In the past 5 articles, we had a serious look at driverless cars (a.k.a. “intelligent transport”) and how they’ll change life in a couple decades. Now let’s muse on other consequences intelligent transport may have—the good and the bad.
Bad: Intelligent Transport May Make Small Dogs Obese
My driving instructor once told me that I should never slow down for a squirrel crossing the road. I’m supposed to run it over, since stopping abruptly may cause a much greater catastrophe (auto accident) than one squirrel’s death.
Organic vs. Electrical Computers in Recognizing Small Animals
Our brains are powerful natural computers. In a split second, your subconscious recognizes a squirrel for what it is. It’s hard for computers to achieve that kind of quick recognition. We’re just now getting computers to recognize basic, pre-programmed shapes against a neutral black background.
To run the squirrel over or not to run it over…
For driverless cars speeding down the road at 300mph, quick recognition of small animals will be paramount for your safety. It’s a serious issue, since even birds can bring down planes. Driverless cars are sometimes referred to as Intelligent Transport because they’ll have to consistently make decisions while transporting you, decisions that keep you safe. The AI will calculate the threat of small animals by their size. If the creature looks about the size of a squirrel, your car will run it over.
So… what if your beloved, squirrel-sized Mini Dachshund, Teacup Yorkie or Chihuahua rambles into the street?
You knew this was coming.
Survival of the most obese.
Good: Less Being Late! (Slightly)
Traffic is partly caused by simple physics—a bottlenecking effect.
However, there is another major culprit at play here: the intrinsic inaccuracy in humans.
When you stop too slowly, and when you get in a daze and realize the car ahead began moving 2 seconds ago, you have contributed to the traffic jam.
Don’t feel bad; everyone does it. Your action alone probably couldn’t have slowed the highway for miles. It’s a cooperative (lack of) effort. 😉
When cars become intelligent and can transport you, when their powerful AIs can process complicated alogorithms instantly, traffic will decrease a lot. Ford is already working on it.
And with less traffic comes more reliability.
Consider this. What usually makes most of us late? Unexpected traffic. Cutting out this variable will make everyone a little less late. Despite that, we’ll still find ways to be late. In 20-30 years, you might have a conversation with your car that goes like this:
You: “Siri [lack of a better name; you get the point], if we stop at the nearest Starbucks before work, how late will I be?”
Siri: “According to current and projected traffic, between 2-4 minutes late.”
You: “Great. Order me an iced venti triple low fat two pump white mocha.”
Siri: “And a vanilla scone?”
You: “Sigh… yeah.”
Bad or Good? More Control By the Authorities
You can have more safety or more privacy: which would you choose?
When cars are totally run by computers, a battle will erupt for control over your vehicle. The police will naturally want the power to steer and stop your vehicle if they believe you’re breaking the law.
They will claim it’s to better serve and protect you, and they’ll be somewhat right. Car chases and hit-and-runs would be a thing of the past. But at what cost?
Good: Drunk Driving Won’t Hurt Anyone… Except Maybe Drunk People
Speaking of drunk driving… it won’t exist anymore. It will be drunk traveling, and totally permissible. Hopefully totally permissible. Not looking forward to the controversy over litigation which will allow us to drink in our private traveling pods.
If it happens, which it probably will, partying will be more fun. And the nightlife industry will be reinvigorated.
I could go on and on about intelligent transport…
But six articles is enough.
And even if I wrote a hundred articles, the infinitely crafty and resourceful Future would find a myriad of ways to surprise us.
So let’s let this topic rest… for now.
Start from the beginning →
Driverless Cars (Part 1/6): Google’s Cars Will Change Everything