car's wifi (or whatever) will shift through your cell phone and data-mine its contents. That feature is what will make this robo-car service affordable; you'll be a captive font of personal information. Besides that, the car will use facial recognition and other scanners to identify your passengers, and should any of them start using their phones in the car, they'll be data-mined as well. Plus, RF chips in your bottle of meds, your clothing, your purse and wallet, would also be scanned. Everything you do and bring into the car will be documented and analyzed. Additionally, these cars will be used for gun control since their interior scanners could identify guns and under the robotic car company terms-of-service, you would be prohibited from transporting even legally owned firearms without agreeing to onerous restrictions.

So in that scenario, how could you pull off a heist or a hit? Certainly there will be a premium service to ensure that the affairs of the rich remain private, and people up to no good will use that option. Hackers will no doubt mercilessly torment the robotic car industry. Factor in government corruption and bureaucratic incompetence, and criminals will exploit the security gaps using methods we can't yet imagine. So my prediction? Future crime writers will have plenty of juicy, horrific stories with no shortage of ways to vamoose the scene of the crime.

On another front, Blood Business, the newest crime anthology from Hex Publishers, edited by Josh Viola and me, was a Denver Post #1 bestseller.


Charlotte Hinger said...

Great post. I loved the car/gun registration argument that both are used to commit crimes.

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Interesting stuff! Yes, I think driver-less cars will open up all sorts of opportunities for plot ideas for us crime writers.

Mario Acevedo said...

Thanks Charlotte and Marianne. We'll see what the future brings but by the time these robotic cars are fully deployed, I may no longer be here!