back to article Racist self-driving car scare debunked, inside AI black boxes, Google helps folks go with the TensorFlow...

Hello, here's a quick recap on all the latest AI-related news beyond what we've already reported this week. Are self-driving cars racist? You may have seen news reports that autonomous cars are unlikely to detect pedestrians crossing the road if they have dark skin, and thus run them over. And yes, the internal alarm bells in …

  1. macjules Silver badge
    Coat

    ... viable self-driving cars use video cameras to see around them

    Unless you are Uber ..

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: ... viable self-driving cars use video cameras to see around them

      Well, the car did see the pedestrian (and her bike). It then logged the occurrence and proceeded running her over. As programmed to.

      1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: ... viable self-driving cars use video cameras to see around them

        "It then logged the occurrence"

        But it used systemd log files. So nobody is quite sure of what happened.

  2. Adrian 4 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Asimov

    I guess everyone in tech just saw the sense of Asimov's three laws .. but didn't imagine the barriers to implementing them would be political rather than technical.

    Worse, the military are likely to build autonomous killers long before we have the technology for those machines to determine that they're actually killing, and the humans in the loop (if they exist) probably can't be trusted either.

    This will get worse before it gets better.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Asimov

      The military have been programming humans to be autonomous killers since before the first world war - so now we're programming drones to do the job. Used to be, if you were in the army you could be shot for refusing to jump out of the trench and shoot the enemy - I wonder how long it will be before they start shooting programmers for refusing to program their drones to kill people?

      No problem of course, the military view is that you are being shot for your own good.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Asimov

        And of course it is good for everyone (including them) to be shot as well. Somewhat distressing suggestion from the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland last week that if the military were ordered too shot someone then they were immune.

        Not that I would like anyone to think that I wish blanket charges to be made in that case -it has to be evidence based, but there has to be accountability, even where the civil power have made the disastrous decision to deploy soldiers - trained to kill - in Belfast.

        If soldiers are pulled up, then there should be politicians and responsible civil servants who need to be in the dock as well.

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: Asimov

        I wonder how long it will be before they start shooting programmers for refusing to program their drones to kill people?

        They won't need to. For every dev that refuses to do the work, they'll find another who is happy to do so.

        No problem of course, the military view is that you are being shot for your own good.

        More likely they view it as you being shot for your own deeds. Which is sort of the point in fairness.

        Ultimately, do you really care that you got shot by a robot rather than an American? If you've done something to bring their military down on your head, then there's precious little that is going to save you.

    2. caffeine addict Silver badge

      Re: Asimov

      Mostly irrelevant, but for ppl with Netflix, the second season of the Aussie drama "Secret City" is well worth a watch. Deals with the coverup of an unexplained explosion in an Aussie suburb. But considering the context, you can probably guess that it's not a standard issues with a gas main...

    3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Asimov

      Presumably robot killing machines will have trouble spotting dark-skinned people as well. Hmm. Hooray? (Also, Robocop... I don't remember if the race issue was raised, it was only set in Detroit after all)

      1. holmegm

        Re: Asimov

        If I recall, the criminals in the core gang of bad guys in Robocop were all scruffy white guys, except for one black man. (At the time, that was probably rather daring; *all* the bad guys should have been white, lol.)

        (There *was* a joke about the one black criminal using his, er, equipment to distract a white woman cop. But I'm sure that wasn't racist at all ...)

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Lidar will presumably have about the same difficulty seeing black skin as it does seeing black clothing at night or, indeed white skin hidden behind a turned up dark collar or a dark hoodie*. Perhaps IR should be added.

    I've had the experience, driving on a dark, wet night of seeing an apparently disembodied pair of white trainers crossing the road in front of me.

    1. veti Silver badge

      To be fair, it's also harder for a human driver to see a dark skinned pedestrian at night. I'm trying not to be racist here, but I don't see any way around that.

      Unless it's telling people what my parents told me, as a pasty-faced child - to wear light-coloured clothing when I went out at night. Yep, that's right - I'm blaming the victims. If you walk into the road without taking reasonable precautions both to check for traffic and to make sure that drivers can see you, then I'm sorry but that's Darwinism at work.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        We're just emerging from winter here in the UK, most pedestrians at night are still wearing winter coats if not hats and scarves too. As a driver I don't have time to wait til I see people's faces, I need to treat every shadowy shape as a potential human until I'm sure what I'm seeing. People could have green skin in this scenario and it would make zero difference to whether I perceive them as human.

        I'm also amazed at how many people wear black costs in winter.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "We're just emerging from winter here in the UK"

          Or just entering into it!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "I'm also amazed at how many people wear black costs in winter."

          Black coats show up immensely better against the snow than white (snow camouflage) coats.

          YMMV.

          If you don't have much of a winter where you live, bright orange or yellow can be a good choice.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I was amazed at the number of young women who's belly buttons I could still see when there was a thick layer snow on the ground.

          “There's no such thing as bad weather only inappropriate clothing”.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "To be fair, it's also harder for a human driver to see a dark skinned pedestrian at night. I'm trying not to be racist here, but I don't see any way around that."

        Exactly. Adding the capability for passive IR would be an advantage for autonomous vehicles over a human driver.

      3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        It can be quite bright

        In the snow & under streetlights

        When you walk home from the pub at night in Canadaland.

        You stand out more with a dark coat on - Wearing white (Daredevil rabbit in a snowstorm) is not a good survival trait.

        1. veti Silver badge

          I said "light colours", not "white".

          Blue, yellow, pink, red, orange... Of course, if you'd rather be seen dead than in any of those colours, then carry on.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I once saw a pair of ears and a pair of hands proceeding along the A303, and then I hit him. He was wearing a dark suit, brown boots, and had black hair. He had been thrown out of the pub in one village, and had decided to walk along the dual carriageway to the next village. I collected him about halfway, on a dark and stormy night, and he bounced into the hedge at the side of the road (no pedestrian footpath along the roadside). We put him in the back of my car and drove him to the next village, where we called the police. The copper interviewed him, immediately after which he staggered across the road and into the nearest pub. Apparently, he was an casual worker at a local stableyard, and had just received his cash-in-hand wages, so decided to splurge it in one or two pubs. Copper said to me "Serves him bloodywell right". Never heard any more about it, but was wary of driving at night for a while thereafter.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        I nearly had a spirit of ecstacy attach itself along with his pushbike along the A303 (Dark night - No lights) to the bonnet of my Vauxhall Cavalier back in the 90's.

        I wonder if it was the same bloke?

  4. rahi
    Linux

    No one should have 007 rights

    Don't think it's fair to go places and blow stuff up, uninvited.

  5. ratfox Silver badge
    Angel

    today's potentially commercially viable self-driving cars [...] also have another vision system: lidar.

    Well that's Tesla out then...

  6. Big Al 23

    More problems than skin color

    Cameras and Lidar don't work well if at all on snow covered roads or in a heavy snow storm.

    1. Rasslin ' in the mud

      Re: More problems than skin color

      "Cameras and Lidar don't work well if at all on snow covered roads or in a heavy snow storm."

      Neither does the visual cortex.

  7. gnasher729 Silver badge

    90 percent of what you see of an average male person are trousers, shirt, shoes, hair. Skin (hands, face) is probably less than ten percent. I’d look for trousers, skirts, shirts, jumpers, blouses etc.

  8. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Terminator

    Giant Killer Robots

    I think any company advertising that it's building killer robots will get 10 applicants for every employee put off by the prospect.

    That's what got people interested in the tech in the first place and while I'm old enough to question the morality, I'm not sure I'd have hesitated coming out of engineering school.

  9. Ugotta B. Kiddingme
    Unhappy

    applause for Liz O'Sullivan but...

    there are plenty of folks without such a moral compass who would gladly step in and complete the work she refused. The sad truth is that unless humanity overcomes basic urges to hurt/kill/maim/dominate others, and fairly quickly, this will end badly - most likely extinction by our own hand...

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