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'I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that'

Maria Rovito
Managing Editor

Over the weekend, technology-giant Apple experienced a fury of heat for what might potentially be the next step for the California-based company: a self-driving electric car, better known as the iCar.

Apple, most notably known for making phones, computers and tablets is exploring how to make an entire vehicle, not just designing automotive software or individual components. They are also gathering advice on parts and production methods, focusing on electric and connected-car technologies, while studying the potential for automated driving, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

apple-icarThe Journal stated that Apple had set up a secret lab working on the creation of an Apple-branded electric car, citing people familiar with the matter. The lab was set up late last year, soon after Apple revealed its forthcoming smart watch and latest iPhones, the Financial Times said.

The Journal said that the Apple project, code-named “Titan,” employed several hundred people working a few miles from Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino.

driverless-carWide ranges of companies, including BMW and Google, have been developing various degrees of autonomous driving. This is technology with potentially far-reaching promise. But most car companies are focusing their efforts on incremental technologies like automatic parking, collision avoidance and lane control that while intriguing aren’t yet an obvious source of huge sales or profits.

The three paramount breakthroughs in technology possibly being built into the iCar are being electronic, autonomous and controlled by a smartphone. Basically, it is a transportation device that could make decisions for you.

The iCar’s autonomy makes me a little bit uncomfortable. Call me old-fashioned, but I am not sure that I would trust a car that could drive itself without human intervention.

Stephen Hawking, one of Britain’s pre-eminent scientists and world famous theoretical physicist, just recently stated that artificial intelligence could “spell the end of the human race.”

robot shakes hands with human“Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded,” Prof. Hawking stated last year. The scientist believes the primitive forms of artificial intelligence developed so far have already proved very useful, but he fears the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans.

Humans are already extremely reliant on technology; computers have been integrated into our daily lives, so far that we are very likely to be carrying one (or a few) on us at this very moment.

hal9000-2010The creation of an autonomous vehicle could be extremely similar to HAL in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the novel, HAL is a form of artificial intelligence, which turns out to be murderous. HAL encapsulates many people’s fears of how AI could pose a threat to human life.

I believe that humans could let machines take over, however, only if we let them. The more responsibilities we hand over to machines, the more easily we are letting them control us. We cannot let the line between biology and technology become more blurred than it already is.