It took less than two hours for Las Vegas’s brand new self-driving shuttle to end up in a crash last Wednesday.
The bus was launched to much fanfare in the Innovation District in downtown Las Vegas. It was developed by French company Navya, and it uses GPS, electronic kerb sensors and other technology to find its way at no more than 15mph. It can seat up to eight people, and some of the people hoping to claim one of those seats on the first day were Nascar driver Danica Patrick and magic duo Penn and Teller.
However, less than two hours in and a lorry had reversed in to it. The lorry driver was at fault for the crash and was cited for illegal backing. No injuries were reported.
It’s a story with a couple of forced metaphors in it for me.
The first was when the makers said that if the lorry had been loaded with all the same tech as the shuttle, the accident would not have happened because the lorry would have avoided the accident. An interesting thought that if we were all the same, would all the problems we have as a society go away? That’s far too much of a philosophical question to deal with now and yes, I’m bottling it, but… society might get along better but we might not be as advanced as we are now. Another flipside being that if we were all the same, life could get pretty boring.
The other metaphor was also hidden in that part about the accident being avoided if the same tech was on both vehicles, because it turns out that the shuttle tried to avoid the accident by simply staying still. If the lorry had have done the same, the collision wouldn’t have happened.
To a lay person, it looks like the program running the shuttle sees a hazard in front of it and stops. It doesn’t account for something moving towards it, only it moving towards something. In this circumstance, the shuttle didn’t reverse to try to avoid the collision.
I’ve always been a believer in the ability to move backwards. My uncle has a philosophy that he’ll always say “no” first up because that gives him more chance to change his made than an initial commitment. I think a lot of people get caught up with having to always move forward that they forget that, sometimes, what they actually want is something that they already had.
I’m trying not to say that in a defeatist manner. The ability to change ones’ mind is important because it shows an understanding and a fallibility, perhaps honesty, that something else hasn’t worked quite as expected. Nowadays, though, I think there’s a pressure from society that we always have to move forward. Part of me thinks that it’s related to blame culture and apportioning fault rather than learning lessons.
For me a situation is only as good as how you use it. With moving forward, well, everyone knows the benefits of exploration. Even standing still can be required at times, to take in what’s happening and plan your next move. For some reason, moving backwards gets a bad rep. I venture that it shouldn’t. Don’t get stuck in the past, but if you need to go back to somewhere else, that’s what you need to do.