Social Robotics and Intelligence

Joan Lowy of the Associated Press writes in “Voice-operated Dashboard Technology still Risky” that the unintuitive consequence of voice-operated technology in an automobile may be narrower tunnel vision and cognition by the driver because of the way we engage and concentrate with more sophisticated, interactive technology. The results are sobering, but technologists will respond that it’s alright– interaction design and AI will improve so that the systems do more of the heavy lifting, and our relationship to the car will appear more similar to the relationship we may have with our passenger. What’s more, roboticists will explain that increasing automation will make the car safer even if we pay scant attention to driving. The systems-level question, though, is how increased interaction will change the systemic level of distraction facing us as drivers. As interfaces work better, will we concentrate more on driving, or will we compensate perfectly with every-increasing amounts of (easier) distraction? This feels like the effect of road widening and bridge-building on traffic: typically, none at all as commuters expand or contract load to perfectly match the new available roadways.  As for automotive automation, it will be gradual, and I think the transition from autonomous control to manual control will require a surprising amount of human situation awareness for safety’s sake. That will become an ever-harder challenge, as I describe in Attention Dilution Disorder in Robots Futures.


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