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.