Tag Archives: cars

Why We Should Trust Driving Computers

In light of recent sug­ges­tions of tech­nic­al faults and the ensu­ing recall of a num­ber of mod­els from Toyota’s line, Robert Wright looks at why we should not worry about driv­ing mod­ern cars.

The reas­ons: the increased risks are neg­li­gible, the sys­tems that fail undoubtedly save more lives than not, this is the nature of car ‘test­ing’.

Our cars are, increas­ingly, soft­ware-driv­en — that is, they’re doing more and more of the driv­ing.

And soft­ware, as the people at Microsoft or Apple can tell you, is full of sur­prises. It’s pretty much impossible to anti­cip­ate all the bugs in a com­plex com­puter pro­gram. Hence the reli­ance on beta test­ing. […]

Now, “beta test­ing” sounds creepy when the pro­cess by which test­ers uncov­er bugs can involve death. But there are two reas­ons not to start bemoan­ing the brave new world we’re enter­ing.

First, even back before cars were soft­ware-driv­en, beta test­ing was com­mon. Any car is a sys­tem too com­plex for design­ers to fully anti­cip­ate the upshot for life and limb. Hence dec­ades of non-micro­chip-related safety recalls.

Second, the fact that a fea­ture of a car can be fatal isn’t neces­sar­ily a per­suas­ive objec­tion to it. […]

Sim­il­arly, those soft­ware fea­tures that are sure to have unanti­cip­ated bugs, includ­ing fatal ones, have upsides. Elec­tron­ic sta­bil­ity con­trol keeps cars from flip­ping over, and elec­tron­ic throttle con­trol improves mileage.

Our Reluctance to Trust Driving Computers

The advanced radar sys­tems that are slowly mak­ing their way into mod­ern cars are already advanced enough to drive our cars for us and save thou­sands of lives a year, says Robert Scoble as he dis­cusses the safety sys­tems cur­rently avail­able in Ford and Toyota mod­els.

The fea­tures Scoble describes (and Ford’s Glob­al Chief Safety Engin­eer, Steve Kozak, demon­strates in the two embed­ded videos) are excit­ing, but it’s this that caught my eye: that accord­ing to cus­tom­er research the gen­er­al pub­lic isn’t ready for the advanced driv­ing sys­tems that already exist.

There were nearly 6,420,000 auto acci­dents in the United States in 2005. The fin­an­cial cost of these crashes is more than 230 Bil­lion dol­lars. 2.9 mil­lion people were injured and 42,636 people killed. About 115 people die every day in vehicle crashes in the United States — one death every 13 minutes. […]

Why haven’t they just made my car totally drive itself? Because cus­tom­ers just aren’t ready for it, says Ford’s Kozak in the video. He explains how the 2010 Ford Taur­us uses this tech­no­logy in a much dif­fer­ent way from my Pri­us due to cus­tom­er research that showed Ford most people just aren’t ready for assisted driv­ing tech­no­lo­gies like exist in my Pri­us.

I’d love to get my hands on that Ford research.