In 2005, a control room for the A and C subway lines in NYC caught fire. "No larger than a kitchen," the room held 600 relays, switches and circuits that keep track of trains and keep everything running. Officials originally thought it would take three to five years to get the lines back to normal capacity. (Thankfully it didn't.) The epic repair time was because the fixed-block signaling system dates back to 1904 and only two companies in the world were able to repair it, one in Pittsburgh and the other in Paris. This is technology's trailing edge, according to Peter Sandborn in IEEE Spectrum: the huge, crippling problem of obsolescence.
The Massive, Expensive Problem of Obsolete Tech
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A truck merges in front of me - definitely closer than the three-car gap I had programmed. My car responds by braking somewhat suddenly. A horn beeps from behind. A small hatchback is riding the rear. It changes lanes, speeds past and continues to weave in between the other vehicles that are going about their business. The automatic breaking wouldn't be a problem if the driver behind me wasn't driving so close. I swallowed the Wollongong-shaped urge in my gut to flip him off, and instead reflect on the scenario. See, I'm about 4 hours into testing Autopilot on a brand new Tesla Model S. And what just happened on the Pacific Highway at 11pm was the problem with the entire system. People are dickheads.
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