Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Honda's clever cruise control is computing witchcraft

THE OTHER week my smartphone – having worked out I was on a train chugging its way through Sandhills station – decided to give me an update on how Brendan Rogers’ boys were getting on against Arsenal.

Somewhere deep within the phone’s brain, a complicated algorithm had worked out that, as I was vaguely close to Anfield at the time of a Liverpool game, I must have been interested in the results. All it proved was that my phone probably knows less about me than you do. It knew where I was, but couldn’t figure out why.

If you’ve ever bought someone a gift on Amazon – say, Michael Bublé’s latest album – and then been hounded with emails suggesting you buy all his other albums despite the fact you hate his records, you’ll know what I mean when I say I don't really trust computerised technology. It makes even less sense when you apply it to real world driving – a colleague and I were circumnavigating London’s North Circular the other day, and even though I’ve never driven the capital’s roads before I could still work when to change lanes long before Lady Satnav did.

That’s why I’m genuinely going to have to take a leap of faith with Honda’s latest invention. I don’t know how they’ve done it, but they’ve managed to come up with an automatic cruise control system that can predict if someone’s about to cut you up. Not only that, but it then applies the brakes to prevent them causing a pile-up.

Surely that’s just witchcraft? Predicting who is going to cut you up on the M58 is something best done with common sense rather than computers. Even a really good computer, developed by Honda’s brainiest boffins, cannot scan every car on the motorway, work out which one is the BMW X5 on personalised plates and take pre-emptive action to prevent them from ruining your drive into work.
However, it’s not something nicked from a science fiction movie. It’s called Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control – or i-ACC, as Honda’s insisting we nickname it – and it’ll be available on range-topping versions of the CR-V off-roader later this year.

I can’t wait to give it a go and see if it actually works. Perhaps more worrying it’s that it’s being hailed as a step towards a whole new generation of clever gadgets that can predict what other people are about to do and take pre-emptive decisions to improve the situation.

Maybe such a technical marvel shouldn’t just be limited to motoring. Have Liverpool thought about bringing in i-ACC to replace Brendan Rogers?

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