The Drive for Driverless Cars

Automated vehicles are coming, but will they be fun?

3 min read
The Drive for Driverless Cars
Illustration: Matthew Hollister

In the 1960s, the television show “Candid Camera” had several skits in which they faked driverless cars moving past unsuspecting people. It was funny because everyone knew that driverless cars were impossible. That was then, but now the great technical and social challenge of developing driverless cars has suddenly been opened up to us, as described in last month’s issue of IEEE Spectrum.

At the turn of the millennium, I was a member of a committee of the National Academy of Engineering whose task was to select the most outstanding engineering achievements of the 20th century. First was electrification, followed by the automobile. Because an important criterion was social impact, we reasoned that the development of the automobile profoundly changed where we lived and how we lived. At about the same time, people were making lists of important future achievements for the 21st century—grand challenges with social impacts. But as far as I know, driverless cars were not on any of those lists.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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