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Letter: Balancing humans, machines is vital as cars take the wheel

General Motors is much in the news these days with its recent announcement of massive layoffs. One of the reasons oft repeated by GM is that electric and autonomous vehicles are the future and they want to concentrate on the development of these vehicles.

Electric vehicles the future – maybe – time will tell. But autonomous vehicles? I have my doubts.

Certainly, they would have their place in the market. Visually impaired individuals, persons with physical limitations, the elderly who have lost the ability to drive on their own all would benefit. For the majority of drivers though I’m not sure it would be the boon that some parts of the industry seem to envision.

It would seem to be a next step in the increasing push of technology into vehicles whether or not the market actually is asking for it.

We worry about distracted driving yet we have screens and “infotainment” systems in vehicles that increase the opportunities for distraction. Taking things to the next step and fully automating the tasks of driving just because we can is a dubious proposition.

One cause for concern is the inherent imperfectability of computer systems. Instances of supposedly secure computer systems being compromised regularly appear in the news. Computer hardware and software “bugs” I believe will always be with us.

Another factor which seems to have been left out of the autonomous vehicle calculus is that many people just like driving. Just because we can (or think we can) doesn’t mean we should.

Turning tasks, including driving, completely over to automation I think deserves more thought than it has tended to be given to date.

There needs to be a balance between human and machine participation in the tasks that make society and a meaningful way of life possible.

Human beings need a purpose in life to make life meaningful – no one thrives on being superfluous.

Brian Rose

East Amherst

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