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.