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What AVs can learn from the automation of medicine

Trust is the currency that makes the world work. There is no number, no metric that will ever make me trust someone or something if my gut says no. So how do people learn to trust new and unfamiliar technologies meant to improve our lives?

On this episode of No Parking, Yaz Shehab, founder of robotic dentistry startup Brachium, joined Bryan Salesky and me to discuss a few possibilities of autonomous health care and what they could suggest for the future of autonomous vehicles.

“Almost every patient says, ‘Not so fast,’ Shehab said of early trials. “‘You have a drill on a robot arm, and I’m awake sitting in a chair?’ That’s not going to fly.”

But then it did, because later testing of Brachium’s teeth cleaning robot earned the trust of toughest subjects in the world: parents.

“[The parents] were there in the room,” said Shehab. “They saw for themselves. After the treatment they asked little Susie or little Johnny, ‘How was it?’ ‘Oh my gosh, this was fantastic. Can I do it again? Can I get another go round?’ Now the parent is like, ‘Wait a minute, can I do this as an adult?’”

Shehab has spent years tackling many of the same issues the autonomous vehicle industry will have to address, from safety to business model to use case.

“We are up about 17% from the standard of care that a human can do,” said Shehab. “Dentistry is our first step. We’re not surgical robots. That’s a totally different ball of wax. I’ll leave it up to science fiction for now. We’re really interested about the value proposition, how we can bring [costs] down, level the playing field and bring down the cost of access to health care.”

Despite Brachium’s performance metrics, the company still faces the subjective nature of trust itself—and the open-ended way humans often define it.

“How do you build trust with another human being that is fundamentally wired to put more trust in another human being?” Shehab asked. “How many times do you go and say, ‘Hey, do you have a good dentist? Do you have a good doctor?’ … At the end of the day, for us it’s about the human. It’s about the user experience. It’s about making it fun.”

Asked whether Brachium was trying to eliminate dentists, Shehab was clear: “We are really trying to augment what a dental hygienist does. We’re not here in replacement. We’re here to provide access and, ultimately, quality of care. I believe we are in a patient experience business.”

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