It's common sense that automated cars aren't such a great idea either. For every KITT, there's a hundred Christines, and a thousand well-meaning but retarded cars that will sometimes drive right through a pedestrian without noticing him.
Private car companies like Toyota and Mercedes-Benz are getting in on the act now, but the U.S. military has been pushing for automated vehicles with the DARPA Grand Challenge contest since 2004. Teams run their their autopilot cars through a simulated urban course for a shot at a $2 million dollar prize. The military's aim is to automate 1/3 of it's ground vehicles by 2015. That makes it all the more scary to see videos like MIT's van slowly scraping the Cornell car and dragging it along in the 2007 challenge:
Or this other contestant driving slowly and determinedly into a barrier:
No cars have driven themselves off a cliff yet, which will probably change with Stanford and Audi's test drive of their car up Pike's Peak this fall. I'm not trying to be a downer but they probably won't get it back in one piece.
I bet it'll go out in style though.
Maybe we don't care if military autonomous vehicles go around running over foreigners, but Toyota, Volvo, Mercedes, and other companies want to put more and more of these systems in consumer cars with features like jerking the steering wheel back to the road if you're distracted, or autofollowing the car in front of you through lane and speed changes. They're reassuring us that the driver can easily override these things at any time, but if you remember from the recent Prius kerfuffle, even today's fully manual cars sometimes take control from you when things go wrong. Smartening the car just gives it more opportunities.
Probably the worst idea yet is the Scarab, a fully automated police pursuit vehicle.
The designer's idea was to limit police casualties in high speed chases, possibly forgetting that people other than police and criminals often populate city streets. Fortunately it's only a concept at this point. Please nobody fund him.
Last but not least, we turn to robots to help us with pet care. If you have ever washed a dog, you probably got pretty wet. If you have ever washed a cat, you can probably apply Bactine and gauze in your sleep.
This was the last picture found on the camera taken from the body. The cat is still missing.
This is a pretty ideal thing to turn over to machines.
If you have the ability to watch video, this is one where seeing it in motion really gives you the full effect:
Laugh all you want, but if the machines get their way, we will all be that cat.