You will never be driven to work by a fully autonomous vehicle. That was Fake News, and that shouldn’t be a surprise.
The self driving car or fully autonomous vehicle craze is a scam, based on my analysis. It wasn’t some little-known detail I came to possess or statistical trends that led me to this conclusion. It was my knowledge of AI, my experience as an independent journalist, my knowledge of corporate and government corruption, a little common sense and even my religious views.
This article looks at the current state of the still-emerging phenomenon, the various players and related issues. It presents some information about AI, a technology integral to autonomous vehicles and considers what since the dawn of the automobile was meant by the term “driver.” The weight of evidence led me to conclude, as I think you will that the fully autonomous vehicle (AV) is a dubious pipe dream, unlikely to ever become a reality.
I’m not saying limited driver assistance technology is a scam or that there won’t be new automated features to come. Automated features already available in traditional, human-driven vehicles include such features as ABS, crash-avoidance, blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning and others.
I’m not even saying that you’ll never take a drive that won’t require you to touch the steering wheel. My skepticism is specifically about fully autonomous cars in which the car can drive itself anywhere you would normally drive, and in which your attention isn’t required.
The Society of Automotive Engineers International (SAE) has developed a widely accepted autonomous vehicle classification system. It ranges from no automation to full automation. I’ve included my viability assessment on the right.
If your car has parking assist or beeps if you get too close to something when backing up, you’re already enjoying Partial Driving Automation, #2 in the classification system above. Clearly I’m not challenging the viability of technology already widely implemented. My claims pertain to classifications #3, #4 and #5. This includes all forms of automated driving that doesn’t require a human attendant or custodian at all times.
I’m most skeptical of classification #5, fully autonomous driving. To date, no such vehicle exists even as a prototype. There’s nothing even close. But to hear the way AV proponents tell it, its existence is inevitable.
Every law regulating automobile driving since the invention of the concept involves at least 3 things, a car, a road and a driver. I guess the focus of my contention rests on what is meant by “driver.” Most definitions of “driver” generally define it as, “a person who drives a car, truck, etc.” Ah. So now we must define “person.” Most dictionaries define “person” as, “a human being regarded as an individual.”
Can you begin to see where a fundamental problem may exist? Laws that define what is meant by “driving” or “driver” are premised on the actions of a “person” or “individual.” In US law driving is not a right. It’s deemed a privilege with accompanying responsibilities. The party responsible would logically be the driver. I think the definition of driver as a person is inextricable without completely reinventing the concept of the personal automobile. There is no shortcut to the artificial intelligence (AI) systems of AV being a substitute for a real person.
In my view, the only hope for a truly self-driving car rests on the state of AI. I can’t help but think of the author and futurist, Ray Kurzweil. The American media have fawned over the guy for decades now. But I suspect Ray and how he is promoted is very much like Albert Einstein. Both fall far short of the claims made about them, the hype surrounding them being fabricated for purposes I can only speculate.
Ray is famous partly for conceiving the idea of the “singularity,” the hypothetical point in time at which artificial intelligence will match that of human intelligence. But the whole notion is confusing and probably misleading. Note the very specific language in one of Ray’s famous predictions.
“Supercomputers will achieve one human brain capacity by 2010, and personal computers will do so by about 2020.”
The human brain and mind are two different things entirely. The notion of the “singularity” and the take-away of that quote imply that a computer will be as intelligent as a human by 2010. How does “human brain capacity” compare to intelligence? I assume it doesn’t.
This form of misleading and exaggeration are what plagues the entire field of AI. Every form of AI I’ve come across is rudimentary with a narrow range of functionality. From my experience AI is great for limited-scope applications. Conversely where it fails is in multi-faceted applications or where a broad range of functionality is required.
I’ve been reading for years about the secret government super-computers and their incredible abilities. I’ve even read theories that claim reality itself is produced by a super-computer. Putting these more outrageous claims aside, I haven’t seen any examples of AI that could come close to performing the task of driving a vehicle safely and responsibly.
Who or What is ‘Driving’ this Medicine Show?
A 2015 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated driver fatalities for 2011 model year vehicles. They found an average 28 driver deaths per 1 million vehicles per year. That’s vehicles, not miles driven. That seems like an astonishingly low number of deaths, no doubt partly the result of improvements to vehicle design and numerous safety measures. Many 2011 vehicles came equipped with ABS, side air-bags and electronic stability control. But with so few deaths attributed to human drivers it’s certainly not an epidemic.
If the race to produce a self-driving car isn’t fueled by an epidemic of driver fatalities, then what IS fueling it? Is it insurance industry hopes for higher profits? Could be. We’ll get to that. Is it consumer demand? Consumers do seem to be quite stupid these days seeing as their usual news sources are lying to them. Are Jane and Joe American chomping at the bit for AVs, and at what price?
In Deloitte’s 2018 Global Automotive Consumer Study, 47% of Americans thought AVs will not be safe, way down from 74% when questioned in 2017. Is their confidence in safety rising or are they just yielding to the hype? 63% of Americans reported they would be more likely to ride in an AV made by a brand they trusted. 38% of Americans reported they were unwilling to pay more for AVs, or electric vehicles for that matter.
An MIT study from 2017 asked 3,000 Americans if they would ever buy a car that was completely self-driving. 48% said, “Hell no.” Only 20% of Americans aged 25-34 would be comfortable with fully autonomous vehicles, the MIT study found. Older Americans were even less comfortable.
The article that linked me to this study was entitled, “Consumers Don’t Really Want Self-Driving Cars, MIT Study Finds.” I found many other articles with similar titles like, “Gartner Survey Reveals 55 Percent of Respondents Will Not Ride in a Fully Autonomous Vehicle” and “Consumers Still Anxious about Autonomous Cars.”
So if the source fueling the AV craze isn’t a driver fatality epidemic, the insurance industry or consumer demand, who or what then? What about the auto manufacturers and the handful of upstarts, the early adopters of the technology? Surely THEY are suspects. But we shouldn’t rule out the regulators. And that includes government legislators and officials in Washington and all 50 states.
It makes sense that some companies have been founded precisely to capitalize on this potentially new market. It’s even possible that some of them could be pump and dumps, built to grow from investments and speculation as fast as possible. At the pinnacle of their growth the investors pull the plug and exit with whatever profits they can. Even believers and more cautious investors can come out on top of a failed early technology company, if they time it right.
It even makes sense to see fringe and new-fangled transportation service companies like Uber and Lyft getting involved. They’re already viewed as pioneers in a niche market with more recent experience evangelizing untried business models.
To see the likes of Microsoft and Google catch the wave is a no-brainer. They’re known to throw their hats into many rings and just as well known to pull out if needed. They have more options at their disposal and far greater flexibility than most fortune 500s.
It’s the commitment by the Fords and the Audis that puzzled me. Just last month Ford announced it was committing 4 billion dollars to AVs and forming a new subsidiary, Ford Autonomous Vehicles, LLC. Sure, that 4 billion is allocated to last through 2023 but it’s still a sizeable investment. The new LLC will be responsible for fulfilling Ford’s promise to produce a self-driving commercial vehicle by 2021. They better get cracking.
One area of the emerging AV arena where there seems to be more uncertainty than any other is the insurance industry. They face big questions. How will responsibility for accidents be assigned and how will insurers structure coverage?
A few manufacturers have stated they will assume liability if their vehicle’s technology is responsible for an accident. Hmm. Those might be empty promises, since product liability torts are far more costly and time consuming than basic insurance accident settlement. Either way you slice it, it’s going to be difficult to replace the current system to accommodate AVs. Although, there may be hope for an AV insurance industry by implementing a hybrid of product liability and revised no-fault insurance.
If the insurance industry is the source of all this AV hype, we should look for the insurers to have clear plans in place to capitalize on the emerging market. However, no discernable plan can be found. Auto insurance laws are determined by each state. As of late 2017 few state legislatures had done anything to revise existing insurance laws, making it near impossible for the insurance industry to have any definitive plans.
I Should Have Known
When I read about meetings between regulators, law enforcement, industry and advocacy groups on the legal, safety and social issues of AVs, I began to get a sense of who might be fueling the hype.
U.S. Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao said,
“One thing is certain – the autonomous revolution is coming.”
I knew I was close.
A summary of the meeting revealed that law enforcement officials had expressed interest in being able to interact with, direct and potentially control AVs during emergencies. That means they want exclusive, extrajudicial capabilities for what THEY deem to be emergency situations. But their authoritarian wet dream still relies on the viability of AVs. So they are not the source of the hype.
Ford and GM are in bed deep with the federal government on many levels. I assume the government is the “top” in the relationship. 😉 This entanglement began long before the auto industry bailout of 2009. Since then, Ford and GM have both received substantial government loans, GM actually being acquired by the government. The government sold its public stake in GM in 2013, funding the public offering of new GM shares. Not surprisingly both Ford and GM are major players in the emerging AV industry.
As recently as 2009, Ford received a $6 billion loan from the US Dept. of Energy, which it is scheduled to repay by 2022. The loan was part of the highly controversial and scandalous loan guarantee program, a back scratching and pay-to-play money grab for parties lucky enough to be involved.
But the interesting part as it relates to AVs is the relationship between the government and GM. Early in 2018 GM filed a petition with the Transportation Dept. seeking approval to deploy a fleet of cars that will have neither a steering wheel or pedals; a first of its kind. In what may only be street theater for the uninformed, the petition hasn’t been deemed complete or decided on in 6 months. There may be collusion going on here in which the government will have undue influence on GM vehicle design or other factors.
Alphabet, Inc,(Google) also has an incestuous relationship with the US government. The summary report of this Transportation Dept. meeting noted that Waymo, a unit of Alphabet, Inc. called for federal regulation of AVs to avoid a patchwork of state regulations. Google showed its clear preference for a totalitarian partnership with the feds over the constitutional right of the states to legislate and regulate in their own interests.
As expected, money is likely the primary objective fueling the AV hype. And politicians, regulators and corporate pirates are the primary suspects. They may be conspiring to fleece the American people through clean energy initiatives and other business incentive programs that will be sold as logical for AV development. But, as we’ll soon see there’s more to the pursuit of the AV phenomenon.
The Tricks Up Their Sleeves
I’m certain many people promoting full AVs are aware of its uncertain viability or even impossibility. Which begs the question, how do they plan to deal with this reality? I think one way is by moving the goal posts. The proponents have promoted totally self-driven cars. But ultimately they will deliver driver-assisted cars only marginally more advanced than those of today.
In March 2018, in Las Vegas there were Lincoln MKZs driving themselves around the city and doing a pretty good job of it. Or so it appeared. It was the first example of AV testing I could find without a human attendant acting in some capacity. But the truth is, hundreds of miles away in Mountain View, CA at Phantom Auto a “teleoperator” was sitting behind a bank of screens, clutching a steering wheel and driving the car remotely. California only began allowing the road testing of AVs without a human attendant or custodian in April of 2018, but only if they are being driven remotely.
Wait. You didn’t know that all these glowing reports of successful AV tests around the country involved a person sitting behind the steering wheel? Oh yes. And that created other unique problems, like attendants becoming distracted or drowsy. Then the goal became to devise a system that would keep the attendant interested in the driving process, automated and boring as it was.
And there are numerous other limits to the scope of these tests. Some are limited to a remote area with infrequent traffic. Some are limited to a precise area of safe terrain. Some are merely collecting driver data through various sensors. Some are isolated from human-driven car traffic in unique lanes or separated by barriers.
In short, all these tests of AVs you’ve been reading reports about haven’t really been examples of AVs in operation. Even the recent incidents involving fatalities also involved an attendant behind the wheel. One can only imagine how many accidents would occur if true AV operation were to be tested.
What Would God Drive?
Ultimately the possibility of a totally self-driving vehicle boils down to, whether a car’s brain can match the human mind. And the human mind remains largely a mystery the AV industry isn’t likely to unravel. Science has yet to produce a computer that tops the human brain’s computational or overall capability.
The most advanced autonomous system can likely drive a car safely in its own lane, slowing or stopping for other vehicles and obstructions. But the average human mind can make thousands of additional assessments and respond to virtually any unpredictable scenario.
The proponents of AVs will continue to produce statistics showing how much safer their technology is over the absence of said technology. But their statistics are very misleading. The form and degree of autonomous driving being tested varies, as we’ve seen. The scope and rigorousness of the testing also varies wildly. We’ve already discussed how some companies essentially cheat by employing remote drivers or “teleoperators.” I’m not sure whether an apples-to-apples comparison will ever be made as it might reveal all the hype to be just that, hype.
If you believe in God or that your life has purpose as I have come to, you might deduce the “singularity” Kurzweil prophesied is hogwash. You’d be in the minority it seems. AI and even trans-humanism has grown enormously popular, especially with Progressives and devout Atheists. Influential scientists today have grown to oppose even the notion of natural order, let alone the infinite superiority of the human mind. I think the race to overtake nature with technology flies in the face of God. At the very least the scientists overlook the results of their own experiments, showing the complex and intricate workings of nature. They forget their own claims that humanity is an, as yet unparalleled wonder.
I think this irrational zeal and self-interest partly causes some to conceal the limitations of AVs. Others may be confused when their own observations conflict with the unrealistic promises and resulting high expectations. Their first recourse is to continue to predict an unrealistic timeline or push their predictions further into the future. Ray Kurzweil has pushed back the “singularity” a couple times.
Some get closer to the truth by reporting a plethora of minor stumbling blocks or glitches slowing development. But they always overlook the larger problem. The sentient human beings that STILL do all the driving are impossible to emulate sufficiently with technology. There is NO app for that.
They don’t seem to grasp or be willing to admit the massive effort it will require to develop agreeable standards, or to determine specific road-way alterations. They don’t introduce the ethical issues that will arise when society experiences road-way deaths caused by product defects and software errors, rather than drunk or distracted drivers. Aren’t they concerned that a systemic software bug or network outage might cause thousands of vehicles to become uncontrolled and crash?
The False ‘Promises’ Remind Me of Something
Maybe, long ago when we created the concept of driving automobiles on roadways we inadvertently revealed that the skill required to drive was uniquely human.
This fraud is well established and easy to ascertain. If identifying the fraud required more specialized knowledge, it would be possible for some proponents to be unaware. But it’s simply too obvious for it not to be deliberate.
AV proponents pitch it as the smart choice and as inevitable despite a deafening disinterest by the public. It’s illogical and unreasonable. Media criticism of the trend has barely been noticeable, which also makes little sense. This disparity between the pitch and the reality began to remind me of another recent phenomenon.
After both the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings, there was an immediate cacophony of calls for drastic gun legislation and, more recently drastic social media censorship. There was a distinct use of exaggeration of everything from what gun rights advocates believe to how many Americans were seriously concerned about mass shootings; anything to further establish the severity of the problem.
The Sandy Hook school victims were frequently identified as “babies” and even “angels.” By now every victim, child or adult has been labeled a “hero.” But there was nothing to justify the hysteria. No babies were killed and dying from gunshot wounds doesn’t make you a hero.
And the so-called solutions offered by the proponents made little sense. They all involved either expanding government operations, censorship of some kind or some use of technology. The majority of these proponents are liberal Progressives, the likes of which are increasingly showing themselves to be irrational and self-interested. There doesn’t seem to be any problem or challenge that can’t be fixed by the mob or by the wonders of modern technology, according to them.
I think it’s reasonable to attribute both the school shootings and AVs projects to the liberal agenda. Simple greed may be contributing to AV hype. But I think blame for the irrational faith in the technology and over-reliance on the establishment we’re seeing can be assigned to the liberal agenda.
There is an ongoing project to destroy our American heritage, weaken the family and the community, reduce humanity to a speck of dust and devalue all of creation and God himself. Maybe, long ago when we created the concept of driving automobiles on roadways we inadvertently revealed that the skill required to drive was uniquely human. If we are created in God’s image, then it makes perfect sense to me that replicating human ability through technology is a fool’s errand.
If they can’t become Gods by making AVs with supreme intelligence, then they’ll at least attempt to create an all-powerful, God-like state. If our holy institutions of government and a system of total government control can’t do it, then surely the saintly men of science can.