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)
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.
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.
I WANT MY DRIVERLESS CAR YESTERDAY!!
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.
The Orange County Register had an article with a very interesting chart of alcohol-related fatal accidents in California. The vertical axis was BAC and the horizontal was age. Each cell had the number of fatalities. There was a pronounced increase right at 0.08% and under 25 years old.
So your comment fits the data...lowering the BAC limit may not be the most effective way to spend the money. IMHO, on the first DUI you're permanently done driving for life.
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.
We are already flying in airplanes without pilots. They sit there and watch over things but for large portions don't they use autopilot? The pilots are adamant that they are still in control, but basically we have already achieved the level of autonomy with someone in the driver's seat just in case.
The Air France 447 accident showed that mega-buck, highly sophisticated systems can fail or become confused over pretty simple events. The assumed autonomy can lead to a pilot or driver becoming "concierge" instead of "operator". Basically it's the Boeing/Airbus human interface debate...should the pilot be the primary or secondary loop? How does that extend to cars, which have a far lower level of sophistication, redundant systems, and operator training?
Very true, the Air France pilots rode a power on stall all the way to the ocean. I believe if the pilots had been more "hand-on" they never would have attempted to pitch the aircraft that high and simply held it there.
"If we only blame the pilots we will not have changed any of the fundamental underlying conditions. We won't have done our best to prevent this from happening again"
I know we are talking about cars rather than aircraft, but the same problem with autopilot overuse can be applied. The pilot was not thinking about the fundamentals of flight when he held the stick back for well over five minutes, and I fear a driver unfamiliar with the fundamentals of driving would do the same thing with an autonomous car.
@kenish--your points are well taken, however in the Air France incident I beleive that the iced over pitot tube was giving them improper information, which the pilots, having full control over the aircraft, misinterpreted and stalled the aircraft. It seems they missed many other indications which could have suggested they get out of the stall before hitting the water.
Which then supports your point--if most of the time you don't have to drive, then how will you be prepared when you need to take control? That is a good question which implies that rules about having someone in the driver seat "just in case' probably won't work as drivers would quickly get used to ignoring things.
Perhaps a design wherein the driver drives but the car constantly applies corrections to improve things--avoiding collissions, improper lane departure, and, of course, missing that turn to get to your destination. Instead of the navigation system saying "in 500 feet, turn right" it will say "in 500 feet I will turn right" and the driver can over-ride if desired.
Your comment in favour of autonomous cars refers to autopilots in planes - have you ever been on a plane landed by autopilot? The one time i have was easily the worst landing of my life - quite scary.
The pilot apologised and explained that they HAD, by regulations applicable, to do one autopilot landing every six months. I hope that one will see out my fling days - once is enough. By the way, it was a Boeing.
Many years ago, I worked for a small company whose MD was almost killed by a simple bit of automation, an electronic headlight dipper. His RollsRoyce was totalled when a bus took rapid flashing from his headlights as a 'go ahead, I have seen you' signal. Fortunately, decades later, this simple device is still not implemented. And you want autonomy?
MBanuchi, The impression from all of your "I wants" is that youwant nothing to require any personal responsibility, which is not the case even in a police state. So I hope that folks with a lot more moral integrity and a great deal more wisdom prevail in this matter.
I just want to remind you that when airplanes first were introduced they only shared the sky with birds. If the world had simultaneously launched several million airplanes of varying sizes, speeds and levels of manueverability, your arguement may have at least a shred of credibility, but as it stands it is meaningless.
I agree, Rob. We're on the edge of some big developments here. And although there will be a great deal of resistance going forward, I believe those developments will some day help eliminate a lot of those 30,000 annual road fatalities in this country.
Hey Chuck, at some point, the reduction in accidents has got to break some of the resistance to autonomous cars. In an article about net principles in auto design, safety was one of the three big points:
I agree with Siemens' points, Rob. There's a strange disagreement going on here, though. Experts tend to agree on the future importance of autonomous vehicles, but drivers are very leery of the technology.
Yes, Chuck, your stories have really brought out the skeptics. However, if these features help the elderly stay independent longer, and if we see traffic deaths decrease, there will be a swell of support.
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.
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.
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.
As usual, along comes a research supporter who does not know that the first iteration of the autonomous car technology has been around since November, 2007 (The Grand Challenge, Victorville, CA.) $2 Million first prize given by DARPA. The same guys responsible for the Internet, and look how that has changed the way we do things. I was there, I saw them.
That since then, Google, with their deep pockets, is leading the pack of "researchers" and has already test driven over 300,000 miles in fair and foul weather, in the chaos of WashingtonDC with NO collisions or accidents, except for the one time that the vehicle was actually driven by a human being.
So now its 2013, and the research supporter wants 110% readiness. Take a hike already and let the insurance companies decide if they want to support it. So while this person insists on this ridiculous goal, the death toll continues to mount, because human beings continue to operate transportation vehicles. "Paralysis by Analysis" is the theme I am getting. After six years of testing, do you really think that the bulk of the bugs in the software have not been resolved? The government has already missed the boat with their insistence on testing driver aided technologies, which are subsets of autonomous driving, and no plan for overall autonomous vehicle testing. When asked how the government is going to test the autonomous vehicles, and what comprises the test, the silence is deafening because they have no plan. So well meaning people jump up and down about 110% ready, when they haven't even figured out how to test technology that is already six years old....
In the mean time, the collision death toll continues to rise with humans behind the wheel...34,767 in 2012 ( these numbers are from Wikipedia and based on NHTSA stats- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year, NHTSA tries to soften the impact be framing the casualties, with numbers of miles driven and overall population, but if you know at least one or two of these "numbers", all of the framing is bull pucky, because the people that the numbers represent, are or were real people.)
Do the homework, nothing is 100% guaranteed, let alone 110%, that is why insurance companies and legislators have loopholes. Think about it, there is a thing called "beta testing" and the folks who need to conduct it, haven't a clue, but they want to delay the deployment because " the number of technological issues as well as human performance issues that must be addressed before self driving vehicles can be made widely available." Are you serious, there are NO human performance issues if the car is 110% automated. And drivers licenses are a way to keep track of people – is that what is meant by "human performance issues"
PS – For the person who thinks that I should ride the bus, please learn how to read.
It is just this type of inconvenience that makes me thirst for this technology.
The things delaying the technology that are at work here are not the technology, but economic, legal and major social changes (Chunka Mui, Stress Tester of Innovation Strategies – (http://www.forbes.com/sites/chunkamui/2013/04/02/googles-driverless-car-is-just-one-of-many-looming-disruptions/)
Very interesting story Charles. I have not been agreeing with the FED lately but on this one I AM in total agreement. The technology is definitely improving but we are really not there as yet due to the two (2) reasons you mention in your post; i.e. weather and malfunction of equipment. Improvements are obviously being made but a test track is definitely different than a busy city environment. It will be very interesting to follow this technology to see improvements and refinements.
I agree with you on all counts, bobjengr (including your comment about the fed). I do believe, though, that this technology is going to mature very quickly, however, and the feds will again face a decision about whether to allow these cars on the road.
Autonomous cars will be safe on our streets & highways only when all or nearly all are autonomous. Until then they're just as likely to cause as much trouble, even chaos, as they prevent.
Consider: On Ma highways spaces between vehicles are quickly filled by another vehicle from an adjacent lane. Since an autonomous car will attempt to maintain a safe interval is will slow down until the space the vehicle in front increases. That space will soon be filled again & the autonomous vehicle will again slow down, and so on. Not only will the autonomous vehicle effectively be moving backwards, it will cause non-autonomous drivers behind it to go around it. This does not make for safe highways.
On city streets the opposite will be true. Autonomous vehicles will slow or stop in all sorts of situations, some of which call for speeding up instead. Given the "safety mindset," speeding up is never a safe alternative.
Also, in MA the first two vehicles at a red light are required by law to go through the light, and the next three are encouraged to do so. Alternatively, MA used to allow the first vehicle and the next two behind it to proceed through a stop sign after the first one stops. Thirty years or so ago that law changed to one requiring every vehicle to stop, but MA drivers still obey the old law, treating stop signs as red lights.
Will autonomous vehicles be programmed to obey these laws? For that matter, will they be programmed to obey the different laws of each state, and "know" when they cross state lines? Until almost all vehicles are autonomous how will they be able to cope with the unpredictability, even stupidity, in the incredible variety of driving situations, of human-driven vehicles, to say nothing of the enormous variety of vehicles people drive?
For those situations that do require human intervention, will the human on board be attentive and aware enough to intervene correctly and in time. Most of the time, no, since autonomous vehicles will only encourage distractions: "My car's doing the driving, so I'll just keep from getting bored by texting/yakking/watching a video/reading/playing games/making out/taking a nap...."
How much will autonomous vehicles cost? Little enough so, say, 95-plus percent of people can afford them? As a semi-SWAG, not for the first ten years of general availability at least.
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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