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26 July 2009


Russ Steele


A very interesting view of our future. I started working on Intelligent Vehicle Highway Systems (IVHS) in the early 1990s. TRW provided the electronic steering systems in six Dodge vehicles to the PATH Program of the University of California Berkeley, funded by the State of California Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency Department of Transportation (CALTRANS); and the
United States Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. The goal was fully automate vehicles on a specially prepared highways. The concept was platooning, using radar to connect the vehicles into vehicle trains on special highway lanes.

PATH demonstrated the vehicles on special section of I-15 with an HOV lane. In the morning and evening the track carried inbound and out bound traffic to San Diego, the rest of the day it was an automate vehicle test track. Being a grant driven program, it had a lot of starts and stops due to funding limitations. I did not give automate platoons much hope, because the program failed to recognize how people view technology and liability issues. When crap happens, who pays the bill? Caltrans? Insurance? Vehicle Owner? State? Federal Government? No one stepped up!

As we become more and more dependent on robots, and crap happens, who pays the bill? We are a very litigant society, everything that happens to us is someone else's fault. Who will defend the robots in court? Who pays the bill, when the court determines damages. Will we get a fair trial if the judge is a robot? Way too many questions. Way too scary, one day we may wake up and find the robots are replicating themselves and no human has control of the power switch. I am with you, the academics are clueless when it comes to assessing reality.

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