Letter to Professor Sebastian Thrun – Driverless Car Project
July 26, 2011
Sebastian Thrun, PhD.
Computer Science Department
353 Serra Mall
Gates Building 154
Stanford, CA 94305-9010
Dear Professor Thrun,
My name is Kerry C Friedman. I share your desire to eliminate senseless loss of life in automobiles. Not death due to accidents, but death due to hyperthermia caused by vehicular entrapment. Last summer, in this country alone, 49 infants died this way. No one knows how many dogs, since no one quantifies them. In any event, they are much less likely to be recorded.
This tragedy claims two victims. First, the innocent life in the car, then the spiritual vacancy of the person responsible. Usually a second’s distraction causes a life of unbearable pain. Initially, they lose a loved one, next they carry the immeasurable weight of responsibility for that death.
I think you will understand the villain here better than most – Human Error. The same thing that causes death by traffic accident. I had a revelation while sitting in my car in traffic. It had been three months since I killed my beloved English Setters. Oliver and Zoie were more my family than they ever were pets. I was in the throws of tremendous grief when I finally found a fitting tribute to them. I suddenly noticed the car I was sitting in was already outfitted with the necessary components to have saved their lives. A different configuration would be necessary. It might take a few more sensors, but new cars are built with such sophisticated telematics, it would not take much. There would be no single universal solution. Each model of every manufacturer would require a different set up. Conceptually though, it would work.
I sat down with an engineer and we designed a system that ultimately takes the human out of the loop. There have been attempts to design systems to address this before, but none of them take human error out of the equation. Mostly, they are systems of alarm which rely on reintroducing the human immediately, and are therefore, more likely to be ignored or disarmed. That was the easy part. Now I need to get on the radar of the automobile manufacturers. My goal is to see this system or another system that’s as effective built into each new car.
When I read about your robotic car project, I had a light bulb moment. I saw your project with Google as a natural fit for a working prototype of my invention. I am hoping you are moved by this letter and wish to champion my cause. If not, I am hoping you can put me in touch with the right person to approach at Google.
If you wish to know more about my invention, the published patent application can be found at: https://oandzscientific.wordpress.com. You will also find a Pulitzer Prize winning article by Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post titled, “Fatal Distraction”. It is definitely worth the read.
Kerry C Friedman
O & Z Scientific
51 W. Onwentsia Rd
Lake Forest, Il, 60045