Rob Sheldon: The guys building the technology, like the fellow in Florida who died in a Tesla doing 75mph on Autopilot, are “first adopters”. They really want the future to be now. Most of us just want to get to work without the hassle of fighting the traffic. And honestly, it takes a lot of brainpower to shave 5 minutes off the commute.
Why would I use a safety conscious computer that will never bend the traffic rules? The car is a tool, not an end in itself.
Brendan Dixon: I do not agree with Rob (which is unusual — he offers insightful criticisms): Self-driving vehicles will arrive. But — and here’s the trick — they will not arrive as the techno-religious think. The long-haul trucking industry will most certainly be taken over by self-driving vehicles. A friend mine, a senior AI researcher for Paul Allen, and I were envisioning how small changes to long roads (e.g., sensors in the roadway, dedicated lanes) would ensure the arrival of such trucks. And such trucks will save immense amounts of money. The challenges for them are snow and rough terrain, but they will be overcome (likely, as I suggested, with external assistance to the vehicles — imagine a new “job” to put on / take off chains as self-driving truck cross passes).
It’s difficult to see if this will then extend into the city. Urban taxis could be overtaken. In fact, without such, Uber’s business model very nearly falls apart.
Their two top costs are a) cars and b) drivers, and not in that order. So, for them to succeed, they must eliminate the driver. Without doing so, Uber’s cost model becomes that of the taxi companies they desire to replace and their (so-called) disruption becomes acquiescence. Similar urban changes to those I noted for long-haul trucking — which cities, such as Seattle, are not far from — would seal the future for Uber (and Lyft).
They may be able to push cities to make such changes as a means by which to solve the insolvable urban transportation and density problem. Think of the ever-running cars Tom Cruise hopped into shown in the film adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story, Minority Report.
Lastly, we (humans) are at war with our world. The Darwinist mindset (religious creation myth) deems it so. And, if we are at war, then we must win by power. Technology is the handmaiden of power. So, we will, as long as we hold the Darwinist creation myth, force technology onto the world. The push for self-driving cars (part of the larger push to automate all things — that is, to put the world at our beck-and-call) is a part of the package, just like food replicators in Star Trek.
While no technology lives into the dreams of its initiators (and this is part of the point Rob makes), nearly all technology does live on in some form. I suggested a couple above.
This is why I see the AI issue as deeper than most commentators think. It is not merely about computers or replacing jobs, it is the latest attack in on our war on the world. The response then must be two-fold: To reveal that the emperor has few clothes and to kill the false creation myth that pits us against the world.
I (News) find the self-driving car hilarious. Do the engineers literally not know how important driving the car is – psychologically – for many people?
A friend used to work with women who spent about 30% of their earnings for the purchase and upkeep of the second car. But they didn’t care. It was independence from their husbands that mattered to them. They would work fifteen hours a week for that alone – in addition to everything else they did at work and at home.
Why is it that in Saudi Arabia, where women have few rights, they are not allowed to drive? Why do non-Saudi Arabians consider that a significant restriction on women?
I bet a lot of guys feel that way about cars too. That’s why I think Rob Sheldon is right about the private consumer response; the self-driving car will go the way of the vision phone.
Also, how would Uber and Lyft cope with horror movies about getting kidnapped by an evil autonomous car?
But Dixon is probably quite right about jobs like long-haul trucking and, say, trash collection and sorting. Stuff people don’t really want to do, now that’s a different story.
One thought: If we automate long-haul trucking, why not have separate corridors for tractor trailers travelling at high speed? Like railway trains used to do (and still do in many places).
See also: AI: A rational look at self-driving vehicles, and a cautionary marketing tale The lesson here is that technologies are not adopted because they exist. They are adopted if they serve a perceived need.