Very cool slide show, Chuck, and I guess I can see the excitement over these new developments, but I have to admit, I have some reservations. Just looking at the slides and the different technologies is giving me a frightening case of sensory overload. I just imagine all these bells and warning signals flashing, my smart phone beeping, the GPS lady telling me to do this or do that. It's like driving in a video game and that it's definitely not my balliwick. Call me crazy, but what about the practice of good old fashioned safe driving.
I agree with Beth. Nothing beats skilled driving. It seems that the technology is trying solve the problem of more crowded streets with increasingly poorer driving skills. Many of the examples don't seem to be an issue. If there's a large truck or SUV in front of you blocking any view of what's ahead, just pull back and give a safe amount of space.
Driving demands trust. On the Golden Gate Bridge, there's no permenant median barrier. We use removable rods to allow an increased number of lanes in one direction or the other in heavy traffic. I trust that the drivers coming in the other direction are alert, skilled and won't crossover and drive into on-coming traffic. If they have to rely on sensors for that, we're all in trouble. I think if we had more courteousy, patience and drivng/parking skils than technology, traffic wouldn't be as much of a problem in many cities.
All of the car articiles are great but where are the advances in public transportation?
I have to agree with you and Beth. I can't see how smarter cars are going to help driving skills. But I think this is an intriguing technology for public transportation. I wonder if anyone is applying it there?
I agree with all who've said that nothing beats safe and intelligent driving. Today, no machine can perform as well on the road as a careful driver. But a high percentage of today's drivers don't fall in that "careful" category. Cell phone usage is rampant and texting-while-driving is becoming more commonplace. Let's also not forget how many people drive while impaired in some way and how many more drive as if they just finished drinking 20 cups of coffee. I don't know what it's like on the coasts, but here in the Midwest there's a large contingent of overly aggressive drivers who seem unable to grasp the simplest concepts of physics. That's why I believe the experts who predict that V2V and V2I will help, especially if we tie the technology to collision avoidance systems that are likely to make better decisions than many of the drivers on today's roads.
We all agree that there is no substitute for being alert, having a basic understanding of vehicle physics, and using moderation when it comes to safe driving.
I like the concept of these new technologies. Unlike Beth - I'm not so afraid of having sensory overload; however, I am wary of an ever increasing Orwellian control over every little thing we do.
I am more comfortable with these technologies as long as they are not government mandated - and as long as their is an "off" switch for those technologies which track, control, or limit what a driver can do. This may seem strange in our current society, but some of us still place freedom above safety. These technologies, if implemented correctly, could allow for both.
I guess I have a hard time understanding why we should spend a lot of money, time and energy trying to fix the cars, which aren't really a problem, instead of trying to fix the drivers, which are a problem.
The second part of the problem is what happens when a sensor or the communication system fails? Whose fault is it going to be. I can just see a boat load of personal injury lawyers going after everybody with deep pockets in the supply stream because the car didn't tell the driver that the guy in front of him had his brake lights on.
And Beth - you are used to technology! I agree - can you imagine older folks and rural drivers trying to interpret all of that?! It seems to me that we are just trading for different types of distractions. And the cost of this technology will drive the cost of vehicles up. What about all the folks like me that consistently buy older used cars as my main vehicle? I am in a paid for 1997 Lumina at the moment - I don't see myself catching up any time soon with two teenagers to feed! I think the answer is to quit allowing poor driving habits to continue and as you said, instill good old fashioned safe driving. My husband and I made a family pact that we will not use our cell phones while we are driving. If something is urgent, we'll pull over. We have a 14 and a 16 year old who are watching and learning from our choices.
While I really love technology, I think that much effort is being misapplied.
Years ago, I became offended at a comment made by one of my professors...'The only thing that has changed since we fell out of the trees is our level of technology.'
Catering to 'distracted' drivers may help in the short-term, but does anyone remember the introduction of.....horns, disc brakes, radial tires, seat belts, TURN SIGNALS, BRAKE LIGHTS, enlarged tail lights, steel door reinforcements, the 3rd tail light, seat belts, air bags? All were introduced to improve safety. How much has any of this really helped?
Inter vehicle communications can be a great advancement...but...help with people who are incapable of making rational decisions when their own lives and property are at risk? I think not.
Take them off the road, put them into public transportation. This act would take the place of the saber-tooth tiger of days past.
Knowledge is power and all that rot. Information continues to be key. We've been through revolutions in Energy and Materials and we continue our expedition into the capabilities of ubiquitous Information. The growing pains always come during transitions through technology's adolescence. The common folk will delight in the convenience of new gadgets, the intelligentsia will protest the loss of privacy, and the ruling politicians will exempt themselves from participation on the grounds of confidentiality. And then be prepared for the strong push back from the lawyers. Having recorded information that documents the behavior of a defendant will streamline the judicial system and unfairly constrain the council from being able to sway a jury using theatrics. Get ready for a protracted legal fight over the use of new sensors and automated control technology. It's one thing to put the buggy whip manufacturers out of business. It's quite another to decimate the law schools.
William, another consideration is the time to get this technology out. We replace about 10% of the cars on the road each year. That is not really correct. Many of the cars "replaced" are sold used. Therefore, we wil have a very long time when there will be a lot of "dumb" cars on the road and some smart cars. What happens when one hits the other? That should be an interesting situation.
Driverless vehicles have been illegal in all states, thus no real push to produce such machines. Thus 'the law' (per usual) becomes a large impediment to the development of useful technology.Again trading freedom for perceived safety.A few months ago I read about these autonomous vehicles and their safety record.In several hundreds of thousands of driving miles it was involved in one wreck. It was waiting for a traffic light and was rear ended!
I am involved in aircraft for a living. The big new jets not only have autopilots, they also use auto takeoff and auto land! The flight deck guys are there in essence to feed the monkey.If there really is a catastrophic failure, it is really unlikely that the crew can prevent a crash.My prediction (as opposed to our chief pilot's opinion) is that in twenty years pilots will join the ranks of elevator operators. When I was a child every elevator really did have an operator, but few are old enough to remember those days.Then too cars, houses, schools, and most offices did not have air conditioning either, but I digress.
Autonomous Vehicles really are the wave of the future.The costs will not be prohibitive. Who would have ever guessed that engineers could pack millions or even billions of transistors in a tiny package all for less than the price of a pack of cigarettes? The distraction problem will be solved.Hell you can even sleep while driving alone. Cars can weigh far less eliminating bumpers, airbags, seatbelts, child restraint seats, and all the other crap the nanny state mandates we have.I can easily see the highway speeds going to a couple hundred miles per hour as the machinery dictates what is the 'safe' speed.No more speeding laws!The only downside I see is that old 'manual drive' cars will not be allowed on many of the roads due to 'safety concerns'.My old '58 Chevy truck and '76 Stingray will become museum displays.I'll miss the smell of burning rubber and the exhilaration of high acceleration and roaring down the highway at 100mph+ with the T Top off.
By the way I did have an autonomous ride over 50 years ago.She was a mule named Dinah. The smartest animal I have ever had.She even allowed me to shoot a rifle or shotgun while riding her, but would throw me if the gun went anywhere near her ears.Like I said, very smart, unlike myself.
Island Al- Glad I made your day and hope that coffee didn't go into your keyboard :-)
A friend is an airline pilot and your comments about autopilots and pilot attitudes match his. Enroute they use the flight management systems for fuel savings and workload reduction. But the preference is to manually land to stay in practice...and of course there's an element of professional pride and a bit of paranoia in the automation. Part of their training and experience is knowing when to use the autoland. My friend laments that in 30 years, pilots will be in a locked glass booth at the front of the plane. There will be a hammer and a sign, "Break glass in case of emergency".
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.
Chuck, Very interesting presentation which shows the possiblities with more intelligent vehicles. It's easy to see the possibilities with V2V communications, and how that could be used in many situations. Will be interesting to see what types of user interfaces will emerge, and become accepted by consumers. Seems like driver distraction could become an issue.
Al, I agree that distracting user interfaces could be a problem if this isn't done correctly. I can't really speak to some of the solutions, but I know that automotive suppliers are working on this issue.
Ok so just hypothetically... As it stands Google (with android) and websites like Facebook and other tracking software are doing a very good job at keeping track of our whereabouts. So soon enough our cars will be able to contribute to this issue. It is increasingly becoming difficult to have time to yourself without the world knowing. I do not see how privacy laws will be preserved with something like this. The moment your vehicle starts throwing out its id in Wi-Fi Land your exact location will be monitored and the best part about it will be that even amateurs will be able to track you. At least current traffic camera systems require some hefty computers to track the location of a car (which news media and several civilians have access to). In the future all a chip will have to do is read a 32-64 bit code? Any SoC Wi-Fi module can do this a few thousand times a second. So all of a sudden a 30USD device that can run on battery power for months can keep track of an intersection?
Your exactly right, ervin. History has shown people so easily trading their freedoms for security, safety, and health care.
In this country, we expected the individual to provide their own security, safety and health care in exchange for the freedom to be able to do just that. (Plus put up with some inequites in the system.)
Now we have one political party catering to human strengths and one political party catering to human weaknesses - what a mess!
All vehicles must be "smart" for this to work right. I'm sure any experience NY taxi driver could "intimidate" a smart cat to a standstill in 15 seconds, gain road advantage, laugh their way though town.
Up here in the UP, we must drive in weather conditions that smart cars might "chicken out" in or we wouldn't get anything none.
Don't get me wrong, this is good stuff, all cars just need to be on the same page.
For example, I'm not a chess palyer, but I beat the computer at chess easily because I purposely use non-book moves and openings and confuse the heck out of it.
ChasChas, you are correct on both counts. This technology will really start to show its effects when all vehicles have it. And, yes, there could be a problem with cars "chickening out" when the weather is bad. I could also see traffic jams occurring because the vehicles will be too conservative.
I almost spilled my coffee laughing so hard. Sadly this 'plan' does sound like a solution a real bureaucrat really would come up with.Hilarious, and I'm often told that engineers have no sense of humor.Love it! Thanks for making my day.
Many Rational comments about benefits of good drivers, outweighing extra-sensory-perception of the automobile; however, in one instance, I'm very excited for the day when my car will talk to the Stop Lights.This will be a huge turn in the RIGHT direction from where I'm currently standing.
I live in South Florida where many municipalities have joined together and created a monster – The "Smart" traffic light.It is blatantly misnamed, and is the most frustrating robot ever created --- liken to the 1980's when computers were first becoming commonplace, and you remember the common colloquialism, "computers don't make mistakes" --- (remember that battle-cry-?)
These Miami-Dade-Broward-West-Palm Beach Traffic lights are proudly displayed by the governing bodies and over-zealously snap pictures of your license-plate, happily running up city revenues.Trouble is, they burn steady-red for minutes on end, presumably thinking they have the superior intelligence on traffic patterns – which they do not.Daily I approach the same Green-Arrow, only to be struck with a 4-minute Red, because my vehicle was only "approaching" the sensors at 30mph, and not stopped on top of it.
Yes, I am excited to see the day when I my car can "talk" to these lights. Oh, I'll have a thing or two to say, for sure.
There are a few of those computerized traffic lites here in Michigan, which are really stupid. The major and probably unfixable problem with all of those it they have no means of handling exceptions. In addition they are all programmed by programmers, who are not normal people. They just don't think the way normal people think. So they are not able to understand how the programs should work.
In addition, making cars so that they can be safely driven by the incompetent and inexperienced will certainly be a huge burden on all of those experienced drivers who do the correct things by reflex.
Perhaps, after a bunch of driverless cars successfully complete a 500 mile car race on a circle track, I might consider that they are ready to be given a tryout.
And it is a very good question, what happens whenna sensor fails? And what happens when a big piece of cardboard blows onto the roadway? Or when a tire blows out on the car ahead? Nobody has mentioned anything about how they intend to handle exceptions.
Agreed- some ideas are just too idealistic to become rational.Most of the "helper" ideas being proposed for cars fit that description. Unless a car becomes 100% autonomous, and I can sleep while the car carries me – like in a train on a track – I am not in favor of any of the so-called assistive technologies. Just too many bad drivers out there, who will still crash and still blame someone else.
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.
I can confidently say that much of the Push behind all of the ideas shown here are intended to "help" the distracted driver to be safer.....And then slide #5 of 13 states that Automakers are contemplating putting V2V apps on Smart Phones.
Nevada opening their roads to robotic driven vehicles is just the begining. I expect to be able to tell my grandchildren that "back in my day you were allowed to actually drive a vehicle manually", because in 25 years most roads won't allow "manually" driven vehicles. I envision a switch similar to the one we made from analog to digital televisions. At some point well traveled roads will be closed to all but automated vehicles because their carrying capacity and safety will be greatly increased if all of the vehicles are "smart".
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.
"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.
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 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.
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.
If we ever do get any of the smart cars into general use they will undoubtedly be the slowest vehicles on the road, and the most irritating to every other driver. The reason is that they will all be programmed with the lawyer sitting right next to the code writer and insisting that the software must not exercise any judgement but only do what has been proven to be safe. The result will wind up being way too safe, probably to the point of paralysis. That is what will ultimately kill the madness of the self-driving car, since they will never execute judgement but only go by the rules that are programmed into them. So the lawyers will destroy what the engineers build. How else could it possibly wind up?
On my last trip, I was passed by a Mustang, traveling so much faster than the posted 75 mph, that my SUV rocked. The driver cut around traffic on the left shoulder...sporting a space saver spare on the right front.
Just last month, the Exxon pipeline ruptured and spilled over ten thousand gallons of tar sand into an Arkansas neighborhood.
My SUV spent several days in the shop just this past December when I drove through a local rain puddle in the middle of our street (been there for the 28 years I have lived on the street). The ignition computer AND starter shorted out with the minor splash (splash shields were missing...only maintenance ever done on the vehicle was by the dealer)
My point is that the smart vehicle/autonomous roadway system success depends 100% on built in carefully thought out hardware and programs with redundant systems and meticulous maintenance.
The weakest link within any system is people. As a species, we take shortcuts with maintenance and common sense, then appologize profusely when disaster happens.
Commercial aviation has periodic disasters even though it is run by professionals...who are funded by political whims. I doubt that the automotive corrallary will see FAA style dilligence.
Driving is one of the daily joys I have in this world. In my 20 mile commute I can take any of 15 or so routes and each route has challenges. Each corner has its entry, apex and exit. No matter the speed, you can hit the apex and accelerate from 21 to 24 or in your mind from 75 to 120. Some of my most entertaining conversations are with (or about) other drivers while driving. Before I will tolerate or support autonomous driving automobiles, I would suggest a remote shut-down that would count the number of electronic "complaints" received and once the magic number was exceeded, the automobile would stop. That way we all could vote on the behavior of our fellow drivers (and get voted on ourselves). We cannot abdicate our responsibility to drive and act civily to a piece of technology. No matter what the lawyers try to prove, we are responsible for our actions and we do not need more technology to further separate us from those responsiblities. This rant is in no way relevant to the technological advances demonstrated in an autonomous vehicle, just to the justification thereof.
It has occurred to me that the simple specification for smart car reliability is "that it should not fail in any way at any time under any conditions". Until that condition is available we will need to have drivers paying attention and able to take control.
Could our view of distant galaxies be obstructed by a lawnmower? That unlikely question is at the heart of a growing debate between the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and a robot manufacturer that seeks to build self-guided lawnmowers.
Design News readers spoke loudly and clearly after our recent news story about a resurgence in manufacturing -- and manufacturing jobs. Commenters doubted the manufacturers, describing them as H-1B visa promoters, corporate crybabies, and clowns. They argued that US manufacturers aren’t willing to train workers, preferring instead to import cheap labor from abroad.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.