Skip to content

Are We Ready for Autonomous?

Posted in Posts

When thinking about autonomous cars there are two important issues.  The first, as we discussed at UMTRI, is the issue of who is accountable when something goes wrong.  The second issue is the fact that many people are simply too scared of robots to ever be comfortable with an autonomous car.

At UMTRI, they told us that many companies have the capabilities to create an autonomous car that would be very functional.  However, if something were to go wrong, it would cause a lot of lost faith in the company.  There would also be the question of who is legally responsible for crashes and other issues with other people or vehicles.  There wouldn’t be a driver in control of the car, so it would be hard to blame the owner.  However, it is also likely that manufacturers would be unlikely to release an autonomous car if they knew they would be responsible for all accidents.

The other issue, which could possibly end up being equally important, is the fear that many people have of robotic technology taking too much control in our lives.  Throughout the past, many forms of media have shown post apocalyptic warnings of the down sides to technology, creating a relatively wide spread fear of too much technology.  People fear loosing self reliance and skill, and, in the end, this could be more likely to prevent the spread of autonomous cars.


  1. Louisa Ortiz
    Louisa Ortiz

    In response to your final paragraph, it makes me wonder what Prof Heitmann would say about the culture of robots in film and literature. I feel that in a lot of recent movies robots tend to overpower the humans which might make people more wary of robotic technology in everyday real life.

    May 16, 2014
  2. First, Ms. Ortiz’s comment: I’ve never seen “Transformers” – there are car-robot movies. But otherwise I’ve not seen many (Ok, “I, Robot”….) to know if there are standard images. Of course for someone from Detroit, there’s Robocop.
    Now the post itself: Would people view cars as robots, or even realize how much control the car has? Adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance that stops a car trying to back up into traffic, “aggressive” lane departure protection (the car steers you back) … Surely there will be piecemeal implementation for technical / cost reasons, not a sudden rollout of a fully self-driving car, and that will accustom drivers to some loss of autonomy.

    May 16, 2014
  3. Kade Kenlon
    Kade Kenlon

    I definitely think that autonomous cars will rule the road, but I do understand why people may be fearful of riding in one. It will take some time to adjust to riding in these types of vehicles. It’s similar to when a driver first gets his or her permit and you are very scared to ride with them. As time passes you become much more accepting and comfortable with the driver.

    When we consider the adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance, and lane departure protection, we don’t look at these improvements as robotic because they are only minor changes. When the car becomes in complete control, it can be a lot more nerve-wrecking for many drivers.

    May 16, 2014
  4. heardd16

    Professor Smitka mentioned accustoming drivers to loss of autonomy. I wonder if we will see a gradual, incremental introduction of different aspects of autonomy before we see full on, no-hands-ever-on-the-wheel cars. If so, what will the incremental steps be?

    May 16, 2014
  5. reed

    Smitka: usually the plot involves intelligent robots deciding to attack humanity. Think Terminator. There is actually a mathematical proof that computers cannot independently program other machines, so I’m not so worried about that. My concern is privacy. If all of our cars are talking to the grid, then someone out there knows where we are (probably to within a mile radius) at every moment of our lives. We could also apprehended by the government with a change in the car’s destination.

    May 17, 2014
  6. Kuangdi Zhao
    Kuangdi Zhao

    The V2V project of UMTRI is funded by the US government. So clearly, the US government is actively seeking for ways to reduce accidents and improve passengers’ safety. However, the privacy concern of V2V vehicles is still an issue. Unless such concern can be resolved, those who care a lot about their privacy will not trust and drive V2V vehicles.

    May 17, 2014
    • The transponder / RFID need not contain much data in its signal, the value comes from knowing it’s a car. Furthermore, as they stated the signal doesn’t travel far so unlike a cell phone (which can be tracked, you cell’s ID is constantly “pinging” local towers), the system would have to be specifically designed to provide more info and then infrastructure transponders networked to feed that info to Big Brother. So take out your cell phone battery when you get in your car. That’s safer, too, no temptation to call or text or change spotify settings while driving!

      May 19, 2014

Comments are closed.