How do I drive? – I dunno, Google it!

You know that it is nearing submission time when I suddenly post boatloads, in the same way that you know something special has hit the stream of consciousness when many publications suddenly all talk about the one thing.

Two pieces of news that had flooded my RSS feeds more frequently than any other in the last two days are: Watch_Dog reviews, and this new driverless Google car that has been put properly on the table as a working prototype. Since all I seem to talk about are video games, let’s go with the latter.

So, what is it? And what does it look like?

You look like a dweeb, but you will look like one while doing nothing at all. Image courtesy of The Guardian and Google.

This piece of engineering and computing genius has enough space for two people, and reaches a top speed of 25mph, or ~40km/hr.

Basically, it’s aimed towards people who didn’t want to get anywhere in the first place.

Alright, enough skepticism. The fact is, this car really drives itself. How does it do that?

Driverless car

The Google car contains “no steering wheel, no pedals and no brakes”, and relies on a sensor mounted on top (yeah, that thing that looks like a blender) to “see” where it’s going.

It also has newer and better sensors that give it the ability to see what’s going on up to a distance of two football fields. For example, on the most current version of the retrofitted self-driving Lexus, a mounted laser has about a 12-degree field of view that it uses to essentially zoom in on details of points of interest. On the prototype car, the lasers have full 360-degree views. “It’s going from looking just in front, like a flashlight, to a lantern all around the car,” said self-driving car project director Chris Urmson.

Re/code

Of course, that explains why its top speed is so slow. Having said that, 25mph is the average safe speed for driving in most American cities, and while it’s unfeasible here on bigger and busier Australian roads, 40 km/h is probably a good speed to drive around in the suburbs. The car is also made with lots of foam and safety materials to ensure that a crash, should it ever occur, would hurt a lot less.

What’s it like in there?

I think this video sums it up perfectly.

The testers all seem very happy with their experience, although it must be noted most of them seem to treat it as a rollercoaster ride. I wonder what would happen if in real practise, the driver suddenly decides to stop at a Maccas drive-thru? Or they get a message to go pick someone else up suddenly? I suppose on-board GPS would be so good by this time that they just need to speak “let’s go to McDonalds” and the car will pick the nearest one and drive to it, but I still feel like it takes away from the spontaneity of manually driving around.

Safety

The most important issue is obviously safety. The fact that there is close to no way for a human to interrupt the machine and take over, save for an emergency stop button, can be a problem.

The controls are needed to comply with the law in California which along with Nevada and Florida allows autonomous vehicles but only if a driver can take charge.

The Guardian

And with technology such as these making their way into the mainstream use, sooner or later laws will have to reflect the changes. Perhaps jumpy technophobes will push for laws to stop complete automation. I think, maybe, the problem lies in the way we think about safety, being that we always regard it as something that we need to prevent from not happening instead of something that we act to let happen. But, that’s an issue for another debate.

The main thing is, as the project director pointed out, having a human suddenly wrench themselves into control can be even more dangerous: have you ever had someone grab your steering wheel suddenly while driving? Doesn’t end well, does it?

The cool factor

I don’t think that having a little golf cart cupcake car is going to make you look cool, but if this is the direction that vehicular travel will head, then obviously a prototype from one manufacturer won’t dictate the eventual norm. Still, imagine trying to do burn-outs in one of those babies!

The really cool part is you really can drive and not-drive, text and not-drive, etc etc. That can change the landscape of traffic laws almost entirely, since things like rear-ending and side-swiping would end up being the issue with manufacturers, not the individual driver.

“Hey, this guy was on his phone when he crashed into me!”

“Well, what do you want me to do? I did call 911 as we were crashing to get a head-start!”

Alex

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When I Look Into Your Eyes, You’re Not Even There

[Just A Feeling – Maroon 5]

Having a glance over my most popular searches and blog views, it turns out that the post I made years back about Jack’s tutoring in Springvale still seems to get the most traffic. I went to his classes in Yr 12, and I remember in the first year of Uni I was actually emailing people his contact number, but then I changed my phone and lost his number, so I mostly ignored the messages asking me for his number after that.

Is that all I will be remembered for, after all the people who knew me properly are gone? Will the only thing linked to my name (of sorts) end up being my post about how a smart middle-aged man who taught me Maths made a kinda-pretty-sexist joke?

When I told my parents I wanted to be a writer, they said, “Are you going to write the next Harry Potter?”  No, this isn’t a post about the pressures my parents put on me (that’s for another, longer night), but more about why I don’t try! Why not try to write the next Harry Potter? It may sound really idealistic, but if I just went ahead and not did it, I would miss out on the chance that I may actually be able to do it! There are thousands of writers who write constantly (and incredibly well), only to fall flat and end up at a job that they never wanted, and I could well be one of them, but who is to say I’m also not one of the writers who get published and noticed?

And, if all else fails, I should probably write a fan-fiction of a hugely popular series, change things around, then BOOM a movie will be made within the year!

I just want myself to matter, to make some sort of remark in this world. Yes, in a hundred years, everyone who ever knew me would be dead, so who the hell cares? And even if I do go down in history the way household names such as Shakespeare, Einstein, or even Rowling did, the world is just a temporary tangible mound of atoms, and it’s still not going to matter once those atoms disperse. But still, it feels good to matter. It feels good now, whenever I watch or read something that a friend wrote, and it mentions my name or something I did, because it means that my actions had some impact on someone else, and that they were thinking of me at a point in time. So it would feel even better if something I did is attributed to an entire field of conversation, such as that I changed the way someone or someones think about an issue, or that I was the inspiration for future sources of inspirations. Then, it would feel infinitely better (even if I’m dead), when a hundred years from now, students complain about having to study me at school.

For now, I think I’ll strive for being an inspiration and turning point in someone’s life. I think if I can influence just one person, my time wouldn’t have been wasted.

Tomorrow I should be going out to eat a chicken wing buffet, so at least I can have something to talk about. I PROMISE I won’t write about myself tomorrow, at least.

Alex.

I Promise You, Kid

[Haven’t Met You Yet – Michael Buble]

So I noticed that I hadn’t blogged in about a week, and I realized I would therefore fail my 15 a month target if I didn’t write something soon.

I’ve sort of just been sitting at home doing nothing, which is probably what I’m writing about today. I like to analyze my own actions after a while.

A few of my friends feel that they’re wasting their lives in front of the computer screen – social networking just doesn’t hold the thrill anymore. They want to go out and get a job and start working towards the dream life they have.

I also want to work towards that dream life but I’m still sort of in the mindset of a kid – I have plenty of time to do it later, when I’m older. Except I am older.

And I think I have been hiding/held back by the fact that my parents aren’t giving me much freedom, and I couldn’t get a job. But I don’t know what the ratio of each is. I mean I do have friends that tell me to “just do it”, as in just move out and be independent. However it’s kind of hard to do it when I don’t have any means to support myself. Right now, my bank account is somewhere at 15 dollars.

I think that’s why I’m really looking forward to going to New York for exchange (have I mentioned this?). If I get the exchange, I will be going to my dream city for half a year learning about stuff I love, all the while being independent – at the same time financially I should still be supported somewhat (even though I still really need to get a job). So it’s sort of an incentive and a trial (dream city and independence) without the shameful failure.

However, I don’t think I’ll be able to disengage myself from the internet. I don’t think it’s a matter of my wasting my time on it, or being addicted to it (though in both cases it’s true), but rather the internet is such a huge part of what I find interesting about the media, that disengaging myself from it would be cheating myself of happiness.

There, I justified my addiction. Bring on the interventions!

Anyway, I’ve sort of been a recluse for the last few days, and after not getting another job (even though I do have a work experience somewhere! It doesn’t earn me money – if anything it takes up money – so I don’t know how I will do), my ego has taken a hit. But I have organized to go out a little bit in the next few days to bring my mood back up again.

Alex.

When I Made Your Body Shiver

[Brick By Brick – Train]

I COMPLETELY WENT PAST MY 2 YEAR ANNIVERSARY ON THIS BLOG!

August 18th. 2 years. Although my blogging wasn’t as frequent in the past year as it was in the year prior, I think that the most change happened in this past 12 months. Apart from, obviously, graduation in an academic sense, I feel I’d also graduated in an emotional sense.

Though, as all graduates go, I do have days where I wish I was back there, 12 months ago.

Here’s to another 12 months of saying I will get a job, move out, and find my significant other – and failing to do so.

(I say this so negatively because if, somehow, in 12 months’ time I actually am working a decent job, living away from home and in a loving relationship, I would feel so so so much better.)

Alex.

I’m Picking Me Apart Again

[Breaking The Habit – Linkin Park]

Day 20 — The one that broke your heart the hardest

Dear You-Should-Probably-Have-An-Idea-Who-You-Are,

I know what you’re wondering; you very specifically told me that you weren’t interested, and would never be interested, so why did I still hold onto hope just to have my heart broken? It’s not like you led me on at any point.

While I do mean “heartbreak” in in traditional sense, I mostly mean you broke my heart in a friendship sense as well. You said that I was too eager and clingy, well that’s not my fault, that is how I am. And it took me so long to realize, and then even longer to accept the fact that if you can’t stand being around me because of how I am, then I can’t be around you.

And since I accepted it, and since I stopped talking to you, my random attacks of sadness diminished, and I hardly get depressive moods anymore. Bianca always taught me to do whatever in life that makes me happy, and even if it’s painful, if being happy means not being in someone’s life, then that has to be it. Catherine was the first to be brave and honest enough to tell me that this was the only way. I didn’t want to accept it at the time but when I did, I realized how dumb I was to reject her suggestion.

A few people who I discussed this with told me to give it another shot, give you a chance, rebuild that bridge between us, work it out. But I think now we’re both happier. You don’t have to worry about me, and I don’t have to worry about me worrying about you. Like you said once, now we’re just “acquaintances who know each other very well”.

I don’t hate you. You were a huge chapter in my life, and the lessons I learned from you will continue to aid me through life. But the full stop has been inked onto the last sentence of that chapter, and I have turned the page. I loved you, and I love you still for the memories we shared.

Alex.

Fussin’ And Fightin’

[Ice Box – There For Tomorrow, original by Omarion]

Day 16 — Someone that’s not in your state/country

Dear Cathy,

It was a toss-up between Dani and you for the previous letter. I’m kind of feeling guilty that you got this one, but just pretend that it’s the previous one as well.

You read most of what I feel in the plane letter I gave you – you remember, the one that made you cry – and since they were pretty private, I won’t say it here again. But I think you’re actually better off in QLD, seeing as what is happening currently in your life. Imagine having to go through that with THEM still in the same State as you! At least now you’re one step closer to getting out forever, am I right?

I still miss you like a cat on heat (wtf) but I know that ultimately we’ll still be friends, but you need to get out seriously.

I love you, Bobiboop.

Alex.

A Vinyl Queen From A Surfer’s Dream

[Miss Delaney – Jack’s Mannequin]

Day 5 – Your Dreams

Dear Dreams,

I don’t know which one they’re referring to so I guess…to my dreams, literally, I would say: Hey, thanks for entertaining me all these years! I know sometimes we haven’t been on very good terms with each other; you sometimes lie to me and show me things I wish were true but are not, and then when I realize that they’re not to be, your comforting fog is nowhere to be seen.

Sometimes you take the things that scare me the most, the secrets that I don’t tell anyone, and you show them to me, like you’re taunting me. You would throw me down a flight of stairs, off a building ledge, take away all my friends, accelerate my car off the highway, throw me into the deep ocean, toss me into hungry flames…and, again, when I am awake and about to beat the crap out of you for scaring me, you’d already ran away.

But, sometimes, we’re friends. You sometimes show me how to solve problems, and you warn me of how horribly wrong events can go so that I can avoid them. You let me soar through the sky, break through walls, and most of all you make going to bed pleasant. So for that, thank you. For everything else, screw you.

To my metaphoric dreams, that is, my hopes and plans for the future: Hey, one day you and me are gonna get together and make so many Happiness babies it ain’t gonna be funny, so I hope you’re prepared for that. For now, I may seem to be taking my time but I swear I am working my way to you as fast as I can. But, please, ’til then, don’t give up, keep waiting, and for FUCK’s sake don’t die!

Alex.

P.S. I didn’t even realize ’til now that my title has the word ‘dream’ in it and I totally didn’t notice it, let alone intend it.