Philosophy and cars

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Richard_C
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Philosophy and cars

Post by Richard_C »

A longish post, bear with me, might get some good discussion (or might not).

I’ve been reading a book which wanders through some of the challenges mankind faces including how we deal with artificial intelligence and robots. A short section on self-driving cars got me thinking. What follws is based on the questions raised in the book plus my own ramblings.

First as background the “Tram Problem”, a well established way to think about values and behaviour. Imagine you are at the controls of a runaway tram going downhill at speed. You are coming up to a set of points and can take either track. Track 1 has a child in the way, track 2 enters the terminus and you will surely be killed against the end wall. Or there is a person standing on each track and you know one of them but not the other, one has a child the other an old person or any number of variations. Your tram has passengers, or not, your son, mother … whatever is on board. Which do you choose?

You can talk about the tram problem, but its unlikely to happen and even if it did the driver would react and decide ‘in the moment’ using biological processes and their own world view. Would self- preservation take over, who knows?

Self-driving cars are different. First, there will be very many of them so there will be lots of real situations. There are engineering issues, but they can be solved by clever people. We get to the point that the self-driving car is 99.9999% reliable at recognising situations and highly efficient at executing its set of instructions. Its not now a question of what the driver does on the spur of the moment, it’s a question of what instructions was the AI driver given. An AI driver will have no self- preservation over-ride, it has no living consciousness.

Do you tell it to avoid a child who suddenly appears at the expense of killing its occupant? Or value youth over age. Do you have different rules depending on who is on board – a nobel winning scientist, a Prime Minister, the heir to the throne? Do you offer the driver a choice of modes – altruistic or egotistical? If you had modes like that, would you, last January, immediately switched the cars of the Oxford Vaccine research team to egotistical to keep them safe. What would you set yours to – honestly?

The difficulties don’t stop there – the next big question is who decides? It’s not an engineering question. Assume they can make the car do what it is told to. Is it political – will a Labour Transport Minister stand on a manifesto of ‘all cars in altruistic mode’ and a Tory one in ‘all cars in egotistical mode’ (or an upstart ‘killer mode’ party?). Will there be a role for a team of philosophers in Government? We have a Government Actuary (who I always think of as looking like Dumbledore but is in fact a normal looking person in a suit). I hate the idea of Grant Shapps (also includes Michael Green, Corinne Stockheath and Sebastian Fox) having a decisive role in whether I live or die in a car crash.

Maybe car manufacturer will need a department made up of lawyers and philosophers and get a marketing edge. “Buy Volvo – we put children first”. “Buy BMW – we look after our drivers”. “Buy Sang Yong – we haven’t thought much about it yet so it’s all a bit random”. Might it be worldwide under UN guidance or will each country make its own choices? Who do you sue? Often not the engineers or manufacturers – the machine will have done exactly as it was told – the key question is who set the rules.

20 years from now we might have several million self-driving cars all doing as they were told. It’s not an abstract problem.

So what do we all think?

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Re: Philosophy and cars

Post by Hell Razor5543 »

I think we need to get a real version of KITT up and running! Just maker sure it IS KITT and NOT KARR!!!

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NewcastleFalcon
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Re: Philosophy and cars

Post by NewcastleFalcon »

Richard, Ill just pick up on a trivial point if I may.
Richard_C wrote:
01 Feb 2021, 16:24
We have a Government Actuary (who I always think of as looking like Dumbledore but is in fact a normal looking person in a suit).
The mention on Dumbledore There has only ever been 2 references of the word Dumbledore on the FCF....ever. Once by me this morning, and secondly by you this afternoon.
My question
Did you read my post this morning Richard :?:
link here
https://www.frenchcarforum.co.uk/forum/ ... 60#p674260
If you did not read my post....that is what has become known as an "FCF Spooky" :-D

Regards Neil
Last edited by NewcastleFalcon on 01 Feb 2021, 17:17, edited 2 times in total.

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mickthemaverick
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Re: Philosophy and cars

Post by mickthemaverick »

I am intrigued, interested, concerned and even terrified by the images which ran through my mind as I read your post Richard, so I will not make a TOH contribution but wait and see which images prevail in a few hours and come back then! As for TOH response I am getting more and more convinced that the future holds nothing but boredom!!!

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Re: Philosophy and cars

Post by Richard_C »

NewcastleFalcon wrote:
01 Feb 2021, 16:41
Ill just pick up on a trivial point is I may.
Richard_C wrote:
01 Feb 2021, 16:24
We have a Government Actuary (who I always think of as looking like Dumbledore but is in fact a normal looking person in a suit).
The mention on Dumbledore There has only ever been 2 references of the word Dumbledore on the FCF....ever. Once by me this morning, and secondly by you this afternoon.
My question
Did you read my post this morning link here

https://www.frenchcarforum.co.uk/forum/ ... 60#p674260
If you did not read my post....that is what has become known as an "FCF Spooky" :-D

Regards Neil
I hadn't read your post so its officially spooky. I used to run a company pension scheme alongside an HR job, and since the first Harry Potter the image of Dumbledore* has always popped into my head when I think of the Government Actuary.

* - there you go, 4 times now. You, me, you telling me and me replying.

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NewcastleFalcon
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Re: Philosophy and cars

Post by NewcastleFalcon »

On the subject of your post

I am not a fan of self driving cars, although their proponents would say they will cause less accidents than human driven cars. Their vision and hearing via their lidar/cameras etc is so much better. Don't know enough about AI but there is probably some "learning from experience" rather than a coding of every single possible scenario which might arise.

I'll have to have a consult this thread on self-driving cars to see what my opinion was :-D

From a road safety standpoint, the regulations on what new cars mandatorily have to have included expand all the time. My slightly myopic view, is that all these add-ons just create an over-expensive product, but I concede some of the safety advantages. There is a thread about Speed limiters and black boxes. Whether manufacturers like it or not these features have to be built into their cars, or simply they cant sell them.

Not full self driving capability just yet but elements eg these features are all mandatory for European and UK new vehicles from May 2022

drowsiness and attention detection
advanced emergency braking
Intelligent speed assistance
Lane keeping assist
Vulnerable road user detection
Reversing camera or detection system

As with any kind of software/hardware there is always a hefty mistrust, but its already happening on the roads of Great Britain. A Nissan Leaf self drove from, lets call it somewhere down South (save me looking it up), 300 miles up to Sunderland, and I wouldn't say NISSAN were at the forefront of Self-driving cars.

I think in answer to the philosophical question, the proponents of self-drive-cars...and there has been an immense amount of R&D gone into it for it not to happen, will say there will be virtually no runaway trams with self-drive, as they are much better at not bumping into things or detecting and reacting to "Tram" brake failure. Meanwhile the conventional Human tram driver may be faced with the philosophical dilemma on many more occasions. I don't see in either scenario Grant Shapps being required.

Regards Neil

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NewcastleFalcon
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Re: Philosophy and cars

Post by NewcastleFalcon »

NewcastleFalcon wrote:
01 Feb 2021, 17:12
I'll have to have a consult this thread on self-driving cars to see what my opinion was :-D
Well back in 2018 this was my thinking, don't think its changed much :-D
NewcastleFalcon wrote:
17 Apr 2018, 15:06
Slick Nick wrote:
17 Apr 2018, 12:52
I think the technology created from making these automous cars, is useful. the concept itself to me seems, frivolous.


Its a good job I'm not a car designer. I would keep it just too simple. A vehicle that would get me from A to B in comfort, at a leisurely pace, room for the dog and a bit of luggage from time to time, as cheap as possible to run, and outputing zero emissions as I tootle along my merry way. Last on my list would be giving it a self driving capability, and becoming a hostage to never-ending software and hardware upgrades to maintain that capability, which I have no desire ever to use.

An article on wired which caught my attention as I clicked on your link is this:-
The Never Ending Self-Driving Cars Project Wired.com

What do self-driving cars need?......sensors and software, lots of them, and lots of it! and what does software always need?......patches and upgrades! From the article...

"If, say, any autonomous vehicle built five years ago wants to work today, it needs an upgrade—there will be new car models to recognize, new traffic patterns to negotiate, maybe new, climate changed weather patterns to contend with. “The environment isn't static,”says Forrest Iandola, the CEO of the startup DeepScale, which builds perception systems. “Even if you, in theory, have a perfect system for today in a certain location, that becomes stale.”

Vehicles will also constantly encounter new situations on the roads, and contend with obstacles engineers might never have dreamed of. “As soon as you turn any sensor to face the outside environment, the number of different things it could see is on the order of the number of permutations of atoms you could see in the universe,” says Iandola. A bunch of tigers escaped the zoo? Time to train self-driving on tiger images—and update."
Regards Neil

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Re: Philosophy and cars

Post by Hell Razor5543 »

I think that one of the problems designers are putting into autonomous vehicles is that they are 'looking around' too much, and are being overwhelmed by data overload. According to the Highway Code drivers should check their mirrors at least 12 times a minute (so once every five seconds), but not 30 or more times a minute. The majority of the time a drivers' attention is focussed forty five degrees either side of the driving line, only momentarily looking away to check the vehicle speed (and other instruments) and the mirrors. The drivers' focus changes when something requires more attention than normal (such as preparing to overtake another vehicle). If an autonomous vehicle was set up to drive in the way competent drivers are meant to, the processors would be unlikely to get data 'indigestion'! Unfortunately the various 'safety' bodies have stuck their oars in, demanding that autonomous vehicles know what is going on around them all of the time.

I recall a story by Isaac Asimov when a mining robot was being developed. This robot was actually a team of six (or so) robots, with one main overseer robot and several servant robots (these 'servants' could perform basic tasks, but complex ones required input from the overseer (so the overseer could tell servant 1 to perform a task and then leave it to do that job, and then move onto servant 2, and so on)). Normally this worked well, but whenever something unexpected occurred the team went awry until a human turned up. The problem was (eventually) found to be that, whenever there was an unexpected situation the overseer tried to manage all of the servants simultaneously, got 'confused' and ended up basically twiddling his fingers! The solution was to increase the processing capability so that it had plenty of spare capacity to handle anything that was thrown at it.

The moral would be (if autonomous vehicle designers were allowed to be in control) that just because your system CAN perform a million calculations per second you should not MAKE it perform a million tasks per second! Leave it at least 25% capacity to handle unforeseen circumstances.

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Re: Philosophy and cars

Post by Gibbo2286 »

Think Boeing, the pilot could not override the programme so everyone dies. There's a long way to go.

https://www.boeing.com/commercial/737max/

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Re: Philosophy and cars

Post by bobins »

It's an interesting philosophical point, but from my point of view it hinges on the AI / autonomous vehicle being considered infallible, and I don't consider that they are - or that they can be in the near future. They would undoubtedly be a huge improvement on the average human driver, but I don't think we're at the point where an AI / autonomous car can protect against the driver, pedestrian or other driver who is - basically - reckless. It's a deeply sad and upsetting reality that people have always died in, and by, cars, and whilst an AI / autonomous car can vastly reduce that death rate - deaths and injury are still a sad inevitability. The only truly safe car is the one that stays locked up in the garage with no one near it.
I think one of the concepts of AI / autonomous cars is that they'd be linked in a local web so they can transfer info about road conditions / other cars / people with a deathwish, etc, etc. That would allow for a 'Scare the bejesus out of me' switch on the dashobaord which would put the car into a sport mode - but only if/when conditions permit.
I'm not sure of the wisdom of switchable modes for AI / autonomous driving styles. If your 'switch' was mandated from upon high, then that would lay the person who decreed that switch liable for a court appearance along the lines of : "Little Jonny died because you forced my client to switch to an unsuitable mode". Similarly, the lawyers wouldn't hesitate to lap up the cases caused by individuals switching modes and (allegedly) causing harm or death.
I don't accept that AI / autonomous cars are 99.9999% reliable. Id' take 90% on a good day, if you're lucky. That's probably still an awful lot better than the average driver - although much depends on which metric you use to measure it . I'd expect their programming to be along the lines of: <a very metaphorical> "Take best avoiding action in any conflict situation - and good luck". If the programmers can prove that they programmed to that ideal, then I doubt any court cases would prove fruitful. If they are proved negligent, then due process will prevail. As is always the case - ultimately, that's for the courts to decide (©H.Simpson).

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mickthemaverick
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Re: Philosophy and cars

Post by mickthemaverick »

I said I'd come back when I had mulled it over so here I am! :)
Thinking about the choices described and the points made all led me down a highly undesirable path. Fundamentally I don't want control of my own life taken away from me in any shape or form. I relish in the freedom we have as individuals to observe, detect and monitor situations and make our own decisions on how to react even if that reaction is to seek help or advice when we are unsure how to act. Handing that decision making process over to any other executive, be it human or technological, is alien to my view of living. So the whole concept of AI is horrendous to me. I accept robots and mechanisation where the decision making is preprogramed by a human being using known parameters, eg a kettle switches off when it reaches the temperature we have set it to switch off. We do not let the kettle decide whether to stop heating when the water boils or continue making steam until it burns itself out according to its perceptions of our needs, we determine it switches off when it reaches boiling point.

However once you start allowing devices to take their own measurements, make their own analysis and resulting actions you go down a very dangerous and unnecessary road. We have George in our airliners which flies the plane while the pilot is retained to have an overiding role if necessary. Those pilots are still highly skilled and trained to deal with whatever may happen. If you give an AI car on the same basis to the below average drivers they will sit back and not overide when needed because they will not have bothered to practice and train on a daily basis as the pilots do and the better drivers probably would.

I could extrapolate but I am boring myself so if you are reading this I'm sorry. For me it comes down to another example of what I am beginning to call the 'Xenon Headlight' syndrome. Exceedingly intelligent people and billions of dollars are being spent on solving a problem which was never really a problem at all. Just concentrate on making cars work better, safer and cheaper under the control of well trained and practiced drivers and accept that all human activity has casualties and the best we can do is ensure that life has as much fun as possible before we succumb to such occurences!! :)

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Re: Philosophy and cars

Post by CitroJim »

Mick, very much agree with all you say there :)
mickthemaverick wrote:
01 Feb 2021, 23:23
Exceedingly intelligent people and billions of dollars are being spent on solving a problem which was never really a problem at all. Just concentrate on making cars work better, safer and cheaper under the control of well trained and practiced drivers and accept that all human activity has casualties and the best we can do is ensure that life has as much fun as possible before we succumb to such occurrences!! :)
Especially that bit!

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bobins
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Re: Philosophy and cars

Post by bobins »

The trouble is, all those extra gizmos and improvements aren't aimed at the likes of us. They're designed to appeal to those who see a car as a status symbol and want their new car on the driveway to make them feel superior to Mr Perkins down the road.
We also have the issue of manufacturers being desperate to design in features that'll help them stay in business - hence ordinary light fittings needing to be coded to the car before they'll work - it serves no other purpose than to generate money....... and money is the most important thing.

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mickthemaverick
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Re: Philosophy and cars

Post by mickthemaverick »

bobins wrote:
02 Feb 2021, 09:34
- it serves no other purpose than to generate money....... and money is the most important thing.
How right you are bobins but I prefer the older definition:
Money is the root of all evil!
:(

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NewcastleFalcon
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Re: Philosophy and cars

Post by NewcastleFalcon »

bobins wrote:
02 Feb 2021, 09:34
The trouble is, all those extra gizmos and improvements aren't aimed at the likes of us.
NewcastleFalcon wrote:
17 Apr 2018, 15:06
Its a good job I'm not a car designer. I would keep it just too simple. A vehicle that would get me from A to B in comfort, at a leisurely pace, room for the dog and a bit of luggage from time to time, as cheap as possible to run, and outputting zero emissions as I tootle along my merry way. Last on my list would be giving it a self driving capability, and becoming a hostage to never-ending software and hardware upgrades to maintain that capability, which I have no desire ever to use.
mickthemaverick wrote:
01 Feb 2021, 23:23
Just concentrate on making cars work better, safer and cheaper
CitroJim wrote:
02 Feb 2021, 09:00
Mick, very much agree
Unless you go and buy classic cars for pleasure, if you buy any modern car these days there isn't the choice to buy/lease/rent a simple one. There is a minimum level of mandated complexity in terms of safety features, but also that designed in complexity to tie in maintenance/repair/servicing/parts sales; and designed in "selling features" which all the other manufacturers do in an attempt to turn the car into a modern desirable lifestyle product for buyers who in general as bobins put it are not "the likes of us".

Here's my simple mobile phone, it does texts and can make and receive calls and it has a torch. Still a complicated item, you couldn't make one in your shed cheaper, and if it goes wrong, its a consumable and goes in the bin. There isn't an industry that repairs £1 phones.:-D . Just like cars though, the money to be made is in smart phones and a range of features and functions which are seeping in to be virtually indispensable for many users, and in society in general. Whatever requires to be done has to have a smartphone app for it. Scanning QR codes in the present crisis is one example. Yes my simple text/calls and torch phone is obsolete.
The £1 RRP phone which I got for £0 with a £10 credit a couple of years ago.
The £1 RRP phone which I got for £0 with a £10 credit a couple of years ago.
The car equivalent might sell to a small number, perhaps me and a few others, but the car industry en masse surely must have done their research and found out what new generations of buyers want from a car, because they are all doing the same thing. Every advert for a car these days is very little about the features of the car but attempts to sell the "lifestyle" benefits.

Of course there is no compulsion to participate in the brave new world. Nissan Micra k12's are still buyable, and pleasure motoring is still possible.

I don't think there is much weeping and wailing needed, there are currently plenty classic cars around at the auctions and elsewhere. I for one don't think they are likely to be legislated out of existence any time soon. Lets face it hardly any of them do very many miles per year with the odd pootle around in the summer then a winters tinkering going nowhere in the garage.

Grab yourself a Bentley while you can :-D
DSC04982.JPG
Regards Neil