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01 October 2012

George Jetson, Sot

I was listening to a recent episode of The Diane Rehm Show on the rise of  driver-assistance systems (e.g. adaptive cruise control) and the inevitability of autonomous vehicles. One purported advantage of computer-assisted driving is that it would eliminate driver inattentiveness as a cause of accidents. Taken to its logical conclusion, cars would eventually drive riders wherever they'd like to go without the occupant intervening. This means that people could one day in the not-so-distant future safely text and drive and, perhaps, even drink and drive. This struck me as a place that might bring some unintended consequences. Here is my hypothesis: the widespread use of autonomous vehicles will result in an increase in adverse alcohol-related health outcomes. Think about it this way: inasmuch as anti-drunk driving campaigns have successfully attenuated people's drinking overall, the decriminalization of this behavior will mean that people will drink more frequently and in larger quantities. Just an educated guess.

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