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Can An Engineer Prevent the Unknown?

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TJ McDermott
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Re: a new approach needed
TJ McDermott   1/10/2014 11:53:07 AM
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Cameras on board rocket boosters were not common-place until after the Columbia accident.  Now, most launchers have them.  Aside from the fact that they provide way-cool images, they can be used forensically.

I haven't decided if it's a good idea or not.  Today "free" people are under surveillance much more than anyone behind the iron curtain was in the bad old cold war days.

GTOlover
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Re: Driving Skills
GTOlover   1/10/2014 10:13:28 AM
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Amen to that Critic! Learn to safely shutdown your vehicle if it goes out of control. When a car is speeding down the freeway because the throttle is stuck wide open, even if the car is the fault, it became a driver problem if after several hundred feet they could not shutdown the vehicle!

Another example is manual stick shift cars and trucks. My teenage son has a 1981 F150 with a manual transmission. I have shown him and trained him on how to respond if he pushes in the clutch and it does not disengage. Brake hard and throw the shifter into neutral ASAP! Then safely coast to a safe stop (or push the truck to a safe spot). He has even demonstrated this to me so I can be sure he is aware of what to do.

GTOlover
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Re: a new approach needed
GTOlover   1/10/2014 10:05:08 AM
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TJ, the more I think about it, I think you are correct. I would certainly want to know if a pilot is flying incorrectly or heaven forbid, incompentantly. So why not the same for drivers and driverless cars? I think if 'accidents' were overwhelmingly shown to be driver error and people had to be held liable for their incompentant driving, then the cost of cars could go down. Automakers could focus on MPG instead of adding controls to correct bad drivers.

Then again, humans have a propensity for 'hiding' their faults and drivers will do the same to the blackbox recorder.

TJ McDermott
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Re: a new approach needed
TJ McDermott   1/10/2014 9:55:40 AM
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GTOlover, you're right about governtment snooping.  However, recorders are impartial.  They get the bad rap from those who use them for less than noble intent.

Critic
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Driving Skills
Critic   1/10/2014 9:00:51 AM
The thing that irritates me about the "sudden acceleration" cases is that the drivers should have been able to control the cars even if the throttles were stuck wide open.  Get on the brakes and STOP immediately (yes, the brakes are more forceful than the engine, but only count on one stop), turn off the igntion while you are stopping (yes you can still drive without power steering, and you will still have power brakes unless you take your foot off the brakes, which you should not do, and no, the steering will not lock), and shift to neutral while you are stopping.  Please practice this.

No matter how well a self-driving car is designed and manufactured, there will be failures and accidents.  Having a black box and fail-safe systems will help, but will also add to the cost of the car.  Manufacturer liability for accidents will also add to the cost to consumers.

I think I will drive the old-fashioned way, and avoid being surprised by a self-driving car failure.  Yes, there will be failures.

Zippy
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Re: a new approach needed
Zippy   1/10/2014 8:39:02 AM
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TJ's comment about turning unknowns into knowns is the way to go.  That's why they have black boxes on aircraft.  If Toyota had a recording sensor on the accelerator and brake of their cars, they would have answer to the "driver error" question.  As commented earlier, automakers are extremely cost sensitive, so the occasional $3MM lawsuit may be an "acceptable risk" to the accountants vs. the sensor cost.  Widespread use of driverless technology may shift that equation to the point where the automaker's liability is high enough to justify the added product cost.  Another possibility is legislation which limits liability per case, as is the case currently for air travel (see the fine print on your airline ticket).

GTOlover
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Re: a new approach needed
GTOlover   1/10/2014 8:09:30 AM
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TJ, from a purely engineering stand point I completely agree with instrumented vehicles with comprehensive data recorders. However, given the revelations of government snooping and the prospect of insurance companies wanting to monitor driving habits, no thanks!

TJ McDermott
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Re: a new approach needed
TJ McDermott   1/10/2014 12:18:12 AM
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Maybe we can't prevent the unknown, but documenting an incident sufficiently would turn it into a known, and the list of unknowns gets whittled down.

One approach would be vehicles that are MUCH more instrumented - more comprehensive recorders, adding some video on looped storage.

It's assuredly a reactive method, but there does not seem to be a proactive method.

Charles Murray
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Re: old news or urban legend ?
Charles Murray   1/9/2014 7:18:33 PM
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Today, more than 30,000 lives a year are lost on our roads, GlennA. The belief is that some day, autonomous cars could bring that down to the hundreds. So, yes, I definitely agree with you that self-driving cars will one day save lives. The question is, will our legal system allow it?

GlennA
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Gold
old news or urban legend ?
GlennA   1/9/2014 6:31:15 PM
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I don't remember where I read this, but supposedly the reason that Ford got hit so hard in the Pinto lawsuits (would you be surprised if a high-speed rear-end collision caused a fire - it happens it the movies) was that the cost to repair the design flaw would be more expensive than potential lawsuits.  Cost benefit analysis is part of the design process.  And actuaries (life insurance) are in the business of putting a value on human lives.  I have seen a car commercial where an automatic braking system stops the car while the driver is not paying attention to driving.  So there is the potential of a self-friving car to save lives.

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