The Point Of View Of An Autonomous Car

Take a look at this TED talk from Chris Urmson, who heads up Google's driverless car program. I'm particularly interested in how he describes how a car sees the world.


(Chris Urmson of Google TED talk on driverless cars)

The idea of a driverless car, and its viewpoint, is different from a robot driving a car like a person, literally sitting in the driver's seat. The earliest example of a driverless car that I know is the driverless taxi from his 1935 story The Living Machine:

It is safe to say that the new model almost revolutionized America in more ways than one... It was a relief to enter one of the comfortable autos, whisper a direction down the tube, and just know that you would be taken to your destination in the quickest, safest, and cheapest manner.

Would an autonomous cab develop an attitude? Like the autonomic cab from The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) by Philip K. Dick:

The cab said, "Are you Mr. Rip Van Winkle or something, sir? It's 2055. And I hope it satisfies you." The cab was old and was somewhat seedy, needing repairs; its irritability showed in the activity of its autonomic circuitry.

Would an autonomous vehicle be able to distinguish its point of view from that of its passenger? Consider the automated taxi from Sagramanda (2006) by Alan Dean Foster.

Spotting his pursuer approaching rapidly, a frantic Taneer had to wait for the door to open before he could throw himself inside the cab. While the automated vehicle's voice inquired politely as to where its passenger wished to go, Taneer yelped wildly, "Security, security!"

"I have already locked the doors," the cab assured him in calm, unthreatening, preprogrammed tones. "Destination, please?"

...he urgently addressed the vehicle's AI."Can't we go any faster? I'm already running late."

Since the taxi utilized sophisticated electronic sensors to perceive its surroundings, the traditional forward windshield existed only to allow fares to see where they were going. The vehicle was as aware of this as its passenger.

"As you can see, sir, this is a very busy street, and I am forbidden by law and by coding from forcing a path..."

All were equipped with the same city-regulated programming.

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