Take a closer look at Rupert Goodwins’, editor of ZDNet UK, unique angle on tech change.
|Photo: IDG Connect|
"Risk and reward, credit and blame; the game of consequences defines our life and our business. But what happens to that equation when we abdicate responsibility to the robots?"
Science fiction is full of rogue automata causing havoc, laying waste to cities or murdering astronauts in their sleep. What’s never shown is the inevitable fallout familiar from real-life disaster - the loss adjusters clipboarding their way through the wreckage, working out who pays for what. But as AI begins to infiltrate the world we actually live in, such concerns are just as much an issue as engineering neural networks - and the way such thinking evolves has very deep consequences for business as a whole.
We’ve had automation in critical systems for decades - next year sees the 80th anniversary for the first aircraft autolanding - but they’ve been limited to very expensive, highly reliable transportation, industrial and medical applications surrounded by professional overseers. That’s changing with the advent of autonomous cars: every major auto maker has prototypes, with upstarts like Google and Tesla leading the way. These machines will be unleashed in the messy, dangerous world of the public highway, and they will inevitably end up in accidents - some fatal. But who’s responsible?
Late last year Volvo came up with an answer that on its face seems both surprising and bold: it is. The company will assume liability for any accident involving its vehicles’ automation. End of story. While this removes a major barrier to adoption, insurance costs easily outweigh the manufacturer’s profit margin over the lifetime of a vehicle - but Volvo isn’t planning on making a loss.
While some accidents are unavoidable, most are due to the sort of driver error automation will eliminate. Autonomous cars could avoid over 90% of current prangs, completely changing the numbers for insurance and reducing its cost, according to one analysis, by a factor of between fifteen and fifty. A thousand pounds a year policy reduced to twenty quid. (Even if you drive home after an evening in the pub.)
If this seems unbelievably wonderful to you, think how unbelievably terrifying this is to the insurance industry, which runs a £6bn book on private motoring in the UK alone.
Source: IDG Connect