Automotive Purchasing News Review 21 July 2014 - page 2

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21 July 2014
automotive purchasing
Automotive Purchasing
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TheDrewHillierColumn
Right saidFed
The very week which saw former Ford boss Alan Mulally joining the board of Google, tasked
with driving forward the search engine behemoth’s much-vaunted push into the Brave New
World of autonomous cars, media outlets ran with a peculiarly parallel story that the US
Federal Bureau of Investigation has become increasingly jittery over the potential for such
vehicles to be used as weapons. And, of course, there’s also squashed kittens to consider!
The timing of Mulally’s appointment could surely not have been better choreographed,
given how recent weeks have witnessed a ramping up of the rhetoric around Google’s so-
called self-driving technology.
The joy of surrealism, as any student of René Magritte will tell you, hinges upon the fact
that while its constituents are simple, the underlying ramifications can often be complex; thus,
from "Ceci n'est pas une pipe", I give you: "Ce n'est pas un voiture”! For, along with the serious
conversations, two diametrically opposed (yet curious convergent) takes on driverless cars
have reverberated with such resonance as would surely not be lost on old René… had he
managed to hang on for another half-century or so in order to witness it!
No sooner had the 68-year-old ex-Ford CEO been confirmed in post, apparently well
ahead of the expected time-frame, an internal FBI report was leaked to Britain’s Guardian
newspaper which, in essence, indicates how the spooks are actively brainstorming what they
perceive as the potentially nefarious uses for driverless tech. It seems the government agency
has dreamed up all sorts of nightmare scenarios about how criminals might exploit cars no
longer in need of a driver, many of which aren’t even possible given the current technological
limits. Nevertheless, autonomous vehicles "will have a high impact on transforming what law
enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car," according to the dossier.
Criminal multitasking
Featuring among the principal fears outlined by agents in the Strategic Issues Group
within the Bureau’s Directorate of Intelligence, the report imagines a high-speed chase
where a criminal flips a switch into auto mode and can freely turn around and shoot at police.
Furthermore, whilst it believes that autonomous cars could be approved by Congress for use
by the American public within the next five to seven years, the FBI asserts how “autonomy…
will make mobility more efficient, but will also open up greater possibilities for dual-use
applications and ways for a car to be more of a potential lethal weapon that it is today”. In
other words, a terrorist could load one up with a bomb and send the model on its way with
on one inside.
Striking a concessionary note, the report also acknowledges how hands-free driving
is a double-edged sword, noting how autonomous cars making surveillance easier. Law
enforcement officers could more easily tail a specific vehicle from farther away, and they
would be unencumbered to take photos or video.
Cat-a-strophic
But what about those poor little kittens, I hear you ask? Well, a wonderful spoof ad has
gone viral across social media. The lightly-edited video put together by satirical US chat show
host Conan O’Brien hits the spot exquisitely: in less than one minute, the parody captures
both the excitement and fear of Google’s cutting-edge robotics, purporting to show its cutesy
cartoon-like two-seater in full-on driverless mode, not only devoid of steering wheel, gears or
brake pedal, but lacking mercy as well, leaving in its wake a trail of flattened cats and side-
swiped pensioners, culminating with the entire car self-destructing in an ‘I’m afraid I cannot
let you do that Dave’ Space Odyssey moment!
Go Google it.
It may seem easy to either dismiss the car as dangerous or scary, or eagerly
accept it as the future we’ve all been waiting for. However, all aspects of safety,
driver and/or manufacture responsibility, current technical limitations,
the future of driving and the environment
must be thoroughly analyzed. Soon there will
even be self-driving car regulations put out by
California’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
Responding to such fears as expressed by the
FBI, Google – for its part – says its driverless
vehicles are “designed to operate safely
and autonomously without requiring
human intervention. Our software
and sensors do all the work. The
vehicles will be very basic but
they will take you where you
want to go at the push of a
button.”
Whilst the tech is very
impressive, it is perhaps
fair to say Google doesn’t
know the car industry.
However,
having
someone on board of
Mulally’s calibre who
knows why people
buy cars is going
to be a huge
plus. How much
he knows about
kittens remains to
be seen!
“[Autonomous cars] will have a high
impact on transforming what law
enforcement and its adversaries can
operationally do with a car.”
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