Re: What's the Point?
"I think the tragic, fatal incident involving Uber has just rendered a lot of developments like this pointless."
And how many people were killed yesterday in accidents where cars were under the control of a human driver? How many of those would have been prevented if the car were instead driven (or even supplemented) by autonomous technology (even today's state of the art). Yes, the video is disturbing, but we can find plenty of disturbing video from poor human drivers as well.
As the rate of testing goes up, I guarantee the death rate involving autonomous cars will go up, it's basic math. At the same time, the death rate involving human controlled cars will begin to drop. In the long run, getting us unreliable, distracted, sleepy, cellphone watching, radio listening, attention wandering humans off the task will save lives.
I agree, as a species we are not good at designing full time safety critical systems. Unfortunately for us, we're even worse at actually being the full-time safety critical systems.
Keep this number in mind: ~40,000 annual deaths. That's a ballpark figure for how many traffic deaths we have in the US. The goal needs to be for autonomous driving to result in killing fewer than 40,000 people per year, not some esoteric trolley problem discussion.
AF447 is a terrible example to argue for humans over automated control: the plane knew what to do, but the meatsacks overrode and ignored the computer. From the old joke about automating airplane controls, Airbus simply forgot to include the dog (the dog, of course, being there to bite the pilot if he tries to touch the controls).