Independence Day

The Capitol in Richmond, Virginia, my native commonwealth.

Happy 4th of July to everyone, andparticularly to those of us living in the United States of America, who celebrate Independence Day today.

I was grasping for some self-driving car angle related to Independence Day, and I came up with something, although it’s a stretch.

One of my family traditions is to celebrate the 4th of July by reading the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Jefferson’s triumphant document is known for its soaring rhetoric at the opening:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

And the close:

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved;

Less memorable is the middle of the document, which consists of a list of accusations against British King George III.

In particular, this complaint stands out:

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

A great irony of the Declaration of Independence is that many of the complaints against George III seem to have gone uncorrected after independence, including this one.

Today, 33 U.S. states locate their capitals outside of their largest city, including my home state of California and my native commonwealth of Virginia.

The distance between the average resident of Illinois and the state capital in Springfield, or between a denizen of Florida and Tallahassee, is measured in hours, or even fractions of a day.

My dream for self-driving cars is to eventually move us beyond the 60 mph ceiling that has constrained automobiles for a century. One day, the seven hour car ride between Las Vegas and Carson City might shrink to an hour and half.

And we’ll be a small step closer to realizing Jefferson’s dream.

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