Driverless Trucks, An End of an Era

I recently heard that driverless freight trucks were being tested on I-45, between Houston and Dallas. I immediately thought of the news as yet another example of how automation is taking our jobs. That was on my mind when I saw the trucks driving on the interstate.

It was cool seeing something newsworthy, in real-life. But after I left the truck in the wake of my dust, that cool feeling took a somber turn. As I drove alone in my thoughts, I started thinking of how that automated freight truck isn’t just delivering cargo, but also the end to truckers. I first thought of the stereotypical activities attributed to truckers, but as the miles went by, I pondered how automated trucking makes good business sense.

The Truck

The trucks are impressive looking. They are bright blue and have a large array of sensors attached to the roof of the (almost obsolete) driver cabin. I could clearly see the video cameras and what looked like radar spinning on both sides of the truck. And as I passed the truck, I caught a glimpse of a man sitting behind the wheel[1].

Automated Trucks Make Sense

Automated trucking makes good business sense because it fixes problems associated with logistics, such as: human limitations, scheduling, legal liabilities, and transportation costs.

No Pesky Driver – There isn’t a driver to pay and companies won’t have to worry about truckers striking because of overwork and low pay.

Operate 24/7 – The trucks can operate 24 hours a day without stopping to eat, pee, or sleep. Automated trucks don’t care about holidays either. They can work 365.25 days a year without complaint or needing overtime pay.

Legal Compliance – Without an impatient or reckless human behind the wheel, automated trucks won’t feel tempted to drive above the speed limit[2]. If the truck travels above the speed limit, there will be a digital record of the traffic violation somewhere in the company’s servers. Whether the company shares information on such legal infractions is another question. All the cameras and monitoring equipment will almost certainly be used to protect the company if/when accidents occur.

Reduced Costs – Automated trucks should drive down costs because: there’s no driver to pay, reduced shipping delays, and insurance premiums should decrease over time. But will consumers see lower prices at the store? Don’t hold your breath.

Automation is a tool for improving the company’s bottom line. Not yours. 

Humanity in an Automated World

What jobs will be available to humans in a driverless world? Freight trucks need to be refueled somehow[3], so the job of Gas Pumping Station Operator may be resurrected. At least, until they find a way to automate that process too.

Even if a safe automated process for pumping gas is developed, it makes sense to keep gas pumping operators around. At minimum, they can perform inspections and clean bugs off the optical sensors. Pump station operators can be trained to perform more detailed maintenance as well. Just like the computer in my car, the computers in an automated truck or logistics system should detect if scheduled or emergency maintenance is needed. The system can calculate the optimum location to perform maintenance and automatically send a work order to local operators.

This is starting to sound like that 1997 movie, “Trucks”.

Safety

It’s given that accidents will happen. Tesla cars are in the news all the time because the autopilot feature keeps injuring or killing people. If these companies can’t get it right for consumer vehicles, what makes you think commercial vehicles will be safer?

How will these trucks be programmed to handle collision avoidance once they’re approved for completely automated operation? If a collision is unavoidable, how will the truck decide to maneuver and cause the least amount of damage? We don’t really know what types of sensors the trucks have, nor do we know what processing capabilities the on-board computer has. I doubt the trucks have the ability to see how many people are in each vehicle, so I’ve got to ask if the computers are programmed to prioritize avoiding certain vehicle types?

Most people would think an automated truck will maneuver to prevent human death or injury, but I can’t help wondering if the programming will prioritize company property over the lives of everyday drivers. We all should know by now that making money and avoiding liability is what drives greedy corporations, so I’m skeptical when I hear that safety is foremost on their minds.

What’s Next

It’s not just truckers who’ll be driving into the sunset, I can see automation taking other jobs too. Sanitation jobs are probably the least liked on the market. Most city garbage trucks already have an automated claw to grab your standard garbage bin and chug the contents into its maw, so I can see our cities taking a step forward by automating the entire process.

How confident are you in the maneuverability of automated garbage trucks in your neighborhood? Think of where your kids play, because we know the cheapest cameras will be used on city vehicles. If that’s the case, the vehicles may not be capable of detecting humans. If the vehicle notices at all, your child may be noted as an unregistered speed bump.

End of an Era

As more and more automated trucks are put on the road, truck stops and gas stations won’t cater to truckers any longer. You won’t be able to look up and see sexy truckers while driving down the interstate[4].

The writing’s on the wall… of the truck stop bathroom.


[1] Human Infesting a Driverless Truck: In Texas, a human must be able to step in to operate the vehicle if necessary… at least, for now. Drivers may have to share the road with completely automated trucks in about 1-2 years.

[2] Speed Limit: There’s a possibility automated trucks will be granted exceptions to speed limit regulations. I don’t see the need for an exception to the speed limit because automated trucks can operate 24/7, but corporations are greedy. If there’s a business need for these automated trucks to move faster than established speed limits, the businesses who control our politicians will lobby to ensure these trucks are above the law.

[3] What about electric vehicles? It’s possible a fleet of automated trucks will be converted to electric if the technology is perfected. I doubt this will happen because gas/diesel power is quick and more reliable. The current battery technology allows cars to travel about 250 miles on a single charge, but those cars aren’t hauling several tons of freight. It takes about 30 minutes to recharge normal vehicle batteries, so consider how long it’ll take to charge a battery designed for freight trucks. Electric vehicle batteries cost a lot to replace and tend to wear out quickly, and are prone to exploding if overheated or overused.

The infrastructure already exists for gas-powered vehicles and it stands to reason that automated trucks will continue using diesel for years to come.

[4] Sexy Truckers: NSA-style relations with roaming truckers will be a thing of the past. Which means the guy advertising “services” on the wall of truck stop restrooms will have to find something better to do.

Bird Flew

We’ve been hearing about how all these chickens are testing positive for bird flew. Chickens don’t typically fly, but they’re fully capable of flying for short distances to find food or reach a perch. 

We don’t normally see these flights because it rarely happens. When such a flight is witnessed, it scares the fuck out of humans! Early intervention is important because if one chicken can learn to fly, even for a short distance, it means others can too.

That knowledge can spread like a virus.

The standing policy for farmers or bird-factories is to report the possibility a chicken may have “flew”. Once the government receives the alert, it triggers a rapid response:

  1. The entire facility is locked down by special forces and the employees are sworn to secrecy.
  2. A team of inspectors is dispatched to do a psychological interview of the witness.
  3. Once it’s verified the worker didn’t hallucinate the incident, all camera footage is examined to verify if the bird or birds did indeed fly.
  4. The birds test positive if flight is verified and the entire stock must be exterminated.
  5. The special forces team is reassigned from containment to extermination and uses flamethrowers to sterilize the facility.
  6. The smell of cooked chicken always draws a crowd, so it’s important to have a cover story. To hide the fact a bird flew, the media is told of a bird flu infection.

Our entire food supply could fly the coop if rapid intervention isn’t taken to eliminate the infection and ensure information of the incident doesn’t make it to the media. If animal rights activists were to learn a bird flew, those hippies will demand better conditions for the chickens.

It won’t stop there. 

If chickens can learn to fly, maybe they can read and write too. Activists will demand the chickens be tested to prove if they are intelligent. As with most controversial studies, there will be mixed results and people may demand a moratorium on chicken consumption. Those social agitators will go even further and push for chickens to have rights and legal representation. Before you know it, Chicken-Scratch will become a grade-school subject!

Chicken-Scratch!

Food prices will spiral out of control while these social reforms are debated. Our civilization will be further polarized between two radical factions. Those who believe chickens are sentient, and those who can’t believe dinner can talk.

We’d end up fighting a neo-civil war on CHICKENS!

If the Independents aren’t forced to pick a side, they’ll watch the war play out in sports bars over a plate of wings. People who probably haven’t touched a gun their entire lives will try to defeat those who own 2 or more. Regardless of who wins the war, the battlefields will be stained a shade of red similar to buffalo sauce.

All because a damn bird flew.

***

Author’s Note: I intentionally inflated the government and social responses to emphasize the fictitious nature of the story. However, bird flu (avian influenza) is a serious disease our nation should take seriously. Humans don’t have much of a natural defense against this zoological version of Influenza, and the majority of human cases are terminal.

Bird flu is usually spread by migrating birds and if it’s here in the United States, it’s probably here to stay. We couldn’t even stop a bunch of rich old birds from carrying Covid-19 from their cruises and vacations from China and East Asia. So, what makes you think we can stop ACTUAL birds from flying into the country. 

Don’t shun food made with chicken just yet, because according to studies, an infected chicken is still safe to eat if cooked thoroughly[1],[2].

Which shouldn’t be a problem because I don’t know anyone who likes a rare chicken.


[1] Eileen Haraminac, W. S. (2022, March 11). Humans cannot get avian influenza from properly cooked poultry and eggs. Retrieved from Michigan State University Extension: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/avian_influenza_poultry_eggs_safe_food

[2] United States Department of Agriculture. (2015). USDA Questions and Answers: Food Safety and Avian Influenza. USDA.

Holographic Will

I’ve worked in several fields of law over the years[1] and learned many legal terms which haven’t aged well. Jargon of this sort may sound funny to modern ears, especially when examined from a different perspective. As a life-long fan of science fiction, I always thought a “Holographic Will” sounded funny.

I grew up seeing holograms in Star Trek and Star Wars, so every time I hear someone mention holographic Wills, I can’t help thinking of the holograms depicted in science fiction. Think of how funny it’d be to arrive at court to prove up a holographically formatted Will. How might a probate judge react to such a Will?

  • Would he or she be offended at the clever use of technology which makes fun of a dated term?
  • Would the attorney or representative of the estate be chastised for contempt of court?
  • Would such a Will be seriously evaluated based on its merits?

But, how could such a Will be legally recognized as valid? I’ve drafted and managed the execution of several estate planning documents, and understand what makes them legally valid. It may require a lot of effort, but it shouldn’t be that hard to make a real holographic Will.

Making a Holographic Will

A holographic Will is a Last Will and Testament which is handwritten and signed by the testator. Holographic Wills aren’t the best method to convey property upon death because they lack the verification and witnessing process enjoyed by most standard Wills. In Texas, the entire document must be written in the handwriting of the person making the Will (testator).

Based on the current requirements, you cannot have a valid holographically formatted, holographic Will. The reason is because the court must be able to verify the handwriting on the original document. If a hand-written document is converted into a digital format, the copy (hologram) isn’t legally enforceable.

However, you can draft a digitally holographic Last Will and Testament and execute it in a way that makes it valid. This is achievable using the technology we have today[2].

What You’ll Need[3] 

  • Portable holographic projector
  • Typed Will
  • Notary with digital stamp credentials
  • Two disinterested witnesses
  • All parties need a digitally secure signature to sign the PDF.

Theoretical Process

  1. Buy a portable holographic projector. You’ll need it for a functioning holographic Will. Several are available on Amazon with an average starting price of $180. They appear to render images well and should be more than sufficient for this purpose.
  2. Get your Will drafted. Most people recommend having a probate attorney do this for you, but there are templates of simple Wills available online. A probate or estate planning attorney will be immensely helpful because of the unique nature of a holographically formatted Will. 
  3. Find a Notary and schedule an appointment for the signing. The hard part is finding a Notary who has a completely digital notary stamp, and is willing to use it to notarize a Will[4]. If you’re working with an attorney, they may already have a digital stamp or know someone who does.
  4. Corral two disinterested witnesses to participate in the signing[5]. This won’t be difficult if you’re working with an attorney because most offices use their staff as disinterested witnesses. 
  5. Make certain all signatories have a secure digital signature. This can be done using a recognized execution service like DocuSign[6]
  6. Assemble the parties and sign. The notary will verify your identity and those of your witnesses. Initial and Sign everything in front of the Notary and witnesses. There’s a section for the witnesses to enter their names and sign as well.
  7. The Notary notarizes the Will. The Notary will apply a digital stamp verifying you have satisfactorily executed the Will.
  8. Save or upload the executed Will. Once the Will is saved to your computer or SD card, plug it in and test it out. Be aware that you may need to convert the file formats to work on certain projectors.

A Few Things to Consider

This process can be done in person or via teleconference. However, there are more benefits to assembling all signatories in the same office.

  • Having all parties physically present makes it easier for the Notary to verify everyone’s identity.
  • Being in the same office reduces the chance of an error happening, and makes troubleshooting easier if one does occur.
  • If all parties are in the same office, it can’t hurt to print a physical copy of the unexecuted Will and perform the execution process the conventional way. Doing so will ensure there is a standard version of the Will in case your family experiences complications during the probate process.

Other Types of “Holographic” Wills

While writing this article, I thought of a couple alternative methods to creating a “holographic” Will. I’m pretty sure the following types of Wills won’t be recognized as legally valid because they are technically uncertifiable copies, and/or the processes involved alter the document enough to ruin its legitimacy. I mention them because someone may think it’s a cool idea to replicate, and I’d like to see the idea given form.

Holographic Printing[7]

There are a few methods to printing a “holographic” Will, but require a specialized printing company. The Will is copied onto special embossed “paper” or a sheet of glass to provide a 3D effect. The process may produce an optical illusion of floating text, and the company may be able to make the signatures and notary stamp appear more prominent.

Engraving

If you want to go big, and I mean really big, you could have a 3D crystal[8] engraving company turn your Will into a different type of “hologram”. This process is very expensive and requires a huge block of glass to legibly fit all pages of your Will (simple Wills average 10 pages). 

If you have money to burn and know you aren’t going to alter or amend your estate plan, this type of Will can do double-duty as art. You can proudly display and brag that your final wishes are set in stone (actually, glass). And once you’re gone, it’ll serve as an everlasting monument to your legacy. 

This type of Will may be perfect for a wealthy person who hates their family and/or wants to leave everything to a pet… or 20-year-old lover. Such a person can take great pleasure knowing the Will serves as a huge middle-finger to the family. 

***

When all is said and done, a Will outlines your final wishes regarding your corporeal assets. If you’re a trickster at heart, you could pull one final joke on the system by creating a holographically formatted Will. It won’t be of any official use until you die, but when that day comes, you can rest easy knowing you’ve played one last prank on the system.

Where there’s a Will, there’s a way! 


[1] Legal Disclaimer: The author of this article has worked in law for over a decade, but is not an attorney. The information or materials available in this blog or website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. The laws of one governmental jurisdiction (i.e. city, county, state, or territory) may not apply to a different jurisdiction.

Readers of this website and article should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No reader or user of this website should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein (and your interpretation of it) is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation.

Use of or access to this website and/or article do not create any type of professional-client relationship.

[2] Document Validation: Our courts are making great strides to modernize, but some jurisdictions may be slower than others at accepting new techniques. The processes posed in this article may not work in all courts now, but nothing can truly stop progress. It’s just a matter of time.

[3] Ingredients of a Will: Please remember that different states and counties may have different laws and requirements.

[4] Notarizing Wills: It’s hard to find a Notary who will notarize a Will. I’ve written my own Will, but can’t get anyone to notarize it. I’ve gone to banks and notary offices, and they’re all too scared to notarize it.  

WHY!?

All they have to do is say the magic words, and watch me and the witnesses sign.

[5] Disinterested Witness: A disinterested witness is a person who does not benefit from your estate. In Texas, a witness must be over 14 years of age and of sound mind.

[6] DocuSign: Some legal entities or medical organizations shun eSignatures. They sometimes require a “wet” or hand-written signature. This practice doesn’t make sense when you have a legitimate 3rd party service, recognized for secure document execution. 

If I can use DocuSign to execute multi-million-dollar contracts between major corporations, we should be able to use it to execute a multi-thousand-dollar estate.

[7] Holographic Printing: This section is intended to be an “honorable mention” of alternate methods of making a “holographic” Will. I have seen printed 3D or “holographic” images, but the science and technique is too complex to deeply explain beyond the basic theory of how it can be applied to make a Will “holographic”.

[8] 3D “Crystal” Engraving: The block used in the 3D engraving process is usually made of glass or a special plastic.

Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Bubblegram. Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:History/Bubblegram

Red/Blue Pill 💊

If you have an account with any of the major social media platforms, you’ve likely seen one of the many different versions of this Matrix-style red/blue pill question[1]. Most people who comment or respond to these types of posts answer with their choice and provide a brief reason to support that decision. But when I recently encountered this post, I found myself thinking about the inherent question and what consequences each decision may hold.

A quick note from the author: The points made in this story are best suited to someone who was a child during the 1990s, or earlier.

Red Pill

I noticed that most of the commentators who chose the red pill said they’d go back and use their knowledge to play the market or win the lottery to get rich and have the best of both worlds. The thing most of these commenters are missing is the red pill says: “restart your life at age 6 with all the knowledge you have now”. That doesn’t necessarily mean restart AND GO BACK IN TIME, with all the knowledge you have now.

Now think about it, would you seriously want to retain your knowledge and restart at age 6?

  1. You can’t drive 🚗
  2. You can’t work, so how are you going to support yourself? Do you honestly think your parents want to re-raise you? Are they even alive? If not, you’re going to be a ward of the state. 
  3. All your current credentials are useless and need to be re-earned because nobody will believe a 6-year-old graduated with a bachelor’s/master’s degree 🎓 That means…
  4. You have to suffer through school all over again. You’ll have to endure over 12 years of droning teachers who teach nothing to prepare you for life as an adult (things like laws, crime & punishment, how to do taxes, etc.). 
  5. You can’t vote 🗳
  6. Health-wise, reverting back to the body of a child with all the knowledge you’ve amassed may cause problems. Consider that your body is still growing and developing at age 6. All your current knowledge may force your brain to rapidly establish neural connections and grow new wrinkles. If left unchecked, all that quick growth could cause a tumor[2]
  7. You can’t drink 🍷 🍸 🍹 🍺 🥃
  8. You need to consider sexual relationships too. Since you have the knowledge of a full adult, are you technically a “Pedi” if you have sex with another person your physical age? On the same subject, do you really want to “date” adults who’re attracted to kids your age (think really hard about what normally happens to their victims).

Let’s play devil’s advocate and consider what could happen if you took the red pill and did travel back in time to your 6th birthday, with all the knowledge you now possess.

If you’re a millennial, there’s no escaping school because “No Child Left Behind” ended in 2015. That means you’ve got to slog through all those classes… all over again. However, you may perform a lot better because you learned everything already. You may even qualify for advanced placement classes, and maybe an academic scholarship later in life.

The technology we have today doesn’t exist. Do you think you can live without being able to post an update every day? Be honest. When I was a teen, LiveJournal and Blogging were THE only social media methods. LiveJournal and Blogging!!!

Also consider that access to immediate information may not exist, so you’ve got to keep any petty snowflake ideals you may harbor to yourself. People were no-nonsense back then and that kind of behavior would have earned you a black eye. 

Another thing to remember is that childhood punishments were much harsher during and before the 1990s. Nowadays, children are getting PTSD from “time out”. So don’t be shocked when you have to physically re-live an actual spanking.

Many commentators said they’d play the market or win the lottery to get rich. If you want to try winning the lottery, you’d need to remember the exact numbers and when to play them. You’re just a punk kid and can’t buy the ticket, so you need to convince someone to buy a ticket with those numbers. And then, you’d need to ensure you can benefit from those winnings. It’ll be easy for an adult to walk away with your lottery money, or if family, to squander your winnings.

It’s too risky to use the winning numbers too many times, because sooner or later, someone is going to find out you have advanced knowledge of the winning numbers and either ruin the scheme or kidnap you for the information. So, just to be sure you win the lottery, you’d have to remember or save the winning numbers until your 18th birthday. That’s 12 years…

But what about playing the market? Again, YOU ARE A CHILD. You can’t buy stocks. If you walk into a Charles Schwab, the employees are going to call the police to report a missing child. If you have nice parents, you may be able to convince them to buy stocks using your allowance money. Don’t hold your breath though.

Most Americans didn’t know how to buy stock way back when. Heck, people still thought Charles Schwab branches were banks in the early 2000s. Plus, the cost to buy anything in the market was so prohibitively expensive it detracted most potential investors.

Yes… good luck getting your parents to go through all that trouble.

Blue Pill

I’d personally choose the blue pill, because it seems simple enough. It’s just $10 million in cash, but even that isn’t without risk. For starters, how are you getting this $10 million in cash? Does it come with a receipt from a non-illegal entity? Or, is this money going to magically materialize out of thin air? 

If you can’t legally point out where the money came from, you’ll need to keep your new-found wealth a deep, dark secret. You’ll need to find a way to discretely spend it or “launder” it into the economy[3]. That means you’ll need to pay for everyday things using cash. If done wisely, you may be able to build an entire house with cash. But you’ll need to trust the workers not to take your money and run.

You’ll need to store all this cash for a really long time. Which increases your chances of getting robbed, and maybe even murdered for your money. Which also means you must hide it all away at various locations and remember where everything is stashed. 

If you receive the $10 million via direct deposit or wire transfer, then the source had better be legitimate. If not, a couple things that may happen. If the transfer came from an unknown or unconfirmed source, the bank will probably think it was an error in the system and void the transaction. Meaning, you instantly lose the money. 

Although, if the money is transferred from a known source, regardless of where the money came from, the government will be alerted and it will investigate the transaction[4]. If the government finds anything it doesn’t like, not only can it freeze your assets, but you may face time in prison. 

 ***

Overall, I think the blue pill is a safer option. Sure, there are risks with getting $10 million in cash, but the red pill has way more long-term annoyances and risks associated with it to be worthwhile. Not to mention that you’d have to grow up and endure hormonal changes and acne all over again.


[1] Wachowskis, T. (Director). (1999). The Matrix [Motion Picture].

[2] Tumor: Note that I’m NOT a medical professional. This is a hypothetical possibility and is not based on any science. If anything, consider it a nonsensical musing along the lines of: “everything may cause cancer”.

[3] Laundering: I’d like to remind everyone that I do not condone any illegal activity and any perceived instructions regarding how to commit a crime are hypothetical, and should be considered partly as a work of fiction.

[4] Investigation: I had a college professor who gave all her children $10,000 as a gift because she has more money than she can spend. She came home one night to find that our government ransacked her home as part of an FBI investigation related to funding terrorism.

The annual gift tax exclusion was $10,000 back then. Now, it about $16,000.