In my latest Guardian column, The problem with self-driving cars: who controls the code?, I take issue with the "Trolley Problem" as applied to autonomous vehicles, which asks, if your car has to choose between a maneuver that kills you and one that kills other people, which one should it be programmed to do?
The problem with this formulation of the problem is that it misses the big question that underpins it: if your car was programmed to kill you under normal circumstances, how would the manufacturer stop you from changing its programming so that your car never killed you?
There’s a strong argument for this. The programming in autonomous vehicles will be in charge of a high-speed, moving object that inhabits public roads, amid soft and fragile humans. Tinker with your car’s brains? Why not perform amateur brain surgery on yourself first?
But this obvious answer has an obvious problem: it doesn’t work. Every locked device can be easily jailbroken, for good, well-understood technical reasons. The primary effect of digital locks rules isn’t to keep people from reconfiguring their devices – it’s just to ensure that they have to do so without the help of a business or a product. Recall the years before the UK telecoms regulator Ofcom clarified the legality of unlocking mobile phones in 2002; it wasn’t hard to unlock your phone. You could download software from the net to do it, or ask someone who operated an illegal jailbreaking business. But now that it’s clearly legal, you can have your phone unlocked at the newsagent’s or even the dry-cleaner’s.
If self-driving cars can only be safe if we are sure no one can reconfigure them without manufacturer approval, then they will never be safe.
The problem with self-driving cars: who controls the code?
[Cory Doctorow/The Guardian]
In On Smart Cities, Smart Energy, And Dumb Security — Netanel Rubin’s talk at this year’s Chaos Communications Congress — Rubin presents his findings on the failings in the security of commonly deployed smart meters.
If you’re one of the 60% of Pebble employees who didn’t get a job offer from Fitbit, the company’s new owner, you’re probably not having a great Christmas season — but that trepedation is shared by 100% of Pebble customers, who’ve just learned (via the fine print on an update on the Pebble Kickstarter page) […]
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an amazing, long-running open standards body that has been largely responsible for the web’s growth and vibrancy, creating open standards that lets anyone make web technology and become part of the internet ecosystem.
You know as well as I that writing complex, long-long form text requires significant organization. You’re probably also well aware that Word just isn’t up to the task. That’s why I’m a huge fan of Scrivener, the software suite used by best-selling authors and technical writers alike.Scrivener is much more than another digital typewriter. With a […]
Looking to upgrade your weekend? Here are three randomly awesome products on my mind this week.#3 FRESHeBUDS Pro Magnetic Bluetooth EarbudsAs more and more phones and gadgets switch to Bluetooth-only compatibility, you’ll need to get Bluetooth headphones like the rest of us. I’ve been super impressed with these affordable magnetic headphones. Pull the magnetic earbuds apart to auto-connect […]
Traditional folding wallets are designed for paper bills—but these days, carrying cash is rarely a necessity. More often than not, I don’t carry cash at all. This Bogui Clik Wallet is the best answer I’ve found for avoiding the hassle of those tight-fitting credit card pockets.This attractive, minimalist wallet features a protective lip, so my cards don’t […]