2017-01-24 Tue

Self-driving cars (again)

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The writers (including me) continue to reap material from the debate about driver-less cars.

I maintain it is a no-brainer. Control all vehicles by cable-in-the-road or WiFi technology, with a battery of on-board and off-board computers communicating with all local vehicles, and do away with ALL collisions.

None of this “Aiming for zero nonsense”.

Resolution Algorithms.

You think it is not possible?

How many times in the past year has ANY computer that you use gone into a deadly Embrace, a spiral where contention for resources spins the computer into an endless loop?

I thought so!

Doesn’t happen does it?

Well, road-space just a resource, and your tablet has more than enough computing power to manage a small city.

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In this case it is the term “Ethics” that annoys me.

We already have the Ethical Problem of Drivers who think that they and their destination are more important than me getting home safely with my satchel of library books.

We already have the Ethical Problem of Drivers who think that they and their destination are more important than you descending from the stopped streetcar.

We already have the Ethical Problem of Drivers who think that their exit from the parking garage is more important than us being able to walk along the sidewalk.

Can there be any worse ethics than that?

Any ethics (including those embracing driverless cars) is better than the human ethics currently in force.

Here’s a suggestion: Ban all driver-operated cars from the downtown core. Allow only pure-driver-less cars into the downtown core. Control THOSE cars by a city-operated computer system.

And watch collision rates plummet in the downtown core.

Now that would be ethical.

Note too the self-centred idea here that of “diminish their own safety”. The French have a better philosophy at intersections, roughly stated as “Oh Good! We have been given an opportunity to co-operate”. It’s based, it seems to me, on Fourteenth-Century rituals of courtesy.

Finally, note that “cars ... will have to make choices that are now made by humans” is another fear-mongering effort by the media.

Cars will never make choices. Cars will be programmed by humans who have already made the choices. If there is a problem with the way cars “behave”, it will always be traced back to the behaviour of the humans who designed the computer programs that control the cars.

Let’s be quite clear about where the blame will lie.