I just read about a cool new technology in cars. Scientists in Germany are developing a car that drives itself by reading the driver’s thoughts. They are trying to make it possible to simply think “Right.” and it goes right, “Left.” and it goes left, and “Forward.” and it goes forward, without ever touching the steering wheel. This is amazing and very noble, since the original goal was to build a car that disabled people, such as quadriplegics, could drive.
Scientists, even smart scientists, sometimes fail to see the obvious. This would work if all we ever thought about was where we were going, but who does that? They need a car that can sort through all the other stuff in a person’s mind and come up with the way to get home.
For instance, a regular, busy working woman might get in the car and think, “Forward.” The car would start forward. But then she thinks, “Oh heck. I forgot my purse.” Would the car know to stop, back up and wait while she dashes back in for her purse?
Or maybe she would be cruising along on the way home and suddenly think, “Spaghetti.” Would the car know to swing by her sister’s house and pick up the big punch bowl to put salad in for the big spaghetti feed this weekend? Of course not. Even regular human guys don’t know that “Spaghetti” can mean “go to your sister’s house.” Regular human women do, of course, because regular human women know that “Spaghetti” can mean anything…and often does.
And what about farmers? Everybody knows that when farmers drive, they use the whole road because they are rubbernecking all the crops along the way. No self-respecting farmer ever goes “Forward” only. Would this fancy-schmancy car know to slow down whenever passing corn fields, stop when checking hay fields and crawl slowly past all the washouts in the county road? I think not.
And the car would get no help from the farmer, because he would not be thinking, “Forward”, “Left” and “Right”, he would be thinking about his crops. And when he wanted to stop but forgot to think “Stop”, he would start yelling and stomping for the brakes. Just before he went into the ditch he would think “Stop.” but it would be too late.
So yes, this is great technology, but it has a way to go. Until the car can actually read our minds and figure out what we want, we should probably drive with our hands instead of our thoughts. After all, you just can’t trust a car that doesn’t know what “Spaghetti” means.