Apple's co-founder disapproves of autonomous driving

"Are we ready for self-driving cars?" will go down as one of the most debated questions of the decade. There are advantages to the technology, including efficient synchronised driving and potentially less accidents due to the removal of human error. Disabled individuals would no longer need to pay for a taxi service or public transport as their own personal vehicle could take them to their destination. However, there are also countless issues and problems with the technology. Individuals who were legally unfit to drive can now own a car, increasing the number of overall vehicles and thus congestion. Shuttle and taxi services will replace their drivers with onboard an artificial intelligence (AI), a system that could potentially be hacked. The greatest issue by far is coding a moral compass into the AI: your car loses control and is faced with the decision of hitting a stray infant or fatally swerving into a barrier, who does it choose to protect? How is the value of life mathematically calculated?

Co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak, is a highly respected inventor who commented on this topic at the J.D. Power Auto Revolution conference in Las Vegas last week. He believes that autonomous driving technology will not be perfected during his lifetime and draws from his own experiences to support such claims.

Wozniak next to the Apple II, one of the world's first mass-produced microcomputers.

No current technology is perfect

A spectrum of cars have sat in Wozniak's garage, including the Hummer H1, Datsun 280ZX and the Toyota Prius. However, it was his experience with his Tesla Model X that partially led to his loss of hope in autonomous driving. He was displeased with Tesla's overambitious self-driving claims and hollow promises of initially offering free charging, stating that the American manufacturer had "sucked [him] in". He also commented on the mistakes his vehicle and other Teslas had made, stating "a lot of owners got disenfranchised" and that "the dumbest human in the world would know how to do this ... There are too many unexpected things, it might even be a tire lying in the road in front of you; [It does not know how to] steer around it, centre my car, or what, and a human would do this easily. I don’t see Tesla possibly doing that. There are so many many navigation system [issues] and cars run on navigation systems". That was more subtle than when he brought up Tesla's autopilot system last year during a CNBC TV interview: "they call it beta, wait I’m sorry, what kind of company puts out a feature and calls it beta? That doesn’t count".

However, Wozniak still loves his Model X and believes that both Tesla and Cadillac sit ahead of the pack when it comes to autonomous driving technology. Level 5 autonomy refers to a self-driving car that requires no human input, comparable to Tesla's idea of having 1 million driverless "robo-taxis" by 2020. Whilst it may or may not be your favourite company, Tesla do take a major slice of responsibility for making progress in the autonomous driving technology sector.

A computer cannot replace a human driver

Wozniak stated that the public has been mislead into "thinking that [autonomous technology] is going to be like a human brain, able to figure out new things. Say, 'I haven’t see this before but I know … here’s how to handle it,' a human can do that easily". He refers to the fact that we are yet to see an onboard driving AI that can counteract an unknown obstacle in a heartbeat. Even Tesla, who arguably lead the self-driving revolution have not perfected their technology yet as witnessed in this case, where the Model 3 did not recognise a parked truck and crashed into it. Teslas require you to remain attentive whilst using the technology, meaning the crash could be avoided had the driver followed the car's instructions and remained alert. "We’ve got to have this machine learning, artificial intelligence we call it. It’s not really intelligent, AI is ‘alien influenza'", Wozniak added.

Cadillac CT6 using its Super Cruise autonomous driving technology.

Final remarks and verdict

Whilst Wozniak is not invested into the concept of self-driving vehicles, he does believe that AI could be implemented elsewhere. “Everything I do in a car I’d like to do by voice", he stated. He wants current voice technologies to further thrive to provide him with a more personalised experienced. "I want them to become more and more like a human listening to me".

Are we ready for autonomous driving?

Thanks for reading and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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Comments (61)
  • He’s completely correct. Autonomy has been massively overhyped. IF you took all humans off the road and only had autonomous vehicles on the road and able to negotiate with each other, it may work. But autonomous coexistence with unpredictable human drivers will see “safety first” conservatively programmed autonomous vehicles reduced to a “not safe to proceed” quivering grand mal. Plus, human drivers are going to hate being surrounded by robotic Camry drivers and we’re going to relish making them freak out...which will be easy to do. Just cut in on them and watch them slam on the anchors :)

    I see autonomous lanes on highways happening, but we’re a long way away from having a car that will drive you home from the pub.

    14 days ago
    41 Bumps
    • I could not agree more Richard, thanks for sharing!

      13 days ago
      5 Bumps
    • I don't think even all-AI system would work. We have trains - all going on a pair of rails, highly maintained - still have people drivers in them. Because in real life things happen....

      Read more
      10 days ago
      2 Bumps
  • This man even said it himself, AI could be implemented elsewhere not driving. Hands down well said. all that effort and money will be down the drain, which could be better used to develop their tesla roadster so that it doesn't end up being a 2 ton boat.

    14 days ago
    12 Bumps
    • Car manufacturers should at least perfect their voice control systems before working on fully autonomous cars, or improve their vehicle’s driving dynamics too as you suggest!

      13 days ago
      4 Bumps
    • Apparently nobody seems to carry about the fact, that more weight doesn't mean worse handling. The Taycan f.e. is 2.4t and is supposed to handle like a 911. Having a lot of weight low...

      Read more
      12 days ago

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