By Pranav Mehta
Autonomous Driving; what exactly springs up to your mind when you hear these words? Well, allow me to explain it by drawing a parallel between say a vending machine and an autonomous vehicle. Sounds Uncanny? Here it goes…
Well, to begin with, I don’t understand the purpose of a Vending Machine. It has to be somewhere near the top of the list of “world’s most annoying inventions”.
Fact is that a piece of technology is used to make our lives easier. But, what it ends up doing is giving you high-BP and a fist that broke, when you punched in the face. BAMM!
Firstly, when you enter a note…zzz…it comes straight out because it refuses to recognise the currency. Finally, when you settle on something, the machine forgets its purpose. The hydraulics get stuck and the machine is thinking, “Hmm, what is the actual purpose of my life? What am I a JCB?”
Which easily explains that not every piece of technology is there to make your life easier.
Same is the case with this upcoming trend of Autonomous Vehicles.
In fact, they are the start of a whole new chapter in the history of motoring. Where there will be fewer accidents, your drive will be pleasant and smooth. No traffic jams. Sounds like the perfect world, doesn’t it?
Well, NO! Because the results could be catastrophic.
The most fundamental part of a vehicle is not its engine or its chassis but the person driving it. Because they add the “Human Touch” which is necessary to operate any machine. Especially, the ones that have the potential to make you end up in a hedge.
Companies such as Ford, Mercedes, and Tesla are racing to build autonomous vehicles for a radically changing consumer world. Ford, for instance, recently tripled its investment in its autonomous vehicle fleet and is testing 30 autonomous Ford Fusion hybrids in California, Michigan, and Arizona. And yet, the fingerprints of tech history can be seen in almost every aspect of their exciting new capabilities.
Humans, the connecting link
It is still a question if the future of motoring would be manned or unmanned. But, various studies have also proven this fact that at the time when a decision is to be made, no machine can trump the instinct or the insight of a human being. The world is going all gaga about how Tesla has been successful in installing its cars with a feature called the “Auto-Pilot” which is similar to what we see in the airplanes.
But, the question is, what will the system do in the event of a crash? What will be its course of action if a pedestrian is in its way? Would it run down the pedestrian or would it let the membranes of the brain of the occupants splash on the bonnet? Whose life is more valuable?
Tesla’s Autopilot, introduced in October 2015, was the focus of intense scrutiny when it was disclosed in July 2016 that a driver was using the technology when he crashed into a semi-truck and died.
The NTSB, an independent government investigative agency, said that Autopilot contributed to the crash because it allowed the driver, Joshua Brown, to avoid steering or watching the road for long periods of time.
The problem is the handoff. Your Tesla may indeed be able to drive 200 miles on its own when the roads are good and the lines are clear. But what happens on the 201st mile, when a construction zone scrambles the lane markings and there’s a hunk of blown-out tire carcass dead smack in your lane? But this is the exact sort of situation that punishes complacency.
At this point, only a human being can take this crucial decision because a machine is there to assist the human & not to take his place altogether.
Ask yourself, would you be at ease in boarding one of the aircraft which will have no pilot onboard.
Well, honestly I won’t.
And neither would any sentient being. Same is the case with cars.
The final challenge
Obviously, you want to ease the human effort and as a means of easing it down, it seems a good option. But, there has to be a limit to the amount of effort put in by the machine. Yes, on a motorway while traveling in a straight line at a set speed, it would be great.
But, on a winding section of road or a city center? I think not. Yes, life will become facile but, if cars become autonomous then there would be as much fun as there is when you operate a food blender.
What is the point of a fast car, when you can’t feel that adrenaline rush emitting from every fiber of your being? A person won’t buy a Ferrari or an Aston Martin just to know that he cannot feel the sensation of driving the vehicles whose posters were stuck on his bedroom walls when he was 9.
To me then, it looks like that there is not much scope of development because another alternative to autonomous driving has been there for nearly a century. It’s called a Chauffeur.
And as far as the technology is concerned, it is a Vending machine.
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