Autonomous Cars? Really? Why?

Shelley, the autonomous race car

Shelley, the autonomous race car (Photo credit: Saad Faruque)

So are you excited about what they’re calling ‘Autonomous Cars’? Personally I think them a horrible idea.

First, the more complex you make any system, the more prone to failure it is, and these systems are complex indeed. You also have to think about their failure mode. In my business, in the old relay days, when something failed, it would usually stop. With electronics, failure usually means that they go full speed until something outside intervenes. You know like Toyota throttles.

Cruise controls, even what they call adaptive cruise controls are fine, probably even good for safety, a sort of back up for momentary inattention, which we are all guilty of. Almost anything like that is a positive good, as long as the operator can override it at any time.

But, the fully autonomous car, on the other hand, where you tell the car where you want to go, and it takes care of it, is a different kettle of fish, and it smells worse than 3-year-old Lutefisk.

First, if your fancy car goes wrong and kills 5 people by running over them, and setting Neiman-Marcus on fire on the way, You’re going to end up liable. Sure some will try to blame the manufacturer, and possibly it might work occasionally but, the basic rule in American court is ‘deep pockets win’. Who has deeper pockets? You, or the Ford Motor Company. That’s what I thought.

More at Who Is Liable When a Self-Driving Car Crashes?

And what are you going to do when NSA or the police tell your car; “Go directly to jail, do not pass go.” Why can’t they? Your car is talking to who knows who, all the time anymore, even when you’re not. Keep reading.

And by the way, airplanes have had autopilots since the 1940s, they still have 2 (count ’em 2) pilots, and people get very excited when they take a nap at work. Even though there are autopilots available that could manage the aircraft from terminal to terminal. What do the airline people know that we don’t?

And then there’s this. Kit Lange writing on The Victory Girls Blog tell us this,

But the privacy war isn’t just raging on the internet.  It’s in your car too.  Ford VP of Marketing and Sales, Jim Farley, got a bit too honest at an electronic trade show in Vegas this week.

“We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing. By the way, we don’t supply that data to anyone,” he told attendees.

Naturally, Farley retracted his statements and put up a clarifier: “I absolutely left the wrong impression about how Ford operates. We do not track our customers in their cars without their approval or consent.”

The problem with that is this: By purchasing a car with GPS, you are approving and consenting to be tracked.  That’s how GPS works.  It can’t tell you where to go without tracking where you are.  In other words, his retraction is actually a confirmation.

Continue reading Google, Ford, and the NSA’s Fight to Stay in Control

Frankly, I think I’ll keep driving for myself, thank you very much. And by preference I’ll do it in a car that doesn’t tell the world every half-second or so where it is, either.

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About Neo
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

27 Responses to Autonomous Cars? Really? Why?

  1. Richard M Nixon (Deceased) says:

    Reblogged this on Dead Citizen's Rights Society.


  2. JessicaHof says:

    I was thinking that, on the one hand, not bumping into things would be handy – and if it can parallel park then that’s a plus, but then the prospect of them knowing when I speed … 🙂 x


  3. Freedom, by the way says:

    I’m with you. I would not be comfortable putting a 2,000 lb. killing machine in control. (And even less comfortable with the idea that someone else could control it). Question? If your GPS isn’t turned on–can you still be tracked?


    • NEO says:

      In a stand alone system no, there’s no transmitter. But systems, installed in the car “On-call” or whatever they call them. Can you even turn them off? If you did, how could they call for help when you wrecked the car? They have good applications, mind, but can also be abused.


  4. Sort of like automatic pilot, someone has to turn it on, and know when to turn it off! 😉 Btw more airline pilots are in the need it appears to remember how to actually fly the airplane, the old-fashioned way!


  5. If they can put these tracking things in cars wouldn’t shoes be next?


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