It would be an understatement to say that net neutrality has been in the news quite a lot recently. One of the supposed arguments against it is that requiring all data packets to be treated equally within a connection will prevent companies from offering us a cornucopia of “specialized services.” The main example cited is for medical applications — the implication being that if net neutrality is required, people are going to die. Speaking at the Mobile World Congress that is currently underway, Nokia’s CEO Rajeev Suri has come up with a novel variation on that theme, as reported by CNET (via @AdV007):
Suri emphasises that self-driving cars need to talk over wireless networks fast enough to make decisions with the split-second timing required on the roads. “You cannot prevent collisions if the data that can prevent them is still making its way through the network”, said Suri, discussing Nokia’s drive toward instantaneous low-latency communication across the network.
Yes, according to Suri, there are going to be terrible pile-ups on the roads unless we get rid of net neutrality. Leaving aside the fact that low-latency communications across the internet will come anyway — if there’s one thing that’s certain in the world of digital technology, it’s that everything gets faster and cheaper — there’s another problem with this argument.
Self-driving cars that are so reliant on such guaranteed, high-performance networks are hardly going to be very resilient in real-life situations — and certainly not the kind of system that the public will want to entrust with the lives of themselves and their families. If self-driving cars are to be widely accepted, one of their key features must be the ability to work safely even with the flakiest of internet connections. Suri’s attempt to use this emerging technology as a weapon against net neutrality instead undermines the argument for self-driving cars themselves.