Not your average traffic stop
Last month, a Mountain View, California policeman noticed that traffic was piling up behind a little white car. The car was only going 24 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone, so he decided to pull it over and talk with the driver. There was just one problem. There wasn’t one.
Google has logged over a million miles on California roads since 2009 testing its driverless concept cars. Forecasters predict that these cars will be on the roads in most major cities within only three years and many companies are pursuing their own versions – Google, Apple, Tesla, and many mainstream manufacturers.
There have been a lot of questions raised about driverless cars, but the most compelling deal with how the technology interacts with a human world. If we have a split second to decide between hitting a person or animal in our path with swerving off the road and into a tree, how do we make that decision? How does a driverless car make that decision?
It will be interesting to see what happens with this idea. It would seem, given the proliferation of distracted driving – it seems now that almost every car you see is being driven by someone staring at their phone instead of the road – that driverless cars would reduce accidents. Will people embrace them? Do they offer a way for people to relax and read the paper on their way into work like people who ride mass transit do? Will they be affordable enough that an average person can afford one? Will they become widely used? Time will tell.
We more often read about the fact that driverless cars are programmed too perfectly, that they obey the traffic laws better than humans do. But what happens in the case of this traffic stop? If a car driven by a human would have been given a ticket for driving too slow, what happens with a car not driven by a human? Who gets the ticket?