This semester I’ve been taking Stanford’s Introduction to Artificial Intelligence in my spare time. The course is fantastic, and I’m learning a lot. One of the best things about the course is how practical it is. Artificial Intelligence is not science fiction any more.
Sebastian Thrun, one of the professors, is a charming guy. Not only that, but he’s working on solving the single largest cause of death: car accidents. He approaches the topic from a less dire angle: if you commute via car, you’re probably wasting a ton of time in rush hour. People care as much about danger as they do about wasting time.
Since I first started taking public transit with some regularity (note that I’ve never commuted by public transit), I’ve always been a enthusiastic fan. Cars, and how we waste time riding, maintaining, paying for them, and recovering from accidents, drives me insane. I always thought the solution was more buses, more trains and light rail, and cities that are built for pedestrians. I think that those are good goals, but I’ve never had a good answer for how we’ll get by completely without cars. Car co-ops like Communauto seem like a good compromise. But that still has us controlling multi-tonne behemoths that kill (with less practise).
A driverless car would solve all my complaints. If we shared them, it would be cheaper and more efficient. They could act as taxis and deliverers. We wouldn’t waste time looking for that perfect parking spot (boy do I hate waiting for someone to drive a few laps around a parking lot.) But first and foremost, it would be cheaper, and we’d die less.
And if you just bought a Ferrari, well, I’m sure you can enjoy your purchase for a few years yet.