Thursday, May 30, 2019

Your Kids

You don't have to be as pessimistic as I am about the current and future state of self-driving car technology to agree with the idea (as almost everybody in the field does!) that what they call level 2 and level 3 technologies - basically self-driving kinda works but you still have to be paying attention 100% just in case - are extremely dangerous. I think it's worse than has usually been written about, in that the issue isn't just that drivers are unlikely to maintain 100% attention as they should, it's also that even a 100% alert driver is never going to be quite sure when s/he is going to have to "fight" the autopilot. At 65 MPH, at what point are you supposed to realize it's about to kill you or someone else? This is an impossible task, even for that 100% alert driver.
My daughter, your daughter, your son, your wife, your husband, your brother and sister, your father and mother, every single person who shares the road with an Autopilot-equipped car are in essence Tesla’s lab rats. What’s a few deaths when you’re advancing technological progress?

Tesla covers its ass by giving those “futurists” willing to use Autopilot—again, not a fully autonomous vehicle—a Terms and Conditions prompt before drivers are able to engage the system. The dialogue-box informs drivers that they need to agree to “Keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times and to always maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle.” Yet, unlike the Terms and Conditions we accept on a regular basis—those that almost no one ever reads—its effects can reach beyond the user. There are in fact other people on the road who haven’t given their tacit agreement to be beta testers, like my daughter. No amount of Tesla legalese can refute that.
All this is made worse when carnival barker Musk gives it names like "autopilot" and "full self driving" and at least his biggest fans truly believe that using it in ways they aren't supposed to is actually "training" the AI system. Musk encourages this view by talking about all the data they have from all the miles Tesla cars have driven, in order to suggest they have a leg up on competitors, but the cars don't send that much data to the mothership and it doesn't really learn in this way.