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Aug
17
2016

Driverless cars and the sacred cow problem

The promoters of driverless cars have demonstrated remarkable progress in their ability to program their vehicles to respond with extreme deference to pedestrians, cyclists, and cars with human drivers. Such programming confers sacred cow status on all road users not in self-driving vehicles. The developers of autonomous vehicles acknowledge the need for new road safety rules to accommodate these revolutionary vehicles on public highways. But would-be regulators have yet to propose a set of rules that would allow these sacred cows to move about freely in dense urban areas without creating a state of deferential paralysis for those in autonomous vehicles.

Full essay here (pdf)

5 comments

3 pings

  1. Arthur Foxake says:

    In a couple of recent but negligently reported incidents, a Tesla and a Google / Lexus fly-by-wire cars failed to defer to much larger vehicles that crossed their paths. Seems the developers have a way to go yet. No wonder the cows are scared if they’ve heard these things are on the loose.

  2. Daniel Roberts says:

    Clearly there are many challenges to overcome. Possibly vehicle-only roads or times, or enforcement of “jaywalking” laws. Still, it may take some time for cultural expectations to alter sufficiently. And of course, the value of at least the verbal “road rage” associated with inappropriately slowed traffic cannot be discounted.

  3. Daisy White says:

    amazing article no one can define this problem better than this

  4. Colin says:

    As somebody who rides a bike, I look forward to streets filled with autonomous cars as I’ll be able to nonchalantly cruise at 15 km/h in the middle of the lane, free from driver road rage.

    And so I also can’t see autonomous cars ever happening in urban environments. Freeways, yes, but not urban streets. I can imagine these issues will prompt calls for separation – separate routes for driverless cars (or driverless buses), separate routes for people on bikes, etc. Maybe even calls for people on bikes and on foot to be banished, at least in the more auto-dominated cities of the US.

    Autonomous cars aint the inevitability so many predict.

  5. Dave says:

    An interesting perspective from MIT is that someone or something only becomes a sacred cow if the programming in the Moral Machine decides it should be (for interest, that site was reached by this article in a data science blog)

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