The Ultimate Passenger Machine

The future? Robots?

The concept of intelligent automation was certainly on Autodesk’s CEO, Carl Bass’ agenda when he ruminated about the driverless car during his AU 2016 keynote speech. Carl noted that we are at the point where BMW’s ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ will shortly be replaced by the ‘Ultimate Passenger Machine’.


Going to my machine, I ask Google what is the “Ultimate Passenger Machine”. My top hit is showing me the 2010 BMW 550i GT. Admittedly the article is a little out of date, but there’s not a mention of an automated James to ferry us about. Yet the future is pushing for driverless transportation: Uber, Google, MIT, Tesla driving furiously up that road. Even trusty Ford can now park your car and warn of impending hazards. Of course there are the scaremongers that profess it’s not safe, citing the first autopilot fatality  with the Model S as proof.

But are you happy with the direction of automation? It does seem inevitable. Elaborate on this paradigm further and you enter the sci-fi world of AI, fantasizing of iRobot, HAL 9000 or Ex Machina. These malevolent portrayals were programmed to learn and survive, eventually turning the tables on those they were programmed to serve. Far fetched?


Not dwelling though on the philosophical or ethical question AI poses, we can see that some form of AI has arrived. Alexa, Cortana and Siri all responding to your requests; the chess game competing and winning against the Grand Master, the Roomba swirling and sucking the dust around your home. More on the latter later.

Mr. Bass sees the progression away from driving the machine to the machine driving us. I tend to disagree. I do not see my two pre-teen boys emulating the passenger. They are the passenger now and all they want is to get behind the wheel. They want to drive. Control the machine. They race their simulations and want to beat the machine, not having it control them.

Back to the Roomba: I wanted one for my home. My first domestic Robot serving its master kinda appealed. I hated our previous vacuum, it sucked! Sorry for the pun. It was time for change and the Roomba captured my imagination. The problem was that I needed a cleaner that didn’t go on a circuit but targeted the area of messiness normally caused by my 6 year old; at the same time, determining what was good to pick up and which Lego pieces to ignore. Unfortunately this kind of intelligent determination the Roomba lacked. It works fine for spacial awareness and sucking, or a vehicle for that joyriding cat, but that’s it. In the end I opted for the cordless Dyson V8 as it gave me the ability for the important, human determined surgical strike.As we are fast approaching an age of machine intelligence, I believe we should focus truly on advantageous and meaningful applications and this couldn’t be more apt for the driverless car – great for getting me home after one too many, finding a parking spot or returning home after taking me to the airport. It does not, however, capture my imagination or inspire – something us humans desire…

And by the way, don’t we have already too many cars on the road?

What do you think? Please comment and let me know your thoughts….


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