L.a. Noire

L.a. Noire

Spectacular exceptions, on the other hand, can be found in California and in Germany (Braunschweig). Here, robot car prototypes take part in regular road traffic on a trial basis, including in urban areas. Vehicle manufacturers and universities are involved in the development of autonomous cars, as is the Internet service provider Google. In the race for the first robot car suitable for series production, competitors are relying on different strategies. Google, for example, hopes for intelligence based on sheer mass of knowledge – Google cars reel off millions of miles and collect environmental data. The other approach stems from research into artificial intelligence. How can a computer emulate human thinking??

Those who act and react have to make decisions all the time. Sometimes it's not just about zeros and ones, but about people and ethical issues. A car may have to decide whether it is better to drive around a pedestrian or into oncoming traffic.

The decision also raises the question of responsibility. And of course after the liability. If a robot car injures a human being, is the manufacturer to blame?? The owner? The user? Or the programmer? Or the one who modified and adapted the program? The Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, adopted by the United Nations in 1968, still applies – and this categorically excludes autonomous vehicles up to now – which so inimitably states in Article 8, Paragraph 5: "Every driver must be able to control his vehicle or guide his animals at all times." But in the meantime, there are serious legal experts who discuss the responsibility and liability of autonomous machines. For the time being, every autonomous prototype will have a technician behind the wheel. As a final precaution. Precisely for legal reasons.

What the car of the future will look like depends not only on laws and technical progress, but also on us, the customers. How far do we follow the automotive industry on the road to fully automated cars??

We have already traveled a good part of the way almost unnoticed. We have given the on-board computer access to the brakes, engine control, steering (in case of skidding). We even let a friendly voice dictate the route to us. Are we still surprised that the windshield wiper turns itself on when it rains, or the light in the tunnel? Not to mention the many airbags that jump out at us from all sides in the event of an accident. But the question is: Are we prepared to give up overall responsibility??

Car calls traffic light

Everything speaks for the fact that also in the future the assistants in the car will multiply. Creeping, because in no case should this be perceived as incapacitation. We customers don't like that at all.

The car of the near future will therefore not yet be autonomous, but it will have a lot of electronic assistance systems. The decisive factor will be how well the car is embedded in the data stream of the traffic infrastructure or, in other words, how well the vehicle gets along with traffic lights, traffic signs or traffic services. With suppliers of exact GPS data? Does my car talk to other cars nearby about dangers and obstacles?? The car of the future will be an information collection point. The info is not only picked up by human-like sensors, but increasingly by radio.

As part of the large traffic data stream, the car of the future will increasingly become the object of higher-level traffic control strategies. In this light, we will never be able to speak of a truly autonomous vehicle. For maximum speed limits and overtaking bans will actively influence it. Detour recommendations become detour commands. And all with good reason: environment. Security. Accident-free traffic. The beautiful vision of autonomy is in reality: remote control!

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