By on November 13, 2015

 

On Thursday, Google’s autonomous car development team reported that Mountain View, California police pulled over the robot car for traveling too slowly. No ticket was issued.

According to the team’s Google Plus page, officers pulled over the car because they “want to know more about the project.” According to Mountain View police, the officer wanted reminded the car’s human passengers that impeding traffic is against the law. Tomato, potato.

Nonetheless, the traffic event brought up many questions about our autonomous future, including traffic enforcement. Google said engineers can control the car to pull over for law enforcement despite not having a steering wheel.

Will future police be able to immobilize rogue robot machines? Who pays the ticket if the driver really, truly, honest-to-god-sir-or-ma’am didn’t actually do anything? Who will pay for the Wyoming Highway Patrol’s new sweet-ass Camaro if they can’t consistently pinch people along Interstate 80 between Rock Springs and Rawlins in completely miserable speed traps and make up fake construction zones because you’ve already been ticketed today for doing 5 over the speed limit and really this is just ridiculous, it’s my 20th birthday for god sakes, where are the road cones?

Oh.

For what it’s worth, Google says its autonomous car has traveled 1.2 million miles without any tickets. The car has been involved in 11 reported crashes with only minor injuries. Most of those crashes were, in part, not the robot car’s fault.

 

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62 Comments on “Google’s Autonomous Car Is A Slow-moving Scofflaw...”


  • avatar
    pragmatist

    What people don’t realize is that, under the hype, these things are currently very limited. As pointed out by a Toyota exec recently, they need to run on very precisely mapped roads down to the lane markers and are absolutely dependent on continuous high resolution GPS contact. Unexpected conditions can completly baffle them (think about road construction where they shunt you to the opposite lanes). If the maps are not fully up to date, not exactly accurate (many GPS maps are somewhat approximated for efficiency) things go downhill quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      KrohmDohm

      GPS is only one of the components used to navigate a Google care. It actually relies more on LIDAR and other sensor systems for navigation. GPS, even the military only version is not as accurate as you describe, ie lane markers. And of course there are limitations on these cars. There are experimental. All experimental technology has limitations.

      http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/189486-how-googles-self-driving-cars-detect-and-avoid-obstacles

      • 0 avatar

        Everything has limitations. Normal DeLoreans are limited to roads, for instance.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        GPS is accurate to the … it depends how much you spend. The ones tracking tectonic motion are large and accurate, expensive and compensate after the fact for intentionally introduced “error”.

        • 0 avatar
          PandaBear

          If you have years to average out the noise and variation of the signal for tectonic motion, yes it can be accurate.

          For a moving object traveling at 75mph, even with a ground based station for differential error cancellation, you are still looking at something not so precise with the real time need.

        • 0 avatar
          beastpilot

          The “intentional error” was turned off during the Clinton presidency. It’s called selective availability.

          GPS can be very, very accurate for differential movement, but you need time to average the signal so that doesn’t work in a moving vehicle.

          At 75MPH the GPS in your cell phone is really just as accurate as any other GPS on the planet except the ones the military uses which use a totally different signal.

          And, Ironically, from Wikipedia:

          “Another restriction on GPS, antispoofing, remains on. This encrypts the P-code so that it cannot be mimicked by a transmitter sending false information. Few civilian receivers have ever used the P-code, and the accuracy attainable with the public C/A code is so much better than originally expected (especially with DGPS) that the antispoof policy has relatively little effect on most civilian users. Turning off antispoof would primarily benefit surveyors and some scientists who need extremely precise positions for experiments such as tracking tectonic plate motion.”

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Please give me the E36 M3 behind the autonomous blob.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    If I were to encounter one of these things on the road, it would be like a drivers ed car or rental truck x1000. IOW, I’d give it a very wide berth.

    BTW, does that utterly depressing interior include a video screen that can block the view out the windshield? If I were a Pod passenger, I’d rather not see what was coming.

    • 0 avatar
      healthy skeptic

      I don’t know…I think the exterior is more depressing than the interior.

      You know those red-and-yellow plastic kid’s cars they sell, the ones with the bubbly roof? I think I’d rather ride in on of those.

      Unlike Apple and Tesla, Google obviously doesn’t give a damn about design. I know it’s a prototype, but still…

  • avatar

    BMW has its Gran Tourer, now Google has its Granny Tourer.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The 25 mph limit is an odd choice for Mountain View. I’d think they’d choose 35 or 40. Like most of Silicon Valley, Mountain View is just a giant collection of wide stroads, strip malls, and ordinary bungalows that all cost $2 million because no one will permit any new housing to be built anywhere near one of the biggest employment centers in the world.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s legally a gussied up electric gulf cart, like the Ford city cars that were sold for a while. So the speed limit is not for Mountain View, but for this type of vehicle.

      I would think it should really not be legal to run a car with a top speed of 25mph on a 35mph road where real world traffic is most likely going at least 40, probably 45.

      But maybe that’s just me …

      D

  • avatar
    bludragon

    An important detail is that the car is limited to 25mph by law, while limited to roads with a speed limit of 35 and below.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I assumed it was limited to 25 mph because it is actually a Little Tikes Car just painted white. Is the black gumball on the roof the on/off button? Given all the space inside why only 2 cup holders? Because if the car is going to be driving me around then I expect a full bar inside complete with ice maker.

  • avatar
    Fred

    There is a guy who drives a red Fiat 500 consistently 10 mph below the speed limit that I get stuck behind about once a week on the way to work. Wish they give him a ticket.

    • 0 avatar
      healthy skeptic

      But…but…he’s saving the planet.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Easy, there. How do you know he drives the Fiat 500 slowly because he wants to save the planet?

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          Exactly. I don’t drive slowly to save the planet. I think the planet is just a big rock with scuzz on the outside.

          I drive slowly because I hate bumps and because I want everyone to pass me so I can have a clear road.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            If I’m on a stretch of street that is one step away from lunar surface, I’ll put my hazards on and motion people to go around.

    • 0 avatar

      We get this guy in the Hudson Valley too. We are blessed with some beautiful twisty roads. Some of them are actually state roads too, and one wends its way across Anthony’s Nose, a hill across from Bear Mountain and Harriman State park.

      The road is posted 40, with a few 25 mph yellow signs. Normal folks can, without upsetting the coffee, cruise at 35-45 on the whole thing.

      Until you get behind 20-40. 20 – 40 does 20 up hills and around corners. He does 40 on the two straights. It isn’t even the slow, it is the lack of consistency. Meanwhile, all the other cars (did I mention this is a commuter road ?) pile up behind you in an idiot’s conga train with a whiplash caterpillar propagating back in the pack. Passing is out of the question, so you all end up doing 20——-40——-20—–20——40

      Also, why is is when you FINALLY get past the guy doing 50 in a 55, he feels the need to turn your easy 50-70 pass into a stupid 65-85 pass ? Couldn’t find the right pedal before ???

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        Speedlaw

        Haha. The bear mtn roadblock is definitely our most frustrating driving condition. To be fair though, drivers from flat states tend to be terrified of that road. It’s not the same thing as the horse farm rubberneckers on rt121 or similar. Those people always deserve a kick.

      • 0 avatar
        Silent Ricochet

        This is exactly why I try to avoid that road / area at all costs. Recently I had to take several roads in that area for a few days because of work, and all I could think while consistently being limited by someone in front of me to 20 mph was how awesome these roads would be if I could actually just go the speed limit.

        The roads near Newburgh and Middletown aren’t as dicey, but you wouldn’t know it by the way people drive in this area. A lot of the roads, like Route 208 and 94, have 55 mph speed limits but I constantly get stuck behind people doing about 40. I really don’t get the logic in traveling slower. They’ve also painted over almost every single passing zone in the area. My commute is 11 miles and it takes me 30 minutes to get there traveling along these roads because of people too scared to do the speed limit.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          “I really don’t get the logic in traveling slower.”

          More reaction time, gentler physics for every interaction with external reality from road surfaces to impact with enemy autos.

          Not much consolation for my demographic but it’s not your fault you’re young and “really don’t get” that.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            People here in Ohio like to travel slower when entering a major highway. If you can get them to 52mph by the end of the on ramp you’re lucky.

            It makes me enraged. It also causes traffic problems every single day.

            GO FASTER.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            ” People here in Ohio like to travel slower when entering a major highway. If you can get them to 52mph by the end of the on ramp you’re lucky.

            It makes me enraged. It also causes traffic problems every single day.”

            _THIS_ ! .

            My ex wife was like this , she’d slow down and crawl to a full stop at th top of the on ramp then get more scared at the cars whizzing by ~

            Not once in 15 years of marriage would she ever even _try_ to speed up and match then merge…

            It scared me shitless whenever she drove .

            -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I do not understand where people learn this behavior, unless they’re recalling time spent in PA or CA, where there might be a stop light or sign at the entrance ramp.

            It’s incredibly dangerous, and these people need to be ticketed regularly.

            Perhaps a sign “60MPH MANDATORY ENTRANCE SPEED” is needed?

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            ” It’s incredibly dangerous, and these people need to be ticketed regularly.

            Perhaps a sign “60MPH MANDATORY ENTRANCE SPEED” is needed?”

            Agreed -almost- as here comes Nate (or some local Mexican scrap metal guy) in his 40 + year old jalopy wheezing and straining it’s way up the on ramp @ 0-Dark:30 with no one in front of him slowing him down , it’s just a matter of life fact that some vehicles (mostly trucks I think) take a while to get up to 55 ~ 60 MPH .

            Oddly , all my old 1950’s vintage VW’s with their tiny 36HP engines zipped right up to 60 + MPH without any problem .

            -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        I’m not sure it’s the same road, but the road (I believe it’s route 6) on the east end of the Bear Mountain bridge is an absolute joy to drive under the right conditions. Lately, I’ve been on it each Sunday night as the Bear Mountain Bridge beats both the Tappan Zee and the GWB, hands down. The problem is that other people drive on this road as well. A few weeks back I was behind a guy who was following a class A motorhome. The motorhome left him in the dust, he was driving so slowly (15-20 on a 40mph road). Last Sunday, it all came together, no one was in front of me and I was reminded of how much I love driving.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “For what it’s worth, Google says its autonomous car has traveled 1.2 million miles without any tickets. The car has been involved in 11 reported crashes with only minor injuries. Most of those crashes were, in part, not the robot car’s fault.”

    Substitute “old geezer” for “Autonomous car” and “Robot car” and the above statement shows just how lame a comment it is.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Can’t we just have the ‘ rolling coal ‘ guys bash these off the road ? .

    =8-) .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    zip89105

    Too many cops with too much free time on their hands. The car was UNDER the speed limit. No minimum speed was posted thus no violation. Useless cops.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      22400. (a) No person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, unless the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation, because of a grade, or in compliance with law.

      No person shall bring a vehicle to a complete stop upon a highway so as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the stop is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Even at the full 25 mph, travelling 1.2 million miles would take 48,000 hours or 5.5 years continuously.

    So, Google must have a lot more than 1 autonomous car, because the thing wasn’t even in existence five and a half years ago. And presumably it has averaged far less than 25 mph.

    Bamboozling everyone seems to be Google’s favorite sport.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    wmba – those distances were measured from Google’s completely accurate maps :0

  • avatar
    pdq

    Does one have to have a drivers license to “operate” one of these? In essence, you’re just along for the ride.

    Either way (with or without the license), who is the ticket written out to for any violations? The occupant of the car isn’t really driving it and can’t be held responsible.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Think of my dog as an autonomous vehicle. I don’t have a steering wheel and brakes to directly control him. I give him commands and he pretty much executes them on his own. Even though he’s autonomous, if he does something wrong, as his licensed owner I’m responsible for his actions. His breed (Portuguese Podengo) was developed to kill rabbits and bring them back to the owner. If he brings the neighbors pet bunny home in his mouth, it’s not the breeder that’s going to pay – it’s the dog’s owner.

      I can see the courts applying the same logic to an autonomous vehicle or robot. While the robot or car itself can’t be held liable, the registered owner would be responsible for the machines actions. So, if it speeds, you get the ticket. If it runs over the neighbors bunny and comes home with the carcass in it’s grill, you get the bill.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t see how that can work. If I wreck, is VW responsible ? No, unless a mechanical failure caused the crash is some way where I have no contributing liability.

        Compared to a Google car. You aren’t in control. You are trusting the machine to do all the work. If the machine misses the slow moving elderly person in the crosswalk, IT ran the person over, not YOU.

        Do I effectively want to be legally liable for the programming of my Google car ? Note also that this code will be well locked down both by encryption and legal penalty…..I think not.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          I suspect that the automakers will force car buyers to indemnify them. But that indemnification won’t mean much in a high-dollar lawsuit — that indemnification doesn’t prevent a wronged third-party from naming the driver and the automaker in a lawsuit, and there will be a court somewhere that eventually pokes a hole in that indemnification agreement. In any case, I doubt that the automakers would be able to impose that indemnification on a used car buyer, so such efforts would only go so far.

          Unless there is a federal law that protects automakers from lawsuits and liability, the resulting liability issues would discourage automakers from making an autonomous car that doesn’t have a driver behind the wheel who can take responsibility for the crashes in the same ways that they do now. You’ll ultimately be responsible for correcting the autopilot when it makes the wrong choice, so it will end up being a sort of high-end version of a cruise-control/lane-control/automatic braking system that doesn’t allow you to take your eyes off the road or remove your hands from the wheel.

          • 0 avatar
            tedward

            P ch
            Which, and this is kind of rich, we already have courtesy of actual carmakers. Even mainstream price point cars can already do this.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I’m sure that the automated systems will do a much better job than they do now. But that won’t mean that you will be able to ignore what they’re doing.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Cool… just realized that cop bike is a Moto Guzzi. I had such a serious jones on for those in the ’90s.

    Oops, fooled by a boxer, I think it’s a beemer.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I know this is going to sound a little aggressive but if I ran into these on my daily I’d experiment with their avoidance programs. If I close from behind with a twenty mph differential will the pod get out of the damn way? How about thirty?

    I would be pretty pissed off by the 25mph roadblock either way. Even if I didn’t actually try to spook them into a ditch.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Look at that photo with the cop.

    Is that a little styrofoam cuppa cawfee on the dash?!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      *free range
      *organic
      *fair trade
      *ph-balanced
      *gluten free

      But yes it’s coffee.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        F*ckin-A, that’s why I’ve switched to good, strong English tea!

        They make no bones about their history of kicking and beating smelly natives to load barrels of the stuff in creaky wooden ships to bring back to white people!

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          If I were able to make tea as strong as coffee, I’d have tea. But no matter how I try or the dark blend I choose, it’s just not the same.

          I like Constant Comment a lot. I throw one of those in with my decaf iced tea bags when I make up a pitcher, give it a little extra spice and flavor.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            No, that’ll never happen. I found out in my last tea cycle (’80s) that even brands claiming great caffeine content (Morning Thunder) simply can’t even approach the milligrams in their bitter, over-brewed, barely drinkable cup that a plain old cuppa joe has, let alone some serious espresso.

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