A lot of questions have not been answered about our increasingly automated world. For example, will the robots kills us? Is anonymity dead? And, of course, will there be a lot of sex in driverless cars?
Canadians should get ready to have a lot more sex in their cars, or rather, to once again have sex in their cars (do we truly enjoy romping inside these contortionist contraptions? Nissan Micra, anyone?)
The dream of the driverless car comes with a wealth of promise -highways less clogged with the erratic and irrational, orderly and safe streets for pedestrians, lower emissions. Until now, though, the list did not include the glory of having more sex, but it should, according to Barrie Kirk, Executive Director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE), a consulting company on automated and autonomous vehicles.
“I am predicting that, once computers are doing the driving, there will be a lot more sex in cars,” says Kirk. “That’s one of several things people will do which will inhibit their ability to respond quickly when the computer says to the human, ‘Take over.’”
Speaking to the Canadian government’s current internal discussions on the topic of driverless cars, Kirk believes that the roll-out of driverless vehicles needs to be done over time, with caution and care. “People who already trust technology already do things like text, play with pets, take photos. There are videos of people in Tesla cars where people read the paper, brush their teeth. It’s very dangerous,” says Kirk.
In a December 2015 white paper, Kirk’s company urged the federal government to appoint a Minister for Automated Vehicles (AVs), to create a senior-level working group to coordinate AV activities and to set federal standards and regulations for AV testing, manufacture and use. “AVs are a highly disruptive technology that will impact not just transportation, transit and logistics, but also lead to major changes in our lives, our cities and society as a whole,” says the CAVCOE report.
While automated versions do exist of current models such as the Mercedes C-Class, the Infiniti Q50 and Tesla’s Model S, none are fully driverless, in that they cannot operate 100 per cent of the time without human assistance. And that’s the way it should stay, says MIT engineer and historian of automation and technology David Mindell, who argues that the idea of the self-driving car is not supported by the decades of examples involving other types of vehicles -spacecraft, underwater explorers, airplanes- where the dream of 100 per cent automation had to be scaled back time and again.
“That’s just proven to be a loser of an approach in a lot of other domains,” Mindell says. “I’m not arguing this from first principles. There are 40 years’ worth of examples.”
In his book, “Our Robots, Ourselves”, Mindell points to the Apollo space program, which put United States astronauts on the moon six different times. The original plan was to have fully automated moon missions, Mindell notes, but early feedback and observations showed that it would be neither possible nor desirable to have technology handle all of the critical functions, including the moon landings.
“The sophistication of the computer and the software was used not to push people out, but to give them true control over the landing,” Mindell says.
And for those of us now dreaming of sex by the oodles in their cars made by Google, we wish you nothing but happy landings as well.