By on February 25, 2016

Volvo Autonomous Drive, Image: Volvo Cars

Autonomous vehicles and shared mobility are invoked in our contemporary discourse as an inevitable fate. There is an unsettling undercurrent rippling around a not altogether desirable future for the automobile as we know it. I am not anti-progress, anti-technology, or otherwise prone to romanticizing yesteryear. I welcome the convenience and safety of new technologies and look forward to the day I can work during my freeway commute. However, the pleasure and freedom I occasionally indulge — “shifting and drifting” in the words of Canadian rock band Rush — appears increasingly at risk.

How many years are left before we’re no longer able to sit at the left front corner of our cars, row through the gears, and take ourselves on whatever path of discovery we please.

How many self-driven years remain?

In pursuit of answers, I consumed the writing of futurists, think tanks, government agencies, and private industry. I found myriad opinions, some more overtly colored by perspective and politics than others. Ultimately, the most complete, accessible, and logically constructed answer I found was Deloitte Consulting’s “The Future of Mobility.” Nobody has a crystal ball, but this graphic-laden piece lays out a logical framework for understanding the future of mobility anyone can understand. For those with the time and interest, I recommend reading it.

Four Stages
The scale of the $2 trillion extended automotive industry in the United States, combined with the scope of probable change, make predicting the path of transformation and its impacts challenging.

There are at least three considerations related to the incumbent automakers — and, thus, to people interested in driving themselves — deserving of additional attention: the change in demand for new vehicles; the transformation of light vehicle sales channels; and the implications for future vehicle architecture, layout, and pricing.

Perspectives on how the future will unfold depend largely on one’s viewpoint. Predictably, the disruptors such as Google, Apple, and Faraday Future envision rapid radical change, and the incumbent automakers envision slower, more incremental steps. The delta between these viewpoints is less about if a transformation will occur, and more about its speed and disruptive impact. Deloitte, which is equally happy working with incumbent automakers or disruptors, predicts that a systematic shift will emerge “unevenly across geographic, demographic, and other dimensions, and evolve in phases over time.”

It sounds like they are sitting on the fence — and they are — but that is a reflection of the likely reality. Deloitte has created a simple box divided into four quadrants depicting a likely progression across four future states of mobility. Two fundamental trends will drive the progression from quadrant one to quadrant four: vehicle control (driver vs autonomous) and vehicle ownership (private vs shared).

Four quadrants showing potential future states of mobility, Image: Deloitte University Press

The market is presently in the first stage, characterized by continued individual vehicle ownership, the ongoing development of driver-assist technologies, and preliminary deployments of V2X (Vehicle-to-Vehicle and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure sensors and communications).

The second future state of mobility begins as economic momentum drives down the cost-per-mile of shared mobility and the decline of the multi-vehicle household begins.

The third future state is prompted when autonomous technology and infrastructure achieves a tipping point of safety, convenience, and cost effectiveness; autonomous vehicles become the norm, rather than the exception, and road safety is dramatically improved.

The fourth future state is the disruptors’ nirvana. This is where autonomy and vehicle sharing converge. From the near elimination of parking lots, to the reimagining of auto interiors, change will reverberate across our landscape and culture.

Implications for Automakers and Drivers
One of the most striking transitions may be the exaggerated perception that there will be a reduction in demand for automobiles. As more individuals opt to share mobility, the demand for new vehicles should decrease. The average individually owned car today has a utilization rate of 4 percent, a striking contrast versus 40 percent for common livery vehicles. As individual ownership rates erode and vehicle utilization rates climb, vehicle lifecycles will compress.

Taxis in New York City, Image: Life Of Pix

The 24,000 New York City taxis and black cars offer a glimpse into future vehicle lifespans. The average New York cab is 3.3 years old and the average black car is 5.5 years old. The average light vehicle registered in the U.S. today: 11.4 years old. As utilization rates increase and average vehicle age declines, what replacement rate will be required to meet demand?

Based on the last 14 years of data, with the 2008 to 2011 recession years removed, the average annual sales required to replace the light vehicle fleet in the U.S. is 15.1 million. Maintaining the same replacement rate and modeling a steady decline in automobiles per 1,000 Americans, from 790 today to 540 in 2025, the aggregate demand for new automobiles will trend toward 14 million in 2025. This does not represent a paradigm shift in demand. It represents a 19 percent decline from 2015’s record sales and just a seven percent decrease from the 14 year average.

Demand may not decline radically, but what are the implications for automakers’ sales channels? Individuals will continue to purchase cars for many years and groups of individuals may syndicate purchases, much as they do today to buy boats and aircraft. However, mobility providers, as presently exemplified by Uber and Lyft, will replace individual shoppers as the dominant vehicle acquirers.

This shift away from selling to individuals and toward mobility aggregators will have a profound impact on automakers and their dealer networks. Automakers that presently serve commercial customers effectively may be best positioned to successfully navigate this transition. Those that are not are advised to consider their future allocation of resources. For example, will it be efficient for Ford to maintain 3,000 dealers in the U.S., much less 11,000 globally?

GM Launches Personal Mobility Brand: Maven, Image: General Motors

Automakers have begun preparing. Mercedes got a head start when it founded car2go in 2008, which now boasts one million members. More recently, Ford partnered with car-sharing provider Getaround and is piloting a shared leasing program. And GM announced a $500 million investment in car-sharing provider Lyft, in addition to founding Maven, its own car-sharing service. Questions abound regarding the wisdom of automakers vertically integrating into end-to-end mobility providers, versus continuing to sell and finance automobiles. Nonetheless, these activities represent acknowledgement of the looming transformation, though they fall well short of preparing their distribution channels for what’s ahead.

Truly radical automotive change will not occur until the fourth stage of future mobility. In this phase, the prerequisites for entirely new vehicle architectures and form-factors will arrive. Those prerequisites include not only fully autonomous vehicles, but the utter dominance of such vehicles. Autonomous vehicles will need to far outnumber human operated vehicles, perhaps ten to one, before federal regulators will adjust crash safety standards. At some point, the operation of legacy vehicles may be restricted to specific places and/or times. But until human operated cars are effectively gone or heavily restricted, safety standards will keep us in vehicles that look, weigh, and cost largely as they do today.

The transition to lighter construction and presently unknown form-factors will be radical. This revolution may be the ultimate disrupter for the incumbents. As safety regulations become easier to comply with, barriers to entry may be torn down. Auto manufacturers already outsourcing key portions of battery development and manufacturing may return to their roots as coach builders. Fast forward 20 years and the industry may bifurcate into battery companies and coach builders. Automakers that have not by this time monetized the data generated in and around their vehicles may be left with very little value to add. Even if the automotive market maintains demand for 14 million units, the retail price for mobility hardware may reach as low as $10,000 per car.

An analogy exists with the advent of recorded music. Humans created music for thousands of years, but it was not until Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877 that recording music became possible. Artists and instrument makers were not enthusiastic adopters of the new technology. In fact, the right to record and sell music was litigated well into the 1920s with radio operators pitted against recording companies.

So too today some find the thought of surrendering all driving responsibility unpleasant. The most extreme prognostications, while likely accurate in form if not time, are more than two decades in the future. If you are reading this today, there is a strong chance you won’t live to see your conventionally operated vehicle proscribed from a weekend romp.

Fear not, driving enthusiasts, Rush’s 1981 vision of a “Red Barchetta” defying the “Motor Law [and] running the deadly race” is not your future. But if you plan ahead, it may be your nephew’s.

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163 Comments on “Shifting and Drifting: How Many Human-driven Years Remain?...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    this just popped into my head- what if they’ll be like what was portrayed in Demolition Man except reversed? autonomous in the city, with the option to switch to piloted mode out on the open road.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      The thing is, “the open road” is where autonomous driving is easiest and safest. It’s urban environments where there are an awful lot of difficult problems to solve.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        We choose to do these things not because they are easy, etc., etc.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        yeah, but urban driving is the most dangerous and the problem autonomous cars are supposed to solve.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Dangerous how? In terms of killing YOU, it is pretty hard to do in town. Pedestrians, sure. That is where semi-automation makes a difference ala Volvo “City Safety” auto-braking and what not.

          I predict a steady evolution of the sorts of semi-autopilot systems already on luxury cars and the various active-safety devices that are becoming more common on ever cheaper cars. Fully autonomous is a ways out – I say 20 years to be really common. I doubt we will ever outlaw manually driven cars completely. You can still drive a 1905 car that barely has lights or brakes on the street today, after all. Or a horse and buggy for that matter. But you can’t drive them on an Interstate highway.

          I can’t wait to be able to afford a car I can stick on autopilot and tell to take me to NJ while I take a nap.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            I’d prefer it to take me from NJ, but…..

            Once on interstates, full auto needn’t be too far off. For surface street traffic, things are much less predictable.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Also Minority Report.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      That’s a decent idea. Guys like my dad and probably most of his generation in rural areas share one thing regardless of how much of “car guys” they are–they hate driving in big cities.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Drzhivago138 – add me to that list.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          I’m not gonna fault people for not wanting to drive in places that actually are Urban with a capital U. But guys like my dad consider Sioux Falls and Lincoln “too big.” They’re not used to being within spitting distance of any other human being, I guess.

          Heck, maybe that’s the real reason full-size SUVs and pickups, and before that, full-size sedans, are so popular in rural areas. Even if you’re driving with a passenger, you still have them sitting no closer than a whole person-width between you.

      • 0 avatar
        dantes_inferno

        @Drzhivago: Guys like my dad and probably most of his generation in rural areas share one thing regardless of how much of “car guys” they are–they hate driving in big cities.

        My father used to describe big city living as “rats in a cage”. And I agree since I now live in a rural area and haven’t looked back.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Speaking for myself, if I had access to a self-driving vehicle today, I would buy it. (Or, if I could have a nice vehicle reliably show up at my door within 10 minutes of requesting it, I’d take that option too.)

    I have a couple hundred square feet of my house dedicated to vehicle storage, (a.k.a two-car garage), hundreds of dollars in tools and supplies to maintain them (in lieu of even more money spent elsewhere), insurance, hassle, etc., that would all go away and I wouldn’t miss any of it.

    When I drive, I want an engaging and quality experience, but given the option of avoiding driving altogether? I’ll take that if it’s available for a reasonable price; there are things I would rather do with my time than drive.

    I don’t think my feelings are at all unique.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      Likewise. For commuting, grocery shopping, etc. I’d rather be able to zone out. Nothing raises my blood pressure like the DC beltway does.

      Of course, this doesn’t mean I’d be getting rid of my S2000 anytime soon either. 60 degree weather next week means it gets to come out earlier than I thought this year!

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Exactly! So many car guys get defensive on the topic of autonomous cars. But I would love to dump my commuter car and get something fun to drive for the rare occasion when I can really enjoy driving, rather than sitting in stop-and-go traffic.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          VoGo – in a fully autonomous future will they allow “independent” drivers?
          I can see F150 Raptors and Mazda Miata’s with the dash sticker, “closed course or restricted roads only”.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Lou,
            Who is “they”? You are a citizen – go ahead and vote for what you think is right.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            VoGo -‘You are a citizen – go ahead and vote for what you think is right.’

            Vote for what’s right?

            I get your point but to be a devil’s advocate: I’d be more likely to vote for what works best for me and that isn’t necessarily what is right.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            Subject, not citizen.

            Regardless of what nonsense you may put on some voting slip, your vote will be tallied as one for the drone party. Which will get 105% of the vote. And will tell you which cars you can and cannot drive. Regardless of how you voted.

            Silly rituals involving voting booths, and aimed solely at legitimizing overgrown government, are not meaningfully different from equally silly rituals not involving them.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            And we know this because…?

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      I’m with you. For the drudgery of daily commuting, why bother with all the aggravation and expense? We certainly could maintain “fun” cars for Sunday afternoon pleasure drives. I like driving when it’s fun. Creeping at 5 MPH on a gridlocked interstate isn’t fun. If there were more autonomous cars, maybe there would be less of those dumb accidents that cause the gridlock in the first place.

      I think of my 86 year-old mother, who can no longer drive and is totally dependent on the kindness of others to get out and about. An autonomous vehicle solution would be perfect for her as taxi service is non-existent where she lives. As Chevy once said: it’s not a car, it’s your freedom. Mobility is freedom.

      • 0 avatar
        SunnyvaleCA

        I love driving too, but my feeling is that in places with a decent amount of traffic already, the switch over to autonomous cars will make driving absolutely miserable. First, the autonomous cars are likely to significantly slow the flow of traffic (comping to complete stop, never exceeding speed limit, etc). Sure, if everything were self-driving there could be some optimizations. However, with areas that also have pedestrians, bicycles, etc, these optimizations aren’t going to work and the excruciatingly “safe” behavior will kick in.

        More important, there will be *much* more traffic on the roads….
        * the time expense of driving is now nearly zero, so people will drive (ride) places more often
        * since you don’t care about the “performance” of the vehicle, people will buy the cheapest-to-operate vehicle, further reducing the expensive of driving places
        * old people, who have lots of spare time on their hands but can’t currently drive themselves, will be using the roads more often
        * kids, drunks, people who lost their license, etc will now be going all sorts of places and using the roads
        * people will be going further distances because operating a car is cheaper (see item 2 above) and because it will give you a good opportunity to sleep in the back seat. I’m thinking of things like a day trip from bay Area to Los Angeles to visit friends. I don’t do it now because driving requires my own time and effort and flying is expensive and a hassle. But if I could get in my car bed at 11:00 PM and wake up in LA at 7:00 AM, I’d gladly pay the $50 cost.
        * Where I live, you buy a $1.5M house so you have a short commute. If commuting becomes lest costly and you can work/play/sleep during the commute, you might decided that a 50 mile commute is fine so that you can buy a nice house for $0.5M. Note that a 50 mile commute is likely to take 2 hours (each way) during high congestion time, so that’s pretty much infeasible now.
        * consider a trip out to dinner in downtown: generally I avoid downtown if at all possible because there is no parking. If I can’t avoid it, I’ll go at an odd time. But now I’ll go right when I want to and then send the car home to park. That means 2 round-trips for the car during the busiest rush hour instead of a single trip purposely planned to not coincide with rush hour. Same two-trip sequence certainly applies when being dropped off at the train station (for which parking is nonexistant/expensive/dangerous to the car).
        * self-driving Uber could reduce the 2-trip problem. Costs would likely decrease quite a bit, making private ownership of a car just a choice to have a nicer and cleaner car (verses all the attendant costs of car ownership). But self-driving Uber with lower costs would then put even more people than ever before on the roads.

        We certainly live in interesting times!

        • 0 avatar
          e30gator

          If every car was autonomous, we wouldn’t necessarily need speed limits, stoplights, etc. They exist to prevent accidents caused by human error. Taking the humans out of the equation means far fewer accidents AND traditional time-consuming road rules.

          • 0 avatar
            SunnyvaleCA

            “If every car was autonomous, we wouldn’t necessarily need speed limits, stoplights, etc.”

            Assuming we also have autonomous pedestrians, cyclists, moose, etc.

            I could see the fleet of cars turning over in 15 years (maybe with some additional government prodding towards the end). However, there are tons of heavy duty trucks, busses, etc that have a much longer replacement timeline. Maybe they could be retrofit and still kept on the road?

      • 0 avatar
        aycaramba

        A very good point about your grandmother. My wife works for a non-profit that focuses on providing rides to seniors, totally dependent on volunteers. It’s not easy keeping a pipeline of people ready that want to volunteer their time to transport older folks around–particularly since a percentage of them can be quite cranky.

        But when I look at the struggles some of these people have just to get groceries or medical care (forget about having a social life), it makes me genuinely scared to age out of driving. Let’s face it, our society could care less about seniors, and no one wants to donate money to help them out. All that charity tends to be reserved for sick children (think about how much St. Jude takes in every year).

        I sincerely hope that we start to migrate through some of the quadrants mentioned in the article so that my wife and I don’t find ourselves home-bound someday.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      I think that people confuse self-driving cars and ride-sharing.

      Unless you live in a very densely-populated area (NYC) and use some other means to get to work, you still need to own your own car. The reason for that is that everybody needs to get to the same places (work, school) at the same time.

      10,000 self-driving Ubers won’t get 1,000,000 people in and out of DC every day, never mind dropping the kids off at school and picking them up again.

      Long story short: we may eventually get self-driving cars, but don’t expect them to free-up your garage.

    • 0 avatar

      Not me. I enjoy even mundane drives through suburbia, just feeling my car respond to my commands. Riding instead of driving would be boring for me. I’m definitely getting my money’s worth from my car, an ’08 Civic with a stick.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The lower right quadrant of that graph can suck it.

    On a serious note, the big shift will come when the autonomobile is fully functional and insurers add in a gigantic risk premium for “manual driving.” I’m sure Flo will explain it in some happy way.

    Annual autono premium: $300
    Annual manual premium: $1250

    Manual cars become a plaything and past time for the nostalgic and moneyed. A sad future indeed. And just imagine the rococo aspirations of the Pep Boys and Hotlanta crowd after their car no longer has utilitarian requirements of seeing out the window and having proper seats. The 2035 Cadillac HotTub Terrace Regency Custom.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Yes, how sad it was when horses were banned from the interstates.

      • 0 avatar
        Coopdeville

        You’re comparing a manually driven modern automobile to a horse? How is this a comparable analogy? If you had compared horse-drawn wagons to the Model A around the turn of the last century I could see the comparison.

        By the time modern interstates were built in the 50’s, horses were not used as the *primary* mode of transportation for anyone outside of the most extreme rural US location. I would assume they were banned from the interstates (along with pedal bikes and walkers) because of the danger they posed to fast moving traffic, not because they were an anachronistic method of conveyance.

        In my neck of the woods, the Amish still happily drive (is team the better verb?) their horse-drawn buggies down rural intRAstate highways. I’m thankful that nobody has yet banned these folks from choosing their own method of transportation just because it’s not the most modern tech available.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          The comparison to horses was invited by the line: “Manual cars become a plaything and past time for the nostalgic and moneyed.” Unless you’re part of a simple living sect or live on a ranch, that’s what horses are. But you’re right, I should have said “when Model As were banned from interstates because they couldn’t keep up.”

          At any rate, the banning has never been about Big Brother trying to control people’s choices, it’s about promoting the general welfare of we the people.

    • 0 avatar
      Storz

      100% correct

  • avatar
    Verbal

    Our grandchildren will not know how to drive a car.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      And? My father doesn’t know how to drive a team of horses, and maybe not even his father.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Drzhivago138 – My dad grew up with teams of horses but he was born in 1919. As you correctly pointed out, most are either back to earth types or Amish in nature.

        There are horse loggers around my part of the world who specialize in low environmental impact logging. The only others are hunting guide outfitters but those are a dying breed. A stable of ATV’s don’t need to be watered, fed and sheltered for 6 months of the year. You also don’t need to worry about about predators eating your ATV’s (other than porcupines and mice in the airbox).

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      It’s already happening. 20 years ago, NYC was about the only place where you could get away without a car. Now, I see young adults in Chicago, Boston, SF, etc. going without a car, just using Uber for nights out and perhaps Zipcar or similar for weekend trips.

      Once cars go autonomous, this trend will accelerate. I suspect we are about a decade away from fairly widespread adoption in new cars.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Gas is plentiful and cheap. Highway deaths are down from a high of nearly 60K/yr to ~35K/yr. The ICE is cleaner than it’s ever been. Why should I give up my inexpensive, reliable, meatbag*-driven car to make your utopian urban-planner wet dreams come true?

    *hat tip to Futurama’s “Bender”

    The gun lobby has managed to stymie “sensible reform” for decades with the “from my cold dead hands” approach, and there are a lot more of us who love cars than love guns. Why couldn’t we organize and do the same?

    It will be really ironic if I end up getting banned from The Truth About Cars because of my love for cars. But know this: if you want to take my Miata and force me into a “shared ownership” Google pod car, I dislike you very strongly on a personal level.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      I really like my Miata, too!

      I would also really like having access to a shared ownership autonomous Google pod car. It would be great for nights out or long boring drives.

      One can be a fan of both things. Just pick the right tool for the job.

      I think the short answer for why we should consider alternatives to meatbag operated cars are the ~35K deaths per year, as well as the waste associated with storing thousands of cars when they’re in a low-value standby mode. Oh, and it will open personal transportation up to many people with disabilities or who are otherwise homebound.

      You can disagree with the methods proposed to address them, but don’t pretend like there aren’t real drawbacks with the current way we do transportation in this country.

      • 0 avatar
        This Is Dawg

        “The gun lobby has managed to stymie “sensible reform” for decades with the “from my cold dead hands” approach, and there are a lot more of us who love cars than love guns. Why couldn’t we organize and do the same?”

        Because this would make people with no opinions on the matter pick a side. Shouting matches are not a way to come to a happy resolution. I am willing to bet that clinging to cars like this, when no one has proposed “taking them away” would cause people to oppose you.

        • 0 avatar
          Storz

          While I wish we could organize etc, driving is not a right. Owning a firearm is.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            You’re overreacting. No one is trying to take away your driving privileges. All autonomous driving means is more options for those with better things to do than sit in traffic.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Someone needs to re-read the Second Amendment. All it says is that within the context of a state militia, you have the right to bear arms.

            Why bear arms? The constitution is unclear. It’s certainly an odd choice. Bear claws I could get behind. They are delicious.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Ensuring that state militia could bear arms was a very important right to have when your country had just gained independence from the efforts of those militia (among other factors).

            Wasn’t it Thomas Jefferson who suggested rewriting the Constitution every 19 years?

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “Someone needs to re-read the Second Amendment. All it says is that within the context of a state militia, you have the right to bear arms.”

            The SCOTUS was very clear that that is not the case. Bear arms for all!

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            I think you mean the old, Scalia SCOTUS, Danio.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            Of course driving is a right. Just as walking is. And riding a horse. And breathing. And gagging on pumpkins.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Matt Foley – so the answer is gun racks instead of roof racks?

      Nothing like a 50 cal gun turret to masculinize that Rav4.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “Why should I give up my inexpensive, reliable, meatbag*-driven car to make your utopian urban-planner wet dreams come true?”

      because you suck at using it. And I mean “you” as “people in general.” we’re a bunch of inattentive, easily distracted, careless, reckless, inexperienced, high, sleepy, and drunk menaces to each other. And we all think we’re great drivers.

      I really believe that if the automobile were to be invented today, it would be very difficult to be allowed to own one.

    • 0 avatar

      The National MOtorists Association advocates for driving freedom. motorists.org. But I don’t think membership has even reached 10,000 yet.

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Foley

        Thank you, David, for prompting me to join NMA (I just did). If they can do politically for automotive enthusiasts what the NRA does for gun enthusiasts, that’s $35/yr well spent.

        To be honest, I have no problem with automated cars as long as they are engineered to share the road with human-driven cars. We need to be vigilant against the death of human-driven cars by a thousand legislative cuts: parts of town that are pod-car only, lanes that are pod-car only, tax breaks for pod cars and/or taxes/fees/surcharges on human-driven cars. If they want to push us off the roads, that’s how it’ll start.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        David C. Holzman, I have just emailed the site you mentioned (motorists.org) to my entire mailing list. That’s ~633 different people, depending on who p!ssed me off today and was dropped, and includes over 190 avid gun fans.

        The gun fans should be interested in the article about why these self-driving cars are the new gun control.

    • 0 avatar
      dantes_inferno

      > *hat tip to Futurama’s “Bender”

      Autonomous cars can bite my shiny metal ass!

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Seth…nice work.

    And yet, after all that work…it all comes back to, well, maybe but likely not.

    I think the one main problem I have with your argument is the insurance industry support. I think insurance is actually going to slow down the advance of auto tech. Insurance wants SOMEONE to take the hit…and it ain’t gonna be the tech of the car. It needs to place responsibility on a human.

    And there is good reason for this…I mean REASON, or lack of, is the issue here.
    Perhaps I am talking about consciousness more than reason here. Perhaps both.

    Although the tech gather data and can produce calculations faster than the human mind…it simply is not as complicated and multi leveled as the mind. And those trying to produce the tech to mimic the human mind are finding this out. There is a whole lot more levels of calculations and complexity in the human mind that no machine can come close to.

    Maybe this can work in the vast open regions of the sky and outer space…but no way in the crowded, complicated moral interactive human world.

    And the moral judgments needed to make these complicated decisions are not possible with machines.

    • 0 avatar
      This Is Dawg

      +1 Seth, this was an excellently condensed read on a subject with a lot to consider. Well done.

      TrailerTrash, maybe insurance rates can be increased inside city limits? Maybe insurance companies can lobby to require all autonomous car prices to be raised to include a cut for insurance? I’m sure the insurance industry is already figuring out their play to profit off autonomous cars, but as for it slowing down the timeline of mainstream acceptance, I’m not sure. Imagine Google and Apple each produce cars in ten years, and advertise them heavily. I’m willing to bet customer demand would pressure regulators to find a fix. It probably won’t be in everybody’s best interests, but it’ll happen.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        TrailerTrash – good points but with a fully autonomous vehicle network the electronic “brains” will not have to work all that hard. Every vehicle will have its preset operational parameters and they will know the parameters of every other unit and the location of every other unit.
        The only monkey wrench loose in the machine is the monkey loose on the machine. The biological brain and meatbag* (Hat tip Matt Foley)that contains it by nature is highly emotional and therefor highly unpredictable.
        How do you program a machine to read all of the nuances involved in human communication?
        Public driving is as much a form of communication as it is a mechanical skill. Societal norms are also part and parcel of the picture. We have had millions of years to learn how to read each other and even then we get it wrong.

        You remove the biological interface and autonomous life gets rather easy.
        In many respects this makes a gradual transition from one to the other extremely problematic.

        People will not accept radical change unless an epic disaster (financial, societal, natural – accidental or deliberate) occurs and shocks them into change or renders them unable to combat or protest the change.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “And the moral judgments needed to make these complicated decisions are not possible with machines.”

      I’ve been driving for 25 years and I don’t know what moral judgement you’re talking about. That time I was driving and the only choice was the old lady and the kid? You know what? That’s never happened.

  • avatar
    Coopdeville

    “and look forward to the day I can work during my freeway commute”

    I’m really looking forward to the day that all of this innovation will reduce the amount of work I have to do, not free up even more of my personal time which I can devote to work. My corporate overlords are rubbing their hands with glee.

    • 0 avatar
      broISbest

      The loss of doing something I enjoy is concerning, but this is a bigger concern to me. Currently, my commute is my time. Either listening to a podcast, the radio, or just simply paying attention to the road. I’m essentially on call 24×7 and this is the only time I cannot be expected to work. I have to believe the benefit of being able to work on my commute is the opposite of a benefit for me and I suspect most other people, even if they aren’t keen on driving.

    • 0 avatar
      Storz

      Exactly this

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    I strongly feel that self-driving cars will benifit society as a whole. The physically or mentally disabled will have the freedom of mobility we drivers enjoy today.

    I have close connection with my best friend’s family. His aunt is deaf and mentally disabled. I have driven her around quite a bit. But, since I no longer live there, and the other adult members of the family have full-time jobs, she is limited to MAYBE 2-3 outings a week. I know that is hard on her, just as I know that it is equally as hard for the others to take her to Walmart, Starbucks, doctor/dentist, the bank, the resource center etc after working all day. It would be great if she could take herself to these places without risking her life or others by attempting to drive herself. She can function alone in society, although the path becomes bumpy at times (she does not respond well in some situations and can become agitated when only slightly provoked), but the point is, she is an example of someone who really could benifit from a self-driving car. Btw, they live in a rual area, the nearest bus stop is several (unsafe to walk) miles away.

    I imagine blind people would love to not be forced to depend on others for rides, especially those who dont have access to public transportation. Same goes for the elderly. Instead of causing a traffic jam/accident by driving their Grand Marquis at 40 mph on the freeway where the flow of traffic is closer to 70 mph, or getting confused/lost, they could use a self-driving car to take the risk and stress out of going about their daily lives.

    As for me? They will have to pry my keys out of my cold, dead fingers, because so long as Im able to drive, I intend to. Giving up driving when Im perfectly capable of it would be like pure hell for me.

    • 0 avatar

      >>>As for me? They will have to pry my keys out of my cold, dead fingers, because so long as Im able to drive, I intend to. Giving up driving when Im perfectly capable of it would be like pure hell for me.

      I have a diet that most people here probably would find impossible. Lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, raw nuts, some wild salmon… The reason: driving as long as I can is more important than eating bacon and ice cream regularly, which I would otherwise do.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Five days a week, I drive a car for 20 minutes, ignore it for 8+ hours, then drive it for 20 minutes, then ignore it for 13+ hours.

    Does that feel wasteful to me? Heck yes it does!

    However, I don’t see any viable alternatives that feel LESS wasteful.

    I have no answers. Maybe there are people smarter than me that do. I’ll look forward to it.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      There are people out there who would try and guilt trip you on this wastefulness. They’d also guilt trip you for owning a home which sits empty and unused all day while you’re at work.

      Their answer for both is communal ownership and living.

      A commune. *shudder* Never let yourself feel wasteful!

      • 0 avatar
        EdTilley

        Winner of “Best, Most Insightful Comment”!!

      • 0 avatar
        This Is Dawg

        I think the reason for this hypothetical guilt tripping would be based on the irrefutable facts that:
        A. Humankind not only shows no signs of reducing population growth and expansion, with which resource consumption is bound to increase; but we historically have fetishized growth and expansion.
        B. The earth has limited resources and space to expand onto.

        This results in an inevitable need to increase efficiency. Yes, people who study these subjects and push policies in attempts to address them are likely going to sound alarmist to everyone else, but their points are nonetheless prophetic. We may not need to have these discussions now, or for a hundred years, but they will be unavoidable at some point.

        To me, the political divide in this country can be boiled down to looking ahead and looking backwards, both while moving forwards.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          In theory, the future will hold catastrophic incidents – be they natural or state-caused – to reduce the population. That is, once we’ve changed the environment enough for it to be unstable or when the competition for resources (rich v. poor or nation v. nation) becomes too intense.

          • 0 avatar
            This Is Dawg

            So we wait until that day? And arm ourselves to the teeth to rule what’s left?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The cause of real societal change is always through necessity or violence.

          • 0 avatar
            This Is Dawg

            Blegh, I don’t like that a few comments in, “Reply” buttons disappear.

            Anyways, “The cause of real societal change is always through necessity or violence.”

            I know I’m getting into proven unrealistic optimism here, but I thought one of the points of an organized society is to prepare for catastrophes. There’s not a government in the world I’d trust to get this right, but it’s too bad we can’t try.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I guess I would ask then, point me to any catastrophe in history where the government was prepared and handled it quickly and efficiently.

            The government is there to make you -think- they’re prepared, and that’s why you pay for your protection via taxes, etc. etc. Then Katrina happens.

            The people sorting it out in the end are the volunteers and small local groups.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            How exactly does my using a self-driving car force you to live in a commune?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            @VoGo You just combined two different subject threads into one question.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            synergy?

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @Corey:

            Of course governments are not “prepared” for catastrophes – the nature of them is that they can’t be fully prepared for. That’s why they’re catastrophes.

            And good luck depending on volunteers and local groups to fully deal with something along the lines of Hurricane Katrina.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            CoreyDL is 100% correct in as much as it takes catastrophe to precipitate radical change on a large scale.
            Will there be a state caused disaster that will reduce the population?
            The state does not need to be a direct cause. “Aiding and abetting”. All one has to do is collectively sit on our hands and let war, disease and pestilence ravage another country, land, or race.
            Case in point:
            We’ve seen it in Africa where HIV drugs were withheld because letting generics into the country would cut into profits and violate international treaties.

        • 0 avatar
          Chicago Dude

          Dawg, that’s not true at all. There’s a very strong correlation between the increased wealth of a nation and the decrease in its population growth.

          We need to increase efficiency because
          A) Too many nations are not becoming wealthy
          B) Increasing efficiency tends to increase wealth

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Chicago Dude – wealthy states do have lower birth rates. It is also dependent upon what you would consider wealthy.
            Google fertility rates.
            https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2127rank.html

            USA is 142 with 1.87.
            Canada is 184 with 1.59.

            Worst: # 1 NIGER at 6.76.

            Least(best) #224 SINGAPORE at 0.81

          • 0 avatar
            This Is Dawg

            Oh hell,

            I typed out a long response and my comment disappeared. Chicago, I agree with your points completely. I left that out, and my irrefutables were refuted.

            However, studies show that as wealth increases, so does average resource consumption. Dramatically. Buying power doesn’t come with a sense of restraint it would seem. Hence: “fetishization” of growth.

            Therefore, though I agree that increasing efficiency tends to increase wealth, if the end goal is more wealthy people, we’d better make them stay efficient.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Communal ownership?
        “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose”.

        Janis got that one wrong?

        Um, does the NRA have a 1-800 number?

  • avatar
    mcs

    I don’t see fully (level 4) autonomous cars in the form the automakers and consumer electronics companies are seeing them. Robot technology, like Boston Dynamics Atlas, is evolving quickly. Rather than a technology packed car driving you someplace to perform errands, why not a car with less technology inside driven by something like Atlas instead. That way, you can stay at home and send the robot driving a stripped down car to perform the errands instead. Tell the robot you want the house painted, so it goes to Home Depot, buys the paint, then comes back and paints the house. Tell it you want burgers on the grill tonight, it goes and buys the hamburger, then comes home and cooks the burgers and serves them at your table.

    The tech to drive a car will be expensive. A robot capable of driving brings puts that expensive tech into something that can do more than just drive.

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

    BTW – when the robots finally take over, the guy in the video with hockey stick will be the first to die :^)

    • 0 avatar
      This Is Dawg

      An interesting perspective. Although, purchasing a robot is an added cost to any household, unlike a car which is a requirement for 99% of the country. Unless these robo-helpers are pretty affordable, I don’t see their development and sales becoming mainstream alternatives to autonomous cars until long after we’ve had self driving cars. And good luck getting tax breaks on robot sales as compared to “eco-friendly” shared auto-Priuses.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        The hardware and software to give the car full autonomy could cost more than a car and the robots basic hardware costs combined. The idea is that you could take a cheap conventional car and have the robot do the driving and errands. The investment in the AI for the car wouldn’t be stuck with the car. It could be used for other purposes – like cooking etc. Fleets could pull a vehicle for maintenance and move the robot to another one.

        Fully autonomous vehicles/robots won’t be cheap or for the poor due to purchase price along with high maintenance costs. Expect aircraft levels of maintenance with mandatory replacement or rebuild of expensive components after a certain number of hours of use by specially certified technicians. You obviously don’t want to be in one of Googles Teletubby taxis when the lidar scanner motor freezes. Using robots opens the possibility of selling decertified robots for non-driving functions where the risk of failure won’t be catastrophic. Driving miss daisy one day, busted to burger flipper the next.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      K: “That come standard?”
      J: “Actually, it came with a black dude, but he kept getting pulled over.”

  • avatar
    Storz

    As soon as its deemed safer to be an autonomous car the insurance companies will basically force the change regardless of whether we want it or not. They will rate the human driven cars so high that only the wealthy will be able afford to have a track or toy car. We’re F’ed as driving enthusiasts. I am 100% against autonomous cars, if you’re too lazy/ignorant/careless to drive yourself then perhaps you should just stay home.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I already said this, lol.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        You know more about insurance stuff than I do, but do you really think rates would get that high?

        I mean, right now I can afford to daily drive a motorcycle or classic Beetle and those are comparatively very unsafe. Wouldn’t a self driven “hobby” vehicle that only sees ~2k miles a year somewhat avoid the higher rates?

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Because the risk profile would be SO different for the two types, yep I do think so.

          Driver of Toyota AutoCamry risk of crash per year, .85%.
          Driver of old something or other manual, 35%.

          The manual drivers become outliers in the system, and must pay accordingly. Like insuring some rare risk or object – the inherent rarity and unusual nature of the thing adds a premium.

          This old vase here isn’t better at holding water than this Mason jar, but it’s from the Ming Dynasty.

          In addition, regulators would not try and stop this sort of price gouging, because it benefits everyone. I would look for registration fees to the state to increase greatly as well on manual vehicles.

          The insurer says, look this is safe so we make it cheap to use it!
          The government says, look this is safe and cheap so use it!
          Safety groups say look how safe this is!
          Young people say look how easy this is and also trendy!

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Explain to me why the insurance premiums would go up for a driver when other cars go autonomous. Would he suddenly become more dangerous and prone to accidents? No. If anything, his accident rate would go down because he would no longer get hit by drivers who are drunk, high or distracted.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            @VoGo, you’re not looking at this in the right light. Once the shift is made to autonomous cars, the manual driver becomes an outlier – as I mentioned. There will have been a paradigm shift in auto insurance. Do you understand this?

            Different example:

            Let’s say all states have certain water quality and sanitation requirements, and all people are required to purchase health insurance. There is one exception, Arizona. It has refuted these water sanitation requirements and decides to go its own way.

            Arizona is now an outlier, and people desiring health insurance from Arizona will have higher premiums as a result.

            The manual driver becomes a limited unknown quantity in a world of known quantities ie. the autonomous driver.

          • 0 avatar
            Storz

            We are on the same page. To the poster above who said “no one is trying to take away your driving privileges” is dead wrong. The powers that be would absolutely love to take those privelddges away.

            Autonomous cars are just another step along the incrementalism path set forward by an over reaching nanny state.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            [Citation needed] on that “taking away muh cars” claim.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            The line between autonomous and non-autonomous is a lot blurrier than you think, so the difference in risk profile will be small.

            Lots of people have cars that can brake autonomously when they sense an impending crash. That technology gets better (and more common) every year. Why would insurance companies (who are only interested in profit) care that you are holding the wheel, if your car keeps you out of trouble?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You’re starting a different discussion, so please do a new subject thread. We are talking autonomous cars vs. manual, not “50 shades of autonomy, an exercise in maybe.”

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Corey,
            I’ve worked in insurance for 20 years, so I think I do get it. Your premiums are a direct reflection of the sum of:
            a. the cost of a potential claim, divided by its probability
            b. the cost to service that claim (i.e., adjuster, CSR)
            c. the cost to sell you the policy, divided by how long they keep you
            d. profit and interest on your premiums

            Driverless cars don’t raise the costs of these variables, so they don’t raise your insurance premium. Period.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            I agree with CoryDL – fully autonomous cars are a known risk and that risk is minimal. To allow autonomy is to introduce unpredictability. Anything that is unpredictable carries higher risk.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            Corey,

            I don’t believe that it’s a different discussion, because I don’t believe that autonomous cars will happen in one shot.

            What we are actually seeing is new cars with more autonomous features every year. By the time we see cars without steering wheels (and I’m not convinced it will ever happen), every car out there will have 90% of the necessary technology already on board.

            So, why would the “government, or insurance companies, or whatever, take away the right to drive? At that point it won’t make a bit of difference whether or not you are driving. I suspect many will choose not to drive, especially for the daily commute, and many will choose to drive.

            In other words, driving will be an option, like cooking your own dinner is today. Given what I see on the roads every day, I believe that a lot of people will be better-off if they don’t drive. They obviously don’t enjoy it, they aren’t any good at it, it stresses them out. All they want is to get where they are going in a convenient way.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            @Vogo

            a. the cost of a potential claim, divided by its probability

            I agree with this. But when all the sudden you’ve got 99.4% of people with <1% chance of crashing, and .06% of people with several -multiples- of a chance of crashing, you charge them more.

            More risk, more expense. As I stated before – a new risk paradigm will be in effect. The old methods will no longer apply, and the industry will adapt.

            You're assuming the P&C insurance industry is static, and it isn't. The mix of business -will- change.

            "Driverless cars don't raise the costs of these variables."

            Again, correct. The cars being MANUALLY driven raise the cost of these variables. Thus, more insurance premium will be required for said drivers.

            You simply cannot assume that things will be the way they've always been when there's a fundamental game change situation on the horizon.

            Or are you still holding onto your VHS tapes and Blockbuster stock?

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      I know plenty of folks who are far from wealthy but have track cars. Track bikes are even cheaper.

      “I am 100% against autonomous cars, if you’re too lazy/ignorant/careless to drive yourself then perhaps you should just stay home.”

      How about if you have epilepsy, or are visually impaired, have ALS, or are otherwise unable to operate a car? Just stay at home and leave public spaces to the non-disabled?

      Guess those folks are just out of luck, huh? Oh well, as long as you can still have fun driving to work, right?

      • 0 avatar
        Storz

        There are already shuttles and services to cater to the disabled, and in using those services you put a real live human to work, with a job driving you around.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Yes. And if you automate driving, then these drivers can either be retrained to do higher value work or retire. This has been the most basic trend in our economy since the 1880’s.

          • 0 avatar
            Storz

            I wonder why some of you are even posting on an automotive blog, you’re clearly not car enthusiasts.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            “Only people who agree with me are real car enthusiasts and should be allowed on the sites I frequent.”

          • 0 avatar
            bikegoesbaa

            Because a car enthusiast would never disagree with you, apparently?

            I feel secure in my car-guy credentials.

            I own 2 daily driver cars, 2 project cars, and 2 motorcycles. I do regular track days, have raced wheel-to-wheel in cars that I helped build, and driven across America 4 times in a stick-shift Miata.

            If I don’t qualify as a car enthusiast then I doubt many other people would either.

          • 0 avatar
            broISbest

            VoGo, is higher value work better for both the worker and general economy? If given the choice of maintaining lesser value jobs where by those workers can put money back into the economy vs. ejecting them from the equation, I’d rather keep them around. Moving towards “higher value” jobs doesn’t always mean it’s for the greater good.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            I am not going to argue whether automation is good or evil. It’s like debating whether gravity has a right to exist.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Storz,
            I’ve been here for 10 years. I AM a car enthusiast.

            What I am NOT an enthusiast of is sitting in traffic for 150 minutes every time I go to work. I am not an enthusiast of driving a minivan all over town taking the kids to and from all their practices. I am not an enthusiast of bar parking lots emptying every night, with the patrons assuring themselves that they are fine to drive after 6 beers.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “I wonder why some of you are even posting on an automotive blog, you’re clearly not car enthusiasts.”

            respectfully, that’s a load of s**t. I was a licensed mechanic before I had my driver’s license. My senior year of high school, I was one of two guys from my auto shop class to win the state competition of this: https://www.facebook.com/AutoSkills/ which got us a trip to D.C. for the national contest. I bought my first car for $150 and after fixing everything that was wrong with it sold it for $1500 a year later. I pulled, tore down, and refreshed the diesel engine out of the F-250 I had while in college. I even got an engineering degree and work in the industry. I probably put hands on more cars before I graduated high school than you ever will. so don’t you f***ing dare try to tell me I’m not an enthusiast.

            even *I* would prefer a self-driving car for much of my weekday travel. Why? Because the most engaging, fun-to-drive car in the world is a penalty box when you’re stuck sitting in traffic. especially when you have a stick shift and traffic is crawling along slower than you can idle in 1st gear. then it’s “clutch in, clutch out, clutch in, clutch out, clutch in, clutch out, clutch in, clutch out, clutch in, clutch out, clutch in, clutch out, clutch in, clutch out.” That’s not enjoyable driving. I’d rather let someone or something else haul my ass to work and home, and I’ll save the actual driving for when I can find a road that’s not clogged up with cars.

          • 0 avatar
            RogueInLA

            “Higher value work” as in “would you like fries with that?”

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            >> you’re clearly not car enthusiasts.

            I have two modes. When I’m crawling along I-95/Rt 128 around Boston in my bank-vault quiet EV at 15 mph in traffic, I’m not much of an auto enthusiast. When I’m carving twisty roads in the EVs carbon fiber Italian garage mate, I’m an auto enthusiast.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      It will have very little to do with what’s “safer,” but rather with what’s more profitable.

      Of course, all cars will have autonomous features at that point, so the dividing line may be blurry. Is there a big actuarial difference between a “self-driving” car, and one that takes over when it thinks you are about to crash?

      Cars with stability control and ABS already do this. Many cars have collision avoidance on top of those two features (hitting the brakes before you hit something).

      Do you think insurance companies will force you to get a self-driving car if you are already driving a car that won’t let you hit anything?

  • avatar
    e30gator

    I love cars, but not as much as my family. I would gladly give up my ability to hop behind the wheel if it meant that my wife/kids were safe from drunks, old farts, and idiots on cell phones.

    Besides, driving during peak hours to/from work SUCKS. To be able to zone out and look out the window (instead of my rear view mirror in anticipation of being rear-ended by the blond on her cell phone) would be a nice change. Racetracks or just using certain roads at certain times with little traffic would put the joy back in driving.

  • avatar
    Storz

    In the end is doesn’t matter what I, you or any of us think. This garbage is coming whether we want it or not.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Here’s why truly autonomous driving will never happen: it’ll require a complete re-engineering of our entire highway structure. Given that we can’t even come to a political consensus to fix all the rotting roadways and bridges out there, how the hell does billions in funding for autonomous roadways even get considered?

    My prediction: advances in tech will give cars the ability to drive autonomously in sparsely populated roads with light traffic. But will they replace what we use to sit in gridlock with every day? No chance.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    It will happen around the same time we all convert from walking and biking to riding the Segway.
    .
    .

  • avatar
    gottacook

    “An analogy exists with the advent of recorded music. …”

    How’s that again? Did the advent of recordings somehow restrict the ability of performers to put on a concert?

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      gottacook – with the advent of the internet and electronic media, concerts are now the only way musicians can make any money.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        How is that a change from anything? Artists have long since only been granted a pittance (if anything) from album/cassette/CD sales. The labels have practically *always* taken all of the money.

        it’s why I scoff at these artists who whine and scream at services like Pandora and Spotify. It’s your own godd**n fault you signed on to a label which takes all of the money you make for them.

  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    So, I had this thought the other day behind a senior citizen that was driving under the speed limit in a Volvo. Is it possible with all the auto guided cruise controls now available, to mount a unit in the rear bumper fascia, so that when somebody starts to tailgate, the offending car could automatically increase speed. Likewise, perhaps the offending car could give the driver an audible tone to change lanes? This seems like a MUCH better use of these new technologies.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      …or maybe a device to hack into the offender’s sound system and start blaring that Ludicris song…”Move, b**ch, get out the way…”

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      I have a Volvo that can drive autonomously at low speeds (Pilot Assist)

      It will increase speed, up to the speed limit (which it knows via GPS and a database) as long as it can maintain a safe distance from the car in front of it.

  • avatar
    Freddie

    My car spends most of its time parked. So what? It’s there when I need it.

    I haven’t put a stopwatch on it, but I’ll bet I spend less time in my bathroom than I do in my car. And I’m not about to depend on Uber every time I have to …

  • avatar
    KevinC

    My uncle has a country place, that no one knows about
    He says it used to be a farm, before the Motor Law
    And on Sundays I elude the ‘Eyes’, and hop the Turbine freight
    To far outside the Wire, where my white-haired uncle waits

    Jump to the ground
    As the Turbo slows to cross the borderline
    Run like the wind
    As excitement shivers up and down my spine
    Down in his barn
    My uncle preserved for me an old machine –
    For fifty-odd years
    To keep it as new has been his dearest dream

    I strip away the old debris, that hides a shining car
    A brilliant red Barchetta, from a better, vanished time
    Fire up the willing engine, responding with a roar!
    Tires spitting gravel, I commit my weekly crime…

    Wind in my hair –
    Shifting and drifting –
    Mechanical music –
    Adrenaline surge –

    Well-weathered leather
    Hot metal and oil
    The scented country air
    Sunlight on chrome
    The blur of the landscape
    Every nerve aware

    Suddenly, ahead of me, across the mountainside
    A gleaming alloy air-car, shoots towards me, two lanes wide
    I spin around with shrieking tires, to run the deadly race
    Go screaming through the valley as another joins the chase

    Run like the wind
    Straining the limits of machine and man
    Laughing out loud
    With fear and hope, I’ve got a desperate plan

    At the one-lane bridge
    I leave the giants stranded
    At the riverside
    Race back to the farm
    To dream with my uncle
    At the fireside…

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    I think about this more than I care to admit. Cars have been my obsession/hobby since I can remember. My first spoken word was “wheel.” I had thousands of die-cast cars as a child. I literally drove my first car in circles around a field before I got my license. I was that excited to drive. To think that cars and driving are going away (I know they are) really makes me sad and kind of afraid. I honestly don’t know what I’ll do with the majority of my free time once I don’t have a car to tinker with, drive, or read about.

    As for autonomous cars, I can see their benefits. I can’t argue against them effectively, which also makes me sad. I can see having an autonomous vehicle drive me to work. But, that’ll mean my work will want me to perform work from the time I enter said vehicle until the time I step out of it at night. Right now, my commute is still “my time.”

    Also, with autonomous cars, I’m still going to at least have my own. My wife and I could probably share one, but I’m not sharing with strangers. Nope. Given how gross some people let their cars become, and how gross public transportation often is, can you imagine the various bodily fluids and…”items” left in the Google car blob after a night picking up drunk clubbers and taking them home or to whatever crack house they pick? As if I’d then let that car pick up my wife and kid and take them to the grocery the next morning. Yuck.

    I can see a future where our self-driving Google car pod takes us to work and the store and such. Fine. But, I hope it’ll share garage space with a Miata or something I can take to a track on weekends…

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Presumably, the interior of Google pods would be something that could be washed out with a hose.

      • 0 avatar
        zoomzoomfan

        That may be true, but I can still see it being gross to a certain extent. And the interiors can only be so utilitarian before people complain. As it is now, some spoiled Americans balk at a car without leather seats. I can’t imagine plastic seats like you’d find on the New York subway in their car.

        If autonomous cars are a reality someday, I’d like to have one with a trailer hitch on the back to take the aforementioned Miata and myself to a race track on weekends. If we run out of fossil fuels, fine. I like the Tesla roadster, too. :)

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I will always have at least a two-car garage, so that I have room to park my driverless car next to the flying car that everyone promised the generations that preceded me.

  • avatar
    motormouth

    One of the main hurdles to autonomous driving is the ethical dilemma of who dies in the event that the car only has alternatives that will result in passenger/bystander demise. This dilemma is currently based on human perception and will be negated as onboard sensing, in combination with V to I and V to V information sharing, allows prediction of such problems well in advance of that now possible by a human driver.

    At this point, governments will likely have a duty of care to ban human-controlled vehicles to virtually eliminate road deaths, in a ‘one is too many’ scenario. I can’t accurately say how many years it will take to develop such technology, but it’s already on its way and once released it will likely mark the beginning of the end for driver-controlled cars being permitted on public roads.

    • 0 avatar
      Storz

      That is my feeling as well, once autonomous cars are widely accepted driving yourself on public roads will be outlawed or insurance rated out of existence.

      It actually is a lot like the horse analogy people have mentioned, today owning and riding horses is a niche for people with the disposable income to do so and in general it isn’t very affordable. Are future track day toys going to be towed to your favorite circuit with an autonomous truck? Or will you be paying even more money to lease/rent garage space at the track. Driving yourself will be a privilege of the wealthy.

      All the people talking about owning both an autonomous and driven car are off the mark, the .GOVs of our country simply won’t allow you to drive yourself. If you’re advocating for autonomous cars, you’re OK then with no longer being a driver, so let me rephrase my earlier statement.

      I guess there are a lot of car enthusiasts here advocating for autonomous cars, however it seems contradictive to be a driving enthusiast and advocate for them as you’re advocating for taking away the ability to do something you like.

      Ah well, like I said earlier its coming whether we want it or not, and apparently I am in the minority in that I don’t.

      • 0 avatar
        This Is Dawg

        “I guess there are a lot of car enthusiasts here advocating for autonomous cars, however it seems contradictive to be a driving enthusiast and advocate for them as you’re advocating for taking away the ability to do something you like.”

        That’s not what anyone but you is arguing. Do you see all of the people saying they hate commuting? That drunk drivers are a real threat? That the elderly and disabled stand to benefit enormously?

        I don’t see a single post “advocating for taking away the ability to do something you like.” You’re fundamentally not getting that we’re excited for the option to have both, or either. No one is excited to ban manual driving.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “One of the main hurdles to autonomous driving is the ethical dilemma of who dies in the event that the car only has alternatives that will result in passenger/bystander demise.”

      Do you encounter this a lot during your daily commute? I’ve been driving for 25 years and I’ve never encountered anything remotely like your scenario.

      • 0 avatar
        motormouth

        You’re taking it too literally, it’s a scenario designed to test computing power/logic. I’ve driven for longer than you and never had anything similar arise, but that’s not the point.

  • avatar
    ixim

    I used to commute an hour each way but I was in a 5 person car pool so I guess I had the pod car experience 4 days a week. But that’s tough to arrange for today. I love driving, even in NYC traffic but then I learned how to do that decades ago driving a cab there. The A/V scenario sounds like something out of “Blade Runner “. I guess it’s feasible and I’m sure a sizable chunk of the people would welcome it. And I get the safety argument. Maybe, paradoxically the future will be one of LESS personal travel outside of work. Ugh.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Okay guys, let’s look at some of the real problems around going to fully autonomous (not the Telsa autopilot level 3 that’s already here) cars. In the past, I’ve developed both ground and air collision avoidance systems for aviation and I was a documented participant in the first stage of the most recent DARPA challenge. I’m also at this moment sitting in a lab with lidar scanners etc. I have real experience with this stuff. I can tell you stuff the Google PR people and others won’t tell you.

    One problem to be overcome or sidestepped is the potential of LIDAR and other sensor hacking. Here’s an article that discusses the problem:
    http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/self-driving/researcher-hacks-selfdriving-car-sensors

    Another issue is the way the lidar sensors operate. Notice the scanners are spinning laser beams horizontally? So, your laser is vehicle mounted reading surfaces in a horizontal line, then the vehicle hits a major league pothole. Suddenly your beam gets repositioned vertically and you’re temporarily scanning much lower than before, then the car bounces up again and you’re scanning high. There are ways to work around the problem, but it’s going to add to the cost and increase the chances of failure.

    There is also the problem of salting and icing of sensors. Keeping them clean is an issue. If you have wipers, you have to code to handle them (oh no, falling tree, hit the brakes!). Again, it can be overcome, but you end up with more complexity. Also, how do you handle bug splats? As a human, you can move your head a bit and deal with it, but current autonomous vehicle technology can’t deal with it. Then there’s maintenance. Will you be replacing sensor cleaning wipers on a monthly basis?

    I think the Tesla and others level 3 autonomous tech is great. It’s here now and works okay, but still depends on a human taking charge when problems happen. The cost and complexity will escalate exponentially when you try to go full autonomous. Mountain View California is easy, but Somerville Mass in a snowstorm or Bell Circle in Revere MA is massively more difficult. Most people in the AV field are ridiculously optimistic about the level of work needed to produce these vehicles. We’re getting there, but it’s going to be much tougher to get there than most people think. I could write volumes of documents on problems that need to be overcome. We’ll get there and have capabilities far beyond any human driver, but it’s going to take a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of work.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Huh. I thought I made a post about this.

    In any case, I think self driving cars could be great. From just a general practical point of view:

    – public transportation would be transformed and expanded greatly- no need to stick to a fixed urban route
    – traffic would be reduced- less accidents, rubbernecking and traffic stopping random braking
    – $$$ would be freed up for normal folks by moving to a pay per ride transportation model
    – road safety would skyrocket

    For enthusiasts:

    – the prospect of owning a track only car could be a realistic reality
    – manufacturers could be free to design more extreme cars just for the track
    – freed up $$$$ for car related toys- track cars, builds, karting, racing sims

    100% of my driving is commuting or schlepping on public roads. I like my Civic for this task, but I honestly don’t enjoy the task. I have to break the law to get any enjoyment out of it. I’d rather schlep in a pay per ride type deal for commuting and errands and put that money towards all the toys I mentioned… track days, karting, motorcycling, racing sims. Literally all of those are way more fun than stop and go traffic.

  • avatar
    cutchemist42

    So are motorcyclists allowed in a driverless world?

    Also , just from a marketing point of view, how easy/hard would it be to still charge premium prices for a car where you dont experience yourself the handling/engine performance yourself? What really seperates BMW/Merc/etc from the other brands in the future?

  • avatar
    MeJ

    This autonomous stuff scares the crap out of me, and not for the safety issues. In the future will people be able to do anything physical? Will they wake up and be fitted into their coffin sized magnetic pods and be whisked away to their jobs while the robot helper (the same one who had simulated sex with you last night) washes your face. brushes your teeth, puts your clothing on, injects you with the proper nutrients so you can have your mind liked to the super computer that helps mankind slowly lose its independent nature.
    That’s it, I’m moving to the mountains to live off the land…

  • avatar
    accord1999

    Considering how much money Uber and Lyft both lose, they’re not going to be around when the first self-driving cars arrive.

    And in reality, anything that has made cars more convenient only increases its ownership rate. With self driving effectively removing the vast majority of reasons for temporarily hiring another car, private SDCs will destroy that market for all but out-of-towners and people today who already don’t drive because they don’t need to. But a person who drives 15000 miles today, well they’re going to simply buy their own self driving car and still be able to use it when they go out for events with alcohol or to airports.

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    Just a radio did not replace the theater, nor did TV replace either, not has digital replaced much of anything (think of your work and how digital got rid of all that paper) so Aut cars will simply be another option for those too dumb and uncoordianted to get a driving permit. Or me in a strange city and no car.

  • avatar
    Roland

    1. Is “autonomous” the correct word to use? Aren’t these vehicles dependent on networked information? “Networked vehicle” would be the more accurate term. And who gets to run the network?

    2. Network technologies, like any technologies, have liberating potential, but our zeitgeist is not one that is trending toward liberty. Technologies neither liberate nor enslave, but people enslave others and themselves all the time. The spirit of our age is one of constant surveillance, reportage, and compilation.

    3. Somebody made an interesting point that the time gained in the networked vehicle might get appropriated by your boss anyhow–the technology can free up time, but the labour market might force you to sell that time in order to remain competitive. Technology cannot free us if our social mores are not pro-freedom.

    4. You can also sense the freedom-hating zeitgeist in the many replies on this page that argue that most other people are unfit to make decisions or have control. That is not the attitude of a freedom-loving society.

    5. Yeah, if you have enough money/power/connections you can buy or manipulate your way out of such problems. But so what? That’s true of every society, including the most oppressive ones of all time. Who can feel comforted that some of our “nomenklatura” will be able to preserve more choices for themselves?

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    BAH! we had to drive chariots, wagons, Studebaker Buckboards, Conestoga wagons, carriages, stagecoaches, surreys-with-a-fringe-on-top, rode on horses, etc. We’ll never give up the individual ability to change course and take another route, or even change destination. Anything else is public transit. Forget electrics too – we’ll be driving personal vehicles that carry their own fuel for another century, at least.


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