Years ago, I interviewed the chairman of Lego, who told me he wanted to turn the already highly successful brick-making colossus into a ‘one buttock company’.

I was a bit baffled by this. He explained that he knew a concert pianist, and this pianist, while learning a new concerto or what not, would sit squarely on the piano stool. But he knew when he’d finally got to grips with the music because he was always sitting on one buttock or the other, but never both. That was a signifier of success, dynamism and generally moving forward. Perhaps Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ was in his repertoire of one-buttock concertos.

'Your buns are a conduit of vital feedback'

Maimus May

Your butt, in fact, is a talented and very discerning extremity. Driving is not that different from playing music, in that they’re both performative activities. Now, though, your buns are a conduit of vital feedback rather than a passive confirmation that all is well.

The human/machine interface is a very complex area of study. We make inputs to driving the car – moving the gearstick, turning the wheel, pressing the brake pedal – and the car to a greater or lesser extent feeds back data on the effects. We have many sensory receptors, including the inner ear, fingertips, our viscera in general, pretty much everything. That includes your plum duff. You may not be aware of this, but believe me, you’d struggle to drive if you had no jacksie just as you would if blindfold.

Horses' arses are not covered by this article.

Horses' arses are not covered by this article.

We’re talking here about your actual buttocks; the gluteus group of muscles, comprising maximus, minimus, and medius. These pump information to the brain about balance and position when running, jumping or standing on the deck of a heaving boat. They are similarly active when driving a car. They also give you somewhere convenient to sit, and they’re always there.

Back to autonomous cars, then. Obviously, they need some sort of feedback system so that the car’s brain knows exactly what the car is doing at any moment in time. There’s a lot of this sort of stuff on cars already, notably the accelerometers and such that govern traction control, four-wheel steering and so on. The autonomous car will need a lot more of this if it is to respond with the precision and sophistication of the human body-brain.

What I’m saying is; artificial intelligence and machine learning are great, and vital. But for the autonomous car to be truly successful, it’s going to need its own arse.

Photo credit: Vladimir Gjorgiev/ Shutterstock.com

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