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Self-Driving Cars – Article #4 - page 1Self-Driving Cars Should Leave Us AllUnsettled. Here’s Why.ByVivek Wadhwa- April 24, 2017It is a warm autumn morning, and I am walking through downtown Mountain View, Calif., whenI see it. A small vehicle that looks like a cross between a golf cart and a Jetson-esque, bubble-topped spaceship glides to a stop at an intersection. Someone is sitting in the passenger seat, butno one seems to be sitting in the driver seat. How odd, I think. And thenI realize I am looking ata Google car. The technology giant is headquartered in Mountain View, and the company is road-testing its diminutive autonomous cars there.This is my first encounter with a fully autonomous vehicle on a public road in an unstructuredsetting.The Google car waits patiently as a pedestrian passes in front of it. Another car across theintersection signals a left-hand turn, but the Google car has the right of way. The automatedvehicle takes the initiative and smoothly accelerates through the intersection. The passenger, Inotice, appears preternaturally calm.I am both amazed and unsettled. I have heard from friends and colleagues that my reaction is notuncommon. A driverless car can challenge many assumptions about human superiority tomachines.Though I live in Silicon Valley, the reality of a driverless car is one of the most startling manifestations ofthe future unknowns we all face in this age of rapid technology development. Learning to drive is a riteof passage for people in materially rich nations (and becoming so in the rest of the world): a symbol offreedom, of power, and of the agency of adulthood, a parable of how brains can overcome physicallimitations to expand the boundaries of what is physically possible. The act of driving a car is one that,until very recently, seemed a problem only the human brain could solve.Driving is a combination of continuous mental risk assessment, sensory awareness, and judgment, alladapting to extremely variable surrounding conditions. Not long ago, the task seemed too complicatedfor robots to handle. Now, robots can drive with greater skill than humans — at least on the highways.Soon the public conversation will be about whether humans should be allowed to take control of thewheel at all.This paradigm shift will not be without costs or controversies. For sure, widespread adoption ofautonomous vehicles will eliminate the jobs of the millions of Americans whose living comes ofdriving cars, trucks, and buses (and eventually all those who pilot planes and ships). We willbegin sharing our cars, in a logical extension of Uber and Lyft. But how will we handle theinevitable software faults that result in human casualties? And how will we program themachines to make the right decisions when faced with impossible choices — such as whether an
Self-Driving Cars – Article #4 - page 2autonomous car should drive off a cliff to spare a busload of children at the cost of killing thecar’s human passenger?

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