View Poll Results: Should prototype vehicles that drive themselves be allowed on public roads?

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    32 68.09%
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    8 17.02%
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Thread: Self-driving Vehicles

  1. #11
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    Re: Self-driving Vehicles

    Stop signs and speed limits are easy enough, RFID transmitters or pre-programmed maps with the pertinent areas mapped out ahead of time will easily suffice.
    I was wondering how the prototype handles signs, as it doesn't have any infrastructure built to support it.

    Visual sensors could detect the prescience of something in the roadway that was not supposed to be there and make the car react accordingly or we could go the opposite route, embedding sensor networks into our roads to make them able to detect such things and transmit that data to vehicles on the road.
    That might work in some areas, but there are 2 major problems. The first in that city driving in urban areas is beyond the ability on sensors to handle. Safe driving techniques require societal knowledge of how other cars will operate and reading the body language of pedestrians. The second is that maintaining millions of senors is both expensive and inevitable failures will be a problem. Staying limited to highways is much more practical if you want a controlled environment.

  2. #12
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    Re: Self-driving Vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by rathi View Post
    I was wondering how the prototype handles signs, as it doesn't have any infrastructure built to support it.
    You'd have to build up infrastructure around it, but that shouldnt be too much of a problem. Our transportation infrastructure is constantly being replaced and repaired and it wouldnt be terribly difficult to slip in this new layer. With things like stop signs and signals, RFID transmitters could be added long after the sign was in place by simply tacking it onto the back of the sign.

    That might work in some areas, but there are 2 major problems. The first in that city driving in urban areas is beyond the ability on sensors to handle. Safe driving techniques require societal knowledge of how other cars will operate and reading the body language of pedestrians. The second is that maintaining millions of senors is both expensive and inevitable failures will be a problem. Staying limited to highways is much more practical if you want a controlled environment.
    I agree it's a difficult proposition, but I havent seen indications that it's impossible yet.

    I think the better choice would be to have something similar to how slot cars and cable cars work, a GridLink kind of system where cars are driven automatically by signals sent to them by the network already embedded in the roads. If our power generation capabilities go high enough, we might be able even to run our cars off of that system the way cable cars draw their power from overhead lines. This system would be far more preferable because the biggest modification is to the roadway itself. All modern cars have a basic computer system in them already and it wouldnt be (in my opinion) terribly difficult to add on after-market modifications to make them compatible with such a system.
    Last edited by Hoplite; 10-17-10 at 01:17 AM.
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  3. #13
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    Re: Self-driving Vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by rathi View Post
    How does the car read stop signs, speed limits, construction zones ect? Today's optical recognition software can't reliably read the hundreds of different signs in different lightning conditions, fog, weird angles ect.
    Actually, it can. Object-recognition technology is quite good. It can literally "read" text as long as it isn't in some weird font...and aside from that, it can recognize the shape and design of common road signs anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by rathi
    How does the car react to someone on a bike giving a hand signal or people jaywalking in an urban area?
    These are the hardest part, and the reason that it still won't be commercially available for a few years. But the basic principles have already been established: Recognize any potentially dangerous objects (like a human, a car, or a large animal) and avoid running into them. Even here the computers do reasonably well right now...MOST of the time, they'll notice kids running out into traffic and hit the brakes. But obviously, most of the time isn't good enough. They'll get there in a few more years. The technology has already progressed immensely in just the last three years, since the DARPA Urban Challenge.

    Quote Originally Posted by rathi
    I think that his technology should be used primarily on freeways and highways. Freeways have far less variables than street driving, making it much easier for a computer to handle. I can envision a system where you drive your car onto the on-ramp, punch in your exit, and let the car drive until you reach the on ramp. Even better would be networking all the cars so they work in concert, letting everyone travel at optimal speed and minimizing traffic.
    I agree with this. Eventually there will be computers in every car, and they will be able to alert each other to traffic jams and accidents.

    Quote Originally Posted by rathi
    Street driving is probably better done by humans who can better handle its chaotic nature.
    For now, yes. But the fact that these cars have already been so successful in street driving offers a powerful glimpse of the future.
    Last edited by Kandahar; 10-17-10 at 01:32 AM.
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  4. #14
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    Re: Self-driving Vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by jamesrage View Post
    There is this service where you call someone to pick you up and they drive you where ever you want for money,its called a taxi.
    Yes, but they aren't available in most non-urban areas, and they cost a lot of money. Self-driving cars would eliminate the need for most people to own cars at all (greatly reducing traffic, pollution, and commute times...while increasing consumer purchasing power to spend on other items). You could just summon a car on your smartphone to pick you up whenever you needed one...and without the high costs associated with taxis.
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  5. #15
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    Re: Self-driving Vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by jamesrage View Post
    Better a human messing up than a machine. You can sue a human.
    I'm more concerned about what is best for society, rather than who I can sue. I would gladly support giving immunity to auto manufacturers for these kind of lawsuits, if it reduced the number of auto fatalities. And that isn't even considering the wealth of other societal benefits that self-driving cars will bring: Reduction in commute times, reduction in pollution, increase in parking space, eliminating the need for personal car ownership for most people, and a complete paradigm shift in the way that we design cities. That is HUGE, and is vastly more important than you being able to sue someone.

    Quote Originally Posted by jamesrage
    It does not justify stripping people of their ability to drive.There are millions of people a day who do not die from accidents.
    40,000 people die each year, and many hundreds of thousands more are seriously injured. That's over a dozen 9/11s every year that self-driving cars will eventually be able to prevent.

    Quote Originally Posted by jamesrage
    Not even comparable.Tossing bricks off the overpass is a deliberate act to hurt or murder someone. You driving your car to work is just you driving your car to work.
    What I meant was that tossing bricks off the overpass displays a callous disregard of the safety of others, rather than an intentional act of wrongdoing. Substitute some other form of reckless endangerment if you like...say, driving 100 miles per hour down a city street while intoxicated. Maybe you don't INTEND to hurt anyone, but you'd be showing a reckless disregard for their well-being. That's how I think that human driving will be viewed once the technology reaches the point where self-driving cars almost never make avoidable mistakes. Once most people have made the switchover to robotic cars, I think they'll question why the few holdouts are still allowed to drive, threatening the safety of everyone.
    Last edited by Kandahar; 10-17-10 at 01:39 AM.
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  6. #16
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    Re: Self-driving Vehicles

    Actually, it can. Object-recognition technology is quite good. It can literally "read" text as long as it isn't in some weird font...and aside from that, it can recognize the shape and design of common road signs anyway.
    No it can't. Too many uncontrolled variables prevent such a system from working reliably enough to drive on. Graffiti on the sign, odd shadows, weird angles faded paint, reflected sunlight, fog, obscuring branches all are serious obstacles. Even worse, the system has to figure out the difference between writing that is traffic information and other signs along the road. To top it off, this all has to be done in real time. Maybe in the future it could be done, but not with the technology that exists right now.


    These are the hardest part, and the reason that it still won't be commercially available for a few years. But the basic principles have already been established: Recognize any potentially dangerous objects (like a human, a car, or a large animal) and avoid running into them. Even here the computers do reasonably well right now...MOST of the time, they'll notice kids running out into traffic and hit the brakes. But obviously, most of the time isn't good enough. They'll get there in a few more years. The technology has already progressed immensely in just the last three years, since the DARPA Urban Challenge.
    The problem with writing software is that it can only handle variables that have been anticipated and planned for. In an urban environment, that isn't likely ever to be possible. What happens when the car in front of you has engine failure at a traffic light and the only way around is to do something that is normally a bad idea like reversing or driving into the opposite lane? With collision avoidance software you can probably avoid accidents even in strange circumstances, but you still need a human who knows how to drive to navigate your way out.

  7. #17
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    Re: Self-driving Vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by jamesrage View Post
    There is this service where you call someone to pick you up and they drive you where ever you want for money,its called a taxi.
    Yeah, as you said, it costs money. If the norm is cars that drive themselves, you just get into your car, and go home. And no offense to any taxi drivers, but I wouldn't entrust my well-being to them if I was drunk
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  8. #18
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    Re: Self-driving Vehicles

    Kandahar, while I do agree that the technology is exciting, I have to side somewhat with rathi on this.

    To my knowledge, there has not yet been a proof-of-concept run that demonstrates we have software capable of successfully navigating city streets without incident or with a minimum of incidents. If we can get that far, then we can look at this idea a little bit more fully. Until then, I dont see that the benefits would outweigh the costs.
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  9. #19
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    Re: Self-driving Vehicles

    Another issue is that the car doesn't actually know precisely where you want to go. It can't figure out which parking space you want, nor can it tell which house the party you are attending is. Manual control is always going to be required unless we develop AI capable of truly understanding what we want.

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    Re: Self-driving Vehicles

    More and more, it sounds we need to develop infrastructure to complement self-driven cars. We'd probably need to network all cars, and stoplights together, so the cars' systems could figure out which way is faster for a particular route, and would know how many other cars are going to be on that same route, etc, etc.
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