Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Robocars As the Best Way Geeks Can Save the Planet

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the at-least-the-parts-we-can-drive-on dept.

Earth 394

Brad Templeton writes "I (whom you may know as EFF Chairman, founder of early dot-com Clari.Net and rec.humor.funny) have just released a new series of futurist essays on the amazing future of robot cars, coming to us thanks to the DARPA Grand Challenges. The computer driver is just the beginning — the essays detail how robocars can enable the cheap electric car, save millions of lives and trillions of dollars, and are the most compelling thing computer geeks can work on to save the planet. Because robocars can refuel, park and deliver themselves, and not simply be chauffeurs, they end up changing not just cars but cities, industries, energy, and — by removing dependence on foreign oil — even wars. I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords." (More below.)Templeton continues: "The key realization is that while the safety and timesavings that come from having computers as chauffeurs is very important and can save a million lives every year, a number of interesting consequences come from the ability of robocars to drive themselves while vacant. This allows them to deliver themselves to us on demand, to park themselves and to refuel/recharge themselves. On-demand delivery makes car sharing pleasant and allows the use of "the right vehicle for the trip" on most trips. Self-refueling means the people using cars no longer need care about range or how common fueling stations are, enabling all sorts of novel energy systems with minimal "chicken and egg" problems. Because passengers don't care about the range of their taxis, battery weight and cost are no longer issues in electric cars and scooters."

cancel ×

394 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

First Johnny Cab! (5, Funny)

UncleWilly (1128141) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326759)

I'm so excited!

Re:First Johnny Cab! (2, Funny)

hemna (205532) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327087)

excited? heh. Nothing we do will "save the planet" Earth has a date of destruction set with the Sun eating it in about 5 billion years. Why must we be all consumed with "saving the planet" on a daily basis? It's such a useless and pointless endeavor to "save the planet".

Re:First Johnny Cab! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327405)

Earth has a date of destruction set with the Sun eating it in about 5 billion years. Why must we be all consumed with "saving the planet" on a daily basis? It's such a useless and pointless endeavor to "save the planet".

You're right, our time is much better spent on pedantic jackassery.

Re:First Johnny Cab! (5, Funny)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327255)

Cool, Can we have Robert picardo record the voice for our new robotic overlords.

Re:First Johnny Cab! (0)

Samah (729132) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327361)

God damn you that's the exact first thing I thought of and I was about to post it.

Wow, good job! (5, Interesting)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326813)

I scoffed a bit when I RTFS, but the essays are really good and make an excellent case. I read them looking for gaping holes to point out, but really didn't find any major unaddressed concerns. I have to say RTFA is highly recommended. Read it, you won't be sorry.

Re:Wow, good job! (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326895)

"Posted by timothy on Thursday July 24, @04:28PM"

I scoffed a bit when I RTFS
I read them...but really didn't find any major unaddressed concerns.

"by clang_jangle (975789) * on Thursday July 24, @04:33PM"

Just saying...

Re:Wow, good job! (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326951)

See the little asterisk? It means he's a subscriber. They can read articles from the future.

Re:Wow, good job! (2, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327091)

Yes, I'm a subscriber and a fast reader (but not a "he"). It's nice to be able to RTFA and still be an early commenter sometimes.

Re:Wow, good job! (5, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327389)

People have hypothesized female Slashdot readers before, but I think it's easier to find a Higgs boson.

Re:Wow, good job! (4, Funny)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327417)

Actually, I know of at least four others.

Re:Wow, good job! (5, Funny)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327575)

Higgs boston thingies or girl-types?

Re:Wow, good job! (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327121)

lol... yeah I guess, they really need to amplify that, like have a halo around the (O) friend/foe icon when its a subscriber, or maybe im just making excuses...

Re:Wow, good job! (1)

AllIGotWasThisNick (1309495) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326955)

"Posted by timothy on Thursday July 24, @04:28PM"

I scoffed a bit when I RTFS

I read them...but really didn't find any major unaddressed concerns.

"by clang_jangle (975789) * on Thursday July 24, @04:33PM"

"Submitted by Brad Templeton on Thursday July 24, @05:51PM "

Ditto.

Re:Wow, good job! (4, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326925)

Well, there is the small matter of making the robocars, but I guess it's not the job of a "futurist" to do that. Also, he seems to have jumbled a bunch of different enormous breakthroughs (limitless, cheap, clean energy; enormously powerful and reliable AI; efficient solution of enormous traveling salesman problems) into a single obsession. It's not like robocars per se somehow eliminate dependence on oil.

Re:Wow, good job! (4, Interesting)

btempleton (149110) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327295)

I hope I don't gloss over this (read the roadblocks section.) There are many technical and political problems to solve.

As for energy, the goal is to use far less energy than we use today (whether it's cheap or clean is nice but orthogonal) and it's far from limitless.

The AI is not so powerful. Most animals can navigate in traffic of their own kind, even insects. But no, it's no tiny project -- but it's a tractable large project.

You don't need to solve traveling salesman! In fact, I believe centralized control is a bad idea. You can solve traveling salesman over small problem sets, it's only trying to solve it for large numbers that's explosively NP.
You just have to do better than we do today.

I predict... (5, Funny)

Chiasmus_ (171285) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326823)

...that this will usher in a glorious new era of alcoholism.

After all, I think it's the driving problem that really prevents people from drinking to their full potential. I can't count the number of times I've thought "I know, I'll go to a bar and get hammered!" and then, a few seconds later, "ahhh, but I don't know how I'd get home."

Yes, I think 2053 will have a few things in common with 1953 - a glorious time when men were men and martinis were brunch.

Re:I predict... (1)

SplinterOfChaos (1330441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326893)

This really will be a glorious future. Think about it: no more "...was killed by a drunk driver" commercials! Now, we just need to worry about drunk programmers.

Yes, but this also means... (4, Insightful)

kaptain80 (1147495) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326947)

This really will be a glorious future. Think about it: no more "...was killed by a drunk driver" commercials! Now, we just need to worry about drunk programmers.

...potentially more "I learned it from watching you!" commercials.

Re:I predict... (1)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327387)

That's what gets me excited about the concept. Being able to drink all I want and not having to drive.

Re:I predict... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327491)

Yeah, just what I want in my shared, free and commoditized (sp?) car... the remnants of the last guy's bar food sitting next to me.

Public transportation (3, Insightful)

BigJClark (1226554) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326831)

Because robocars can refuel, park and deliver themselves, and not simply be chauffeurs

Yes, I believe another name is, the bus.

And relax people, I know buses aren't completely oil-independant, however, our infrastructure isn't even close to what is need to support a billion electric cars.

Re:Public transportation (3, Insightful)

victim (30647) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326979)

Please read the article and then comment.

Re:Public transportation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327385)

Oh come on now, quit being silly.

Re:Public transportation (1)

RayMarron (657336) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326997)

Buses are huge, rarely filled to capacity, travel a fixed route, and require a driver.

Re:Public transportation (1)

BigJClark (1226554) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327075)


Of course, but they still meet the requirements stated in the article blurb. And in reference to my post, we're nowhere near being able to support any large number of electric car (robotic or otherwise). The bus (or public transportation) is the next logical step, I think we are all going to have to get used to if we all value our houses in the 'burbs.

I'd link to my own post, but that would just be sassy ;)

Re:Public transportation (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327149)

I think you have that backwards. Efficient public transportation is not compatible with the low-density living typical in the suburbs. If you want to keep the suburban life, highly efficient private vehicles are the only way to go.

Re:Public transportation (5, Interesting)

btempleton (149110) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327031)

Go deeper into the article about the end of transit. Buses are actually quite inefficient, because while loaded at rush hour, on average they carry few passengers. In the USA, city buses use more fuel per passenger-mile than cars do -- on average. And none of the other forms are a great deal better, though some do beat cars. Lightweight electric vehicles are 10 times more efficient than buses. It's one of the key realizations about transit in the article.

Re:Public transportation (2, Informative)

Dice (109560) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327097)

Have you ever tried to get somewhere on a bus?

Here's what Google Transit gives me for my morning commute: link [google.com] . Travel time: 2.25 hours. 3 transfer events, involving a total of 3 bus lines and 1 BART train.

Either that, or I could drive over 237 and get to work in 20min.

Re:Public transportation (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327185)

our infrastructure isn't even close to what is need to support a billion electric cars.

This is a red herring that gets brought up over and over. Our infrastructure wasn't even close to what was needed to support a billion gasoline-powered cars in 1900 either. Luckily for us, not everyone immediately went out and got a car, and not everyone will immediately go out and buy an electric car either. We can expand the infrastructure over time as electric car adoption increases, just like we've done with basically every other technology that required infrastructure to work.

It's a bit more than that (3, Insightful)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327261)

Personal public transit is not quite like a bus. Instead of just getting on and showing your bus pass, you'll have to tell the robocar who you are and where you are going. This is a totalitarian government's wet dream. It would be able to track your every move and completely deny you movement if it so chose. Robocars will usher in the new era where transportation, not just long distance travel, is a privilege, to be granted or withheld on a whim.

Re:It's a bit more than that (1)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327369)

Such a scheme would indeed be a privacy nightmare, but I'm guessing that robocars will also be owned by private citizens and pretty much behave as automatic versions of the cars of today.

Re:It's a bit more than that (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327471)

> I'm guessing that robocars will also be owned by private citizens

That won't help. Whether the robocar is yours or rented, it still has to tell the traffic control where it is going, and, I am sure, who is in it. If you read the articles, you'll see a whole slew of schemes requiring "reservations" and access to information for planning purposes. Maybe that information will be free, and reservations could be avoided, but I bet that eventually there will not be any option for people who want privacy.

Re:It's a bit more than that (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327607)

"This is a totalitarian government's wet dream."

shut up.
also, nice use of a strawman fallacy.

Re:Public transportation (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327269)

Essentially what you will be building is a taxi fleet without the need (or cost) of drivers. I guess some people would see value in getting their own driverless car (myself included for weekend/afterhours use) but for the usual daily grind I think that this would be great.

This would be an adjunct to regular public transport - many commuters would still use the train etc, but a large fleet of really really cheap cabs would revolutionise city usage.

Even having a personal driverless car would be fantastic. Finished the shoping but have something else to do? Send the car home by itself for your partner to deal with. Can't make it back to the school in time to pick up the kids? Just send the car by itself.

This also opens up an interesting issue. If there is no actual driving involved, how old do you need to be to be in charge of one of these?

The author is correct - this would change the transportation arrangements of a city as well as removing the need for cab drivers, truck drivers, delivery drivers, many couriers etc.

Re:Public transportation (2, Insightful)

kesuki (321456) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327403)

there is something really important if we really do make 'robo' taxis.

Modular battery systems. why buy a $xx,000 dollar robo taxi, if it has to 'sit' while the battery pack charges? it can be electric, electricity is cheap, right now much cheaper than oil, and it would have been almost as cheap as oil even when gas was only a $1.

what makes the most sense it to have a 'repair shop/charging station' where the robo taxi's go to swap batteries, if you want them to waste less fuel driving back to get batteries, you might make deals to have remote charging blocks. you buy as many batteries as you need to keep the fleet in operation, and if you're really tight, set the chargers to only charge to 90% full (the last 10% uses more energy) and to come back for battery swaps, whenever they hit 20% capacity, so that if you have a fare you can finish it if needed, and maybe have a light on the cam that warns passengers it's going to the charging station next...

I think this tech will replace foreign human workers driving cabs eventually, after all a computer costs a lot less than even a month of salary... although cab drivers are tipped workers so they probably get the 'minimum' pay for a tipped wage earner...

when it finally becomes a standard feature on main stream cars, it will be very cool.

keep in mind an electronic cab system can communicate with the passenger via their cell phone/the internet to arrange pickup and just have a touch screen/GPS system for setting destination. and have credit/debit card for payment, maybe with a slot machine bill reader... but who pays with cash anyways..

Re:Public transportation (2, Insightful)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327449)

Hello, welcome to rural and small urban America, which accounts for well over half the US's population. This 'bus' and concept of a thing you call 'public transportation' is foreign to us.

Unfortunatly, for many people, public transportation is not even a possibility. Small towns with fewer than ~30k people generally don't have any sort of public transportation at all (carpooling isn't usually an option either...often your nearest co-workers are more out of your way then actually going to work), and even larger ones can either not have them or they can be pretty inadequate compared to larger cities.

Re:Public transportation (2, Insightful)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327451)

Not the same. The problem with America is that it is obsessive about its suburbs. Cars can deliver you right to your doorstep. To even be considered as a valid transportation provider, buses need to get you within a very short distance of your door. In a suburban environment this means a LOT of buses, most of which will be empty all the time.

Re:Public transportation (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327589)

Except buses use more fuel then a high mileage car.

Once yuo look at how much fuel they use vs the number of riders who had a choice between car and bus, it's a no brainer, take a car.

Sounds like... (5, Insightful)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326843)

...Personal Rapid Transit, but on roads rather than rails.

In any case I think that people would be better employed saving the planet by working to prevent so many car journeys being made in the first place by trying to put an end to Single Use Zoning and fixing the silly way we build our so-called cities. It's not as geek-friendly or glamorous as rolling out a shiny new car that looks like something from an episode of Buck Rogers, but North American culture has too much faith in high-tech solutions to complex problems.

Prevention is always better than cure. Better to go back to building cities so that they can meet their original purpose of putting daily needs within walking distance. Better to fix the leak rather than put a bigger or more sophisticated bucket under it.

Re:Sounds like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327077)

I wholeheartedly disagree.

Technology is about providing power and choice. Eco-conscious geeks tend to be hard on cars, but they are fundamentally an extension of human power and potential. They let us do more, faster, and more efficiently than if we didn't have them. That said, yes the ICE is a very damaging technology and anything we can do to replace THAT is good.

Cars are a huge advance for the human species with the major flaws that they are extraordinarily deadly and polluting. Solving those two problems though leaves you with a beautiful tool. The appreciation of which I think is basic to geekdom.

Let's not pretend we're ever going to get rid of cars, and instead fully participate in the goal which is likely to succeed and which Mr. Templeton has so clearly outlined here.

Cars are not efficient (1)

copponex (13876) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327277)

Cars need roads, parking lots, garages, maintenance, highways, bridges, fuel infrastructure.... the list goes on.

Imagine if you take a city, freeze all urban sprawl construction and zoning, remove redundant highways, parking lots, and take the immense amount of space saved and turn it into parks and localized farming communities. Use sensible zoning so people can walk or bike to most places of interest. Demolish a few highway lanes and put rail down instead. You can still get from city to city via train, you can still get to your local places of commerce, and we can all stop sending money to murderous dictatorships that we tacitly support and sometimes war with.

It's a sensible solution that is incredibly unpopular because of the people who make trillions of dollars supporting a transportation infrastructure that is no longer our best option.

You can't entirely eliminate a road system, but you can make it so no one but delivery trucks need to use them. And I haven't found anyone who says they enjoy sitting in traffic, or growing up with asthma due to poor air quality in otherwise clean cities.

Re:Sounds like... (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327337)

I'm going to disagree with you there. Walking across the street to the corner store to buy a postage stamp is always going to be way more efficient than taking vehicular transport several miles to a laughably mis-named 'convenience store' for the same thing no matter the means of propulsion.

Don't get me wrong, I love my car and I think cars have their place. I just don't think they should be the only means of moving between basic daily needs and I certainly don't think that entire cities should be built in a way that denies people the choice of using their feet to get around.

Re:Sounds like... (1)

btempleton (149110) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327089)

Rebuilding cities would be great, but will take many decades, even centuries. The key to the robocar idea is it is an innovation that can be introduced, one buyer at a time, once it's legal. That's how innovation really happens. (Compare 802.11 vs most other radio applications.)

The key is to find a path to more efficient transportation the public will adopt quickly, once offered.

Re:Sounds like... (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327297)

"...once it's legal."

Provided that when it is legal, it's not taxed, or hindered by some other means to make it "equal" to manual and/or internal combustion versions, or like the EV-1 gets inexplicably 'recalled' as a failed attempt when it wasn't.

Re:Sounds like... (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327377)

Decades? Centuries? I have more faith in developers than that. I agree that retrofitting sprawling suburbs is difficult. What's less difficult is allowing mixed-use zoning in new developments.

Re:Sounds like... (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327373)

people would be better employed saving the planet by working to prevent so many car journeys being made in the first place

Yes, I agree. Maybe if those geeks designed a world-wide web that allowed people to shop from their homes... Oh, forget that, driving to the supermarket or the mall is more glamorous and geek-friendly, I guess.

Re:Sounds like... (2, Insightful)

el_cepi (732737) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327395)

I completely agree. Cities were designed share infrastructure. We share the electricity, water, internet, garbage collection. But for some reason we decide that transportation shall not be shared and everybody needs to get a huge box to move everywhere. This killing the cities.

Building a public transportation is the real solution. A huge infrastructure investment on public transportation similar to the one last century to build the highway system makes perfect sense to generate the government investment needed to reactivate the economy.

Re:Sounds like... (3, Interesting)

Chiasmus_ (171285) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327477)

Prevention is always better than cure. Better to go back to building cities so that they can meet their original purpose of putting daily needs within walking distance. Better to fix the leak rather than put a bigger or more sophisticated bucket under it.

While there are certainly advantages to living in geographically self-contained units, there are also massive benefits to centralizing industries.

Yes, the "slow foods" movement will tell us, accurately, that shipping our produce from hundreds of miles away causes an incredible amount of waste in fuel.

But consider the alternative - a small farm for every nine city blocks. Suddenly, instead of having a system where one farmer can produce food for a thousand, you have a system where one farmer produces food for, say, fifty. Which means you have to have 20 times more farmers. Which means there are fewer people to provide other services. The same goes for commerce: five corner stores might be more convenient than one larger, more centralized 7-11 - but now you have five times as many people working in low-end retail.

It's centralization of the more menial services that allow so many of us to have jobs in less immediately-necessary services - like programming or science. And almost-completely-unnecessary services, like video game design and filmmaking? Forget about it.

Infrastructure (3, Insightful)

proudfoot (1096177) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326855)

One major issue with RoboCars is that any effective implementation of them will require substantial changes to our current infrastructure. GPS based navigation is helpful - but - RFID markers on roads is much more effective. Cars can locate other cars, as shown in the Grand Challenge, using LIDAR, but this is very, very expensive and sometimes unreliable. (The DARPA 08' cars used 70,000 dollar LIDAR systems, and i'm not too sure how long one would last) To effectively know the location of other cars, all cars would need a transponder, echoing its location and other data (speed, intentions, plans to change lane, etc) I'm not quite sure how long it will be before we can implement these systems. To get autonomous cars cheap, and in a reasonable amount of time, we'd have to start mandating transponders right about now.

Re:Infrastructure (2)

btempleton (149110) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327053)

What's $70,000 today in quantity 10,000 is $50 in 2020 in quantity 1 billion, if it's electronics.

No need for RFIDs or transponders. You need a system that works without other cars or the roads doing anything to get a user adoption - and we can get that.

Re:Infrastructure (1)

mo (2873) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327291)

Transponders aren't enough. Unless you make sure that people only throw couches into the road that also include transponders, you're gonna need real obstacle detection.

Heaven forbid a sinkhole opens up, swallowing 100's of robocars like lemmings to a cliff.

That doesn't mean there's not a software solution to this problem. Organisms like lizards do quite well at visually detecting obstacles with brain power that's reasonably close to modern computers. While it might be a hugely difficult software problem, it's at least conceivably doable with today's hardware.

Sheesh (0, Redundant)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326879)

Talk about a pipe dream. This guy acts as though no one ever thought of autonomous robots before. Let me give the guy a hint: there's a reason we don't have robot butlers yet that clean the house, cook the food, etc, etc. It's because we don't have a science of Artificial Intelligence yet, and don't have a clue how to do it. (And Roomba isn't even in the same universe).

Given that we don't even have autonomous servants that can slowly do our bidding, this guy wants to strap a computer into multi-thousand pound death machine travelling at 40/50/60 miles an hour (calculate that kinetic energy on that), give it a kick in the rear-end and let it fly? On normal, public roads? Yeah, right.

This guy is so in the dark about how far we are away from this that it's funny. Yeah, just ask the geeks to crank this out in their spare time. And then they can pick up their Nobel Prize in Computer Science that'll be invented just for them.

Re:Sheesh (1)

halsver (885120) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327045)

Transportation is a much simpler problem than dusting and cleaning the house. You have standards and easily quantifiable data all over the road. (not to mention GPS data in the sky) The most complicated problem with robotic cars is "swarm" computing. Research is being done to create a group of networked robots that collaborate to accomplish a common goal, the technology should be well understood within the next ten years. By that time, object recognition and sensor arrays should be sophisticated enough to produce a Robocar with six sigma performance in the field.

Technology will not be what holds back Robocars, but people. However I would say it's not unreasonable to think we could have such things in 50-75 years.

Re:Sheesh (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327173)

Transportation is a much simpler problem than dusting and cleaning the house. You have standards and easily quantifiable data all over the road.

Not true. Most of accident avoidance is anticipation -- seeing a child losing a ball on the side of the road, watching a car pulling out of a driveway, watching the eyes of someone who is turning to make sure they are seeing you, etc.

Then we could talk about looking for road debris and pot holes, which is *not* a simple problem.

In a perfectly predictable world, yes, an autonomous car would be easy. In the real, very unpredictable world, it's not.

Re:Sheesh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327571)

Let's not forget rural Indiana where paved roads are already too much to ask let alone RFID marked ones.

DARPA: Save the environment; invent our robotanks! (1)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326889)

Long ranges can be handled by having cars sit on trains and with computer based scheduling it would be easier to use them (unless windows handles the scheduling or we need crazy security checks.)

Although people could simply walk from their robocar to the train...

Seriously, you can't move as many people with robocars as a subway does in a downtown area.

Retrofit? (1)

Randomish (1042542) | more than 6 years ago | (#24326905)

From what I understand (since I don't seem to be of the mindset) part of the reason why Americans drive the cars they do is status symbol/machismo/style. I've heard other countries aren't as obsessed with the auto as an accessory, so much as a necessary evil. Perhaps when developing the idea for the future of electric cars, there might be an initial offering of retrofitting existing cars to the automated capabilities. This should help get the concept on the market, as I'd bet more people would rather update their cars than buy a new one they're not sure of.

Re:Retrofit? (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327007)

From what I understand (since I don't seem to be of the mindset) part of the reason why Americans drive the cars they do is status symbol/machismo/style.

I'm sure some do, but that's a very, very small reason. The reason people own cars is for the freedom of travel. With certain exceptions (very dense cities with subways and slow traffic), cars are almost always more efficient for getting around. And they're also nearly always the cheapest way to travel long-distance, even with gas prices what they are, and you get all the freedom to stop and travel where you want to.

The question isn't why Americans love cars, the question is why Europe doesn't.

Because they mostly live in very dense cities. (0, Flamebait)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327309)

Europeans just don't understand how fucking big the USA is.

It's because many Europeans are rubes with a very narrow world view. Witness how often they show up on /. suggesting what works for them as the perfect solution for the USA...Eurotrash snob-hicks!

There is much less difference between a frenchman and Pole then there is between a New Yorker and an Oklahoman. None share a language, but the frenchman and the Pole mostly share a culture (losing the the Germans without a fight).

Re:Retrofit? (2, Insightful)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327331)

> you get all the freedom to stop and travel where you want to.
> The question isn't why Americans love cars, the question is why Europe doesn't.

Because in Europe the public transport infrastructure is much better, and the cities are denser. You can walk almost anywhere, and it is easy to take a bus or train to go further. It's much more convenient than worrying about parking.

Re:Retrofit? (2, Insightful)

Phantom of the Opera (1867) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327507)

The question isn't why Americans love cars, the question is why Europe doesn't.

Its quite an assumption to think that Europeans don't love their cars. That is not true.

They just don't tend to like to commute in them. European cities are congested places; bicycles are often a faster means of travel within a city.

I would much rather take a 20 minute ride on busses and fast trains rather than an hour commute driving through traffic.

I had lived in Berlin for a while. When you are downtown, you are never further than 200 meters from a subway or fast train stop. The rest of the city was covered by extensive bus routes, even at night. Cars were for longer trips, and most longer trips could be taken by train or bus in any case.

Look at Manhattan. The subway and bus systems completely blanket the city and the subways run all night. You have more freedom if you don't bring a car and have to seek out parking (which may be many blocks from your destination).

Re:Retrofit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327441)

I'm Canadian and I can tell you I buy motorcycles for style and power. I live a 20min walk to the nearest public transportation, and if it was 1 minute away I still wouldn't use it, because of the shit schedules and tiny minority of unpleasant riffraff (lol classism.)

#1 WAY FOR GEEKS TO SAVE THE PLANET (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326929)

no summary available

GET OUT OF YOUR PARENTS' BASEMENT AND GO GET LAID. THE COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF TISSUE PAPER YOU'RE FLUSHING EVERYDAY IS CLOGGING UP THE OCEANS.

Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like yelling.

Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like yelling.

Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like yelling.

Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like yelling.

Re:#1 WAY FOR GEEKS TO SAVE THE PLANET (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327029)

Don't use so many caps. It's like yelling. Tard.

Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24326969)

I still don't know why North Americans are so against walking/cycling/public transit. But then again, North American lifestyles are deliberately built around NOT walking/cycling/using public transit. Which came first?

Re:Hmm... (1)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327111)

Biggest reason: distance to work/play/shop. Though it does give an interesting twist to your "chicken and egg" question.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327247)

I still don't know why North Americans are so against walking/cycling/public transit. But then again, North American lifestyles are deliberately built around NOT walking/cycling/using public transit. Which came first?

2 Feet of Snow + 15 deg F + 30mph winds + 45 mile commute = How long of a walk, sport?

Re:Hmm... (1)

Pontiac (135778) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327473)

Hmm well maybe it's Walking 1/2 mile to the bus stop..
Getting on a bus and riding for 40 minutes through several neighborhoods spending half the time moving further away from my destination then when I started , transfering to another bus, riding another 20 minutes to work..

Yey! my 7 mile trip to work just took an hour!
Now I'm at work and I need to go work at the datacenter.. Hmm no bus going to that facility.. I guess I'll walk 5 miles in 110 deg heat. Lunch time!.. hmm I have 30 minutes.. the bus will never make it in time.. Brown bag, starve or try the one resturant in walking dintance, Oh it closed last month..

Time to go home.. Another hour on the bus!! yay!

In Soviet Russia (1)

c0d3r (156687) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327003)

In Soviet Russia the new robot overlords welcome you!

Robocars can only exist after lawyers are killed (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327013)

The reason cars don't drive themselves is not a problem of technology, but of liability. Now, if there is an accident the driver is blamed. Carmakers are unwilling to take on that liability and themselves be blamed for accidents.

If we're saving millions of lives... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327041)

Then aren't we consuming more of the planet anyway?

Re:If we're saving millions of lives... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327279)

You can always kill those millions of people in some more entertaining way. Auto accidents can be ok, some even good, but most are lame and not even caught on video. Let's say robocars save two million people a year. That's two million gladiators you can have in some kind of "there can be only one" contest, all caught on video, and sold in DRM wrappers through the iTunes store, with btempleton getting 10% of the take.

not all that hard (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327051)

This isn't all that hard. It's more of a social problem than a technological one. Correcting for erratic and imperfect human drivers is the big problem.

I think it was I-15 in San Diego that had a lane used as test for autonomous cars in the 1990s. It required a regular spacing of markers for the cars to follow and that that all the cars contain transponders. If that was doable on a freeway ~10 years ago, what's proposed here can be done. It may just mean that you're no longer allowed to drive your own car.

Re:not all that hard (1)

Kuros_overkill (879102) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327305)

It may just mean that you're no longer allowed to drive your own car.

What about those of us who actually like driving?

I find it rather soothing and relaxing, just taking a drive somewhere. (Obviously not in the city, and certainly not in the city during rush hour.)

And no, "Riding" will not due, Its not the destination, its not the journey, its the act itself.

Saving the earth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327059)

Quoted:

Robocars As the Best Way Geeks Can Save the Planet

The only problem with this statement is that cars don't save, or even help the planet. They just harm it less. *grins*

as a bicyclist, (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327083)

let me say, that the greatest thing that 'geeks' can do to save the environment, is to ignore moronic BS like this, stop having grand utopian visions, and f@#$ stop buying s@#$ they dont need.

Someone took a dump in my robotaxi (2, Insightful)

mo (2873) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327109)

Ok, so it might not be as extreme as all that, but have you seen the inside of a taxi? It's thrashed, and I think the only reason it's not more thrashed is that there's an taxi driver who would beat you up if you did something stupid.

TFAuthor says that people might want to rent their robocars out while they're at work. Like hell I would! The last thing I need is some jackass with a spiked belt ripping a hole in my leather seats.

If robocars become practical, and energy costs rise, it's possible that the author's vision will be inevitable. Still, it's gonna suck to find that some bum puked in my robotaxi right when I'm late for work.

Maybe we can engineer robocops to sit in every robotaxi to prevent the vandals from ruining it for all of us.

Re:Someone took a dump in my robotaxi (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327465)

leather seats come from cows, cows cause global warming. you're not part of the solution at all, you stupid cunt bitch.

Re:Someone took a dump in my robotaxi (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327555)

Or, have video cameras along with a sort of ID Key-Card...

Or, damage sensors throughout the vehicle, and like a normal taxi, where you pay at the end, if the user/rider can't afford to pay for the damage they did to the vehicle, they just don't get let out, and it sits there till the situation is rectified by some means.

Or, the taxi's are just really cold and sterile, made out of material that is very hard to damage.

I'm not really a fan of any of those idea's, but they are possibilities, especially in combinations with eachother.

Puking/fucking/graffiti/etc is going to happen regardless, and in all classes (not just "bums") that's just part of the cost of the business. Personally, I don't think I would ever be comfortable in a robot/autonomous vehicle, having a human driver isn't exactly perfect, but it can be monitered/trusted more... it (human) will make instantanly recognizable sounds/motions when something is (or about to be) wrong, and you can usually directly see the fault, ie: "he looks tired", "he isnt watching the road", etc... which can't really happen with a robotic driver, you dont know its failed till you wake up in the hospital, even with redundancies, and constant input about the "health" of the autonomobile, I wouldnt trust it, and even if I did I would be sacrificing the leasure/relaxation I would probably have if it was a human.

"dot-com Clari.Net" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327133)

And for the hat trick, the domain was named clari.org.

Just kidding, but damn, the irony was right in my face. Someone had to say something.

KISS (2, Interesting)

12357bd (686909) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327143)

Why not start by coupling a frontal sonar and the gas-brake control to enforce the safety distance? Easy to do, and could save a lot of lives.

Re:KISS (1)

Unending (1164935) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327227)

My parent's Toyota van from a couple of years ago has this, but it's only active when cruise control is active.

Re:KISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327399)

I like your idea except that I would swap out "gas-brake control" with "spring-loaded boxing glove filled with quarters that punches at a rate of 2 times per second".

Re:KISS (1)

aibob (1035288) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327521)

This is called adaptive cruise control [wikipedia.org] , and it is available on many high-end cars. Note the use of lidar or radar instead of sonar, however.

I once worked on a project to use sonar to guide a robot through hallways. We had very good sensors, but they still gave very inaccurate readings. IMHO sonar is definitely not something I would consider trusting in a transportation context without some serious R&D to improve it. My professor for the project had actually worked with Nissan on an adaptive cruise control system.

Will the first Robocar virus... (4, Funny)

RJFerret (1279530) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327163)

...be called "drunk", "on cellphone" or "putting on makeup"?

Re:Will the first Robocar virus... (1)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327585)

No. It will be called 'Blonde' or 'Bimbo'.

Where is the power coming from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327167)

This sounds like a lot of bollock cheap crap talk to me. So; electric cars are going to save the future because no one needs to use gas to power their cars. Cool. So what device is providing the power to fuel those electric cars? Better yet: what amounts of gas does that gizmo consume ?

What would be better: 2 families, one uses his car as often as possible, other other hardly. One family fills up regulary the other hardly. This scenario vs. a "electric pump" which will always make sure to have enough juice to power at least 2 cars ?

Is this about the environment? Ofcourse not; its about commercial interests. You do the math; if you're not already numbed down to be totally unable to do basic maths without a calculator.

Re:Where is the power coming from? (1)

Chiasmus_ (171285) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327505)

Well, in theory, any kind of power could be harnessed to power electric cars. You can't safely put a small nuclear reactor in every car on the road, but you can certainly charge many cars on the power provided by a single reactor. There isn't enough surface area on cars to have them run on solar power by any feasible stretch of modern technology - but you could power quite a few cars with a solar array. Wind. Geothermal. The possibilities are... well, not endless, but very broad.

Save your soul (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327203)

The planet is just where one's corpse is to be stored.

Save the Planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327215)

Or make an immeasurable change. Whichever.

Saving lives (1)

SeeManRun (1040704) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327367)

Should we really be saving lives? Wouldn't making things more dangerous really allow our civilization to prosper, returning to a survival of the fittest like era? Saving lives takes away much needed jobs from many industries, and allows the less fit to just keep on breeding. Of course, that is not practical from a humanistic point of view, but if you think purely logical, I think you'll see it makes sense to just let people die!

wtf do you think this tech will be used for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327413)

killing people in stupid useless wars.

morons.

An excellent web site (4, Interesting)

timholman (71886) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327421)

I give a talk on the consequences of Moore's Law to a freshman class every year, and one of my topics is autonomous vehicles. This web site does a great job of summarizing the future of personal transportation. A few other points I discuss with the class:

(1) Mass transit as we think of it will largely vanish within 20 years. Cities will find it far easier to maintain fleets of robocars, and dispatch them right to the doors of residents, rather than maintain traditional subway and bus lines. The "last half-mile" problem of getting from the door of your home to the door of your destination will be solved.

(2) The authors discuss "sleeper cars", but they don't really consider all the ramifications. A huge chunk of overnight business travel (everything within a few hundred miles) will be taken over by robocars. People will go to bed in the sleeper car, open the door the next day, and find themselves at their destination. Consequently, hotels and motels will offer short-term rooms (for one or two hours) so that people can shower and dress on the road. A significant portion of the U.S. population will literally become nomadic, sleeping in robotic RVs every night, and waking up to a new destination every morning.

(3) Once robocars are widely accepted, human drivers will be forced off the roads very quickly. How? By 100% enforcement of all traffic laws with high-tech imaging (also thanks to Moore's Law). A human will be unable to conform to the ultra-rigid driving laws that robocars will handle with ease.

As I say to my students: "You are the last generation that will need to learn to drive. To your children, it will be an option. To your grandchildren, knowing how to drive a car will be as quaint a concept as knowing how to saddle and ride a horse."

Re:An excellent web site (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327551)

You are lying to your students.
The social and practical issues haven't even been looked at, much less solved.

OTOH, I don't really expect any practicality from a professor.

I ahve no doubt it will happen, but we are generations away. My son(now 10) might start to see real world use from these. If people like them, you still ahve another generation, at best, before they gin to approach critical mass. This is do to the fact that people like their freedom when driving, and/or already own cars.

Also, driving is fun.

All tnat and (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327497)

Brad still can't tell the difference between doable and practical.

How are they insured? how do you get people to convert? How do you protect them fomr vandelism? Theft?

then this little number:
" Because passengers don't care about the range of their taxis, "

um, I don't know about good ol' Brad, but I sure as hell care about the range of a vehicle I'm getting into. Will it take me to a meet 30 miles away safely and timely?
Can I take one across the state?

less pipedreams, more reality please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327515)

You can not conserve yourself into prosperity.

Robotic cars would be nice, but don't expect to see them anytime soon. Give it 20 years minimum.

Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24327519)

'...robotic beings rule the world;
  The humans are dead...'

Reading in the car (1)

A440Hz (1054614) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327573)

I just can't wait until I'm able to read a book or play the harmonica or the guitar while (in Soviet Russia,) the car drives me. I currently play the harmonica while driving, and sometimes, if I'm really into it, I'll steer with my knee (two hands on the harp--better sound, and vibrato, etc.). Don't tell nobody. I just hope I don't ever get a photo radar picture while playing the harp with two hands.

The problem isn't fuel. It's the cities. (3, Insightful)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#24327605)

The problem really is that US cities and suburbs were designed ONLY for cars, and not for pedestrians. To buy stuff there aren't local stores (except maybe in big cities like NY) where you can buy misc stuff for your house. No, you have to get in the car, drive for N minutes to the nearest Walmart, park, get your stuff, rinse, repeat.

Right now I just googled for "pedestrian unfriendly" and got to this blog:

http://nishantkashyap.blogspot.com/2007/07/pedestrian-and-poor-unfriendly-us.html [blogspot.com]

The first thing that strikes you about any US suburb is the landscaping - beautifully manicured patches of green all along the road and absolutely no sign of dust - perfect settings to take a stroll or if your office is close enough may be take a walk to the office. But lo and behold, where do you walk? There are absolutely no footpaths, no pedestrian crossings and as if that was not enough you have absolutely no public transport as well- a total anti-thesis of a city like NYC and that is true for all such places in US - a lesson for those who get mesmerized by cities likes NYC and Chicago and start cursing our poor cities. Any day I am happy taking a cycle-rick in hot and dusty Lucknow or Amritsar than risking my life walking on the side of the picturesque road here where traffic may be moving at 100 kmps minimum. Everyone here keeps a car and absolutely no one walks - there are some crossing which have a no pedestrian sign - something which I saw for the very first time in my life.

With absolutely no provisions for pedestrians or public transport - I wonder what do the poor do here. Everyone is forced to buy a car - no wonder US is the biggest contributor to greenhouse emissions and also leveraged 3 time over because you absolutely have to buy and maintain a car. Moreover, due to lack of basic exercise like walking US is also facing obesity crisis and has been forced to spend a good amount of funds on health care and low cal diets.

Then I googled for "car free cities" and got to this website:
http://www.carfree.com/cft/i003_qz.html [carfree.com]

After reading that, you'll begin to understand what really is wrong with car pollution in the U.S.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?