Friday, July 1, 2016

Are Tech and Automakers not considering there may be a big backlash to self driving cars?

Self-Driving Tesla Was Involved in Fatal Crash

DETROIT — The race by automakers and technology firms to develop self-driving cars has been fueled by the belief that computers can operate a vehicle more safely than human drivers.

But that view is now in question after the revelation on Thursday that the driver of a Tesla Model S electric sedan was killed in an accident when the car was in self-driving mode.

Federal regulators, who are in the early stages of setting guidelines for autonomous vehicles, have opened a formal investigation into the incident, which occurred on May 7 in Williston, Fla.

In a statement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said preliminary reports indicated that the crash occurred when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of the Tesla, and the car failed to apply the brakes.

It is the first known fatal accident involving a vehicle being driven by itself by means of sophisticated computer software, sensors, cameras and radar.

There is a ALOT that remains to be seen with self-driving cars that unfortunately can't be answered fully until the thing (in this case fatal accident) happens. Who is responsible? Is the car manufacturer or the owner of the car?

There many other questions and situations about self driving cars that I don't think have been war gamed out  enough to anticipate the public reaction.

It seems to me that the ultimate end game of self driving cars to make them disposable transports that people with get into and out of without thought much like they do a bus or uber. Its not going to happen all at one or over night but at some point two things will happen.

1. No one will own a car.

2. People will begin to resent that a real aspect of their freedom was taken away.

This MAY be what the future will like in wake up, get dressed and go to work or whatever appointments you have. When you step out the house, a car is waiting for you having pulled in front of your house at the requested time. You get in and the computer in the car syncs up with your smart phone and all the features in the car adjusts to your personal settings. radio stations, seat levels, heat or cooling, etc.

The car gets you to your destination and you get out, go to your job or appointment and when your done you set up another pick up on your phone and as you walk to the curb another car pulls up, you get in and go to wherever you want without saying a word. And the process repeats over again.

That scenario of cars being available for everyone at any time is already here in the form of car share companies. But I saw a segment on CBS morning news about car owners being able to do  this:


The selling point is your car could be making money for you instead of just sitting in  a parking space for hours at a time.

The down side is strangers will be driving your car.

You realize the idea that your car sitting idle isn't cost effective has NEVER been an issue before. Never. car sharing isn't something that could have only been done today, it could have been done decades ago. No one thought about it because the car manufacturers pushed for individuality and personal ownership. Now that's all changing for the idea of cost effectiveness but the trade off is individuality. Everything comes at a cost.

And in that future scenario, no one owns a car in this time..they just pay for usage. maybe yearly, monthly or weekly but YOU don't own a fact in 2050 you CAN'T own a car. Because by the 2020s there will be so much proprietary tech under the hood that they will lobby that people can only lease the use of the car and not own it outright. That argument is being made today:

Owners Hack Tesla Model S Electric Car: Tesla Politely Asks Them To Stop
As DragTimes (via GreenCarReports) details, some of the more tech-savvy tinkerers over at the TeslaMotorsClub have been connecting computers to a hidden diagnostics port on the left-hand side of their car’s dash. While the connector itself might not be easily recognisable as a networking port to most folks, it is in fact an industrial version of an Ethernet port, a telecommunications standard that serves to link one or more computers together.

While these little exploratory investigations into the Tesla Model S’ onboard computer systems were done locally — ie., they were done by physically connecting a home-built cable between the car and a laptop —  the connections did not go unnoticed.

Shortly after hacking into their car, one Tesla Model S owner was contacted by the Californian automaker, detailing what it believed was a ‘tentative hacking attempt’ on their car. The owner was told that the attempts could be seen as an industrial espionage attack, and politely asked to refrain from doing it again as ignoring the warning would invalidate the car’s warranty.

they saw the guy tinkering in real time and called the owner and told him to stop. How do you tell someone who OWNS something to stop fucking with it? Not only is that creepy but incredibly intrusive.

GM: That Car You Bought? We’re Really The Ones Who Own It.

Congratulations! You just bought a new Chevy, GMC, or Cadillac. You really like driving it. And it’s purchased, not leased, and all paid off with no liens, so it’s all yours… isn’t it? Well, no, actually: according to GM, it’s still theirs. You just have a license to use it.

At least, that’s what an attorney for GM said at a hearing this week, Autoblog reports. Specifically, attorney Harry Lightsey said, “It is [GM’s] position the software in the vehicle is licensed by the owner of the vehicle.”

GM’s claim is all about copyright and software code, and it’s the same claim John Deere is makingabout their tractors. The TL;DR version of the argument goes something like this:

  • Cars work because software tells all the parts how to operate
  • The software that tells all the parts to operate is customized code
  • That code is subject to copyright
  • GM owns the copyright on that code and that software
  • A modern car cannot run without that software; it is integral to all systems
  • Therefore, the purchase or use of that car is a licensing agreement
  • And since it is subject to a licensing agreement, GM is the owner and can allow/disallow certain uses or access.

The U.S. Copyright Office is currently holding a series of hearings on whether or not anyone other than the manufacturer of a car has a right to tinker with that car’s copyrighted software. And with the way modern design goes, that basically means with the car, at all.

Folks who like to tinker with their cars, as well as independent (non-dealer) mechanics say they need the copyright exemption in order to be allowed to continue repairing their own cars, or keeping their businesses open. Manufacturers, like GM, say that it’s a safety issue: if people who aren’t authorized mess with any one piece of software, they could make the entire ecosystem of connected code unsafe.

This is the argument being made for people actually DRIVING the damn things..what do you think is going to happen when the damn things are driving themselves and you're just a passenger in it?

Going back to my future scenario. here is a self driving concept car from Rolls Royce:

If you noticed there is no steering wheel in the thing. You're ONLY interface with the car is through a touchscreen. You can't operate the vehicle. If that's the case then this opens up a whole bunch of questions for the users/consumers...


WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ACCIDENTS?  If I'm not operating the car then I refuse to assume any responsibility.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR UPKEEP? If I'm just a passenger in the thing then how am I responsible for the upkeep...I don't have that responsibility with a cab or bus and I'm just a passenger in those vehicles too.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE INSURANCE? Again as a passive passenger I don't pay insurance for using a cab or bus so why should I for a self driving car I can't own?

And there are a myriad of other issues that branch off from those that remain to be dealt with. But there is also a very basic backlash that I don't think car manufacturers have thought about or anticipated.


For 100 years since cars became ubiquitous on US roads, its been drilled into out heads and conscience that we MUST own a car and that OWNING a car brings a certain amount of pride and satisfaction:

Its the last advert that illustrates my point, for decades car manufacturers have been telling us that owning and operating a car means FREEDOM, PRIDE, LIBERTY  its a status symbol and a very real extension of who you are.

And now theyre going to start telling us we don't NEED that anymore?

We're going to have to unlearn the great feeling of freedom in operating a vehicle and let it take us wherever we want rather than us charting our own way. There will be no more exploring as the car will only go where GPS will allow it. While you won't get lost anymore you also won't be "discovering" a location either as you will need to have a destination when you get in the thing.

And this is, I believe, where the public backlash will begin.

Driving in itself is a skill and there's a basic modicum of pride that comes with being able to operate a complex machine. As a driver and having wanted to drive I can't imagine not doing that anymore.

Hey, I can see the advantages of self driving cars:
  • If only self driving cars are on the roads they will all be in sync and accidents will be reduced greatly. 
  • Ease of availability in getting around will increase as all vehicles will be accessible.
  • elderly people and people who never learned to drive will have greater mobility and independence. 
But I also see some of the drawbacks:
  • Less individuality as you won't own a car that you can customize to your personality. 
  • Increased technology means you're more interconnected to the grid than you may care to be. 
  • You will be limited to scope and scale of what the car manufacturer wants you do with with the car.  
  • Decreased spontaneity as you will need a destination for everywhere you go. 
The very reasons and things they've said we NEED to OWN a car for the last 100 years are the the things they're going to say we DON'T need to own a car for in the near future. And as the technology gets better and more reliable it will be used to replace humans so the people moving and cargo moving industries will see massive layoffs and reductions. We're talking about MILLIONS of people potentially being thrown out of work because the most basic level jobs, cab drivers, bus drivers, truckers, delivery drivers will be done by self driving vehicles.

And its not just drivers that will be affected. Most if not all vehicles will be automated by 2050 which means the car service and support industry will be restructured as well, meaning not only will YOU be banned from fixing the thing, the mechanic you trusted and have been going to for years...either he will have to be an authorized service tech of the manufacturer or his business gets enveloped by the maker...

You USED to take your car to Miller's Auto Service in next couple of decades Millers will become GM Service Station Number 7.

This isn't farfetched or a long way off either...

That's not going to unnoticed or easily accepted.

I think in the next 10 years, we the consumer will be fascinated with the gadgetry of it but once the auto and tech makers start implementing the next phase and we see a reduced human presence in something thats always had one, we're going to say "wait a minute, what if I don't want to be a part of this thing? What if I want to drive my own car and OWN my own car?" and the response is going to be you have no choice its progress. Then we'll see a groundswell of resistance to it.

How big and how far that will go remains to be seen.