There is no end to the list of questions—some of immediate concern, others exclusively the province of science fiction—we humans would like answered about the always-just-around-the-corner-but-never-quite-here technology of artificial intelligence. Will robots replace the working class? Will we wake up one day and find ourselves prisoners of The Matrix? Will realistic robots replace human relationships? Will AI supersede humans, rendering us obsolete altogether?
By comparison to these big, world-changing questions, the question I want to pose here deals with a more imminent and tangible matter: What, if any, paradigm shifts can we expect should we succeed in building genuine self-driving cars? The current discussion has addressed an array of legitimate concerns that can be summarized as a cost-benefit analysis:
Benefits: improved safety, reduced traffic congestion, better public transportation, improved fuel efficiency, car sharing, higher speed limits, elimination of drunk/distracted driving, reallocation of police resources, less parking infrastructure, increased freedom for the elderly, young, and disabled.
Costs: high price of vehicles and infrastructure, complexity of equipment, possible need to ban human drivers altogether (implying a wrenching transition period), security concerns (hacking), loss of transportation jobs (taxis, truckers), legal/ethical/regulatory issues, unreliability of vehicles, loss of driving skills, fear of relinquishing control, insufficient GPS/map accuracy/completeness, potential low acceptance rate by driving enthusiasts.