Anyone who has taken the time to think about the potential power of artificial intelligence will have given thought to the notion that we might overlook some critical detail and be helpless as it begins to destory mankind. This Skynet-esque view is undoubtably extreme but AI has the potential to radically shape our future. Driverless cars, while perhaps not perfect, are already here and will be one of the first obvious ways in which AI will change the way we live.
Many predictions see the adoption of autonomous vehicles as relatively fast compared to past consumer technologies like the radio. While the date varies from source to source most predictions put widespread use of autonomous vehicles around 2040/2050. Thirty years may seem a tad conservative given that a majority of the technology is already here but there is another matter in this debate, the legality.
Who will be to blame when a fully autonomous car is involved in a collision? Or if the only way to avoid a collision is to steer into the path of children on a crossing, what will the car decide? Will the AI be capable of developing satisfactory solutions to complex ethical dillemmas in a split second? The implementation of policy and laws surrounding autonomous vehicles will be a drawn out and evolving process. California, the tech Mecca (which hosts the largest number of companies testing autonomous vehicles) has only this year begun to permit the testing of vehicles without a human at the wheel.
So, how will we benefit? Well, if you like driving, you’re probably not going to enjoy it when they outlaw manual control. It will be done for safety reasons and it will be hard to argue against them when they can demonstrate a clear correlation between autonomous vehicles and declining road deaths. On the plus side you can now take that cute Brazilian girl out for Italian and enjoy a few glasses of red without having to worry about driving home. You could watch movies on long drives, take a nap, perhaps even write a blog post. If you’re elderly (which we might be by then) you’ll be able to keep ‘driving’ well into senility, unexpectedly popping ‘round to see the grandkids to have your aged-mind blown by the latest installment of the virtual reality classic, Space Pirate Slaughter 7.
Once AI is used to control your power grid, advise your politicians, order your groceries, teach your children, trade your stocks and help diagnose that disconcerting pain in your abdomen, you might not think it strange that it drives you home.