Believe it or not, 'real' (as in our world and not fiction) pilotless automobiles were around...when the original Knight Rider was airing on NBC for the first time. Mind you. It wasn't very mobile, at the time. Said van housed a massive PC in the back and could drive a whole three feet by itself...every half hour! We're talking 1980 computer technology, driving a vehicle. Today, this project is still alive. It now drives down the LA freeways at a whopping 70 miles per hour...AND STILL ONLY LOOKS THREE FEET IN FRONT OF WHERE IT'S GOING! Oh...but, wait. Today's engineering minds are hard at work, making far better A.I. driven vehicles for the U.S. Government. After all, automated Army vehicles are a fantastic way to deliver supplies in dangerous war zones. And, this kind of technology is on it's way to the public, at some point. Hince why we need to start creating rules and regulations for their arrival.
There are good and bad points. Here. I'll point out a personal one from just last night. I was driving in an unfamiliar area, trying to find a spot at a crowded gas station. It was night time. So, as I'm looking for an open place and maneuver for a potential pump spot, I turn my wheel. My attention is gazing over several places under the station's lights and for other vehicles that might be competing for that same spot. The GPS is yammering on about making this...no, THAt...no, recalculating turn. When my head lamps catch sight of this woman that's walking from her darkly positioned car and I step on the brakes. We exchange glances as she walks into the lit area. To think, if I had been just a little more distracted, I would have mowed her down. Having some kind of computer there to detect her presence would have been extremely useful.
Let that settle in for a moment...
Sometimes, Human judgement is just not enough. We can be great drivers, yet caught in a second of distraction that leads to tragedy. It can be a true life saver to have that extra A.I. driven mind that is always looking out for potential problems and apply life saving steps.
In a perfect world, we'd already have this fantastic technology in our vehicles. It's just not perfect enough to trust them. Computers can malfunction or become tainted with malware or poorly written software. Knight Rider already covers some of that ground. If a chip undervolts, freezing up the machine's mind, a vehicle can easily become like an unguided missile. If an on-board CPU is in any way at risk of accepting a virus, (Believe it or not, a fair deal of today's vehicle computers DO have virii on-board. This happens when a vehicle is brought into the service shop and the shop plugs the vehicle into THEIR computer for information exchange and diagnosis. The shop's computer turns out to have net access and has acquired the virus. The sneaky intruder slips into the unprotected vehicle's computer and sits there. It probably treats this computer like it would an IPod or a memory stick...as a transfer host on it's way to infect another PC. Or...maybe...just maybe...it knows how to do infective things to the vehicle. Say, reduce gas mileage or something.) then the last thing you want is for the computer to have full access to steering, accelleration, braking, navigation, etc., if it gets some kind of Destroy.exe program into it's works. We're talking a real life Killer K.I.T.T. scenario, here.
Then, of course, I have just got to make a quick reference to Grand Theft Auto's driving simulation. It's rather quite comical to witness. I mean it. Just stand around and watch a four way intersection in the game. At first, traffic will usually flow as it should. But, the engine...even regularing everything in a controllable, artificial world, will fall apart in a matter of minutes. It will grid lock and cause accidents without the slightest bit of chaos from your player. I should hope that a real world navigation system could do the job a billion times better then that game ever could.
Basically, I'm saying that there's a million valid reasons to debate why there should AND should not be a computer in partial or complete control over a vehicle. I'm just saying that it's coming. And, I can only hope that they somehow get it right...and know that they'll probably do it wrong, many times over.