A car, a computer, a man?

David Hasselhoff is selling his very own KITT. Not because it's not futuristic enough for him. But for a good cause. In fact, it's not the first breakup that the two stars of the 1980s have had. We had a chat with the black dream car. Protocol of a dialogue.
Text Matthias Mederer
Photo Steffen Jahn

We are standing in a garage. Somewhere in a secret place. In a dark corner, a red light wanders back and forth …

K.I.T.T.?
Michael, is it you?

No. It's us. The guys from ramp.
Silence. Only the red light, the scanner, speeds up a little. K.I.T.T. seems to be waking up.

Do you miss Michael, pardon, David?
No. In the beginning we had some contact. He made a career as a lifeguard, so I was there with him a few times.

For old times' sake?
No, because of Pamela Anderson.

I see. Let's leave it at the old days. The future is much more interesting. At the moment, everyone is very excited, asking themselves, where is the journey going? The car in transition and all that. Is the car still suitable as a hero tool?
Absolutely. I would even go one step further and say that in the future, the car will even be suitable as a hero itself.

With turbo boost and a body that can drive through walls?
Why would you want to drive through walls? And the Turbo Boost for jumping over obstacles was a cheap movie trick with hidden ramps, but you knew that …

Hmm … of course.
No, I see the autonomous car of the future more in terms of a modern everyday hero. Think about blind, old and weak people. Thanks to autonomous cars, their level of mobility will increase dramatically. The quality of life will increase and so the car, until now merely a tool of the hero, will become a hero itself. Urbanization will increasingly demand intelligent systems and models of mobility, keyword car sharing, keyword Moovel, all this will facilitate everyday life …

A computer that chauffeurs an old woman to the grocery store? But that doesn't sound particularly spectacular.
Then take another example: A person suffers a heart attack at home. Seconds are at stake. Until now, it sometimes took a long time for an emergency doctor to arrive on the scene and organize transport. Autonomous and networked mobility could take care of the transport much faster. Think of the driving qualities in emergency situations. A first responder is first and foremost an emergency doctor, not a race car driver, a computer however, and the autonomous Audi RS7 proves this, comes close to the qualities of a race car driver.

I see the autonomous car of the future more in terms of a modern everyday hero. Think about blind, old and weak people. Thanks to autonomous cars, their level of mobility will increase dramatically.

Doesn't that run counter to safety-first-thinking?
Not in combination with the modern possibilities of hazard detection and networking of cars. Networking in particular can save lives. Time and again, for example, people have to die because rescue workers on highways can't get to the scene of an accident fast enough because careless or indifferent drivers don't form an adequate emergency lane. Connected cars would also solve this problem.

Do you really think people will build that much trust?
First of all, people will accept anything that makes their lives easier. That's why he will also accept autonomous transportation from point A to point B. One of the biggest problems lies in the transition phase and here simply in the fact that man and computer drive together within the same system and man is the superior authority here, but at the same time remains the unpredictable variable.

Man is the superior authority here, but at the same time remains the unpredictable variable.

Caution, K.I.T.T. …
I am merely analyzing facts. And it simply is like that: A human being who decides to seek suicide as a ghost driver in an analog, non-networked car does not fit into the logical traffic system that computers use for orientation. These are things that a computer can only predict to a limited extent. And if a braking or evasive maneuver is outside the physical posiibilities, even a computer won't be able to prevent the accident. Nevertheless: I'm already programmed to protect human life, and that's exactly what will be the top priority of

When it comes to protecting humans, do we inevitably end up with the three laws for robots as laid down by Isaac Asimov back in 1942 in his short story »Runaround«? But there is also a certain potential for danger here, as implemented in the 2004 film »I, Robot« and as even laid out with K.A.R.R., your misprogrammed evil twin, in »Knight Rider.«
Are you afraid of me?

No, you're K.I.T.T. …
Your behavior is typical human. You try to exclude all conceivable risks. But without a willingness to take risks, man would not be where he is now. Every development involves a risk, and compared with earlier pioneers in history, modern man of the present day shuns risk considerably more than was the case fifty or even a hundred years ago. The dream of progress combined with absolute security is an illusion.

Your behavior is typical human. You try to exclude all conceivable risks.

Nevertheless, concerns are not unfounded. Hacker attacks could turn cars into weapons …
That is certainly a point of danger. But perhaps also an opportunity. The development of software protection will increase dramatically in the coming years.

You seem to have an answer for everything.
I am the Knight Industries Two Thousand.

But what about the things that might be lost to autonomous driving?
I don't understand.

People's lives have already been sped up tremendously by global connectivity and availability. If the car now takes driving away from us, we will also spend this time, in which people casually indulge their thoughts in rush-hour traffic, for example, working again, answering e-mails, holding conference calls and so on.
What does man want to indulge his thoughts for?

To reflect, to classify his own being, to find his way or to look at things with some distance. This helps to be able to make future decisions.
If I analyze human evolution on the data I know, man has given up a lot of time for self-reflection in the last hundred years. A trip to Italy 150 years ago was a dangerous, week-long adventure. Today, by contrast, you fly from Munich to Milan in the morning, meet a business partner and are back with your wife and children in the evening. That's efficient for you. Do you think man has lost anything in the past hundred years because technological progress has deprived him of a lot of time for so-called self-reflection? Progress is not a human peculiarity, progress is a universally applied constant of evolution. Man is a product of progress, he has always accepted that and he will do so now.

And what will become of self-driving man? What will become of an old 911 with a naturally aspirated engine?
If he wants to, man will drive autonomously. He will upgrade old cars even more into works of art and collectors' items. And there will be autonomous cars that are also sporty and fun to drive, as you say, driven by humans. The demands on the car will increase. I only see a separation between purist driving machines and autonomous cars on a small scale. After all, what do you do if you first have to drive 250 kilometers over highways on the way to a beautiful pass, get stuck in traffic jams? Humans will want to hand that over to the computer, and only on the nice stretches will they take over.

And what about you?
I now have a conference with John Krafcik, the chief developer for autonomous driving at Google. He said he had a few questions about cars and humor.

And what are you going to tell him?
I'm going to tell him a joke.

Which one?
When I was a kid, we were so poor, we couldn't even afford the cheese for a mousetrap, we had to paint the cheese instead. And you know what we caught?

What?
A picture of a mouse.





*At this point, a big thank you to Thomas Wetzstein from Böblingen, who despite the rain provided us with his K.I.T.T. replica for the photo shoot (www.myknightrider.de), and also a thank you to Motorwelt Stuttgart, which spontaneously supported us as a location. *


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