Is Your Car Driving You?


Recently, I recall speaking with a mother outside of my child’s school about her elderly parents. This woman began to tell me her father is in a substandard home because it was the closest within walking distance to her mother (who can’t drive).

I immediately thought about Sergey Brin’s claim: a driverless car could be the biggest quality of life improvement for our seniors. Already, there are three cars with driver licenses in Nevada, California and Florida—which also have the largest elderly populations.

At the time, scientists in England were debating “the role and consequences of artificial intelligence and self-driving cars.” The discussion included a wide gambit of new robotic developments from “personalized searches of Google to the seductive experience of driverless cars, from educational robots that hone your French to prosthetics that are stronger and faster than our own limbs.”

The room was filled with scientists, legal experts and philosophers to wrestle over implications of modernity. In my opinion, it was very medieval. However, the opinion of Alan Winfield, professor of electronic engineering at UWE Bristol, differs, stating, ”We’re interested in considering the ethical and societal impact of such systems…If we get it wrong, there are consequences right now.”

I attended the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference (DARC) recently at New York University. I was blown away, during the first half, by the energy for the commercialization of technology that has been held for too long by the military.

The afternoon session became a debate on whether drones can make kill decision. This may sound silly, but the U.N. is currently drafting an update to the Geneva Convention covering drones. DARC had a philosophy professor who had his own Hollywood paranoia of robots. Professor John Kagg of the University of Massachusetts attempted to illustrate his point by exclaiming, “You feel that little quiver in your stomach? It’s called a sign of being human. Drones don’t feel that.”

I do not know if other inventions like the typewriter and the bicycle were so heavily debated, as they can, respectively, create slander or deform someone. Oh yes—the skeptics defend their doubts claiming ‘there is a human behind the keys and pedals,’ because we all know humans are incapable of bad decisions.

Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: Roman Boed

About the author: Oliver Mitchell

Oliver Mitchell is the Founding Partner of Autonomy Ventures a New York based venture capital firm focused on seed stage investments in robotics, autonomous mobility and artificial intelligence. He has spent the last twenty years building and selling ventures, including: Holmes Protection to ADT/Tyco, Americash to American Express, and launching RobotGalaxy, a national EdTech brand. Oliver has been investing in the robotic industry for close to 10 years, with four successful exits in his angel portfolio in the past two years (including 2 IPOs). He is also a member of New York Angels and co-chairs the Frontier Tech Committee.

As father of five, Oliver launched RobotGalaxy in 2006 to fill a personal need: he wanted a wholesome activity for his son. RobotGalaxy’s patented toys were a national phenomena available at Toys’R’Us, Nordstrom Department Stores, and online that connected to a virtual world and library of mobile apps.

Before RobotGalaxy, Oliver was involved in a number of successful technology ventures and real estate developments. Oliver was part of the executive team of Softcom/IVT, an interactive video startup backed by Allen & Co., Intel Capital (NASDAQ:INTC) and Sun Microsystems. At IVT, Oliver was instrumental in expanding the market for their products with such leading broadcasters as HBO, Showtime, and Home Shopping Network.

Prior to IVT, Oliver was a founding member of AmeriCash, Inc., a network of ATMs in high traffic retail locations. AmeriCash was acquired by American Express (NYSE:AXP) within 32 months of operations. Oliver was also instrumental in the development of Holmes Protection and its sale to ADT/Tyco International (NYSE:TYC). Oliver has extensive background in merchant banking and advertising. He started his career at Kirshenbaum, Bond & Partners.

Oliver holds 14 patents and has appeared on numerous television shows, including: The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Fox Business News, The Today Show, and Rachel Ray. He also serves as a mentor on the Entrepreneur Roundtable Accelerator Fund, and advises many technology companies on their growth strategies including Greensight Agronomics and Que Innovations.

Oliver is also the publisher of the well-known robotics blog Robot Rabbi and is in the midst of writing a book entitled, “An Innovator’s Field Guide: Taking Ideas From Zero to Hero.”

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