Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Computers are better than people

"Yield control, pathetic human! Driving is far too demanding for your antiquated biological systems to handle!" Image from gizmodo.com

OK, it seems like the flying car is still a long ways off. But maybe the car that drives itself is a bit closer. Yesterday's Science Times section had this article:
“Within five years, it’s totally feasible to build an autonomous car that will work reliably in several limited domains,” says Sebastian Thrun, a computer scientist at Stanford and head of its racing team, which won the 2005 Darpa competition and finished second in last month’s. In five years he expects a car that could take over simple chores like breezing along an expressway, inching along in stop-and-go traffic, or parking in the lot at a mall or airport after dropping off the driver. In 20 years, Dr. Thrun figures half of new cars sold will offer drivers the option of turning over these chores to a computer, but he acknowledges that’s just an educated guess. While he doesn’t doubt cars will be able to drive themselves, he’s not sure how many humans will let them.
[...]
But cars, unlike humans, will keep getting smarter. They will learn from their mistakes. They will not get distracted by cellphone calls. They will not drive drunk. Smart cars will never be infallible, but they don’t have to be. They just have to be better than the drivers who now cause more than 90 percent of traffic accidents and kill a million of their fellow humans per year.
Emphasis added. Of course, I bet humans will be getting smarter, too, via cybernetic enhancement of various kinds. We'll have to, if we want to keep up with computers.

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