tended to give the game away. However, now that the technology is shrinking and autonomous cars are starting
to look more normal, it will become increasingly difficult to know when a car
is being driven autonomously. There
is also a reverse argument. Suppose
autonomous vehicles are (or become)
better drivers than humans. Then just
like today when we demand less experienced and capable learner drivers are
identified, we might demand that human drivers are identified apart from
autonomous drivers. A Turing Red Flag
law will achieve this.
Let’s move on to the second area
where a Turing Red Flag law might
start having impact shortly. Consider
virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri or
Microsoft’s Cortana. Here is a recent
conversation I had with Siri:
Siri. What can I help you with?
Q. Are you a computer?
Siri. I can neither confirm nor deny
my current existential status.
Q. Are you a human?
Siri. I’m an assistant. That’s all that
Q. Are you an AI?
Siri. That’s a rather personal question.
Based on conversations like these,
it would appear that Siri is coming
close to violating this proposed Turing Red Flag law. It begins its conversations without identifying itself as a
computer, and it answers in a way that,
depending on your sense of humor,
might deceive. At least, in a few years
time, when the dialogue is likely more
sophisticated, you can imagine being
deceived. Of course, few if any people
are currently deceived into believing
that Siri is human. It would only take
a couple of questions for Siri to reveal
that it is not human. Nevertheless, it is
a dangerous precedent to have technology like this in everyday use on millions
of smartphones pretending, albeit
poorly, to be human.
There are also several more trusting
groups that could already be deceived.
My five-year-old daughter has a doll
that uses a Bluetooth connection to Siri
to answer general questions. I am not
so sure she fully appreciates that it is
just a smartphone doing all the clever
work here. Another troubling group are
patients with Alzheimer’s disease and
other forms of dementia. Paro is a cud-
dly robot seal that has been trialed as
indeed stop, and so save us from having
to brake hard to avoid an accident. As a
second example, if an autonomous car
is driving in front of us in fog, we can
suppose it can see a clear road ahead us-
ing its radar. For this reason, we do not
have to leave a larger gap in case it has
to brake suddenly. As a third example, at
a four-way intersection, we can suppose
an autonomous car will not aggressively
pull out when it does not have right of
way. And as a fourth and final example,
if an autonomous car arrives at a diver-
sion, we might expect it to drive more
slowly as it tries to work out where the
road is now going.
How should an autonomous vehicle identify itself? I don’t suppose
this should be with a person walking
in front with a red flag. This was too
restrictive even back in 1865. Autonomous vehicles might have to carry
distinctive plates, just like we require
learner drivers to identify themselves
on the roads today. Or autonomous vehicles might have to display a magenta
flashing light whenever they are being
operated autonomously. In addition,
autonomous vehicles should broadcast their location, velocity, and autonomy to neighboring vehicles.
In June 2015, Reuters reported
that two autonomous cars, one from
Google and the other from Delphi Automotive Plc, nearly had an accident
on a Silicon Valley street. The Google
car apparently cut off the Delphi car as
it was about to perform a lane change.
The Delphi car then had to take “
appropriate action” to avoid an accident.
Clearly, it would help prevent such incidents if autonomous vehicles were
required to broadcast their location
and intentions. Of course, adequate
safeguards will also need to be put in
place that such broadcasting does not
compromise the privacy of their human occupants.
Once autonomous vehicles are commonplace, other motorists will expect
to meet autonomous vehicles. But
before this time, it will be important
to know that the oncoming vehicle is
somewhat special and may behave differently to a human driver. In the past,
it was less necessary for autonomous
vehicles to identify themselves. There
were few of them and most looked a
little odd. The presence of large rotating LIDAR sensors on their roofs has
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