Saturday, January 18, 2014

Self Driving Cars, A Safety Revolution

We have become so accustom to cars and other mechanical vehicles that we forget sometimes to give them the respect they deserve.  Cars are very dangerous, they require a level of concentration that is beyond most people.  Even the best drivers tend to have momentary lapses of focus that can be fatal.

What can we do to combat the rising number of fatalities every year from these machines?  Safety standards are already relatively high, you just can't stop people from making mistakes.  The only real solution to this problem (besides cutting down on the actual number of cars) is to turn many aspects of control over to a computer.

This might seem crazy at first but these cars already exist and have yet to be involved in a single accident after years of testing.  You literally get in the car, indicate to the GPS where you want to go and the car drives you there.  The car also has advanced motion detection systems and automatically stops if there is an obstacle present.

With a little thought, we can see the obvious benefits of this technology, but what about the dangers?  Besides the far fetched "Hal" scenario of the car becoming self aware, there is the very real possibility of a nefarious agent remotely taking control of the car via hacking.

Because the car must be connected to the GPS, it would be exceedingly easy to commandeer, especially because Google has been leaving wide open back doors in all of its technology so the NSA can have a look.  Lets take a moment to consider how freaking stupid this is and how if it doesn't stop it will literally lead to the decline of American industry.

What you should know about back doors is that ANYONE can go through them, not just the authorities.  The fact is, the NSA has made every piece of technology coming from America vulnerable to attack.  Thanks to Ed Snowden, people around the world are aware of this and are avoiding any components manufactured in the USA.  This is not just a matter of distrusting authority or something, this is the fact that people in authority made a hugely irresponsible decision and the worlds technology is now extremely vulnerable because of it.

Back to self driving cars, can you imagine a technology that is more dangerous to have open to hacking?  Maybe an airplane, but seriously, its up there on the list of things you don't want to have a back door to.  Imagine your sitting quietly enjoying your car ride when suddenly an unknown individual resets your GPS to take you to Minnesota, and you didn't bring your winter jacket.

Well i'm not really sure how to make the NSA understand that this fundamentally undermines our national security, not only does it slow technological innovation and hurt American business and industry, it fundamentally undermines any chance of people, especially tech savvy people joining the societal endeavor.  As well, it make people around the world feel suspicious and dis unified, leading to further isolated nationalistic agendas.

I hope that these self driving cars break out onto the scene as soon as possible.  But its hard to imagine it gaining much traction until the technological spying is rained in, especially secret back doors.  Ultimately I am hopefully for a positive resolution, and when self driving cars become the norm we will all enjoy the benefits of a safer world.


  1. Hmm, self-driving cars? Sounds good at first, but I find it hard to imagine how it wouldn't end up in chaos on the roads. Just because there is a GPS and motion sensors, it still seems like it would be total chaos on the roads.

    Just saw a piece on how passenger airliners (probably also the commercial ones too) are flown almost entirely on autopilot and that pilots are forgetting how to actually fly a plane. That's pretty scary. Sometimes the pilot still needs to fly the plane and he or she never gets practice at it, so when the time comes to take the controls, they are out of practice and unskilled.

    That makes me not want to fly anymore!

  2. I think the idea that there would be more chaos on the roads isn't right, imagine if airline pilots could just fly wherever, would that be less chaotic? If you had a centralized computer guiding all the traffic, it minimizes accidents because the system knows where all cars are at all times. Air travel is many times safer than car travel, despite pilots relying on computers, also, pilots are some of the most overworked under payed professionals that exist, that has to be a factor as well. The thing about cars is that they always go on the road, your GPS can already easily chart a path to anywhere the roads go, all that is needed is to coordinate paths between cars so that they don't hit each other. As far as people losing skill at driving, people already suck at driving and there is a huge body count. Im not sure how it could get worse.