Member of Congress breaks self-driving car?

Vast brains from Carnegie Mellon brought their self-driving car to Washington for Congress to try. Didn't they realize government ruins things?

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The interior of the Carnegie Mellon self-driving car. Raj Rajkumar/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Would you trust your future to the current Congress?

Would you trust the slimy and self-interested with your house? Or even your bicycle?

For many, the answer might be in the negative.

However, some very clever brains at Carnegie Mellon decided they could trust the members of Congress with their new self-driving car.

They took their prototype to Washington and said: "Hey, imagine a world free of human error."

It's unclear whether this was a challenge or merely an expression of hope that, one day, the self-interested wouldn't be in charge of everyone else's interests.

What is clear, as Yahoo News reports, is that the specially equipped 2011 Cadillac SRX gave up the ghost.

What's peculiar (or not) is that spokespeople for both Carnegie Mellon and the House Transportation Committee agreed on every aspect of the driverless disaster. Yes, they agreed not to comment.

This leaves open the notion that a member of the committee was in the car and, say, tried to take control by yanking the steering wheel.

It also leaves open the notion that two members of Congress got in the car and couldn't decide which direction to go in, leaving the car's software to sigh like the rest of the country and begin eating potato chips and watching the World Cup.

NBC Washington, however, has decided to point its own powerful digit at Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

It squarely says that Norton, who represents the District of Columbia and sits on the Highways and Transit Subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure -- how many subcommittees did it take to decide on that name? -- hit the kill switch on the car.

I contacted Norton's office to see whether she's been driven crazy by the idea that she might have caused the car to self-stop and will update this post should I hear back.

If it is, indeed, the case that her actions shut down the car, the symbolism veritably howls. It screams like the best moment of a Brazilian soccer fan and the worst moment of a feral cat cornered by 17 coyotes.

A member of Congress is so used to halting things -- bills, ideas, progress, that sort of thing -- that her first action on confronting something new is to kill it.

 

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