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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A Little Righteous And Too Proud

[Lost Without You – Delta Goodrem]

My song title choices are starting to crumble my image isn’t it? So I had quite an interesting dream last night, having finally fallen asleep after tossing and turning – I’m pretty sure my blankets should be changed to summer ones, because it’s too warm.

Speaking of which, ahoy summer!

I maintain that one day my dreams will be the root of a killer idea for a successful TV show/movie/book, but for now I’ll be the sole audience, and try to pass it on in my blogs.

I was rather amused by my dream, which was special in itself because it was actually one long run-on dream, albeit with different sections. I tried Googling dream interpretations but all I got was that the dreams I have where my teeth fall out (not even from last night) means I am insecure about my social image, or, as the Chinese would have me believe, that I’m lying and my mind is uncomfortable about that.

Well I already knew that.

So I’m going to make up my own interpretations. I’ve recently been reminded that this blog is public, so there will be a few embarrassing personal aspects of my dream I won’t include, but on the most part I can share the gist of it.

True to my sci-fi riddled mind, and with more than just a little help from watching Heroes for the past few days, the dream had me enroll in some sort of academy/training center that will nurture our special abilities and make us into these killing machines – so, Heroes meet Nikita.

The building that train takes place in is multi-leveled, and massive, and rather well furnished.

A while after training/learning started, we had a sort of royalty visit the grounds. They were very important, and knew everything going on and all the plans that the academy had for us, and it was implied that trainees had to stay out of the way and turn a deaf ear to anything we might overhear.

So, there I was, on the landing of the stairs leading the sleeping quarters to the dining area, and I overhear some conspiracy plot the Royal said to a bodyguard or follower, and I don’t remember the details – or rather, I didn’t dream the details – and I tried to keep myself quiet, but as the Royal was leaving she (it was a she, like the M character in James Bond) turned around and looked towards me, seeing me.

Anyway, that was really the smallest scene from a pretty long dream (I knew my blankets were getting too warm because everyone was stripping in my dream, but hey that could be from another meaning too…moving on). I don’t call myself close to being an expert in interpreting symbolic factors of a dream, but I might give it a shot.

Some dream symbols are really obvious: like when I dreamed I got a low 80 for my ENTER – I wonder what that could POSSIBLY be telling me about myself. Some dreams are much more cryptic: like this one.

The fact that I dreamed myself with superpowers in the first place, apart from reflecting what I’ve been watching, is also reflecting that I am feeling helpless and powerless in aspects of my life, and in my desires I am compensating for it with superhuman powers. I am trying to validate my footprint in my own life by having control over those around me, and the way I do it is through having superpowers .

I enrolled in an academy to train myself, not because I feel that even having powers I am not in control, and need to learn control, but because the academy is full of people who also have powers, so they are in positions to acknowledge my abilities without fearing me. This probably comes from my need to be acknowledged for what I can do, and to find peers who support and better me – which makes it sound like I don’t see my friends as supportive, but I think it’s more to do with my abilities in life than me.

The building is, as I said, multi-leveled and well furnished. It’s like a maze in my dreams, but I knew my way around, and everything was well lit. It could be seen that the building represents how I organize different parts of my life in my mind – personal areas like the sleeping quarters, and my public image in the dining areas. There were other areas, like a huge foyer, and, for some reason, a leisure/shopping area. So it shouldn’t be a far cry to see that the building is the foundations of my known life – things that I feel comfortable projecting about myself: the initial impression (a well lit foyer, warm and welcoming, even if I do say so myself) and the social image that I have created, which is a comprehensive shopping center with little stores for different purposes, or rather different ways of dealing with different social groups.

And then comes M, the Royal. The Royal is a character of power, of money, a character that is protected, and to be feared for the sole reason that they have power over me. The Royal suddenly comes into the building, or my life, and has access to each aspect of the building, because it’s all her property. At the same time, I (or, in this case, the “I” would be my consciousness) am kept at a distance, being ordered to worship and respect the Royal when she is in my building/life. The superpowers I gave to myself through my desires, the self-empowering, means nothing against the Royal, who holds more power simply on principle.

Then comes the fact that I catch the Royal having negative plans for the academy – ie the foundation of power I feel I have – which would have negative impact on the building – ie aspects of my life.  I am aware of this threat against the academy, but I feel safe because I’m hidden from view (I’m standing on the landing of my sleeping quarters, which would be my private life). This safety is dispersed the moment the Royal, standing in the dining area (ie my public life), turns around and sees me standing there. I am caught in the headlights, and the safety of privacy is completely destroyed – the Royal has access to my private life as well as my public life.

The question is, who is this Royal?

Anyway, there were other parts of the dream which probably alludes to different problems in life that I’m tackling, all with the running theme of a superpower academy (and I mean that in a scenery sense. I don’t think the academy has the same meaning in my other dreams as in my described dream). I won’t discuss them because this post is starting to become a bit too long, and also because they’re sort of odd and embarrassing – I already mentioned that people started to strip. So.

Alex.

I Can See Your Halo, And Don’t It Feel Good?

[Halo/Walking On Sunshine – Glee Cast cover, originals by Beyonce/Katrina And The Waves]

Day 23 — The last person you kissed

Dear Doggie,

Doggie is the original name I gave to the plushie dog I used to sleep with when I was little. It got me through some tough puberty years, as well as some not so tough primary school years.

I think it’s okay not to mention what sort of emotional ties I have with the plushie that used to guard me at night; I think most people reading this will remember the special relationship they had with their favorite childhood teddy. It’s not just something to hug at night, but rather it’s the symbol of safety and protection. Just the familiar touch and smell of your favorite old teddy will remind you of those days when you felt safe, and when your biggest worry were pimples.

Anyway, I do love Doggie (its new name is Jackie for a number of hilarious reasons but I felt that if I wrote ‘Dear Jackie’, it might be confusing) and I ask of you to, if you can still find it, give your old teddy a hug too. Remember Toy Story 3? Just saying.

Alex.

What in the name of burning fuck?!

2 things today.

1. Lost my wallet. No, no, had someone NICK IT, most likely.

2. Another fibre of netting snipped.

So, what in the name of BURNING FUCK IS GOING ON?! Why can’t things just be calm, settled, and goddamn GOOD?! Why must shit happen?

So yeah, hope things get better. Things have to get better.

Alex.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who offered pictures, music and copies of stories. You guys rock!