Electronics News
Feds: Autonomous Cars Not Ready for Prime Time

In the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, a team headed by Torc Technologies LLC used multiple LIDAR sensors atop their vehicle to sense the road ahead.   (Source: Charles Reinholtz, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University)
In the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, a team headed by Torc Technologies LLC used multiple LIDAR sensors atop their vehicle to sense the road ahead.
(Source: Charles Reinholtz, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University)

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Rob Spiegel
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Autonomous cars are coming
Rob Spiegel   6/7/2013 9:05:52 AM
Nice story, Chuck. I agree with the statement in the story that the government's statement on the subject of autonomous cars actually indicates these cars are gaining traction. However this turns out -- better technology that moves toward improved self-driving cars -- we're on the edge of using tech advances to reduce traffic fatalities.

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Autonomous Vehicles
apresher   6/7/2013 9:15:54 AM
I think the comment about success in low chaos environments is spot on.  And it's easy to see why extreme weather would be an area of concern.  Excellent article.

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Re: Autonomous Vehicles
naperlou   6/7/2013 10:31:48 AM
Al, the ability to deal with low chaos environments is not really all that impressive.  The military has been researching this and demonstrating it for years.  The reason they don't really use it is that they, by definition, deal in high chaos environments.  Now, it might be useful to have the vehicle sense what type of environment it is in and apply the appropriate level of automation.  Of course, the driver needs to be involved in such a decision as well.

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Legislation often lags reality
78RPM   6/7/2013 1:44:28 PM
This is one of many ways that legislators fear technological change and social change. While it might be true that autonomous vehicles are not ready for wide use today, it would be unfortunate if prohibitions were so strict as to discourage any further progress. Our Montana legislature just passed a law that makes any information collected by a pilotless drone inadmissible in a court of law. If the same information were collected by a piloted copter or from a ladder, it could be admissible in many cases. But I'm not surprised at legislators' unfamiliarity with technology. I am amazed every day to find people who have not heard of Google's driverless cars, 3D printing, or Apple's Siri. Intelligent machines will sneak up on so many people.

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Re: Autonomous cars are coming
MBanuchi   6/9/2013 3:59:59 AM
Just put everything on hold and we the government, will tell you when to proceed, without specifying the "number of technological issues as well as human performance issues that must be addressed before self driving vehicles can be made widely available."

I say dang the torpedoes and full speed ahead, lives are at stake.

With 34,000+ having died in 2012, 90% of the fatalities having been caused by human drivers, and now with the restrictive attitude of people, both in government and in the world of theory, who it seems are not overly concerned with the death toll, we are on our way to another 30,000+ dead in 2013.

It seems that the reservations expressed by many of these people, who seem to support the delay of fully autonomous cars with black boxes, is based on the ridiculous presupposition that this new technology is not 100% safe. 

Can anyone tell me what technology is 100% safe when it first starts?

How many STILL die on aircraft today, after over 100 years?  Rare, but it happens.

Can anyone tell me how we can consider every possible scenario under which the autonomous car can fail?    

It seems to me that the insurance industry might be the best group to make that determination, over time after the vehicle is deployed, with the use of the black box. 

I think that if we look into why these folks and organizations want to delay the deployment of the autonomous car, we will find conflicts of interests which are using lack of safety as an excuse to stop its deployment..

My goodness, was the airplane 100% safe when it first started, over a hundred years ago?  If we were to introduce the airplane today, the government would do everything they can to delay it, as their ignorance of the new technology would drive them to cautiously stupid conclusions.  Has the automobile been safe with 3,579,036 deaths since 1923, and millions more injured, and hundreds of millions of dollars paid out in insurance claims?

Follow the money and you will find out why special interests want to delay the deployment of the driverless car, and to heck with safety......


I want my car. 

I want my car to safely take myself to the store, the doctor, my son's house, my daughter's house in another state, on my timetable even though my sight and hearing have diminished because of age.

I want my car.

I want my car to go visit my parents, even though I have physical disabilities that keep me from driving a car.  Do I need to sue under the American Disabilities Act?

I want my car.  

I am going blind and want to stay self sufficient in terms of safe transportation.  I don't want to wait for a stranger to pick me up and take me where I need to go on their schedule.  Without my car, I am being deprived of mobility which affects my liberty.

I want my car. 

I want to be independent and not depend on anyone to safely transport me.  I want to go and come when I please safely. 

I want my car. 

I want to go out drinking and to come and to go as I please safely, without hurting anyone.  I don't want to worry about calling a cab, or being rousted by police and having judicial courts legally extort money from me for trying to get home from the restaurant/bar after any number of drinks.  Where the heck is MADD?  Would they rather punish than prevent?

I want my car. 

I want to be able to take care of my transportation needs without anyone telling me if I can or cannot operate a vehicle safely.  The POST sequence on the car will make that determination.

I want my car.

I want my car so that I can indulge in the pursuit of happiness safely, with no interference from government once my registration and insurance are paid because I will not need a drivers license.

I want my car.


The autonomous car, driverless car technology will not be perfect, and the prevention and delay of its deployment will only make the human death toll worse.  At least you can fix machines, but you can't predict people.  So says over 3 million killed in surface transportation collisions since the horseless carriage became a daily conveyance.  Let's get humans out of the vehicle driving operation.

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Right decision
taimoortariq   6/9/2013 3:53:29 PM
I agree, regardless of the success the automated/driverless cars have attained ,they are far from ready to be put on roads. NHTSA has without a doubt made the right decision, because there are far to many irregular environment conditions practically on the road. Even if not bombay, we consider some congested area in usa, the variables are countless to consider. And as the researchers said, it can do more harm then good, so we have to wait untill the tests prove that the car is 110 percent ready.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Autonomous cars are coming
TJ McDermott   6/9/2013 8:00:53 PM
The push is on to reduce the B.A.C. to .05% down from .08% in an effort to reduce driving deaths.

This technology has the potential to reduces alcohol deaths far more than lowering the B.A.C.

How many people push on in order to get to their destination rather than pull over when they're extremely tired?

The federal government should be clearing the way, not holding back.

The Designist
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Re: Legislation often lags reality
The Designist   6/10/2013 8:53:18 AM
Federal legislators can fear all they want.  What fears me, is that people nonchalantly accept that legislators illegally have this type of say in this matter.

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Re: Autonomous cars are coming
Zippy   6/10/2013 8:53:25 AM
MBanuchi, I too am a supporter of new technology to make our streets safer.  However, your arguments are somewhat misleading in that they imply the goverment is restricting our freedom by restricting the way we use the roads.  you are perfectly free to do whatever you want on any roads that you personally own; as long as the federal/state/local goverments are responsible for maintaining the highway system, they are also responsible for ensuring their safe use.  We were all taught in driver's ed that "Driving is a privilige, not a right."  We in the US have made a somwhat Faustian bargain in that you are free to drive (with a license, of course) anywhere you want; accordingly, we have built communities where you HAVE to drive to get where you need to go!


I think this is the right call for the moment, given the technical uncertainties other have pointed out.  I do wonder what are the incremental advances which will one day lead to a fully autonomous vehicle. We are not going to leap in one step from an environment of all human-controlled vehicles to one of all autonomous vehicles, and the mix is sure to be chaotic. 


Last thought:  if someone thinks this is a good idea today, would they be willing to fly in a commercial plane with no pilot?   :)  That is much closer to reality than fully autonomous cars.

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Re: Autonomous cars are coming
Battar   6/10/2013 9:10:01 AM

              Methinks you want to ride the bus.

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