By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) — We all love the technology revolution we’re living through, right? Just think of all the ways our smart phones and smart tv’s and home attendants entertain us and make our lives easier. And if all our tech gadgets seem to be having some unwanted side effects, isolating people from one another and fueling the spread of misinformation just to name a couple, well, that’s a small price to pay for progress, correct?

Maybe not so much.

Over the weekend, a female pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona was killed by a self-driving car, the first reported casualty caused by a so-called autonomous vehicle operating on a public street.

The car in question was operated by Uber, which has halted all self-driving car tests in Tempe and three other cities. But that still leaves thousands of other vehicles out on the roads in test programs by Google, General Motors and others.

Some forecast as many as ten million self-driving cars may be on the road as soon as 2020.

Perhaps you’ve heard the self-promoting rhetoric behind all this experimentation. Here’s a sample of it from the president of GM, Dan Ammann: “So we’ve created this vision; zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion. Autonomous vehicle technology is going to be a huge enabler for us to achieve that vision.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But consider the track record of the tech geniuses so far, including the toxic social fallout from smartphone addiction and the exploitation of Facebook to divide us and spread falsehoods.

What happened in Arizona this weekend may be an aberration, or it might be the canary in the coal mine. But the tragedy reminds us that maximum skepticism is called for.

Share your point of view with me via email at keller@wbztv.com, or use Twitter, @kelleratlarge.

Comments
  1. This news just adds another dimension to the topic of distracted driving.

    Reports do show that the pedestrian darted out in front of the vehicle, giving little time during which evasive or defensive actions could be taken, and it will remain an open question as to whether a human at the wheel could have been aware of the presence of the pedestrian when the vehicle may not have been.

    We will have autonomous vehicles in the future, and there will be fatalities associated with such self-controlled modes of transportation.

    The question then becomes whether the risks of the technology as it is now being implemented are greater than the rewards that come from the technology’s successful implementation.

    My read is “not yet”, Far more simulation testing should be done before the safety of the public is risked.

    And when it is risked, it should be allowed only in progressively more challenging environments rather than implementing the technology in the most active and dangerous of situations first.

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