As VentureBeat’s News Editor, I don’t have time to read every single one of our guest posts. My focus is on breaking stories and everything that stems from them. Every once in a while though, I check out what some of our contributors have written. Sometimes I learn something new and sometimes I’m vehemently opposed. This is a case of the latter.
Technology entrepreneur Umberto Malesci argued this week that highways should isolate self-driving cars in special smart lanes. This is absurd.
The goal is to create a self-driving car, not a car that can drive by itself only on certain roads.
Anywhere you can currently drive, a self-driving car should be able to drive as well, but better. That includes everything from the dirt road connecting two remote villages to the busiest highways.
I realize the original story talks about highways specifically, but that hardly simplifies things. Are you really going to build another road beside every highway, including tunnels and bridges?
From the article:
So are we stuck with only humans as drivers for years to come? I don’t think so.
But if we want to take our hands off the wheel anytime soon, we should stop focusing exclusively on the car. Instead, we should build smart lanes in highways dedicated exclusively to self-driving cars, far from any erratic human behavior.
Oh, hell no.
Let’s assume for a second that this solution works. After we’re done with modifying every highway in the world, are we going to replace all roads with smart roads?
The argument being made is that self-driving cars are not coming along quickly or safely enough to be allowed on the roads. This is ridiculous. Of course there are going to be accidents. But we’re not moving from an accident-free world to one that suddenly has accidents. Self-driving cars are already significantly safer than cars with drivers. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, or better in every single situation, but the only way to get there is to have them out on the road where they, and their human engineer counterparts, can learn and improve the system for every scenario.
What the author apparently doesn’t realize is that this problem is already being worked on from multiple angles. There are self-driving cars being built from scratch, existing cars being equipped with self-driving technology, and everyday cars sold today that are gaining “smart” features to help drivers perform partial driving tasks, including everything from parallel parking to driving on the highway.
Then there are ridiculous statements like “Today’s intelligent cars will not be able to handle urban roads and unpredictable humans for years to come.”
Nobody is suggesting we replace all cars with today’s intelligent cars.
Another one: “But tech slogans like ‘move fast and break things’ work a lot better with social networking apps than with the physical world, where the breakable things are humans.”
Facebook is not building a car. Even if it was, the company employs some of the brightest people in the world. They could certainly create a system that doesn’t get drunk, doesn’t do drugs, doesn’t get road rage, doesn’t fall asleep at the wheel, and reacts faster than a human can.
Self-driving cars are in their infancy, and already the results are ridiculously promising. There is so much room for improvement the suggestion to give up on cars and rebuild all our roads absolutely boggles my mind.
Don’t get me wrong: Infrastructure should also be updated. But we can’t forget that the weakest link are human drivers. Most car accidents are caused by humans, not shitty roads.
ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.