Would you send your child off to a party in a driverless car?
It’s quite a step putting yourself into one, but what about sending someone you love off into the world in some mobile microwave?
Who is accountable when there’s a crash?
Who picks up the bill for specialist medical care when your child gets injured inside a driverless car?
Is it better or worse on balance to have an actual human being in the car to react to things?
We know taxis and taxi drivers are regulated by NZTA, but Uber drivers claim not to be taxis and are hence very poorly regulated if at all. What happens when there’s not even a driver?
There is no regulatory framework in place at all for driverless vehicles with passengers. That means, no one can be held accountable for what goes on. But before you get to rules, you need some practical ethics.
Well, the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has been doing some thinking about this.
For those who are keen on when this is going to start here, no-one is predicting fully autonomous vehicles will be rolling out this year.
As for who’s winning the driverless car race, you decide.
Skepticism is appropriate after watching the Jetsons so many years ago: I’m still waiting for my jetpack.
While companies are advancing in their development of such vehicles, I’m less concerned about the techno, and more about how this is going to impact the ethics of everyday life. Here’s a few of the guidelines from the German Ministry of Transport:
There’s twenty of them, so that’s just a taste of what the Germans have been thinking. The full text is in the link above. When you boil them down, you start getting to Isaac Asimov’s three rules for robots, which he considered way back in 1942 – during the great accelerated world-mechanisation of World War Two:
Driverless trains are now nothing new, in fact they are rolling them out in Sydney this year – and I’m sure they will arrive shortly in Auckland.
What is also underway is driverless air-taxis in New Zealand. Note they are electric. Again, they are having to invent the regulatory system when there is no driver to regulate.
But actual road cars? Surely this needs human judgement? Autonomous vehicles are not going to radically decrease congestion. They might make T3 lanes a bit more attractive and efficient, but if that’s the sum total of the revolution, I want my money back.
We’ve been waiting 30 years to figure out when and how the next wave of automation would be as revolutionary as the car itself. Of all the needless waste of human life and time popularized by automation over the last 70 years, driving cars is the worst. It’s going to be a massive liberation, but with liberation comes the human need for rules. So far there are none.