June 11, 2009

A road crammed with robots

Opera CarsI blog on Carwinism about the future of AI in cars: En väg full av robotar (in Swedish). In my opinion not that radical ideas (especially since The Economist beat me by a week), but the post got responses in GP, Allt om motor and HD.

My basic argument is that since sensors are becoming cheap, car automation is becoming standard and software is getting better cars will essentially become robotic. Not necessarily fully autonomous, but even a bit of networking and independence can have pretty big effects on traffic. We should also not expect humans to be the best possible drivers, so at least in some situations it might be rational (and possibly mandatory) to leave control to the machines. But convincing people about it is going to be tricky - we want to believe we are in control over our cars.

Maybe that is a cruicial problem for many "smart" technologies: the transition from tools to robots. We tend to think of the devices in terms of something that directly translates our actions or intentions into a result, with a strong causal link forward and an equally strong responsibility link backwards. When the device become autonomous we are just one influencing factor, and some actions of the device will not be due to us (and hence of uncertain responsibility). Since well established technologies have a social and legal context based on assumptions about these links, transitioning from tool to robot might be inhibited for old technologies. Computers were already billed as being semi-autonomous, so we have fewer problems with them acting up than we would be with cars.

Posted by Anders3 at June 11, 2009 04:53 PM