Classroom Discussion: Self-Driving Cars

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April 10, 2018

Classroom Discussion: Self-Driving Cars

This post comes from NICERC’s Director of Curriculum Chuck Gardner

Students who receive instruction from NICERC’s Cyber Literacy courses or Cyber Science are challenged with developing and discussing the thought behind autonomous devices. Basically, we’re using sensors to gather information from the world around us and then use that data to make decisions. Students discuss what it means to be autonomous, how autonomous the Boe-Bot can get, and what if we were to “upsize” that tech into something that interacted with the world so that its effects could be seen… and felt!

That bring us to the recent Uber event from Tempe, AZ. If you haven’t heard, this was the location where the first death resulting from a pedestrian impact by a self driving car occurred. An Uber-equipped Volvo SUV with a human safety driver was cruising down a four-lane highway on a late Sunday evening, after dark. A pedestrian, walking their bicycle across the highway, not at an intersection or crosswalk, was subsequently struck by the vehicle. The safety driver happened to be looking away from the road in the moments before the pedestrian was struck; when she looked up, it was too late to react.

What happens next is quite obviously going to be a time filled with not only research and investigation, but the asking of a series of questions related to where should we be testing these devices. When can they be considered ready for public interaction? Who should give that authority?

The linked Wired article does a good job at asking these questions. While the author may not answer them all, she does a good job at level-setting the audience with this statement: “We didn’t sign any forms or cast any votes, but here we are, in a living lab for self-driving tech.” Like it or not, we’re all part of this machine-learning microcosm. Whether it is by surrounding ourselves with IoT devices that track our habits and movements (learning thermostats, location services that offer up local retail suggestions, etc) or becoming surrounded by new tech that blends in so well that we don’t even notice its existence. The tech is here and we’re left to interact with it.

Enjoy the read and let us know if you’re using it in your classroom! We’d love to hear from you.

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