By on April 27, 2016

Volvo-self-driving-car

Like it or not, autonomous vehicles are coming in one form or another.

Many new cars on the market already have features that help a driver stay in the driving lane, keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front, or reduce the severity of a collision. Much like the original stability control, these features may frustrate enthusiasts but they help keep the masses safer and might reduce accidents.

Each year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the New England Motor Press Association hold a conference that focuses on various future trends and technologies. This year’s topic is The Intersection of Technology and Design, with a panel discussion exploring trends and challenges as autonomous technology meets the natural aesthetic appeal of the automobile.

ford-autonomous-car-technology

To get a better understanding of how American motorists feel about autonomous driving, the MIT AgeLab is presenting a survey that asks pointed questions about their experience, interest, and knowledge of autonomous technologies. It is a very short survey, the results of which will be presented at the conference.

The survey was created by Bryan Reimer, Ph.D., a research scientist in the MIT AgeLab and Associate Director of the New England University Transportation Center at MIT. It not only asks about your comfort level with the technology but also about your trust in technology companies that thus far have had very little experience in the world of automobiles.

“The myth about automation is that as the level of human responsibility decreases so do the need for education,” says Reimer. “Given that we are rapidly increasing the level of automated vehicle technology it is an open question as to where people are going to learn how to appropriately use it.”

That is a legitimate concern. The survey is open from April 26 to May 15. The results will be presented on May 26 at the NEMPA/MIT Technology Conference, which I will attend.

[Images: Volvo Car Corporation, Ford Motor Company]

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63 Comments on “Wary or Enthusiastic? MIT Wants Your Views on Automated Driving Technologies...”


  • avatar

    You mean we mere mortals are being asked what we think? Filling out survey.

    Edit: Done. I survived the strong temptation to list one of my alternative transports as a chariot pulled by trained Utahraptors.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, you could say that is partially autonomous.
      Thank you!

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        Also completed the survey, but there was a question I wanted to skip but could not: how much would you pay for an autonomous vehicle. There was no option to say “I don’t want one.”

        I am comfortable with a lot of tech, but that doesn’t translate to I want it, will buy it, and will use it. For example, while I am comfortable with automatic transmission (will use it in rental cars), I wouldn’t buy one (preferring a manual). I just entered the price range I would pay for a new car today. But the results of the survey will be skewed.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    I am wary, because I believe autonomous driving further threatens the manual transmission.

  • avatar
    scott25

    Autonomous driving is the biggest waste of money I can think of for automakers, who can’t even produce a viable vehicle that runs fully on a renewable fuel source, let alone something that can generate its own power, such as with solar panels/wind turbines underneath the car. That’s what they should be spending their money on.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Scott,
      Solar panels simply do not absorb enough energy to make a meaningful dent in the amount of power required to drive a car. Same with wind.

      Autonomous driving will free up millions of people who spend their days in the monotony of driving, allowing them to take on higher value work.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        “allowing them to take on higher value work”

        Go to the the largest mall within 20 miles of your house and pick your higher value workers!

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        Let’s face reality: “higher value work” is really just more time wasting on cellphones. And it will be a very long time before autonomous cars are capable of being truly autonomous, without the driver having to pay attention.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          Speaking of that, one of the higher value youngsters in my office was playing with Snapchat and discovered that playing backwards “Golf, golf, golf, golf!” (a friend’s mantra) results in “some funny sh1t!”.

          Tell me we can no longer innovate!

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      I agree. The money would be better spent on improving engine design, battery design, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      So you don’t place any value on human life?

      35,000 people die on the roads every year in the US.

      I wouldn’t characterize it as a waste of money.

      As for wind turbines under the car, you are getting into perpetual motion territory with that suggestion.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        Who can really say that autonomous cars will save lives? Yes decades down the road when EVERY car is autonomous and they all communicate, then lives will be saved, but mixing a few autonomous cars in with every other car is likely MORE dangerous, because there is no way an autonomous car is going to be able to correctly react to the endless variety of sudden traffic situations.

        People keep mentioning that these cars will “safely stop” or alert the driver (who hasn’t been paying attention) to take over.

        It’s all a pipe dream

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          dwford,
          Have you driven a Ford lately? You know, one with Lane Keep Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control and Collision Warning with Break Assist? These are elements of autonomous driving that are here today and which reduce accidents.

          No one is talking about switching to autonomous driving until it is proven to be more safe than today’s drivers.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            VoGo, my 23 year old son just got a $700 per year insurance rate for full coverage $1k deductible on a brand new car from MetLife for Andover MA. We were scratching our heads because we expected it to be much higher, but suspect it might be because the car has the automatic braking. Anything that drops insurance rates is a good thing.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          “mixing a few autonomous cars in with every other car is likely MORE dangerous, because there is no way an autonomous car is going to be able to correctly react to the endless variety of sudden traffic situations.”

          You really don’t get it.

          The autonomous car will not be drunk, angry, drowsy, drunk, stoned, competitive or distracted.

          The most important component of traffic safety is not reaction. Safety comes from avoiding bad choices and errors. So no, not every car has to be autonomous in order for it to work.

          The technology may or may not ultimately work, but not for the reasons that you think.

          • 0 avatar
            dwford

            I do A LOT of driving on both highways and city streets. I just don’t see how autonomous cars will handle the insanity I see every day. Yes the autonomous car will know which lane it needs to be in for the next intersection, but what about all the asshole drivers that don’t follow simple merging etiquette. Will the autonomous car just stop and give up when it doesn’t see an opening (when a human driver would make the more dangerous choice to force their way into the desired lane)?

            As I drive around, I am not worried about my ability to keep within the lines or to pay attention to the cars ahead of me and brake on time. I am much more worried about the cars around me driving erratically.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You’re very typical of the average driver –

            -You believe yourself to be above-average or better
            -You blame everyone else for bad driving
            -You don’t understand that crashes are caused by bad choices, not by a lack of automotive ballet skills

            Ironically, this is exactly why passive safety technology works while active safety does not. Drivers won’t learn and no amount of data or facts will get through.

    • 0 avatar
      Brett Woods

      The man has a point. Too much talk about how to use energy without talk about how to harvest it. I don’t want a car that bosses me around. I want a car that captures its own energy, getting me closer to that always going down a hill feeling -a free ride!

      Of course I have to defend underbody tray turbines (super light plastic props on spindles supported in a magnetic field -reverse model airplane engines) I have suggested those before -meh, along with charge derived from shock absorbers (or vertical reciprocal generator the same size as the shock absorber bolted on in parallel) -better. Toyota snagged the patent on that one. The reciprocal generator however is old tech.

      I know what you mean though, JP. The air resistance created by the turbines would nullify the energy they generated. Or would it mabye charge an accessories battery for this onboard nanny?

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Our fat a-ses already can’t shift a manual transmission, can’t manufacture anything since we’ve outsourced all of that to China and Mexico, and, soon, we won’t even be able to drive our own automobiles. About all we can do is buy stuff and eat.

    So my views? We’ll be a bunch of fat turkeys ready for the slaughter by the first nation to get its act together and invade us.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “the first nation to get its act together and invade us”

      For what? Iowa’s soil and Michigan’s water? Otherwise rendering us into biodiesel is the only other lure I can think of and that’d be pretty short-lived.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “the first nation to get its act together and invade us”

      That would be Mexico.

      Oh and the second wave are Muslim Terrorists masquerading as refugees.

      China is up to something too. Destabilization via Wallmart junk.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        We are going to be quite surprised when we try to order our ammo and weapons from China when they’re the ones invading us, LOL! Hopefully Vietnam or Taiwan will step up and help us otherwise we’re going to be in major doo doo.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    There are two groups that make up the majority of autonomous car proponents. There are people who don’t enjoy driving and are looking forward to the convenience of eliminating the task while opening up time spent commuting to productive or recreational activities. The other group is the misanthropes, who relish the thought of taking driving out of the hands of people they perceive as being incompetent and a threat to their demigod-esque existences. Sadly, this group doesn’t realize that programmers are humans, and often merely socially-impaired ones rather than brilliant ones.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “programmers are humans, and often merely socially-impaired ones rather than brilliant ones”

      But by now they’re so legion that the Infinite Monkey law kicks in.

      And yes, I too suck at programming and so I now diss programmers.

    • 0 avatar

      You forgot the compassionate hearted.

      35,000 deaths/year. Making a dent in that is a great idea. I love driving, but I’d prefer that I didn’t die doing it. ANything to reduce risk of injury/death is a good thing IMHO.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        It’s not a valid opinion. We’re human beings; not house plants. You’re free to hide under your bed, but it’s no way to go through life. I’ve had many injuries. For the most part, they heal. They were a fair trade off for living life instead of cowering from it. What would Ben Franklin think were he to be confronted by you? You can’t wait to give up being master of your own destiny to feel safer? That’s revolting.

        Besides, all you’re doing is assuming that some third party can do something better than some other third parties can do it. In this case, your chosen third parties don’t even have the same level of interest in doing the job well as the ones you’re discounting, since they’re just a bunch of H1Bs putting out code instead of people inside of the cars they’re operating.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          I am with you, JP White. I would love to see safe, autonomous cars replace drivers who are drunk, texting, angry, or just plain deluded.

          I’m not sure why someone hoping to reduce accidents and deaths would inspire such a twisted, sad response.

          • 0 avatar
            Chocolatedeath

            You are assuming that someone that texts,are angry are just deluded what to give up their right to drive. Ilove the way 35000 number can be pulled out of someones az.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            OK.
            32,675 in 2014
            32,719 in 2013
            33,561 in 2012

            Happy now? And no one is talking about taking away anyone’s driving privileges.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          “just a bunch of H1Bs putting out code”

          Ah… now your real modivation is glear doo us all!

          • 0 avatar
            Chocolatedeath

            VOgo YOu are under the assumption that those 32k plus folks are going to in the autonomous car. Just quoting death states dont mean anything.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            No one is making assumptions about who will get autonomous cars first. We are just trying to maintain open minds about adopting potentially life saving equipment.

            For the life of me, I have no clue as to why that would be controversial. No one is coming to take your precious stick shift.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    I not only want autonomous vehicles, I want an autonomous house that locks the fridge and cupboards after sampling my blood sugar (“Ow! Thought I sanded that down!”) reports the frequency of my urination to the Health Authority and shuts down the router upon detecting *those* kinds of websites.

  • avatar

    I just drove from NYC to PA and back with a total of 300 miles.

    Averaged 16MPG

    At one point a state trooper saw me speeding – about 15 mph over – and started following me, but he never pulled me over because I pulled into a rest stop.

    If I had an automated driver to do that drive I probably would have allowed it to.

    My Bottom Line: If the automated driver screws up I DON’T WANT TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE…AT ALL.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    As usual, it’s a defective survey with defective questions that make certain assumptions. For example, question 6 asks how much would you be willing to pay for a car that completely drives itself. There is no option for “I would not buy such a vehicle.” I picked the lowest price but the real answer is I wouldn’t even consider it. Who writes this crap? I e-mailed the survey people at MIT.

  • avatar
    Old_WRX

    I suspect the legalities of the automated car may be more of a stumbling block than the technology. Who is liable when the automated pod screws up? Who pays the medical and property damage bills when robot a car has a blowout in heavy traffic — everybody going 100 mph with one car length in between? The lawyers will still be pawing this over come the year 2100.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Agree. Since it can’t happen within the lifetime of anyone commenting here why not enjoy the sh1ts & giggles aspect of the knuckle draggers’ overreaction?

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Like 100mph will ever happen — they’ll drop the speed limit so low that it’ll be just as far ahead to get out and push! And every car will be programmed to follow it.

  • avatar
    MWolf

    Wary, in a word, as indicated by the survey I took. They should have allowed for commemtary, so they could understand the reasons behind the answers.

    In a nutshell, I like driving. Some don’t, and that’s peachy. But my concern is car ownership and operation becomming legally difficult. Some people like being carted around, able to keep their nose in their phone. I like to interact with things physically.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    The sad things is, given the leading nature of many of the questions, I can see them disregarding my responses as beng from an outlier. They’ll take a look at my age and just decide I’m a cranky, old luddite who fears all technology and hates anything new. And they’d be completely wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      My guess is most TTAC readers share your opinion, but I don’t know if enough will respond to make our position a significant data point.

      @Kamil, I look forward to your follow up article after the conference! I’m sure MIT will have a Q&A session. Please troll them hard… well, while remaining as professional as you can. :)

  • avatar
    don1967

    I tend to begrudgingly accept most new nanny technologies after experiencing them. In particular stability/yaw control, adaptive cruise control and city collision avoidance work too damn well to deny.

    Two exceptions include lane departure warnings, and traction control that cannot be quickly disengaged when you’re immobilized in deep snow. More of a nuisance than anything.

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