Probably some politicians who never drive themselves will mandate automated cars, and then we will be forced to have that segment of our lives run by lawyers and programmers, and a lot of intensely fearful policy makers. The automated roads will run until the first hundred car chain collision where people are killed because of some program problem. Then there will be quite a pushback, but the government will not acknowledge any error because it would open them up to lawsuits. There may be some changes at that point, but eventually it will be found that it is a poor idea.
What would be a hhuge contribution to driving safety are some rather draconian changes in what is allowed to distract the drivers. After all, 80% of all accidents can be tied to driver inattention. So it really is sort of important to help drivers concentrate on driving, perhaps by not allowing cell phone conversations at speeds over 10 MPH. I know that there are other distractions, they were there long before cellular technology started, but phones are now one of the main distractions. Perhaps the auto companies can be persuaded to not include so many distrations in the cars. But I don't think so, because that is where the big money is. And at all times, profit trumps safety, and safety does not sell, anyway. If safety did sell, then everybody would buy a Volvo. But they don't.
As for comparing it to digital television, DTV was about the money and the money to be made from the bandwidth. The benefit to the public was never one of the driving forces, because there is no benefit to the general public from digital TV. It was all about money for broadcasters, TV manufacturers, and those who profit from the released spectrum. The actual benefit to the general public does not exist, and will probably never exist. Yes, I know that there is much higher resolution available, but to see what? There is not much on over the air television today that would be any worse in low quality NTSC format. We all know this.
I'm all for it. I drive way too much to ever claim that I am 100% attentive and skilled, and see plenty of other distracted bozo's just like me out there. Thus, I have no problem putting my trust into always-on electronic controls, and can imagine many other people embracing it, just as we have other technology.
My dream is to get in my car, punch in a destination, and get a 'ding' sound when I arrive. The challenge will likely be drivers who refuse to give up control, not the technology.
It is encouraging to view all of the solutions to traveling from A to B without disturbing the thought processes of the traveler. As an engineer, accustomed to dealing with certain laws of physics, and probability, I cannot help but "chuckle" at the proposed solutions. What is the problem? Hire a driver, with a limousine, and an iPhone, and proceed between A and B with no loss of valuable time, and work effort. Equally easy, hire a competent assistant and let him do the work, while you leisurely make your way. Much more cost productive, and less disruptive to the world around you.
To those of less self-importance, just take more time to live, and enjoy the benefits of being alive. Use public transportation where conviently available. If it is not available, take a "real" course in driving, with a comprehensive understanding of the applicable Motor Vehicle Code, and use it, not abuse it. You will be surprised how much more relaxed you will arrive at B.
It is obvious that somewhere along the road of life we, I include all, have been indoctrinated with the idea of being "first" in everything. Hence, we have the anti-social driver who defies all in his way in order to get to his B, FIRST. What does he accomplish, other than making evryone elses life miserable? He gets to be at the coffee machine before them.
When society understands Taylor's idea that "Time is Money" is not applicable to all things, we will all enjoy those few days we have in life. End of lesson.
I don't think you can compare aircraft autopilots to autonomous cars. Aircraft don't fly unless all of the nav systems are 100% operable, and there are backups for the backup in most commercial aircraft. Are you going to mandate double or triple redundancy in vehicles? Are you going to prohibit vehicles that are not 100% operable on the roads? The problem with cars is that for the systems described in this article to work, the reliability must be 100%, or there must be redundancy, and I just don't see the cost associated with getting this performance being passed on to car buyers or local governments, the latter of whom are having enough trouble keeping the potholes filled, let alone maintaining a sophisticated traffic network.
And TJ, if you want to ride in an autonomous vehicle to work, try a bus or train.
I commute about 75 miles per day back and forth to work. On Interstate 75 heading towards Knoxville, there is an overhead sign that posts a variety of messages; "watch for bikers", "left lane blocked ahead", "don't drink and drive", "seatbelts save lives"etc. You get the picture. One sign I hate to see is the number of fatalities to date. For the state of Tennessee, as of today, there were 644 fatalities. Horrible numbers. You would not believe what I see every day on the way to work. At least 50% of the drives are using a cell phone. Ladies putting on their makeup. People reading books, maps, newspapers. I actually saw a highway patrolman, one of Tennessee's finest, inserting a magazine into his handgun. I am all for reliable devices that can indicate hazardous situations BEFORE a tragedy occurs. People are NOT going to change their habits but maybe technology can bring about warnings in time to save lives.
Traffic lights have been 'programmed' since day 1. Since then the programming has just moved to software from hardware and integrated networking, traffic sensors, pedestrian call buttons and other accessory functions. The fact is that traffic safety before and after traffic lights does not change except for pedestrian accidents going up. Traffic lights are not a safety measure nor can they improve traffic flow more than a very little. The shape of road systems including complexity and distances bewtween intersections means there is no mathematical solution to the problem so there is no possible on the ground solution either. Smart cars on smart highways may actually help slightly as traffic congestion at near design capacity is the mathematically predictable result of human behavior - traffic jams don't just 'happen', they are mostly a human creation - the advantage of robotics here is not he ability to be smarter than humans but the ability to think differently than humans.
All the same, the smartest safety feature roadways can have is design. This is an area of design that is sadly out of step with respect to the computer age. We always end up with 'dangerous' intersections or killer sections of highway identified by an innordinately high accident rate. Typically, the Rx is more signs, changing light sequences, 'driver awareness', etc. none of which actually has any benefit. When all else fails, the 'cause' is poor driving habits; however, that hypothesis requires that drivers habitually enter a state of stupor when they enter a certain traffic zone and are miraculously better only a few feet further on. Sadly, the worse it gets, the more a declared 'dangerous' traffic zone becomes designed by a committee, primarily composed of amatuers. Engineering departments don't want to admit the design is deficienct. Politicians don't wan't to admit that they weren't willing to pay for the best-practice solution or that their main goal was to satisfy developers. Traffic calming is almost a bellweather of dangerous design, usually after the fact: congestion increases driver conflict which increases accident rates so traffic calming, which consists of adding additional distractions while increasing congestion is implemented as a 'safety' measure. Politicians love it - it's really cheap and it creates the appearance of 'doing something'. What we really need first is streets roads and highways that are intelligently designed.
"80% of all accidents can be tied to driver inattention" - that's not a stat. In fact, most accidents are assigned to speeding and then 'driver error' and then 'agressive driving', but this isn't accurate. Most police officers are not traffic engineers or forensic scientists and, practically, they depend mostly on driver interviews, so the data they report is not all that reliable. The high correlation of traffic accidents with geographic location suggests that none of those things should be at the top of the list. Studies of human performance show that a level of distraction is required for best results - it can't be helped that human brains are messy machines - if all they are allowed to do is think about the driving task for any amount of time, they fail. In a different area, in mundane industrial assembly, the ideal worker is a woman with an arts degree: it's not what they do with their hands but what they do with their brains that makes them able to do consistently good work over long periods of time. A level of distraction is essential to performance; on the other hand, sensory deprivation is not.
Bobjengr, I think that you have just described the real solution, which is a system that warns us of the dangers. THAT could be very helpful. If a computer system winds up driving the cars, they will of course wind up being safer because they will all be going about 15MPH. So the computerized safe cars will waste a whole lot of time for everybody.
And I agree that way to many people are doing other stuff when they should be paying full attention to driving. If you don't pay attention but still survivr, it doesn't mean that you are good, it means that you are LUCKY.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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