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Automated cars bring us closer to ‘WALL-E’

Published: Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 02:11

 

While an odd yet cute sci-fi romance, the movie “WALL-E” also shed some light on the harsh reality of where the world is headed. The movie displays the future of humans heavily reliant on technology to the point where entire lives occur from one’s seat on a spaceship. 

The next step to that world is closer than we think with the advent of the automated car that Google is currently working on perfecting. According to an article from the Washington Post, these automated cars are already in the works by Volvo, Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen and it is expected test models will evolve into production cars by 2020. 

That’s right, within this lifetime cars will be controlled by a computer chauffer, and they will communicate with each other. For those that like to feel in control of the vehicle they drive, it’s likely this will be a difficult transition. Not to mention some people actually like driving, it’s not fair to take that away from them.  

Forbes reports that driverless technology is expected to significantly reduce the number of people killed in car accidents each year. It makes sense. By taking out the human error and distraction in driving, roads would be safer. But just think about how many times computers freeze, GPS signals are lost and cellphones have a weak signal before you trust technology to drive you 60 mph down the highway.

An article in the New York Times reports technologists believe these automated cars can transform society the way the Internet has. This is arguably true considering the Internet has allowed for people to become lazy and overly reliant on technology. The Internet is very convenient, but it has also severely taken away from the social interaction of humans. Similarly, having an automated chauffer would be convenient, but it would severely take away from a responsibility of humans that requires focus and awareness. 

It would be ideal if users of this new technology took advantage of extra free time by not driving and become productive with it. Unfortunately, it’s much more likely it will become an excuse for people to spend more time engulfing themselves in cat videos and social media instead of focusing on their surroundings, bringing the human race closer to the population in “WALL-E.” 

Rather than making humans lazier and more distracted by taking away the responsibility of driving, it would prove more effective to continue improving cars that severely reduce distracted driving by removing distractions from drivers such as blocking text messages while inside the car, strictly enforcing driving laws and improving current features such as back up cameras and blind spot sensors. 

It would be effective for cars to communicate with each other to avoid accidents, but relying completely on the artificial intelligence of technology to drive a car poses serious risks for both the successfulness of driving and the future of human intelligence. 

Ali Leist is a junior majoring in mass communications.

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1 comments

Anonymous
Sun Dec 1 2013 18:57
Autonomous vehicles aren't simply going to challenge what it means to be in control of your life. They are going to wreck the auto insurance industry and the concept of vehicle ownership. They'll have the flexibility of a taxi without the cost disadvantage. And if a centralized service like Uber begins to operate a fleet of autonomous vehicles that distribute themselves throughout a city to respond quickly to demand, they could also design electric cars that report back to central recharging stations, further reducing the cost to the riders. For everyone else, there's carpooling... without the need for driver Alice to drive to Bob's place. The autonomous vehicle experiment will play well with the trend of millennials increasingly forgoing car ownership."But just think about how many times computers freeze, GPS signals are lost and cellphones have a weak signal before you trust technology to drive you 60 mph down the highway."Nope. These autonomous vehicle schemes use technologies mounted to the car to act as "electronic vision". They don't solely rely on intervehicular communication to avoid crashing. Vehicle networking has generated some headlines because it requires interoperability to do anything useful and some money has been thrown at the problem. It will most likely be used to feed data into algorithms that aim to prevent traffic jams. The cars "see" obstacles and roads using technology such as LIDAR. Google's car for instance uses a combination of LIDAR, radar, and cameras. If one system is insufficient, another system is still providing information. That's all on top of the "lost" GPS signal... something that the GPS in mapping units and smartphones can adapt to with some success by using accelerometers and maps.Let's say that having a reaction time 10x faster than a human isn't good enough (5-20 milliseconds for the car versus 100-150 for the human). Let's say that the car failed to make a last ditch attempt to pull over... or didn't start automatically slowing down once the system was compromised, in order to reduce damage. Since it's likely the vast majority of autonomous cars are going to be new and not retrofitted, it will also be taking advantage of the newest safety technologies, better crumple zones, etc. If the problem with the car was a software bug, like Toyota's uncontrolled acceleration problem, it'll be noticed and fixed. Cars will be recalled or updated over-the-air if necessary. If it was bad luck, mechanical or electronic failure, or a collision with another vehicle and you do happen to die, that's tough. You will be in rare company. It's hard to overstate how poorly the human brain is suited to driving. We get tired. We are impaired by alcohol and drugs. We can't multitask well. We get distracted very easily. We get distracted very easily. We get distra... we get lulled into a false sense of security and "bored" from looking at the same objects over and over. I hope you have your last will prepared before the next time you hop into a car, because you are already gambling with your life."Rather than making humans lazier and more distracted by taking away the responsibility of driving, it would prove more effective to continue improving cars that severely reduce distracted driving by removing distractions from drivers such as blocking text messages while inside the car, strictly enforcing driving laws and improving current features such as back up cameras and blind spot sensors."Sure, it's easy to imagine that a WALL-E future of fat coddled slobs is inevitable. But you can still choose to ride a bike or walk. Too bad Tampa is one of the most dangerous places in the country for pedestrians... another problem that could be alleviated by automated vehicles. Blocking the driver from texting sounds like a technical and political nightmare, so it won't happen. There are laws against texting and driving but I see drivers doing it all the time... again, the real solution is autonomous vehicles. Automakers are necessarily introducing semiautonomous safety features around now through 2016 before releasing fully autonomous models by around 2020. For example:"In 2013, the 2014 BMW i3 will autonomously steer, accelerate and brake in traffic jams at up to 25 miles (40 km) per hour... By 2015, Audi plans to market vehicles that can autonomously steer, accelerate and brake at lower speeds, such as in traffic jams... By Mid-2010's, Toyota plans to roll out near-autonomous vehicles dubbed Automated Highway Driving Assist with Lane Trace Control and Cooperative-adaptive Cruise Control."https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driverless_car#Official_projectionsJust the other day Paul Walker from the Fast & Furious series of films died in a car accident (he was a passenger). That's pretty representative of "the successfulness of driving and the future of human intelligence". What could humanity do with its extra hours of free time? Watch cat videos? That's a choice. Just like it's going to be a choice to not die...




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