Would you want your car to drive itself?

Updated: July 12, 2011


Self-driving cars?

“General Motors, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Volvo and Google are each currently testing driver-less cars, with intentions to make the vehicle available for mass consumption by 2018,” Adam Waytz writes at Slate. “Recently, Nevada became the first state to pass legislation asking the Department of Motor Vehicles to formulate guidelines for driverless cars. … I am currently studying whether the self-driving car will deny Americans their sense of self. Ever want to throttle your inanimate GPS because its suggested route isn’t what you know to be best? Imagine that feeling of frustration magnified. Obviously, that’s an experience that car manufacturers investing in self-driving autos are desperate to avoid.”

Take that, non-starter

“A western Arizona man has received a three-month sentence after authorities say he shot his Camaro because it wouldn’t start and then refused to come out of his home,” reports Associated Press. “The Kingman Daily Miner reports Lauriano Lawrence Lovato went out to his car April 13, and when it wouldn’t start he fired two rounds through the windshield and into the dashboard. Neighbours called police, and Lovato was eventually arrested after a lengthy standoff.”

Navel-gazing census

“Scientists have found 1,400 strains of bacteria lurking in human belly buttons,” says The Independent. “The discovery was made during a study in which 95 volunteers allowed a team of microbiologists to gaze at their navels and take swabs from inside their belly buttons. When the team behind the project checked the samples against a database of existing bacteria, they found 662 unrecognized strains, which might even be new species. Although 1,400 different strains were found, 80 per cent were from 40 more-common species. Many of the bacteria found were ordinary skin dwellers that are typically harmless. ‘We’re probably the only ones studying human belly buttons on such a large scale,’ said project leader Jiri Hulcr of North Carolina State University when the study – ‘belly button biodiversity’ – launched in April.”

Dogs’ amazing noses

– Czech scientists have found that highly trained police dogs can tell identical twins apart by smell, LiveScience reports. “They distinguished identical twins from one another without fail, even though each twin lived in the same place and ate the same food as their counterpart. In comparison, DNA tests could not tell identical twins apart.”

– “A bloodhound has such a keen nose that she has landed a job – as a wine taster,” says Orange News U.K. “Seven-year-old Louisa Bella has been trained to spot wine that has been tainted, even through the bottle. And her sensitive nose can also sniff out faulty corks, which her Australian owners, Michelle Edwards and Daniel Fischl, say saves them a fortune. The two run a boutique wine label, Linnaea, in Melbourne.”

Energy from the air

“U.S. researchers say energy transmitted by radio and television transmitters, cellphone networks and satellite systems can be captured and harnessed,” reports United Press International. “Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology say scavenging the ambient energy all around us could provide a new way to power networks of wireless sensors, microprocessors and communications chips. … The scientists say they have already successfully operated a temperature sensor using electromagnetic energy captured from a television station a third of a mile away.”

 Social X-ray glasses

“Rosalind Picard’s eyes were wide open. I couldn’t blame her. We were sitting in her office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, and my questions were stunningly incisive. In fact, I began to suspect that I must be one of the savviest journalists she had ever met,” writes Sally Adee in the New Scientist. “Then Picard handed me a pair of special glasses. The instant I put them on I discovered that I had got it all terribly wrong. That look of admiration, I realized, was actually confusion and disagreement. Worse, she was bored out of her mind. I became privy to this knowledge because a little voice was whispering in my ear through a headphone attached to the glasses. It told me that Picard was ‘confused’ or ‘disagreeing.’ All the while, a red light built into the specs was blinking above my right eye to warn me to stop talking. … The glasses can send me this information thanks to a built-in camera linked to software that analyzes Picard’s facial expressions. They’re just one example of a number of ‘social X-ray specs’ that are set to transform how we interact with each other. By sensing emotions that we would otherwise miss, these technologies can thwart disastrous social gaffes and help us understand each other better. Some companies are already wiring up their employees with the technology, to help them improve how they communicate with customers.”

 Thought du jour

“The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/facts-and-arguments/social-studies/would-you-want-your-car-to-drive-itself/article2091700/


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