Saturday, February 06, 2016

Stanford CSP Scalable Innovation (BUS 134) Session 3, Quiz 1

Autonomous vehicles (formerly known as self-driving cars) can drive safely at fast speeds and maintain short distances between cars, reducing road congestion. Furthermore, electric autonomous vehicles can accelerate and maintain high speeds without dramatically increasing pollution.

On the other hand, human drivers are required to drive under the speed limit and maintain a certain, relatively large, distance between cars, e.g. the Two-Second Rule. Arguably, introduction of modern breaking technologies doesn't reduce the rate of accidents significantly.*

As a result, large-scale deployment of autonomous vehicles creates a situation that involves multiple trade-offs.


1. List trade-offs relevant to the situation (use divergent thinking). Select one (use convergent thinking) that you anticipate to become the most important in the future. What selection criteria did you apply?
2. Propose solutions that can break the trade-off: realistic, futuristic, fantastic, etc.
3. (Bonus 1 - optional). What technology and business opportunities you can create by breaking the trade-off?
4. (Bonus 2 - optional) Using analogical thinking, what solutions from the history of the automobile can you re-use to solve the current situation?

* See, for example, Foolproof: How Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe, by Greg Ip, 2015.

1 comment:

Robert Walsh said...

1. Trade-offs. There are many trade-offs here. For example, not having to drive all the time would be nice, but some people enjoy being in control and find pleasure from driving. Although - I would imagine that the future autonomous cars will give consumers the option to do both, so perhaps that is not a realistic trade off. For me, it is all about safety and human fear. It's human nature to be afraid of significant break through innovations such as this. Afraid might not be the best word to use, but I can imagine the first men/women to enter a rocket to space, were feeling some sort of fear.

My main trade-off is below

Positive: The luxury of being able to sleep while driving.
Trade-off: The driver has zero control if there is an emergency.

Therefor, my decision criteria is: Fear of the worst case scenario. (Does that make sense?)

Personally, I feel that the real problem is whether people feel safe or not. I know that I would find it hard to sleep knowing that a computer programme has my life in its hands while traveling 80mph down a main road, along side multiple other cars.

However, that is no different to being afraid of flying... when you think about it. I think it is only a matter of time before we begin to trust in the ability of the computer programmes built to drive us safely.Just like we have belief in the ability of an airplane now days. The data will speak for itself and it will become clear that autonomous cars are in fact much less likely to crash than humans.

2. Breaking the trade off: Well, lets imagine that the real trade off is the possibility that some mechanical failure leads to an emergency where by the passenger's life is in extreme danger. How do we break the trade off?

Answer: I guess the easiest way to counter this, would be to offer consumers some protective capsule. Imagine a comfortable, transparent, human sized capsule that is developed with protective material and also has an embedded communication device to allow the consumer to contact people for help.

I would really need a pen and paper to show you what I am imaging. But with the direction that advanced material is likely to progress, one can imagine we will be able to create impact resistant (not 100% resistant obviously) cars. So perhaps, a car that can take the force of hitting a wall at 100mph and not fall apart, that would be a pretty nice solution.

3. Well, if we were to create some material that gave us the ability to create cars that were almost impact resistant, you could apply it to ever means of transport. However, that is a bit far fetched. Who knows...

4. I think it is very simple. If we reduce the number of cars on the road, the probability of any car crashing into any other car, is reduced. Simply because there is less of them. So car sharing of autonomous cars would help reduce the chances of collisions and overall deaths.