Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Thursday Quote - HAgoogLe

"It can only be attributable to human error."
HAL as quoted here from 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968.
"Safety is our top priority. One of our goals is to prevent fender-benders like this one, which occurred while a person was manually driving the car."
from a statement by Google, as quoted by Sajid Farooq and Jason Middleton in Google Blames Human for Robot Car Crash Friday, Aug 5, 2011.

HAL was lying, but Google is telling the truth... right?

Here is an excerpt from the wider context:

Google Blames Human for Robot Car Crash

UPDATE: A woman claiming to have witnessed the accident involving one of Google's robot-controlled cars says that five cars were involved, not two, as Google asserts in a statement.

There was "a huge screeching noise," according to Tiffany Winkelman, and Google's Prius struck another Prius, which then struck her Honda Accord that her brother was driving. That Accord then struck another Honda Accord, and the second Accord hit a separate, non-Google-owned Prius.

Google's original statement reads: "Safety is our top priority. One of our goals is to prevent fender-benders like this one, which occurred while a person was manually driving the car."
. . .
At Google, don't blame the technology when something goes wrong -- blame the person behind the technology.

Robot cars? Really?

Yes, really, there are robot cars running around in California... and, apparently, slamming into other cars. Nothing new there, human drivers have been slamming into each other for a hundred years.

"For the past year, Bay Area residents have noticed a fleet of seven curious-looking Toyota Priuses outfitted with an array of sensors, sometimes spotted driving the highways and city streets of San Francisco, occasionally even swerving their way down the notoriously serpentine Lombard Street."
Automotive Autonomy - Self-driving cars are inching closer to the assembly line, thanks to promising new projects from Google and the European Union by Alex Wright, from Communications of the ACM July 2011

Yes, it has taken a long time for robots to catch up to humans, but progress is being made.

Consider tailgating: once the exclusive domain of impatient humans on their way to ... somewhere, now robot "highway trains" are going to make tailgating a way to improve fuel efficiency and (one supposes) go green, fight global warming and save the polar bear all at the same time.

Don't believe me, read Alex Wright's article; here are some snippets (the emphasis is mine):

The team has been trying to understand the psychological impact of autonomous driving on the human occupants formerly known as drivers.
. . .
The European Union-sponsored SARTRE project is developing technologies to allow cars to join organized platoons, with a lead car operated by a human driver.
. . .
If the Google project ultimately comes to fruition, it may do more than just improve the lives of individual car owners; it could also open up new possibilities for car sharing and advanced "highway trains" in which cars follow each other on long-distance trips, improving fuel efficiency and reducing the cognitive burden on individual drivers.
. . .
By grouping cars into platoons, the SARTRE team projects a 20% increase in collective fuel efficiency for each platoon.
. . .
At press time, Google had hired a lobbyist to promote two robotic car-related bills to the Nevada legislature. One bill, an amendment to an existing electric vehicle law, would permit the licensing and testing of self-driving cars. The second is an exemption to allow texting during driving.
. . .
The team is also considering the potential impact on other drivers outside the platoon, since the presence of a long train of vehicles will inevitably affect other traffic on the freeway. For example, if the platoon is traveling in the slow lane on a multilane freeway, it will inevitably have to react to occasional interlopers.

What could possibly go wrong?

Next week: The Thursday Quote - Mordechai (Moti) Ben-Ari

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