Texting Bans

Robocars: The Real Solution to Texting While Driving and …


Texting image

… drinking, finding decent radio stations, slurping hot coffee, reading tiny GPS maps, enjoying a hamburger, fixing make-up, shaving, and having sex too while on the road. This observation was provoked by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood's announcement today that texting while driving is now banned for drivers of commercial trucks and buses. Lots of states already ban all texting while behind the wheel.

Electronic Frontier Foundation Board chairman Brad Templeton has the real solution to distracted driving—robocars. He argues that it will soon be possible to install enough computing power in automobiles that they can drive themselves, enabling passengers to wile away their transit time with more enjoyable activities. Templeton's most intriguing test for the safety of self-driving autos is his school of fish test. As he describes it:'

In this test, a swarm of robocars of different types moves on a track. The skeptic is given a regular vehicle to drive in the swarm. If the vehicles pass the test, the skeptic can't hit a robocar no matter what they do. They can swerve, brake suddenly, even go against traffic and, so long as the traffic is not packed at an unsafe density, they can't hit a robocar or get one to hit them.

In an alternate version of the test, a pedestrian goes out into the flow and tries to touch a robocar. If they pass, no touch can be made. This is like a diver swimming with a school of fish. It's next to impossible to touch one of the fish.

Go here for Templeton's roadmap to the robocar future.