The automotive and techy worlds have been full of chatter about Google’s interesting new patent for a driver-less car.
Sounding like something out of iRobot, the patent lays out a variety of self-drive options for a potential future car, including details on when the car will go in autonomous mode, how the technology could work (GPS, QR codes and sensors are all in the mix), and what sort of artificial intelligence could be involved. It’s the sort of thing that car geeks and technophobes/files love to talk about, and this week’s publishing on the details of the patent application has set fire to the discussion once again.
Whilst the ins and outs of the tech are obviously worth discussion, but the main thing for us here at THE Blog About Cars is the basic concept. No matter how it does it, would you trust a car that drives itself?
Now obviously the Google Driverless car isn’t actually currently intended to be a fully road-going beast. It isn’t talking about, at the moment at least, all cars being interlinked self-driving creatures that do everything for you. But if this is the way they are going to go, then the cars need to be pretty much infallible.They won’t, hopefully, be vulnerable to human failures such as tiredness and mistakes, but they still need to be able to respond to any eventuality. Weather, road conditions, other drivers, other drivers’ mistakes – all have to be added in, interpreted and responded to accordingly. I have trouble seeing this as tech that is achievable the way the world stands at the moment.
What if the Google car develops a mind of it’s own? Before we know it we are trapped in a car hurtling along the roads at a million miles an hour, scrabbling at the retracted locks and trying to break through the accident-resistant glass. Meanwhile the car pumps its own noxious gases into the car’s interior, rendering us slightly high and largely unconscious, slumped down until, without ceremony, we are thrown out of the car at a local factory. Disorientated and woozy we lie on the ground, until it becomes painfully apparent that the cars now control the internet, banking, and most worryingly the factory machines that gave them life. We are collected by 10 foot high pincers, given a quick coat of metallic red paint, and stored in a factory where we are farmed for energy. Just sayin’.
If the car does make mistakes or go feral, what do we do? Human beings have a habit of craving control, and being totally at the mercy of a lump of tech only occasionally seems acceptable. We won’t complain about relying on a lift (an elevator, for those across the pond), but then we couldn’t really do the job ourselves. With driving, however, we are used to being in charge of what the car does and where it goes – and not controlling this would be terrifying. In much the same vein, it would be interesting to see how much control we can wrestle back – would the car come with a built in red “override” button, for instance?!
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