Lesson from computer error signal manoeuvre
IWAS sorry to hear of the first casualty in a driverless car, but I can’t say I was surprised. Were you? Joshua Brown was killed in Florida after his vehicle’s computer apparently failed to distinguish a truck’s white side from the bright sky. His car’s brakes weren’t activated and he ploughed into the lorry.
Mr Brown had been happily driving along (well not driving, actually), oblivious to the hazards outside, while – wait for it – watching a Harry Potter film.
However hard I try, I really cannot get my head around the notion of a driverless car. Why would anyone trust a computer system when negotiating heavy traffic?
It’s as daft as turning to JK Rowling’s magic tricks to get yourself out of a corner. Perhaps we should think seriously about changing to broomsticks for our travel. If that sounds ridiculous, think again about driverless cars.
Computers crash regularly, don’t they? How many times have you been in the middle of ordering something on a website when all your information disappears and you have to start again?
My computer is definitely lacking in empathy or common sense. It clearly doesn’t know when I’m desperate to email something on deadline but tells me that, ha ha, I’m mysteriously ‘no longer on a network’ and crashes at will. So why should a car computer know that, because I’ve decided to let it take over while I put on my make-up, read a book or eat a three-course meal in the ‘driver’s seat’, extra vigilance is needed?
It reminded me of the 2015 TV drama Humans, in which ‘Synths’ – robotic servants that were so similar to real humans they were becoming must-have gadgets for child care and domestic tasks. That also ended in tears…
The Department for Transport says that driverless cars should not be used to ferry children around without an adult behind the wheel, nor should owners use them to get home from the pub drunk. Well, that’s encouraging.
There is the chance that there may be a plus side on this strange invention though. If we continue with the notion that non-genderspecific robots make the best drivers, it may eventually deflect from the daft prejudice against women drivers over many years.
I won’t hold my breath though. It seems the rogue car which brought about the 40-year-old’s early demise, was nicknamed Tessy!