Now there are not going to be anymore stressed, reckless bus drivers, who think they need to drive fast and roughly in order to keep to their time schedule. In fact, there are not going to be any bus drivers at all! This is thanks to a French idea about robo-buses driven by machines. Soon this idea will be a reality in San Francisco and, if successful, there are plans to extend the project to the rest of the U.S. [Fastcoexist.com, Oct. 29, 2015, Robot Buses Are Coming To America, To Pave The Way For Driverless Cars].
This is, thus far, a short-range vehicle, taking about ten passengers and driving them on the last, short trip to the bus station. However, this is of course, a modest introduction to something bigger, when machines will control all public transportation.
Another invention, soon to be produced by Toyota, will add an extra component to the Machine Kingdom. The company is about to release a companion for people who feel lonely when driving on the road. [Computerworld, Oct. 29, 2015, Lonely on the road? What about a robotic driving companion?]. In the beginning, a 4-inch tall robot will be introduced. This robot can gesture, read our moods, and talk to us while we are driving. The next step will, of course, be an android sitting beside us in the passenger seat, and we won’t be able to tell whether it’s a human or an artificial being. This technology is already here, albeit still waiting to be released. When it’s on the market, we will be able to choose what kind of personality this companion will have, and we can get an attractive robot of the opposite sex if we so desire. These kinds of robots will soon be on the market. The entire idea reminds me of “Hal” in Stanley Kubrick’s movie 2001 — A Space Odyssey, which is based on Arthur C. Clarke’s book of the same title.
Fig. 6-2: Driverless robo-buses to be introduced in the San Francisco suburbs.
In June 2015, the Japanese company, SoftBank Robotic Corporation, sold all of its 1,000 robots the same minute they were up for sale. They sold for $1,600 apiece and a $200 monthly fee was required on top of that. These robots, that could be used as driver companions, not only can read the driver’s emotions, but they can also express their own emotions. [Ibid.]
As a side note, the same Computerworld article also mentions a hotel in California, where they have “hired” a robot, working as a butler, serving the meals to the guests and showing them to their rooms. This new idea has become a business success.
Regular buses with robotic drivers may still be on hold for a while, but driverless cars are a big deal right now, and who is one of the main supporters of this technology if not Google? Not only does Google support it, it also produces them under an umbrella company called Alphabet Inc. This was announced by Bloomberg.com Dec. 16, 2015, Google to Make Driverless Cars an Alphabet Company in 2016, where it stated that Google intends to introduce these driverless cars already in 2016.
Is this realistic? Absolutely! In fact, as of December 2015, these vehicles had already driven 1.6 million miles on public roads; mainly in the San Francisco (California), and Austin (Texas), areas. However, before they are released to the public, these vehicles will be used on campuses and in the military (there we have the military again). Google executives say that they have no immediate plans to release these driverless cars on the market, but there are other companies, such as Uber, spending some of the more than $10 billion they have raised in private markets, to develop and produce self-driving cars. [Ibid.] If Google will not go all the way, Uber most likely will, and there are other companies that want to be in on this as well. Uber has recruited dozens of autonomous vehicle researchers from the well-known Minion-controlled front, the Carnegie Mellon University. The official purpose for producing self-driving cars, according to Uber, is to reduce the massive number of accidents currently occurring on the road with human drivers.
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