By on August 29, 2014

Google-Car-645x364

While TTAC‘s Mike Smitka published an essay urging readers to reign in their expectations regarding autonomous cars, a new report by MIT’s Technology Review pours even more cold water on the utopian fantasies of those waiting for the day when humans are no longer in control of the automobile.

While the full text is available at MIT, the American Enterprise Institute summarized the obstacles faced by autonomous cars in a series of handy bullet points

  • The self-driving car can’t drive itself in 99% of the country.
  • It knows almost nothing about parking, and can’t be taken out in snow or heavy rain.
  • If a new stoplight appeared overnight, the car wouldn’t know to obey it.
  • Google’s cars can detect and respond to stop signs that aren’t on its map, but at an unmapped intersection stop sign the car wouldn’t know what to do after it had stopped, and would probably remain stationary until a human driver intervened.
  • The car hasn’t yet tackled big, open parking lots or multilevel garages.
  • The car’s video cameras detect the color of a traffic light, and they’re still working to prevent them from being blinded when the sun is directly behind a light.
  • Pedestrians are detected just as moving, column-shaped blurs of pixels—meaning that the car wouldn’t be able to spot a police officer at the side of the road frantically waving for traffic to stop.
  • The car’s sensors can’t tell if a road obstacle is a rock or a crumpled piece of paper, so the car will try to drive around either. The car also can’t detect potholes or spot an uncovered manhole if it isn’t coned off.

Given all of the breathless hype regarding the technology, and Google’s introduction of their own prototype, sans pedals and steering wheel, it helps to have a contrarian viewpoint to dampen some of the exuberant enthusiasm professed by many who are better versed in the tech side of things, without understanding the unique subtleties of the auto world.

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113 Comments on “A Sober Second Look At Self-Driving Cars...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    A “sober” second look? Are you kidding? I wouldn’t take a FIRST look at a self driving car until I had at least two martinis under my belt.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @FreedMike – sh!t……… you beat me to it. The only reason I’d like to hit the “autonomous on” button was when I was “autonomously off”.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      +1

      Never mind the already discussed by the B&B if an autonomous car is faced with running over a child on a bike or driving your family of five head on into an oncoming 18-wheeler going 50 MPH, what decision will your robot overlord make on your behalf?

      You can’t program in “morality” around no win scenarios.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @APaGttH

        And what decision would YOU make in that scenario?

        Autonomous cars don’t need to be perfect. They just have to be better than the average driver. And that is a SERIOUSLY low standard. Even if not perfect, at least they will be paying attention! I came within inches of getting rear ended by a texting bimbo an hour ago. Which would have ended quite badly for her, as she was in a Civic and I was in my Range Rover.

        Personally, I just want a car that can drive itself on the Interstate. I can handle the local stuff. The S-class is probably 90% of the way there NOW, between automated lane keeping and radar cruise control.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        If you are terrified of computers being responsible for your safe passage, then please, for the sake of the children, never get on a plane. Just because millions of people fly safely every day – with a major portion of their trip on autopilot – doesn’t mean that at some point a computer won’t drive a car over a child.

        The fact that humans kill 40K annually with cars in the US and millions more globally is irrelevant. At some point, a computer might endanger the life of little Timmy, so by all means let’s cease and desist from all research and development.

        While we are on the topic, keep in mind that most accidents occur in the home. Do yourself a favor, and burn down your house immediately. If you won’t do it for yourself, at least THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          You know what planes have? Pilots.

          An autonomous car with no ability for the passengers to take control in an emergency is inherently unsafe, in my opinion. I wouldn’t trust a completely autonomous plane with no backup manual controls either.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Don’t get on an elevator, then! There’s no little man hiding behind it to tell it where to stop. That computer might tell it to go into free fall at any second.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @NoGoYo:

            “An autonomous car with no ability for the passengers to take control in an emergency is inherently unsafe, in my opinion. I wouldn’t trust a completely autonomous plane with no backup manual controls either.”

            I just posted a video of that kind of thing. Maybe VoGo will volunteer for the next fully automated airliner mission.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            An elevator? Really?

            Lets look at the history of the elevator. Once upon a time elevators had a manual operator who made the up down, stop, open, close decision. You can go into old buildings on the east coast and still find them.

            Elevators need to do a handful of things:

            1) Go up

            2) Go down

            3) Stop at a designated location

            4) Open doors when at designated location to let people out

            5) Close doors after stopping at designated location to keep occupants safe

            6) If fireman’s switch is turned return to the first floor and await further instructions

            That’s about it. There is nothing it can “collide” with. There is no cutting edge, real-time multi-situational decisions to be made. It doesn’t have to worry about weather, dark versus light, people running out in front of the elevator (if I’m in an elevator shaft and the elevator comes down, I’m going to get hurt – elevator don’t care – elevator like the Honey Badger)

            An elevator doesn’t come close to an autonomous car in complexity. An elevator isn’t all that complex. Heck, you can build an elegantly operating elevator with no “brain” at all – just mechanical engineering.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @APaGttH

            My dream was to grow up to be a 19th Century style elevator operator.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            APaGthh,
            You really understand elevators. And you are correct that driving a car is more complex and operating an elevator.

            My point was simply that there is technology in everything we do, and that simply giving up on automation because its complex is wimpy.

            Autonomous cars are coming whether you like it or not. They will become widespread as soon as the technology has progressed to the point that it is safer than 50% of the boneheads we all see on our commute every day. I don’t think that day is all that far away.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          I’m the co-creator of a a couple of aviation systems including one ground collision avoidance system. There’s a huge difference in the scale of complexity between aviation and roads. We’ll eventually get it done with neuro-synaptic chip technology, but we’ve got a ways to go.

        • 0 avatar
          adamiata

          Not a whole lot of stuff to run into at 30,000 feet. Driving is a little more complicated than bearing, altitude, and speed.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            MCS and Adamiata,
            There is certainly a big difference between flying and driving. And the complexities that autonomous driving needs to overcome are significant, as the MIT study points out.

            But does that mean that we should just shrug our shoulders and give up? Just give up on the 1.3M lives lost annually to traffic fatalities as the cost of doing business?

            All I ask is that we support research and development of important technologies that improve lives.

            I am continually surprised that so many in the B&B are so terrified of technology.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            >> But does that mean that we should just shrug our shoulders and give up?

            Absolutely not! I’m hammering away at it as we speak. There’s a robot sitting to my left at this moment that will be occupying the passenger seat next to me in the near future as sort of a co-pilot. I’ll get a graphic display of what it would do if it was actually driving. No way it’s going to be allowed to drive since I’m taking it into some really dicey situations – including traffic after a Patriots Game (drunks + legal left of center driving + legal breakdown lane use with occasional surprise pedestrians and state troopers directing traffic that change their mind at the last minute). Google takes their tech into perfect situations, I send mine into hell.

            We’ll get there, it’s just the concern that someone might introduce something that’s really not ready for prime time. One single bad headline and funding gets difficult for the rest of us in a hurry. The IBM neurosynaptic tech is a huge step forward, so I’m getting more confident.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          VoGo:

          You’ve never heard of that brand new feature called “manual override” that they have on planes now? They fly on autopilot during the easy phases of flight (i.e., at 35,000 feet, and initial ascent/descent), but the tough work (takeoffs and landings) are all done by pilots.

          Not to say that they haven’t tried leaving the whole thing up to computers. Here’s an interesting video of what that looks like:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5NXpar4Ouw

          Smashing, eh?

          Technology doesn’t terrify me. Putting my life in the hands of technology that’s clearly half-baked and takes me out of control of my own car does terrify me.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Mike,
            That was kind of a funny video, at least until I read that 3 people died. Pity. Much less funny are the videos of 1.3 million people getting killed in accidents every year.

            But to answer your questions, YES, a thousand times, YES, autonomous driving technology needs more time to develop.

            We can sit around and whine that it doesn’t work 100% of the time yet, or we can be supportive of its development and reap the improvements in productivity, life quality and safety that it will bring.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            No, it wasn’t a very funny video. That crash killed people.

            And you’ve done nothing to prove that taking cars out of the control of human drivers will help automotive safety…or how much it would cost to do so, and whether we’d be wiser to simply invest in better built cars and better drivers.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            FreedMike,
            It wasn’t my intent to supply you with a business case for autonomous driving, nor did I realize that was on my plate.

            But if you think about it on the back of an envelope, most working adults could save about an hour a day with autonomous driving. Replace that with time working, and you’ve improved the GDP by 10%. That would justify many tens of billions of dollars to achieve. So the business case is pretty straightforward. Google didn’t become Google by investing unwisely.

            As far as proving to you that autonomous driving is safer, again, I don’t think I signed up for that. You can look at the technologies required to get there, and project how quickly we’ll cross that barrier. Quick analysis shows that the answer is… before most people will need to buy a new car.

            Which tells me that this is coming, whether the B&B is in favor of it or not.

        • 0 avatar
          adamiata

          Or we could undertake a nationwide makeover of our traffic education and laws instead of indulging our tech-fetish.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @adamiata – forcing people to realize that driving is the most complex thing they will ever do and having a certification process that recognizes that fact would be political suicide.

            And we know how politicians are in regard to altruistic behaviour.
            They’ll kiss the baby at election time but they won’t save the baby if it means they won’t get re-elected.

          • 0 avatar
            Spike_in_Brisbane

            FreedMike, it is interesting that you posted this particular video to support your position because it was caused by the pilot who had turned off many of the automatic systems and ignored the audible warnings. He wanted to do a stupidly low and stupidly slow fly by to impress the crowd. The robots would have saved everybody if allowed.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Oh I’ll bite on this strawman argument.

          Yes – planes have autopilots. They also have a pilot and a copilot who must be manning the cockpit, fully engaged, and paying attention. If they aren’t fully engaged and not paying attention, if they caught, they get fired. They aren’t pilots anymore. Even doing a CAT III approach at a properly equipped airport, the pilots have to be fully engaged and monitoring every aspect of the auto pilot descent and landing track. The pilot has full instrumentation and full controls.

          Google remember was showing a car that lacked controls and instrumentation.

          Pilots do the takeoff and most pilots do the climb stick and rudder. Pilots generally do the landing. Auto pilot is used, wait for it, the same way the average driver uses cruise control. When steady level flight is required. If you’ve ever flown an airplane, steady, level flight for hours gets quite tedious – and if you have to navigate, deal with the radio, and other issues – gets complicated.

          This isn’t remotely the same thing.

          As a data point drones that are operated either remotely or autonomously, both civilian and government, have a crash and burn rate that far exceeds that of piloted aircraft. The stats on drone crashes (remote piloted and autonomous) are pretty darn alarming.

          To that point, in your “save the children” dismissal of the obvious, I have no issue getting on an airliner. I would not get on a fully autonomous airliner with no pilot and no meaningful way to operate the aircraft in the event of a system that can’t make a decision.

          Further to that point, even the ‘ye old Mercury capsules which were designed to go up, and go down, had controls for a human to intervene. Had they not had controls for manual piloting, John Glenn wouldn’t have been able to make his manual deorbit in 1961.

          Sure technology has come a long way from the stunningly primitive Mercury capsules – but we are no where near the capacity for computers to process everything that our brains can – as noted in the MIT study – but hey, what the heck does MIT know?

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            APaGtth
            The strawman is not that flying a plane on autopilot while pilots are alert and ready to take over is identical to an autonomous car. My point is merely that we already rely on technology today.

            The test for autonomous cars isn’t whether they are smarter than people. The test is whether they are safer drivers.

            You’re out on the roads every day, seeing the kinds of people who drive cars, and how distracted they are. You know that isn’t all that high a bar, now is it?

        • 0 avatar
          Wheatridger

          That’s not a valid comparison. Flying a modern jetliner is far simpler than driving a car through traffic, aside from emergencies, crosswind landings, etc. where pilots would take control anyway. To equalize the comparative difficulty, you’d have to give every car its own lane, several miles wide, and make all cross streets grade-separated, and eliminate all pedestrians, road construction, parked vehicles, accident scenes… you get the picture. Driving is a series of moment-to-moment puzzles, presented at close range.Safe flying is more about judgement and planning, with a generous dose of centralized control. Like the title of an old movie said, there’s “No Highway in the Sky,” and that actually makes things easier for pilots.

  • avatar

    I like the idea of a car with a super-smart cruise control that can drive me home in a pinch over a known route. Beyond that, I’m not seeing this working out well any time soon.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I must be lucky, but I’ve never seen one of these potholes so often mentioned that must be avoided to not destroy a rim/do w/e else deep potholes do.
    Ignore my trucks, I haven’t seen or felt a pothole I would be afraid to drive a vette or something else low to the ground with low profile tires through.

    Maybe I’ve just never driven the right roads.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Calgary has only a few roads that are scary for my Verano’s pretty but fragile 18’s.

      Winnipeg and Edmonton are terrible. Excessive freeze thaw cycles.

    • 0 avatar
      SlowMyke

      Drive in a bigger city like Detroit. Or anywhere scrappers are active. Or drive a few winters in the four-season states and you’ll find potholes that may as well be open manholes. I don’t think programming a car to notice these would be all that hard, given the obstacles overcome just to get an autonomous car in the first place, but still it’s something that could be a real bummer if left unaddressed.

      Personally I’m glad there are many obstacles to creating full autonomous cars and hope they don’t happen in my lifetime. Having one robot car here or there won’t really do anything, but once the mix of driver/non-driver cars evens out a bit I think it’ll get horrendously obnoxious unless robot cars are programmed to give way to human drivers at all times.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Hummer – really? There is a reason why I have 10 ply tires on my 1/2 ton.

    • 0 avatar
      ramjetroger09

      Yes. Apparently you have never driven in or near Chicago, in the winter or spring.

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      In the inner ring suburbs of New Jersey, even our potholes have their own potholes. I really wish Toyota sold the 70 Series Land Cruiser here. I’d get one, and no, that’s not a “brown diesel station wagon” statement. I’d really get one.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Nowadays, there are plenty of cars at least as well suited to pothole traversal as some old tech Toyota. While being infinitely better aligned with New jersey parts and repair infrastructures.

        In the US, Land Cruisers of any stripe, makes about as much sense, financial or otherwise, as the Leicas their owners tend to keep in the boot, while out taking pictures with their cellphones….

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          Don’t know why you hate the Land Cruiser so much. I suppose new ones cost a pretty penny, but I got a five year old one and drove it for 10 years. All around, it was a superb vehicle. Fuel is still cheap compared to maintenance and depreciation and the ole crusher was top notch in those departments.

          And yes, it performed quite well over potholes.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            I don’t hate Land Cruisers at all. I just find the “it ain’t sold in the US, therefore it is automatically better suited to US driving conditions…” stick a bit silly. Whether it’s diesel cars or live axle diesel trucks. Unless New Jersey has changed a lot since I was there last, 70 series cruisers aren’t really all that optimized for suburban, after all.

            The main thing cruisers have going for them, is a one ton truck frame and driveline in a smaller package. Along with some clever packaging to move critical parts out of harms way for occasionally having to traverse terrain tougher than they really have any business being in. And in poorer markets, there simply isn’t enough new LC priced cars being sold every year, to warrant changing out repair infrastructure very often. Which means the 70 makes sense there. For a doomsday truck to bolt America in if Obama goes completely mad, the 70 is probably as good as it gets. But it would take a highly unusual New Jersey suburban commute indeed, to make it the vehicle of at least my choice.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      When the highway is backed up due to accidents or something, I will often travel some of the shadier routs out of downtown Detroit where I work to my sleepy northern suburb. There are potholes large enough that a pickup truck may not come out the other side unscathed if said pothole was hit doing posted speeds. Funny thing is that the specific area I am thinking of has been in such disrepair for years so most people know how to avoid them, but I have to believe the potholes in that area must destroy cars on a semi regular basis as large as they are especially for those driving at night. If anyone is familiar with Oakland Blvd travelling north just past the Davidson, you probably know exactly what I am talking about.

      On the subject of autonamous cars…I hope they are perfected just about the time I am so old that my kids take my keys away so I wont have to rely on other people for rides as I wait for the dirt nap.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      At least there’s more confirmation that, somewhere, they exist.

  • avatar
    This Is Dawg

    Significant hurdles that will require significant cleverness and collaboration.

    However, I don’t run into a single one of these issues on my 25 mile commute to and from work every day. In fact I only go through two lights on each end before I hit freeway. If the tech is there when I can afford it, I’ll definitely be interested in a self driving car even if it’s limited only to autonomous highway situations.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’m just curious: why would you want a self driving car? I’m not trying to be a jerk – I’m just wondering what the attraction is here.

      • 0 avatar
        doublechili

        I’m curious about that too. And to compound things, if you want a self-driving car, why are you on this site? No one’s responding to your posts on thetruthabouttypewriters.com? If you come to this site, that means you care about cars. If cars are self-driving, what’s the point? They’re no longer cars, they’re pods. Instead of talking about horsepower and handling, we’d be talking about the quality of the leather seats and electronic device capability.

        • 0 avatar
          reclusive_in_nature

          It’s The Truth About Cars not The Truth About Driving.

          An autonomous car is still a car. Not everyone is a race car driver wannabe. If horsepower and handling were all there was to cars this site wouldn’t dedicate the paragraphs it does to things like interior materials, seat comfort, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            dzot

            People who would want a self-driving vehicle

            *Trucking companies to rid themselves of drivers who speed have to stop to pee
            *Taxi companies to fight Uber
            *Soccer Moms with simultaneous hockey practice and dance recitals
            *80-year-olds with cataracts and the reflexes of a tree sloth
            *Anyone who drives a Camry

      • 0 avatar
        swester

        Why? If there were truly reliable self-driving vehicles available, commuting in a vehicle that you have to physically drive would be quickly considered an unnecessary waste of energy and attention that could easily be devoted to other far more productive and/or enjoyable activities.

        To flip your question around, what ISN’T attractive about a reliable, safe self-driving vehicle for commuting, assuming that you don’t have the option of reliable public transportation?

        • 0 avatar
          brenschluss

          I guess some people love to drive slowly, among other people who generally seem to have the same ability to process spatial information as a distracted newborn.

          Personally, I’ll take my self-driving car without windows so I never even have to see another Toyota Corolla brake for oncoming traffic on a straight road.

        • 0 avatar
          SlowMyke

          @swester- developing a useable mass transit system seems like a better solution than autonomous cars to me. Sure dealing with morons on the road sucks, but I always have the option to turn off on a detour if I know of some good roads. I like having control of my car. When the roads are packed, it’s a good time to crank up the radio and enjoy that as I creep along.

          • 0 avatar
            swester

            Mass transit is a great option in an urban environment, but it certainly isn’t feasible in less dense areas. But if I had a long commute and the only option was my personal vehicle, I’d relish the ability to hit a button and turn my car into a personal metro system.

            You’d not only be able to crank up the radio but also do virtually anything you wanted – take a nap, perhaps? Respond to emails? Read? Have a nice conversation?

            Assuming the technology is made to be safe and reliable, I don’t see a single downside at all. And I love driving, too. But like the best things in life, I’d rather do them as a pleasure rather than as a chore.

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          I like driving. Even in bad conditions. I just like it.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            I love driving, a lot. But having to share the road with other people who don’t, and who either don’t care to or cannot grasp the basics of what a car is, what it can do, and how to use it easily overrides that.

            I liken it to someone at a gun range who hates guns and refuses to learn how to safely handle a firearm, instead just pointing it at everyone with the safety off because, whatever man, it doesn’t even matter unless you pull the trigger, right? Fortunately, attendance at a gun range is not compulsory so we don’t see this happen, but most people feel they need a car to get where they’re going, regardless of whether or not they’re prepared to control one.

            Maybe things are better where you are. I hope so. My state was recently voted to have the worst drivers in the nation, so there’s that.

            So, I’ll take a race car and a pod, thanks.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @brenschluss – the gun metaphor is interesting and odd at this time considering a 9 year old girl just shot her instructor in the head with an Uzi.

            I do agree that whether or not you like cars, guns, bikes, sex – you need to control what you got and use it in a manner that doesn’t hurt the rest of us who happen to like cars, guns, bikes, sex etc.

          • 0 avatar
            tankinbeans

            Several years ago, Minnesota was voted to have the 3rd rudest drivers in the country. I forget who took the poll, but I’m inclined to believe it since nobody lets anybody over and merging is a free-for-all.

          • 0 avatar

            @05lgt

            me, too.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            tankinbeans: “Several years ago, Minnesota was voted to have the 3rd rudest drivers in the country.”

            I believe it and I’ve lived on the East coast and driven all over the US, so I have some basis for comparison. People here will speed up to cut you off when there’s absolutely no reason for it. As soon as they’re ahead of you, they’ll slow down.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          If one wants a self driving car why not just hop on a bus or train?

          @SlowMyke…….Agree 100%

          • 0 avatar
            swester

            Because it’s impossible to have a bus or train route linked up to every home in the United States?

            I highly doubt the vast majority of people – outside of this site, that is – buy a car because they absolutely LOVE to drive.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @swester “Because it’s impossible to have a bus or train route linked up to every home in the United States?”

            ohhh……the “green agenda”.

            I see where the utopianistic masters at Google are heading.

            Lets corral ourselves into a dense urban environment and let the cute furry little critters have the rest.

            Much easier for mass transit and autonomous cars when the biological’s are all dependant lemmings.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @Lou_BC

            Like it or not, urban (and suburban) areas ARE going to become far more densely populated and congested. Whether this technology will help or not is debatable (clearly it’s not ready today), but you can’t debate the need it’s trying to address.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The issue may eventually be moot. Population rates in the West have been in decline for some time. Even the Chinese population is projected to peak.

            “The Census Bureau predicts that China’s population will peak in 2026, just 14 years from now. Its labor force will shrink, and its over-65 population will more than double over the next 20 years, from 115 million to 240 million.”

            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-30/china-s-population-crash-could-upend-u-s-policy.html

            The Chinese also face other demographic challenges:

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/04/30/the-security-risks-of-chinas-abnormal-demographics/

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @FreedMike – I agree that urban (and suburban) areas ARE going to become far more densely populated and congested.

            I chose dislike.

            I don’t have a problem with technology helping me when I drive but I do not want it to replace me.

            That is the whole point of personal use automobiles.

            If a machine is going to do all of the work then planes, trains, and buses are much more efficient at shuffling cattle er humans around.

          • 0 avatar
            Roader

            Trains are insanely expensive. Both trains and buses frequently don’t go where you need to go, and both are old fashioned technology that were cost effective 50 or 100 years ago but will be mostly superseded by self-driving cars.

            The US doesn’t need to be an early adopter. Our demographics are such that the median age in the US isn’t expected to increase by more than a few years over the next 100 years: from 37 now to not even 40-years-old. Japan and China and Europe though will age very quickly to a median of over 50-years-old by 2100. Those countries, perhaps except for China, will require self-driving cars much more quickly than the US, so let them be the early adopters/spend the R&D $$$/figure out the regulatory crap. And the US will just copy the proven results.

            China is an unknown. They may be the first country to get old before they get rich. It’s not going to be pleasant for future senior citizens there.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            In 100 years, I’m half expecting the world to look like this: http://youtu.be/Eu8XDWG6x2k?t=23s

        • 0 avatar
          kuman

          if there is such a system that allows me to replace my chauffeur with a robot that drives, park the car and tells me if anything is off with my car at reasonable price, i definitely would… so i can spend my time napping or reply business calls or emails IN PRIVATE. :D

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        For the same reason cruise control is popular equipment. As is chauffeurs and pilots amongst those who can afford them. It’s nice to sit in the back doing useful stuff during rush hour or boring highway stints.

    • 0 avatar
      Nichodemus

      I have to say, I feel the same way about my commute. If I could do it autonomously, I would. I like cars and trucks. I like fixing my own vehicles. I have a great interest in new cars and trucks that I probably will never be able to own. So I read TTAC. But I don’t think any new car will make me enjoy trundling along the same road, day in and day out, getting behind the same slow rusty Buicks and log trucks.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    “the utopian fantasies of those waiting for the day when humans are no longer in control of the automobile.”

    As far as I’ve ever seen, these so-called utopian fantasies are nothing more than straw men that writers use to knock down self-driving cars. Are there any links to actual evidence?

    It seems to me that the real people and companies behind these cars are working on them for one of two reasons:

    1) Reduce the cost of “assisted” transportation so much that normal people can use it any time and any place they feel like using it. A driverless taxi would be so inexpensive that they can economically exist almost anywhere. Those of us that live in urban downtowns go out for dinner and drinks and we get home safely without endangering ourselves or others. We take responsibility for ourselves, we’re self-regulating, and we don’t need any government intervention. But per-capita alcohol-related crashes, injuries and deaths are so much higher out in the suburbs and rural areas that something will end up being done if it isn’t corrected. Cheap driverless taxis could be part of a solution that doesn’t involve a loss of freedom. And let’s not forget the disabled and those too old to be driving. Being able to afford to maintain their independence is going to be a god-send to all of society.

    2) Automate the tasks that humans don’t want to do. I don’t know about the rest of you, but if my car could creep through a traffic jam all by itself I would love it! Long, boring interstate drives? Sign me up. Why not?

    Let’s make driving enjoyable again.

    • 0 avatar
      SlowMyke

      Your arguments make sense at first, until you add in the elephant in the corner that is our wonderful government. If they could keep their paws off, fine. But once driverless cars are in working order there’s little keeping the government from making them mandatory. It’ll save lives. It’ll save the environment. It’ll save time and money. And it’ll ruin driving forever.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> , but if my car could creep through a traffic jam all by itself I would love it! Long, boring interstate drives? Sign me up. Why not?

      That’s in the tech package for the i3. You still have to steer, but the radar cruise control is capable of handling stop and go traffic. Maybe you can give us a review when you get it.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      I like long interstate drives. Some of my favorite driving actually. Full on favorite is long state highway drives. Earlier this month I had to ABS check for a California condor. There were 2 of them and one flew out over the road. Practically the whole road too. I’m smitten with driving. Have been since I was 3 (maybe earlier, I just can’t remember (there was allegedly a cross country trip in a Fiat 1500 Spider).

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    @Chicago Dude – rural areas have less people, longer distances and poor public transit. Add to that less police per square mile and an attitude by residents that it is okay to drink and drive.

    Injury and death rates are higher due to higher speeds and longer distances to health care. Look up “golden hour”. That is the time where there is the highest likelihood that medical treatment will prevent death. (Not some sort of fetish).

    Do the math – a serious crash 30 minutes from a hospital means you have a lower survival rate since it will take EMT’s time to get to you, time to stabilize at scene and time to transport to facility.

  • avatar
    EdTilley

    Memo to the pointy-headed technogeeks that are in charge of all this self driving car stuff: Please be certain to program the concept of Left Lane Bandit into your algorithm, ’cause I suspect that there are a lot of folks that will not be very tolerant of some little shit-box tooling along at 65 in the left lane of their local interstate.

    I’m serious!

  • avatar
    carguy

    It will be a while until we see a truly 100% driver-less car. The fact is that here are millions more lines of code required and millions more miles of real world experience with autonomous cars before they will live up to the hype.

    In the meantime the technology will start serving as intelligent cruise control to aid driver fatigue on long trips.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @carguy – I see driverless cars all of the time or more aptly brainless biological interfaces.

      Just yesterday I watched an SUV swerve around while texting and then plowed into the back of a motorcyclist. Fortunately there were no injuries other than a wadded up formerly pristine RZ350.

      Fix the brainless drivers bored with the mundane commutes and we won’t need billion dollar drones doing the work for us.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Ah, but how do you fix boredom? Order them not to be bored?

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @Drzhivago138 – I don’t find ANY driving boring. But then again those who view driving as a bland means to an end aren’t going to be frequenting an enthusiast’s site like TTAC.

          Those who are easily bored don’t realize the complexity of driving and maybe shouldn’t be driving.

          Self awareness is supposed to be the defining element of a sentient being.

          I see a ton of people that don’t make it beyond broccoli.

  • avatar
    Mike Smitka

    Even if “autonomy” in the Google sense remains a vision (utopian or otherwise), many of the individual pieces are in development or on the road, providing real enhancements to safety. I’ve narrowly avoided blindspot lane change incidents many times, both as potential victim and perpetrator. Infiniti is advertising their backup (cross-traffic) detection heavily – we’ll see what the consumer reception is like.

    Similarly, on long drives my attention does flag, and adaptive cruise control would be a great assist for that sudden halt to traffic [I’ve been rear-ended at highway speed, while stopped because of an accident in front of me]. Likewise, lane departure warnings would be great for when I’ve begun to nod off without quite realizing it. And so on.

    As I pointed out in the post Derek cites, connected vehicles are another whole realm of technology, much cheaper and closer to being market-ready, but with different strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps I’ll post more on that later, once I’ve read a long interim report on such systems.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I’m counting on the IBM neurosynaptic chip to be able to really implement this technology. OpenCV and a trunk full of GPUs just ain’t gonna get the job done. I’m anxiously waiting to get my hands on that hardware. I also have an advantage in that one of my kids is a neuro science researcher studying neuro-paths in organisms.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        mcs:

        You’re the only poster here I have any interest in on this subject. Consistently, for the last 4 years or more you have made sense, explained your work in the aviation field, and today let us have that little gem about the robot you’re testing in your car.

        Naturally, the one-uppers ignore your comments and try to score points off each other with the usual inanities, apparently unable to see the real picture.

        I’ve said this at least four times before, please consider writing a post on the generalities of this coming automation! I think it’s important to get an expert’s view on the subject.

        Google is frozen out of China, and map-based automation is next to useless, so their system, if foisted on the rest of us, will be half-arsed at best. No surprise there. Mercedes already demonstrated a fair-weather system on the autobahn, and BMW also have a trick or two up their sleeves.

        Love this statement: ” Google just has the best PR with dead-end technology.”

        About sums it up.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Not sure the point of the MIT article or this one. Just about every prediction is for the tech to be ready by 2020 at the soonest. Furthermore, everyone seems to be going on the assumption that supervision will be necessary and a problem when people shirk that duty. Luckily, we already have tech to detect I attentive drivers.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I personally have my doubts about the future of the driverless car. But if the AEI dislikes the idea, then I may have to rethink my position.

    “…utopian fantasies of those waiting for the day when humans are no longer in control of the automobile.”

    You’re reaching with this one. It’s not particularly utopian to add technology to machinery in order to make it work better.

    Crashes are almost always caused by humans who behave badly, so focusing on passive safety solutions makes perfect sense. Those who think that more attentive driving is the solution aren’t, well, paying attention.

  • avatar
    RHD

    If an autonomous car takes its drunken owner home from the bar, can he still be arrested for DUI?

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @RHD – only if he is behind the wheel and/or put the key in the ignition.

      Key in ignition is the only grounds for conviction if the vehicle hasn’t moved.

      • 0 avatar
        psychoboy

        In your town, maybe.

        In my town, you can be in the bar parking lot, asleep in the back seat with the keys in your pocket and still be guilty of Actual Physical Control, which is treated like a DUI.

        so..you can risk a Drunk in Public and walk home, or you can hide your keys from your drunk self and try to talk your way out of an APC.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Is that the only choice?

          Maybe have a designated driver? Or….call a taxi. Or a friend.

          Maybe don’t drink yourself to the point that your only alternatives are sleeping in a car or wandering around drunk?

          I just think that if you are winding up in jail every time you have a drink that maybe you aren’t giving it your full attention.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @psychoboy – interesting. A vehicle without keys in the ignition isn’t going anywhere (unless you got one of those key-less systems).

  • avatar
    AJ

    A self driving car would also need a bathroom. That way I could also shower on the way to work… That way I could sleep in! Until then I’m not interested.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    @AJ – will the autonomous vehicle shake it for you when done using the bathroom?

  • avatar

    AFter reading the article in Technology Review, it’s not clear to me how long it will take to solve all these problems, or if they will ultimately be unsolvable.

    >>>The car’s sensors can’t tell if a road obstacle is a rock or a crumpled piece of paper, so the car will try to drive around either. (from Tech Review)

    How much computing power would you have to add so that it could tell the difference?

    The Google rep who’s quoted says his personal deadline for having the commercial is when his now 11 year old turns 16. My gut says he’s being very optimistic.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Regarding autonomous cars:

    As someone mentioned above, I would be all over a super advanced cruise control. I don’t want or need my car driving me to work or the grocery store, in a crowded city with the aforementioned potholes and small children and cats. However, I think that modern sensors and onboard computers should be able to handle keeping the car between the lines and out of the rear end of other vehicles while driving the booooooooring stretches across the prairies.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    @davefromcalgary – I tend to agree. Have some warning features and/or extra sensors to aid driving. I love the backup camera on my truck along with the sensors in the bumper. I don’t rely on them 100% they just make the chore of baking up a 20ft long truck that much easier.

    With that being said, I do find that the traction stability control system on my truck is aimed at the brainless commuter. There are times when I’m climbing a steep hill with the system off where I don’t want the stuff reactivating because it thinks I’m out of control.

  • avatar

    If it tries to drive around rocks and/or wadded up paper,how does it handle speed bumps?
    Who’s liable when a self-driving car gets into an accident? The owner’s insurance or the company that programmed the car?

    It appears on the surface the autonomous car will have to have a computer mind that can think…and it that’s the case what use are we :)

  • avatar
    ckb

    This is more sensationalist than sober. A more accurate description would be: “Driverless cars are not yet for sale because they are still in development. Here are some of the issues currently being worked on.”

    Just because it ain’t done yet doesn’t mean it never will be. Look at the DARPA grand challenge. In ’04 the best result was 11 autonomous miles traveled out of a 150 mile off road course. The very next year, FIVE teams completed the entire course! I’d bet mass market autonomous cars will be available within 10 years.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Alls I got to say is:

    Flying Cars By 1960!

  • avatar
    danman75

    Am I the only one here who is baffled by some of the negative knee-jerk reactions to self-driving cars?? Hey, if technology gives me the option to delegate driving to the car during long, boring commutes, sign me up.

    Is Google’s self-driving car perfect? Absolutely not. But I like the fact that an American company is taking the lead in researching a tech that has the potential to revolutionize the car industry.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Actually, as far as I know, BMW has the lead since they’ve actually deployed something that gets us a step closer.

      http://www.bmw.com/com/en/insights/technology/technology_guide/articles/active_cruise_control_stop_go.html

      IBM is one of the companies leading in the technology we really need to implement fully autonomous robots/cars. There are several universities involved as well. Google just has the best PR with dead-end technology.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    They really need to be more “hive mind” than completely autonomous. I watch for speed traps and other safety hazards by observing the actions of cars ahead of me around curves or over crests. A hybridization of autonomous and interconnected will work much better, have more sensors/data to make decisions and more computing power available. Not slowing for a blind curve because the car can see the curve from several other cars going both directions has a certain appeal. What if a dog or child had as hard a time getting hit by a car as I do touching a fish in a school of them? Traffic flowing (more slowly than otherwise) around a reaction time determined bubble around a kid chasing a dog isn’t something we can do as individual drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> They really need to be more “hive mind” than completely autonomous. I

      I think you’re right. There are even ways of tagging wildlife. For example they have deer feeders that are designed so that when the deer sticks it’s head in to get food, it brushes up against permethrin tick repellent applicators. Modify something like that to tag it with a low cost transponder. Probably not the best idea in rural areas in the middle of nowhere, but it might be a good idea in suburban areas with large populations of deer.

      • 0 avatar
        petezeiss

        For a hive mind to work the bugs have to all be of the same species. How will you coordinate between the gigahertz chatty, glistening new 2022 Fortunatos and the 20-year old Sh1t Life Specials still lurching along the roads?

        Perhaps the new species of cars could swarm the old, mute derelicts and sting them to death? Oh, what progressive fun and sure to be universally accepted as an excuse for tardiness.

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    So “self driving cars” don’t really exist, unless crashing and killing people are the main objective. Big surprise… I guess the people who put down a deposit for a self driving Elio 3-wheeled lawn mower will really be ticked off.

  • avatar
    seattle4r70w

    If you’ve ever seen someone start and operate a Model T, you might assume that we are more than halfway to self-driving vehicles after sitting in 2014 S550 or Tesla.

    I give it 10-15 more years until some portion of our driving has highly automated options. Places like mall parking garages, airports arrival areas, congested city centers, HOV lanes, planned communities, Taxis/Livery, long straight freeways, industrial parks, any Costco lot on a weekend…

    No one here is excited about more highly automated Taxis? After my last ride from the airport where we passed a semi on the right, on I-5, at night, at least 15mph over the speed limit with two wheels in the gravel at one point – could a robot be worse?

  • avatar
    gnekker

    I see that most comments are dealing with technical issues, but i think that legal issue is the main problem here. Will manufacturers take all responsibility for 3’rd party injuries? I can foresee multi billion dollar suits when somebody get hurt by an autonomously driven car. How will car companies survive this?

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      It’s the human that’s responsible. In any of the current systems, if there’s a problem, a light flashes and an alarm sounds, then the human is expected to take over. From BMWs web site:

      “Active Cruise Control with Stop&Go function is not an autopilot. Consequently, if the vehicle ahead brakes harder than expected or if the system detects a critical situation, the driver receives acoustic and optical prompts to take action.” Current state laws in states that have them back that position putting responsibility on the human in charge.

      http://www.bmw.com/com/en/insights/technology/technology_guide/articles/active_cruise_control_stop_go.html

      It’s going to be like that for everyone’s product. To counter the manufacturers, there will be a legion of “have you or a loved one been maimed or killed by an autonomous vehicle from ____” attorneys and specialists trained to defend the various companies.

      One scenario that might be possible for situations where you weren’t capable of driving yourself is a third party monitoring service that could remotely provide a human to take over and monitor the vehicle for a fee and take responsibility.

      • 0 avatar
        mistrernee

        I don’t think it would be physically possible for me to stay awake/alert in a self driving car.

        How can I be expected to react quickly to something happening on the highway in front of me when I’ve been sitting in a comfy seat with my arms and legs crossed for 2 hours? What if I am reading a book?

        The only way I would get into a self driving car was if it was a vehicle I didn’t own and wasn’t responsible for in any way. In fact, if the vehicle made a decision or mistake that harmed me I would want the manufacturer to be held liable.

        Also.. if it can’t drive me home when I am drunk then well.. what’s the point?

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    Smitka figured 3 decades for some sort of autonomy though that seems a stretch. But he didn’t say it’s a complete pipe dream (yikes, ~3 decades ago my grad school class had access to exactly one IBM PC). If there is $$$ to be made some smart techies & biz group will figure it out and given how much time we waste driving as part of work and how many drivers/passengers/pedestrians/cyclists get whacked each year (about 35K), this isn’t rocket science it’s car science. Sure, it’ll be incremental but I’ll bet good money that I’ll driven by a robot before there’s a permanent Moon/Mars base or the Israel/Palestine conflict is resolved.

  • avatar
    redav

    These are hardly show-stoppers. They are merely a few more items to include in the final solution.

    The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. It’s silly to think autonomous cars will suddenly appear everywhere at once. They will appear on the Google campus & other controlled locations, then expand.

    We already have autonomous cars–self parking, radar cruise, lane-keep, auto braking, etc. these features will simply continue to get more inclusive, and human involvement will continue to decrease.

    As cars get smarter, we will build smarter infrastructure: V-to-V, V-to-I. Car can’t ‘see’ a new stop sign? Well that new stop sign will be smart so that the car will automatically work with it–same with lights and parking lots/garages. It will be a transition, but it will happen.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    Pretty much all of that is fixable with software and infrastructure improvements. Bitching that it can’t park? I mean come on. We aren’t even looking at the model t here, we’re looking at a prototype of the prototype.

    It’s early days yet, but I’m quite sure that a computer can and will be a much safer driver than the average driver. The computer never gets distracted, drunk, sleepy, or old. Automated cars would save tens of thousands of lives every year in the US. This is like saying personal computers will never be big because the Atari 7200 just isn’t that much better than a typewriter.

    • 0 avatar
      Roader

      “The computer never gets distracted, drunk, sleepy, or old.”

      Good point. I guess you could say that right now self-driving cars are stupidly young…they’re the equivalent of a 16-year-old who just got his license. Yeah, legally he can drive, but probably not too well, and almost certainly not in a crisis situation.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        they’re the equivalent of a 16-year-old who just got his license

        Maybe closer to this:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWAK0J8Uhzk

        Actually, the Google cars are probably closer to maybe a 6 or 8 year old. Remember, there are plenty of situations where there has been hand-offs to humans.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Actually, there are other problems like not being able drive in snow or heavy rain.

      As far as being distracted and old, that can happen to computers. The distracted situation could happen if there’s a lot going on and the computer can’t process everything that’s happening as quickly as it needs to and the aging think does happen to chips and sensors which can cause failures.

      The problems go much further than what additional software alone can fix. As we slap on software to solve problems, hardware performance demands increase exponentially.

      The good news is that this month IBM announced new hardware that should get the job done. There’s going to be a huge learning curve in developing software for a somewhat new architecture (neuro-synaptic), but at least we can start making some real progress.

      http://www.almaden.ibm.com/laborday/cognitive-computing/neurosynaptic-chips.shtml

      • 0 avatar
        toxicroach

        If the computer can’t cope, a person would be utterly lost.

        Snow and heavy rain also solvable. If people can do it, a computer can figure it out. As far as aging goes, that can be resolved by a conservative maintenance and replacement regime.

        50 years from now I’m very confident that people will look back at this era and shudder about how we let people drive three ton murder machines with only the most minimal training or competence.


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