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Researchers Test Drive Bus With Automated Steering

Soulskill posted about 6 years ago | from the watch-out-for-the-t-rex dept.

Transportation 180

An anonymous reader tips us to news that researchers at University of California, Berkeley, have successfully test driven a 60-foot bus that controlled its own steering. Sensors on the bus detected magnets that had been embedded in a San Leandro road, and it was able to reach stops within one centimeter of its desired position. Acceleration and braking during the test were controlled by a human operator, but the system is capable of handling those as well, and has done so on test courses. "... sensors mounted under the bus measured the magnetic fields created from the roadway magnets, which were placed beneath the pavement surface 1 meter apart along the center of the lane. The information was translated into the bus's lateral and longitudinal position by an on-board computer, which then directed the vehicle to move accordingly. For a vehicle traveling 60 miles per hour, data from 27 meters (88 feet) of roadway can be read and processed in 1 second. Zhang added that the system is robust enough to withstand a wide range of operating conditions, including rain or snow, a significant improvement to other vehicle guidance systems based upon optics."

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If "auto-steering" becomes popular... (3, Insightful)

nathan.fulton (1160807) | about 6 years ago | (#24991013)

who gets sued in the event of a crash?

Re:If "auto-steering" becomes popular... (0, Offtopic)

Cecil (37810) | about 6 years ago | (#24991099)

Who cares?

Re:If "auto-steering" becomes popular... (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 6 years ago | (#24991305)

This is why self driven vehicles are a very very long way off. Even in the event that they bring collisions and other related problems down to 0.01% of their current rate, it still won't be good enough. When a crash happens now, it's almost always the fault of the person behind the wheel (except with mechanical failure, which is rare, and even more rare when you consider it's the fault of the driver for unmaintained vehicles). However, when cars start driving themselves, any crash will automatically be the fault of the company who designed the steering system. Any crash would probably cause a complete recall on the cars using the same system, and the company would probably go bankrupt instantly.

Dunno. Who gets sued today when... (5, Insightful)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 6 years ago | (#24991581)

...a car with anti-lock brakes still rear-ends someone?

"Cars that drive themselves" won't arrive as a new option in model year 20XX. They'll encroach bit by bit, following in the footsteps of automatic spark advance, electric starters, power steering, power brakes, automatic transmission, cruise control, electronic fuel injection, anti-lock brakes, traction control, collision avoidance, self-parking...

When you finally do get a car that can "drive itself", you'll probably be too busy talking on your cell phone and using your extended navigation/information center to notice.

Re:Dunno. Who gets sued today when... (2, Interesting)

wronskyMan (676763) | about 6 years ago | (#24991665)

+1

In aviation, planes have had autopilots for years (and recently, autoland systems), yet there is no giant puzzle as to who is responsible if the AP-equipped plane crashes: from the US aviation regulations, "The pilot in command is responsible at all times for the safe operation of the aircraft". Maybe a similar principle for cars is needed.

Re:Dunno. Who gets sued today when... (2, Interesting)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | about 6 years ago | (#24991749)

An aircraft autopilot is also ready to be disengaged at any moment by the pilot if he thinks he needs to. Indeed, there has been at least one serious airliner accident caused by the pilot inadvertently disengaging the autopilot but not realizing it until it was too late.

An automated car which can drive fully independently will be a total game-changer. An automated car which requires the driver to still pay attention and be ready to take over control at all times is much less interesting.

Re:If "auto-steering" becomes popular... (1)

SupremoMan (912191) | about 6 years ago | (#24991669)

A scapegoat.

trams! (4, Insightful)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | about 6 years ago | (#24991015)

The 19th century called....they want their trams back.

Re:trams! (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about 6 years ago | (#24991075)

Trams are just buses on rails. They still have a driver.

And I would rather depend on a driver to stop the bus (or tram, if you will) in an emergency in preference to magnets under the road.

Re:trams! (4, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | about 6 years ago | (#24991175)

Try the Docklands Light Railway then.

They don't have drivers. They have "train captains" who can hit the emergency stop button if necessary, close the doors when everyone is on/off, and the rest of the time walk up and down checking tickets.

I think anything that drives where there is other traffic is going to have to have a driver, so like the grandparent poster, I don't see what the advantage of this is over a tramway.

Re:trams! (1)

westlake (615356) | about 6 years ago | (#24991227)

The 19th century called....they want their trams back.
.

The cost of maintaining tracks, switches, overheads, etc., helped kill the streetcar. It's all over and above the expense of maintaining the road.

There was no simple or economical way to re-route lines or add new ones.

Re:trams! (2, Interesting)

NiceGeek (126629) | about 6 years ago | (#24991981)

Really? The streetcar is dead? I guess I rode a ghost train in downtown Portland, OR the other day.

Re:trams! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24991241)

I was on a brand new (still smelled like new) bus on my way to the airport a couple of weeks ago and it struck me that they've had 80 years of development of the bus and the thing still vibrates annoyingly. If there was a way to combine the cheap infrastructure of buses with the smooth ride of trams it would be an instant success in most cities worldwide.

Re:trams! (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | about 6 years ago | (#24991321)

I was on a brand new (still smelled like new) bus on my way to the airport a couple of weeks ago and it struck me that they've had 80 years of development of the bus and the thing still vibrates annoyingly. If there was a way to combine the cheap infrastructure of buses with the smooth ride of trams it would be an instant success in most cities worldwide.

Any kind of electric bus would probably fulfill those criteria.

Re:trams! (1, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 6 years ago | (#24991653)

"If there was a way to combine the cheap infrastructure of buses with the smooth ride of trams it would be an instant success in most cities worldwide."

Not for me...I need my independent private form of transportation. I need it to carry stuff, get to exactly where I need to be at the time of my choosing...not to mention not wanting to sit on a smelly bus with the types of people that usually are on public transportation (bums, street people, etc).

Re:trams! (1)

luder (923306) | about 6 years ago | (#24992023)

There is: meet the trolley bus [wikipedia.org] . Yes, there still needs to be wires above the road, but that's probably much cheaper than laying rails on it.

Re:trams! (1)

Dipster (830908) | about 6 years ago | (#24991755)

Exactly.

If the solution to autonomous driving is to modify every road with extra features to help vehicles navigate themselves, that was accomplished long ago with far simpler methods than those in the article.

Even the accomplishment of using magnets is not that impressive, it is basic engineering and control systems. The focus of actual autonomous vehicle research is to allow navigation without the cost of upgrading every road across the country.

Re:trams! (1)

collinstocks (1295204) | about 6 years ago | (#24992141)

Alright, time for some meta-moderation...

You were modded insightful? seriously? Funny, you were, but insightful?

Sabotage? (4, Interesting)

maeka (518272) | about 6 years ago | (#24991017)

But can it survive intentional sabotage?
Placing magnets on the surface of the pavement would not be hard to do.

Re:Sabotage? (1)

bbk (33798) | about 6 years ago | (#24991085)

Exactly what I thought - what about other sources of mangentic interference (say the motor of an electric vehicle, etc.)?

Re:Sabotage? (4, Insightful)

Graff (532189) | about 6 years ago | (#24991165)

what about other sources of mangentic interference (say the motor of an electric vehicle, etc.)?

This is no different than the head of a hard drive traveling over the disk surface. The magnets can be in a coded pattern that is encrypted a certain way that would be robust enough to overcome possible interference, whether accidental or intentional.

Yes, there are always risks of sabotage or an accident but this is no different than the risks of our current roadways. What's to stop someone from spreading caltrops across the road and causing a massive accident? How about the accidental interference of an oil spill or a bridge support giving way?

As with everything, you try to build redundancy and robustness into the system and limit the risks. Just because a system has the possibility of failing doesn't mean the idea is worthless.

Re:Sabotage? (4, Informative)

maeka (518272) | about 6 years ago | (#24991307)

This is no different than the head of a hard drive traveling over the disk surface. The magnets can be in a coded pattern that is encrypted a certain way that would be robust enough to overcome possible interference, whether accidental or intentional.

With a bit-per-meter you simply do not have enough data density to do any sort of robust encryption.

Yes, there are always risks of sabotage or an accident but this is no different than the risks of our current roadways. What's to stop someone from spreading caltrops across the road and causing a massive accident? How about the accidental interference of an oil spill or a bridge support giving way?

1 - caltrops in pavement should not cause a massive accident. For evidence see police use of spike-strips to stop fleeing vehicles. Rarely do vehicles lose control under even the more catastrophic tire failure these hollow spikes cause as opposed to caltrops.
2 - Oil spills and bridge failures are not only more apparent than covert placement of magnets, they are also harder acts of sabotage to achieved w/o being caught.

But enough of the pedantic replies to your specifics, on your general claim that "this is no different than the risks of our current roadways" I will argue this is completely different than the risks of our current roadways.
Current roadway systems rely on human drivers. A human driver can react in a much more flexible manner than any automated drive system. Whereas it appears this system would be easy to fake with the high tech equivalent of false road signs, no (few?) human would drive into a lake because a fake road sign told them to. Again, this is not just about new technologies creating security risks which previously didn't exist, but more so the new assumptions which frequently come with the adoption of said technologies creating newly viable attack vectors.

Re:Sabotage? (4, Informative)

Carrot007 (37198) | about 6 years ago | (#24991413)

>no (few?) human would drive into a lake because a fake road sign told them to.

Cue links to stories detailing the idiocy of people using sat nav...

Re:Sabotage? (2, Insightful)

SleepingWaterBear (1152169) | about 6 years ago | (#24991899)

An automated system may in fact be more vulnerable to sabotage than what we have now, though I suspect you overestimate the difficulty in committing sabotage in the current system. But that isn't really the point.

Right now cars are ridiculously dangerous, accounting for about 2 percent of deaths [wikipedia.org] , and most of these accidents are due to human error [wikipedia.org] . I suspect that the number of deaths due to sabotage are much, much lower than those due to human caused car accidents, and besides, a potential saboteur can always look elsewhere for targets if the road system is hard to attack.

If automated systems can reduce the accident rate by any significant amount at all, the increased risk of sabotage is a pretty ridiculous thing to worry about.

Re:Sabotage? (1)

Eudial (590661) | about 6 years ago | (#24991193)

Exactly what I thought - what about other sources of mangentic interference (say the motor of an electric vehicle, etc.)?

Most magnetic fields are very weak, unless designed not to be. Most sources of magnetic fields, like transformers and solenoids bleed very little outside their surface, and commonly decay very quickly.

Depending on how this technology works, it may also be possible to effectively filter out any magnetic field not emanating from below (or above) the bus. The induced current in a loop of wire in the same plane as the floor of the bus will have a factor sin(theta), where theta is the angle between the loop and the magnetic field.

Re:Sabotage? (2, Insightful)

nathan.fulton (1160807) | about 6 years ago | (#24991113)

Yes. 1. TFA: "In the system demonstrated today, sensors mounted under the bus measured the magnetic fields created from the roadway magnets, which were placed beneath the pavement surface 1 meter apart along the center of the lane." I'm assuming (but probably a safe one, UC Berkley is full of smart people) that the system has some pretty specific levels of acceptable differential in the magnetic field. Otherwise, any large magnet -- of which there are many in a large city -- would be able to modify its direction, intentional or not. And, seeing as it's a bus, the computer on-board probably has a course that it will accept, the magnets are just there to get it to exactly the right place so that loading/unloading time can be saved -- stops add up. 2. It doesn't replace a driver, it supplements one.

Re:Sabotage? (3, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 6 years ago | (#24991371)

Why would it simply supplement a driver? If you still have to pay some guy $60,000 a year to sit in the bus, you might as well save the money on the magnetic navigation, and just have the guy drive the bus. Using a system like this only makes sense (and cents) if you can actually remove the driver from the bus. Since you'll always need somebody on the bus (for the foreseeable future), to ensure fares are paid, and to answer the questions of riders on which route to take, and about why the guy on the back of the bus has his pet pig on the bus, and to tell the able bodied people to get out of the priority seating on the bus so the guy with the wheelchair can get on the bus, you aren't going to get much advantage from a system like this.

Re:Sabotage? (1)

gfody (514448) | about 6 years ago | (#24991585)

You think a bus driver makes $60,000 a year?
From salary.com:

The median expected salary for a typical Bus Driver in the United States is $18,234. This basic market pricing report was prepared using our Certified Compensation Professionals' analysis of survey data collected from thousands of HR departments at employers of all sizes, industries and geographies.

Re:Sabotage? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 6 years ago | (#24991901)

Well, I don't know about the US, but in Canada [payscale.com] , they can demand quite a bit more. Average $56,000 for 1-4 years of experience. And with the unions in place, they get quite a bit more as their seniority increases, although for some reason payscale.com blocks those numbers from public view.

Re:Sabotage? (1)

maeka (518272) | about 6 years ago | (#24991403)

Yes. 1. TFA: "In the system demonstrated today, sensors mounted under the bus measured the magnetic fields created from the roadway magnets, which were placed beneath the pavement surface 1 meter apart along the center of the lane." I'm assuming (but probably a safe one, UC Berkley is full of smart people) that the system has some pretty specific levels of acceptable differential in the magnetic field. Otherwise, any large magnet -- of which there are many in a large city -- would be able to modify its direction, intentional or not. And, seeing as it's a bus, the computer on-board probably has a course that it will accept, the magnets are just there to get it to exactly the right place so that loading/unloading time can be saved -- stops add up. 2. It doesn't replace a driver, it supplements one.

1 - See my bolding - I read the article and there in nothing in it to suggest this system is resistant to attack.
2 - From TFA:

In the E. 14th Street demonstration, the magnetic guidance system was only used to control the steering for the bus, but on test tracks it has been used for full vehicle control

It didn't replace a driver in this demonstration there is nothing said about its intended deployed use.

Re:Sabotage? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24991177)

Or if someone were to place a bomb underneath the bus that would detonate should it go under 55 miles per hour? What would the robots do then, huh?

Re:Sabotage? (1)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | about 6 years ago | (#24991671)

Or if someone were to place a bomb underneath the bus that would detonate should it go under 55 miles per hour? What would the robots do then, huh?

Go off to make several other bad movies?

Re:Sabotage? (1)

quantumred (1311571) | about 6 years ago | (#24991261)

But can it survive intentional sabotage? Placing magnets on the surface of the pavement would not be hard to do.

The magnets are placed under the pavement in the center of the lane. That may be enough to make their signal distinct from any magnets dropped by a saboteur. Additionally the magnets might be made in a specific way such that the pickup sensors look for that specific type. Also the bus could have a GPS sensor on board to prevent any major deviation from the route.

I'm a little more interested in the ability to change lanes or deal with other uncertainties. It seems these buses must follow an exact route based on their magnets. What happens if a car breaks down or stalls in their magnetic lane? A human operator would just go around, but it would seem these robot buses would be stuck in this scenario.

Re:Sabotage? (1)

BCMcI (838317) | about 6 years ago | (#24991291)

I was going to suggest this to but using multiple poles or an RFID would make the system much more robust. It does seem that adding collision avoidance sensors using radar or photography would be prudent.

Re:Sabotage? (4, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | about 6 years ago | (#24991311)

Yeah it does sound unsafe to me.

I've been thinking how about "just don't do that then"?

After all, placing stuff on railway tracks can derail a train and kill people. Doesn't even have to be anything fancy.

Someone could just as easily pour motor oil on a dangerous bend and get people killed.

As a species we really have to start growing up.

If technology continues improving, the amount of power the average individual is able to wield is likely to increase dramatically.

So the alternatives are grow up, or lose freedoms (not good), or experience "some random idiot thinks it's funny to kill everybody" (also not good).

The odds are we're doomed, but who knows we might get lucky.

Whatever... (1)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | about 6 years ago | (#24991019)

I'll be impressed when I can sit back in rush hour, bring up a movie, and pop a old one and watch.

That can be a couple of hours here in Metro Atlanta.

I forgot: Press Release at top of (1)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | about 6 years ago | (#24991053)

'article'.

Ah hem! Press releases are not news.

I can release a press release that say, "ButterOldGuy has invented a process of vetting the most perfect VP and how any geek can get laid by a super model or better yet, a porn star."

Re:Whatever... (2, Insightful)

nathan.fulton (1160807) | about 6 years ago | (#24991055)

You can now. It's called public transportation.

Re:Whatever... (1)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | about 6 years ago | (#24991079)

You can now. It's called public transportation.

Ah yes. Touche. BUT, public transport also gets caught in traffic. I'm assuming with these controlled buses, traffic would be controlled so that even the buses wouldn't get bogged down in a traffic pile up.

Besides, my movies star Jenna Jamison. I can't watch them on public transport!

Re:Whatever... (2, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 6 years ago | (#24991409)

Get a pair of Myvu [myvu.com] glasses. That way, nobody can tell what you are watching.

Re:Whatever... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24991605)

pop a old one

I prefer them young, fresh and naive - they're easier to pop then. There's too much slack to overcome once they're aged.

traffic (1)

Annymouse Cowherd (1037080) | about 6 years ago | (#24991021)

Was it able to travel through traffic, though?

Re:traffic (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 6 years ago | (#24991051)

Or dodge bassinets placed as a bait for a trap by super villains?

Re:traffic (1)

smussman (1160103) | about 6 years ago | (#24991063)

If you RTFS, acceleration and braking are controlled by a human operator. So I'm not really sure whether being in traffic would make a difference to this test.

Although I imagine it wasn't.

Re:traffic (4, Funny)

SEWilco (27983) | about 6 years ago | (#24991491)

Ahem... any bus without any driver, and only the intelligence of a brick on the accelerator, is able to travel through traffic. It's generally better if it goes around the traffic.

Robobus vs. stupid drivers (4, Interesting)

rah1420 (234198) | about 6 years ago | (#24991031)

I would've liked to have been on a Robobus back in July. An idiot driver in an SUV cut our bus off, and the driver firewalled the brake to avoid hitting him. My 3 year old daughter planted her face in the fiberglass seat ahead of us, I was in a side-facing seat and almost went through the windshield and my wife got thrown into a stairwell.

My guess is that Robobus would've kept going right into the SUV. Would've served him right.

(No, he didn't stop and we didn't get the plate number. He took off into the night.)

Hey SUV driver; if you cut a bus off at 100th St. in Ocean City, MD on August 2nd, you're a bastard.

Re:Robobus vs. stupid drivers (0, Offtopic)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about 6 years ago | (#24991171)

Don't get me started on SUV drivers.

I like to refer such wankers to a passage somewhere in "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot" [amazon.com] (which, incidentally, I highly recommend as a great book even if you don't own a VW or work on your own cars) where the author's recommendation for road safety is driving as if strapped to the front of one's vehicle like an Aztec sacrifice...

Re:Robobus vs. stupid drivers (1)

monsul (1342167) | about 6 years ago | (#24991205)

maybe it was a roboSUV.....powered by Vista (I know, I know, cheap shot...)

Re:Robobus vs. stupid drivers (1)

Jimmy_B (129296) | about 6 years ago | (#24991341)

As unhappy as you were getting bounced around, an actual collision would've been much worse for you. Bad drivers should be punished by fining them and taking away their licenses, not by crashing into them.

Re:Robobus vs. stupid drivers (1)

Adambomb (118938) | about 6 years ago | (#24991817)

If these systems are successful, i'm sure it will not be long before municipalities have them rigged with automated photo-radar/imaging systems for automated ticketing...in areas where such things dont have precedents against them at least.

Re:Robobus vs. stupid drivers (2, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | about 6 years ago | (#24991419)

Reminds me of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDTLo-nDsUQ

Crazy car driver.

I think the bus driver in that accident should have just braked in a straight line and not swerved, even if he hits the car - if he slows down enough the people in the car should be ok.

If not well too bad - esp if the driver had died I'd have called it suicide ;).

It's also likely there are fewer people in the car than in the bus.

Robustness? (2, Interesting)

polymath69 (94161) | about 6 years ago | (#24991043)

robust enough to withstand a wide range of operating conditions, including rain or snow

Nice, but does it drive in random directions if someone has set loose a bag of magnetic marbles on the road? I'd have a hard time trusting this.

Re:Robustness? (3, Insightful)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | about 6 years ago | (#24991537)

It's interesting that new technology is always held to a higher standard than established technology.

We trust trains even though someone could put some rubble on the tracks. We trust human drivers even though someone could shine a laser pointer into their eyes. We trust bikes even though someone could string up a tripwire. We trust buffet restaurants even though someone could put crushed glass into the food.

Newsflash: if someone wants to sabotage a piece of infrastructure, they'll find a way! Obviously autonomous driving vehicles need to be able to continue functioning despite normal interference (weather, traffic accidents, etc.), and even some forms of sabotage. But ultimately it will be possible for someone to mess with the system. Just as it is with everything else.

Tossing a bag of magnetic marbles in front of robo-busses is no different than dropping bricks on cars from an overpass: the main deterrent is that most people are not sadistic assholes trying to kill other people.

Re:Robustness? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 6 years ago | (#24992021)

Last time I checked a bus was several metres long. They could have several sensors along the length of the bus, and any signal not occurring at the 1m interval could be ignored. Besides, this was a proof of concept thing, not an actual install. I'd throw some RFIDs in the road instead of magnets. They can give details on the route (eg "right turn in 1.9 metres") and be harder to spoof.

The problem with buses (0, Flamebait)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 6 years ago | (#24991081)

The problem with buses is not that they can't stop within a centimeter of a specific target. It's simply that they are unreliable and prone to delay due to traffic.

They are large, smoke-belching monstrosities that should be kept off the road. (Buses, not Americans in general)

If more people would simply live closer to their workplaces (or telecommute) and ride bikes to work, we wouldn't have to worry about these hulking masses lumbering down the road.

Re:The problem with buses (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 6 years ago | (#24991191)

Telecommuting aside, there's a one-bedroom apartment that I checked out right down the street from my office. Bottom floor in a 4-unit multiplex, right next door to a McDonald's, around the corner from a very noisy major road. And it has a freakishly ineffective kitchen. Other than that, an okay, if smallish, apartment.

And at $1300 USD/mo, I passed.

And that's not even in the expensive part of town.

Get realistic about your expectations there, bud.

I don't have bus-reliability issues. I don't even have bus crowding issues. I have bus-slowness issues. Much slower than cars. They make many stops.

Re:The problem with buses (1)

rah1420 (234198) | about 6 years ago | (#24991273)

"Live closer to their workplaces."
"Ride bikes to work."

Of course; the holy grail of all of us who work outside the house for a living. Except that:

1) The cost of living near where we work is dramatically higher, which cuts into our net income.
2) We drive a considerable distance, which makes riding a bicycle an unrealistic option.

I worked 12 miles from my house about 7 years ago. Got laid off. Nothing else in the area. Now my commute is 60 miles. I have three children in school and roots in this town for 20 years. I guess I should just tear everything up and move to property that's 12 miles from where I currently work, even though my taxes and food and other necessities will go up, I'll make less money, and generally cause chaos in my family.

It's not always so simple.

Re:The problem with buses (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 6 years ago | (#24991387)

Does your wife work?

If not, then your family exists to provide support for you so that you can in turn work and provide financial support for them. Are your roots in that town so deep that you will spend 4-6 gallons of gas every work day just to prevent "chaos"? Are your kids going to be unable to make new friends or to keep in touch with old ones?

I don't ask this lightly. Why do you think your family wouldn't support you if you needed to move to a place closer to your workplace? Is your skillset so specific or so limited that you couldn't successfully move to a completely different part of the country?

I have trouble believing that anyone posting here on /. is unskilled. Every poster on this site has something interesting to say, and more than once I've been made a little more knowledgeable by another poster here. So I don't have any doubt that you could move somewhere else and make it work. But I don't understand why you wouldn't.

Re:The problem with buses (1)

rah1420 (234198) | about 6 years ago | (#24991595)

Yes, my wife works. And she makes considerably more than I do, and is much more highly placed. A diminution or loss of her salary would be nearly catastrophic at this point in our lives.

The roots we have are family; we're all based within an hour's drive of family and we're very close; and one of my children is an athlete and the school that he's in is highly ranked for that sport. To name but a couple of other examples.

Absent the social/familial/work roots, I have no doubt my family would support me and I am certain I could find work in a large metro area anywhere. My skillset is sufficiently unique that weathered the layoff with pretty much no break in compensation (I got my new job offer the day I went off payroll at the old company.)

I'm also taking a vehicle and converting it to a plug-in electric vehicle, so the gas expenditure will, within about 12 months, hopefully become moot. :)

Re:The problem with buses (1)

westlake (615356) | about 6 years ago | (#24991351)

If more people would simply live closer to their workplaces (or telecommute) and ride bikes to work, we wouldn't have to worry about these hulking masses lumbering down the road.
.

not every worker is a twenty-something geek, not every job puts you in a sleek glass tower and not every city has a climate as benign as southern California.

did they say *meter* - as in metric system? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24991107)

did they say *meter*? Somebody is using the metric system in the United States? Maybe there's hope yet!

Re:did they say *meter* - as in metric system? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 6 years ago | (#24991215)

We use the SI system in the United States, not the antiquated metric system (of which some definitions were translated in the creation of SI). The "standard" units are proxies for SI units, and are all exact, linear conversions.

We use lbf as a proxy for weight (N), and lb (or lbm) as a proxy for mass (kg). They are not the same. We are therefore, very, very confused by European insistence on continuing the mass-force confusion by incorporating kgf into their commerce system.

Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24991125)

A magnetic steering system is probably *easier* to do accurately then an optical one, but other then that it's worse. Mostly because it can't leave the path, and it can't see anything in its way. An optical guidance system could potentially detect and avoid obstacles. And if it's less accurate then the magnetic system? Well, I personally steer my car based on an optical system and I seem to do fine, so it's obviously possible to do optics as accurately as is required. It's just not easy.

Of course, there's nothing stopping us from using combination systems. But the main problem with magnetic is that I can't imagine it'd be easy to bury magnets under all the paved road in the world. Optics doesn't require additional infrastructure.

Re:Meh (1)

profplump (309017) | about 6 years ago | (#24991289)

Both optical and magnetic guidance systems typically use ultrasonic sensors for nearby (less than ~100 feet) obstacle detection. At highway speeds that's not enough to stop before hitting something that's at a dead stop, but it is enough to tell when someone cuts you off, or if there are construction barrels in the road, or if there is a pedestrian crossing in front of the bus.

Not that it couldn't also be combined with an optical system -- I think that's a good idea -- I just doubt the system is intended to work exclusively with magnets.

And optical systems -- even your human-based one -- really don't do well in sleet and other similar conditions. I'd bet that most people would greatly appreciate a weather-proof center-of-roadway indicator if they had to drive in such conditions. Your windshield is obscured, limiting the available information, and you often rely on things like tire tracks, nearby traffic, and off-road objects for navigation. In some case it can be done, but in some it cannot; it's obviously less reliable, and it's certainly not the way you'd teach someone (or something) to drive most of the time.

Seen it, driven it, didnt bother with the t-shirt (5, Interesting)

TheLuggage (651315) | about 6 years ago | (#24991133)

wow, i'm almost impressed except we have those already for a while. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phileas_(public_transport) [wikipedia.org] They were supposed to be driverless, but dutch laws reuires a driver to be behind the wheel of a vehicle... Don't know where they got that idea ;-)

Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24991265)

When something is hailed as new and interesting, and it's already been done for 15 years in a different country, it should at least be mentioned. It would be interesting to hear experiences Eindhoven have with their system.

Re:Seen it, driven it, didnt bother with the t-shi (1)

Golthar (162696) | about 6 years ago | (#24991377)

Yes, that's the first thing I was thinking too.
We have had these for a while and were recently taken back into service after a crash (which was unfortunately caused by an operator forcing an override)

Re:Seen it, driven it, didnt bother with the t-shi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24991449)

I've travelled on this from Eindhoven airport to the centre a few times since 2005 or so. It provides a very efficient service.

All the details here seem to be the same. The Eindhoven bus even does the thing of getting incredibly close to the stops.

Re:Seen it, driven it, didnt bother with the t-shi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24991529)

You didn't FTFA.

The Europeans may have had these for ages, but this was the first time FOR AMERICA.

This is not new at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24991169)

See link to the following on wikipedia (in Dutch)

http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phileas_(OV)

Empty vs. Full Roads (2, Interesting)

mdmkolbe (944892) | about 6 years ago | (#24991183)

Sure it can navigate an empty road, but what about once there are other cars on it or pot holes or what if the bus service needs a temporary detour?

Cool from a technology perspective, but I doubt it will ever be applied to actual street driving. Most likely it will end up with some alternative use like controlling the office mail cart or something.

Re:Empty vs. Full Roads (1)

profplump (309017) | about 6 years ago | (#24991369)

Cars are giant and fairly solid. Ultrasonic sensors are very good at picking them out. Even much smaller objects -- like people and traffic cones -- are pretty easy to detect and avoid. Likewise visual systems can generally differential between "road surface", "other surface", and "obstacle" with very high reliability.

As for detours, it's a little more complicated. An obvious solution is "use humans for detours." Busses typically run bi-directional routes along the same roadway, so a driver could simply shuttle busses back and forth across the detour, letting them drive the rest of the route automatically. The article doesn't talk about the cost of complication of laying down new guidance magnets, but it may also be possible to simply install them along the detour if it will be in use for more than a few days.

Real questions defeat stupid ideas .... sometimes (1, Troll)

Simonetta (207550) | about 6 years ago | (#24991223)

Why would anybody investigate this goofy plan? [ An oversupply of government and foundation grants from brain-dead administrators? ]

Why would we automate the driving of vehicles when there is a serious unemployment problem? Automating the driving would greatly reduce the jobs for drivers. Isn't the Teamsters Union rather strong?

What does putting hundreds of thousands of expensive magnets in the road systems do to solve the problem of oil depletion?(which leads to fuel costs that exceed the value of the goods being shipped?)

How does putting hundreds of thousands of expensive magnets in the road systems lead to the massive increase in transportation efficiency needed to offset the increase in fuel costs arising from peak oil depletion in the coming decades?

The oil-based system of single isolated vehicles worked when there was (or seemed to be) an endless supply of cheap oil and raw materials. But the 20th century is over. And so is the era of isolated vehicles endlessly blasting up and down ribbons of highways.

    What we need is a system of advanced high speed railways criss-crossing the North American continent. Instead of having thousands of trucks carrying goods from LA to Phoenix, we need to be able to have a big diesel 'rig' truck be able to be loaded in Long Beach from ship containers, drive to the rail terminal, and drive right onto the high speed train car and be secured. Then the train will carry the entire truck to Phoenix rail central. The truck will then be driven off the train (by a local driver) and the contents be delivered to their local destinations.

    A vast and efficient 21st century rail system is the only way that we are going to be able to get the order-of-magnitude efficiency increases needed to keep our transportation system operating in the coming decades of massive transformation due to peak oil shocks and fossil-fuel depletion.

    Not by some stupid idea of putting thousands of magnets in the roadways and having robots do steering.

    What's wrong with these people? What are they thinking?

Re:Real questions defeat stupid ideas .... sometim (1)

Esc7 (996317) | about 6 years ago | (#24991459)

Having automated buses and solving oil dependency are orthogonal to each other. I don't know what's wrong with you, or what you're thinking, but not every single technological advance has to solve the oil depletion problem.

Besides, they made no mention that the buses have to be gasoline powered in order for the automation to work. Actually in my neck of the woods we have electric and natural gas buses, and I've heard about hydrogen powered buses as well.

Also, an efficient 21st century rail system is a great idea but I doubt they're going to lay track from my block to my downtown. Buses will have their place for a long time, if not to just be the "last mile" of mass transit from a hub to your block.

I really think its wonderful what they're doing, road sensor based tracking is probably going to be the technology that wins, not optical recognition. Especially for things like buses with set routes. And as for you saying

Why would we automate the driving of vehicles when there is a serious unemployment problem? Automating the driving would greatly reduce the jobs for drivers. Isn't the Teamsters Union rather strong?

That's ridiculous. Automation is the cornerstone of our civilization. FREEING ourselves from needing bus drivers means we have more utility to do other things. Even if it does immediately put people out of a job, In the long run it will be ultimately beneficial.

Re:Real questions defeat stupid ideas .... sometim (2, Insightful)

ductonius (705942) | about 6 years ago | (#24991485)

Why would we automate the driving of vehicles when there is a serious unemployment problem?

The economy will see no lost jobs. Saving the cost of "busdriver" jobs will allow for the creation of other jobs elsewhere. The money normally spent on drivers will go toward increasing demand for other goods or services. That increased demand will create more jobs, and because inefficiency was removed the jobs that replace "busdriver" jobs will be more numerous and better paying. So, if unemployment is a problem, making bus drivers obsolete is a good choice.

What does putting hundreds of thousands of expensive magnets in the road systems do to solve the problem of oil depletion?

For one, making buses cheaper (no driver) will allow more public transport, and by that, less people will have to rely on public vehicles. If normal suburban roads can double as LRT 'tracks' suburbs just became screamingly efficient.

What we need is a system of advanced high speed railways

Well, this system will allow normal roads to double as light rail, which is not quite 'crisscrossing North America', but making city transportation more efficient is a good first step.

Error correction (1)

ductonius (705942) | about 6 years ago | (#24991497)

Should read: "less people will have to rely on private vehicles"

Re:Real questions defeat stupid ideas .... sometim (1)

nmos (25822) | about 6 years ago | (#24991531)

While this tech. alone won't be of much use I could see it being part of a more sophisticated automated driving system. Car makers already have automatic cruise control, colision avoidance systems, radar etc either available or in developement so I think a system combining these technologies might not be that far into the future.

Imagine a HOV type lane that allowed drivers of compatible vehicles to travel at 100+ mph within a foot or two of each other. The fuel savings due to the aerodynamic advantages of drafting as well as the lack of stop and go driving could be substantial and if it allowed cities to put off adding additional lanes of traffic it might actually pay for itself.

Re:Real questions defeat stupid ideas .... sometim (1)

N!k0N (883435) | about 6 years ago | (#24991737)

Been done already -- Intermodal Transportation [wikipedia.org]

Re:Real questions defeat stupid ideas .... sometim (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24991739)

I readily admit that between certain cities this makes sense and is done, although with freight rail rather than high speed and with containers rather than trailers. This is done since just about anywhere in the continental US can be reached from any other in a 4 day trip averaging 30 mph and since it makes little sense to transport the frames and axles when it is not needed. The problem with replacing trucks is that rail is impractical for trucks transporting products to individual stores. For coal or steel to large factories rail is the perfect solution, but as can be seen in the rust belt more and more industry is smaller scale, where a truck based infrastructure makes much more sense (even more so if they are able to somehow make a diesel-electric version of a semi (essentially the current hybrid craze applied to the diesel engine instead of the ICE.

This from the Department of the Bleedin' Obvious (0, Redundant)

jimicus (737525) | about 6 years ago | (#24991271)

A system based on a sensor and a road which has magnets strategically placed to trigger those sensors rather than trying to essentially process video and make decisions based on the video in realtime is more reliable?

No f*cking kidding. Trying to turn a single image into something which a computer can make decisions on is hard. Trying to turn a sequence of images in realtime at 60mph is fantastically hard. However, when you're dealing with something much simpler like a magnetic sensor, you've already had most of the processing essentially done for you. The only reason it hasn't taken off is that nobody really likes the idea of fitting every mile of road with magnets (or whatever they ultimately use to trigger the sensors).

1995 Called... San Diego Anyone? (4, Insightful)

TheNetAvenger (624455) | about 6 years ago | (#24991337)

1995 Called... San Diego Anyone?

The Carpool lanes in San Diego I15 had magnets put in them over 10 years ago and fully autonomous GM cars navigated the roads effortlessly.

This was almost 15 freaking yeats ago...

Anyone so NOT impressed by this?

Re:1995 Called... San Diego Anyone? (3, Informative)

pvera (250260) | about 6 years ago | (#24991621)

Yup, and as early as 2002 Siemens was demonstrating a bus in Arlington, Virginia that uses the same principle. It was basically a track-less tram with a driver override. The vehicle (which btw, was amazing) drove by itself and auto-detected its stops, red lights, hazards, but it had a driver. If the driver touched the controls it would override the automatic operationg.

Re:1995 Called... San Diego Anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24991729)

This was almost 15 freaking yeats ago...

Anyone so NOT impressed by this?

"All empty souls tend toward extreme opinions."

That's one.

Re:1995 Called... San Diego Anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24991831)

September 13, @12:11PM called, they want their cliché back

Still no replacemet for Keanu (2, Funny)

txoof (553270) | about 6 years ago | (#24991363)

Yeah, but can its new-fangled computer brain defy the laws of physics and jump the bus over an incomplete highway overpass at 70 mph? I didn't think so. Until we can make an artificial replacement for Keanu Reeves, I won't trust it. It's gotta be able to say, "I know kung-fu" too.

Not real unless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24991423)

... when they pull into a Bus Stop they hang their ass into the lane they just came from blocking the traffic.
Until then, this ain't a real bus

Because we need to put bus drivers out of work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24991429)

Whats the point!

Don't we want to be there to help each other and see people treated well. Another cold cold automation and a lost link between people in our society.

Ya! the company transfers what it would have spent on a person to what it pays for hardware and upkeep. There is one less witness for a late night drive and the machine won't stop and call the police if it sees an accident or the bus is full of predators.

I'm not a luddite but this seems like an all around bad idea.

S

I don't want this... (0)

iamwhoiamtoday (1177507) | about 6 years ago | (#24991535)

I barely trust human drivers (well, I don't trust them, but I'm willing to somewhat put up with them) and now you want to put Automated drivers on the road?!? Yeah no. I refuse to be driven by one of these.... I mean, what happens when all of the buses start talking together... calling their network "Skynet"?

Re:I don't want this... (1)

KasperMeerts (1305097) | about 6 years ago | (#24991799)

"I need to get off this bus, this is my stop!"
"I'm afraid I can't do that, Timmy"

processing capability (1)

kybred (795293) | about 6 years ago | (#24991575)

For a vehicle traveling 60 miles per hour, data from 27 meters (88 feet) of roadway can be read and processed in 1 second.

Well I would hope so, since 88 feet is the distance it travels in 1 second at 60 MPH. Otherwise it would be processing the roadway behind it. Perhaps they should say ... data from 27 meters (88 feet) of roadway must be read and processed in 1 second.

Completely irrelevant.... (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 6 years ago | (#24991591)

The embedded magnets make this a non-event. Vehivles guided by ground embedded markes have been in uuse for decades.

Hack-a-bus video on YouTube (1)

mi (197448) | about 6 years ago | (#24991611)

It will not take long for someone to lay down enough magnets to move the bus to where they want it to go — such as a neighbor's pool...

Fringe benefits! (1)

cheros (223479) | about 6 years ago | (#24991767)

Apart from guiding the bus, the system will also stop your change from rolling too far..

Underwhelmed (1)

Animats (122034) | about 6 years ago | (#24991805)

First, this is basically Demo '97 [berkeley.edu] technology. The CALTRANS PATH people have been fooling around with this for years. I saw this around 1990 or so up at the CALTRANS Richmond test facility. Automated lane following was demonstrated in 1959 by General Motors with Firebird III [wikipedia.org] .

About the only justification for this is to improve stop accuracy at bus stops so the bus can get close to the curb without scraping the tires. A bit of automated parking assistance there might be helpful. A neat trick would be to use rear wheel steering so that when the bus pulls up to the curb, the bus ends up parallel to the curb. Let the driver drive the front end, and put the back end on autopilot. This would be a big help for articulated buses, which tend to stop with the trailer hanging out in an adjacent lane, and might allow for smaller bus stop zones.

This is far more primitive than DARPA Grand Challenge technologies.

Why? (2, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | about 6 years ago | (#24991847)

The human driver performs many critical tasks other than steering. Braking for vehicles or pedestrians moving into its path, making judgments about pulling over to the curb among illegally parked vehicles, arguing with fare cheats, crackheads and the homeless, etc.

Its not likely that these other requirements for a driver's presence will be eliminated any time soon. Meanwhile, keeping the driver in charge of steering keeps him paying attention to road conditions. Note how many pilots take naps while on autopilot (both at the same time, sadly).

The systems in which an automated steering system could work safely are essentially identical to elevated railways, monorails, or subways. In other words, grade separated transit systems.

Magnets? Why not paint? (2, Informative)

Akir (878284) | about 6 years ago | (#24991851)

Las Vegas has had an automated bus line for a few years now. It's called the MAX [wikipedia.org] and it's actually on the way of becoming obsolete, being replaced with the ACE [rtcsnv.com] line, which is supposed to connect all the cities in Greater Las Vegas. (The RTC has removed their page on MAX already)
However, the MAX and ACE lines use optical technology, meaning they only need a painted line to operate. It's kinda cool, riding in a bus that follows a line just like those robot kits you give to kids.
(Here's to hoping we've PWNed Berkley!)

This must win some sort of OFN prize! (1)

cstec (521534) | about 6 years ago | (#24991979)

The GM Firebird III [conklinsystems.com] was doing this 50 years ago.
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