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High Tech Driving – Are We There Yet?

image of High Tech Driving
High Tech Driving

As some of you who have been following Lidar News since the early days – almost 15 years ago, I have not been a believer in the time table for delivering truly autonomous vehicles to the mass market. This opinion was the result of listening to a small number of experts explain that perhaps 80% of the required capability is there, but the other 10 to 20%, the so-called edge cases, my never be solved. It is like finding a cure for cancer. No matter how much money you spend on high tech driving their is no guarantee of the desired result.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that lidar has the ability to significantly reduce the number of automobile accidents through the use of advance driver assist systems (ADAS) such as the Ultra Cruise system on the Cadillac and even the Tesla ADAS which unfortunately is being called the Autopilot system. Confusing the public with false names is not the way to gain support for a new technology where people’s lives are at stake.

The reason for this blog post at this time is that I am just finishing reading Autonorama by Peter Norton. Peter is an associate professor of history in the Department of Engineering and Society (love that name) at the University of Virginia. The sub-title of Autonorama is “The Illusory Promise of High Tech Driving.”

As an historian Peter has gone back to the introduction of the automobile into American society in the 20’s and 30’s. It turns out there have been promises made by the auto and oil industry about the coming benefits of the automobile that are just over the horizon. Unfortunately the horizon keeps moving along with the promised benefits.

One of the interesting notes about the marketing of the automobile which Peter attributes to an article by Charles Kettering in 1929 was entitled, “Keep the Consumer Dissatisfied.” Kettering argued that if the buyer of an automobile was satisfied with the model they had purchased they would have little incentive to buy a new one. As we know, things have not changed all that much in the past 90+ years.

If you are looking to understand how we have ended up here in the U.S. with this addiction to the automobile while discouraging investments in public transportation and low tech solutions like the scooter and the bicycle than this is an important read. Rather than advancing the safety of automobiles and of mobility in general, Peter claims that the real purpose of autonomous vehicles is to collect digital data which leads to the idea of data-driven autonomy.

The problem with this says Peter is that “Data Don’t Drive.” Read on.

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