Extreme Corner Case For Autonomous Cars — Giants Riding On Cars Down Hills!

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So, imagine you are driving along in your fancy high-tech car, minding your own business, with your yet-to-be-feature-complete full self-driving software activated, and suddenly the car slams the brakes to a full stop, like a donkey that had an epiphany that what it was doing just didn’t serve any purpose and therefor just refused to move any further. The silicon brain of your clever-as-a-donkey-robo-car just slammed on the brakes because it saw this through one of its cameras:

Sure, it’s great that something useful is becoming of outdated fossil fuel vehicles. Giants having fun with them riding down hills seem like a good solution, and I guess they don’t burn gas in the process, but my car might get nervous around these guys. For the time being, my car didn’t stop, but when the brain of the car gets more clever than that of a cricket, it might recognize the car, and panic! It does so already when it sees broken off tree branches laying on the side of the road.

Elon Musk said at Tesla Autonomy Day earlier this year that you wouldn’t believe the corner cases you see in traffic around the world, but I do believe that now. How do you teach your car to avoid a multi-tonne wooden giant riding on the roof of a car down a slope perpendicular to the road? This one does not seem to be moving, but is he just waiting to release the pressure of his pinky finger pushing the brake pedal just in time to smash into passing cars? Who knows what giants are up to, right?

Anyway, Tesla and the rest of you robo-car-wizards, there you have it, another crazy corner case. You figure it out.

In case you’re curious about the art, the sculpture is made by the world renowned Thomas Dambo in collaboration with residents of my home town Mørke. But before this reckless driver got here, back in 2015, my town received a wooden man sculpture called “Ben Chiller” that Thomas had made for a music festival called “Northside” in nearby city Aarhus, because we thought it would be a cool landmark to promote our town.

We baptised him “Mørkemanden,” and he has been a great asset to our town ever since. Everybody talks about him, and he is becoming a tourist attraction. A lot of Norwegians travel through here on highway 21 going to and from Copenhagen.

As you can see on the map in my Model 3 navigation, the car is cool about “Mørkemanden,” having recognized him just sitting there, but behold that blue marker I put there further down…

This year it was time for “Mørkemanden” to get a son, and why not let the rascal play with a nice little red Hyundai? He hasn’t got an official name yet, so we just call him “Sønnike” (“Sonny”). By the way, my mom has a Hyundai Getz like the one being abused here, and it’s obviously a rock solid car, so she’s happy about that at least.

The sculptures of Thomas Dambo is made out of recycled materials, mainly found as dumped trash. By doing this, Thomas hopes to inspire people to have fun and think of trash as a resource. He has sculptures scattered all over the globe, and they are all mind bogglingly amazing!

All photos by the author, Jesper Berggreen

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Jesper Berggreen

Jesper had his perspective on the world expanded vastly after having attended primary school in rural Africa in the early 1980s. And while educated a computer programmer and laboratory technician, working with computers and lab-robots at the institute of forensic medicine in Aarhus, Denmark, he never forgets what life is like having nothing. Thus it became obvious for him that technological advancement is necessary for the prosperity of all humankind, sharing this one vessel we call planet earth. However, technology has to be smart, clean, sustainable, widely accessible, and democratic in order to change the world for the better. Writing about clean energy, electric transportation, energy poverty, and related issues, he gets the message through to anyone who wants to know better. Jesper is founder of Lifelike.dk and a long-term investor in Tesla, Ørsted, and Vestas.

Jesper Berggreen has 243 posts and counting. See all posts by Jesper Berggreen