Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Political attack ad warns of 'killer' driverless cars

Google's driverless cars have a "license to drive" in the state of Nevada, but if you ask Republican state Rep. Jim Frische in Florida, folks are trying to give the cars a "license to kill" (like 007) in his state. That's the message driven home in his attack ad against his opponent, fellow Republican Jeff Brandes.  The pair face-off in a primary which is taking place today.

Earlier, Brandes sponsored HB 1207, a bill which would legalize the operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads in the state. That is much the same as the law which has been enacted in Nevada.

The “Vehicles with Autonomous Technology” bill is still pending before the Florida legislature.

The election process isn't standing still, though, and neither is Frische.

In the type of ad we are seeing in the presidential election as well, mainly on the Republican side, Frische has attacked Brandes with falsehoods and half-truths (and those are half-truths only if you stretch ... the truth).

The ad shows an empty (completely empty) Prius speeding around a neighborhood, nearly taking out Grandma who is using a walker, no less. The implication is clear: Granny better watch out for these driverless vehicles.

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In the middle of the ad, we hear that Brandes wants to legalize "driverless, remote-controlled cars" and that Brandes "had to convince the [state] senate it wasn't witchcraft." Since Google's autonomous vehicles are not remote-controlled, that's already wrong (or a half-truth, if you wish to be kind).

In addition, Google's autonomous cars are never empty. There is always a backup driver and / or passenger involved. The idea is - eventually - for these autonomous cars to carry passengers to and from their destinations, safely, not tool around empty like cars and trucks out of the Stephen King horror film "Maximum Overdrive."

As far as safety goes, Bryant Walker Smith, a legal fellow with the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford University in California where he studies driverless car technology said the following:

"Ironically, these technologies have the potential, in the long term, to increase mobility, access, and opportunity for the elderly and disabled."

Watch the attack ad for yourself, embedded.

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