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Driving is one of those tasks that is so tedious, dangerous, and demanding that it almost screams to be handled by robots.  Recently, the technology has finally begun to The Transportation Of Tomorrow: Awesome Inventions That May Transform How We Commute The Transportation Of Tomorrow: Awesome Inventions That May Transform How We Commute The course of human civilization has always been shaped by transportation. The transportation of tomorrow may not solve all these problems, but it may solve some – and it’s important to give the matter thought... Read More to catch up with common sense.  The elevator pitch for self driving cars is a no-brainer.

1.2 million people die in car accidents every year, and 50,000 are maimed.  We could save almost all of those lives.  Millions of people waste billions of hours commuting . Now they can work, watch Netflix, or read a book. Robot cars would let us get rid of parking lots and traffic jams.

Blind people, the elderly, and people too young to drive would be able move around freely without a human driver.  The savings in lives, dollars, and productivity is incalculable.  Machines don’t get drunk, tired, or distracted.  They follow traffic laws exactly.  These are things that everybody wants, with far-reach implications The Shocking Effects Of The Google Driverless Car [INFOGRAPHIC] The Shocking Effects Of The Google Driverless Car [INFOGRAPHIC] The future is closer than you might think. Thanks to Google's top secret research department, Google X, driverless cars are now a reality and could be hitting the mainstream in the not too distant future.... Read More — the hundred billion-dollar question is, how long is it going to take us to get there?

A World of Driverless Cars

Google describes the project in a recent blog update like this:

“Ever since we started the Google self-driving car project, we’ve been working toward the goal of vehicles that can shoulder the entire burden of driving. Just imagine: You can take a trip downtown at lunchtime without a 20-minute buffer to find parking. Seniors can keep their freedom even if they can’t keep their car keys. And drunk and distracted driving? History. […] they will take you where you want to go at the push of a button. And that’s an important step toward improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people.”

Autonomous cars have been something of a hot topic in recent years, with Google leading the charge.  Google has driven its fleet of experimental robot cars more than 1.1 million kilometers without serious incident, and recently premiered a new low-speed electric prototype to fine-tune city driving – with no steering wheel or brakes whatsoever.

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Outside Google, Toyota, Honda, and Ford all have their own self-driving car projects, although none of them are nearly as advanced as Google’s.  In fact, several automakers have dismissed the idea of fully autonomous cars out of hand as too challenging, focusing instead on driver assistance features.

Google, for its part, has outlined an aggressive timeline to commercialization, hoping to partner with automakers to release autonomous vehicles, running Google software and manufactured by third parties before the close of the decade.  In fact, Google intends these vehicles to hit the market no later than 2018.  So what’s standing in the way of that goal?

toyotarobotcar

Technological Challenges

Google’s prototype is really, really good — but it isn’t perfect.  Here’s how the car works now:

The primary sense organ of the robot is a spinning LIDAR turret on the roof of the car.  The LIDAR turret paints the world around the car with an infrared laser beam at very high speed.  By recording the position and intensity of laser light reflected back, a simple machine vision algorithm can quickly compute a three-dimensional map of the objects around the car many times a second, allowing it to identify objects like cars, pedestrians, sidewalks, and traffic cones.

The car, as a secondary sense, has a number of cameras that it uses to gather additional information about the world around it (identifying signals from cyclists and other cars, and reading the status of traffic lights and signs).  Finally, the car has a GPS, which tells it, to within a few meters’ accuracy, where it is located in space.

LIDAR

None of these senses are good enough, on their own, to direct the car, but by using clever software to fuse these data sources together, the car is able to make intelligent driving decisions.  To make the task easier, Google has been using streetview cars with LIDAR turrets on them for years – cars that, along with providing you with weird journeys into the past Travel Back In Time With Google Street View Travel Back In Time With Google Street View Google Street View has been the best tool to travel around the world in eighty seconds. Now, a simple but fun update on Google Street View allows you to roll back time. Read More , have been systematically 3d mapping streets all over the world.

All of this data has been meticulously tagged to let the car’s computer know the positions of traffic lights, and what the speed limits and lane designations are for each road.

The robot can fine-tune its GPS position by comparing its current LIDAR data to old 3d maps of the street it’s on, to ensure that it doesn’t drift out of its lane (this also allows it to navigate when GPS isn’t an option, like when it’s driving through a tunnel or a parking garage).  Furthermore, the car can access the metadata for its local environment to tell it when the speed changes and to know where to look for traffic signals.

This combination of hardware and software can do a lot of remarkable things: it can see and predict the motions of cyclists and pedestrians.  It can identify construction cones and roads blocked by detour signs, and deduce the intentions of traffic cops with signs.

It can handle four-way-stops, adjust its speed on the highway to keep up with traffic, and even adjust its driving to make the ride comfortable for its human payload.  The software is also aware of its own blind spots, and behaves cautiously when there might be cross-traffic or a pedestrian hiding in them.

There are, unfortunately, also some things that the car can’t do.  The biggest issue is weather: Google’s cars have mostly been tested in California.  In a larger roll-out across the world, autonomous cars will need to cope gracefully with flash flooding, heavy fog, and deep snow.  Which is a problem, because all of those seriously mess with the heavy lifter of the robot’s senses: the LIDAR.

Snow and standing water scatter the laser beam, making it difficult to reliably collect data, and fog or heavy rain can dramatically cut the distance the LIDAR can see.  Without a reliable LIDAR, the robot is literally dead in the water.

Fixing the weather problem is still an open area of research.  If we’re lucky, it may be possible to use clever noise-filtering algorithms to extract meaningful data even from weather-clouded LIDAR, or shift the burden to the cameras, allowing the robot to continue to maneuver, although probably at a reduced speed.

If not, it may be necessary to add a new suite of sensors (perhaps SONAR or RADAR) to give the robot 3d mapping capabilities even in the event of LIDAR failure.  Either way, Google’s working on it.

googlecar1

A deeper problem, though, is what’s called the long tail.  Think of it like this: the majority of driving that self-driving cars will be asked to do is on the freeway. For a robot, freeway driving is easy.  The next use case would probably be low-speed city driving in good weather, which robots are also pretty good at.

Unfortunately, even though these represent probably 90% of all the driving situations the cars will ever face, they aren’t the only two possibilities.  What about parades?  What about ambulances? Rock slides?  Car accidents? Flat tires? Jaywalking dogs?  Road construction? Tornadoes? Getting pulled over by the police?

The point is that as you go down the list of cases the car has to handle, sorted by probability, you find that there are an almost infinite number of them, each with a tiny slice of the probability pie.  You can’t hard code behavior for every possibility.

You have to accept that eventually your robot car will encounter something you didn’t plan for, and will behave incorrectly.  It might even get people killed.  The best you can do is try to cover enough cases well enough that the robot is still safer to use than a human-directed car.

Right now, the Google car isn’t quite far enough down that list yet, but it is starting to get close, and Google is working on developing safe fallback behavior to ensure that the car won’t actively harm anyone, even in the case of software failure or unanticipated driving conditions.

Google’s method of building up these cases is clever: the company has a policy that when the car makes an error, or a human is forced to take control, the incident is logged, and the software is revised until it can pass simulated versions of the same scenario.  Any large-scale changes to the software is tested against this database of incidents to ensure that nothing has been inadvertently broken.

There are softer limitations as well – the LIDAR turrets used by the robots currently clock in at more than $30,000.  The good news here is that this is largely because those LIDAR turrets are a specialty item used for only a few applications.  Mass production will certainly bring those costs down.

Furthermore, if self-driving cars are adopted under the cab model (likely provided by Google’s protege, Uber), the needed ratio of cars to car users will likely be low: people going to similar places can be carpooled together by centralized routing software in exchange for reduced fees, and cars can maintain more or less continuous usage.  This reduces the cost per user dramatically, even if the cars themselves are very expensive.

Legal Challenges

Self driving cars sound pretty much like a grocery list of things that scare regulators: autonomous robots with lethal force, disruptive new technology, mechanized unemployment, and large corporations putting millions of cameras all over the world.

Robot cars will probably kill people (though at a rate much lower than human drivers), they’ll displace millions of truck drivers and hundreds of thousands of cab drivers, and they’ll provide Google with an enormous amount of personal data about their users.  Needless to say, there’s going to be some resistance to getting self-driving cars legalized, particularly since they require major overhauls to the regulatory infrastructure already in play.

In order for self driving cars to become a legal, mainstream part of our lives, we’re going to have to give up on some very old legal precepts: including the idea that the human being in the driver’s seat of a car is responsible for its actions.

The states that have issued preliminary regulation to allow for the testing of autonomous vehicles (including California and Nevada) have employed a variety of legal shortcuts to allow the research to take place.

In California, for example, the person who initiates the car’s journey is legally the operator, even if they aren’t actually in the car at the time.  This is an obviously inadequate long-term answer, as this means that (for example) the operator could be charged with DUI, even if they were nowhere near the vehicle that they dispatched while drinking.

California hopes to release more permanent regulation for such consumer vehicles by early 2015, but Consumer Watchdog, an independent advocacy group, is lobbying for them to delay the regulation for eighteen months to allow more thorough safety testing.

Google hopes to encourage lawmakers to place liability for the car’s actions with the manufacturers of the self-driving hardware, which they see as the fairest way to distribute blame: it seems silly for the law to hold a human operator responsible for behavior that they have no control over.

googlecar2

The regulators involved admit that legislating for autonomous vehicles is a difficult problem:

“We’re really good at licensing drivers and regulating vehicles and the car sales industry, but we don’t have a lot of expertise in developing those types of standards,” Soublet said. “So as we start approaching things like that, we have to back off. We don’t have the technical ability to do it. We have to come at this from a regulatory perspective of what we as a department are capable of.”

They do, however, agree that the field is worth the effort.

“It’s an issue that draws you in. It’s our future. We find it very exciting to work on […] Brian [Soublet] and I, we can’t believe that we’re working on this. It’s something that will change the way that we all live.”

Federal regulation is on its way, but may not arrive for several years.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a preliminary statement on the issue, in which it expressed some enthusiasm for the prospect of fully autonomous vehicles.

“America is at a historic turning point for automotive travel.  Motor vehicles and drivers’ relationships with them are likely to change significantly in the next ten to twenty years, perhaps more than they have changed in the last one hundred years.”

However, the NHTSA also seems unprepared to issue any clear regulation in the forseeable future, and plans mostly to leave these regulatory issues in the hands of individual states, raising the possibility of poorly regulated states being ‘dead zones’ that autonomous cars on cross-country road trips must avoid.  This is where the good news starts.  The hopeful mother of these machines is Google, which also happens to be one of the largest lobby juggernauts in the United States (it ranks eighth, beating out Boeing and Lockheed Martin).   Google is well prepared to guide regulation into a shape friendly to the future of autonomous vehicles.

The Road Ahead

If there’s a simple message to take away from the situation right now, it’s this: the challenges left to solve before autonomous vehicles can go mainstream are difficult, and substantial.  The technology and legal infrastructure is not currently in place to allow these vehicles to truly fulfill their potential.  However, these problems are also well defined, solvable, and being investigated by some of the smartest people on the planet.

There is a very good chance that the technology, at least, will be ready to be deployed in test markets like California and Nevada by Google’s tentative 2018 date.  There’s an even better chance that, by ten years from now, the technology will have radically transformed the way that nearly everyone on Earth lives their lives.

These changes will range from car culture (the end of automobile ownership as an adult rite of passage), the way people work and socialize, and the way we design our cities.  If these challenges can be met, it’ll be the most significant change in transportation since the invention of the automobile.

Feature Image: “The Love Bug“, by JD Hancock
Images: “Google self driving car at the Computer History Museum“, by Don DeBold, “Google Self-Driving Car“, by Roman Boed, “Toyota self-driving car“, David Berkowitz, “Velodyne High-Def LIDAR“, Steve Jurvetson

  1. Ejmfoley
    July 26, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    These types of attacks don't happen often - yet. But the more connected cars become, the more vulnerable they'll get. It's already been demonstrated that the steering, brakes, accelerator, windows, locks, trunk, and/or entertainment/navigation system of various cars can be hacked into, taken over, and controlled remotely. At the same time these cars were being controlled remotely, the driver had no input. Windows could be opened and closed. Maps and directions could be altered. Even the actual driving could be taken over on some vehicles. Stomping on the brakes or trying to steer had no effect on what the cars did; they did what the hacker wanted them to. This is possible with present day vehicles that require a driver and have limited connectivity compared to driverless cars. What happens when there are thousands or millions of vehicles that all depend entirely on being connected? The larger the attack vector grows, the juicier it will get for the bad guys.

    • Andre I
      July 26, 2014 at 9:53 pm

      Self driving cars aren't any more vulnerable than Onstar cars. Quite a bit less, actually, I'd wager, because unlike whatever no-name company Onstar hired to do their computer security, Google isn't stupid. It IS possible to design secure systems (at least secure enough that tampering with them requires physically gaining access to the car's computer memory and installing your own firmware) -- and, at that point, you might as well just install a bomb or cut a brake line.

  2. Ejmfoley
    July 26, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    There's one significant factor that wasn't even mentioned in the article: security. How are the companies selling these vehicles going to prevent hacking? With promises? Corporations can't keep lists of names and credit card numbers secure, and there's no end in sight. Now I'm supposed to climb into one of these vehicles and trust that nobody is going to hack into it? Without a completely new security model in place, you can count me out of being a test dummy. When some punk with a joystick steers you into oncoming traffic just to show that he can, I hope it isn't me in the other lane.

    • Andre I
      July 26, 2014 at 9:05 pm

      If you drive an Onstar-enabled car, you're already vulnerable to this kind of attack. You'll notice they don't happen very often, even given the number of vulnerable OnStar cars on the road. Google's also really, really good at computer security. You have to weigh how much you're afraid of hackers against how much you're afraid of, for example, drunks.

  3. Gregori G
    July 23, 2014 at 2:15 am

    This project will change the life and create a post-selfdrving Era. But...Another big problem you did not mention, is that the owners of the world still trust in Fossil Energy Sources, and I doubt the will accept loosing their source of Income, for a car that is: more efficient, intelligent, may allow people to share transportation, will significantly reduce the amount of cars, will not contaminate.

    That a big barrier they have to deal with. Hope the project succeeds.

  4. Me
    July 23, 2014 at 2:01 am

    Driving is tedious? No. Commuting is (sometimes) tedious. Get a sportscar dude!

  5. Ken Bartsch
    July 23, 2014 at 1:46 am

    As long as we're redesigning cars, streets and cities, let's reconsider mass transit. It's still cheaper, safer and easier than automobiles. It's just not as accessible and, when the highways are not congested, takes more time. Because trains and buses are moving much of the time, they require less storage and parking space. Cars are, by definition, heavy items used to transport very light items. Car use more energy moving themselves than their passengers. Can this ratio be reversed in the foreseeable future.
    The biggest obstacle to mass transit is the American fetish with personal freedom: my car, my way, my convenience, my mess, my death, etc. When that particular philosophy goes out of fashion, we'll be more open to travelling en masse, and enjoying one another's company.

    • Andre Infante
      July 23, 2014 at 2:14 am

      Mass transit is definitely part of the solution, but I'd be careful before blaming Americans and their damn individualism for all of society's ills. I've ridden the bus in downtown Albuquerque. Having your own space where strangers can't proposition you, vomit on you, or harass you for spare cash is really pretty nice. Not having to enjoy the company of an unfiltered firehose of humanity is a wonderful feature of non-mass transit.

      Furthermore, the use of trains of busses in the US poses a number of unique challenges, above and beyond cultural resistance. The US is very very big, and very spread out. A whole lot of people live very far apart. Reaching all of the towns in the US with trains would be a monumental infrastructure investment and would take many years. Mass transit in the US is quite a lot harder than it is in a country like Japan, which you could lose in Texas without much trouble.

  6. John Williams
    July 22, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Can't wait for this, commuting as a bind, it is boring and prone to grief as attention wanders into boredom because of over familiarity with the route.

    My robot car would take the tedium out of long distance motorway trips and leave me alert to tackle the suburban part at the end of the journey.
    Same would apply to truckers. Expert driving skills in the small streets, stress free highway drag.

    My robot car would also learn every tiny detail of my daily commute and would clang and klaxon loudly when anything out of the ordinary was happening that I was blind to. I swear that if a man in a bear suit ran down the white line in a rush hour, most commuters wouldn't even register his existance.

    Face it, when was the last time you snicked the shift down to third for the bend on the hill on the glorius coast road? Last year on holiday when you rented that vintage coupe? When did you really last experience "the joys of yesteryear motoring?" Or "the thrill of the open road?"

    For most day to day driving, please, bring on the robots, give me the radar, sonar, lasers. Make 'em by the million, make 'em cheap. May as well do something useful with cars until the battery technology catches up ......

  7. Richard
    July 22, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Why would I need a driverless car when I can already whizz around in the flying car that was promised by the last generation of futurists? Right now I would settle for a GPS that routes properly. Let's see if they can get that right first.

    • Andre Infante
      July 22, 2014 at 7:51 pm

      The issue with flying cars isn't that we can't build them -- it's that it takes an enormous amount of energy to levitate a Buick, and they're unsafe and expensive besides. Nobody wants a flying car badly enough to pay for the construction, fuel, and insurance needed.

      I'm not convinced that similar insurmountable barriers exist to self-driving cars.

    • dragonmouth
      July 22, 2014 at 8:24 pm

      "when I can already whizz around in the flying car that was promised by the last generation of futurists?"
      Aren't you glad you can't? :-)
      If people cannot get around safely in two dimensions and cause so many casualties, just think of the mayhem when they try to negotiate three dimensions.

      "I would settle for a GPS that routes properly."
      There is a railroad crossing in our area where cars have a tendency to bottom out and sometimes get stuck going across the tracks. About a dozen cars have been struck by the commuter trains. Yet GPS keeps directing cars down that road. This has been going on for as long as GPS has been available in cars. One would think that after the first 5 or 10 incidents, someone would reprogram the GPS system to avoid this particular road and crossing. How many similar glitches exist in the US? World-wide?

    • Richard
      July 22, 2014 at 8:51 pm

      Andre: The point about flying cars is not the specific issues, it is that technologists grossly underestimated the issues. I believe you are doing the same now. I have seen decades of the brightest in the world way off the mark on everything from voice recognition to home automation.

      I just drove halfway across the country and back while estimating the possibility of automated cars. I can see their possible use on freeways. Other than that, not in your lifetime.

  8. John Walsh
    July 22, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Good article and thought provoking. We have some way to go yet. The insurance industry is not going to walk away from a lucrative field like transport.
    On a lighter side....maybe all the out of job drivers could be employed by walking in front of driverless cars carrying a red flag!

    We cannot stop the future.....just complain about it.

    • dragonmouth
      July 22, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      "maybe all the out of job drivers could be employed by walking in front of driverless cars carrying a red flag!"
      Some states still have laws on the books that require each horseless carriage to be preceded by a person with a bell to announce its coming. Maybe those laws could be dusted off for driverless vehicles?

      "We cannot stop the future…."
      No, we cannot but we shouldn't rush willy-nilly into it, either. ALL ramifications need to be examined, although many ramifications do not become apparent until well into the future. Environmentalists pushed very hard for wind turbines as "clean, alternative energy." Now they are fighting them because it has been found that turbines are kill many birds. Nuclear powerplants were all the rage at one time but nobody throught about nuclear waste. After Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, people can't wait till all nukes are shut down and decomissioned. Who knows what unintended and/or unforseen consequences result from the hasty implementation of driverless cars?

  9. Martin
    July 22, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Forget the other reasons, this is tech we are talking about, and we all love tech. People queue for days to get their hands on the latest iphone - Wait till Apple are making cars!...

    I don't think this will be quick though, SatNav has been around for decades and is nowhere near ubiquitous or 100% accurate.

  10. Randyman5775
    July 22, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Back in the 1960's and '70's people talked about becoming a paperless society because of computing innovations. We aren't there yet, and we probably never will be. As long as we have to be concerned about power outages and communication lines going down, there will still be a need to have information in hard copy.

    Your idea of doing away with parking is similar. Where do you expect to put the robot cars when they aren't in use? Where do you expect them to be recharged? When you go to lunch, how do you expect to get back to the office if the car isn't parked nearby? If you think they'll be roaming around and you just catch the next one, then take the bus.

    The reason there are more traffic accidents is because people that aren't skilled at driving now have licenses -- simply because they have the right. Up until the 1970's many people still didn't get driver's licenses because they couldn't drive a car with a stiff clutch, couldn't shift gears without grinding them, and couldn't apply even pressure on a gas or brake pedal. Now cars are so easy to drive that everyone does, whether they ought to or not. Also, when you want to got on vacation, go camping or take a road trip, how are you going to do that with a robot car made for commuting. The batteries will get you out of town, into the desert, then leave you there to die.

    Driving is a skill. If you're going to do it, then be good at it and follow the rules of the road. That's how you avoid accidents. Most accidents occur because driver A or driver B gets distracted while tailgating or trying to get where they are going in a hurry, and does something reckless -- which is an interesting term for something that usually ends up in a wreck.

  11. Matthew J
    July 22, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Good summary of the current state . Thanks, Mr. Infante.

  12. Ryan D
    July 22, 2014 at 12:43 am

    While, like Dragonmouth, I'd love all wars to stop, and all drug abuse to end -- I will accept the modest lowering of the death toll when driverless cars become a reality. I one day hope to own one of these cars!

    At the very least, so that finally I can text and ride without worry.

    Great article Andre! This is one technology that I'm very much looking forward to.

  13. dragonmouth
    July 21, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    " fewer people are dying from war now, relative to the global population, than any time in history. Crime is at record lows. Drug abuse among 20-somethings is lower than any generation since the 1960s."
    Spoken like a politician. Cherry pick the statistics.

    "Far more Americans die each year in car crashes than because of murder and manslaughter:"
    However, the author was using world-wide traffic figures, not just US. World-wide mire people die from drugs, crime, wars, terrorism than from car accidents.

    "You can try to fight this one, but you’ll lose."
    And eventually so will everybody because of unintended consequences. But by that time it will be too late to unring the bell.

    • Justin P
      July 23, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      "World-wide mire people die from drugs, crime, wars, terrorism than from car accidents."

      Do you have that stat somewhere? I couldn't find it...

  14. dragonmouth
    July 21, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    You want to put a stop to a horrifying waste of human lives, stop the wars, stop crime, stop drug abuse. You sound like Cary Nation and her Temperance Movement. Look where her ideas got us! If it wasn't for the Prohibition, there would have been no bootleggers, no Al Capone, no Mafia, no crime syndicates, etc. Or at least they would not have developed to the degree that they did.

    Do-gooders, moralists, crusaders and people who think they know better are forever trying to save us from ourselves. Before trying to impose your views on the rest of the world, practice what you preach.

    Beware of the Law of Unintended Consequences.
    Things never turn out as planned.
    The best laid plans of mice nad men oft go awry.

    • Andre Infante
      July 21, 2014 at 9:50 pm

      Prohibition? What? I don't even.

    • Justin P
      July 21, 2014 at 10:00 pm

      We've been doing a great job at stopping the wars – fewer people are dying from war now, relative to the global population, than any time in history. Crime is at record lows. Drug abuse among 20-somethings is lower than any generation since the 1960s.

      So yeah, we've been doing that. And we've been reducing car deaths for the past 50 years thanks to various innovations, from seat belts to anti-drunk-driving campaigns. We're going to reduce it even more with driverless cars, but you'll be free to drive your car for fun at race tracks. Some people enjoy riding horses, but that doesn't mean they get to keep using our roads – and your cars will be the same way.

      There are simply too may advantages to the driverless car. You can try to fight this one, but you'll lose.

      Far more Americans die each year in car crashes than because of murder and manslaughter:
      http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=us+deaths+from+car+crashes+compared+to+us+murders

  15. Dick Holman
    July 21, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    That clever computing is done by Ubuntu, not Android.

  16. dragonmouth
    July 21, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    "Driving is one of those tasks that is so tedious, dangerous, and demanding that it almost screams to be handled by robots."
    BOVINE MANURE!!!!
    Please do not project your phobias and insecurities onto others. If YOU are scared of cars, then maybe you should stick to public transportation or walking. Better yet, stay home in bed and pull the covers over your head. That waty the Boogie Man will not see you.

    There are millions of people who enjoy driving and do it safely.

    • Andre Infante
      July 21, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      Nobody drives safely. Even if you're a perfect driver (you aren't), you can't control everyone else on the road. If you climb into a car, and feel safe, you're wrong. North of a million people a year don't come home every year (that's about one every thirty seconds). Driving cars is absurdly dangerous, and the faster we can put an end to that horrifying waste of human lives, the better.

    • Jaime Buckley
      July 22, 2014 at 4:03 pm

      Love some of the language here:
      The Google cars have functioned "without serious incident", which doesn't say what they did do and whether that holds to MY definition as to what's 'serious'.

      "Robot cars will probably kill people (though at a rate much lower than human drivers)" says who? Backed by what data? Have you tested the rate of malfunction and variables to human reaction time, weather conditions and more? Oh, wait--weather is a problem. Like here in Utah, there's no way this car would work because of the snow conditions and rapid changes in weather.

      "They’ll displace millions of truck drivers and hundreds of thousands of cab drivers," and put all these good people out of work? So you're intending to kill the backbone industry of this country too? I take that personally as there are truckers in my family.

      "...and they’ll provide Google with an enormous amount of personal data about their users." Ah, that's what Google needs, more info about all of us. Awesome.

      "Needless to say, there’s going to be some resistance to getting self-driving cars legalized, particularly since they require major overhauls to the regulatory infrastructure already in play." Ya think?

      "Google hopes to encourage lawmakers to place liability for the car’s actions with the manufacturers of the self-driving hardware, which they see as the fairest way to distribute blame: it seems silly for the law to hold a human operator responsible for behavior that they have no control over." I would think so. If I'm not driving, I'm not accountable. On top of that, why should I be paying insurance anymore? If they can't be driven by a human, I can't crash it, I can't steal it, can I? Why should I insure it then?

      I think driving UNsafe is still an irrelevant argument Andre, especially after reading this article. Normally I don't leave comments on articles from MakeUseOf, but this is pure--as dragonmouth puts is--bovine manure. The issue here, IMO, is control.

      Someone, somewhere will be in control of the robots, programs & vehicles if we are not. That being said, if for any reason, real or imagined, those in control of the devices decide to use that power/control for their own design/desire/purpose, you're screwed. Plain and simple. I'm not willing to place my life, nor the lives of my wife and children into the hands of an unknown.

      What is to stop a government agency or a powerful corporation to control where you go? Where you end up?

      Sure, nobody drives perfectly. Nobody does ANYthing perfectly, and you won't change that, so what's the point? People die for all sorts of reasons, Andre, and they will continue to die in new and ever shocking ways. It's unfortunate, but it is life. I want the freedom to act and react to what happens around me, regardless of the risks, calculations and statistics. Doesn't matter if I'm in a car, on a bike, motorcycle, skateboard, boat, you name it.

      That's not a choice you get to make for me, because I reserve that right to decide for myself and I'm willing to bet there will be a good many people who will side with that very statement.

      If you're seriously concerned about death and want these numbers to go down, how about changing your focus to alcohol resistant locks (required breath test to allow a car to start) or something like that?

      The struggle here is choice. It comes with good and bad and there are consequences for both sides. My own mother was killed in a car wreck that made national news it was so horrific, so you don't have to convince me of the seriousness here--we lost her and my baby niece. Yet the moment you start taking away freedom of choice, I see YOU as being the problem, not the cars. You want to have the robot cars, hey--have at it, just leave me out of it & expect to have a serious, continuous fight against such a proposal if you try to make any of it mandatory.

      Won't buy 'em, won't ride in 'em and I'll be interested in the new set of deaths created by them. I'll bet on humans before I'll bet on AI or data collected and manipulated BY humans. Judgement, heart, soul, intuition--they're all real and part of life.

      That's my 4 cents.

    • catweazle666
      July 23, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      Absolutely, dragonmouth!

      I enjoy driving and find it very relaxing.

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