Excuse me for being a little skeptical and not buying into every Google public relations smokescreen story (R&D projects obviously designed to remove attention from Google’s failure to diversify beyond the mundane world of search engine advertising), and thank Apple for not telling anyone what it plans to do to reinvent the automobile.
I don’t buy it now. I don’t want to buy it in the future. Why?
I Like To Drive
The first few reasons to avoid a self-driving vehicle are obvious. First, I like to drive. Second, driverless cars will get hacked and that will cause fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Third, we don’t live in a perfectly mapped world, and neither do driverless cars.
I live in San Francisco, and the traffic here is as bad as about anywhere in the nation, and I still prefer to control where my car goes and how it gets there. If the U.S. government and major corporations and banks around the world cannot protect their customer’s data from hackers, how will an internet connected computerized driverless car avoid being hacked?
You know it’s going to happen. You don’t know when, or to whom, or to which driverless cars or trucks. But it is going to happen. Why? How? Murphy’s Law. Nothing in a computer is fool proof because fools are so ingenious.
Finally, there are issues where computers in a self-driving car just do not and will not work as well as a human. Weather. Horizontal rain, snow, dust storms, slush, ice on roads, potholes, road construction, and crazy-assed drivers already combine to keep driverless cars in need of a driver. What will a driverless car do when a deer crosses the road, or a chicken tries to get to the other side?
I’m thinking blue screen of death.
In essence, a self-driving car is a mobile robot, and robots are combinations of hardware and software– both of which are made by highly imperfect humans–and both have their own issues, which can combine to create a pretty picture of the driverless future in tests and videos, but could also prove deadly when a child darts between two parked cars into moving traffic (an alert human would slow down when children and parked cars are visible).
As part of the software, driverless cars rely on maps, and maps are a dynamic, constantly changing, constantly being updated, and constantly out of date. Where hardware and software intersect is in the sensors which tell the software what’s going on. The camera on my state-of-the-art iPhone cannot focus fast enough, or adjust exposure to match changing lighting conditions, so how is a driverless car with similar technology going to avoid the same shortcomings?
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
If humans cannot follow such laws appropriately in all situations, and they cannot, how could we expect machines (robots) to adhere to such laws. Sorry, Apple. Sorry, Google. No driverless car for me.