Self-driving Cars Will Need a New Breed of Software

We've heard rumors that Apple is working on its own car. If you doubt that, this article collects all the evidence, and it's an impressive list. It's likely to be a standard electric car with, we think, a phenomenal battery. One article I saw suggests consumers have great enthusiasm for a such a car. "Consumers have big appetite for Apple Car." However, down the road, our attention will turn to self-driving cars,

One question to ask about self-driving (autonomous) cars is whether it can be done to the satisfaction of the consumers. By that I mean software is still designed and written by human beings, and that means all software has flaws in either function or security. Turning your life over to a self-driving car will require a sea change in automotive design and customer education.

One thing that I'm sure people think about when they think about self-driving cars is their experience with computers at home or in the office. Just about everyone has experienced severe exasperation if not a fatal flaw that gave them endless grief. The prospect for software getting radically more complex in a car is good; the prospect for some kind of harmful failure as a result also looms large in the mind.

I think there's a certain amount of pollyanna thinking in the industry that the advantages would outweigh the risks and that the risks can be minimized. That kind of thinking quickly disappears when a young husband who has run out for ice cream for his daughter's birthday doesn't ever come home again because of his autonomous car failed him badly.

Of course, we're all familiar with the unintended acceleration issues that were alleged to have taken place with Audi quite awhile back and with Toyota more recently. So far as I know, no quantitative explanation was ever provided publicly nor the bugs isolated. If the faults were found but not disclosed for legal reasons, that legal process translates into an even scarier process for self-driving cars.

The prospect becomes real that such a car could kill someone and they family will never know why it happened.

I continue to hope that Apple or any other company doesn't underestimate the magnitude of the challenge. New methods of writing code may have to be developed. Code that checks code may have to be written. Redundant safety systems in addition to the car's primary operating system may have to be developed. A NASA Space Shuttle-like system of multiple computers that each gets a vote, and the majority vote wins might have to be implemented, even if it costs a little more.

With baby boomers retiring in droves, there will be a huge demand for self-driving cars as the boomers get into their 80s. However, I think there's a lot of work to be done to explain to the customers just how these cars will be designed so as to make socially acceptable and greatly trusted on a grand scale. A recent survey said, "1 in 3 Americans say they will never consider a self-driving car."

A stunning, conventionally driven electric car is withing Apple's grasp. However, it remains to be seen if Apple can be the company that does the self-driving car right.

Next page: the tech news debris for the week of May 11.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of May 11


This weeks news debris, as one would expect, launches with an Apple Watch discussion. The first one of interest relates to the Apple Watch being a lot more water resistant than Apple has let on. Of course, we can understand why. Apple doesn't want customers aggressively putting their watches to the test. But this fellow did. "The Apple Watch Waterproofing Extravaganza: Swim, High Diving, Test Chamber."

Lately, we've heard that the Apple Watch hardware isn't very expensive. However, there may be more to the real costs than meets the eye. In this detailed article at Mobile Forward, the author puts some meat on the bones of what it really costs Apple to make the Apple Watch. "No, the Apple Watch Does *Not* Cost $84 to Make."

The distinguished author about everything Apple, Leander Kahney, tells the dreadful story about how his Apple Watch got dropped and was destroyed. It can happen. We know it can. So. Let's be careful out there. "Kahney’s Korner: Cultmaster lays down an Apple Watch rant."

Credit: Cult of Mac

Are you interested in magic? David Pogue has collected and created "A Thorough Review of 20 Magic Apps for Your Phone." Presto!

You've heard me talk about how I appreciate the technical leadership of Microsoft's Satya Nadella. Here is yet another report that seems to back up the idea that Microsoft is in a higher gear nowadays. "Early look at Windows 10 on the new Retina MacBook says it runs better than OS X."

Finally, the success of the Apple Watch has brought into great contrast the failure of Google Glass. Here, from Tim Bajarin, is an excellent analysis of why Google Glass failed. "The Debacle of Google Glass."


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.