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If AT&T Ran The Highway System...If AT&T Ran The Highway System...

Drivers would have to prepay their tolls, based on the estimated number of miles they expected to drive. Those who drove fewer miles than estimated would get no refund; those who drove more would be charged for the overage at a higher rate.

Thomas Claburn

July 27, 2007

2 Min Read

If AT&T ran the highway system, things would be different. Only AT&T-approved cars would be allowed on the roads, all of which would be toll roads.

Drivers would have to prepay their tolls, based on the estimated number of miles they expected to drive. Those who drove fewer miles than estimated would get no refund; those who drove more would be charged for the overage at a higher rate.The AT&T-approved Apple iCar would be limited to a top speed of 30 mph. Sales people in AT&T car showrooms would have no idea how the iCar operated. Buyers of the iCar would be required to use it for a period of two years or to pay a penalty. In addition to the purchase price of the iCar, buyers would have to pay a one-time activation fee to get the engine to start, not to mention the taxes. AT&T's roads would feature fluctuating speed limits. In some cases, speed limit reductions would correspond to the traffic on the road; in others, the speed limit would just drop for no apparent reason. Posted speed limits would not correspond with actual ones. The engines powering AT&T cars would sometimes just stop, depending on the driver's location. No warning about these "dead spots" would be provided. Many of AT&T's roads would be made of dirt, despite tax credits AT&T received to pave its roads. AT&T-approved cars would not rely on risky user-operated windows or doors. Entering or exiting the vehicle and raising or lowering the windows would be authorized upon request by a remote AT&T operator. For the sake of safety, passengers would not be allowed to load unauthorized food content into the vehicle. Adding and removing authorized cargo to and from the vehicle would be allowed, for a fee. AT&T-approved cars would come equipped with an integrated digital jukebox, complete with a coin slot for easy listening. Input and output connectors would be disabled, for passenger protection. AT&T would make horn tones available for $3.99. No transfer of music from the car's jukebox to its horn tone storage chip would be allowed. AT&T's Terms of Operation would specify the kinds of driving allowed on the AT&T highway system. Ride sharing, trailers, off-road driving, picking up hitchhikers, and cruising would all be grounds for license suspension. Car customization would be allowed only using AT&T-approved colors and accessories. Driving beyond the coverage of AT&T's highway network would incur roaming charges. AT&T's road system would report the start point and end point of all trips to the National Security Agency. This information would be used for your protection. If none of this sounds particularly appealing, don't worry. This is just one possible future of many. AT&T knows enough to stick to its core competency: innovation in telecommunications.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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