We are being attacked by news about autonomous vehicles. When Google people show extremely dull way of thinking, we can be afraid, that the end of driving as we know it is near.
So, is the IT an enemy?
Not necessarily. While in English-speaking countries the term “computer science” is used, Germans, Polish people and some other nations have another words for it. “Informatik” or “informatyka” is a science concentrated on information processing (no matter if a computer is used).
“Automatik” is a practice of developing machines that perform predetermined (often programmed) sequences of jobs.
And that is the point: it is not information processing itself, that is going to destroy our fun of driving, it is the overuse of automation that will.
11th of April was Jeremy Clarkson’s birthday. We wait what will he do next, because he is a great entertainer, but … not only.
What we should remember, is his fight against John Prescott’s work. Jeremy Clarkson was, and is still able to be a great ombudsman of all gearheads. We may need him and his followers more than ever.
It may already be too late now, that the fight for proper IT usage in motoring is almost lost.
Notwithstanding, let’s try to name the idea that we should support
Information technology could make the world a beautiful place for people who love to drive.
Let’s take speed limits for example. Obeying them doesn’t really mean we have to advocate them. They are something like democracy according to Winston Churchill: “Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”.
Unconditional speed limit is an wrong way for ensuring road safety. Yet the mankind haven’t developed anything much better … yet.
We should get back to a notion called “safe speed”. In Poland, the term is promoted by rally and racing driver Sobiesław Zasada. Three-time European Rally Championship winner wrote a book entitled “Safe speed”, highlighting that a safe speed is dependent on the road conditions, car’s features (brakes, damping etc.) and driver’s abilities. While unconditional speed limit is static, the safe speed constantly changes.
But let’s imagine we have something that I would call CNAC- Connected Non-Autonomous Car. I name it like that, as such vehicle could help many people to discover their knack of driving.
Instead of automatically obeying an unconditional speed limit it … informs you about safe speed. Even if you are passing a school it shows something about 20 mph (32 kph) when the children start or finish their lessons, about 30 mph when most of them are occupied in school, and, yeah!, more on Sundays. Of course it’s just heuristic, and you aren’t in any way forced to maintain top safe speed. However, as the CNAC’s driver you are thoroughly informed about conditions that should influence your speed, gear selection and other decisions. Thank to GPS data the CNAC could even help you to choose safest trajectory in turns (yes, it is important also in everyday driving).
In an optimistic scenario, cars and motorbikes using such software could encourage more driver-friendly and rider-friendly law like more liberal speed limits. What is more important now, they can save us from the ban of human driven vehicles. The ban may be imposed due to the development of autonomous machines. Google’s autonomous Priuses, that are built to fit in current road traffic, are not an argument for such law. The decision, Elon Musk is talking about, may be taken because of machines that communicate with each other (and/or central server) to choose the right moment turning and the right speed. If there is no interface between them and human-driven vehicles, the latter will be banned.
The CNAC would not be something really new.
In fact it is just an enhancement of this framework or Car-to-X systems like AMULETT promoted by BMW. More solutions like that could fit very well in the Connected Drive framework.
Yes, as a journalist I should not favor any automotive company. I love Mercedes for the fact, that a kid from not-so-wealthy Poland can write to their Stuttgart headquarters and get a folder for her or his favorite three pointed star model. I have experienced this, and I will always remember. On the other hand, one of the cars I own is a BMW.
Now, there are those Mercedes concepts like F 015 Luxury and Future Truck 2025. It is hard not to see: they think that the future belongs to autonomous vehicles.
Let’s hope it is not. BMW as a Mercedes rival, and a company that has always promoted driving pleasure can and should concentrate on the other way.
No matter which company explores it, let’s hope the rest will follow.
(C) by Andrzej Szczodrak