Friday, October 26, 2018

Book Review: 'Autonomous Vehicles: Your Ultimate Guide to the Past, Present and Future of Autonomous Vehicles' by C.D. Leonard (Edited by Lenny Peake)

Autonomous Vehicles: Your Ultimate Guide to the Past, Present and Future of Autonomous Vehicles by [Leonard, C.D.]

Author C.D. Leonard is very much in tune with the times. His three books published thus war include topical interests - 2018 TAX REFORM AND WHAT IT REALLY MEANS FOR YOU, THE FUTURE OF CRYPTOCURRENCY, and now AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES. In a time when technology swirls like a firestorm of change and new ways of dealing with life as we have been living it, Leonard offers his insightful and well-researched book on the concept and the history and the present sate and the future of autonomous vehicles. It is whirlwind of information accessible shared.

In his Introduction he offers his casual manner of sharing his knowledge about this fascinating concept – ‘Autonomous driving has been all the rave of late, and some would say years. These days, every single car company seems to have integrated some sort of ‘autonomous’ feature in their newer models, whilst new car companies seem to have autonomous driving as part of the base of their product offering. However, what is autonomous driving really? And to follow, what separates it from normal driving, hence all the buzz? The answer to this may be found within the motivations for autonomous driving. The story goes that Karl Benz, the creator of the very first automobile (1885), when taking it on its very first test drive, crashed into a wall. Yikes! And this brought to fore the argument for the least reliable part of the car: the driver. Chris Urmson, former Chief Technology Officer at X, Google’s self-driving car team (took over as project lead in 2013) as well as the main engineer that built the code of Google’s autonomous software, thinks that the most unreliable part of the car is the driver (see as mentioned, Karl Benz). During his 2015 TED Talks speech, he mentions that humans have tried to correct this part of the car for the past 130 years, adding features such as seatbelts, strength reinforcements as well as airbags. More recently, he suggests that we have also made the car ‘smarter’ in order to fix the same problem, the human. Now the CEO of Aurora Innovation, a company that creates autonomous driving software (and recently partnered with Volkswagen and Hyundai in a bid to get autonomous driving commercial as quickly as possible), Urmson continues to explain the difference between a ‘patch job’ - referring to current efforts to add driver assistance systems to the car - and authentic autonomous driving car development. But for autonomous driving to be truly appreciated, he highlights the scale of the problem, which is that globally, 1.2 million people die in road accidents every year, with 33,000 of those in the United States alone...etc.’

Leonard then spends time explaining and defining the stages of autonomous driving, the technology, the economics of driverless cars, the legal manifestations (safety, insurance, accidents), the ethical perspective (‘it is clear that autonomous technologies pose moral questions, especially considering the net positive effects), the effect on the environment, the political angle, and the socio-cultural perspective (mobility for aging society, employment shifts, etc).

As inviting as Leonard’s writing style is to read, he is careful to provide studies and research about his topics of discussion. For all who are wondering about the aspect of autonomous vehicles, this little book fills in all the possibilities and facts. Very well written and easy to follow. Gray Harp, October 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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