How should you behave as a human driver when you are faced with a traffic jam of robotic cars? How can you win on a road system dominated by robots?
In just a few year’s time, we can expect to have large numbers of vehicles on the road operated not by humans but “automated driving systems” – in other words robotic cars or robots.
Frankly I can’t wait for the day to arrive, since this is clearly going to be an uneven battle. A human using trickery and guile can easily win over a safety-orientated, risk-adverse piece of space junk. It is also going to be a lot of fun – just like taking candy from a kid but without the social remorse.
The name of the driving game won’t change. It is still how to get from A to B as quickly as possible. In a human world this means being more alert than your fellow humans and executing clever manoeuvres (lane changes, quick accelerations) without getting too many honks or exasperated gestures. It is surprisingly rewarding to gain even the smallest advantage on the road.
Now imagine you are a lone human driver faced with a traffic jam of automated vehicles. The human occupants of the other cars will be oblivious to the outside world with their heads sunk into their gaming/ video/ social media world of their handheld devices. Many of the cars will even be empty being on parking or pick-up assignments.
Each car driving itself is programmed for maximum safety. The software’s logic will do whatever it can to avoid accidents leaving a wide safety margin and reacting dramatically to prevent a crash. This is the robot’s first weakness you can exploit. You want to change lane? Just signal and move across without even a glance. The robots will leave ample safety distance for you to exploit and be remarkably adept at avoiding you even in your most outrageous move.
Second the robot can’t predict or even influence your actions as a human. There will be no eye-to-eye contact to communicate they have seen your game and will now not let you in for a lane change. No flashing smile from a young driver in a side road that weakens you into giving up your slot in the queue. No threat of a honk or shaking of the fist that prevents you from performing your most daring manoeuvres.
Thirdly, as in the case of all computers, it does not feel or enjoy the thrill of the competition or the pleasure of a win. It is just executing lines of code reflecting the priorities of its corporate author. You as a human with your competitive juices and success endorphins coursing through your veins will be the much more motivated competitor.
On the road you will quickly learn that in a game of chicken, the robot loses every time.
Welcome to the real world computer game where you, the human, will be the winner.