Gongol.com Archives: May 2015

Brian Gongol

May 7, 2015

Science and Technology Self-driving semi trucks are a reality
But it could take another ten years for them to hit the highways. Nevada has favorable rules for self-piloted cars, so this demonstration probably won't be the last. In the long run, self-driving trucks make utter sense: The trucking companies have a huge financial incentive to gain efficiency, reduce risks, and reduce costs. Other groups that will be key to the adoption of autonomous vehicles: Outside sales forces with large territories to cover, and the elderly and physically disabled. ■ One important caveat: The acceptance and adoption of self-piloted vehicles depends upon them being seen as iterative improvements in the safety of human driving, rather than as a replacement for it (even if that's the logical ultimate goal). We humans have established a very high baseline for the number of casualties we accept due to road travel when a human is behind the wheel. Americans tolerate more than 32,000 road deaths a year, or about 90 a day. That number has declined a lot since the 1990s (probably because the vehicles themselves are increasingly safe for the people inside), since the number of crashes hasn't really changed much in that time. But if 90 people were to die every day due to plane crashes, the public would lose its mind -- because our baseline expectations for air-travel deaths is near zero. It follows that with our baseline expectation for deaths involving autonomous vehicles on the roadways also at or near zero, the public will lose its mind if it sees people dying in self-driving cars, no matter the logic for their implementation. A frightened public is primed to do a lot of stupid things, like banning self-piloted cars. Acceptance hinges on autonomous technology being perceived as a tool that reduces the number of crashes by making human driving safer, not as a separate category of travel altogether. Of course, that may require acknowledging that human drivers are pretty unsafe for a lot of reasons. ■ Flashback: "The first mass audiences for self-piloted vehicles will probably be the trucking industry..." (2012) ■ Also: Savings from self-driving cars (2010)

Business and Finance Mountain View city council rejects Google's crazy campus plan
LinkedIn gets the bulk of the property in question instead. Google isn't happy about the decision, which the city council tried to spin as an attempt at ensuring economic diversity (Google already owns a lot of Mountain View). At first glance, it sounds like the city has a heavy-handed role in planning, which is generally undesirable. But, assuming the power is adequately restrained from abuse, they're probably right to be skeptical of depending too heavily upon a single employer. Google's plans went beyond ambitious and tripped over into silliness.

Broadcasting David Letterman thinks viral videos signal it's time for him to go

Computers and the Internet IBM's Watson: First it won Jeopardy, and now it invents recipes
Natural-language processing of thousands of recipes from Bon Appetit gives Watson a starting point to invent new recipes altogether

News The Brown Institute is closing its Twin Cities campus
The college for broadcasters is moving to online-only instruction

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