A couple of days ago I discovered an article about how and when a self-driving car should be programmed to injure or kill its passengers. It’s an alarming proposition, but it’s actually a valid point: if the car has to choose between wiping out ten pedestrians or only its driver, simple logic says it should choose the lesser number of casualties.
But the realization that my future vehicle may be plotting to kill me makes me just a wee bit mistrustful of technology.
Or, in my case, more mistrustful of technology. I’ve never been good at leaving my safety in the hands (circuits?) of inanimate objects. (Or even animate objects, for that matter. I’m a lousy passenger even with a human driver – I spend as much time watching the road as the driver does. But that’s another story.)
My point is, I’m suspicious of any electronic device that wants to make decisions for me.
Take my GPS, for instance. The lady inside my GPS can usually get me where I want to go, but she’s not always good at it. When we’re in unfamiliar territory, Hubby usually drives while I navigate. Theoretically the GPS should be all we need, but I never go anywhere without a paper map; partly because my GPS has a tendency to announce “Low battery!” and/or lose its satellite connection at critical moments, but mostly because I don’t trust it to choose the best route.
I can set it to ‘faster time’ (which is usually dog-slow) or ‘shortest distance’ (synonymous for ‘via goat-paths and dodgy neighbourhoods’), but there’s no setting for ‘common sense’. So, after a few forays through dense forest on steep roads no wider than our car (though, as the GPS insisted, that road was technically ‘paved’) our trips have become a power struggle between the GPS and me.
The GPS lady says, “In… two hundred metres… turn left.”
And I say, “Ignore that. It doesn’t know what it’s doing. Keep going straight.”
Hubby, like all husbands with a modicum of self-preservation, silently follows my directions while the GPS says in snotty tones, “Recalculating. In… one hundred metres… make a U-turn.”
Me: “Ignore that. Keep going.”
GPS (getting cranky): “Recalculating. In… three kilometres… TURN LEFT, IDIOT!”
Me: “Ignore that…”
Given the choice, I’d rather have an up-to-date paper map and only use the GPS to pinpoint the location of the nearest Dairy Queen. (And don’t get me wrong; that’s a critical function. I need frequent ice cream breaks when I’m on the road.)
But antagonizing my GPS is probably a bad idea, because the new cars will have them built in. And if a hostile GPS triggers the ‘kill-the-driver’ algorithm, I could be in serious trouble.
On the surface, the self-driving car seems utopian: I could be snoozing or reading or snacking while my car takes me safely and efficiently to my destination. But in reality I’d probably end up sitting in the driver’s seat with both hands on the wheel, simultaneously watching the road and keeping a wary eye on the car in case it tries to kill me.
But maybe I’m just paranoid.
Or maybe that’s not a ‘maybe’…
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And speaking of technology… there’s a new discussion over at the Virtual Backyard Book Club: Aydan’s Tech Gadgets – Love ‘Em Or Hate ‘Em? Click here to have your say!