Reid

“Per­haps we could have a Mimic Me fea­ture, where au­tonomous cars learn your driv­ing style af­ter a few days”

Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS -

“Per­haps we could have a Mimic Me fea­ture, where au­tonomous cars learn your driv­ing style af­ter a few days”

What gives a car char­ac­ter? I’d sug­gest char­ac­ter comes from the way a car makes you feel, through the way it looks and sounds, the way it breaks down or falls apart on a rou­tine ba­sis or, cru­cially, the way it re­sponds to your in­puts. But if we’re rac­ing to­wards a fu­ture of self-driv­ing pods that no longer re­quire in­puts, will au­tonomous cars be de­void of char­ac­ter?

If all au­tonomous cars have a user-driv­able mode, then great, we can pi­lot them our­selves from time to time and di­vine some form of char­ac­ter from those in­ter­ac­tions. But if a man­ual mode ei­ther doesn’t ex­ist or is re­stric­tive, cars will lose a huge part of what makes them unique. And if that be­comes the case, we’ll have to think of new ways y to make them more in­ter­est­ing.

One thing that wor­ries me is they’ll all drive iden­ti­cally. I dread the day when I’m sat in­side an au­tonomous Audi or BMW with my eyes closed and can’t tell what I’m be­ing wafted about in. I don’t mind if au­tonomous cars potte pot­ter slowly about by de­fault, but no­body wants to pot­ter all the time. I want w to be able to hit a Sport but­ton, yell “Hey Siri, get on with it” (o (or what­ever we’re hol­ler­ing in 2055), and have the car re­spond by pe per­form­ing ev­ery­thing with a touch more ur­gency, in a way that sh show­cases its per­son­al­ity.

More im­por­tantly, there sh should also be a way of im­pos­ing our per­son­al­i­ties on our cars. In ve­hi­cles ve with a switch­able au­tonomousto-man­ual mode, per­haps we could c have a Mimic Me fea­ture, where the car learns your d driv­ing style af­ter a few days, and chooses the most a ap­pro­pri­ate way to drive de­pend­ing on the road, the tim time of day, or how late you are for the next ap­point­ment ap­pointm in your cal­en­dar.

Some of u us love to ac­cel­er­ate safely but de­ter­mined de­ter­minedly through the gears, or to lift off the ac­cel­er­a­tor as we pass peo­ple at bus stops so they can hear our ou ex­hausts pop, or over­take ev­ery­thing in sight. Why shouldn’t our ro­botic cars pan­der to such tastes?

It’s not like hav­ing a va­ri­ety of driv­ing styles will lead to crashes – they’ll all com­mu­ni­cate with each other wire­lessly any­way, so ac­ci­dents should be im­pos­si­ble – even if ev­ery­body flicks the ‘go men­tal’ switch at once.

The Alexas and Siris of this world are be­com­ing a much big­ger part of our lives, and I can see such dig­i­tal as­sis­tants evolv­ing dra­mat­i­cally, par­tic­u­larly where cars are con­cerned. Mercedes al­ready has a Hey Mercedes fea­ture in the new A-Class, but what’s to say we won’t be able to per­son­alise as­sis­tants and give them unique names? Maybe they’ll be­come so clever, so per­sonal to us, that they’ll do ev­ery­thing from ad­just the heat­ing or set des­ti­na­tions, as they can al­ready, to be­com­ing a friend, like KITT.

And if we’re no longer driv­ing our cars, we’ll have more time to in­ter­act not only with our dig­i­tal as­sis­tants, but also other road users. Car-to-car dat­ing might be­come ‘a thing’, and per­haps we’ll start flirt­ing with peo­ple in traf­fic with the help of our in­fo­tain­ment sys­tems. It’s per­fectly fea­si­ble that ev­ery car will know ev­ery driver’s re­la­tion­ship sta­tus, so why not ex­ploit that? If I drive along­side a fel­low sin­gle­ton that my car deems ‘my type’, then I want it to sound the horn, roll the win­dow down and play some Barry White. On their stereo. Maybe it could ini­ti­ate a video chat, or of­fer them the op­tion of ac­cept­ing a new way­point on their sat­nav to the near­est cin­ema, cof­fee shop or Hol­i­day Inn.

How­ever things end up, these are the sorts of con­sid­er­a­tions we’ll need to dis­cuss if cars aren’t to be­come a bor­ing mess of iden­ti­cal shut­tles. Cars, as well as giv­ing us free­dom to travel, must also thrill us, sur­prise us and chal­lenge us. And who knows? Maybe one day, driver­less cars may end up hav­ing more per­son­al­ity, more charm and more char­ac­ter than those we know and love to­day.

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