Q&A: Why Fully Autonomous Robot Cars Hail from the 20th Century


An MIT engineer and historian argues that self-driving cars and other robotic systems should still keep humans in the loop.

A vision of fully autonomous, self-driving cars allowing human owners to nap or read in the car seems to come from the future. But David Mindell, a historian and electrical engineer at MIT, says that the idea of such fully autonomous vehicles roaming the streets represents a more rigid vision left over from the last century. Mindell casts some doubt over the current course along which Google and other huge tech companies are racing to build self-driving cars that don’t require any human supervision.

In his new book, released this month, titled, “Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy” (Viking/Penguin), Mindell envisions a future in which humans are kept in the loop for (mostly) self-driving cars and other robotic technologies, rather than taking them completely out of the equation. To back up his argument, he points to historical examples such as the U.S.-Soviet space race, remotely-controlled underwater submersibles, autopilot systems in commercial aviation, and the rise of drones.

Read the source article at IEEE Spectrum