It looks great, respects the environment, doesn’t wake the neighbors, is crazy smart, and wants to get to know you and make your life easier. If we were talking about a human, I’d ask for a number. Sadly, we’re talking about a machine here.
Truthfully, I’ve always wanted a Vespa. Though my scoot is a sportbike, my alter ego has always openly admitted that she’d like the option to be astride a ride in a skirt and pretty heels. You know, like a sophisticated Italian woman. So why, if I’ve always wanted a sexy scooter, might I pass on the silent and snazzy 2019 Vespa Elettrica, especially one that will anticipate my every desire?
According to Piaggio Group, “The Vespa Elettrica is but a first step for the Piaggio Group in the direction of a new richness of interconnection between vehicles and human operators.”
The technology being developed for the Gita robot by Piaggio Fast Forward in Boston incorporates “artificial intelligence systems both adaptive and responsive to all human input,” to the point of creepy. Some of the AI isn’t terribly alarming: the ability to detect moving parts both human and machine, offer rider assists that use sensory inputs to avoid potential accidents, and direct passengers through traffic to desired locations by integrating maps and current data. However, more invasive will be the Elettrica’s ability to “thoroughly know their operators.” What?
The newest generations of Vespas will be able to recognize their rider-owners “without key fobs, anticipate their driving choices, interact with other devices and vehicles on the road and allow for degrees of personalization that can barely be imagined today.” Have these techies really not seen Ex Machina? Even Piaggio’s promotional mini-movie is creepy. You watched it, right?
I’m no luddite, but I don’t need a machine to know me. It should be the other way around, especially when so much could then go wrong. Those last few features, while being great conversation starters at your next cocktail party appearance (in aforementioned fabulous fashion statement), are disconcerting. For starters, every “getting to know you” algorithm is designed by a team of strangers with their own priorities, systems will then be in control of my experience.
Also, machines that are programmed to store all your personal data will also be able to retell your story—when and where you rode a little too fast, exactly which “friend’s house” you were visiting the other day, and probably how much those pretty little heels actually cost. No thanks. In addition, if anything goes wrong with the complex electronic system that is controlled by an even more advanced computer interface, at best the bike won’t start, at worst, it’ll drive you where it wants whichever way it feels is best.
I fully support the refinement of the ride experience. Of course, we should take advantage of the latest technology to make our vehicles faster, more energy efficient, environmentally respectful, quiet, beautiful and dependable - I’ll happily have a one-sided relationship with perfection; but if I want someone to bring me a coffee, drive me somewhere or remember my birthday, I’ll ask my human companions.