The Three Complex Questions that Autonomous Vehicles are Driving Home

Your children won’t have to drive a car, did you realize that?

It is certain that in the foreseeable future (some say this is expected to take place by 2025 and some by 2040), car ownership and indeed driving, at least in the urban centers, will become unnecessary.

My interest in this profound change is not coming from a consumer perspective (when to sell my car?) or from being a father (less worries that they’ll get home safe, scratch my car, or won’t drink and drive). It is grounded in my professional interest in complexity and how it should be best implemented, by all of us, to support positive changes and solutions for the major problems which we face.

There are three big complex questions that this future, with autonomous vehicles (AVs), is pointing at -

1. How will this future change decision making on the roads? and in general, in other complex dynamics?
2. How will we communicate with the AIs?
3. How will our human lives change and for what unexpected consequences should we rehearse between now and then?

1. The road as a platform for complex interactions

I’ve written before about how a driving culture is a fantastic example of how a complex system interact. The road is a place where multiple agents are independently moving and constantly interacting and influencing each other. Although it is governed by both traffic laws and by the common sense and cultural values of the drivers, the self organizing order emerging on the road is ever changing and unexpected.

Algorithms and the possibility to share information on mobile connected networks had already changed some of the unexpected elements of the road. We can now know for almost a certain level how long will a trip last and when we will get to our destination and we can get live updates from other drivers on the road. This successful optimization of the driving experience is giving a positive perspective on the future of autonomous driving, when the exchange of information and data will happen behind the scenes between the cars themselves. We might not be bothered with choosing a root or making any driving related decisions but will only be shared with a bottom line of time of arrival at destination.

But, I wonder if there is a real possibility to eliminate all the unexpected interactions from the road? Can the weather conditions or the behavior of birds or domestic animals be expected? calculated in real time into the AV’s decision making program?

What will the autonomous vehicles do if the chicken start crossing the road?

2. The AI-Human communication

The AVs will tell us about the exact arrival time to our destination, but what will be our new ways to communicate with AIs in general and the AV in particular? What kind of information will we share with the AV and what will the AV be doing with this information communicating it to other computed cars and computed gas stations along the way. Communication itself is a complex interaction, with feedback going back and forth between communicating parties. How would the regular communication with this immanent computer performing such a major task in our daily routine would change our communication habits? It’s enough to think about Siri and her likes to start seeing the possible implications of such new ways of communicating.

A fan of the 1980’s TV show ‘Knight Rider’ created his own talking car — watch the video

There is some potential for our communication in the future to look very much like this —

2 Siri’s Talking to Each Other — Guy Costello

3. Our cities will change

Mind you, AVs don’t park, and they get no speeding tickets either. These facts are bound to change more then just the taxis industry, it will impact on the police force, the taxing mechanisms and the space reserved for parking in our cities.

Read more here

There is much more here to be discussed and debated. Based on these facts, there is a lot going to be changed in the near future, and a major change like the ownership of cars and loosing the driving skill to move them around is bound to impact on more then just the technical side.

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Eitan Reich. I simplify complexity and help you make it easy to use