driver-less · Fear of Computers · Law · Media · Programming · Societal Changes

Did Philly Miss the Future?

A month ago, Jason Laughlin posted an article about autonomous cars in  The basic gist of the article was that autonomous cars may need to be programmed with morality.  He thought that autonomous cars were a long way off, because, in his words:

…the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission assembled last fall the Futures Group, a panel of experts tasked with predicting the most significant transportation trends in the near future. Automated cars were deemed to be too much science fiction for the time being. They didn’t think the technology would be ready for implementation within the next 30 years, said Brett Fusco, Assistant Manager of Long Range Planning and Economic Coordination at the DVRPC. More likely, the technology wouldn’t be widely adopted for another 50 years, they concluded.

I did not find the article linked, but this report by that group, has Brett Fusco as the point of contact.  It has a more balanced view, stating on p. 31:

Although it seems likely that autonomous vehicles will be commercially available within the next decade, it remains unclear as to when they will make up a substantial portion of the fleet. Litman (2013) estimates that the time needed for the technology to develop and existing fleets to turn over means autonomous vehicles will likely only have a modest impact on road conditions over the next 30 years.

I must say I had quite the rant all lined up to post.  I don’t know that I can in clear conscience post against a statement that is in reality fairly even handed.  I just hope that from their spring meeting (which is what I quoted) to their fall meeting, they did not actually deem automated cars “to be too much science fiction.”

So when will autonomous cars “have an impact” on Philly?  According to the wiki page on autonomous cars, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Nissan, BMW, Renault, Tesla, Google, Toyota and Ford all expect to have level 3 autonomy.  In a later post I’ll explain what is meant by “level 3,” but in brief, level 0 is what most cars are today, and level 4 is full autonomy.  In a later post, I will explain why I think that, by 2035 it will be difficult to find a car that doesn’t have a high level of autonomy.


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