LOL… driverless cars for Indian roads?? When AI meets Cows, Rajinikanth and Ganpati

Originally published: LinkedIn (article link) 
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Subject Matter: Artificial Intelligence/Driver-less cars
Style: Humor 
Author: Swati Jena (Founder, GhostWritersWorld)

I was reading a blog on Medium last night, which mentions likes of Elon Musk and Bill Gates talking of how AI is taking away thousands of jobs, and also Uber apparently purchased some driverless (truck, if I remember correctly) company. I don’t know the facts of these, but I suddenly felt very depressed and worried. Not that I am employed in the US, or in any of those industries or jobs. But millions of jobless people, is never good for the society. And then there was the AHA moment!

Like in Hollywood movies, USA alone saves the world from all sorts of Apocalypse and alien attacks, Indian roads will save the world from the onslaught of Driverless Cars! Bollywood style.

India is a land of the sacred. Of them, three very close to our hearts are, in no particular order: Gau Mata (the revered mother cow), Rajinikanth (the legendary actor), Ganapati Bappa (the favorite God).

So here’s more on the 3 formidable forces on Indian roads, AI coders never bargained for!

Coder challenge #1: HOW will you get past the COW?

AI follows logic. Holy Cow does not. And Holy Cow is a social being, so she may have company of her entire herd (essentially it won’t be as easy as the picture here). Under normal circumstances, the driver will do one of the following:

  1. Make a dangerous maneuver (like really dangerous), to get past the cow without hurting it
  2. Stick his head out of the window to shout out for the herd-owner, if thankfully there was one, to get the cows out of the way
  3. And if the cows were ownerless, well you try “shoo”, “shoo”, “hut”, “hut” (that’s the Hindi “hut”, means “get off the way”), from your seat and hope the cows pay heed OR most likely have to get out of the car yourself and drive them off road.

(This is pretty much the only time we probably don’t honk, because we know the Holy Cow gives no dung to it).

How will a non-existent driver manage this feat? Ah don’t tell me you will put a robot to do the job. Who knows the robot might just get whisked off the road by some scrap collector, as soon as it gets off the car! (Noooo… now don’t tell me you will send Robocop to do the job!).

I think you get the drift. AI ain’t got no clue about how to deal with this cowering.. er.. towering challenge…

Coder challenge #2: The 100 stunts of Rajinikanth


If you don’t know who Rajinikanth is, even a dip in the Holy Ganges cannot rid you of the blasphemy, mind it!

And if you google searched him after the previous statement, Rajini is religion in India. We adore him. We are awed by him. Rajini splits bullets approaching him with the common-place razor, as child’s play. I don’t know why Hollywood wasted money on Bruce Willis trying to “Armageddon” and sent Will Smith to take on the Aliens on America’s birthday. Rajini could have single-handedly diverted the approaching Armageddon meteor to hit the rogue alien spaceship on Independence Day. Two apocalypse averted with one master stroke. But it will take Rajini to pull that off, it’s beyond the pay grade of mere mortals to even think of such moves.

So when I say Rajini is religion, he is God, and he is in every Indian’s heart. And that alone makes us more daring. Now which Harley driving dude can balance a 6-member family, the dog, and the monthly grocery with such panache for kilometers of ride on a 2-seater? And this picture says nothing of the real stunts, which would be perhaps even having an entire meal while on transit, taking phone calls (wife or child holding the cell phone for the rider dad), etc. Even a humble home-maker can pull off stunts that you can’t imagine. Like suddenly deciding to cross the road right in front of a speeding vehicle, and be in no hurry to cross-over knowing fully well the traffic will stop for her.

Or a biker on your left who till the 99.999th minute seemed like he would go straight, only to take a determined turn at the 00.0001th minute from your left across the front of your car to your right – with elan of a person who it would seem always intended to turn, and it was just matter of time.

You screech and apply sudden brakes. The car behind you rams into you.

Then the laws of natural justice on Indian Roads will swing into action..

#1. Irrespective of the jerk in front of you, who you were trying to save, if you brake, you are in trouble (if you didn’t you, and ran into the jerk, you would still be in trouble).

#2. We don’t waste time calling the police. We settle matters right then. Traffic may come to a stand-still, but that’s fine. Now like, without a driver to fight with, what would the enraged person do? They obviously will not let the car move away, that’s for sure! Is there a communication device built into the car for such situations? Btw which and how many languages is that device programmed for? (make sure they have a translator for all local abuses though)

#3. Irrespective of whose fault it is, the person driving the vehicle with more number of wheels, will get into trouble. So while the driverless car is trying to avoid hitting into one stuntman on its right, and in doing so hits into another on its left, the driverless car is in trouble.

Imagine the headline: “Uber’s new fleet of cars – driverless and heartless – hits a milkman on his way to earning his daily wage” (no mention of who the car was trying to dodge on its other side!)

How will AI be programmed for chaos? How will it deal with PR issues?

Coder challenge #3: When Bappa returns to earth

When it is time for Ganpati Bappa to return to earth, the earth stands still for him. So does the traffic across all those days. People use their intelligence to then take detours – – including barging into one-way, wrong-side, thoroughfare of apartments which are not open for public. Technically, many of them are against the rule-book. But in times like this, it is a common sense, and no one thinks of them as more than just being practical.

And such situations keep coming throughout the year – e.g. there is also Durga Ma, and Diwali and rains, and those times of the year when lakhs of wedding may happen in the city on the same day. They all require such kind of common sensical approach.

And when there are jams, and the traffic police is nowhere to be seen, a common man (usually whose car is stuck in the jam), doubles up as the policeman and gets the traffic moving.

How will you program driverless cars for such situations? Will it take take traffic commands from someone not “officially” a traffic police? Will it breaks traffic rules to get past the jam?

Indiscretions which will pass off as “practical approach” for an individual, will be programmed lawlessness for driverless cars. How will AI deal with the legal issues?

We all are going starry-eyed over technology, forgetting there are many cultural subtleties need to be factored in for any technology to truly add-value.

And while whoever has to figure that out, does so, here’s the thing on a lighter note.

Even if many thousands lose their jobs in America when driverless vehicles take over, India will still have its driver jobs in place (it will take a while for AI to crack this code). And while we have aspired for jobs in the US in the past, as the turn of the Karmic cycle, we can for a change welcome our American brethren to take up jobs in India. We will be the most populous country in the world soon; therefore (a) too many of us will need transportation – means many jobs (b) we are used to having many people around, a few thousands more of you, will not make such a big difference (and we are not so paranoid generally of immigrants and all that).

And here are some closing thoughts…

The more mechanized and neatly organised we are, the more easily we can be automated. How will we automate the chaos, the unpredictable, the unorganized?

Historically, we have been criticized for our chaos. We ourselves go overboard in comparing ourselves with very cleanly organised countries. But guess what, maybe it will be this very chaos which will help us preserve that which is deeply human.

And while we are outsourcing our brain, we still have a sense of humor left. Atleast that.

So it’s okay to smile 🙂 Have a good day 🙂

(c) 2017 Swati Jena All Rights Reserved

All pictures for editorial comment