By Dllu - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
Chinese tech giant, Huawei, has recently filed a patent with the European Patent Office for what could amount to some of the most intrusive technology to be fitted to a vehicle.
It’s capable of detecting whether a driver is drunk, but also whether that driver is frustrated, drowsy or distracted. It can also recognise weapons, drugs and even a phone with text on the display.
Currently, the patent is for autonomous vehicles only, which in itself seems a moot point; the day that vehicles are truly 100% autonomous means there will be no driver ‘in charge’ of the vehicle, so why the technology?
The system will have the capability to decide for itself the best course of action, which ranges from warning the occupants, deactivating the controls or even calling the police.
Autonomy and self-driving are closely linked, but not necessarily the same thing, although for many motorists it’s the difference between branded or supermarket fuel – close enough that there’s no real distinction.
Self-driving cars are very much in their infancy – they still have the ability to wow us with their capability, to make headlines when one does something out of the ordinary, and yet they still need to have the human element, ‘just in case’.
Some industry experts are predicting that the first truly-autonomous vehicles will on the road as early as 2021, and the question remains – who will be in charge of them? The operator? Occupant? Owner? With the argument that any occupant will effectively be using a service akin to a taxi or ride-share, surely it doesn’t matter whether they’re distracted or drunk?
The defining point here is the definition of ‘Autonomous Vehicle’.
Science-fiction would have us believe that true autonomy comes without a steering wheel, almost a lounge-style cabin, and nothing to do but hold high-powered business meetings, or play with the onboard technology.
So will we still have the human element, and if so, does that necessitate a law against being in one drunk?
The National Transport Commission of Australia (NTC) believes that drink-driving laws need a shake-up.
In a discussion paper, the NTC states that “there is a clear-cut” justification for changing the laws regarding drink or drug-driving because there is no possibility that a human could drive a dedicated autonomous vehicle. “The situation is analogous to a person instructing a taxi driver where to go,” says the NTC.
It would seem as though Huawei, who manufacture no autonomous vehicles of their own, may have found a back-door entrance to scrutinise, store and potentially use personal data. Just as the Amazon Alexa listens constantly to every conversation you have, logs your preferences and buying habits, so too could Huawei.
Imagine a system that’s fitted to your car, that logs each journey, whether you have a penchant for a tipple, or even a cigarette, your mood when driving, the times you frequent the pub, supermarket or gym and then reports back to your insurance company (who for the sake of convenience, cover your life insurance as well).
Your insurance premium gets automatically adjusted, you have an accurate log of behaviour and movement, and anything remotely ‘questionable’ is all recorded, easily accessed by the police or insurance companies.
Perhaps this is what Motorola had in mind when they filed for a patent for a self-driving police car/courtroom, that placed the accused on trial via video link, with those found guilty being autonomously delivered to the nearest jail.
Of course we’re in favour of road safety, and technology being used appropriately could make a big difference to accident rates and fatalities, but this kind of technology comes at the cost of privacy, some may even say infringing on our rights.
For those that disagree with this viewpoint, that believe a giant tech company would never abuse such exclusive and intimate detail of our lives, you’ve only got to look at the largest social-media platform (with over 1 billion users), and their understanding of privacy to see that this is a very real concern.
It’s understandable that the authorities are investing in technology to help make roads safer – the ‘yellow vultures’ may not be the answer, just the same as the majority of safety cameras, but with ever-increasing budget cuts, manpower is dwindling and technology is taking over. We just need the right type of technology.
Whether there is any validity to the patents (both Huawei and Motorola), the technology exists to make it happen, but we’re a short step away from an autonomous lifestyle, governed, measured and reported on.
What do you think to the ingress of technology in the automotive world? Do you see a need for such a system? Should we just sit back and let progress take its course? Let us know in the comments.
Self driving cars will only work if the roads are modified and all other cars are banned. Semi self driving cars are dangerous because if the driver is not in control, he will fall asleep.
A driver asleep at the controls of a self driving car should not be a big problem. These things will have so many safeguards built in, they will just stop whenever they encounter any issue they can’t cope with.
Preferably not in the fast lane of the motorway, because as you say, ordinary drivers would be the problem.
A rather different problem will be pedestrians using the same roads. With an ever-increasing gap between the haves and the have nots, protesters who can’t afford this expensive new technology can cause chaos just by maliciously walking about in the roads relying on autonomous vehicles having built-in safeguards to save them from being knocked down. Just look at how easily a major airport can be shut down by a nutter with a drone.
That sounds like fun!
Could be dangerous, though. Didn’t an autonomous car fail to “see” a pedestrian in the US, not too long ago, and killed her?
Yeah, accidents won’t be totally eliminated and there’s bound to be teething troubles with any new equipment, but human drivers don’t always see what they’re about to hit either. I’m sure they’ve already put a lot of effort into trying to ensure that particular loophole is plugged. General release of this technology can be said to be safety-justified when there is sufficiently strong statistical evidence that robots cause fewer accidents than humans.
I agree with the basic idea that it shouldn’t matter whether an autonomous vehicle has a drunk telling it where to go, or for that matter a disqualfied driver. It could be a big benefit to the blind or children. Or even just taking a dog to the vet!
Dog could take itself to the vet 🙂
And come back without certain fun globes
Yep, my thoughts exactly.
This was a Uber autonomous trial with a Volvo. To test their autonomous software they’d turned off the standard Volvo safety system that would almost certainly have stopped the car or significantly reduced the impact. The pedestrian (with a bicycle) was partly at fault for suddenly crossing the main road, in the dark, on a particularly dangerous unilluminated stretch, in dark clothing without reflective tags. It’s doubtful a human driver would have avoided a collision, but it was stupid of Uber to turn off the default collision-avoidance system that probably would have.
It misidentified her as a bit of rubbish on the road. Previously, we had cars doing emergency stops for plastic bags, so obviously there is still a lot of work to be done.
Don’t buy anything that Huawei has got anything to do with. They are spying on you. Half the worlds governments have banned them
Whatever next? Robocop asking a printed circuit to “blow into this bag Sir”?
Damn clever, these Chinese 🙂
When is April Fools Day this year?
April the first
The Chinese are already trialling a fully comprehensive surveillance system in at least one town. Citizens have points awarded or subtracted, depending on their behaviour. Citizen “scoreboards” are displayed around public buildings and the better behaved can earn certain privileges. Transgressors go to the back of the queue for appointments, school places etc. In view of their interest in forcing “right-think” at home, it comes as no surprise that they’re developing a system that can be marketed around the world.
Every day we are being groomed to accept ever more intrusion. I’m sure some authorities really would want to stop inebriated folks getting into a car, even a fully autonomous vehicle. Why don’t they just stick a chip in everyone’s neck? You know they want to.
@Jay Have you got a link to the report that details the system? I’d be very interested to read the details. Thanks.
Sorry can’t do links (technically a dinosaur) however, I first read about it in the Spectator, the Independent, Wired and Businessinsider.com also covered it. Wikipedia has a lengthy explanation; look for Social Credit System.
Here is that link. Be afraid, be very afraid when some well meaning politicians start tinkering with this in the western world:
Exactly. People coming under the cosh of computer systems is all part of the brave new world which is being sold to us under the guise of safety and prosperity.
Of course this goes over the heads of most who prefer to argue the details instead- exactly as they have been trained to do.
The best bit is even after being informed, the typical response is disbelief and flippant comments.
The children pay for the crimes of the parents.
I see this site is now working worse…Join the discussion…
That article is scary. How far will they go? Logans Run?
the commies have taken over, they’re going to target the average normal citizen with that system, pity they cant develop it to eradicate extremism.
I wonder if these cars can do a Stalin salute?
I was thinking the main advantage of autonomous vehicles was being able to summon one to take you home after an evening in the pub. If the car refuses to take you home, what’s the point?
Just sit in the back seat surely??? 🙂
“Honestly, officer, none of us were driving. We were all in the back seat!” 1960s Joke.
You are still drunk in charge of a vehicle. A lesser offence than drink driving, but still illegal.
I suspect the law would changed.
don’t think this will ever happen as all Taxi drivers would be no longer required ( as long as you have a vehicle of course )
I wonder if you would have to tip yourself as well at the end of the journey home 🙂
Perhaps my age but you will never get me in an autonomous vehicle, no way. Stuff like this doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Ask yourself why manufacturers are pushing this so hard; we spend a lot of time in our cars, great target audience for adverts etc.
What if the technology is intended to be fitted in an autonomous vehicle to recognise, report and stop other cars on the road?
Some cars have already have anti-hijack technology which can do this, so would only be a small step to take.
Coming soon, to a police force near you!
If the car is truly autonomous surely if the driver is drunk, stoned, texting or watching Netflix is irrelevant. If you still have to be paying full attention then what is the point of autonomy?
Personally I hate the big brother world we are entering and would rip out/compromise any system fitted to my vehicle which worked along these lines.
I don’t bother with all this modern $hit. I prefer my classic v8 tank.
Australia and New Zealand already have a law in which drivers convicted of drunk driving may have a device fitted to the interior of the car to detect breath alcohol, and which prevents the car from being started if alcohol is detected. Tampering with the device prevents the driver from starting the car.
I accept my comment is off topic as it is about autonomous cars, but just pointing out technology already exists to help keep drunks off the roads. I just wonder how an autonomous car following a driver with alcohol on his breath can detect what that alcohol level is? Can it differentiate between passengers who have had a drink, and the designated sober driver who has abstained? I’m all for safety, but would be pretty annoyed if I got reported when doing the right thing by being sober when alcohol has been consumed by passengers.
What if the passengers have been drinking? How does it know the difference?
Shame we can’t turn the clock back 40 years, we would all be better off.
A lot of people are trying to do just this.
They’ll be more ‘cover ups’ like the cars with faulty ECU’s that drove off by themselves – this includes frog Microcar where corrupt VOSA just contacted the salesmen who said there was nothing wrong and declined to investigate my complaint. I later discovered there had already been multiple claims for faulty ECU from underwriters.
All those in favour of such technology should be the ones in a car that drives off a cliff or into a deep river.
technology ? someone will find a easy way to beat the system .Modern technology is still a long way from being 100% secure No matter what system is used someone has found a way to beat it and will continue to do so for some time
Ah, another Huawei story. Half the world is banning their products because they allegedly have back-doors that copy internet traffic to the Chinese security services. They are also allegedly breaking UN sanctions by selling advanced technology to Iran, and saddling African countries with crippling debts by paying large bribes to dictators.
So the perfect company to monitor your every movement in your own car.
I’m sure autonomous vehicles will soon be fine in everyday conditions on good roads, but it’s the unusual situations that are a concern – for example, how will they handle police hand or voice instructions to pass an accident that’s partially blocking the road by mounting the pavement or verge?
Just swerving around a drunk pedestrian or cyclist without lights would probably frame you for unsafe driving.
Think about the financial players who have screwed up banking systems country-wide or worldwide this year: Visa, TSB, RBS come to mind. If I remember right, FitBit and Apple also maimed a bunch of their product range by post-sale updates.
Now consider an automated update being pushed out to every autonomous vehicle (a whole make or model, or something like this Huewei idea that several can manufacturers use).
That could immobilise several million cars in the UK, all at once, and report every drive to the Police. Which makes me think:
.. Maybe there will be a future government that wants to do exactly that (not necessarily our own government).
.. It’s a hacker’s paradise. (PewDiePie hackers managed to hijack half a million printers recently).
Autonomy will allow more people (and children?) to have cars. There isn’t room on the roads for what we have already.
We dislike traffic jams now just wait until these things hit our roads, should be fun. I ask, why the hell would you want a driverless car?.
Yeh, everyone travelling at 29 mph. Gatso would not sell any more speed cameras and go out of business… Hooray !!!!
Has the police suddenly got loads of new officers and funding? They can’t even get out to burglaries and other incidents, so vehicles calling the police, I’m certain will not be high on the list for police response. Crazy idea in today’s world, they will soon develop a car you won’t need to get out of to go to the loo or wipe your rear end, simple pipe dreams
Any system that makes travelling on our or any roads better and safer has to be a reasonably good thing. Infringement of privacy factors into everyone’s daily life already, should we not be used to this by now and live with it. In principle what this article has pointed out how pointless this technology is for the application it is being designed for.
but the bigger far outreaching applications of such technology if fitted to every vehicle, or even something on the lines of vehicles be equipped with breathalyser or drug testing fitted to the ignition systems that will not allow the vehicle to start if a positive test is recorded. As all systems in use and future technologies will all be prone to abuses. the need for companies to think up non-useful technologies such as indicated here in this article would be eliminated.
common sense and correct judgement should always win, if you drink alcohol or take illegal drugs hide your keys away don’t be tempted drive, as not only does the families of those hurt in collisions where drink/drugs are concerned suffer, how about the suffering yourselves have to sustain that actions due to bad judgement may cause, and the liberties and freedoms at stake.
As the case that argued in many quarters ” drink or drugs” doesn’t impair judgment, I beg to differ after taking dink or drugs the first bad judgment call is already made, we the decision you make is you are fit to drive, and that happens even before your wheels start moving.
yes this has come off the beaten track a little, but just trying to highlight, if we all did as we should instead of thinking it will not hurt just this once, which in it self a habit I did it once never got caught, and continue with the same behaviour then the need for any invasive technologies would be non-existent.
Huawei are not exactly flavour of the month at the moment
I have two other concerns about autonomous cars.
1. Will they swerve round potholes?
2. When they are behind a tractor and trailer, or a juggernaut crawling up a hill, will they seek safe opportunities to overtake?
No, I thought not. We’ll all have to travel at the speed of the slowest.