We’ve all seen Google’s driver-less car, some of us have cars today that can park, maneuver or react themselves. The potentials are fairly exciting. But it do raise a number of questions. Mainly, do we trust computers enough yet to drive for us? And if so, what other questions does it raise in society?
I recently read the novel ‘The Circle’, a gripping account that extrapolates our transparent digital lives edging closer to a theory known as ‘closing the circle’ where data and knowledge is absolute and complete. This enables full transparency, and in theory eradicating corruption, war, human error and global collaboration.
While parts of the narrative border on the insane, like responding to 1000’s of Zings, comments, smiles and frowns in an hour, the core of the narrative digs deep into the possibilities of fully enabling a connected and transparent world.
Children with embedded tracking chips to prevent abduction, real-time bio data for proactive health care, driver-less cars to avoid human error, trusted universally digital identity, and the list of the impact of the digital technology goes on.
But one example I want to focus on in this piece is the theory of banning humans from driving.
We’ve all seen various experiments around the world focused on driver-less cars, with Google’s attempt taking most of the spotlight.
The theory is sound, it allows cars to drive themselves as humans drive with inefficiency, cause errors and at times cause clutter. Instead, a connected ecosystem of cars (particularly in an era beyond car ownership) could seamlessly maneuver vehicles with amazing efficiency, optimized routing, fuel consumption and even commuter journey planning, for the ‘greater good’.
But how realistic is a law to ban humans from driving? In the novel, the author uses a graphic incident to highlight the ineffectiveness of humans behind the wheel of a car. But not all of us use cars purely for transportation.
I’m personally a huge fan of Formula One motor racing. Would a human-less car mean driver-less racing also? While the geek in me would love to see the potential of this, I doubt it would see my passion for motor racing shift from the loyal following of a driver, particularly one with patriotic roots. Go Riciardo.
In dense urban centers the benefit of driver-less cars is strong. Throughout each day, vehicles continue utilization, serving several times more need than they do today. With driver-less cars, it'll reduce the need for carparks, and the number of vehicles in a geographic area.
The closest example we have today on vehicle optimization comes form apps like Waze, Uber and GrabTaxi, where each vehicle is constantly connected into an ecosystem full of information that drives insights and decisions.
Therefore it's logical that a driver-less car could recognize an accident has occurred on its intended route, and reroute around the area which in-turn will reduce unnecessary congestion and protecting travel time. But in a driver-less world, would accidents occur? Or would the mix of the driver-less accuracy and the human on the same roads, cause greater concern?
It is reasonable to assume, that in a city with driver-less cars, the greater risk is on the road would actually be cars driven by humans. Some humans have irrational or unpredictable potentials, raising the question which is the title for this piece.
In a world with driver-less cars, should we ban humans from driving cars?