Obtain news and background information about sealing technology, get in touch with innovative products – subscribe to the free e-mail newsletter.
Not Automatically Autonomous
Autonomous vehicles seem to be a special species of robot. The differences cannot be justified on either technical or commercial grounds. They lie in our view of driving.
In “The Love Bug,” when a Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie was poised to jump off a bridge one night, even the hardest-core car-haters sympathized with his plight. He was about to be replaced by a red Lamborghini. As absurd as the scene is, the more than 50-year-old Disney film offers a visionary answer to a fundamental question: How do you deal with a robot automobile? We can’t help but talk to it and think our way into this artifact of steel and circuit boards. And we will develop feelings – at any rate, more than we would for the robots that mow our lawns or work next to us in plants.
But why is this the case? From a technical standpoint, a vehicle that propels itself without human intervention is not fundamentally different from a mobile industrial robot. It is certainly equipped with a more extensive system of sensors and higher performance computers, but the basic governing principle is the same: recognize, calculate, take action. The actual difference is not in what the robot vehicle does, but in our view of the activity. As we see it, creating the same weld seam 24 hours a day is a monotonous activity. So is mowing the lawn for an hour every morning. We feel that these activities require little intelligence. They do not evoke powerful emotions. Driving a car, by contrast, is a cognitively demanding activity unless it is traveling straight ahead for hours and hours through the American West at a constrained speed. If a technology can replace us, then, at a minimum, it must be a very special machine. Anything else would threaten our self-image.
This premise is supported by polling on the acceptance of autonomous driving. It is especially high in those markets where driving ability is not held in particularly high esteem. For example, a mobility study by auto supplier Continental found that 89 percent of drivers in China believe the trend toward autonomous vehicles makes sense. In China, if you have a sufficiently high opinion of yourself, you are already driven around by chauffeurs. By contrast, acceptance only reaches 52 percent in Germany, the quintessential automotive nation.
More Stories About Digitalization