Beth, the issues you cite are why autonomous vehicles won't catch on for a long time. Most of us don't want to give up control, and for good reason. How often do our computers break down? How often do our cars break down? When they do, we want to be in control.
I agree with much of what you say, Tool_Maker, but unfortunately, not all the cars are built for you and me. As appalling as it may seem to us, automakers want to appeal to a large swath of consumers (mostly younger) who want this stuff in their cars.
I read the article and all of the accomopanying posts (to this point) and have yet to see how this really makes the vehicle better. Will all of these toys make the vehicle last longer? Get better mileage? Handle better in snow, rain or other hazardous driving conditions?
Autonomous driving? How is that going to work unless all vehicles are so equipped? What computer programming is going to account for a 16 year-old driver doing something stupid to impress a carload of kids? Until all vehicles are driving autonomously, I do not think any can safely anywhere other than a test track.
Rather than spend millions of dollars on electronic toys to amuse the driver, how about spending aome time designing an engine where I can get at the spark plugs. Or a body than can survive a 10mph rear ending without costing thousands to repair.
You may find this hard to believe, but I have been driving for almost 50 years and have never had the need to check e-mails or download a game. video or some fancy app while tooling down the road.
I would step foot in the car as a novelty and perhaps on a trip that's straight and narrow--a highway jaunt where you sometimes rely on Cruise Control. That said, I'd still act like I was in the driver's seat.
That's the thing with Cruise Control--you're still acting like you're at the wheel and giving the drive your attention. With autonomous driving, it seems like you're encouraged to do other things--eat, text, email. That just doesn't seem right. If you don't want to drive (as Rob says), take the bus, hop a train, call a cab.
Regarding the generational aspect: I couldn't agree more, Rob. I remember my father saying he would never trust a car without a clutch. Before him, I'm sure there were family members who said they would never set foot in an airplane. That said, I wouldn't set foot in an autonomous vehicle.
You're right, Chuck, it may take time for us to accept autonomous driving, but the technology is already there. The Google car you mentioned actually drove from Google's headquarters in the Valley down to the Google office in L.A., so the car knows how to handle roads that remain a challenge for me.
The acceptance will come generationally, like most technology acceptance. I may feel uncomfortable about autonomous driving, but my 15-year-old daughter would embrace it quickly. She doesn't want to drive, she wants to text.
RadioGuy, I think number 2 -- using the cell phone -- is the logical way to go. And yes, cell phone companies will want to charge for the extended bandwidth use. But anyone who has a teenager is already paying the additional fees.
Cell phones are moving at a quick speed to add functionality and speed. Seems that's the logical tool, since it leads the mobile world and there is sufficient competition in cell phones to ensure ongoing development.
There are several evolutionary paths that may each be viable, but are competing with each other.
(1) Let the car host a WLAN to which laptops, smartphones in WiFi mode and the car's own systems can connect. This is what the in-car router is about. The Internet side of that router is a 3G, Wi-Max or 4G radio. Currently the service subscription for that costs about $40-$50 per month. You could view that at an evolutionary increment to the low-speed cell-phone subscription that many cars already have for On-Star and other "SOS Service" as well as for traffic updates to the Nav Systems. For most users, this is a bit expensive. Heck, I'm not even sure I will keep the "SOS" subscription for my Prius after the expiration of the "free" service for the first year that was bundled with the car.
(2) Let the car use the data service on the user's cellphone. That's an obvious evolutionary increment to how the car provides hands-free speakerphone support for my cellphone via a bluetooth hookup. This could use my cellphone as the internet connection for an in-car Wi-Fi network. The cellphone companies do not like us to do this (often called tethering) because it allows us to use more bandwidth from our cellphone. Frankly, I'd be happy to pay an additional $10 per month (but not a lot more than that) for my cellphone data plan to allow the phone to become a Wi-Fi access point for the benefit of my car and my laptop while travelling. But until this become "the standard way of doing it", we will not see cars become compatible with it.
Another issue that will become huge in the next 5 years is this: We have all experienced how a car radio wears out between 5 and 10 years of age (actually, it is usually the CD player that develops mechanical problems and forces replacement). Now that we no longer have a "car radio" but an integrated entertainment/navigation/vehicle management system, what is the field replaceable unit? Will this kill the ability to get an inexpensive aftermarket replacement system that is better than the original? Will we be stuck with having to buy a "new" (obsolete) $2,000 info/nav/computer from the car dealership's parts department when that CD drive goes bad?
A recently released government report has raised the hopes of automakers looking for a break on future fuel economy regulations, despite the warnings of an Environmental Protection Agency official who said the agency is unlikely to back down on its goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025.
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