Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Audi's Self-Parking Car Brings Us One Step Closer to the Robopocalypse

Listen people. We've been through this before. I thought I made myself clear. And I am not one who likes to have the same conversation twice. (You can imagine how, being a subject matter expert at work, this might be a bit of a handicap for me in the workplace. But let's move on.) I thought we agreed that self-driving cars are freakish. And way, way ahead of my their time.

And now this: Audi has made a self-parking car.

Oh, it's not park assist, my friends. It's a freaking Google-like self-driving your-car-is-its-own-valet self-parking car. And OMFG it creeps me the hell out.

From the driver exiting the vehicle at the entrance of the parking lot, to the car locating a space on its own, to backing in, the whole thing is right out of James Bond movies. But then if that's not enough, the driver comes back and summons her car! And it comes to her like an obedient, 4,000 lb metal dog.

Now you'll note a couple of things: it's raining, so she gets to stay all nice and dry and doesn't have to make her way outside to the parking lot. Aw, that's nice. But the car also manages to get through the pay station without forking over a dime. Which means that this was rigged for the video; so really, what this means is that you're going to be using this technology inside the parking lot. So, it's likely made for people who can never remember where they park. They can just designate a standing zone and then wait there for their car to come and find them.

Of course, this begs so many questions: What if a kid ran in front of the car? What if it got cut off by another driver? What if you stay in the car and try to maneuver it into a spot and it argues with you, insisting there is a better one over there? What if there are impatient drivers behind this slow-moving self-parking car, honking like SOBs and getting mightily angry with your when they realize that's your car? What if every single car in the parking lot was self-parking and you were still stuck in a lineup of pedestrians waiting for their vehicles? How is that any better?

Now, I'm familiar with today's park assist technology. Hubby's car has it. And it freaks me out every time he uses it. As I said when I wrote about the Google car, sure computer reaction time is better than human, but there are some things that my little human brain is just not yet ready to fathom. And the sight of a parking lot full of self-driving, self-parking vehicles is about as close to the robot apocalypse as I can think of. (Although I might be willing to concede if it means I could have my own Transformer...)

Watch this and tell me if you think I'm crazy? (Wait, let me rephrase that...)






FYI: I’m this month's speaker at Girl Geek Dinner Ottawa. Join me on Wednesday, January 30th for some IRL geeky goodness. For more info, check out the event details and a sneak peek at my talk.

1 comment:

Asante sana, squash banana, we we nugu, mi mi apana! said...

i think it's a neat concept, and I hope the technology is perfected and integrated into average consumer pricing so I can afford one in my lifetime. But ...
my city dwelling mind jumps to all the social interaction scenarios like .. what if you and another self-parking car get there at the same time, who gets the spot? What if the parking is paid, who/what handles payments (presumably the smart car and smart app people would work with city parking lots to digitize that too).
next Q, what happens if you park in spots that are rotational and so on. would city maps include this detailed parking information so that cars can update their maps and know where not to park?

the everyday use of these cars could be a bit of a challenge (as i see it right now). but I could name - off the top of my head - a hundred people who need to use self-parking cars, like NOW.
i'd start selling those cars at Loblaws parking lots, where people really can.not.park.

I also can't imagine insurance companies are pleased with the robotification of these low-hanging-insurance fruit :)