I was leading a panel discussion about the challenges and requirements of working in the autonomous mobility space and the director of recruiting for Zoox gave a very insightful response to a question from the audience;
"There aren't any playbooks for what we're doing in the autonomous vehicle space right now. We're creating them as we go."
That's both an exciting and intimidating position to be in and I couldn't agree more, but what concerns me are those who are working from a different assumption; the belief that we should be using humans as the standard/playbook for autonomous vehicles.
There's a saying that I often refer to in matters like these; "Consider the Source". You wouldn't take financial management advice from the panhandler on the street or fashion advice from someone who dresses like a clown, so why should we use humans (who have proven over the past hundred years that we're terrible drivers) as the standard for driving?
The promise of autonomous mobility is a level of perception, reaction, decision-making and safety far beyond anything we currently know or experience.
Creating autonomous systems that drive as good as humans simply isn't good enough. We need disruptive creativity in this space. We need to set aside the limitations that are endemic with human driving and instead be thinking about what is the best way to get from point A to point B (and this goes for both terrestrial and airborne experiences). We need to be designing autonomous systems from that perspective. Exactly what Georgina at Zoox was talking about; creating the playbooks as we go.
If all we wind up with at the end of this journey are autonomous vehicles that drive as poorly as humans do, we've all lost.
So let's stop thinking about humans as any kind of gold standard for driving. We've gotten this far at the cost of many millions of lives.
Let's set the standard much higher - even if that means reinventing the entire experience and retiring the idea of humans driving altogether. Are you ready for that challenge?