The Advertiser - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE CONFIDENTIAL -

AS the world moves closer to cars that drive them­selves, there are more ques­tions than an­swers.

It’s true that cars can al­ready drive them­selves — I’ve been a pas­sen­ger in a BMW 7 Se­ries that runs au­tonomously for about 50 kilo­me­tres in Ger­many — but that’s just the start of the chal­lenge.

We know the roads and sur­round­ings in Australia are not suit­able for self-driv­ing cars.

Any­thing con­trolled by com­put­ers needs much more cer­tainty with the likes of road mark­ings and signs than we can cur­rently man­age in our coun­try­side.

Ex­perts are also wor­ried about how a self-driv­ing car will cope with the un­cer­tain­ties of hu­man be­hav­iour at the wheel of ex­ist­ing cars and trucks.

But Ian Robert­son, the No.2 man at BMW glob­ally, raises the big­gest ques­tion of all. It has noth­ing to do with hard­ware or soft­ware, and ev­ery­thing to do with ethics and morals.

It’s a lot like what’s called the “Tur­ing test” of a ma­chine’s abil­ity to think like a per­son. “Imag­ine that your au­ton­o­mous car is head­ing for a crash with a truck com­ing the other way,” Robert­son says.

“If the car does noth­ing, you will be killed.

“But if the car swerves away from the truck it’s go­ing to hit a mother with her baby in a pram.

“What should the car do? And do you re­ally want the car to make that choice?”

So the an­swer for Robert­son is sim­ple: “I don’t see au­ton­o­mous cars com­ing in my life­time.”

Change of fo­cus: Un­sighted “driv­ers” at the Shang­hai show

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