Okay, here’s the problem I have with Google’s [supposed] “driverless car”: it’s not the concept, it’s the principle that’s offensive.
I am all for having the option of automating a portion of the “mechanical” aspects of driving a car. Developing an autopilot for an auto is pretty darn cool, and if they’d just leave it at that, no worries.
But NO…they have to make the “driverless” claim, which also implies turning over all the “managerial/captaincy/decision making” to the machine. Alterantively (and IMO more likely) it just means that a bunch of computer nerds fail to appreciate the necessary nature of captaincy to the operation of any vehicle.
It should be noted that the technology for captainless travel has existed for some time in shipping and aviation, but the Powers That Be there (wisely, IMO) decided that there was a vital need for human input and command authority over the operation of the vehicle, even if the captain in question never operates a control the whole trip.
What I mean by “captaincy” are making decisions like, “Have weather conditions deteriorated enough to stop for the night, or press onward?” “Given a mechanical issue, should I continue to the destination, stop at the next exit, or pull over immediately?” and “Do I need to disobey a reg in the interest of safety?”
As for the last, I routinely drive down a 12% grade road that ends at a “T” at the bottom (Powers Run Rd at Freeport road, for those keeping score at home). The light has a “No Turn On Red” sign, and for good reason: it’d be tricky to turn onto the 40 MPH road with little visual on oncoming traffic. NOW, suppose I’m at the light, and a Mack coal truck is descending behind me, lights flashing, horn blaring, brakes burning…he’s NOT going to be able to stop!
Now, my move would be to disobey the law and perform an illegal right turn to get out of his way. I actually “watch my six [o’clock]” in anticipation as normal practice. Now, how would the Google-mobile fare? With all the condescending “OUR cars don’t violate laws,” I’ll bet it’d settle for becoming a “bug on the windshield.”
An autopilot for cars implies a computer that can process visual cues and manipulate inputs. A driverless car implies captaincy implies AI…cand comptuers aren’t really all that good at it. It’s like training a dog to walk on it’s hind legs…yes, it can be done, but it’s a royal PITA, and they ultimately don’t do it all that well.