The Truth About Cars » driverless cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 01 Jul 2014 14:35:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » driverless cars Self-Driving Cars: Don’t Hold Your Breath Wed, 15 Aug 2012 14:16:23 +0000

Ben Klayman, Reuters’ Detroit-based crack car correspondent, wrote a very good feature on self-driving cars.  After interviewing many sources, he comes to the conclusion that “it’s been more than half a century since some of the first concept cars boasting self-driving features were presented to the world”  and that this probably will not change anytime soon. Even Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google and the staunchest supporter of the technology cautiously says that “self-driving cars should in our lifetime become the predominant way.”

1956 Firebird II – had autopilot

The answers Klayman received from experts range from  ”My mental model of trust in technology is a Windows blue screen of death. That’s how much faith I have in PCs and computer systems,” said by Bryan Reimer, a research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab, to a despondent Bob Casey, curator of transportation at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, who seems to have accepted that the driverless car is coming and who is already bemoaning the past when real cars were still driven by real people:

“Part of the fundamental attraction of automobiles has been the actual driving of them. If you do away with that, then it really becomes an appliance … a toaster, a washing machine.”


1959 Cadillac Cyclone – had autopilot

BMW (“We will always be the ultimate driving machine”) does not buy the story, GM is all for it: “Once we have a car that will never crash, why don’t we let it drive?”

For me, the best part is Ben Klayman’s  factbox.  He actually went through the painful exercise of actually reading the study KPMG and CAR had prepared last week. He summarized the study’s findings, which read like the driverless cars will be the answer to society’s ills, stopping short of curing cancer and the common cold:

Possible consequences expected from driverless car

The good:

  • Automakers cut weight from cars and trucks as crashless cars do not need to be made with as much reinforced steel or as many safety devices like airbags. That would lower vehicle costs, speed up vehicle development time and boost fuel efficiency.
  • Automated cars would drive in tighter packs because computers would control their speed and spacing. That would mean smaller roads were necessary and result in the elimination of shoulders and guardrails, leading to a significant reduction in the $75 billion spent annually on roads, highways and other infrastructure.
  • With computers controlling the cars, driving would be more efficient and thus faster, leading to less congestion on the roads. Fuel consumption would decline and companies that rely on just-in-time delivery could reduce inventories even further.
  • Automated cars also would allow for the elimination of traffic and road lights in many cases. That would slash energy use drastically.
  • Driverless cars would mean a change in the way drivers are insured, and could even end the need for car insurance.
  • Crashless cars would mean auto repair shops see fewer damaged cars, meaning they would need to shift their business model to serving the aftermarket needs of existing cars that lack autonomous driving systems.
  • Steelmakers would have to adjust to a world where cars use less of their product.
  • Less expensive, driverless cars would open ownership to new audiences like younger generations or even the blind, but they also could lead to wider vehicle sharing that would slash global sales.
  • If vehicle sharing expanded, cars could be summoned as needed and people could pay for mobility services as needed instead of owning a vehicle.
  • Autonomous transportation could eliminate the need for and cost of high-speed trains.
  • Vehicle sharing could keep vehicles in more constant use, reducing the need for parking lots that take up a lot of land in cities.

The depends  on which side you are on:

  • Hospitals would lose more than two million crash victims sent annually to U.S. emergency rooms.
  • State and local governments would have to adjust to the loss of traffic fines, possibly reducing their police forces. Governments might seek to replace some of that lost revenue; perhaps with infrastructure usage fees.

The bad:

  • Lighter, easier-to-build cars could open the auto industry to new rivals using a model like Apple’s, where a company designs and markets a product but outsources its construction.
  • A connected, driverless car network would require security from hackers and would raise privacy concerns with many consumers.

P.S.: In a TTAC reader poll, 69 percent of the respondents thought driverless cars will revolutionize the industry,  31 percent thought they won’t.

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… But Then, Who Needs New Drivers If Cars Can Drive Themselves? Tue, 07 Aug 2012 19:55:04 +0000

Just when America’s most promising generation turns up its nose at cars, new technology rides to the rescue of the embattled industry: Cars that do away with drivers. A study by the automaker and union-funded think tank Center For Automotive Research (CAR) and the CPA firm KPMG comes to the conclusion that with self-driving vehicles, “the industry appears to be on the cusp of revolutionary change.”  Do you buy that? Jay or nay?

Says a press release announcing the study:

The report points out that the new technology could provide solutions to some of our most intractable social problems — the high cost of traffic crashes and transportation infrastructure, the millions of hours wasted in traffic jams, and the wasted urban space given over to parking lots, just to name a few.”

What do you think?  Are they on crack, or are they cracking intractable social problems? And honestly, would you want to be driven around in a car with a giant dildo strapped to its roof?

Driverless cars … free polls 
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Ask The Best And Brightest: Where Are You In The Driverless Car Debate? Tue, 09 Aug 2011 20:02:07 +0000

When news hit late last week that one of Google’s driverless cars had been involved in a minor fender-bender, the anti-autonomous driver argument made itself. “This is precisely why we’re worried about self-driving cars,” howled Jalopnik.”Google’s self-driving car seems like the ultimate distracted driving machine.” But on the very same day, Google claimed that

One of our goals is to prevent fender-benders like this one, which occurred while a person was manually driving the car [emphasis added]

Before you know it, the other side of the debate, as epitomized by Popular Science flipped the argument, insisting that

this incident is yet another example — as if we need one — of the human capacity for error. Hopefully when cars do take over, they’ll be able to prevent these types of incidents on their own.

So yeah, there’s a pretty wide range of opinions on the issue. And with Nevada’s legalization of driverless cars, it’s only a matter of time before something happens that busts the debate wide open again. So, how do you feel about our new robot overlords? I, for one, could live with the technology for freeway/expressway use… but not without drawing some kind of clear lines around legal liability. Off-freeway? No thanks. Too few benefits from packing traffic tighter and too many other variables in traffic. What say you?

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The End Of Driving Is At Hand(s Free): Google Cars Plying The Highways Autonomously Sun, 10 Oct 2010 01:00:33 +0000

No, that’s not a Google Street View Prius being piloted down the 101. The roof-top device is Lidar, part of the sensors that allow it to drive by itself.  Perhaps out of a desire to solve a problem they helped create (texting, mobile web use, etc.), Google has come ever closer to  perfecting autonomous cars. NY Times reports that Google has a fleet of seven cars plying the highways and streets of California, with paid “sitters” behind the wheel to confirm that everything is ok, as well as to conform with CA law.The cars have driven up to 1,000 miles without any human intervention, even down twisting Lombard Street, and have racked up 140k total driver-less miles. The only incident so far was someone rear ending one of the Priuses at a red light. All we need now is for judges to mandate them for lousy drivers.

A further development of the DARPA technology that Google’s Sebastian Thur and his Stanford Team won in 2005, the current system is moving ever closer to perfection. Ironically, the biggest hurdle left for the intelligent Prius is to properly read hand signals that a traffic cop or crossing guard might make. here’s an example of the subtlety that the system responds to:

For me, the tour de force of the new car came when the vehicle halted at a stop sign to make a right turn. It waited patiently for a vehicle in front of it to turn, then inched forward. A car was approaching from the left, but the Prius pulled into the far right lane, and I realized that it “knew” the other car was not in our lane even though it was passing close to us. There was no need to hit the red button.

The red button is one of three ways to engage human override, the other two being to touch the brakes or manually turn the steering wheel.

It’s not clear yet exactly what Google intends to do with the system to commercialize it. The biggest obstacle is legal: the law is way behind the technology, and no states have yet addressed the issue,  requiring humans to drive cars. And then of course there’s the legal issue of who’s at fault if an accident does happen. In this country, that may take a while to sort out, but it sounds like it’s just the ticket for China. The huge potential benefit is to allow a doubling of traffic density, when the autonomous vehicles communicate effectively.

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