Money doesn’t make your ideas any good, man!
That’s a Tesla absolutely creaming a little dummy child in a test outside the Las Vegas Convention Center at CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show, now, stupidly, just “CES”) last week, despite its automatic emergency braking system, which is supposed to not cream dummy children, or even regular children.
Here it seems good to note that autonomous self-driving—the theoretical end goal of the assorted bouquets of less sophisticated automation that include the emergency braking on test in this video—is a doomed, pointless, and wasteful vanity project in even the best case. Cars themselves likely have an at-best profoundly diminished presence in any vision of a sustainable human future, regardless of who or what’s steering them; besides, once you get past applications (freight trucking on interstate highways, for example) better handed back over to trains, you could list on zero fingers the worth-a-damn benefits of safe, truly autonomous self-driving vehicles to anybody but the vampire-class freaks announcing layoffs in Zoom meetings from inside them. Which maybe doesn’t even matter, since safe, truly autonomous self-driving vehicles may be a pipe dream. A human-driven car that can simply detect an object (or child!) in the road, and brake itself to avoid flattening that object (or child!), is a whole lot less far-fetched than a car that can authentically drive itself: The non-Tesla vehicle in the tweet prior to the Tesla’s failure (its big stupid farfalle-ass grill makes me think Lexus) does manage to detect the dummy child and brake to avoid a collision, which really is all an automatic emergency braking system can be asked to do. The Tesla just plows right over the stupid fake kid and sends him straight to dummy hell.
In fairness, maybe the people running this test simply had forgotten to disengage Flatten All Children mode:
Technology knowers point to Tesla CEO/cult leader Elon Musk’s resistance to adopting LIDAR technology (using laser imaging to detect objects in space) in detection systems as a principal reason for this failure, as well as for the company’s nominally self-driving cars pretty routinely failing the “detecting the outer world and not crashing into the things in it” component of driving. That’s a pretty important part of driving, in my opinion. I do not need a sophisticated artificial intelligence, developed expensively over many years, in order to make a car go heedlessly forward, plowing into and destroying various things and people, failing to brake itself when kids and/or walls appear in front of it; if I ever decide that’s what I want my car to do, a simple brick, applied to the gas pedal, can do that. Assuming nobody smartly shoots me with a tranquilizer dart and transports me to the nearest inpatient mental health facility before I can get around to it.
Oh, hey, speaking of Elon Musk and Tesla cars and dumb ideas about transit! Here’s another video, from literally the same day as the above one, also from the Las Vegas Convention Center:
That’s Tesla cars running into traffic congestion inside “The Loop,” the tunnels installed on convention center grounds by one of Musk’s other companies, The Boring Company, on the very obviously terrible and stupid idea that traffic can be alleviated by sending cars through a confined point-to-point passage in single file. Literally anyone who has used a drive-thru or a toll booth or even a one-lane, one-way city street could have, with bulletproof 100-percent certainty, told anyone curious enough to ask that this is not a way to make traffic move more quickly, but rather a way to make it move much more slowly and with infinitely greater vulnerability to gridlock, but no matter: The idiot tunnel exists, and to the surprise of no one anywhere cannot handle even the visibly small number of cars passing through it in the above video without clogging.
Sometimes I like to imagine a society that makes responsible, collective-minded, forward-looking choices about how to distribute and use wealth. I can’t do it for very long at a stretch because after about 30 seconds I start to feel certain that I must immediately pull my own head off and deposit it into the nearest trash can, but for the first 30 seconds or so it can be a helpful way of putting actual society into perspective. In that imaginary society it doesn’t particularly make a difference to any significant number of people that some deeply mediocre doofus out there named Elon has terrible ideas about transit, or that he does not have any of the wisdom, humility, or accountability that might constrain a worth-a-shit person from heedlessly inflicting any and all of his terrible ideas onto the world. In that world that doofus is just one of many similar anonymous mediocre doofuses; what matters, what dooms their ideas’ chances of becoming reality, is that they are bad in a way that any thinking person can detect at a glance.
That society does not have The Loop in it; in front of no convention center, nor anywhere else, can you find a self-driving Tesla smashing a dummy child to smithereens. That’s about as far as I can get without the risk that I will pour some bleach into my ear, but I’m sure of at least that much.