By on November 9, 2017

Las Vegas self-driving shuttle, Image: AAA

Did you hear the one about the autonomous shuttle in Las Vegas? It ran for two hours before it was in a crash.

Did you hear the clarifying detail? The crash was not the shuttle’s fault and the other driver was cited.

Did you get the underlying message of all this? The hybrid model of autonomous vehicles sharing the road with human drivers is doomed to failure.

The only question is this: How much damage will have to be caused, and how many lives will be lost, before we accept that?

Here’s the statement from the city on the matter:

The autonomous shuttle was testing today when it was grazed by a delivery truck downtown. The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that it’s sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident.

Unfortunately, the delivery truck did not stop and grazed the front fender of the shuttle. Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided. Testing of the shuttle will continue during the 12-month pilot in the downtown Innovation District.

Well, that’s all very simple, isn’t it? If the truck had been as “smart” as the shuttle, the accident wouldn’t have happened. Are you convinced? You shouldn’t be. The autonomous vehicle was at the very least complicit in the accident, if you define “complicit” as “unable to take simple steps to avoid the crash.”

That sounds like an unreasonably high bar but it’s one that human drivers have to clear all the time. Here’s an example. You’re second in line at a stoplight. The light turns green. You count to five then accelerate directly into the back of the stalled car ahead of you. That will get you a ticket, because although you had the right to proceed, you are expected to exercise due care to avoid a crash. The same is true for ramming someone who cheats the order at a four-way stop and goes when they shouldn’t. That person is liable for running the stop sign; you’ll be liable for running into them even though they had no right to be where they were.

Drivers in Manhattan are well acquainted with the sort of mutual understanding that allows four lanes’ worth of cars to get through three marked lanes in the roads leading to the Lincoln Tunnel. If you try to “defend your lane” in that situation and get hit by a taxi driver, don’t expect the NYPD to make the taxi buy you a fender. The American road is not usually a place where moral absolutes hold sway.

In the case of the Las Vegas “crash,” a human driver most likely would have backed away from the truck, possibly while banging on the horn and/or yelling something impolite, and the accident would have been avoided. This sort of thing happens ten thousand times a day in cities across the globe. It’s common for delivery truck drivers to expect this kind of mild courtesy in an urban environment. If they need to back up, and you’re behind them, and there’s nothing behind you, then you should back up. That’s the kind of problem that human beings can easily solve. Yet it’s not easily codified into machine behavior.

This situation works very well when all the players are autonomous; the truck just stops dead until it’s safe to move. And it usually works very well when all the players are human; the truck moves, the car moves, somebody flips somebody off, and life continues as before. The problem is in the hybrid situation, because the two players have different sets of rules. Don’t bother to respond that the rules of the road are the same for all parties. That would work fine in my little home town of Powell, Ohio, where traffic densities are mild, roads are wide, and the general mood is so unhurried that it’s far from uncommon to see people doing 30 mph on the marked-45 two-lanes. But it won’t work in New York, Los Angeles, or even in Las Vegas.

This is all completely obvious to me, to you, and to anybody who has the low-grade pattern-recognition ability to see the obvious. We could talk a lot about machine-intelligence concepts and all of the stuff you’d get from a Hofstadter or Penrose book, but it’s not necessary. If you’ve driven in a major city for more than two hours of your life, you can intuitively understand why the hybrid system won’t work. So if a middle-aged Dad from Nowheresville can figure it out without breaking a sweat, why can’t all the big brains on the Left Coast do the same?

The answer, of course, is that they absolutely can. There’s no future in the hybrid model and there never was any future in the hybrid model. The purpose of these little experiments isn’t to prove that autonomous traffic deserves a seat at the table. Rather, the purpose is to demonstrate that human drivers need to be removed from the roads, and the sooner the better.

The government officials involved in these pilot programs may be nothing more than useful idiots, but the people who are designing and funding the programs understand very well what’s going on. Did you hear the one about the last human driver on the road? Everything was his fault, even when it wasn’t.

[Image: American Automobile Association]

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133 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: Keep On Hittin’ That Shuttle...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The problem with this argument: human drivers don’t necessarily all WANT to be removed from the road.

    And human drivers vote.

    Autonomous cars don’t.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Human drivers vote, but most of them would rather be driven to the polls. Plus, autonomous car makers have the money to influence politicians. Waymo=Google, and all that.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob Cupples

      Non-driving humans vote.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      Humans vote, and they vote with their feelings (think of all the dead children!!!) and their money (insurance for a non-autonomous vehicle in a densely populated areas will shoot through the roof)
      The human vote will soon be in favour of the autonomous vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      I think that a mix of autonomous and non-autonomous cars will mean already very slow traffic just comes to a halt. Just as the article mentions … the autonomous car will stop when it can’t legally proceed (as opposed to going over the double yellow line into oncoming traffic to get around a stalled car, for example).

      Once traffic gets exponentially worse, all people in these areas will prefer to be in an autonomous car most of the time. But I suspect many densely-populated areas will never become fully autonomous even if all the motor vehicles are. Are we going to have autonomous bikers and autonomous walkers and autonomous stray dogs? If you think cyclists and pedestrians are law-breakers now, just wait until they realize that all motorized vehicles will give them the right of way no matter what.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      After what was just accomplished in Virginia, I think the relevance of human voters is history.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Becoming a criminal because I want to keep manually driving a vehicle will be an unexpected way to go out.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    we accept the loss of 40,000 lives on the road every year as it is. I don’t see how this is going to make things any worse.

    • 0 avatar
      tylanner

      So your argument is that we’d rather have 30,000 completely indiscriminate and random deaths than 40,000 deaths resulting from conscious choices made by human beings…the same human beings that typically realize the worst consequences and can be held accountable legally for their poor choices….the same human beings whose safety is highly dependent on their own personal behavior. It is like advocating that, in the interest of reducing total deaths, we all should sacrifice.

      We can compare the prospect of 25% safer fully autonomous vehicles to commercial air travel, which is a good parallel. In both forms of travel we sign up knowing we have virtually no influence on the probability of our own death…..essentially random victimization…to reach 30,000 deaths in commercial air travel we would need five 747 accidents per month…and be able to consider that a normal and acceptable rate. The crux of this argument is tolerance for indiscriminate deaths….advocating for such obviously inadequate solutions is indefensible IMHO.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        only if we accept the premise that there will be “30,000 completely indiscriminate and random deaths” which I won’t because it’s just a rectally-extracted number.

        “the same human beings that typically realize the worst consequences and can be held accountable legally for their poor choices”

        LOL.

        the penalties for killing someone with a motor vehicle are laughably light and inconsistent.

        “.the same human beings whose safety is highly dependent on their own personal behavior.”

        have you even met any humans? We’re terrible at assessing risk to ourselves. Especially younger people.

        “The crux of this argument is tolerance for indiscriminate deaths….advocating for such obviously inadequate solutions is indefensible IMHO.”

        at this point we don’t have enough information on how these things are going to work. Your Chicken Little nonsense about mass indiscriminate deaths just because a human driver grazed an autonomous van is just completely vacuous.

        • 0 avatar
          tylanner

          I took your comment as suggesting that we should accept bad Autonomous vehicles if it doesn’t increase overall deaths…I strongly disagree with that shoot from the hip solution.

          And you are the one who brought mass death into the discussion of a fender bender…convenient to back out now that you have to acknowledge your pernicious rhetoric.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      We accept +/- 40,000 gun-related deaths–unintentional or otherwise–in the US every year (eerily similar numbers). We’ll have as much success removing drivers from cars as we have keeping assault rifles out of the hands of wackjobs.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        Here are the recent numbers, as reported in the WAPO.

        //preview.tinyurl.com/yajeqrmh

        Not what I expected – a few points culled from this link and others linked therin, if this is tl:dr

        “33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States”

        “Two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States every year are suicides.” Mostly men, mostly older and white, seems women like pills better.

        20% are young male homicides. Gangbangers and the like. I can only get upset when they take out an innocent bystander. Happens in Chicago on any day ending in “y” – 569 through today. So one tenth of this group are killed in that one city.

        The two above categories add up to 7 of every 8 gun deaths.

        5% are women – need better enforcement of domestic abuse laws, maybe more teeth in them too.

        The rest are accidents or uncateogorized. Some of the accidents may be suicides charitably recategorized for insurance or emotional purposes for the surviving family.

        Disclaimer – not a NRA member or gun owner, but I do appreciate the herd immunity effect.

      • 0 avatar

        Is it intellectually honest to conflate the relatively low number of mass shootings by “whackjobs” with 30,000 suicides?

        Most gun deaths are suicides. You think people wouldn’t kill themselves some other way?

        • 0 avatar
          chuckrs

          Ronnie

          Not conflating at all. Just tired of hearing about 40K gun deaths when its 33K, which is bad enough, but doesn’t even recognize that 22K of them are self-murder, suicide. These suicides might happen anyway – for example by car into a bridge abutment. Suicide prevention hotlines and access to health counseling services can help. I remember a young friend who ended his life – the VA system did him no good at all so I’m wary about more direct government involvement.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            What I’ve always found fascinating (in a macabre sort of way) is that statistics tell us that women attempt suicide more often than men but that men are more successful because they choose more violent means to end their lives.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Ronnie, just yesterday listened to a researcher in this area who was being interviewed on the CBC radio network. According to research using a firearm greatly increases the ‘success’ rate of an attempted suicide.

          Those who try other means are usually unsuccessful. And the ‘recidivism’ rate is actually fairly low, after being treated for an ‘unsuccessful’ attempt.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          No, Ronnie, most people won’t kill themselves another way. Most suicides are impulsive. Make it a little inconvenient, and lots of people will just give up on the idea.

          The most famous example is the UK’s switch from coal gas ovens to natural gas ovens. Sticking your head in the oven used to account for half of all suicides in the UK. When the switch happened, suicides dropped by a third.

          There’s similar evidence from putting nets under bridges, such as the Golden Gate Bridge. Once a destination suicide spot, lots of people just don’t kill themselves rather than go somewhere else.

          Gun suicides also tend to track gun ownership rates, on a state-by-state basis.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        “We’ll have as much success removing drivers from cars as we have keeping assault rifles out of the hands of wackjobs.”

        Yep. People talk about “gubmint has to enforce the law,” but how do they do that when a) there are something like 300 million firearms to regulate, and b) that happened because the same folks who keep saying we should “enforce the law” are the same ones constantly pushing to sell them with minimal regulation?

        And then the anti-regulation folks point to instances like the latest one and say, “see, I told you so…gubmint can’t regulate this.”

        Well, of course they can’t…and it was by design. We made this sad, stupid situation for ourselves, unfortunately.

      • 0 avatar
        markf

        “We’ll have as much success removing drivers from cars as we have keeping assault rifles out of the hands of wackjobs”

        Yes, you mst be referring to the US Air Foce (GOV) not reporting his DV conviction to the FBI (GOV) thus allowing him to pass the vaunted “universal Background check” But please, keep telling me how its my fault (and all other gun owners)the GOV can’t get their their SH*T together.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      When autonomous vehicles are touted as a way to reduce the highway death count, expect this objection: “I don’t drive drunk so subtract all the dead drunks from the total. I pay attention while driving so subtract the dead distracted drivers. I’m not reckless so subtract them. I don’t have health issues that interfere with my driving so subtract them. And I won’t ride in a vehicle driven by any of the preceding so subtract their dead passengers, too.” The only benefit to competent, conscientious drivers and their passengers is the possibility that the risk from failure of autonomous vehicles may be lower than the risk from their own, uncharacteristic mistakes and from the aforementioned bad drivers.

  • avatar
    Eggshen2013

    I can’t wait till they set one of these loose in NYC.
    Now that will be comedy.

  • avatar
    Syke

    And, in the long run, this is exactly where we’re heading.

    No, nobody’s going to come around and confiscate your Hemi at gunpoint, leaving you with an electric powered autonomous transportation module (shades of “Jean Genie”). Rather, if you insist on driving your own vehicle in traffic once autonomous cars become common, you’ll see your insurance rates rise.

    And rise.

    And rise.

    And continue rising until you can no longer afford insurance. At which point, you’ve lost the legal right to drive on the highway. And retribution will be swift. Just ask any Virginia driver who let their car insurance lapse. And the state wants documentation back to the first day of ownership, no fudging allowed. If you’ve missed one day, you might as well have missed a year.

    Like it or not, cars are on the long road to becoming horses. Playthings for the rich and those who are determined to spend whatever income they have on keeping them running. And being driven almost totally on closed courses, away from public roads.

    Probably not in my lifetime (I’m 67) but shortly thereafter. And there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I’ll make a Ferrari payment each month to the insurance company if I have to.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        You, and no doubt a lot of other people. I’m wondering what it’ll cost for me to keep my four motorcycles on the road (which are a lot more important to me than any automobile)?

        What I’m expecting is if that you can afford your monthly payment, they’ll just keep jacking the rate up every year until you can’t. Assuming they don’t do something quick and simple like make your auto insurance 110% of your annual income. And if that doesn’t work, 220%.

        My one great mantra of the last few years has been, “Thank God I’m As Old As I Am.”

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “like make your auto insurance 110% of your annual income. And if that doesn’t work, 220%.”

          Assuming I had some life expectancy left, I’d probably leave the country at that point. I doubt there will be de facto AV mandates across the entire world in my lifetime.

        • 0 avatar
          carguy67

          Um, insurance companies make billions selling auto insurance; they just want to minimize outlays. You really think they want that revenue stream to go away?

          Similarly, they make billions insuring houses and other properties, even with disasters like Harvey (they’re usually underwritten by others). When was the last time you heard of one of the major insurance companies going titsup due to losses?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      The net effect of this will be simple: insurance companies will make less money selling car insurance.

      Now, why would they want this to happen?

      I’m not in insurance, but if I were, I’d think my industry would be more interested in improving the risk of insuring the existing car-based transportation model than blowing it up.

      And insurance companies have lobbyists, last I checked.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Agreed. But I have no doubt there’s a way around that, like selling another product to make up for the car insurance business losses. Insurance companies couldn’t care less as to what type of insurance they sell, just so the replacement product is at least as profitable as the old product.

        This whole autonomous car subject has me thinking back 36 years to my first personal computer, a Sinclair ZX-81. Comparing that to Apple nagging me this morning to do the High Sierra upgrade to my Mac.

        Now, start today with the current state of autonomous vehicles being that ZX81. And then extrapolate 36 years forward, limiting the degree technological advance to my Mac. What you’ve got is pretty incredible. And that’s artificially limiting the rate of advance to what I’ve experienced – which is probably way too conservative.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Profit is the driving motive. But for them, risk drives profit. If there’s no risk, then there’s no way of making money.

          Assuming autonomous vehicles represent a radical reduction of risk, I don’t see how they make as much money.

          Therefore, I don’t see how they benefit.

          And if the technology for completely autonomous cars continues to improve, those improvements will also be usable with non-autonomous vehicles. That’s where I see the growth. Folks may not be completely comfortable with just calling the Google Bubble Drone Car when it’s time to go to work, but they may be comfortable with turning on the “drone mode” when it comes to sitting in rush hour traffic, or 600-mile Interstate slogs.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy67

        Spot on, Mike (I posted before I saw your comment–you said it better).

        Surely, the honchos at insurance companies would gladly give up their multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses if we could all live in a risk-free world?

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Your insurance rates will surely rise, because every autonomous car will be reporting every minor infraction you make to the authorities. “Ajla cut me off in his Hemi Charger! Here’s the video.”

    • 0 avatar
      lastwgn

      Regarding insurance in a driverless environment, the key to keep in mind that every “accident” from that point forward will not be the result of human error or other intervening forces. Every accident and injury will be the result of a failure of the manufacturer/programmer to properly build/program the vehicle to avoid whatever caused the incident. Whether the manufacturers realize it or not, the entire cost of whatever might occur will rest squarely and entirely with them. The individual sitting in the transportation pod is not in control and as such, cannot possibly be at fault and as such, cannot possibly be held accountable for the damage destruction caused by their pod. The bottom line is that the entire automobile insurance system as we know it would become just as extinct as the automobile as we know it. Heaping all of these costs back onto the manufacturers makes one realize quite quickly why the end result of a system of autonomous pods will actually be that no one owns their own pod. Everyone simply signs up to participate in the program and thus the cost is spread from the manufacturer around to the end users.

    • 0 avatar

      This was the argument I posited in the QOTD about what will force people from their cars once and for all.

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      “Like it or not, cars are on the long road to becoming horses”

      So we are gonna just walk everywhere?

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      other than the car flying, I think “The Fifth Element” did a good job with this. A damn built in, navigation like voice telling you when and why your driving privileges have been revoked.

  • avatar
    phlipski

    “The hybrid model of autonomous vehicles sharing the road with human drivers is doomed to failure.

    The only question is this: How much damage will have to be caused, and how many lives will be lost, before we accept that?”

    By that standard our current system is and has been a failure for years! Since 2008 the US has averaged about 34,000 deaths a year due to traffic accidents. The previous 40 years before that saw an average of 45,500 deaths a year!

    I think a better question might be this: Why do we continue to accept a status quo that is inherently dangerous? Why would we NOT want to try and improve upon that situation?

    • 0 avatar
      Alfisti

      That’s a flawed argument.

      I have never been in a collision, ever, so i would like to retain control over myself and my family. I don’t fancy, in a hybrid level 4 environment, a computer making a decision that my life is more expendable than the lives in the other car.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      No, the hybrid model is NOT doomed to failure, but adaptations will be made. The autonomous cars will get smarter (e.g. signaling louder to human drivers that are misbehaving) and human drivers will learn that AVs won’t act like human drivers (after getting dinged for being proven responsible for incidents like this). Both sides will adjust to new conditions, the same way that human drivers have adjusted to changing conditions over the last century, i.e. more traffic at higher speeds.

      • 0 avatar
        b787

        This comment is spot on. There will be numerous crashes like this, but every participant will adapt and the total lives lost will be far less than without the technology. Maybe the current autonomous cars are driving like scared old ladies, but in the future they will drive much more similar to the average human, while still having better sensors and reflexes.

        I’m kinda dissapointed in Jack. Even when I don’t agree with him, his opinion is usually well argumented, but this is just baseless.

        “If you’ve driven in a major city for more than two hours of your life, you can intuitively understand why the hybrid system won’t work. So if a middle-aged Dad from Nowheresville can figure it out without breaking a sweat, why can’t all the big brains on the Left Coast do the same?”

        This is no argument at all. I know Jack is intelligent, so I assume this is just bias speaking.

  • avatar
    Tennessee_Speed

    Bob Lutz says people-operated cars will be legislated off the roads in 20 years due to the pressure on lawmakers to save lives. 400,000 deaths on our roads in a decade is a sober thought. That’s approximately equal to all the U.S. soldiers killed in both WW1 & WW2 combined. The evolving technology will solve almost all of the autonomous auto issues.
    As an old guy this won’t affect me since I’ll be long gone by then or my family won’t allow me to drive anymore. So I’d better just enjoy driving my sports machine as long as I can. I may be the last generation to be able to do that.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    (edit window closed)

    “In the case of the Las Vegas “crash,” a human driver most likely would have backed away from the truck, possibly while banging on the horn and/or yelling something impolite, and the accident would have been avoided.”

    *That* collision* might have been avoided, but the frustrated and p!ssed-off driver might cause a different collision instead from acting in haste.

    you vastly over-estimate the competence and temperament of human drivers. We *suck.* We’re inexperienced, impatient, angry, inebriated, distracted, and kill each other at rates of tens of thousands every year. We give teenagers (who as an age group are irresponsible and destructive idiots) carte blanche to hit the road with laughably poor training. We willingly and deliberately engage in dangerous retaliatory behavior at the slightest (to use one of your favorite terms) narcissistic injury. We pilot two-ton missiles while staring at our smartphones.

    * I don’t use the term “accident” anymore. a wise man named Nicholas Angel correctly said “‘accident’ implies there’s no one to blame.”

  • avatar
    Gene B

    There are simply too many markets and too many business opportunities that autonomous cars can make possible – and huge cost savings as well. Who wants to be a trucker? Who wants to drive a taxi 16 hours a day? What parent wouldn’t want to cut down on driving their kids around to their games all day? The potential efficiency gains are enormous and the power elites are going to ram this down our throughts any way possible, certainly if it means they can control us. The business opportunities are going to drive this thing fast, and all of the lawmakers will be in on the deals, as there are HUGE profits to be made with varous stock market IPOs. And what else is there in life these days? If you’re not in on the deal you are a loser.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      “Who wants to be a trucker?”

      By some measures, trucker is the most common job in the u.s. If you think there is class warefare now, wait until you have a few million unemployed truckers with nothing to do…. (oh yeah, they will all get green jobs at twice the salary……)

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Nice thought. I was thinking the same thing, especially since almost every trucker I know either is, or was at one time, a patch-holding member of a hard core motorcycle club. Yeah, they’ll take to coding and green jobs real easy.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      So according to the comments here, truck driving is the most common US job and all truckers are bikers and NRA members.

      What a load of crap.

      Automation is already and is going to make a lot of jobs obsolete. And not just blue collar. White collar jobs like car insurance sellers and lawyers are going to be reduced. Even fewer EMT’s and police and judges as car crashes and reckless driving go away.

      We cannot allow the result to be all these people ending up on the street. Automation is done to save money. (A side benefit is freeing people from boring dangerous jobs.) The profits from automation are going into the pockets of shareholders, who are mostly the wealthy. Yes, pension funds etc. also.

      It is essential that most of the profits from automation be seen as a societal property. Which means most of the proceeds be available for retraining, creating new jobs including “green” ones, or paying for work now done by volunteers, or just to provide a decent standard of living for the displaced. After all everyone has helped get us to the place where the displacement by automation is possible.

      To encourage angry armed resistance to automation is not the answer, will not work, and will impoverish us. The wiser countries will embrace automation and move past us both financially and socially.

      As voters, it is imperative that we act to reduce wealth imbalance in the face of automation rather than get into a destructive class war. Yes, it smacks of socialism. But would you rather be starving on the street or have a decent life just for altering your semantics?
      It’s our choice.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        no armed populace will ever let their children starve in a land of milk and honey. wealth is only valuable while there is a society to honor the value of the various markers. there are enough economic ignoramuses with wealth and power who view wealth as a zero sum game to mess the whole thing up though. how many studies need to show that the “representative” democratic congress members don’t enact the will of the voters who elect them and instead vote the benefit of the wealthy and powerful before it shows up in peoples reasoning? accelerating wealth imbalance is a hallmark of oligarchies. oligarchies aren’t particularly long lasting. they don’t end pretty. the idea of oligarchs choosing to share in order to prolong the society that their privileged status resides in is sadly unimaginable. I need to teach my daughter to shoot.

  • avatar
    jmo

    The human driver was cited – end of story. Why shouldn’t humans be expected to know and obey the rules of the road?

  • avatar
    jmo

    Autonomous vehicle victim in minor fender bender – human driver cited.

    Meanwhile, it’s just another day for the vaunted human driver:

    https://www.necn.com/news/new-england/3-Dead-in-Rollover-Crash-in-West-Brookfield-Massachusetts-455927443.html

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      despite how many people retreat into a nirvana fallacy, autonomous vehicles don’t have to be be perfect. They just have to be better than these examples of human trash:

      http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/03/31/witness-truck-driver-texas-crash-killed-13-texting/99888684/

      wncn.com/2017/10/16/teen-was-texting-in-chain-reaction-crash-with-school-bus-motorcycle-officials-say/

      that shouldn’t be a high bar.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        +1

      • 0 avatar
        Kendahl

        “despite how many people retreat into a nirvana fallacy, autonomous vehicles don’t have to be be perfect. They just have to be better than these examples of human trash”

        Wrong. Autonomous vehicles have to be better than drivers who are better than your examples. An autonomous system whose competence lies between that of a drunk driver and a sober driver benefits the drunk at the expense of the sober driver. The sober driver’s reaction will be, “Why are you rewarding the drunk’s bad behavior and punishing my good behavior?”

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      And what do we say when the first inevitable instances of autonomous-car fails hit the news wires?

      I haven’t seen any proof that autonomous cars will prove to be less fallible than human drivers. It’s all speculation at this point.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        well, assuming they’re not actually an out-sized danger, we shouldn’t say anything.

        just because something is new and unfamiliar doesn’t mean it should cause panic. Another wise man said:

        “You know what I noticed? Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even when the plan is horrifying. If tomorrow I told the press that, like, a gang-banger would get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics. Because it’s all part of the plan. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everybody loses their minds!”

        40,000 people can die every year and it’s OK because it’s caused by something we’re used to. But if one autonomous car causes a rear-end “love tap” tomorrow everyone will go all “Lunar Shuttle Mayflower Out of Coffee” bat-crap loony about how AVs are evil and an impending menace.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        Your comment reminds me of when a person with a flag had to walk ahead of those new-fangled automobile menaces.

  • avatar
    2012_117

    My guess is that autonomous-only laws will go into effect in major cities where the populace tilts left politically and relies mostly on mass transit anyway. Autonomous pods would probably require large government subsidies to function in any meaningful way in the more rural (or spread out) parts of the country. These are the places most likely to oppose that kind of legislation, anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’d say people have the right to choose whatever transportation fits their needs, be it in Manhattan, New York, or Manhattan, Kansas.

      But if autonomous driving proves to be cheaper and safer than self-driving, I don’t see why a politically conservative person would choose to pooh-pooh it.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        ” I don’t see why a politically conservative person would choose to pooh-pooh it.”

        People who instinctually lean to the right tend to be wary of new experiences. That’s probably 90% of it.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          I think we’re better off thinking of people as individuals, not as members of a group.

          It’s the latter type of thinking that has brought us to the disgusting state of affairs we’re in now.

        • 0 avatar
          doublechili

          “People who instinctually lean to the right tend to be wary of new experiences.”

          Using “experiences” is an artful turn, and kind of ironic in this case where we’re talking about being transformed from an active driver of a car to a passive passenger in a controlled pod.

          Anyway, I think most on the right are wary of ceding centralized authority to others to impose new/unproven ideas on individuals/society, both for the fact that they’re ceding authority to others to rule them and also for the potential unintended consequences of rushing into major societal changes. Those on the right tend to prefer a slower, more natural/organic progression. It’s not so much “new experiences” but how you get there and who you let run the show.

          I agree with Jack’s premise that the hybrid system won’t work well at all, and as others have posted the progression will be to reduce the number of “drivers” through insurance rate increases, and then when there are a relatively few wealthy drivers, a few well-publicized tragic crashes will lead to legislation that will finish the job. The rush to the autonomous pods is really just an end-around to the long time goal of universal mass transit.

        • 0 avatar
          markf

          “People who instinctually lean to the right tend to be wary of new experiences. That’s probably 90% of it.”

          That is about the dumbest comment ever written here

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Jack himself (in a much earlier column) speculated that autonomous cars might amplify the rural/urban divide.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Remember that JB also has a horse in this race. If all vehicles become autonomous hybrid/electric, then automotive journalism will become nothing but an historical review.

          With major urban centres starting to tax and/or limit traffic into their core, the inevitable conclusion will be either banning single/private vehicles or allowing only autonomous vehicles.

          And many large employers such as Wal-Mart are advocates of autonomous trucks. Most employers would rather hire robots/A.I. than humans. Remember to ‘follow the money’.

  • avatar
    FOG

    Based on the 34,000 deaths and 210,000,000 licensed drivers in the U.S. at that time there was a .02% chance of dying in a car crash and a .03% being struck by lightning. As a raw number 34,000 sounds like a lot, and I would not want any of my family to be in that number, I just don’t see the possible trends going much lower with autonomous vehicles. I actually see it going up with hybrid incidents causing fatalities because people will not admit that computers aren’t within 20 years being as smart as a toddler.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Making up your own numbers are you? The lifetime chance of being killed in a car accident is 1:645. The lifetime chance of dying due to lightning are 1:161,856. You’re 250 times more likely to die in a car.

      https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-mortality-risk

      • 0 avatar
        FOG

        No. I googled “number of licensed drivers in 2008” The value came up for 2009 at just over 210 million. (34,000/210,000,000) x 100 = .02% I then googled “the odds of getting struck by lightning in the U.S.” and got .03% Because the 34,000 was for 1 year, the odds are calculated for 1 year in the U.S. See you have to read what I typed not what you wanted me to type to make yourself feel smart. Being “struck” by lightning does not being “killed” by lightning as your link pointed to. Sorry that math got in the way of your rant.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          “The odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000.”

          “Risk of dying in a car accident (in one year): 1 in 6,700”

          And that 1:700,000 number is the chance of being struck not the chance of dying.

          • 0 avatar
            FOG

            Oops, I read the wrong line of the lightning strike that I googled. So you are right that my math was off.

            My point is that people say 34,000 deaths a year is a statistically significant number. It is not in a country with 325 million people. Also, autonomous vehicles will drastically reduce that because they react to only a limited stimuli. Humans avoid accidents based on intuitive thoughts or minor corrections based on what they hear, that computers cannot identify. Computers cannot even simulate this. Also, there will be trade-offs that create more fatalities with autonomous vehicles that can’t be quantified now.

            That being said, I was off-base with my arrogance because of my inability to read.

  • avatar
    King of Eldorado

    I see a couple of other less bleak possibilities. First, the technology will continue to improve, such that, for example, the shuttle in the Las Vegas accident would have noticed the truck moving into its space, checked its virtual rear-view mirror, and backed away or taken other appropriate action.

    Second, I see possibilities for hybrid autonomous/human driven vehicles in which electronics would take over if the human driver did something stupid. We already see a version of this in current cars with adaptive cruise control that applies the brakes to prevent a rear-end crash, lane-keeping assist, and electronic stability systems that selectively apply braking to rescue human drivers from skids they caused. These autonomous/human hybrids would allow full human control on fun-to-drive bendy two-lanes. I.e., the best of both worlds.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Does everyone really believe that when we have 200 million computers running down the road that none of them will ever need a reboot or have a system crash at some point? Just how many redundant systems and levels of protection are needed to give people comfort? If everyone has experienced a system crash on their home pc at some point, how do we get comfort that a pc driving you around outside in crazy climates and pothole filled roads will never suffer a breakdown?

    And don’t get me started on the potential for computer hacking!

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “Does everyone really believe that when we have 200 million computers running down the road that none of them will ever need a reboot or have a system crash at some point?”

      So what if they do? Humans fall asleep at the wheel and kill themselves and others every day. The computers just need to be safer than humans, which as was mentioned above, isn’t a high bar .

      • 0 avatar
        Alfisti

        SOME humans do, I don’t so why would i welcome introducing a new risk?

        You all make the mistake of global numbers without thinking of the individual.

      • 0 avatar
        Ermel

        “The computers just need to be safer than humans, which as was mentioned above, isn’t a high bar.”

        No: the computers need to be safer than we humans THINK we are. As long as, after an AI crashes a car, “I would have avoided that” seems credible, you’ll be getting articles like this one.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      nothing’s perfect, but embedded systems/controllers tend to be a lot less complex than e.g. your smartphone or PC operating system. the former tend to be more of a “you’ve got one job to do” while the latter are “you need to provide ways for the user to do everything they want.”

    • 0 avatar
      Yay_Cars

      you realize of course that the vast majority of cars are currently run by computers… right?

    • 0 avatar
      Yay_Cars

      Um, the vast majority of cars (and all modern vehicles) are currently run by computers already. I think you’re meaning to complain about the sensor systems.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      I know what you mean about computers crashing, but Vancouver’s driverless Skytrain light rail transit system has been running since 1976 without a single collision. Granted drivers take over the trains when things get really screwed up.

      I was nervous when they replaced the OS/2 process control software with Windows stuff, but still no crashes.

      • 0 avatar
        markf

        You are going to compare a train, on tracks with no or very little “traffic” to a car in a city like NY?

        My Lionel Christmas train runs like clockwork and it has never crashed.And it doesn’t not even have a computer, problem solved, autonomous it is!

  • avatar
    alff

    I’m anticipating making a few extra bucks off insurers of autonomous vehicles, once there are enough of them around that I can identify the liability generating bugs in their logic.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    So, had the truck also had autonomous ability how long would the two vehicles sit motionless because the truck stopped so it wouldn’t hit the shuttle and the shuttle stopped so it wouldn’t be hit by the truck. Now traffic is backed up behind and those autonomous vehicles don’t know they have to back up to allow the shuttle to backup to let the truck by.

    {begin facetiousness}
    How many people have to die of thirst in Vegas sitting in shuttle before we fix it! {end facetiousness}

    • 0 avatar
      alff

      A problem easily addressed by allowing autonomous vehicles to communicate with each other.

    • 0 avatar
      alff

      A problem easily addressed by allowing autonomous vehicles to communicate with each other.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      Deadlock resolving subroutines are nothing new in software.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        Yet software still deadlocks all the time because the situation causing the deadlock was never predicted. Eventually it will get worked out.

        But we have to concede that the deadlock might be the safest and best possible outcome. Yes, if its blocking traffic then its a hassle until some stimuli comes along to change the deadlock condition. But thats better than an accident or a death.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        Yet software still deadlocks all the time because the situation causing the deadlock was never predicted. Eventually it will get worked out.

        But we have to concede that the deadlock might be the safest and best possible outcome. Yes, if its blocking traffic then its a hassle until some stimuli comes along to change the deadlock condition. But thats better than an accident or a death.

  • avatar
    Yay_Cars

    This kind of demagoguery pisses me off… Jack’s selectively ignoring so much data (e.g. Waymo track record) and being insulting (“big brains on the left coast”) that I’m genuinely disappointed in TTAC for publishing this.

    (Also… I acknowledge it’s easy to suck me in to the debate… and that publishing articles with this tone drives traffic and engagement… but really what is any of this accomplishing?)

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    Bob Lutz says within 20 years driving a car will be something done at private tracks out in the country, everything else will be autonomous

    http://www.businessinsider.com/bob-lutz-says-cars-are-over-2017-11

    I think he’s right generally, but more like 40 years..

  • avatar
    Rob Cupples

    In the case of the Las Vegas “crash,” a human driver most likely would have backed away from the truck, possibly while banging on the horn and/or yelling something impolite, and the accident would have been avoided.

    So reprogram the robot to blow the horn, yell something impolite through a speaker, and if possible back away.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      Not necessarily. You have only a rough appreciation of the event.

      If you were there, would you have had time to back up safely? You don’t even know if there was a vehicle dehind or approaching from behind.

      Would you have even considered backing up? Bear in mind you would have no way of knowing whether the truck driver was going to stop, which would be your default assumption.

      Enough of the “dumb” autonomous car bs.

  • avatar
    Mathias

    I plan to get an autonomous car as soon as one is available where I’m not responsible for anything. Assuming the price isn’t completely out of reach.

    So long as I have to keep my hands on the wheel or have to be ready to take over at a moment’s notice, I’d just as soon do the driving myself. I’ll monitor my own blind spots, thank you very much.

    When the cars are here, I’ll get a nice interior and absolutely the smallest, weakest engine available. I’m not driving the damned thing, I don’t care how it accelerates. I’ll be the guy in back reading a book.

    It seems we all agree autonomous cars are the future, whether we think that’s good or bad.

    I believe we have no idea yet how this will play out. What will people value about their cars? A private space that you know is clean and that you don’t have to share with anyone? If that’s not the important to people, car-sharing will soar… but I have my doubts that that will happen.

    What happens to parking? Will I be allowed to let the silly thing roam the streets while I run a 5 minute errand? How about two hours? Will people still want to live close to work, or will the commute not be a burden?

    As far as a timeline, it’s impossible to predict at this time. The technology is more or less here — as has been said, it’s not like the human competition sets the bar very high. But how do we get started properly? I do have one prediction: Once a significant number of these cars are on the road, it’ll be very clear very soon that human drivers are a terrible idea. The change to autonomous vehicles will start slowly and then become a landslide.

    No matter what, it’ll be an interesting topic for years to come.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      “I plan to get an autonomous car as soon as one is available where I’m not responsible for anything.”

      You could be found liable in a court of law if you hadn’t installed the latest software patch that became available after you’d left for work that morning, and your car caused an accident. Oh, and as for the ‘automatic over-the-wire update service,’ you will never, ever be out of cell phone range, the transceivers never go down, and, with with gigabyte software updates over megabit bandwidth CDMA, who’s liable in the 10 hours the update requires to transmit and install?

      Truckers may be SOL, but lawyers will have job security for decades.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      It seems we all agree flying battery-powered cars charged with electrons from limitless nuclear fusion power are the future, whether we think that’s good or bad.
      Where are the flying cars promised me so many years ago? Where is my instant charge battery? Why don’t we have nuclear fusion electric generation when it first was bruited as “around the corner” when Harry Truman was president?
      Rock solid AI vehicles, I think, are similar unicorns. As long as I have to lay a hand on the controls, common sense and tort lawyers will carry the day that I’m responsible. If I’m responsible, then you have to let me drive or my tort lawyer will sue the manufacturer who impeded my necessary actions to avoid an accident.

  • avatar
    Rick

    Jack (and YES Bob LUTZ!) is right. People on this site may not want this but it will happen.

    Insurance rates will go up and up. And if you are ever in an accident it will be assumed that it’s your fault and you will be liable for everything. Stats will “show” that areas that only allow driverless cars are safer than ‘mixed” environments. You obviously screwed up. Think red light cameras. Guilty until proven innocent.

    Heck autonomous vehicles don’t even need to be perfect just barely good enough. A half million lives are at stake!!!!!

    https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2150.html

    TLDR: “Results suggest that more lives will be saved the sooner Highly Automated Vehicles are deployed”.

    You want to actually DRIVE your own vehicle? You Sociopath!

    City centers first, cities in general second, and then highways to coexist with driverless 18 wheelers.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Teething problem, this is expected until drivers are used to autonomous cars around them.

    Back then horses don’t know what to do around cars either.

  • avatar
    Whittaker

    Why is JimZ still posting on TTAC?
    Are the rules BS or are some people exempt?

    • 0 avatar

      Show me personal attacks.

      • 0 avatar
        Whittaker

        “Show me personal attacks.”
        ___________________________

        “…he wouldn’t be able to do so. he’d just regurgitate a bunch of talking points he got from InfoWars, Breitbart and Fox News.
        ‘cos it seems the vast majority of these Internet Woman Haters are obese neckbearded slobs who don’t realize the reason they can’t get a date is because of their own odious personalities and slovenly appearances…”

        “…depends. did you suck that question out of the end of Alex Jones’s c**k?…”

        “…no we aren’t, you a$$hole. you’ve gladly been force-fed the Limbaugh “feminazi” narrative…”

        “…so, they’re saying “if you’re not a woman, you can’t know what it’s like to be a woman” and you’re stupid enough to *disagree* with that?…”

        There’s plenty more plus a year of periodic political hackery in the history of this poster. I don’t really care if TTAC’s rules are tissue paper as long as we all get the blind monkey response when we wipe our asses with them.
        Now show me something.

  • avatar
    guardian452

    But our esteemed author is forgetting the fact that as driverless cars become more popular, those still behind the wheel will be the automotive *enthusiast* like himself who has never once bent a bumper or knocked into a curb; none of the self-righteous gearheads left driving with their gas motor and stick shifts would ever cause an accident, let alone with an autonomous car, no!

    Meanwhile, mamma Jo and cousin Diane will be whisked from point A to point B without so much as half a glance up from their smartphone. Those so-called “bad drivers” will be the first in line to get a self-driving car.

    So the next hypothetical question is, would you rather be on the road with a bunch of clueless knobs, or a bunch of testosterone-filled speed junkies weaving around commuter pods?

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I don’t really understand how this can really even be a debate in a country with no real drivers training, close to no driver skill testing, and where manual transmissions have a 3% market share.
    Almost no one in the US wants to drive at all, and they certainly don’t want to be taught how to.
    Unlike guns you don’t need human driven cars to protect you from rapists or burglars, so it will beeven easier to ban them than it is to ban your children from accidentally killing their friends (or parents, or shooting range instructors)

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      “I don’t really understand how this can really even be a debate in a country with no real drivers training, close to no driver skill testing, and where manual transmissions have a 3% market share.
      Almost no one in the US wants to drive at all, and they certainly don’t want to be taught how to.”

      No, people want to drive, they just want to listen to arrogant, condescending, busy bodies like you lecture us.

  • avatar
    RamblerAmerican

    This incident shows that software engineers for autonomous vehicles need to carefully think through an enormous range of possible human-influenced events that can occur in the real world. They also need to consider a wide range of weather-related events that could impair operation of the vehicle and its sensors.

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    In the future there will be two classes of people on the highway: Drivers and Riders.
    1.) A license to drive a non-autonomous vehicle will be much more difficult to qualify for and acquire than your current driver’s license. It will become more like a pilot’s license with annual training, testing and a physical examination. Eating, drinking perhaps nose picking and even the latest technologically inspired distractions will be punishable by fines and possible jail time or the revocation of one’s driver’s license. This will be a good thing.
    2.) Everyone else, from the age of 4 to 104 will be able to ride in their family’s autonomous vehicle or order one from a transpo company to stop by to pick them up, drop them off and schedule a return trip when requested.
    3.) Part of the new evolving model of human transportation will include group driver insurance policies. For instance vintage Miata owners will band together for lower insurance rates set up around their preferred use patterns, weekend coverage, less than 200 miles a month, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      “… A license to drive a non-autonomous vehicle will be much more difficult to qualify for and acquire than your current driver’s license. It will become more like a pilot’s license with annual training, testing and a physical examination. Eating, drinking perhaps nose picking and even the latest technologically inspired distractions will be punishable by fines and possible jail time or the revocation of one’s driver’s license. This will be a good thing. …”

      I approach driving a car with this attitude already. Maybe because I am a pilot. I don’t think a BFR for drivers is necessary, as the regs for driving don’t change as often as the FARs do.

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      “In the future there will be two classes of people on the highway: Drivers and Riders.” Ahh, the future,so much promised, so little delivered.

  • avatar

    With the exception of being able to travel the interstate highway system without worrying about falling asleep at the wheel, autonomous cars remove many of the advantages of a personal automobile.

    Will V2V protocols and government regs let you set your own speed? Take the routes you want to take? When you want to take them?

    The personal automobile gives you a lot of freedom in choosing your route, your speed, your time of travel.

    Will your autonomous car enter a gridlocked freeway? Will it know what alternate routes to take on your way home when the other side of the freeway is jammed up? What if you want to take the scenic route?

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      Offcourse they will not let you set your own speed.
      Letting autonomous cars decide the speed will be much more efficient and safer, for everyone.
      They should theoretically never slow down traffic, or put their occupants (or others citizens) at risk, and the traffic flow should be a lot better when all cars think alike.

      Since there should be no gridlocked highways it shouldn’t be a problem, but I doubt they will deny you the right to choose your own route. Unless that route will get you to your destination later than you have specifically told it to arrive.
      For the most part I think most cars will retain a manual override for the forseeable future although it may be restricted in certain areas, and certain drivers. (like, you don’t want your children or a carjacker to be able to manually drive your car)

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    As long as there is a human sitting behind the wheel, liability will be assigned to them – whether they’re in a Level 2 or Level 5 autonomous vehicle, or a vehicle with no autonomy.

    The issue comes down to who will be writing checks for insurance claims. It won’t be the machines or their mfrs.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    “The Way We Drive, We Deserve Autonomous Cars.”

    by Jack Baruth, Road and Track, August 7, 2017.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    What happens the 1st time an autonomous car gets rear-ended?

  • avatar
    dont.fit.in.cars

    Much to to about nothing. World is full of big brain ideas failing not because of execution, but what’s between the ears of normal folks.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    So if the car drives itself will the Cadillac style glovebox minibar be making a comeback? I like driving, but I really like good Bourbon.

  • avatar

    Most likely someone has already mentioned this. Jack is right of course. All autonomous or all human driven will work. Going forward toward autonomous, one side of this equation will necessarily need to be restricted to the area it can legally operate in. We deal with one way streets or “no autos” already, so it would not be difficult to do so when autonomous hits the streets for real. Will it be “uncomfortable” – of course it will. Park and rides will be transition points for those who still want to/have to self drive their own vehicles. As fewer human driven vehicles are on the streets, the areas for autonomous only will expand. It can happen, but some/many will find it unpleasant. Such is the march towards tomorrow.


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