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‘No Room For Error’ Is A Long Way Off – ADVrider

Does the future of motorcycling look all shiny to you? You might want to reconsider. Photo: The Bear
Some of my posts on this site have been criticized as alarmist, along with other words that collectively mean “I don’t want to hear this.” Well, you can avoid reading about potential difficulties, but I find it hard not to write about them because they are not going away.
It’s all very well to punch out touchy-feely stuff about how your father used to build motorcycles out of old washing machines and how you and your buddy Bob rode around on home-made, unregistered and lawnmower-powered bikes in the forest where nobody ever bothered you except mean Mr. Wilson who was subsequently sent to the Big House because he had a thing for squirrels. But the world has moved on. The potential for large-scale unpleasantness has grown and continues to grow. Vide the EU move against internal combustion engines. Ignore it if you like, but ignore it at your peril.
A scooter that will allow you to have a little snooze on the way to the shops? Probably not far off. Photo: The Bear
So. Here’s a worry:
I should probably just not read this stuff, but a recent virtual conference and exhibition organized by The Advanced Automotive Tech Forum was introduced with the following statement.

“The AV evolution is accelerating faster than anticipated. Autonomous driving technology has already been pushed from a short-term priority to a long-term goal, but the race to be first with AVs remains fierce. Meanwhile, there seems to be a shift in priorities from driver-assist technologies toward driver monitoring systems.”
Got that? “A shift in priorities from driver-assist technologies toward driver monitoring systems.” Looky here now. Ignore all the bumf from the likes of Tesla about how life will be wonderful when you can play Monopoly in your car with your family while it drives you safely, swiftly and economically to Cleveland. Golly gosh, that is now a “long-term goal.”
“Despite the claims of a growing number of ambitious technology startups,” writes George Leopold in an article about the conference in EE|Times, “some backed by electronics industry giants, true autonomy remains elusive, reserved mostly for mundane tasks. Safe autonomous systems deployed in mission-critical applications like self-driving vehicles—that is, no room for error, no single point of failure—remain a long way off.”

Behold the Quasar. You could build a lot of safety technology into this… Photo: The Bear

Behold the Quasar. You could build a lot of safety technology into this… Photo: The Bear
The alternative and much more easily achievable “short-term priority” is to automatically, cheaply and comprehensively keep an eye on your driving/riding and stepping on you the moment you get outside that envelope the authorities want you in. It’s easy to do this because the same systems that will one day enable autonomous driving can be used much earlier for surveillance. And without the danger of killing people that currently still exists, and will exist for quite a while. Just incidentally it will also allow the collection of substantial amounts of revenue whenever you leave that envelope, that is—break the law.
Commenting on this, Phil Koopman, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, says “A significant issue with this technology is the unknowns. If you’re fundamentally taking an ML [I presume this means Machine Language] approach of training on things you have seen, what happens when you inevitably encounter one of those famous unknown unknowns that you didn’t see in training or testing? Worse, what if we find out that the number of unknown unknowns is itself unknowable?”
Well, research and deployment of autonomous vehicles will be held back, I guess, until the unknowns are known and dealt with. Or they will be ignored and the environment automated vehicles need to deal with will be simplified. One guess what the most tempting simplification will be: get humans out of the way, whether they’re pedestrians, cyclists or motorcyclists. In the meantime, continue the collection of data and persecution, sorry, prosecution of evildoers at the wheel or the handlebar that will be going on while the boffins work away.

Will the time come when your helmet will tell your bike and your bike will tell the authorities that you haven’t closed the chin piece? The technology is there. Photo: The Bear

Will the time come when your helmet will tell your bike and your bike will tell the authorities that you haven’t closed the chin piece? The technology is there. Photo: The Bear
“The automotive industry is off to the races in vehicle electrification and vehicle automation,” says the conference description. “Mandates for next-generation vehicles are to monitor a vehicle’s exterior — the road — but also keep an interior eye on the driver and occupants… carmakers are marshaling more computer power, seeking to add such features as connectivity and Over-the-Air software updates while upgrading safety.” Whoops. I just got the Blue Screen of Death at 120mph on the freeway. Okay, that’s unfair.
Don’t ignore this stuff. It has far more potential to hurt us than mundane things we usually complain about.

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