Friday, October 05, 2018

Safeway's Self-Checkout and Driverless Cars

Vox has a long piece on the problems with self-checkout.

I have been a fan of self-checkout, which I use regularly at Safeway, but I'm getting less enthusiastic. My local Safeway has probably had self-checkout for 10 years or so.  You'd think that the system would keep working indefinitely but not so.  I suppose it's probably the hardware getting unreliable, but it seems like the software.  It's most noticeable when handling produce--hitting the icons for entering a code or selecting from a screen I often (it seems often) given a system error--needing a sales attendant.

My experience with the self-checkout raises some questions with driverless cars.  My assumption has been that the system will always improve--any problem in the software which turns up will be fixed on all the cars using the software.  But Safeway argues for the law of entropy.  While the software may endure, the underlying hardware and the accessories for input/output won't endure.  They'll degrade. 

I can switch my argument again by pointing to airplanes.  Boeing and Airbus also have a combination of hardware and software which is used over years and years, and they seem to have solved the problem of degrading hardware.  Elon Musk notoriously didn't pay much attention to the experience of established carmakers; I wonder if he will similarly ignore the plane makers.

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