Political ad uses fear of “driverless cars” to scare elderly voters

googles self driving car trial moves up a gear googlecar

Paid for by a political action committee called the Committee to Protect Florida, the organization created a thirty-second commercial that depicts an elderly woman using a walker starting to cross the street as a “driverless car” rolls through a stop sign. The attack ad was likely created to convince voters to vote against Jeff Brandes for an open senate seat, a state representative that recently supported legislation that allows autonomous, driverless cars on the road. Nevada had already passed similar legislation recently making Florida the second state to allow Google’s self-driving vehicle to legally operate on highways and regular streets. 

driverless-cars-attack-adBeyond the scene of a gray Prius driving carelessly through the stop sign, a voiceover of an elderly woman calls the driverless cars “remote-controlled” as if someone else is operating the car with a secondary device. In addition, an audio clip of a vehicle screeching to a stop and smashing into something is played at the end of the commercial.

According to Forbes, the people behind the advertisement also took a Forbes quote out of context that stated driverless cars were more dangerous than driving. The article was specifically making fun of the idea that driverless cars should be the only cars allowed on the road once they become mainstream over the next five to ten years.

Ironically, Google’s protoype car has driven approximately 300,000 miles without a single accident and has plenty of safety sensors around the car to avoid hitting people in the street or other objects. In addition, seniors would easily benefit the most from this type of technology as the problems of getting older make it more difficult to safely operate a vehicle. Earlier this year, Google produced a video of the driverless car helping an elderly blind resident of California run errands like stopping to pick up dry cleaning or rolling through the drive-through window of a fast food restaurant to pick up tacos.

In an interview with The Atlantic, Brandes stated “It’s amazing to have a conversation with people in their 30s and 40s about this technology. They understand — it’s like a cell phone. Of course we’re all going to have this in a few years. Older people are just kind of confused by the whole thing. They just think you’re making stuff up and next you’re going to say they’re being abducted by aliens. They don’t really understand that this technology exists. It’s real.”

Before voting on the Google-backed legislation, Brandes got the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of the Google car and travel at a speed of 70 miles per hour without touching the steering wheel or the pedals. He called the technology a more advanced version of cruise control. Other Florida politicians also got to test out the car before voting on the proposed bill;  a convincing method as the bill passed unanimously according to Brandes.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the inept advertisement did very little to dissuade voters from supporting Brandes. As of tonight, the St. Petersburg politician won the state senate seat in District 22 after beating out political rival Jim Frishe. 

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