Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What happens to us, when our cars get increasingly smart?

I have a 5yr old VW golf, and one of the reasons I like it is that it lets you kill yourself if you want to. Well, more specifically, it lets you drive without your seatbelt on and does not disturb the peace with a wretched warning bing bing, that seems to be the preserve of most cars nowadays. If the car really thinks you'll injure someone else because you don't have a seatbelt on, why not kill the engine. If it thinks you'll injure yourself, same question, but also another one - why not give me an option saying, "I'm happy to take the risk, bud". The problem is with stuff like this, that you can't ever do things outside the proscribed intentions of faceless mandarins thinking up use cases. Maneuvering around a parking garage or jumping in and out of the car to post letters aren't in defined use cases, and fall through the cracks.

Same with GPS. Whole villages are being cut off by lorries that take short cuts and get stuck - oblivious to reality, the drivers outsource reason to a $200 plastic console on the dash.

And according to today's USA Today, 5 US states have introduced legislation requiring people with drink driving convictions to blow through a breathalyser contraption in order to start their car, and you have to do that at random times to keep the motor running. Wonderful idea, I guess, but what if they have a sober passenger? How soon before it's a requirement on all cars?

Seems like quite a dangerous alignment of increasingly capable technology and increasingly pliant populace which is seeing us outsourcing decision making and responsibility to faceless others and none too smart black boxes. I, Robot, here we come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

see latest WSJ article on driving technologies. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120855593026627455.html?mod=hps_us_editors_picks