Blog 2: The Next Arms Race

Over our history, the world has always been defined by the creation of technology. The invention of the wheel was one of the reasons that Ancient Mesopotamia was so incredibly successful.  Inventions of writing, gunpowder, etc., all set the course of history on a new path, and changed the hierarchy of the power and influence of civilizations.  The cold war was arguably the greatest arms race in history, and it resulted in the United States being the world dominant power.  The newest arms race, is defining the capabilities of what previously manned operations can now be completed autonomously, and one of the most visible is self driving cars.

However, this race is entirely different than previous races, which were generally defined by countries at war (or at least in direct competition) hoping to discover something that would give an advantage.  Therefore, the advances in technology were kept secret, as the work being done could potentially change the outlook of the entire country.  Patriotism was directly correlated with this research, as everything was being done for the country.

This race is entirely different.  This is not a blind race, hoping to discover something – the goal is in mind.  Implementation of self driving cars is being fought over by the auto industry and technology startups.  Most of the auto companies are partnering with tech startups, essentially having tech divisions for this certain product.  This way, there is already the infrastructure necessary.  However, these partnerships do not seem to be sharing any information with each other, meaning that their approaches to this creation.  For example, reference the picture below.

All of these different partnerships will get the same data, but they will approach the solution in a different way.  While the differences might be subtle, I do not think that the different solutions are all equally effective.  These differences will be minute – could be the method of processing data and choosing what to do, could be the order of performing specific steps.  In nearly every circumstance, the differences will not be noticed, but in the right specific dire situation, it will be critical.

In this case, public perception and acceptance is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.  That is why safety is so important.  Sure these cars will drastically reduce the number of accidents, but people need to feel safe going into these cars.  For them to feel safe, they need essentially 100% certainty that they will not be harmed.  For this reason, safety is of paramount importance. tNow it does not appear that autonomous vehicles will be implemented anytime soon.

The predicted timeline suggests that full autonomous capabilities will be finalized in the next 4 or so years at the most.  If each and every one of these partnerships will have a different system, then there will unfortunately likely be some sort of a hierarchy in the effectiveness of these self driving cars based on safety.  If the price ranges of fully autonomous vehicles is relatively similar, then I believe there will be a couple market leaders.

Now, the question is what does all this mean?  First off, whoever the market leaders are will likely make a ridiculous amount of money, while the unsuccessful implementations will cost billions of dollars. It is interesting how technological advances have gone from changes in a nationwide race for dominance/power to simply different international companies gaining money.  I do think that whatever country implements autonomous vehicles (as well as other autonomous implementations will be evolving more quickly than other countries.  Wherever the world is shifting, those countries will have more manpower, and be better equipped to get ready for what comes next.  Interestingly enough, the fight for autonomous vehicles is being fought over by private companies, but the implementation results still have a country wide effect.  I think that this reinforces that no matter what era the world is in, technology is directly correlated to the hierarchy of the power and influence of countries.

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/14/technology/how-self-driving-cars-work.html

http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/category/self-driving-cars/

Auto industry goes head-to-head with Silicon Valley’s self-driving innovators

One thought on “Blog 2: The Next Arms Race

  1. The idea that autonomous vehicles will consolidate power is very important to consider from a societal perspective. A select few market leaders will make a significant amount of money, and these few will be chosen by those who have the money to build the initial architecture. Not only will the power of car manufacturers be consolidated, but the power of people who labor, such as truck drivers, will be diverted away from individuals and towards these large companies as well. These changes could severely damage the balance of our institutions, and thus, I believe major change will need to be implemented before widespread automation becomes commonplace.

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