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A PERSON who texts while driving is holding a gun to his head. And to ours too.

It is a logical observation. It is scarcely an exaggeration. We see deadly giants. We do not see windmills. We are not Don Quixote on Rocinante.

One ‘giant’ came from the-once Great Britain. Former Manchester United and England football ‘god’ David Beckham was recently fined £750 and banned from driving for six months for texting while driving.

The BBC report also says that in England and Wales in 2017, “there were 8,300 convictions for using a handheld mobile phone whilst driving”.

That’s remarkable, is it not? They were actually taken to court!

In Malaysia, the police and the Road Transport Department say tens of thousands of summonses had been issued to motorists for this offence.

Bent it the wrong way
Bent it the wrong way

By Jove, there should be more! Lots more, if my experience on our highways is a reliable measure of the conduct of mortals. Every kilometre travelled with my faithful Lady is incomplete without inane encounters with women and men unabashedly holding a phone behind the wheel, or looking down at their Apples, Samsungs and Huaweis.

I wish I have the power to zap them into the consciousness of the reality of the road. The way Thor would have done with Mjolnir.

For now, I must needs be contented with the knowledge that they are getting tickets. But wonder I still do: how many drivers in Malaysia who received a summons for using a phone actually paid up?

The numbers are probably dismal. A mere shadow of a giant. For in January, the police themselves said traffic offenders settled only less than 30 per cent of summonses.

True it is then that not everyone who breaks the law will pay the price. We should be angry that it has come to this.

Few politicians are willing to do battle to set things right. The electoral cost may be more than they are willing to bear.

More awareness programmes are needed, some would plead. Perhaps. Perhaps, too, the sun shall one day rise in the west and set in the east instead. Between now and those fanciful days, too many lives could be lost.

That’s why we need the help of the dragons of AI, both the ones in existence and the creatures who are yet to be born, to confront this problem and melt the ‘throne of phone’ which has become an altar of sacrifice. May these antidotes fly in before Westeros becomes less than a memory.

BLOCK THE MESSAGES AUTOMATICALLY

In the United States, at least one company is known to have developed the means to render a device unusable for texting when it is in a vehicle. The lock is not activated by the user, but by the phone itself.

But the company is not pursuing this course and cause, presumably because it may lose customers who would be annoyed they cannot use their devices in vehicles.

Now it would be a fine day if this technology is refined and adopted by all phone makers. Unless, of course, the future is only about driverless cars!

PUNISH OFFENDERS INSTANTLY

Imagine this. A camera on the street captures an image of a person — DCxt — texting or talking on the phone while driving.

It sends the image to a central server (Big Brother) which immediately identifies DCxt and coldly calls out to him even as he is ‘bound’ to his device.

“Mr DCxt, MyKad No XXXX. You are in violation of traffic code BBB. Your licence is hereby suspended. And a penalty of RM1,000 has taken effect. Your account at Rapacious Bank has been drawn down by the same amount. Have a nice day.”

Hollywood probably already has this AI weapon in its reels, but the real world’s must needs wait until 5G takes hold. Or perhaps 6G, which Trump says “we also want”.

Looking for trouble. PIC BY DCxt
Looking for trouble. PIC BY DCxt

STOP THEM FROM DRIVING

So it may be, too, that cars of the future will be linked to each other and to Big Brother. If this be the fate of vehicles and machines, it is plausible that the smart wheels can be engineered not to start or move to punish errant drivers.

The cars would have sensors unimaginable and an AI voice silkily irresistible.

“DCxt...I am so sorry. But I cannot let you drive me today and for three more weeks because you have been very bad.”

I am being flippant and foolish, you say. On the contrary, it is desperation that’s bleeding from these weary fingers on the keyboard. Smartphones may die in 10 years. Probably sooner. But many lives may be lost or hurt on the roads in the intervening period, too, because people can’t stay away from their devices.

So the much-anticipated and feared A.I. dragons may come too late. The trigger will be pulled, the giants will kill and be killed. We are as hapless as the ingenious Sir Quixote of La Mancha.

[email protected]

The writer is NST production editor

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