Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Microsoft working on the car that can't crash

From Slashdot, this article discusses a joint venture between Microsoft and Ford heading toward a car that can't crash. I'll forego the obvious jokes and simply suggest a few ideas for your consideration:

(1) The idea of an uncrashable car sounds a lot like the idea of an unsinkable ship. It's probably wise to bear in mind that, no matter how big, strong, or fast you are, the universe can almost certainly dish out something bigger, stronger, or faster.

(2) Computer engineering probably needs to advance quite a bit before we field millions of vehicles that have the capability of deciding, in the interests of (what they perceive as) safety, that they're going to ignore the driver's suggestions and do their own thing. To some extent flight control systems do it today, but they're dealing with a much less complex environment, far fewer sensory inputs, and distances of hundreds to thousands of feet rather than units to tens.

(3) If you thought cruise controls made things tricky, with this stuff civil and criminal liability issues are going to get really, really funky. If your car decides to make an illegal left turn, or speed through a school zone in the interests of safety, who gets the traffic ticket? If it hits someone, who's on the hook for it?

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