The Truth About Cars » autonomous cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:15:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » autonomous cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Terrorists Could Make Autonomous Cars A Security Nightmare http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/terrorists-make-autonomous-cars-security-nightmare/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/terrorists-make-autonomous-cars-security-nightmare/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 14:30:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157026 Self-driving cars could usher in a new form of terrorism, an investment analyst writes (via SlashDot). Alex Rubalcava, who is an investment advisor in California, says that autonomous cars would be “the greatest force multiplier to emerge in decades for criminals and terrorists. “A future Timothy McVeigh will not need to drive a truck full of […]

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Google Autonomous Vehicle Prototype Circa December 2014

Self-driving cars could usher in a new form of terrorism, an investment analyst writes (via SlashDot).

Alex Rubalcava, who is an investment advisor in California, says that autonomous cars would be “the greatest force multiplier to emerge in decades for criminals and terrorists.

“A future Timothy McVeigh will not need to drive a truck full of fertilizer to the place he intends to detonate it. A burner email account, a prepaid debit card purchased with cash, and an account, tied to that burner email, with an AV car service will get him a long way to being able to place explosives near crowds, without ever being there himself.”

Criminals in Denver have already used burners, pre-paid cards and fake names to rent Car2go cars for drive-by shootings.

Rubalcava’s discussion of the risk that autonomous cars may bring to international security is a short few paragraphs in a much longer market analysis on those cars and their potential investors.

Included in his assessment is that dense urban centers may spread out (suburban sprawl all over again) if self-driving cars can shuttle us back and forth to work without their drivers actually being awake. Rubalcava also speculates that an average autonomous car could travel twice as far as a normal car, up to 50,000 miles per year if the driver doesn’t have to actually drive, and that the cost per mile for an autonomous car will be significantly lower than an average car, which would increase consumption.

(And he correctly points out that very few companies that develop technologies make it long enough to mass produce them, i.e. 1990s dot-coms.)

Even though much of his analysis is dedicated toward financial issues and scaling autonomous cars for a global market, Rubalcava says that investors should be wary of initial government intervention to mitigate security risks that a self-driving bomb car could pose. Beyond that, autonomous cars will be hugely profitable — maybe before we’re all dead.

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Analyst: Tesla Could Surge with Autonomous Ride Sharing Biz http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/analyst-tesla-surge-autonomous-ride-sharing-biz/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/analyst-tesla-surge-autonomous-ride-sharing-biz/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 17:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1144945 Tesla’s ride-sharing business could be worth hundreds of millions to the company in the future, an analyst for Morgan Stanley said Monday. Adam Jonas increased his price target for Tesla from $280 to $465 — but said the stock could go even higher to $611 — based on his forecast that Tesla could introduce an autonomous ride-sharing […]

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2012 Tesla Model S

Tesla’s ride-sharing business could be worth hundreds of millions to the company in the future, an analyst for Morgan Stanley said Monday.

Adam Jonas increased his price target for Tesla from $280 to $465 — but said the stock could go even higher to $611 — based on his forecast that Tesla could introduce an autonomous ride-sharing service by as early as 2018, Bloomberg reported.

It’s at least the third time that Jonas has publicly pumped Tesla’s stock.

Jonas says that Tesla’s future could be in part-time car ownership or autonomous sharing, which could position the carmaker with the likes of Apple or Google who may be building cars for those purposes.

Jonas dubbed the prospective venture “Tesla Mobility” although the automaker hasn’t publicly shared plans for that kind of service. Jonas said the automaker could make public plans for a ride-sharing program in 12 to 18 months, with a launch shortly after the mid-size Model 3 in 2017. He predicted that Tesla could launch a fully autonomous, ride sharing program in roughly 10 years.

Before people could split payments for robot cars, Jonas says that there would be two phases: a semi-autonomous phase and then a nearly completely autonomous phase before launching a fully driver-less car in 2025.

Jonas asked Tesla CEO Elon Musk about the program earlier this month during an earnings call and Musk was predictably tight-lipped:

Jonas: First question: Steve Jurvetson was recently quoted saying that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told him that if by 2020 Tesla’s cars are autonomous, that he’d want to buy all of them. Is this a real, I mean, forget the 2020 for a moment, but is this a real business opportunity for Tesla? Supplying cars to ridesharing firms, or does Tesla just cut out the middleman and sell on-demand, electric mobility services directly from the company on its own platform?

Musk: That’s an insightful question.

Jonas: You don’t have to answer it.

Musk: I don’t think I should answer it.

Jonas: Sometimes you can tell more from the non-answer than from the answer.

Shares of Tesla were up 1.5 percent in early trading Tuesday to $259.05.

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German Automakers Buy Mapmaker, Maybe for Robot Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/german-automakers-buy-mapmaker-maybe-robot-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/german-automakers-buy-mapmaker-maybe-robot-cars/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 18:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1132577 Audi, BMW and Daimler have joined forces to buy map-making company Here from phone-maker Nokia for an undisclosed amount, the automakers announced Monday. The purchase of the company, which provides cloud-based maps and location services to more than 200 countries, could help the automakers develop further technology for autonomous cars that use the crowd-sourced maps instead of unreliable […]

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Old Map

Audi, BMW and Daimler have joined forces to buy map-making company Here from phone-maker Nokia for an undisclosed amount, the automakers announced Monday.

The purchase of the company, which provides cloud-based maps and location services to more than 200 countries, could help the automakers develop further technology for autonomous cars that use the crowd-sourced maps instead of unreliable and outdated humans to steer.

In a statement announcing the purchase, the automakers said the company would be jointly held by all three automakers and would operate independently from the consortium. Pending approval, the sale would become final early next year.

The automakers hinted that the mapmaking company and the cars could work together by relaying traffic or road conditions from each car to a centralized server that could redistribute the information to other cars. So-called “swarm technology” would help other drivers avoid accidents or icy roads.

”HERE will be able to offer users a continuously improving product, bringing highly automated driving and location based services a step further. As the volume of anonymized data from the vehicles increases, services will become more convenient, more connected and further tailored to the users’ individual requirements,” the automakers said in the statement.

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Apple Adds Former Chrysler VP for Car Project – or Not http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/apple-adds-former-chrysler-vp-car-project-not/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/apple-adds-former-chrysler-vp-car-project-not/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 17:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1121217 Doug Betts, former senior vice president at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in charge of quality, quietly began work at Apple this month, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. Betts, who led the effort to turnaround Chrysler’s quality rankings beginning in 2009, left the car company last year one day after Consumer Reports ranked the car company […]

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Doug Betts

Doug Betts, former senior vice president at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in charge of quality, quietly began work at Apple this month, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

Betts, who led the effort to turnaround Chrysler’s quality rankings beginning in 2009, left the car company last year one day after Consumer Reports ranked the car company near the bottom of its quality survey.

Betts’ LinkedIn page confirms the appointment at Apple, but the famously secret computer company won’t say whether he’s working on an automotive-related project — or perhaps, janitorial duty.

Betts would be one of the first known hires for the Cupertino, California-based software company with specific knowledge of automotive manufacturing.

Apple has hired hundreds of people to secretly work on an automotive-related initiative called “Project Titan,” which Tesla CEO Elon Musk acknowledged in a May sales call. It’s unclear if the software and computer maker is building an autonomous car to join the ranks of Google and others, or if Apple is merely developing car-related systems for future use.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple has hired Swiss autonomous car engineer, Paul Frugal, and former Ford engineer Steve Zadesky to lead the project.

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Google’s Robot Car Crashed, Humans At Fault http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/googles-robot-car-crashed-humans-fault/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/googles-robot-car-crashed-humans-fault/#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 18:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1118793 Three people were injured when a car rear-ended Google’s self-driving Lexus on July 1 in Mountain View, California, The Detroit Bureau is reporting. It’s the 15th crash for the self-driving car and the first with injuries. Three people had “minor whiplash” Google’s Director of Driverless Cars Chris Urmson wrote and the driver of the car that rear-ended the […]

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Three people were injured when a car rear-ended Google’s self-driving Lexus on July 1 in Mountain View, California, The Detroit Bureau is reporting. It’s the 15th crash for the self-driving car and the first with injuries.

Three people had “minor whiplash” Google’s Director of Driverless Cars Chris Urmson wrote and the driver of the car that rear-ended the Lexus appeared to be at fault.

“Our self-driving cars are being hit surprisingly often by other drivers who are distracted and not paying attention to the road,” he wrote.

The robots will not look kindly on our inattention.

According to Google’s monthly report, the fleet of autonomous cars has traveled more than 1 million miles without human piloting, and the cars are averaging around 10,000 miles traveled each week.

Google says the autonomous cars have not been at fault in any of its 15 recorded accidents so far. Testers say the vehicles are being crashed into at a higher rate than normal due to under-reported accident numbers.

Earlier this month, Google sent two Lexus RX450h vehicles to Austin, Texas for mapping and testing.

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New Mercedes-Benz E-Class Will Play Loud Noise Before Crash to Save Eardrums http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/new-mercedes-e-class-will-play-loud-noise-crash-save-eardrums/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/new-mercedes-e-class-will-play-loud-noise-crash-save-eardrums/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 21:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1114905 The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class can basically drive itself. But if you prefer to pilot the car yourself, and you happen to get into a crash, the 2017 E-Class will pump static into the cabin to save your ears. As Wired reports, the new E-Class will be equipped with what Mercedes-Benz is calling “PRE-SAFE Sound” to play […]

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E Class

The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class can basically drive itself. But if you prefer to pilot the car yourself, and you happen to get into a crash, the 2017 E-Class will pump static into the cabin to save your ears.

As Wired reports, the new E-Class will be equipped with what Mercedes-Benz is calling “PRE-SAFE Sound” to play a 85-db noise to coax the ear into protecting itself.

According to the automaker, the system works by triggering the stapedius reflex, which is the constriction of muscles around the eardrums, and is a natural reaction to loud noise. By playing the sound before the collision, Mercedes-Benz says, the E-Class could potentially lessen hearing damage.

The sound safety system is part of a slew of technology Mercedes-Benz is stuffing into the E-Class. Also included is the similarly named “PRE-SAFE impulse side” collision system that “nudges” driver and passenger toward the center of the car during a side collision with airbags that inflate upon impact.

Mercedes-Benz said the side-collision system is an option for the E-Class. It’s unclear if the noise safety system is standard.

The automaker also said the E-Class owners would be able to park the new E-Class while outside the car by using an app, but the system won’t be available in the United States when the fifth-generation car launches.

The automated parking system works somewhat like the Batmobile. We live in exciting times.

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Pictures Inside Google’s Car Reveal Future Full of Buttons http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/pictures-inside-googles-car-reveals-future-full-buttons/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/pictures-inside-googles-car-reveals-future-full-buttons/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 19:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1114785 Google showed off its autonomous car in California on Saturday and the Washington Post has pictures of what the interior of the self-driving car looks like. The pictures, which were taken at the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View, California, show the prototype’s basic layout and a screen to relay pictures from the side-view […]

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Google showed off its autonomous car in California on Saturday and the Washington Post has pictures of what the interior of the self-driving car looks like.

The pictures, which were taken at the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View, California, show the prototype’s basic layout and a screen to relay pictures from the side-view mirrors.

There is no steering wheel, nor discernible accelerator or brake in the prototype, but thankfully there are cupholders.

The cars are on display at the school to promote the search engine’s contest to decorate the prototypes as they roam California streets.

Earlier this month, Google sent two self-driving Lexus hybrid cars to Austin, Texas for mapping and testing. Last month, Google said one of its vehicles was involved in a crash in California, the 12th so far.

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Google Sends Self-Driving Lexus Hybrids to Test in Texas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/google-sends-self-driving-lexus-hybrids-test-texas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/google-sends-self-driving-lexus-hybrids-test-texas/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 20:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1109377 Google’s autonomous cars have made it to the Lone Star state for testing, The Detroit News is reporting. A self-driving Lexus 450h prototype was recently dispatched to Austin, Texas for testing on that city’s streets. The cars are used to map roadways and signs for future autonomous vehicles to use. Google said the car has begun […]

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Google’s autonomous cars have made it to the Lone Star state for testing, The Detroit News is reporting.

A self-driving Lexus 450h prototype was recently dispatched to Austin, Texas for testing on that city’s streets. The cars are used to map roadways and signs for future autonomous vehicles to use. Google said the car has begun to drive itself after testing in Texas it will be sending another Lexus to Austin soon.

The search-engine giant likely selected the Texas capital because a free-range Lexus fit in very well with that city’s culture.

“We also want to learn how different communities perceive and interact with self-driving vehicles, and that can vary in different parts of the country,” an official with Google told The Detroit News.

Local officials praised the move by Google.

“Austin is special in part because we welcome new technologies that could help improve our daily lives, and we can easily see the potential self-driving cars have to reduce accident rates and congestion, and to provide mobility for people who can’t get around easily,” Mayor Steve Adler told The Detroit News.

Self-driving cars are forbidden to travel faster than 25 mph by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Google started testing its autonomous prototypes in California last month.

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Editorial: You’ll Be Dead Before Autonomous Cars Are Launched http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/editorial-youll-dead-autonomous-cars-launched/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/editorial-youll-dead-autonomous-cars-launched/#comments Thu, 08 Jan 2015 15:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=973481 “Mm, 2000. When I was a kid, we thought 2000 was gonna be like The Jetsons or somin’. It ain’t even The Jeffersons!”-Chris Rock Most major auto shows, barring the Geneva Auto Salon, having some substantial connection to the automotive world in some way. Detroit. New York. Los Angeles. Shanghai. Tokyo. Paris. Frankfurt. So how […]

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“Mm, 2000. When I was a kid, we thought 2000 was gonna be like The Jetsons or somin’. It ain’t even The Jeffersons!”-Chris Rock

Most major auto shows, barring the Geneva Auto Salon, having some substantial connection to the automotive world in some way. Detroit. New York. Los Angeles. Shanghai. Tokyo. Paris. Frankfurt. So how did Las Vegas end up with two car shows?

It used to be that the SEMA show was the only place you could catch an automotive exec pawing at a young woman one minute, introducing her as “my niece” the next. But now that the Consumer Electronics Show has morphed into a de facto auto show, you can see that twice in a row, as well as disgraced Gawker editors awkwardly trying to pick up booth babes.

CES, as the WSJ’s Holman Jenkins notes, has become the “self-driving car show”. Jenkins’ piece takes the contrarian view on the self-driving car idea, which is that while the technology may exist, it’s never going to happen. In his mind, the auto makers are merely doing it to keep pace with Google, which will likely shutter its own program as shareholders get antsy about its massive R&D spending in the face of slowing growth.

In my opinion, Occam’s razor applies here. There are just too many obstacles to getting self-driving cars on the road, en masse, in our lifetime. Autonomous cars would require a near-complete overhaul of our roads, open up massively complex questions about liability and most of all, require a substantial shift in mindset by the American public, who, despite what the affluent, childless (not to mention just as provincial as any other American) Silicon Valley set may think may think, are not enamored with the idea of piloting self-driving electric vehicles that are shared on a fractional ownership basis or a setup similar to Zipcar.

The kind of disruption they dream about does not happen in a short time frame – and if they have the magic bullet, why haven’t they gotten started developing it already? To riff on the above Chris Rock quote – we don’t even have a decent network of alternative fuel stations (EV, hydrogen, natural gas, what have you). Tesla hasn’t been able to mass produce an SUV, let alone a volume product. Ford is selling 60,000 F-150s per month. When you are placing bets against a century-old pillar of America’s economy, and the way that the majority of Americans outside New York City and the Bay Area get around, you ought to remember who your counter-party is.

Nor is CES “the most important car show” either. Like every other auto show, the vast  majority of the automotive stories generated at CES remains within the walls of the automotive media, and auto makers are using it to get some free coverage and talk about incremental improvements to infotainment systems that continue to confound and frustrate a good many customers. But that’s ok. That’s how progress really happens. It’s not sexy, nor disruptive, but it sure is effective.

 

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A Sober Second Look At Self-Driving Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/sober-second-look-self-driving-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/sober-second-look-self-driving-cars/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 15:45:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903346 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 […]

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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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Today’s Must Read: Google Doesn’t Get Us http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/todays-must-read-google-doesnt-get-us/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/todays-must-read-google-doesnt-get-us/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 14:02:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=862369 In the absence of While You Were Sleeping, I’d like to open up the floor to discussion on this spectacular piece from Jalopnik‘s Damon Lavrinc, titled Google Co-Founder ​Sergey Brin Doesn’t Understand Us And Never Will. Lavrinc lays out the case that Brin and his ilk see not just cars, but car ownership is inefficient, wasteful, and dangerous. […]

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In the absence of While You Were Sleeping, I’d like to open up the floor to discussion on this spectacular piece from Jalopnik‘s Damon Lavrinc, titled Google Co-Founder ​Sergey Brin Doesn’t Understand Us And Never Will.

Lavrinc lays out the case that Brin and his ilk see

not just cars, but car ownership is inefficient, wasteful, and dangerous. They take up too much space, use too many resources, and, listening to Brin, are an unconscionable blight on society…Brin looks at the world through an engineer’s lens. It’s binary: good versus bad, progress versus stagnation. The idea that someone would derive any amount of pleasure from the act of driving is completely antithetical to the society Brin envisions. Add in the fact that he’s also the protagonist in a world of his own creation, worth $30 billion, and nestled safely inside the Silicon Valley hive mind, and – with the right (Google) glasses – you can see where he’s coming from. Until you can’t.

 

Lavrinc describes this vision as “divorced from reality”, and rightfully so. I personally abhor this mindset for a whole host of reasons, whether it’s because I don’t want an engineer in Silicon Valley deciding to reshape my access to mobility in their pseudo-utopian image, or that Brin stands to profit handsomely from a plan that would engender the obsolescence of one of my favorite hobbys.

Most of all, I resent the mindset that every facet of life must be optimized, engineered or worse “disrupted”. A world like this leaves no room for spontaneity or idiosyncrasy, two of the imperfections that add so much joy to life. But I understand that this is the way the world is going – and if I faced a long, arduous commute, I’d probably have a different opinion.

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QOTD: A Robot Car That Kills You? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-a-robot-car-that-kills-you/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-a-robot-car-that-kills-you/#comments Fri, 30 May 2014 17:22:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=834481 Writing in the National Post, Matt Gurney discusses a darker side of autonomous cars, one that many people (especially this writer, who is not exactly familiar with the rational, linear type of operation that is involved with coding) In a recent interview with PopSci, Patrick Lin, an associate philosophy professor and director of the Ethics + Emerging […]

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Writing in the National Post, Matt Gurney discusses a darker side of autonomous cars, one that many people (especially this writer, who is not exactly familiar with the rational, linear type of operation that is involved with coding)

In a recent interview with PopSci, Patrick Lin, an associate philosophy professor and director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University, proposed a hypothetical scenario that sums up the problem. You’re driving along in your robo-car, and your tire blows out. The computer in control rapidly concludes that your car is moving too quickly and has too much momentum to come to a safe stop, and there is traffic ahead. Since an accident is inevitable, the computer shifts from collision avoidance to collision mitigation, and concludes that the least destructive outcome is to steer your car to a catastrophic outcome — over a cliff, into a tree — and thus avoid a collision with another vehicle.

The raw numbers favour such an outcome. Loss of life and property is minimized — an objectively desirable outcome. But the downside is this: Your car just wrote you off and killed you to save someone else.

This situation, as Gurney writes, involves being a passenger in a device that is “…may be programmed, in certain circumstances, to write us off in order to save someone else?”

I’m not an expert on autonomous cars, or computer science, or robotics, or ethics, or government regulation. I am not going to go down the path of “people will never accept autonomous cars because driving is freedom”, because I just don’t think it’s true anymore.

But I do feel that autonomous cars represent something else: another techno-utopian initiative dreamed up by rational, linear thinking engineers that are incapable (sometimes biologically) of understanding the human and cultural intangibles that are an integral part of our existence. The idea of a coldly utilitarian device that would sacrifice human life based on a set of calculations is not something that will be well received. And the people behind self-driving cars may not understand this.

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Autonomy and the 1939 World’s Fair http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/autonomy-and-the-1939-worlds-fair/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/autonomy-and-the-1939-worlds-fair/#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 12:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=813129   It’s safe to assume that when the doors to the New York World’s Fair flew open 75 years ago to the day, the American public had few expectations about the future of autonomous personal transport. To be fair, they weren’t exactly sold on the whole highway thing yet either. Sure, several New Deal agencies […]

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1939 GM Futurama-07-1

It’s safe to assume that when the doors to the New York World’s Fair flew open 75 years ago to the day, the American public had few expectations about the future of autonomous personal transport. To be fair, they weren’t exactly sold on the whole highway thing yet either. Sure, several New Deal agencies like the WPA and CCC had successfully modernized countless local roads and a handful of major throughways, but the ubiquitous twists of freeway that would come to define the modern North American landscape were two decades and a word war away.

That said, autonomy and highways go hand in hand.

As banal as it seems to us, the concept of free-flowing traffic was a major shift, not only to the transportation paradigm, but also to the subjective perception of time and distance. Prior to the 1939 World’s Fair the concept of an interstate system was not new, but one couldn’t expect the American public to be up to date on the latest developments in theoretical civil design.

Industrial designer Bel Geddes and General Motors changed all that with their revolutionary Futurama exhibit. Futurama was a ride, a journey of scale that started with a macroscopic view of the landscape of tomorrow and gently resolved to life size. The ride ended with a display of GM’s latest offerings, naturally —but along the way viewers were privy to a startlingly accurate “prediction” of what was to come for the American road system. The one element that didn’t immediately come to fruition in the decade following the war was the “automated highway”. It isn’t clear how Geddes or GM envisioned the system working but it’s crucial to our understanding of the nascent autonomous car industry that the concept of a freeway and a car that drives itself were born hand in hand.

Click here to view the embedded video.

During an interview with our friends at Hooniverse former GM honcho Bob Lutz made it quite clear that he believes the future of individual transport to be autonomous cars. While legions of boy racers and nostalgists cry out in horror it’s important to keep a cool head and remember that we’ve always been there. Highways have been autonomous since day one, not because they control our car, but because they eliminate the landscape and along with it the need to make decisions based on our immediate surroundings. A car that controls lane departure, cruising speed, and distance between other cars isn’t autonomy, it’s just details.

 

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Ur-Turn: Autonomous Cars Are Already Here http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ur-turn-autonomous-cars-are-already-here/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ur-turn-autonomous-cars-are-already-here/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 14:19:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=775033 TTAC reader and former auto journalist Michael Banovsky writes about the inexorable move towards autonomous cars Autonomous cars are already here. It doesn’t matter if you’re testing an actual Google Car or cruising the Keys in a Pagoda-roof 230 SL, CUVing the kids to Hot Yoga or signing “11” on a deserted road. Autonomous cars […]

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Jurvetson_Google_driverless_car_trimmed

TTAC reader and former auto journalist Michael Banovsky writes about the inexorable move towards autonomous cars

Autonomous cars are already here.

It doesn’t matter if you’re testing an actual Google Car or cruising the Keys in a Pagoda-roof 230 SL, CUVing the kids to Hot Yoga or signing “11” on a deserted road. Autonomous cars are here, the debate is done, so enjoy driving while you still can.

Let’s start with a story.

I was driving to work and glanced in my rearview and noticed a lady talking on a cell phone. Is that a chil…yes, that’s a child-in-child-seat, too.

We were at a moderate speed, we stopped, we got going again…and she didn’t hit me. I even watched, two minutes later, as she put the phone down and resumed the school run.

What was I supposed to do, publicly shame her? Call the cops, telling them someone was making a call—a possibly important one—and they should speed over, tout de suite?

This happens all the time, of course, all over the world. Are we to vilify everyone who safely makes a call or text while behind the wheel? Drives drunk? Drives high? Drinks coffee without spilling it? Changes the radio station without crashing?

Speeds?

I don’t think so. That would be—caution, nasty word – surveillance, and we’re probably going to give up driving before it’s monitored or taken away, anyway.

Here’s why: Any anti-social and anti-public safety behaviours* are drivers showing they’ve chosen something else over operating a vehicle. Taking a call while driving is proof, proven thousands of times a second, that we feel talking on a phone is as important to us as driving.

For a driverless future to happen, two things need to happen. First, non-compliance with road laws and rising costs will make driving much more expensive—to say nothing of fuel prices. Second, technology will make it possible.

Now tell me either is unlikely.

The key to adopting driverless cars without outcry is to make drivers feel like they have a choice. The lady I saw talking on her phone? If you could have given her a big green “Autonomous” button, I bet she’d have pushed it before taking that call.

Fines for not complying will keep increasing, making a driverless car system—either built-in or aftermarket— seem cheap in comparison. The aftermarket devices will become so small as to be unnoticeable. What will stop companies from offering ad-supported ones? “Saving $20 on groceries this week will only take 9 minutes, Ms. Greer. Would you like me to set a route?”

Autonomous vehicles could allow us to:

  • – Safely accept phone calls
  • – Safely interact with passengers
  • – Safely navigate through stressful or dangerous driving conditions
  • – Appoint an adult bus monitor instead of driver, making the now-autonomous school bus safer
  • – Drive your drunk ass home
  • – Travel more quickly on highways (what government would argue against higher speeds if they were sure crashing wasn’t possible. Yes, your car will drive faster than you.)
  • – Substantially reduce insurance premiums
  • – Substantially improve pedestrian and cyclist safety
  • – Substantially improve fleet-wide fuel economy
  • – Revolutionize semi-public transit, like airport shuttles and taxis
  • – Send our vehicles for service while we’re at work
  • – Offer incentives to shop in certain stores, or drive in certain places
  • …and many, many other things.

Roads were humanity’s last great analog system, until of course we started mapping things digitally. GPS and Google Streetview for our system of roads. Radar, specialized cameras, sensors for vehicles themselves. The vehicles are irrelevant—at the point machines move for themselves, does it matter if it’s a cement truck or smart fortwo? Does it matter if the data required to move a machine comes from a satellite or the car in front?

Once machines can read the road surface, signs, and conditions accurately (and reliably), these systems will flourish, and the vast majority of motorists will benefit.

Don’t like it? Don’t speed. Don’t use your cell phone. Drive more smoothly. Don’t crash. And tell millions of others the same. Then keep it up for the foreseeable future.

A future where driver-less cars outnumber driver-with cars isn’t crazy. It’s certainty, certainly if drivers keep breaking the rules. Statistics proving how bad we are at driving will allow the technology a foothold, and a few machine generations will work out most problems.

Advertising will take care of the rest.

What, did you think for a moment that companies would allow one of our last, great freedoms—driving—to remain free from monetization forever? “Driving” will become “moving people around.”

If you’re in doubt, take a few minutes and read US Patent #8630897. Search for “Autonomous.”

*As defined by our road laws—if you don’t like them, change them! (Ha.)

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Analysts: Peak Car To Arrive By 2020s http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/analysts-peak-car-to-arrive-by-2020s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/analysts-peak-car-to-arrive-by-2020s/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:54:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=756369 After a century of motoring, and with several factors rapidly changing the landscape, analysts are forecasting the peak of global automotive growth to come sometime in the 2020s. The Detroit News reports that as more people join the exodus out of suburbia into major cities, along with other factors such as pollution, gridlock, build quality […]

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Ferrari 550 Pininfarina Barchetta

After a century of motoring, and with several factors rapidly changing the landscape, analysts are forecasting the peak of global automotive growth to come sometime in the 2020s.

The Detroit News reports that as more people join the exodus out of suburbia into major cities, along with other factors such as pollution, gridlock, build quality and the adoption of alternative modes of transportation — particularly among younger generations who cannot afford a car of their own — auto sales around the globe will peak somewhere around 100 million in the next decade, according to several analysts such as IHS Automotive.

Further, 44 percent of Americans surveyed by Intel said they would prefer to live in big cities with driverless cars able to keep traffic flowing smoothly, while one out of 10 households have no car at all.

The coming upheaval is prompting automakers to consider their place in the new scene, where red barchetta owners outrun silver bubble cars, and where car ownership gives way to car sharing. Tim Ryan, vice chairman of markets and strategy for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, puts the future of motoring into perspective:

The key question is: Do you sell cars or do you sell mobility? If you ignore these megatrends, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant.

With an expected 25 percent to 50 percent increase urban dwelling over the next decade, and 9 billion expected to live in urban areas 25 years from now, the groundwork is being prepared to meet this coming challenge. Gartner Inc. auto analyst Thilo Koslowski predicts urbanites to use ride- and car-sharing services such as Lyft and Car2Go to commute to their destination, with autonomous cars picking up their passengers, and using GPS and other communication technologies to deliver them safely.

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Japan’s Aging Population Boosting Demand For Autonomous Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/japans-aging-population-boosting-demand-for-autonomous-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/japans-aging-population-boosting-demand-for-autonomous-cars/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 16:08:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=631642 Propelled by the fastest-aging nation in the world, there may soon come a day when senior motorists will find themselves behind the wheel (or lack thereof) of a fully autonomous car. According to Bloomberg, Japan’s aging population is spurring innovations in autonomous car technology based on a sobering statistic: 51 percent of traffic fatalities in […]

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2011 Nissan LEAF

Propelled by the fastest-aging nation in the world, there may soon come a day when senior motorists will find themselves behind the wheel (or lack thereof) of a fully autonomous car.

According to Bloomberg, Japan’s aging population is spurring innovations in autonomous car technology based on a sobering statistic: 51 percent of traffic fatalities in the graying country come from drivers aged 65 and over, with no signs of slowing at the present as more motorists enter their golden and twilight years each passing day; by 2060, 40 percent of Japan’s population will be 65 and over.

Thus, a number of automakers — including Toyota, Nissan and General Motors — are doing all they can to introduce technologies that could, by 2020 at the earliest, lead to the first autonomous cars ready for sale.

What could this bring to senior motorists in Japan, the United States, and other graying nations down the road? Freedom, if Google’s Anthony Levandowski, one of the project leaders for the company’s own autonomous car project, has anything to say about it:

This technology restores the freedom that people can’t see. This system will drive old people to see their grandkids and see doctors.

While Levandowski and other autonomous evangelists spread their gospel throughout the industry, detractors such as BMW’s Klaus Kompass caution against having too much optimism about this brave new world, which he expects won’t appear before 2025:

We are always talking about, ’80 percent or 90 percent of accidents are caused by human error.’ Nobody is talking, surprisingly, about all the accidents that human drivers have avoided.

Back in Japan, however, at least one researcher hopes for the best, at least when it comes to his country’s graying road warriors:

“Zero fatalities is definitely a feasible target,” according to Kazunoba Nagaoka of the Institute for Traffic Accident Research and Data Analysis. “I would expect we can realize that by 2035.”

Photo credit: Nissan

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The Ultimate Self-Driving Machine, Now Available In Brown http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/the-ultimate-self-driving-machine-now-available-in-brown/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/the-ultimate-self-driving-machine-now-available-in-brown/#comments Thu, 30 May 2013 14:41:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490034 This is the 2014 BMW X5. It comes in brown, and will have a diesel option. Alas, there is no manual available like the first generation X5. It can also drive itself at speeds below 25 mph. A new system called Traffic Jam Assistant uses both adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems to […]

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2014-bmw-x5-xdrive50i-11

This is the 2014 BMW X5. It comes in brown, and will have a diesel option. Alas, there is no manual available like the first generation X5. It can also drive itself at speeds below 25 mph.

A new system called Traffic Jam Assistant uses both adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems to help drive the X5 by itself at speeds of 25 mph or less. It’s basically the first mass market self-driving system, even though it’s designed for ultra-low speeds. Who would have thought that it would appear first on The Ultimate Driving Machine?

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Real Self Driving Cars Are Nearer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/real-self-driving-cars-are-nearer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/real-self-driving-cars-are-nearer/#comments Fri, 04 Jan 2013 17:45:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=472383 When the 2013 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opens its doors in Las Vegas, Nev, on January 8, there will be a few cars on display. And not just to show off entertainment systems. At least two carmakers will demonstrate self-driving cars: Toyota and Audi. Toyota teased its autonomous Lexus AASRV, a.k.a. Adavanced Active Safety […]

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When the 2013 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opens its doors in Las Vegas, Nev, on January 8, there will be a few cars on display. And not just to show off entertainment systems. At least two carmakers will demonstrate self-driving cars: Toyota and Audi.

Toyota teased its autonomous Lexus AASRV, a.k.a. Adavanced Active Safety Research Vehicle with a 5 second clip on YouTube.  It is a Lexus LS 600h, outfitted with gadgetry that looks like what Google has been driving around for a while. In a press advisory, Toyota promises the car, and insights into Toyota’s “Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) research and development.”

I had a look at parts of Toyota’s ITS two months ago at the tech center in Higashifuji, but there was no Lexus 600 with a big RADAR dome on top.

Audi told the Wall Street Journal that it will be showing a car with autonomous vehicle capabilities at the Las Vegas show.

Other carmakers are in advanced stages of autonomous vehicle research. Ford is known to be working on the technology. An autonomous Mercedes and an autonomous Volkswagen have been driving around Berlin for more than a year.  The technology appears to be exiting the Google phase and could be going mainstream soon.

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Nevada Ready For Self-Driving Cars. Well, Not Quite http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/nevada-ready-for-self-driving-cars-well-not-quite/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/nevada-ready-for-self-driving-cars-well-not-quite/#comments Sat, 18 Feb 2012 18:24:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=431514 Last year, Nevada was the first state to legalize driverless cars – in a way. The law stipulated that Nevada’s Department of Transportation “shall adopt regulations authorizing the operation of autonomous vehicles on highways within the State of Nevada.” Probably hoping that this would take a while. The Department worked overtime and finished the regulations […]

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Last year, Nevada was the first state to legalize driverless cars – in a way. The law stipulated that Nevada’s Department of Transportation “shall adopt regulations authorizing the operation of autonomous vehicles on highways within the State of Nevada.” Probably hoping that this would take a while. The Department worked overtime and finished the regulations in eight months. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles announces:

“In a step that puts Nevada first in the nation while paving the way for unique economic opportunity, the Legislative Commission today approved regulations allowing for the operation of self-driving vehicles on the state’s roadways.

It still is a while away until cars will roam Nevada with nobody on the wheel. The department is currently developing licensing procedures for companies that want to test their self-driving vehicles in Nevada. Then, the cars must be tested and approved. Only then, they may drive around on their own.

One thing the DMV knows for sure: The color of the license plate of those autonomous vehicles. While the cars are tested, the plate will be red. Once approved, the plate will be green. General Motors does not think that we will see many green license plates before 2020.

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Google’s Autonomous Cars Face Legal, Practical Challenges http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/googles-autonomous-cars-face-legal-practical-challenges/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/googles-autonomous-cars-face-legal-practical-challenges/#comments Mon, 23 Jan 2012 22:03:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=427851 Google’s nutty pseudo-utopian autonomous car project faced a reality check at a legal symposium sponsored by the Law Review and High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University. Among the challenges raised were the prospect of insuring such a car, and whether the car would be able to stop for law enforcement or construction workers. While […]

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Google’s nutty pseudo-utopian autonomous car project faced a reality check at a legal symposium sponsored by the Law Review and High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University. Among the challenges raised were the prospect of insuring such a car, and whether the car would be able to stop for law enforcement or construction workers.

While Google claims that their autonomous cars have driven more than 200,000 miles  of accident-free driving, issues like whether police can pull over autonomous cars, as well as technological limitations with artificial intelligence, still remain as stumbling blocks. Google is throwing a lot of time and energy into having laws changed so that autonomous vehicles are road legal, but based on the concerns raised by experts, it looks like self-driving vehicles still have a long way to go before becoming viable.

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