Friday, July 18, 2014

Self-driving car failure modes

There's quite an interesting discussions in the comments section to yesterday's post about self-driving cars.  A number of people are clearly doing more thinking than the technologists and bureaucrats pushing this concept on a (mostly) unwilling public.  It's worth your time to see what a good security brainstorming session looks like.

I want to expand on this here, because it seems that the biggest obstacles are not technical, but rather social.  Here are some, in no particular order:

1. Self-driving cars will never be cool.  The lure of the open road has left Americans spellbound for generations.  The nerd playing X-Box 2025 will never be as cool as this, ever:

The Rebel lacks a cause, but meekly complies with all traffic ordinances.  I think it's quite a serious mistake to bet against cool.

2. You can't get rid of non-self driving cars.  Look at this car:

This car is not cheap, and more importantly is only driven infrequently as a hobby.  So think about who owns a car like this - it's not some backwoods redneck, it's someone with serious wealth.  If there's one thing that is abundantly clear it's that rich people don't take well to the Government taking away their hobbies.  So the self-driving car systems will be forced to deal with non-self driving cars.

3. Government Agencies exist to collect power for the Government Agency.  We can expect that they will be the biggest backers of mileage limits.  Make people fly more, so you will need more TSA screeners.  The proof?  TSA is already trying to get into the train travel and roadblock business. 

None of these are technology objections, they are societal limitations on deploying a system that will live up to the billing.  The system simply cannot improve road use, or mileage, or safety, because society won't let this happen.


Chickenmom said...

A car that you drive, be it a classic or a clunker, means independence. Nothing like driving on a back country road for just the pure joy of it. Don't like all that wonderful wind in your face freedom? Take mass transit instead.

Differ said...

Rush call it:
"Red Barchetta"

My uncle has a country place
That no one knows about
He says it used to be a farm
Before the Motor Law
And on Sundays I elude the eyes
And hop the Turbine Freight
To far outside the Wire
Where my white-haired uncle waits

Jump to the ground
As the Turbo slows to cross the borderline
Run like the wind
As excitement shivers up and down my spine
Down in his barn
My uncle preserved for me an old machine
For fifty odd years
To keep it as new has been his dearest dream

I strip away the old debris
That hides a shining car
A brilliant red Barchetta
From a better vanished time
I fire up the willing engine
Responding with a roar
Tires spitting gravel
I commit my weekly crime

In my hair
Shifting and drifting
Mechanical music
Adrenaline surge...

Well-weathered leather
Hot metal and oil
The scented country air
Sunlight on chrome
The blur of the landscape
Every nerve aware

Suddenly ahead of me
Across the mountainside
A gleaming alloy air car
Shoots towards me, two lanes wide
I spin around with shrieking tires
To run the deadly race
Go screaming through the valley
As another joins the chase

Drive like the wind
Straining the limits of machine and man
Laughing out loud with fear and hope
I've got a desperate plan
At the one-lane bridge
I leave the giants stranded at the riverside
Race back to the farm
To dream with my uncle at the fireside

Differ said...

Sounds a little like where we're going:
a country redoubt, the motor law, eluding the eyes, borderlines, weekly crimes....
Driving the Camaro is a bit like that these days; one more reason not to sell it.
Incidentally as part of my Master's degree we had to provide some Systems Engineering products for flying cars/autonomous cars - I'll post those on my blog.

Goober said...

Why would a government ever be so stupid as to limit the amount of miles a person drives per year?

Forget about the fact that they have the techonology that they need to do that NOW, and haven't. Self-driving cars won't change that.

COnsidering that a huge percentage of driving is for economic purposes (ie, business trips) that would be full-on retard territory.

Unless it is their goal to utterly tank the economy. At which point, I think the last thing any free-thinking individual should worry about is the imposed limit on driving... We'd be in full-on rebellion at that point...

That line of argument against self-driving cars is kind of stupid, if you ask me.

All the other arguments are very compelling, but they are also generation-specific.

The Boomers and X-ers were really the last generations where a majority of the folks valued the "cool" factor of cars. More and more millenials are buying cars for transportation, and nothing else, and a huge percentage of them aren't even getting their driver's license until they're well into their 20's and have to get one for practical reasons. To a Boomer or X-er, not getting your license on your 16th birthday was a sign that you were a failure as a person. Millenials are the first generation to not really care, and to not tie driving to "cool" or "independence" in the same way your generations did.

The car being "cool" will be a thing that a minority of people will even remember in fifty years. To most kids these days, cars are just ways to get around.

As for hackers, and governmental incompetence, both will have to try pretty hard to keep up with our current 60,000 deaths a year.

I'm not actually FOR self-driving cars, for all the reasons you've stated, but I do think that they are inevitable, and folks that plan to be around in 50 years probably ought to start comfying up to the idea...