Automation – has it gone too far?


From depositing a bank cheque to ordering your favourite home-delivered meal, automation has streamlined the way we live our lives. There’s no denying the advantages to automating repetitious, mundane duties in order to spend time on the tasks we hold in higher value.

At Waypoint, we take pride in a paperless office, using a great deal of technology to facilitate what used to be manual processes. In years gone by, we would not have survived without items such as projectors, manuals, user guides and compact discs.

So we come to the topic of the moment – driverless cars. Whilst automatic driving works for track based systems like the monorail in Changi Airport, driverless vehicles expose us to the delicate balance between software engineering and good, old, unpredictable human error.

Google has already recorded its first ‘automated car crash’ – well, Google admits to 14, 11 of which were not the cars’ ‘fault’ as they were all rear ended. Some data actually suggests self-driving cars may actually be too safe, not the other way around.

If your car is driving itself from one point to another, who is to blame if you hit someone? You or the car? Planes have been flying on autopilot for years and there are still crashes, but these are not necessarily attributed to the fault of the machine. Is it really possible to program a car to think like a human in extreme circumstances?

The main concerns surrounding automation seem to be based around human interaction with such devices. If we let automation take over our driving, then what are the implications of manual override? Although a passenger can take control of the vehicle at any time, what happens to our driving skills and level of awareness if they are not continually being challenged?

When using heavily automated accounting systems like Xero, there is still a human input component for liability reasons and accountability.

Who wouldn’t like to be chauffeured around town whilst preparing for a meeting? In theory, self-driving technology could even reduce road rage.

So many things to consider.

In terms of small business, is automation a positive or a negative when costs are high and resources limited?