The hype about autonomous vehicles misses one key point: that humans will still be vitally necessary for a very long time.
AI is sophisticated enough to take over the basic function of driving a vehicle, but driving entails so much more than just navigating a car. Human beings perform a vast variety of tasks in a car, and much of that job is dealing with other humans. Look at the role of the driver: only a part of his or her attention is focused on actually operating the vehicle. There are also ongoing interactions with others in the car—”Uh-oh, Michael is carsick and about to throw up! Can you turn down the music?” “Hey, you two kids had better stop fighting or I’m going to pull over.” Or, for example, if another car is about to cut you off, your passengers will automatically check to see if you are aware of the situation and are prepared to react.
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