Monday, 21 May 2018

Systems of interest for autonomous platforms

The discussion on various autonomous cars, ships, aircraft has generally been focused on the moving platform - by default, or by assumption. It would be helpful to consider the various systems of interest. A very small start has been made by distinguishing UAV and UAS, but we are still at the point where most of the systems of interest do not have names. There are a number of Technical Systems (identified as TSn) and a number of Socio-Technical Systems (identified as STSn). The systems that we need to consider appear to be as follows: 

TS1; The platform (UAV, UUV, driverless rickshaw, robot, etc.). These usually have names.
TS2; The platform plus off-platform 'cloud' (robo-cloud).
TS3; Collective of platforms. Not necessarily a 'swarm' - but a group of platforms working together.
TS4; Collective of platforms plus off-platform 'cloud'.

 STS1; Any of TS1-4 so long as specified plus an 'Operator' who can be held to account. The 'Operator' may be a pilot, Master etc. Near-Real Time situation awareness for the off-platform Operator is only possible with TS2, 4. This system has a name in the case of UAS (only, I think). It is hard to see how a 'car driver' without specialist training can be held to account. The current standard of media reporting has the "driver of a driverless car" being blamed for an accident!

STS2; Any of TS1-4 so long as specified plus Operator, Responsible Owner, Design Authority. This is the minimum system for proper accountability. It needs a name. Note that TS1-4 plus Operator, Responsible Owner has not been included in the list as it is effectively obsolete.

STS3; Any of TS1-4 so long as specified plus Operator, Responsible Owner, Design Authority, Legal Authority, Insurer, Provider of financial legitimacy, Provider of employment and training legitimacy. This is the system that provides the licence to operate. i.e. the 'blunt end' as well as the 'sharp end' in Dave Woods' terminology.

STS4; Typically, 'Cloud' platform operator, financiers.The system that manages the flow of money and information rights. If the 'values' in this system are unethical, then 'value alignment' of TS2, 4 is difficult to achieve (Milo Minderbinder UAVs anyone?). 'Platform' is often used as a shorthand name here, just to add confusion.