Alongside our rethinking of Asimov’s Laws, the PFF team has also been actively engaged in rethinking SAE International’s “Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to On-Road Motor Vehicle Automated Driving Systems”: its six-level classification system to describe the levels of driver intervention and attention required to drive a vehicle. These extend from level 0 in which an automated system communicates with the driver without, however, assuming control of the vehicle, to level 5 in which no human intervention in involved.

The emphasis in this scale is on the gradual assumption of driver functions by the vehicle’s control and sensing systems within a setting that is assumed to be that of a highway or roadway. On might well call this “autonomy for machines” (or at least, machine intelligence). But what about the pedestrian realm: the realm of sidewalks, civic spaces, and walking-only streets that is essential to the fabric and quality of city life? What would such a scale look like if it were rewritten in the name of autonomy for humans? Here’s an answer, co-written with Greg Lynn (with help from Mitchell Weiss).

- January 12, 2018