'Why self-driving cars are designed to look like overgrown toys'

from Tuesday’s Marketplace (the radio show) Why self-driving cars are designed to look like overgrown toys - Marketplace

Cant wait to see how they plan to handle the liability in accidents. I hope the insurance companies rebel against this foolishness .

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Once AI driving lowers its mishap rate to below that of human drivers, it’s going to be the opposite problem. We’ll be paying through the nose to insure ourselves against the heightened risk.

It’s kind of hard, I admit, to shift thinking from “I want to be in control of my own destiny and I don’t trust computers” to “I want to do what carries the least risk even if it feels weird.”

And those of us who are Xers, Boomers, or older Millennials remember being exposed to technology when we were younger, and we remember that tech as being unreliable and fairly bad at its job. And we sometimes have a hard time not grafting that impression onto modern / near future tech. We think about self-driving cars and then we think about all the electronic stuff that broke on us in the 80’s and we get worried.

But the bottom line is that we’re now at a point where we can tell that there will come a time when computers will be better than we are at a lot of things. Driving will be one of them.

The goal with auto-drive systems is not to eliminate wrecks. The goal is to reduce the wreck rate to below current levels, and honestly that won’t be all that hard. AI drivers will automatically eliminate road rage, impatient driving, aggressive driving, running red lights, drinking and driving, texting and driving, and all the other stupid things humans do behind the wheel to distract themselves from the task at hand. Couple that with reaction times that exceed human capabilities and vision systems that continuously monitor everything around the car in a 360 degree arc, and all you really have to do is get the vision systems and software set up right and you’ll quickly leapfrog the average human’s ability to avoid wrecking.

Once that happens, the insurance companies will consider AI drivers to be low-risk, and human drivers to be much higher risk, and they will price accordingly. Beyond that, at some point it’s probably going to become illegal for humans to control cars except possibly in designated areas, just as it’s now illegal to ride your horse on an interstate. All this is far down the road, of course, but it will happen eventually.


All this is far down the road, of course, but it will happen eventually.

We will not see it but do you think it get to a time like the jetson’s?

This boomer is looking forward to self-driving cars.

No, because the Jetsons require cartoon-universe laws of physics. :wink: We will never have a rocket car that folds into a briefcase that we can then carry around, and we will probably not commute from space station to space station on a daily basis simply because the realities of spaceflight make it a fairly impractical endeavor for rush hour, and because we won’t need to. As COVID has shown us, workers who do the kind of desk job George Jetson had can do it from home, so why go to all the trouble and expense of crossing interstellar distances to get to work?

Actually at some point I suspect commuting in general will go away, as will most employment – after all, you’re not going to hire a human to do a job for a salary and medical benefits when a robot will do it for free and 'round the clock.

To the extent that we do need to travel, a lot of it will be virtual. There will be a time when the Car Talk forum is a Car Talk VR pub/garage where we sit around and talk directly rather than sitting by ourselves typing. And that particular day probably isn’t all that far away considering the advances in VR, haptic feedback, and 3D world-building social interaction systems. There was actually a company working on just that years ago, but they cancelled the project only because not enough people have VR systems yet.

That’s going to change, as will access to ancillary hardware that allows us to sense the VR world in ways other than visual. There are even projects working on virtual tasting so we could actually sit around the Car Talk pub and have a beer. 0 calorie, full taste!

I think far-future tech will (assuming of course that the human race manages not to off itself being stuipd) be a lot more interesting than The Jetsons.


The Jetsons took 1960’s tropes like office work and put them in “the future.” I don’t think anyone actually took the cartoon physics seriously. And a lot of stuff took place on Earth anyway. OTOH, there was an episode where George was supposed to swallow a capsule and it would conduct a physical from the inside. Not far removed from what doctors do today with MRI’s and CAT scans.

Actually, gastroenterologists already utilize a “camera in a capsule”. You swallow the capsule and it transmits HD images to a belt you wear while it passes through the GI tract.

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To quote Mr Spock :”Computers make excellent and efficient servants. But I have no desire to serve under one”.

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‘For better or worse, but not for lunch.’

Johnny cab? Total recall.

I plan on living long enough to see it. I’m almost 70.


I used my phone to talk with a person who speaks only Mandarin, just the other day. We were face to face at her front door. I said a sentence, the phone said the same sentence in Mandarin, the woman said her answer in Mandarin and my phone said it to me in English. Ho hum. Except we just got past a massive language barrier, and we didn’t have to be literate to do it. If that’s not a revolution, wake me when you think there is one.


I am kind of curious how the phone translation works, do you each have to enter the other persons language into your own phone and how many of the worlds languages can they translate between? It might be a valid reason for me to get a mobile phone If I were to travel out of the country. I know I don’t have much affinity for learning languages, I dropped French in high school because I could not distinguish between any of the noises the teacher was making. I have the same problem with written french, I never finished the Tale of Two Cities because I could not keep all the French characters straight in my mind.

I have a language translation app. It comes loaded with hundreds of languages. You have to first tell it what language to translate from before you start speaking. You can also take a pic of text and it’ll translate it for you. The app is FREE.

I got a babelfish.

I hope it is better than someuser manuals I have seen.

Image is everything these days and when a robo car is involved in an accident and the jury sees a seemingly friendly, diminutive Disneyesque character they might lean toward favoring it. How could Pluto or Winnie the Pooh ever be responsible for hurting anyone? Just make cars that look like Winnie the Pooh or Mickey Mouse would drive them and we would all jump in. On the other hand Thelma and Louise’s car wouldn’t get much business.

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Or would Mad Max’s Aussie Falcon GT XB