Given that the folks paying for this study have a financial stake in the efforts to produce self driving vehicles, what else could any research group possibly say? The investors, and those invested in don't stand to profit if the prediction is made that it is a bad idea and an introduction into a major fiasco. And a lot of engineers see it as a really fun challenge, which it certainly would be. While it might possibly be achievable at some cost, given the degree of reliability of current automotive computerized systems, it will not be acieved at a reasonable price.
Of course, the economics of a vehicle system for driving military vehicles is a lot different, since most of the characteristics and situations for tactical military operations are quite different from the world that we live in.
self driving cars will never be as efficient as a collection of good drivers driving in areas designed to allow efficient traffic flow. Please note those qualifiers, because they describe a large portion of the reason that any motivation for a self driving car exists. Way to many roadways and streets are set up to impede the flow of traffic, and a whole lot of drivers are either not able to concentrate enough to drive safely, or they are unwilling to pay adequate attention to driving in a safe manner. In addition there is a portion of the public who are so chained to their fears that while they can drive safely they will not be able to do it at anywhere near the speeds that are efficient.
Dealing with drunk and impaired drivers is a separate issue, and they will be an even greater hazard with automated cars because their actions will not be normal or logical.
And I still offer the question about who will be liable in the event that some system failure causes an accident resulting in damage and liability. After all, cars are much less reliable than airplanes and missiles.
And one more question: Would you be willing to ride in a vehicle that had a control computer with a microsoft operating system?
Rob, I still have to wonder how close these things are. With the sensor systems we have today, coupled with the processing power, I can accept that these things will happen in the foreseeable future. On the other hand (here it comes) these things have been worked on for over twenty years (more like 30) by the military and aerospace industry. So, who knows.
I think the goal should be semi-autonomous vehicles for now. Let the computer drive on the highway, for example. That would make the roads more efficient (they could be coordinated via a central system, for example) and is probably easier than situations where you have to account for pedestrians. Once that is achieved, then we can look at where we go from there. Self driving farm tractors are already here. They use a different technique of processing the GPS signal that gives a much higher accuracy. So, that aspect is already well understood and used.
I will just leave you with a story from a friend of me who was a jet fighter pilot in the 1960s and 1970s. He was testing the first nap of the earth systems in a Phantom II jet. The pilot could easily grab the stick and take back control. This was done so that he could respond if there was a problem. My friend had a very hard time resisting the urge. I think two things were happening. First, he was skeptical of the whole idea. Second, he was used to being in control. As he put it, it was sometimes frightening.
I agree, TJ - the advantage of being able to spend the time commuting in other endeavors is very enticing. I think we will also be seeing cars available with additional accessories that enhance the ability to multitask once the role of driver is relinquished to the car itself. Sometimes it feels like I am a kid again watching The Jetsons when I read stuff like this...
I believe that we will be able to experience the fully automated vehicles in near future. Why I am saying so is recently launched Mercedes Benz S-Class which is the top end of that segment has this option. Its need to have only two fingers on the steering, that is also because of the legal purposes otherwise it will drive automatically.
Those dates seem both far away and close, Chuck. Since Google has already developed one, a couple years ago, and since it was able to drive -- driverless -- from San Francisco to Los Angeles, why will it take so long?
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