Autonomous Cars Still Need Drivers

Google Driverless Car image via Google
Google Driverless Car image via Google

Autonomous Cars, Say No To Software As People

I’ve been writing about, and been supportive of, autonomous or self-driving cars for years now (see HERE). This move I do not support.

In airplanes, the auto-pilot controls the aircraft, but the pilot or co-pilot is still at the controls. I have always seen autonomous cars in the same light. We still sit behind the wheel and have the capability to take over at any time.

While the auto-pilot in the car drives, we can safely talk on the phone, eat food, shave, put on makeup, text away, all while listening to our favorite personalities on the radio or podcasts.

Once you remove the human from the picture, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now going to allow, we are solely dependent on a piece of software from a corporation who will get the government to grant them immunity from their failures, much to the detriment of all of us in the end.

I have insisted that autonomous vehicles NOT be Johnny Cab from Total Recall, and this move is in that direction.

Individual humans still need a level of control on our roadways as long as other humans are driving, since we are the ones who behave in unexpected and erratic ways.

I reject this move by the NHTSA and see it as a move to undermine California where are proposing a law requiring a human driver behind the wheel.

Further, making software algorithms equivalent to a person has some really problematic potential outcomes. Our robots will demand rights as people.

Are you ready for a human-less future?

The Keystone XL Pipeline Veto

I discuss the Keystone XL pipeline veto by President Obama, relay facts regarding the environmental argument, how MIT Professor of Energy Economics Chris Knittel says it will actually reduce carbon emissions, rail versus pipeline safety according to the Washington Post, economic impact of refining in the United States since we don’t allow export of crude oil, and the money behind this fight in the form of rail companies (Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad) versus pipeline companies.

Santa Cruz County Needle Exchange is Failing the Community

Needles Clean Team Santa Cruz
Photo: Clean Team Santa Cruz

Last year I performed a survey and series of interviews on the new Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (HSA) run Syringe Exchange Program (SEP), commonly referred to as a needle exchange.

The HSA run SEP is failing the community and the leadership, both the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors and the HSA, are refusing to address community concerns under the banner of public health.

A quick review, April 30, 2013 the county took over responsibility for exchanging needles from a private group. The purpose of the SEP, according to the county, “the primary goal of the SSP is to work in partnership with the community to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases associated with injection drug use and to address the community’s concern regarding improperly discarded syringes.”

Needles Clean Team
Photo: Clean Team Santa Cruz

Along with six reported sticks (stepping on a used needle penetrating the flesh, typically the foot) three of which were children, and 2,266 needles found in the last 14 months, do these pictures look like the County is fulfilling its stated purpose? I think not.

Since the beginning I have hounded County Supervisors and the HSA to label their needles so we can have data on where these needles are derived: whether SEP, pharmacies, or other outside sources. They refuse to address the labeling issue. They refuse to acknowledge six people stepping on needles. They refuse to recognize the reality of the situation.

In light of this failure to protect the community and the environment, I am forced to retract my previous support for a one-to-one SEP run by the county and call for a complete dismantling of the program until they agree to address community concerns about safety, waste, and the environment.

How can the bureaucrats and politicians continue to ignore such a problem and hide behind the public health argument, while ignoring the community at large and the heroin epidemic?

These two pictures above were taken on February 10, 2014 after cleaning up in the Harvey West Park area of Santa Cruz. From one of the cleaners: “281 needles found. Location: top of main Evergreen path, 40 feet beyond under the huge fallen redwood trees there was a camp. Below that camp was 20 used needles scattered near a big bag the needles.. in the ivy, in the creek. I’m sure I missed a few. We cleaned out the camp (about a 1 Ron Truck load), and demoed the area. The area is visible from the top of the path.”

UPDATE 2/11/2014 16:44 PST: I neglected to mention the ~200 needles washing up yesterday on Seabright beach as well.

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