Can you input a conscience into a car, can ethics be broken down into data and codes.
Skeptics of driverless cars have a variety of criticisms, from technical to demand based, but perhaps the most curious is the supposed ethical trolley problem it creates. While the question of how driverless cars will behave in ethical situations is interesting and will ultimately have to be answered by programmers, critics greatly exaggerate it’s importance. In addition, they assume that driverless cars have to be perfect rather than just better.
The basic trolley problem involves being put in a situation where you have to choose between killing some people and killing others. For example, imaging you are driving your car and another car is headign right towards you and you have to either hit them head on or swerve into a group of pedestrians. What does a robot do!? This, it is argued, presents a big issue for driverless cars. How do we program them? How will they react in such situations?
The first problem with this is that humans are assumed to be doing a pretty good job at driving already, including in so-called trolley car situations. For example, here is Patrick Lin writing at the Atlantic with a paean to human’s driving abilities:
“But there are important differences between humans and machines that could warrant a stricter test. For one thing, we’re reasonably confident that human drivers can exercise judgment in a wide range of dynamic situations that don’t appear in a standard 40-minute driving test; we presume they can act ethically and wisely. Autonomous cars are new technologies and won’t have that track record for quite some time.”
The idea that humans will act ethically and wisely while driving is an absurd and false assumption. For starters, in 2013 over 10,000 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, which accounts for 31% of vehicle related deaths. So from the start we have a third of all driving deaths resulting from humans who are probably often using poor judgment, and unethical and unwise decision-making.
Now that we have opened the door to driverless technology we need to make sure that hackers can’t get in as well.
Given the multitude of recalls announced by other automakers, the industry must take action. FCA’s recent 1.4 million vehicle cyber security-related recall is not a one-off occurrence. These types of recalls can be minimized, however, it will not be a singular effort by a single automaker. Today’s connected car includes upward of 300 million lines of code compared to a 747, with roughly 75 million lines. Automotive vulnerabilities are at an all-time high and FCA’s recent recall is perfect evidence of said vulnerabilities. The real question is, who is taking the necessary action?
On July 21, Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal introduced first-of-its-kind legislation, the Security and Privacy in Your Car Act (SPY Car Act). The senators’ legislation directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to establish federal standards that will secure today’s connected car. There was no in-vehicle system regulation until the SPY Car Act.
FCA is suffering $105 million costs in just civil penalties alone, with recall costs entering into the billions. Automotive recalls, SPY Car implications, and improved user experiences can all be alleviated through a common industry trend—collaboration. The recent governmental legislation will kick automakers into high gear with respect to addressing cybersecurity.
While the SPY Car Act was truly an unprecedented announcement, it was also long overdue. As a whole the automotive industry’s cybersecurity posture is weak. Change is inevitable, and Frost & Sullivan believes the industry will see laser focus and fully secure systems within the next two to three years.
Recalls are frustrating drivers due the inconvenience, as well as the danger they put their families in.
The 2015 American Consumer Satisfaction Index, an annual survey that involved 4,300 consumers, found that satisfaction with automobiles dropped for the third straight year to the lowest level since 2004. High new-car prices also were a factor.
“While it is true that all cars are now much better than they were 10 to 20 years ago, it is alarming that so many of them have quality problems,” said Claes Fornell, chairman and founder of the survey.
Honda records 20 per cent rise in profit despite massive recalls Last year automakers recalled a record 64 million vehicles for problems such as exploding air bags and ignition switches that can unexpectedly cause engines to stall. The problems can be deadly. So far General Motors has agreed to compensate families of 124 people who died in crashes caused by the faulty switches. Eight more people have died worldwide after being cut by shrapnel from exploding Takata air bag inflators.
Rising prices also contributed to the consumer frustration. Car prices are up 11 per cent since 2010 and hit records all year, rising to an average $32,932 in July, according to the Edmunds.com auto website.
The recent dream for car companies is to be able to sell a car that can drive itself, which company will get there first?
Last week’s “exclusive” in the Guardian claiming to “confirm Apple is building self-driving car” raised quite a buzz. Much of that buzz was skeptical, with many pointing out that the facts failed to support the Guardian’s conclusion.
The logical leap that Guardian made was that an Apple engineer’s interest in the GoMentum Station vehicle test track confirmed Apple’s driverless car program. This is too big a leap, as a range of Apple car-related aspirations—self-driving or not—might have use for such a test track.
Let’s assume, however, that the Guardian is right and Apple does have a driverless car ready for testing. (This is possible, as Apple has hired many automotive engineers, including the former CEO of Mercedes Benz’s Silicon Valley research center.) What would that say about the relative state of Apple’s driverless car?
It would tell us that Apple is millions of miles behind Google, and falling further behind every day.
As one of the few companies in the world richer than Google, Apple can match the cars, sensors, processors, navigational systems and other pieces of hardware that Google might deploy. It can replicate the sophisticated maps that Google has compiled. It will have a very hard time, however, catching up with Google’s on-the-road learning.
Apple taking precautions to keep their progress secret as they test their autonomous vehicles.
Apple is looking into using a former military base northeast of San Francisco as a high-security proving ground for autonomous vehicles it is developing, according to an online report by British newspaper The Guardian.
Engineers from the technology giant’s Special Projects group have been in contact with representatives of GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre facility on the site of what used to be the Concord Naval Weapons Station, in Concord, Calif.
Correspondence obtained by The Guardian through public records requests shows Apple is interested in using the sprawling sites, which has more than 20 miles of paved roads, city streets, railroad crossings and tunnels, to test self-driving vehicles.
Both Honda and Mercedes-Benz have been using GoMentum Station for testing their own autonomous cars.
News of Apple’s interest in the former base is the latest glimpse into Apple’s secretive autonomous-car program. The maker of iPhones and MacBooks had said little publicly about its vehicle-development efforts, but in recent months it has hired some well-known executives from automakers.
One of the most dangerous offences is taking your eyes off the road to send a quick text to friends. Do you text while driving?
Teenagers calling themselves safe motorists overwhelmingly admit to checking phones when behind the wheel, and those who text while driving say they are often distracted by parents who expect immediate responses, a survey found.
More than half of the teens confessed to texting while driving to update their parents, and 19 per cent said moms and dads expected a response within one minute, according to a study issued Tuesday by Boston-based Liberty Mutual Holding Co. and Students Against Destructive Decisions.
“We have a generation of parents that are used to being very connected with their children,” Stephen Wallace, chief executive officer of SADD, said in an interview. “They’re looking for that constant communication.”
Of the almost 3,000 fatal crashes in 2013 caused by distracted drivers, 10 per cent of those deaths were teens, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Auto insurers including Allstate Corp. and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. have publicized the risks of distracted motorists.
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While self-driving cars are expected to have many positive impacts, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider.
Just as Wired magazine published a headline-grabbing story about hackers taking control of a new Jeep Cherokee with UConnect, engineers, computer programmers, professors, and lawyers were meeting in Ypsilanti, Michigan, to discuss evolution of the autonomous, connected automobile.
The Automated Vehicle Symposium is held every year by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Transportation Research Board (TRB), and so it measures advances in these technologies in increments. Questions and concerns about security, ethics, and who’s responsible for the first crash caused by an autonomous car are not new for this group.
This year’s AVS followed the University of Michigan’s grand opening of its Mcity autonomous vehicle test track, where some of the suppliers and automakers participating in the symposium gave demonstrations of their latest technologies. I stayed indoors and listened to presentations. While there were no revelations, there were some interesting ideas that give clear indications where the automobile industry and our transportation system are heading. Herewith, a few tidbits:
The University of Michigan is extending its three-year-old testing of smart cars on public roads into an “entire system of connected roads,” entailing some of the major roads between metro Detroit and Ann Arbor, according to John Maddox, assistant director for the U-M Mobility Transformation Center (MTC). It could rival Google’s autonomous car-testing efforts in Silicon Valley and adds the element of ice- and snow-covered roads, which semi-automated cars can’t handle very well so far.
The MTC essentially is an extension of the university’s test of smart car technology that began on public roads in 2012, with a $100 million budget funded by automakers and suppliers, state and federal governments, and the university.
Not only do you have to worry about car thieves braking into your vehicle, now we also have the possibility of hackers taking over it.
The idea that someone could remotely take over your car and cause it to behave erratically has been talked about for several years — though typically dismissed by auto companies as an irrational fear.
But it all got real on Tuesday after Andy Greenberg, a former FORBES writer now at Wired.com, posted a chilling story about how two hackers sitting on their living room couch managed to remotely take control of the Jeep Cherokee he was driving on a busy freeway in St. Louis. The car’s air conditioner suddenly cranked up to full blast, the radio started blasting hip-hop music and the windshield wipers kicked on. Then it got really dangerous as the hackers remotely turned off the car’s engine.
It was all part of an experiment to draw attention to the cyber-security risks in today’s cars which have morphed into rolling computers. The hackers, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, were able to exploit a weak spot in the Jeep’s Uconnect system, which links the vehicle to the Internet. It turns out as many as 471,000 Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram vehicles equipped with the 8.4-inch U-Connect touchscreen system could be vulnerable. All are made by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Many different car shows are hosted every year, but this is the only show where the cars you see have most likely appeared on screen in movies and television.
The Television Motion Picture Car Club’s sixth annual Fourth of July car show at CBS Studio Center is half Hollywood, half local car show and half fireworks. If that’s three halves that’s only because it’s about 50 percent more fun than your typical hot-rod and muscle-car hoedown.
The TMPCC show is held in conjunction with Studio City’s Fourth of July Fireworks Festival, an event that includes live music by Deana Carter, magic shows, strolling pirates, model airplanes, cool cars and, just before it all ends, fireworks.
But let’s talk about the cars.
The club started out with just TV and movie industry people who liked cars. Some of them had cars that had been in movies or TV shows, but a lot of them just liked cool things with wheels. The club has recently expanded to include members from the music, radio, sports and motorsports industries, too. Their biggest event is this one, where they take over the parking spaces of big time studio execs at CBS.
Most of the actual movie cars on hand were brought by agencies that supply them to the industry. The Picture Car Warehouse brought the Gladius Jet Bike from the 2011 movie “Priest.” Bob Ratinoff, owner of Classic Auto Rental Service brought a 1965 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III that has been seen on various screens. And Phil Fiori, owner of Next! Pictures, brought a number of cars and replicas of cars from movies.
The race has begun for car companies everywhere to manufacture an autonomous car. The concept is simple, but the execution has been difficult. Everybody cannot wait for Mercedes to release their Class- E car for the world to see.
What has so far only been shown in test situations will be available as of about March next year, when Daimler’s new model goes on sale. The technology packing the vehicle shows how quickly automated driving systems have advanced since 1998, when the Mercedes S class first featured cruise control that could adjust its speed to follow a car in front.
“Innovations in this area are coming thick and fast,” Thomas Weber, Daimler’s head of development, said in his office in Sindelfingen, near Stuttgart, Germany. “While we don’t want to feed wrong expectations such as sleeping in the car, autonomous driving is set to become a reality much more quickly than the public thinks.”
Self-driving systems are among many areas in which Mercedes is working to gain an edge on rivals Audi and BMW. Currently No. 3 in luxury-car sales, Daimler is fighting to take the lead in the segment by 2020.
It’s also testing the limits of what’s allowed under current regulations, which in most places require the driver to be in a position to control the vehicle at all times.