Early 1900s society struggled to transition from horse-drawn buggies to automobiles. It may seem odd today, but there was a time when there was no concept of “right of way,” speed limits or traffic signs and signals. Those rules had to be invented so that cars encountering carriages would not frighten horses into runaways — or run each other off the traveled dirt paths that sufficed for “roads” — and require help from their four-legged counterparts to free them.
Fast-forward a hundred years. Quo Vadis is Latin for “whither goest thou,” an apt phrase for the free-ranging lifestyle enabled by the modern automobile. Come and go when you want, where you want and with whom you want. Take a Forrest Gump-inspired drive across the country in your dinosaur-fueled car or zap across town in your EV for a midnight snack. We have become a truly mobile society.
But crowded streets and highways full of distracted or inept drivers have turned “autopia” into “disautopia.” Enter the promise of the autonomous vehicle, enabled by artificial intelligence. All of the benefits of driving, without having to drive. Cars guide themselves in perfect harmony, easing congestion, promoting traffic flow and optimizing road utilization. Even better, you can sit back and let the car guide itself while you catch a TED talk and sip your latte.
Well, not quite. The state of technology at present can only account for, at best, a high percentage of driving situations, but not the marginal. The edge case/remaining 5-10 percent still depends on human intervention. Such cases may be benign, like the car not knowing what to do when it confronts an unplanned pothole repair crew. Or, a more Machiavellian example could involve human-operated vehicles approaching a stopped autonomous vehicle from 90 degrees at a four-way stop. Realizing that the AI […]