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California steers toward a future of self-driving cars

Original post made on Jul 30, 2019

California is laying the groundwork for the next, slightly scary, phase in its push toward zero-emission transportation: self-driving cars packed with computers using finely tuned algorithms and other high-tech gadgetry.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, July 30, 2019, 11:35 AM

Comments (2)

2 people like this
Posted by Henry fox
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 30, 2019 at 1:59 pm

There is no downside to the use of autonomous vehicles. Can't wait to give up my car, and insurance, and repairs, and smog checks, and licence-buying, and charging and gas-getting and all the aggravations and risks of having and driving a car.
Go California! for accelerating the process.

6 people like this
Posted by An actual engineer
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 31, 2019 at 5:50 pm

"Programmers use real-world experiences…to build databases enabling the vehicles to make split-second decisions as people do."

FYI, it's misleading (and increasingly dangerous) to speak this way about driver assistance systems. I'm an engineer who actually works on these kinds of technologies, and I am increasingly concerned that sloppiness in the way we talk and write about these issues is starting to seriously confuse the public—and as a result, the law.

Here's a primer: Computers can't make decisions like people do, and they don't "learn" like people do. They are not and will never be "intelligent" in the same way people are. All of those are *metaphors*; they aren't literal—and never will be, if you understand how human (aka conceptual) consciousness works. These machines will do what they are programmed to do, and sure, they can replicate the most common behavior of how people historically made decisions in similar situations, but they are not doing anything more than parroting the final decision human drivers made in the same way a parrot can imitate the words you speak.

That isn't to say such systems can't be safer than human drivers in some situations. Sometimes they can be, because they can simulate how different emergency scenarios go using the laws of physics, and they can do it in the blink of an eye. But even then, the only nuances such a system can take into account are nuances they have been explicitly programmed to look at (e.g., speed, distance from other cars), and the only things they can do beyond that is look at prior human behavior to pick up patterns (for better, and usually, for worse). There is not a wink of magical intelligence beyond that.

They aren't magic bullets. Trust such systems as you see fit.

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