Google's self-driving car sure sounds appealing, but it's expensive. So another company altogether is looking to get the same capabilities for less.
A New York Times reporter recently took a ride in an Audi A7 equipped with cheaper—and more commercializable, the tech's maker says—versions of self-driving technology. The story offers a look at Israel-based Mobileye Vision Technologies, which is responsible for the intelligent autopilot that's already in cars today, such as Volvo's bicyclist-avoiding system.
Mobileye is currently selling its third generation of technology, the New York Times reported. It uses video cameras instead of the Google Car's exponentially pricier lidar. Later this year, Mobileye plans to sell a system that is able to take control during stop-and-go traffic.
Times reporter John Markoff tested a prototype self-driving system that Mobileye hopes will be ready for sale in 2016. Compared to the Google car, which Markoff tested in 2010, Mobileye tech seems more limited and less trustworthy, he writes. But it's much more likely to be the tech that car owners will use themselves in the next few years.
Technically, I think it is great we can do this type of achievement with self-driving cars. But, I do not want this for a car in the same way I do not want it for airplanes and trains. I want a interested breathing human being at the driver seat, who has a vested interest in preserving his own life, thank you.
Technically, the science is very cool!
^ The problem with wanting a human being is that human beings are not designed to drive vehicles. Their brains are not optimized for calculating precise speeds and their eyes cannot see in all directions. They don't have an interface to selectively control individual wheels for highly controlled braking, nor the reflexes or motion sensitivity to do so effectively. A human cannot memorize the entire world's road and elevation maps. A human can't telepathically communicate with other humans to know where all the nearby drivers and pedestrians are and where they're going. On top of it all, a human seldom operates at 100% of their ability - they get tired, and make mistakes even when they aren't.
A machine, on the other hand, can be honed by scores of human engineers, and have all of the above capabilities and more with none of the drawbacks. Its brain can be refined and copied perfectly. Its machinery can be replaced before it even breaks. It can actually operate without making a single error, because it was designed from the ground up to transport humans quickly, safely, and efficiently. Machines just don't make mistakes - their human creators do.
But, machines like that can't dance or create a compelling screenplay, so don't worry - humans will be around for quite a while longer.