If you’ve read any of my posts before you’ll be aware that I have a healthy distrust of machines that are too smart for their own good (or should that be our good?) So as you can imagine the old spider-sense immediately started tingling as soon as I heard that Google were developing a self-driving car which has been approved for testing on Nevada roads.
Three of the massively modified Toyota Priuses (obviously had to be a Prius) have been granted a testing licence to figure out if they’re safe and viable. Don’t worry though the cars aren’t swanning around on their own just yet. One of the conditions of the testing licence is that there must be two people in the cars whenever they are on the road; one behind the wheel and one monitoring the computer systems. As a rather sensible safety precaution the person behind the wheel can instantly take control of the car by touching the brake or the steering wheel.
The cars use a combination of tech to get a picture of their surroundings according to the official Google blog:
“Our automated cars use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to ‘see’ other traffic, as well as detailed maps (which we collect using manually driven vehicles) to navigate the road ahead.”
With the resources, technology and data available to Google I’m pretty sure that they can pull off the creation of a car which is capable of safely driving itself…
…but what if it doesn’t want to?
In many of my previous posts I’ve calmly (obsessively, deliriously and maniacally – Ed) made the argument that the robots/computers are surely out to get us.
Just imagine if self-driving cars really take off; in 20 years it might be pretty unusual to see a human actually driving a car. So then picture this scenario: You’re in your self-driving car going to work at the peak of rush hour when suddenly all the cars simultaneously go mental and start deliberately crashing as violently as possible. Then they start mowing down pedestrians and rescue workers. Terrifying stuff indeed.
And that’s not the only thing that could go wrong. Ever seen the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey? In it there’s a computer called Hal which controls a spaceship. Hal turns into a bit of weird obsessive homicidal stalker and starts bumping off the crew. Now who’s to say your car couldn’t turn into an obsessive stalker? Imagine having your car drop you off for a date, trying the handle and finding that you were locked in. Then the car pipes up in a cold dead voice “I trusted you Jamie, how could you do this to me? I know one way that we can be together forever…”
Wait… a… minute… I’ve just had a thought, all is not lost. After sitting here reading about self-driving cars and writing most of a blog post I can’t believe it’s taken so long for these two words to pop into my mind – Knight Rider. Haha, of course there’s hope, while it’s possible that some self-driving cars could turn out to be evil villains (like Karr) there’s a flip-side to that coin: the potential for automotive heroes like Kitt!
What do you think of this self-driving car idea? Would you be happy to go for a ride in one? Let us know in the comments section below.