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Self-driving cars should not be racing

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I grind my teeth when the metaphor of “racing” is used in discussions of autonomous driving technology.

Companies developing computer-controlled automotive technology, including Tesla, Chinese company Baidu and Google’s sister company Waymo, regularly say they are in a race to make self-driving cars more widely available. is explained in Some US policy bodies and elected officials say the US needs to show “leadership” by beating China on self-driving technology.

There is a risk in introducing technology too late that could make people’s lives better. as a race.

What’s dangerous is that an artificial sense of urgency and eagerness to “win” creates unnecessary safety risks, allowing companies to further monopolize personal information and harming corporate self-confidence at the expense of the public good. It is possible to prioritize profits.

When you read about companies and countries speeding up, rushing, competing, and winning in emerging areas of technology, it’s helpful to stop and ask questions. What are the potential consequences of this sense of urgency? Who is this message aimed at?

Most self-driving car engineers now believe it will be decades before computer-controlled cars become commonplace. A month, a year, or two may not make much of a difference, and it’s not clear if every race is worth winning.

So why does all this talk about self-driving cars exist? We believe it is beneficial to be recognized as doing what is best for achieving high computer-controlled transport technology. Everyone wants to support a winner.

Pioneers help shape new technology directions and build networks of business allies and users.

But winning the technology “race” doesn’t always make sense. Apple isn’t the first to make a smartphone. Google did not develop the first online search engine. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company did not manufacture the first advanced computer chips. The reason they are tech superstars is because they (arguably) did their best, not the first.

Second, the “race” narrative persuades the public and elected officials to move rules and regulations more quickly, justify the lax, and expose people to unnecessary risks in order to “win.” Feels like a cudgel for

The Wall Street Journal reported last week about concerns that self-driving truck company TuSimple is putting people’s livelihoods at risk by “hurrying driverless trucks to market.” The WSJ reported that a truck equipped with TuSimple technology made a sudden turn on an interstate highway in Arizona last spring and slammed into a concrete barricade. TuSimple told the WSJ that no one was injured and safety was the top priority.

Apple’s self-driving test vehicle smashed into a curb near the company’s Bay Area headquarters and nearly hit a jogger who had right-of-way across the street earlier this year, The Information said. reported last month.

Driverless cars may eventually make our roads safer, but each of these incidents is a reminder of the threat these companies pose in solving the self-driving kinks. Developing a streaming video app doesn’t kill people.

“We let these companies set the rules,” Cade Metz, a New York Times reporter and author of autonomous vehicle technology, told me.

Cade proposed a redefinition of the racial narrative. He said there could be a race to pilot the technology for the public good, rather than trying to win over self-driving car adoption.

Seeing emerging technologies as “competition” with China is also not a good thing. While there are advantages for American companies to be the first to commercialize new technologies, there are also dangers in treating everything as a superpower competition.

In an interview last year with Kara Swisher, who was hosting the Times Opinion podcast at the time, 23andMe CEO Ann Wojcicki said that in the ongoing “information warfare” over understanding the human genome, the United States is facing China. Swisher then asked, “Is this the war we want to win?”

good question. If China is massively collecting people’s DNA, does that mean America should too?

Moreover, such a focus on self-driving cars could also lead to a flood of alternatives for improving transportation.

Perhaps the racial metaphor we need comes from Aesop’s fable of the rabbit and the tortoise. It’s how you win. (However, it is not a race.)

Tip of the week

Samsung this week unveiled a new foldable phone that combines elements of smartphones and tablets. Brian X. ChenConsumer technology columnist for The Times shares what he likes and (mostly) dislikes about flip phones.

A foldable phone is basically a smartphone that opens and closes like a book on a hinge to increase the screen size. Samsung has been improving this tech for years, but I’m generally skeptical.

These are my impressions of the pros and cons of the previous model after testing it many years ago (starting with the cons).


  • Foldable smartphones are thicker than regular smartphones when folded, making them bulky in your pocket or hand.

Strong Points

For similar takes: The Verge writer David Pierce writes that while flip phones seem like a great idea, they are a nasty compromise.

  • It’s the twilight of the boy bosses of Silicon Valley. My colleague Erin Griffith reported on why some young tech founders are leaving. Surprise: Running a company isn’t all that fun when it’s hard to raise investor money, the economy is volatile, and cost cutting is cooler than your “vision.” (Bonus points for the shimmering unicorn illustration.)

  • Government rogue technology is a symptom, not a cause, of its malfunction. The Washington Post has a delightfully infuriating photo essay that shows the IRS’ outdated technology and clumsy bureaucracy for processing tax returns. The cafeteria is just a sea of ​​paper. (Application may be required.)

  • Hobby Drones Go to War: Drones used in war zones are no longer just large, expensive weapons. The Ukrainian military is also using hobbyist drones modified in makeshift workshops to drop bombs and identify targets for artillery, says my colleague Andrew E. Kramer. is reporting.

no one can resist Martha the Dog with Begging Eyes.

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