Recently, an editorial in the LA Times, “Preparing Cities for Robot Cars,” discussed autonomous vehicles, and their potential up and downsides in LA traffic. Many excellent points were made, but the list of potential downsides overlooked the issue of the vehicles’ underlying algorithms. Like many in our community, as an often-Pacific Coast Highway commuter, I fear to consider the havoc algorithms constructed upon present cultural sensibilities would conceivably create on that already-fraught thoroughfare with robot vehicles, for example, programmed to slow to 25 mph and shift six feet left when bicyclists are present. Similarly, once in the city, the robos would lurch to a stop every time a stray dog, unsteady pedestrian or woman with a baby carriage is detected within 200 feet of the vehicle. The brave new technology thus gives birth to an entirely new subset of the traffic courts, dealing with violent acts perpetrated upon the poor, defenseless machines.
This all, of course, before this past week’s Arizona pedestrian fatality by a robot vehicle.