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Friday, January 25, 2013

Driverless Driving - Another Technological Revolution Caused By....

   The driverless car currently not only exists but has been licensed for regular road use inn Nevada other states are going that way too. Since the most difficult bit is the pregramming to allow ut it is likely that when it gets going and the cost effects of mass production come in costs will drop in the same way all electronic/computer systems do.

   Doubtless here we see the Luddites with an FUD (spread fear, incertainty and doubt) campaign tell us that it has not yet been proven that there could be no bad effects that haven't been considered. This is the standard tactic and works, so long as you have a media monopoly, for anything. Fraccing - who can say it might not have some unforeseen effect; GM food - who can say that an unforeseen effect might not turn yout great grandchildren green: video cassettes - who can say it won't pervert children; steam trains - who can say the humans will not die if they travel at 20 mph; nuclear power - who can say that unknown geological processes will not, centuries from now release an unknown amount of radiation with unknown consequences? In none of these cases is any sort of evidence needed and indeed the less evidence and less specific the allegation the more room for scare stories there is.

    However in countries not run by Luddites the driverless car revolution may take off remarkably quickly. This is from Forbes (HT Next Big Future)

  The driverless car has broad implications for society, for the economy and for individual businesses. Just in the U.S., the car puts up for grab some $2 trillion a year in revenue and even more market cap. It creates business opportunities that dwarf Google’s current search-based business and unleashes existential challenges to market leaders across numerous industries, including car makers, auto insurers, energy companies and others that share in car-related revenue.

Because people consistently underestimate the implications of a change in technology—are you listening, Kodak, Blockbuster, Borders, Sears, etc.?—and because many industries face the kind of disruption that may beset the auto industry, I’m going to do a series of blogs on the ripple effects that the driverless car may create. I’m hoping both to dramatize the effects of a disruptive technology and to illustrate how to think about the dangers and the opportunities that one creates.

....I’ll explore how real the prospects are for driverless cars. (Hint: The issue is when, not if—and when is sooner than you think.)

   However  the point I want to make, which is even more important than a single multi-trillion dollar technological revolution, is the social/governmental environment which cuasesw the technology to be developed.      I gave discussed driverless cars before here - with respect to the how that basic technology was developed.   AN AMERICAN GOVERNMENT X-PRIZE WORKS

..... so far as I knew, the only government sponsored X-Prize in the world. Well it turns out that the US Army put up $3 million of prizes & it worked:

"August 18, 2009: The U.S. Army's decades long effort to develop a practical autonomous UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) has succeeded. Earlier this month, two T2 vehicles equipped with sensors and control equipment, successfully passed realistic tests...

Two years ago, for the third time since 2004, the U.S. Department of Defense sponsored a race for robotic vehicles. For several decades, the U.S. Department of Defense has been trying to build a robotic vehicle. But in early 2004, the Department of Defense decided to try something different, and give enterprising civilian organizations a chance to show what they could do. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) held the DARPA Grand Challenge. Put simply, the first robotic vehicle (moving completely under software control, with no human intervention) that could complete a 240 kilometer course, would get a million dollars for its designers. No one even came close. But a second Challenge, held in late 2005, yielded several finishers, and the first one picked up the million dollar prize for navigating a 212 kilometers cross country course in just under seven hours. All vehicles operated under software control, as true robots. The third "Challenge" race was held in late 2007, and had a two million dollar prize for the first vehicle to complete a 60 kilometer course through an urban environment (an abandoned air force base) in under six hours...

The DARPA Challenge races have been a bonanza in terms of advancing the state of the art for robotic vehicles. For less than $10 million in prize money and expenses, the Department of Defense has created new technology that would have otherwise cost more than $100 million, and taken a lot longer to perfect."

   One wouldn't have to have a high proportion of government sponsored  million dollar X-prizes create trillion dollar industries (a million times more) for it to be far and away, probably by orders of magnitude, the best use government, or society, could make of our resources.

    I think this case, on its own, proves the case for prizes (and there are many many other cases through history from longitude to the first plastic). 

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