Your Chauffeur Has Been Updated

“We killed a man?”

“Well, technically you killed a man.”

“I killed a man?”

“Not even a man. You killed a customer.”

“How the hell did I kill a customer?”

“Shh, don’t shout it for everyone to hear.”

Tim looked around the office. The sea of cubicles stretched from one beige wall to another. Here they were, some of the smartest developers in the world, building the most advanced automated vehicles on the roads, and they didn’t even get free coffee. No-one cared enough to put the milk back in the fridge, let alone listen in to a private conversation. He sat back down and faced Dan across the aisle.

“How did I kill him?” Tim asked.

“Remember that ethical policy framework update that came through last year? For the new models,” Dan said.

“The stuff from Legal about making sure we didn’t hit any pedestrians?” Tim scratched at his stubble. “Vaguely. We just tweaked the decision tree and shipped it.”

“Exactly.”

“I still don’t see how I killed a man.”

“Well it seems someone in Legal was over-zealous with the spec requirements.”

“Dan…”

“Remember you wrote the module for collision avoidance.”

“Yeah…”

“And there was the logic for deciding what to do if avoidance was impossible.”

“Like when the car has to decide between hitting a pedestrian in the road or swerving off of a bridge. Oh…”

Tim felt sick.

“Yeah,” Dan said.

“How?”

“Kid and her mother ran out in front of a 4th gen and the car put the risk of injuring the driver over the two pedestrians or the oncoming traffic. Swung into a fitch barrier and put him through the windscreen.”

“What are Legal doing?”

“Well, they’re saying it was driver fault. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of the incident. And overall it’s kind of a win, because there was only one casualty instead of three.”

“Comforting.”

“But we’ve got a bigger problem. Marketing need to see all the code you wrote.”

“Marketing?” Tim said.

“It seems they’re worried no one’s going to want to buy a car that might drive them into a crash barrier at 100 miles per hour.”

“But it might.”

“But then they can’t sell any cars. No one will buy one.”

“So what do they want us to do? Tell the car to prioritise the life of the driver over any pedestrians?”

“Maybe.”

Tim shook his head.

“How many?”

“How many what?” Dan asked.

“How many pedestrians is the life of the driver worth? One? Two? A family? A crowd?”

“I don’t know. Maybe we can code around this, find a better option.”

“This code exists because it’s the last option the car has. Not enough time to stop, nowhere else to turn. It’s them or it.”

“Maybe Legal have an answer.”

Tim turned back to his desk, awaiting the myriad meeting requests to come.

“Unless they can change the laws of physics, people are going to have to accept the fact: their car might kill them for the greater good.”

Film 2014

The year seems to have flown by for film. My little list of flicks I’ve seen hasn’t been updated in a long while, so the following collection of the movies I’ve enjoyed most may seem a little erratic. But dig in and enjoy. Continue reading »

Alien: Isolation

I don’t normally like horror games. Not for lack of nerves, or masochistic tendencies. It’s just… they’re not very scary. Oh sure, you’ll jump a few times. But after that? It’s just mowing down bad guys. Doesn’t matter if they’re Yetis in Uncharted, Divers in Bioshock or zombies in innumerable games. Alien Isolation takes a different turn, and in doing so is utterly amazing. In a trouser-changing kind of way. Continue reading »

Her

It’s not often a film dives into the near future and presents a vision that is both technologically engaging but also fundamentally profound. Minority Report, for all it’s whizbang effects and cool transitions, presented a type of computer interface that anyone having played with Microsoft’s Kinect for more than thirty minutes will realise is a pipe dream. So it was with relief that Spike Jonze settled upon a much more natural channel of communication with his latest film, Her. Continue reading »

Forza Horizon

I love Forza. Ever since clocking up 400 hours on Forza 2 I’ve been hooked, slowly honing my racing skills ready for new tracks and new opportunities. With Forza Horizon, Turn 10 have given control of their almighty racing simulator to a relative unknown and set them loose to make something new. And they did, brilliantly. Continue reading »

PSR-0: Great Idea, Bastardised Execution

If there’s one thing PHP needs, it’s a bit more convention. Node and Ruby can both attribute a large portion of their success to their respective package managers. Unfortunately PHP has such a… diverse history that using different components between frameworks and projects often requires a cumbersome set of differing bootstraps and loaders. PSR-0 looked set to be at least a partial solution; a common naming convention such that files could be loaded in the same way, regardless of their original framework. And they royally screwed it up. Continue reading »

Running

Today marks three years since I began running. In that time I’ve gone from a wheezing 13 minute mile (and enough leg cramps to make me doubt ever walking again) to being able to run the Sutton Fun Run route (8.5 mi) in just over an hour (and getting my mile time down to 5:58 in the process). In that time I’ve learnt a few things, often the hard way, so here’s some tips on what’s worked for me for the 1,300 Km I’ve covered so far. Continue reading »