Rollin' Like Sisyphus

The Problem(s) With Robot Cars And Why You’ll Never Have One

Posted in A Chronicle Of Decline by Huckleberry on March 20, 2015
Pizza delivery drivers hardest hit.

Pizza delivery drivers hardest hit.

You hear a lot of puffery and mummery about the amazing AI/ROBO-DRONE revolution brewing in the back offices of Google and Pets.com that insists the cure to all of our ills is a set of machines that make people even more dependent and less responsible for the affairs of their lives. And surely I can think of no more perfect complement to a populace who can’t do any of the intellectual tasks of their predecessors than removing the culpability for ambulation as well:

Chris Urmson, the director of self-driving cars at Google, is committed to ensuring the driverless vehicles are standard within five years — because he wants his 11-year-old son never to have to take a driver’s test. “My team are committed to making sure that [driver’s test] doesn’t happen.”

Not that it’ll matter much where his son’s robot car takes him, since a robot will also be working the job he would have had, and everyone else’s jobs too. Honestly, though, for all the hullabaloo about self-driving cars and wirelessly connected toasters and smart refrigerators that monitor your caloric intake, I don’t think we’ll actually get there, because the intellectual downward trend has or will very soon cross the axis of that required to successfully design, implement and maintain such an automated and interconnected world. And that’s actually the worse-case scenario, because we’ll get all of this in half-measures and best-laid plans.
As for the robot cars themselves, there are two reasons why I don’t think they’ll be a thing for a very long time, if ever.
If you think a fully automated transit system of cars and roads will lead to safer roads, you are hopelessly naïve or utterly insane. The more complex the technical system, the more bugs and issues will inhibit them; it’s one thing to need a jump start, it’s another thing entirely to be stalled out because of a boot error or EMF interference.
The more prolific these systems get, the more valuable targets they’ll become to hackers – it’s all fun and games until the first engineered 500-car pile-up that none of the people in those cars could stop or avoid.
And the one thing that no one ever seems to mention but will absolutely act as the deciding factor is that you are more valuable to the systems that control you as a tool of revenue generation acting with full agency on public roads. Local municipalities and police forces are not going to let you Roving ATMs shirk that burden so easily, no matter how many wet dreams they have to kill over at Google.

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3 Responses

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  1. El Borak said, on March 20, 2015 at 08:47

    I’m getting the feeling that the closer we draw to the end of the technological age, the more blatantly obvious (and therefore utterly misunderstood) our diminishing returns are becoming. For good or ill*, the creation of the car transformed society. The creation of the driverless car removes one of the few actual tasks that still humans do in it.

    We already purchase inert pieces of metal to lift (we call it ‘working out’) and ride bicycles designed to go nowhere. We use electricity to power machines for us to walk on so we can get the benefits of walking without the trouble of going anywhere. I think it would be a nice kick in the gut if the Google car came standard with a driving simulator so we could distract ourselves by pretending to drive while we are tooled around by a computer.

    * as with all things, it’s a whole lot of both

  2. Giraffe said, on March 20, 2015 at 09:59

    I don’t think we’ll actually get there,

    No, it’ll come, at least partially. We always have to learn the hard way.

  3. Doom said, on March 20, 2015 at 10:11

    The problem of which wolf get’s the fleece, bones, offal, blood, and meat? The notion that dreams are all that is left in and of the youth? The truth about fiction? Definitely, you do cheer me when I have thought myself to some small bitter peace with what is and you take me into another portion of the future I hadn’t considered. No, all good. *smile* You are much of what I could hope for in a friend. Do not take that bad. I hope you don’t take that wrong, but… if you are like me, you almost have to until it settles. And, as I offer it probably can’t be as you take it. Still… Cheers.


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