NetDensity (Brendon Slotterback) The Rest Of The Story On Robot Cars is less sanguine (though still net positive) about the prospects of robot cars, as is Brad Templeton.
I would just note (a) I like cities (by which I mean a dense concentration of activities), (b) I think cities are a nice solution to the accessibility problem, but (c) cities are not the objective, accessibility is.
Also, I am suspicious of the claims about environmental and public health effects of the suburbs, especially after concomitant electrification of vehicles.
The hardware and the software will fail, no question. The real riddle is determining the socially acceptable failure rate. Today, there are about 40,000 car fatalities per year. [In the US, actually slightly less — dml] Note the euphemistic “car fatalities” or “car accidents”, as if the drivers weren’t to blame. You can imagine the news headlines when the first self-driving car fatality happens: Killer Robot! Killer Software! (A literal killer app?). Isaac Asimov, the author of the Three Laws of Robotics will spin in his grave.
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Steve Jobs, quoted in BusinessWeek, May 25 1998.(Nine years before the iPhone and 12 years before the iPad).
The painting on the right is the satirical product of artists (Komar and Melamid) who set about designing in response to customer’s preferences in art. The survey suggested people like blue, traditional, realistic art of outdoor scenes including bodies of water in autumn. Similar paintings were constructed for multiple countries.
The point is, we have gone too far in planning in asking for public input. The public does not have the time or expertise to productively weigh in on most issues, which is why we have representative government, division of labor, and experts.
The public that does weigh in is atypical, often retired, and inherently conservative in their tastes. Trying to adhere to the public’s wishes results in mediocre designs, and an unwillingness to try to new ideas that are unfamiliar (simultaneously opposed because it will be successful and move traffic too well, or failing and result in too much delay).