Any car is very capable of killing you, whether as a driver or as an innocent bystander, however with the advances in technology, car safety improves year upon year. I have to wonder though, had the car only just been invented, I do not believe any of us would ever be allowed to drive something quite so hazardous, dangerous and capable of reaping immense carnage.
Fast forward to now, and we have the Google Car. For those unfamiliar with such a device, Google has invented a car which quite literally can drive itself. Such a car has covered in excess of 100,000 miles on public roads around Google HQ in California and has not resulted in a single accident. It is a remarkable piece of software engineering and really has to be seen to be believed. I would recommend a search on Youtube to see it in action.
Such a device presents amazing opportunities – you never have to worry about finding a parking space at the shops, simply leave the car to sort that out while you get on with the shopping – don’t worry about having too much to drink down the local, your car will drive you safely home. Taxi drivers must be worried!
But things can become more sinister. Imagine an unexpected situation whereby through no fault of you or the Gcar (I think I’ll start calling it that), it is going to be involved in an accident. It can hit the stationary object straight in front, which will likely kill you, or it can veer onto the pavement and likely kill several pedestrians. What to do? The outcome would have been engineered into the car’s software by some very clever people at Google, and surely the morally correct outcome is for you to die. How do you feel about someone else having taken that decision for you?
How about giving you the choice before hand. A big button on the dashboard that you can click between ‘Selfless Driving’ and ‘Selfish Driving’ would allow you to tell the Gcar how to act in such circumstances. This could be taken even further – how fast and efficient is the trip going to be? Are you going to let people in at junctions at the expense of arriving later? And so on and so on. In a world of social media integration, you could share this information with friends on Facebook and Twitter (I hesitate to say Google+):
@flincauk has driven selflessly for 25% of his journeys this week!
A Hall of Fame could encourage people to try and obtain a top spot on the Leaderboard for saintly driving, however, this would inevitably lead to a Sinners Leaderboard with people vying for the top spot!
These sorts of technological advances stand to change our lives for the better, and Google should be applauded for pushing the envelope with this. Such advances though always risk bringing ethics into account and this should only be ignored at your peril.
I’d like to thank my friend @mutasim for an interesting conversation that bought about this article being written.
Disclaimer: I have no knowledge of the inner workings of the Google Car and have no idea whether it has been designed to kill you. This article is merely intended to be both thought provoking and entertaining.
What an interesting article. It is amazing the different challenges such new developments pose. I wonder whether this idea ever made it on their table when they were scoping the idea??
I love the idea of the saintly driving leaderboard. Although, can you imagine if you pre-set it to drive selflessly and there was no override…there could be some frustrating journeys ahead!
Another question relates to human instinct and trust – are people ready to give up control to machines to this extent? Will they ever be? it sounds great – your own private taxi – but can we allow ourselves to relax and trust it? Perhaps some people will be more predisposed to the idea than others?
It does raise some very interesting questions. We already hand ourselves over to computer controlled transport without realising it everyday. Autopilot on a plane journey, Docklands Light Rail tube journey, computer controlled traffic lights, the list is endless. In these situations though, we are not totally aware we are doing it, whereas sitting in a car that has no obvious driver where you would expect one to be will definitely feel a little wierd, even downright wrong to some!
WOW! That would be something. A self-driving car! Are there any limits to Google’s innovation?