‘Autonomy’ for whom? The independent owner-operator and tech skeptic featured in new film

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Updated Jan 12, 2021

Featuring well-known author and thinker Malcolm Gladwell and facilitated in part by the folks behind “Car and Driver” magazine, the November-released “Autonomy” short-ish film’s through-line is an exploration of how fast-developing driver-assist and closer-to-actual-self-driving technologies are fast-changing U.S. car culture. But it doesn’t stop there.

The “Autonomy” film is available for rental via streaming services at Amazon, and purchase via iTunes, among other places.The “Autonomy” film is available for rental via streaming services at Amazon, and purchase via iTunes, among other places.

Featured therein was Walkabout Transport independent owner-operator Debbie Desiderato, with whom regular readers will be familiar. Count her among skeptics when it comes to views on the choice our society will eventually be presented in some form or fashion — whether to fully accept high-speed vehicles on public roads without an operator capable of reason and judgment behind the wheel/manning the controls.

In the end, whose autonomy do we most value, man’s or machine’s? As  comedian Trevor Noah memorably lampooned such a binary choice, and I’m paraphrasing here: I don’t want to be killed by a machine! I want to be killed by Dave! 

In this week’s edition of the Overdrive Radio podcast, Desiderato voices her own skepticism and uneasiness with the rush to “Level 5” full self-driving tech, just as she did in the film that features her and her 2012 Kenworth T660. She also speaks to the many hours of a shoot that were put in for the few minutes that comprise her spot in the film, and the likewise skeptical viewpoints of some of the film’s other interviewed subjects. Take a listen:

Desiderato’s T660 shown here at the Mid-America Trucking Show last year. As she notes in the podcast, her business has carved a niche with a broker in trade-show freight, going those places others don’t like to — including plenty tight inner-city routes and docks.Desiderato’s T660 shown here at the Mid-America Trucking Show last year. As she notes in the podcast, her business has carved a niche with a broker in trade-show freight, going those places others don’t like to — including plenty tight inner-city routes and docks. As with advancing driver-assist techs in chaotic on-highway situations and wild weather, perhaps, the real world intrudes on podcast recordings, too. While I spoke with Desiderato, Bubba here, her trusty ride-along dog, was startled by a deer or other animal near the Virginia home the owner-operator keeps today (where she’s in the process of relocating permanently after decades on Long Island, N.Y.). Hear him bark toward the tail end of the audio, where I also ask: Ever had your business impersonated by a scammer with a broker? Desiderato and a vigilant broker recently had just such an experience. How such a scam runs: An individual misrepresents him- or herself as an independent to a broker in hopes of getting the load and a fuel advance, then disappearing into the ether. If you’ve ever been involved in an investigation of such a scam, leave a message on our podcast line at 530-408-6423 — we’d love to hear from you about the experience.As with advancing driver-assist techs in chaotic on-highway situations and wild weather, perhaps, the real world intrudes on podcast recordings, too. While I spoke with Desiderato, Bubba here, her trusty ride-along dog, was startled by a deer or other animal near the Virginia home the owner-operator keeps today (where she’s in the process of relocating permanently after decades on Long Island, N.Y.). Hear him bark toward the tail end of the audio, where I also ask: Ever had your business impersonated by a scammer with a broker? Desiderato and a vigilant broker recently had just such an experience. How such a scam runs: An individual misrepresents him- or herself as an independent to a broker in hopes of getting the load and a fuel advance, then disappearing into the ether. If you’ve ever been involved in an investigation of such a scam, leave a message on our podcast line at 530-408-6423 — we’d love to hear from you about the experience.
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