According to Autoblog, Musk was asked during Tesla’s latest earnings call about a comment from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick about his desire to buy 500,000 autonomous Teslas from the auto manufacturer in five years time. The follow up question was, “cut out the middle man and sell on-demand electric mobility services directly from the company on its own platform?”
“That’s an insightful question,” Musk said. “I don’t think I should answer it.”Read More
I'm sharing this insightful Popular Science post to inspire reflection upon a robotic era in transportation. If you were forced to make a middle-of-the-night trip to the hospital with a sick child in your arms, would you prefer being driven by a robotic car or a human in a taxi cab?
You saw the Lexus hoverboard that debited this week, right? I've lost a lot of sleep since the hoverboard debuted and our cars have been under hack attacks. What will I do if cars become driverless? I'm a car fanatic for pity sakes; please don't take my cars away.
Just in the nick of time, this new device arrives, WalkCar". Seems like an iPad doubling as a transportation device. Read all about it here. It's back to the future time.
In Discovery News, We found a fascinating alternative to a driverless car future here
A philosopher is perhaps the last person you’d expect to have a hand in designing your next car, but that’s exactly what one expert on self-driving vehicles has in mind.
Chris Gerdes, a professor at Stanford University, leads a research lab that is experimenting with sophisticated hardware and software for automated driving. But together with Patrick Lin, a professor of philosophy at Cal Poly, he is also exploring the ethical dilemmas that may arise when vehicle self-driving is deployed in the real world.
Gerdes and Lin organized a workshop at Stanford earlier this year that brought together philosophers and engineers to discuss the issue. They implemented different ethical settings in the software that controls automated vehicles and then tested the code in simulations and even in real vehicles. Such settings might, for example, tell a car to prioritize avoiding humans over avoiding parked vehicles, or not to swerve for squirrels.
Fully self-driving vehicles are still at the research stage, but automated driving technology is rapidly creeping into vehicles. Over the next couple of years, a number of carmakers plan to release vehicles capable of steering, accelerating, and braking for themselves on highways for extended periods. Some cars already feature sensors that can detect pedestrians or cyclists, and warn drivers if it seems they might hit someone.
So far, self-driving cars have been involved in very few accidents. Google’s automated cars have covered nearly a million miles of road with just a few rear-enders, and these vehicles typically deal with uncertain situations by simply stopping (see “Google’s Self-Driving Car Chief Defends Safety Record”).
As the technology advances, however, and cars become capable of interpreting more complex scenes, automated driving systems may need to make split-second decisions that raise real ethical questions.
At a recent industry event, Gerdes gave an example of one such scenario: a child suddenly dashing into the road, forcing the self-driving car to choose between hitting the child or swerving into an oncoming van.
“As we see this with human eyes, one of these obstacles has a lot more value than the other,” Gerdes said. “What is the car’s responsibility?”
Gerdes pointed out that it might even be ethically preferable to put the passengers of the self-driving car at risk. “If that would avoid the child, if it would save the child’s life, could we injure the occupant of the vehicle? These are very tough decisions that those that design control algorithms for automated vehicles face every day,” he said.
Gerdes called on researchers, automotive engineers, and automotive executives at the event to prepare to consider the ethical implications of the technology they are developing. “You’re not going to just go and get the ethics module, and plug it into your self-driving car,” he said.
Other experts agree that there will be an important ethical dimension to the development of automated driving technology.
Alessandrini leads a project called CityMobil2, which is testing automated transit vehicles in various Italian cities. These vehicles are far simpler than the cars being developed by Google and many carmakers; they simply follow a route and brake if something gets in the way. Alessandrini believes this may make the technology easier to launch. “We don’t have this [ethical] problem,” he says.
Others believe the situation is a little more complicated. For example, Bryant Walker-Smith, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina who studies the legal and social implications of self-driving vehicles, says plenty of ethical decisions are already made in automotive engineering. “Ethics, philosophy, law: all of these assumptions underpin so many decisions,” he says. “If you look at airbags, for example, inherent in that technology is the assumption that you’re going to save a lot of lives, and only kill a few.”
Walker-Smith adds that, given the number of fatal traffic accidents that involve human error today, it could be considered unethical to introduce self-driving technology too slowly. “The biggest ethical question is how quickly we move. We have a technology that potentially could save a lot of people, but is going to be imperfect and is going to kill.”
Apple could win Europe's heart by aligning with BMW. Germany could add new muscle to European efforts to tame Google's internet dominance by aligning with Apple in the rumored production of a new electric Apple iCar.