Google has high hopes for their self-driving cars. The tech company is hoping one day to see a complete transition to full automation, a society where humans have relinquished their need to drive in favor of safer roads. However, the search giant's aspirations have left at least some of us a little wary of the future.
David Mindell, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is not sold on Google's vision of autonomous vehicles. Mindell is convinced self-driving cars are not the future. Instead, Mindell feels "it's reasonable to hope" autonomous vehicles will supplement human control over driving, not usurp it. Driverless cars would make it easier for humans to operate their vehicles while still remaining in control of their vehicles.
Mindell's position is in clear contrast to Google executives'. Chris Urmson, the engineer developing Google's autonomous cars, feels humans have never been fit to make driving a safe experience. Referencing the many lives lost on the road due to human error, Urmson suggests self-driving cars are the path to the future, where no driver is aggressive or careless, and traffic is a smooth progression for anyone. The longer humans have control over objects as dangerous as cars, lives are in constant danger. It is expected that self-driving cars will make complete use of their sensors and advanced technology by allowing their users to benefit from a world where humans are not let loose on the streets.
Mindell is opposed to that future. The professor, who handles engineering at MIT, on Tuesday published "Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myth of Autonomy" which maintains that the most advanced human endeavors could not be possible without input from humans. It was believed autonomous submersibles would be an ideal method for exploration in deep waters. However, humans were eventually made part of the picture when computers failed to find useful data. Even NASA used humans to land on the moon. Self-driving spacecraft would certainly eliminate the dangers of space travel, but only humans could intelligently direct them into outer space. Mindell is also keen to point out commercial airlines benefit from advanced technologies and computers, but even that industry relies heavily on the knowledge and awareness a human can bring to the table. He sums up his perspective by saying, "There are a lot of highly technical systems, but those systems are all imperfect, and the people are the glue that hold the system together."
Mindell will be giving talks expressing his opinion on driverless cars to various corporations, including software giant Microsoft and the leading pioneer of self-driving vehicles, Google. Right not it's difficult to say whether the future is complete automation or a mixture of human input and computer guidance. Humans have shown to be adept at handling maneuvering and some of us have never suffered even a minor collision. Additionally, Google's vision to end human control over vehicles comes with its own cost, but the enjoyment that comes from driving may not overshadow the deaths we know will continue.