With the passage of California’s Prop 666 I went out and bought a brand new Icarus-420. Now I have a serious case of buyers remorse and I feel really dumb for not questioning the deal I was being presented prior to accepting it. Now the reality of what I’ve done has sunk in. I should have known better. When something is too good to be true it probably is. With that allow me to explain how I got myself into this situation:
I love cars. Since the 70’s I’ve been tinkering with them to make them lighter, faster, improve styling, sound systems, etc. It was a right of passage for so many teenage boys that we carried through into our adulthood. However now I feel like it was all for naught. A monumental waste of time. The game is changing and with the advances in technology and laws that ‘protect and serve us’ the days of the car and driver relationship, which I grew up under, are to be forever changed. For example; with Artificial Intelligence (AI) features continually being perfected, it’s just a matter of time before cars won’t need a human driver at all. We’ll all just be passengers with the ability to enjoy the ride unencumbered by the responsibilities of piloting the car and only have to pay our road taxes by the miles actually traveled. How convenient that will be!
Until that day comes there will need to be an evolution in the automotive industry. There would need to be some sort of transition period between those who choose to drive Human Controlled Vehicles (HCV) and those that see the future and will travel in Autonomous Controlled Vehicles (ACV). During the transition period the ACV proponents have had to find a way to ingratiate themselves into the HCV regulatory framework and that took some creative legislation as proposed and passed in Prop 666 that made all HCV operations harder to qualify under while the new ACV regulations which were being created and put into effect after Prop 666 was passed. What the ACV industry did in creating and getting Prop 666 passed was to extol the virtues of ACV over HCV with marketing and statistics that were so persuasive that enough of the voting HCV demographic decided that this transition to ACV should be for the greater public good and mandated it by law. Prop 666 was crafted to appeal to the voters sense of creating a better world with the newest technological advances and their current acceptance of how we already live in a digitally connected world. The summation being ‘why not take advantage of advanced technology by passing ACV laws and promoting Prop 666 as a law that would even go so far as to ‘protect the rights of the HCV’ driver’. You see that last sentence is where I and everyone else should have been paying closer attention.
I/We should have been asking how can two diametrically opposed agenda’s come together effectively, efficiently and fairly under one ruling regulatory framework? They can’t. The HCV constituent’s needs are always going to be second to the ACV constituent’s needs. And since taxes by the mile are one of the Prop 666 ACV precepts why would the governing regulatory agencies want to do anything that would maintain the rights of the HCV constituent? They won’t. But in an effort to do so, Prop 666 created a new state agency; the Bureau of Automotive Baseline Billing and Licensing Enterprises (BABBLE) that would attempt to oversee both ACV/HCV regulatory compliance. Awesome! Everything managed under one roof!
The language in Prop 666 misled the HCV voter into believing that their rights would be protected but the reality is that Prop 666 was created to allow ‘expediency in regulatory management’ whereby a 2/3 house majority may change the very essence of the initiative that was approved by the voters. This is a slippery slope as previous to Prop 666 being passed it took a new voter approved initiative to replace the previous initiative. See CA Prop 64, Page 61, Section 10: AMENDMENT.
The voters were led to believe that for the greater public good Prop 666 should be passed to improve vehicle efficiencies, reduce traffic congestion and benefit the environment all while virtually eliminating traffic accidents. We were given statistics that point to less than 1% accident rates under an AVC transportation system compared to 33% accident rates under HCV traffic conditions. With the reduced accident rates BABBLE would replace personal private vehicle insurance premiums as they would no longer be necessary. BABBLE would take over the responsibility of insuring the few ACV related accidents that occurred because that is how strongly they favored and wished to encourage our switch from an HCV to an ACV compliant and controlled system for our roadway transportation needs. This was all compelling stuff and I felt myself increasingly being drawn in to supporting the future of personal transportation!
So here is where I’m feeling stupid and gullible. In my enthusiasm to improve things for everyone I now see that I was too quick to drink the Cool Aid that was being served. You see, back in late November of 2016 I went in and bought one of these new ACV cars. I had done my research. I had scoured the internet and listened to the industry and legal experts who described the world in terms that I felt made sense and I could believe they, as experts, were in a position to have a crystal ball view of how we would benefit with the passage of Prop 666. It made sense that these lawyers, who put their professional reputations on the line, were endorsing Prop 666 because no matter what, those if us who chose to maintain our HVC rights would not be negatively impacted by the passing of Prop 666.
That was important language because I knew plenty of people that publicly endorsed Prop 666 but there were, unlike me, many who would not be in a position to immediately purchase a new AVC car as they still had loans to pay off on their HVC cars and they needed to use those cars to get to work so they can afford to make those monthly payments. So it was along those lines of reasoning that although it seemed like there was still a lot of details that were yet to be worked out in Prop 666 and BABBLE regulations, the overall intent of the initiative looked like the good outweighed the bad. I got behind it intent on participating in this new technology and industry.
After having done as much on line research as possible I had begun visiting various dealerships who sold these AVC cars. What I found was that the paid salespeople were zealously promoting AVC cars over what would soon be considered outdated HVC technology. Eventually I found an AVC car that was just perfect for me. It was absolutely beautiful in every single sense of the word. Sleek lines, amazing styling and color, an interior that was second to none I was caught up in the desire to own this car to the point that I was due diligence instincts were literally blinded by my senses. This car, no matter what, was the one I was going to have. That car was the Icarus-420 series from Enron.
Once I decided that I wanted the Icarus-420 it came down to selecting the dealer and negotiating the price and terms in which I would purchase the car. For that I settled on one of the local Enron dealers. The DCH Automotive Group and their very friendly and outgoing salesperson Ms. Christine Conrad. I felt that I was in the right hands and had the right people assisting me with what to me was to be a major purchasing decision. One that would effect my life in many aspects not just how I was to get around. Ms. Conrad presented me with a 62 page Purchase and Financing Contract that I went through and saw that there was the typical contract language one would expect to see but there was also unusual language that I found that concerned me and I asked her about it. One such section stated that if I were to purchase this AVC car and due to any unforeseen circumstances in how the regulations might change under BABBLE or if the vehicle failed to perform, I would have no one else to blame but myself for having approved the purchase of this car under these conditions. The exact title of this section was titled ‘Unreasonably Impractical’ and essentially it warned me, the signer, not to sign it.
Of course my concern with accepting a contract with that type of language in it was why was it even put there in the first place? By signing the contract I would be waiving my rights to challenge the manufacturer or the state who had encouraged the purchase of this car with the passing of Prop 666 should it fail to live up to its advertised benefits or any of the other elements of the contract I was considering enter into.
Ms. Conrad responded that this was just lawyereze language which didn’t mean anything. In fact she showed me a list of lawyers who had publicly endorsed Prop 666 where this same language had been included and it had been employed in the Purchase Contracts as well. Her reasoning being if the voters in the State of California had passed Prop 666 which had that exact same language in it, how bad can it be?
At the time that made sense to me. Lawyers are contract specialists who create what used to be just 3-4 page contracts, like the last one I signed in November 1996, to become these gargantuan 62 page documents that seemed to identify every possible legal and regulatory element of what the purchase of this vehicle might ever encounter. Nonetheless that is what law has become and these Officers of the Court have sworn an oath to uphold the law both inside and outside the courtroom. There was in my mind, no way that I believed they would ever jeopardize their professional legal careers by putting language into or allowing their client to enter into a contract that would so blatantly and illegally favor one side over the other. Especially if they knew there were issues with the underlying technology that would likely lead to contract litigation which would only help increase the economic benefits to the lawyer by increasing their billable hours. I just couldn’t believe that to be the case. So I went forward with the purchase of the Icarus-420 and signed the contract that had been presented to me by Ms. Conrad. For better or worse we had a deal!
At first I really liked the Icarus-420 experience. This was everything I could have hoped for. I had a car that drove itself and freed itself from the pump by running on wind, solar, electric, gas, and hydrogen. But within 3 months of having entered into that Purchase Contract the gleam on this car, as well as AVC in general and BABBLE in particular had begun to wear off. Now don’t get me wrong here. I still believe in the ability of the AVC technology to improve traffic flow conditions and help reduce accidents. What I do not accept is how the concept was sold to the voters in this state and how the actual application of the regulations, taxes and fees by BABBLE has come to affect me personally.
For one the language in the Purchase Contract never states what the actual sales price for the car is. The way the contract is set up it ties the actual sales price to what the various state agencies who will determine what their costs are going to be once the AVC network is formed will be. In other words I have to accept the sales price that will be determined sometime after BABBLE determined what their fees are going to be. I knew that this was an unusual way to enter into a contract but I believed that BABBLE would be fair and held accountable to whatever their fees ended up being and I signed the the contract anyway. In hindsight I guess I was pretty stupid but I signed this contract under the advice to do so by at least 60 lawyers who had assured me, in writing, that my rights were protected when doing so.
Next came the taxes and fees. When I began getting my monthly BABBLE statements I had charges for, among other things, Total Miles Charged (TLC) I had traveled the fee per mile would change based on Time of Use. For example in lighter traffic hours there was a TLC charge of $0.35 per mile and in heavier traffic the hours TLC charge would fluctuate on a tier level between $0.70 – 0.90 per mile. This got to be unpredictable because there was no 2 way communication with the BABBLE-TLC portal that would have given me real time information as to what my charges were and how I might reduce them until the next billing cycle. The money was taken out of my account electronically and I had no recourse but to pay it. If I failed to pay the monthly charge BABBLE would shut the vehicle’s navigation system down until the payment was made. If there were 2 successive late pays to BABBLE they would charge a 6 month deposit that was added to each monthly statement to assure there was enough money available to allow me to continue to operate my Icarus-420 on the roadways.
Next came the way BABBLE collected fees. Once the fee to operate an AVC was established, BABBLE gave me 3 months to convert into their system. If I did not convert into the AVC system I was sent an abatement letter that charged me $10K a day for failing to convert my HVC vehicle operations into the AVC program. These were non-negotiable charges that BABBLE would allow to accumulate for 15 days at which point the charges had accrued to $150K and BABBLE wanted their money. It was at that point I found out that what they had the authority to do was file a Lis Pendens or Lien on the property where the HVC vehicle was located and with that lien would put the entire sale of the property up for auction to satisfy the debt that I had accrued with BABBLE. At 15 days and $150K owed I had to short sell my property to cover the payment or I would have lost it to the State in a lien sale.
Now I normally would have fought this action first with an Appeal to BABBLE and if unsuccessful there to the CA Superior Court but under the BABBLE Agreement it is written into regulatory law that any objection I have to an administrative ruling stands. If there is an objection the licensee must take their legal objection, Writ of Mandate, past the Superior Court and directly to the Court of Appeals or alternatively the CA Supreme Court. I find this denial of normal legal recourse to be incredible! What possible justification can BABBLE have to increase the costs to licensee or to increase the workload at the higher courts by even making that a licensee requirement? See CA SB-94 Section 28 Para 26045 (a-f)
Finally it’s been going on two years since I bought into this technology and I wanted to see how much money BABBLE has brought in and where it has been spent. That becomes another problem since in Prop 666 all the money that is raised is not put into the CA General Fund. That money all goes into an unaccounted BABBLE fund that is not audited.
I could go on and on and perhaps I should but I think for the time being I’ve made my points. Prop 666 was a sham. A Trojan House where the true underlying intentions of the Proposition were laid behind layers of bureaucracy and double speak. It simply must be repealed. I’m curious if there any lawyers out there who thought the passing of an initiative like Prop 666 was a good idea but who now, after seeing it implemented, have had a change of heart would consider joining me and others in seeking to have it repealed? If not why not? Are we just supposed to just accept the fact that we have signed a contract that shows we have been ‘Unreasonably Impractical’? We didn’t need a lawyer to help us make the wrong decision. We could have created that mess without you. It’s not too late. Give us your support to repeal this constitutionally flawed law. We can respect someone making a wrong decision. What we cannot accept is their not admitting to their mistake and then deciding to not do everything within their powers to correct it. That we will never tolerate.