Fully autonomous cars won't be allowed on the streets until they're safe, but how will we know when that happens? The American Automobile Association (AAA) is trying to figure that out by testing self-driving cars powered by Torc Robotics "Asimov" system. The aim is to gather information and develop safety criteria that could be used by any company developing self-driving tech. "By creating a blueprint for automakers to follow, we hope to build public trust in technology," said AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah CEO Tim Condon.
A fully-automated Earth in which robots work with humanity in every conceivable way has been imagined a million times over in science fiction books, film, games and television. According to our dreams, we might end up living in a world reminiscent of "WALL·E", in which machines assisted humanity in our environment-shattering quest for more-more-more that ruined the planet; a post-apocalyptic result of AI seeing Homo sapiens as a blight to be wiped out portrayed in "The Terminator"; or an Earth and Solar System where robokind and humans exist together in a strange dichotomy of harmony and distrust as envisioned by the works of Isaac Asimov. If we were to place all of our imagined versions of a robo-enhanced future on a scatter plot, where the X axis is the timeline starting in the present (at 0) and going into the future (say, up to 1,000 years from now), and the Y axis represents the degree to which we get along with our robot companions as a percentage -- with 0 being "Robopocalypse"-level mutually-assured destruction and 100 representing some kind of perfect utopia in which humankind and machines exist together in perfect harmony or have otherwise blended together into a new species -- it might look a little like this: The majority of what many people expect in the nearer future tends to the darker side of things. We compare robotics and the research into artificial intelligence that usually accompanies that with other similarly large advances in technology that often had some scary results. Indeed, work on atomic power began with bombs, led by military programs, and that is where much of the headway is being made today with robotics.
Seventy-six years ago, sci-fi author Isaac Asimov wrote his initial three laws of robotics as part of his short story, "Runaround." With visions of physical robots living alongside humans, Asimov's universal maxims were designed to be programmed into robotic DNA, thus preventing them from harming the very beings that brought them into existence. Later, in an effort to modernize those laws, Asimov drafted fourth law that preceded the other three.
Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We'll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!): Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos. Agility Robotics had a good week. Cassie had a meet-and-greet with a four-legged friend during one of our visits to Playground.