Programming a Self-Driving Car

So, the internet spit out this:  http://teamcoco.com/video/google-self-drive-cars

You know what, I really look forward to the prospect of a self-driving car.  Imagine:  you get in your car and start working, your workday already began, you type away at your PC and answer email.  Imagine:  family vacation to Disneyland, load up the kids late at night, go to sleep, and wake up in the parking lot of the happiest place on Earth.

At the same time, I feel bad for Google coders.  Obviously, human life is the first factor.  If humans aren’t safe, their plans amount to naught.  But think about that poor coder somewhere…..

You see, cars might hit cats.  Cars might hit dogs.  Cars might hit other non-human thingies.  A car might hit a cat that hits a dog that sets off a large Rube Goldberg machine, buzz-cutting wildlife in some terrible fashion.  And there is a guy somewhere, knee deep in computer code, that has a decision to make.  In mathematical terms, he must define the EXACT value of the life of a cat, of a dog, of a bird.  Is it more important to jar the humans just a bit, to make them spill their coffee?  Or to murder a wandering critter?  How big of a splash of coffee is allowable?  How forceful can an emergency stop be?

So this imaginary coder, let’s call him Cletus, could pump out some elegant code that will be used in automatic cars for the next thousand years.  Maybe humans will even forget how to write in assembly, make it a million years.  And in some shiny silver future, cats will flourish wild and we’re all driving big, Mad-Max style steamshovels.  Cats will get mowed down by the millions because of Cletus’s wonderful code, code that ensures we won’t spill a precious drop of coffee or tea or juice.  Only the blood of innocent animals, all hanging on Cletus’s shoulders, barring him from ever entering heaven.

On a more serious note, some code monkeys will nod knowingly because this IS a decision that will have to be made.  I’ve worked a lot of crappy jobs, but I do (in fact) feel bad for Cletus.  I just hope he does his job well.  I don’t particularly like cats, and I don’t want to spill my cocoa.  Maybe I could endure a bump or two in order to save a dog, though.  Can the system differentiate?

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *