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Driverless Cars Begin 8,000-Mile Trek

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the if-you-see-marco-wave dept.

AI 151

apoc.famine writes "Driverless technology from the University of Parma's VisLab was deployed in a real-world test on Tuesday. Two driverless chase vehicles will attempt to follow two lead vehicles across multiple continents, from Italy to China, over the course of three months. The journey will cover over 8,000 miles, (~13,000 km) as the chase vehicles use lasers and cameras to navigate hazards along the way. The team expects to collect about 100 TB of data, which requires a hefty electronics and battery load — the scale is such that the cars can only run for about three hours before needing 8 hours to recharge the batteries. This journey is being billed as just a test, and far from a real-world application. The vehicles don't go more than about 35mph, and need a person behind the wheel to take over at a moment's notice. 'What we are trying to do is stress our systems and see if they can work in a real environment, with real weather, real traffic, and crazy people who cross the road in front of you and a vehicle that cuts you off,' said project leader Alberto Broggi. The goal is not to produce just road vehicles, but to improve the technology so it can be used in military and agricultural roles as well. The team hopes to have helped mature the technology within the next 10-20 years to the point that it can be used on the road."

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151 comments

The future (3, Funny)

ceraphis (1611217) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974522)

While I can't wait to see how this pans out, I still wouldn't like to be so close to the bleeding edge of the future that I get run over.

Re:The future (1)

JustinRLynn (831164) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974534)

Re:The future (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974860)

After driving in Italy and India, and from various online video's of Chinese driving, how exactly would they quantify how well these cars worked?
Just getting in fewer accidents than cars driven by people would be meaningless.
I suppose getting in no accidents would mean the cars have good accident avoidance characteristics.
And depending on the race and characteristics of the mannequin they put behind the wheel, the car will still pulled over by the police and ticketed [in India, some cops act as if they were toll booths for white drivers].

Re:The future (1)

VendettaMF (629699) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974998)

>> world's first road traffic death in 1896

What a crock. Are they genuinely claiming that prior to 1896 there were no roads, or just that no-one ever chased their dinner-rat into a street in front of a cart?

Or is it just another bit of factually incorrect gibberish to try and divert money from genuine need into their coffers?

Re:The future (1)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975066)

I would assume they go for a more contemporary meaning; this would exclude beast-drawn transport along the roads that certainly did exist, and indicate more those deaths attributed to machine-driven transport.

While I acknowledge that it did happen, I find it hard to fathom people getting killed by a horse-drawn carriage without some sort of severe mental impairment, with any regularity; and those rates would almost certainly be a fraction of injuries and deaths attributed to modern automobile accidents.

Re:The future (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975298)

While I acknowledge that it did happen, I find it hard to fathom people getting killed by a horse-drawn carriage without some sort of severe mental impairment, with any regularity;

I don't. Apart from the fact that cart-drivers can be just as much irresponsible selfish maniacs than car drivers, there's also the fact that a horse is a living thing and as such quite capable of getting out of control and causing mayhem on its own.

On a good side, a drunk cart-driver who just lets his horse take him home at walking speed while he sleeps probably is safer than a drunk driver... Hmm.

and those rates would almost certainly be a fraction of injuries and deaths attributed to modern automobile accidents.

Of course they would, the whole population was a fraction of what it is today, partly because having horseshit everywhere is an excellent way to spread diseases.

Re:The future (1)

iangoldby (552781) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975110)

Does it really have to be spelled out to you?

On 17 August 1896, 44-year-old Bridget Driscoll became the first person to be killed by a motor car. [newstatesman.com]

the first person world-wide who died as a result of being hit by a car (not in a car crash) was Mrs Bridget Driscoll [answers.com]

The quote relates to the first person to be killed after being hit by a car. You may note the profound irony in the coroner's statement.

Re:The future (1)

VendettaMF (629699) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975224)

Kinda missed my point there Skippy.
People have been killing themselves and others through carelessness, clumsiness, incompetence and negligence for a lot longer than there have been combustion driven vehicles.
That various countries fail to impose sensible restrictions on vehicle licensing, and fail to impose sufficient deterrents to driving while being a moron is hardly grounds to make out that such deaths only started when cars were introduced.

Re:The future (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975330)

fail to impose sufficient deterrents to driving while being a moron

And what would those be? "Moron" means someone who doesn't understand the consequences of his actions; and that includes any and all possible deterrents you could come up with.

This is the same problem as with the laws against drunk driving: someone who doesn't care that he's risking his own life isn't likely to worry about a fine, loss of license, or jail time either.

Re:The future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32976008)

The point is to deter people from drinking and driving before they start drinking. i.e. make plans so that you do not need to drive before your judgement is impaired by alcohol.

Re:The future (1)

Psaakyrn (838406) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974738)

It's not the future until they are programmed to run over for the shortest possible path, terminator style.

Re:The future (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#32976458)

While I can't wait to see how this pans out, I still wouldn't like to be so close to the bleeding edge of the future that I get run over.

Did they name the car Sally? [wikipedia.org] The "get run over" made that story jump into my head.

BIG WOW? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32974526)

So, basically these are just two cars with some sort of homeing device that follows the lead vehicle? BIG WOW?

Re:BIG WOW? (3, Informative)

adtifyj (868717) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974542)

"Not only the vehicles are unmanned, but they run on electrical power and the whole electronic pilot is powered by solar energy, making this trip unique in history: goods packed in Italy will be brought to Shanghai on an intercontinental route with no human intervention and without using traditional fuel for the first time in history."

Re:BIG WOW? (2, Funny)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974610)

So, basically, they have a compost heap in the trunk. Dude, Dr. Emmett Brown has sooooo much "prior art" on this thing.

Re:BIG WOW? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974920)

Unmanned... with "someone behind the wheel at all times to take over at a moment's notice".

Re:BIG WOW? (1)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975098)

Makes you wonder...if the A/C didn't have to run, could these things go longer without a charge?

Also, what the hell do you do with all that idle time? "Uh, yeah, it's driving...over...'*fapfapfap*

Re:BIG WOW? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975178)

I bet that legally the person behind the wheel is the driver of the vehicle, so they are responsible in case something goes wrong. So those three hours of driving they will have to pay attention all the time. Sounds quite stressful to me.

Similar to learner drivers, where the instructor is the formal driver even though they only have a break and clutch pedal, and have to grab to their left for the steering wheel. After all in that situation the student has no driving license (yet). Just like I bet these autonomous vehicles are not road legal without human driver.

Re:BIG WOW? (1)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975086)

"Not only the vehicles are unmanned, but they run on electrical power and the whole electronic pilot is powered by solar energy, making this trip unique in history: goods packed in Italy will be brought to Shanghai on an intercontinental route with no human intervention and without using traditional fuel for the first time in history."

FTFS:

...and need a person behind the wheel to take over at a moment's notice.

Now, the person behind the wheel might not ever NEED to, but if ever they do, that nixes the 'without human intervention' bit straightaway. And given that the folks in charge of this had the forethought to think, 'Hey, maybe we might want to put people in these things, JIC' means the confidence in this technology remains fairly low--hardly earthshaking.

Re:BIG WOW? (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#32977018)

Given the fact that this is a very early field test of the technology and not an actual application of the technology, and given the fact that this was emphasized pretty heavily in the summary and even more so in the actual article, I fail see your point.

This is an early test. Actual hands-off application of this technology is at least 10 years off, probably more.

The vehicle will operate autonomously, with a human being monitoring it from within and ready to take over should the early-stage experimental autonomous systems somehow not perform up to spec.

fizzle to tha pizzle (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32974530)

fo rizzle

when you lack talent... (-1, Troll)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974548)

When you are unable to create an art, you collect data, statistic in other words. Let's hope that at some point of time they will find some real genius to analyze this data, and create something that actually works.

Re:when you lack talent... (2, Funny)

zr-rifle (677585) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974934)

When you are unable to provide insight or interesting arguments to a discussion, you blindly criticize, troll in other words. Let's hope that at some point of time we will find some real expert in the field to RTFA, and write something that's actually worth reading.

Re:when you lack talent... (1)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975116)

When you are unable to provide an intelligent response or interesting interpretation of a post without resorting to an accusation of trolling, you become that of which you accuse the parent of being..

I accept this truism, and fully expect this comment to end up -1, Troll, -1, Flamebait, or -1, Offtopic. The score of your comment, however, will determine if the masses agree with my point of view.

Not a lot different actually (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32974596)

My first thought when reading this initially was, "what could possibly go wrong?" but the more I think about it, the less scary it actually is. With a lot of the drivers I encounter regularly it seems like there's nobody driving them anyways. I understand there's more important things to do other than steer the several thousand pound vehicle you're operating, things such as eating, doing makeup, and texting on your phone. In all seriousness I'm looking forward to the day when I can use my commute time for productive things like homework or reviewing notes on the way to class, but I think it's going to be a while before driving AI is reliable enough to trust to deal with the idiotic driving habits of people without paying it any mind.

Re:Not a lot different actually (1)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975138)

but I think it's going to be a while before driving AI is reliable enough to trust to deal with the idiotic driving habits of people without paying it any mind.

On the flip-side, if this develops quickly to become a standard, then the idiots are reduced to nothing; if everything is controlled by a computer somewhere, without direct human involvement (abrupt lane changes, illegal left turns, and whatnot), then it's just...jumping in a pod and going. Granted, there's a better chance of winning the Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots, and picking the winners of the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, Wimbledon, Tour de France, NCAA Men's and Women's Basketball tournaments, and the NBA Championship team--all before the season, and all in the same season.

Re:Not a lot different actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32976664)

In addition, safety would be enhanced by the ability for all passengers to face aft*, which would help in head-on collisions.

*Unless it induces carsickness. Even so, you could use a joystick for emergencies and eliminate the steering wheel for the 'driver', which accounts for an awful lot of injury in a crash.

Re:Not a lot different actually (1)

Lunar_Lamp (976812) | more than 3 years ago | (#32976028)

In all seriousness I'm looking forward to the day when I can use my commute time for productive things like homework or reviewing notes on the way to class, but I think it's going to be a while before driving AI is reliable enough to trust to deal with the idiotic driving habits of people without paying it any mind.

You could just take the train.

Digital Driver (5, Interesting)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974696)

I can't wait for this to be on sale for the public. No need to park your car in the city to go to work just have it drop you off at the front door, park somewhere free, avoid the parking police, then when your finished for the day call it up to come and get you. That’s just on a weekday can you imagine the fun you could have on the weekend knowing you have a computer driver ready to take you to the next pub, or get you back to the flower garden next to your driveway.

Re:Digital Driver (4, Interesting)

Nialin (570647) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974850)

I'd love if it went and got itself serviced while you're still at work.
Or heading off to the grocery store to pick up pre-ordered goods at the full-service "delivery" window (must tip the kind shop keep).
How about going home and parking itself to charge, while the other one goes and pick the kids up from school and drops them off at soccer practice.

Ah, the future. I wonder what people used to think of ~70 years ago...

Re:Digital Driver (4, Funny)

urusan (1755332) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974886)

The only problem is when it goes in to get serviced and the mechanic convinces it that it needs a bunch of expensive repairs...

Re:Digital Driver (1)

pckl300 (1525891) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975536)

What about having the car drive while you are being serviced?

Re:Digital Driver (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 3 years ago | (#32976666)

Will it cause the vehicle to shake while travelling? If so, this may confuse the vehicle's inertial, gyro-metering and accelero-sensory systems.

Re:Digital Driver (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32975820)

Your wife uses that same technology: She gets serviced all the time while you're still at work.

Re:Digital Driver (1)

coldtone (98189) | more than 3 years ago | (#32976858)

If or when we get a Digital Driver it will change commutes forever, and for the worse. I can see people in camper like vans so they can sleep on the 10 hour commute, or not even go home during the week, just let the car drive all night and drop you off at work in the morning. The concept of home will be totally gone.

Re:Digital Driver (1)

xonicx (1009245) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974974)

Why to develop unreliable complex AI? Why not just put a camera and get it remotely driven by a human i.e. driver outsourcing.

Re:Digital Driver (1, Troll)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975032)

Why to develop unreliable complex AI? Why not just put a camera and get it remotely driven by a human i.e. driver outsourcing.

Because human drivers tend to be quite unreliable as well. Just look up the amount of traffic accidents and traffic related deaths in your country.

Re:Digital Driver (1)

reverendbeer (1496637) | more than 3 years ago | (#32976690)

Let's see...Fatal US traffic crashes for 2008: 34,017. Population of US in 2008: 301,621,157. So, let's see...My chance of dying in a fatal crash (in 2008) was .0001 Percent. You know? I'm kind of fine with those odds.

Re:Digital Driver (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975214)

Not to mention the approximately 2 second delay that the military drones suffer. That doesn't cut it if a child runs out in front of you.

Re:Digital Driver (3, Funny)

shyampandit (842649) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974988)

So we would end up with tons of empty cars searching for parking spots everywhere and clogging up roads instead?

Re:Digital Driver (2, Interesting)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975152)

Would unmanned cars still honk their horns obnoxiously when one of their counterparts takes their sweet time escaping a parking spot?

Re:Digital Driver (1)

rjiy (1739274) | more than 3 years ago | (#32976010)

Or, you know, you could take the bus. Just ask the cities to increase coverage and frequency, and all that you're dreaming for can be a reality today. No need to wait for any new technology.

Re:Digital Driver (1)

reverendbeer (1496637) | more than 3 years ago | (#32976582)

The big problem with this idea is that, much like other "society changing" ideas, no one will use it. The inherent fear/insecurity that humanity has towards things outside of their control ensures that this, and any other technology of this sort, will go unused and disregarded. I'm not being cynical, I'm being honest. I think this is a great idea, and I think it needs to be researched and experimented with further. I will, however, never use such technology since it impinges on my inherent need to have control over my surroundings. Self-driving cars...meh.

Batteries? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32974698)

Come on...

"The team expects to collect about 100 TB of data, which requires a hefty electronics and battery load — the scale is such that the cars can only run for about three hours before needing 8 hours to recharge the batteries."

So the 'team' are too stupid to wire up an extra alternator to run the electronics? You're telling me that a car engine doesn't produce WAY more than enough energy to power some computers? What a joke! Having to stop to recharge batteries? Are they serious? Epic fail.

Not just batteries (1)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975062)

8 hour stops every 3 hours of driving means that the "testers" get plenty of time to tour lots of different hotels and cafes, eating the local fare, drinking the local brew and mixing with the local ladies.

Why the hell would you invest in the alternator technology if it would just ROB you of the opportunity to enjoy all of that down time on the road? Plus I bet these "testers" are getting paid some sort of wage for all of this, and that wage and most of their expenses will be paid by some sort of research grants.

I'm just sayin'. Sometimes psychology is the answer to these sort of engineering and financial decisions. Wouldn't YOU love to go on a cross-country trip and hang out in a string of hotel bars?

Plus you know, it's possible that the downtime will give them the opportunity to do things like optimize the software, troubleshoot problems, and so forth, so that they can improve the technology over the course of the trip. If they're going to take the time to do those things anyway, why bother to invest in engineering a one-time device to help them run without stopping?

So they're either getting drunk or being productive. Your call.

They are electric vehicles (1)

iangoldby (552781) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975148)

Um, the vehicles are all-electric. Admittedly, that isn't stated in the summary.

From the FAQ:

Is the solar panel used to recharge the vehicle batteries?

No, the solar panel is used to power the autonomous driving system only. Therefore cameras, lasers, PCs, and actuators are all powered by green energy, making the autonomous driving technology self-sustainable. The 'autonomous driver' is therefore seen as a plugin that is completely decoupled form the vehicle system and can be virtually adapted and installed on any vehicle.

How do you recharge the vehicles during the trip? Are there power outlets in the remote areas of the Siberia and China deserts?

Well, there are areas in which it is impossible to find power outlets and therefore recharging the vehicles would be impossible. In these areas we are using power generators. Remember that this is a test: should this be turned into a possible product, power outlets would be disseminated in the area covered by the vehicle.

They'll never make it.. (2, Insightful)

Mr_Miagi (1648543) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974800)

.. starting from Italy?!

They'll most likely be barged off the road by the hand-waving angry Italian motorists!

Where? (1)

N0Man74 (1620447) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974832)

But where are the driverless *flying* cars? You know that's what we're all really waiting for!

Re:Where? (1)

mmkkbb (816035) | more than 3 years ago | (#32977322)

Modern autopilot technology calls for a crew of a human and a dog. The human's job is to feed the dog. The dog's job is to bite the human if he or she attempts to touch the controls.

Obvious Inefficency (1)

urusan (1755332) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974862)

They would probably make better time on this historic journey if they drove more than 1/6th of the time. Just sayin'.

Major differences (4, Interesting)

JanneM (7445) | more than 3 years ago | (#32974890)

* The car can park itself anywhere, get service or pick up stuff while you're working. Less need to use valuable city real estate and street area on parking. And as people no longer park along the streets they get effectively wider, with more space for traffic but also for bicycle lanes.

* A two-car family may only need one, as the car can go by itself to pick up family members as they need it.

* A family may in fact own no car. Car pooling becomes much more effective when you can call up a car from the pool to your front door at any time.

* No need for a license. People with dementia, or taking medication, or with severe disabilities, or underage can still get around, no problem.

* The cars will be scrupulous about obeying traffic laws and speed limits. But even with a small part self-driving cars, they will act as pace cars and slow and smooth traffic for everyone. Even more so, as they'll be recording everything happening around them, and other drivers know it. Pace will be slower, but people will arrive sooner.

* Life becomes tough for taxi drivers. Taking a taxi would become the same as short-term car rental in practice, and cheaper than taxis as there's no drivers salary to pay.

* Point to point transport becomes cheaper too, with driverless vans and trucks shuttling between shipment centers.

* Driverless drive-ins means you can send a car to do a lot of your errands.

Re:Major differences (1, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975052)

Almost every point you wrote down increases the amount of traffic on the roads and the amount of fuel used.

Re:Major differences (2, Insightful)

JanneM (7445) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975144)

True to some degree. But many, even most, of those trips (go charge somewhere, transports) would happen with or without self-driving cars. And it's not clear to me that a car going directly to a somewhat distant parking garage is actually using any more energy than a car circling for fifteen minutes looking for a convenient nearby spot.

The smoother, slower ride of an unhurried automatic car will use less energy than the jerky stop-and-go of impatient human drivers. And as they act as pace cars there'll be a positive effect on all drivers, not just on the automatic cars.

So while your point is something to be concerned about I suspect the actual impact would be much less than you'd think at first.

Re:Major differences (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | more than 3 years ago | (#32976876)

A 2007 study [carbonfund.org] estimated that traffic congestion lead to a loss of 2.8 billion gallons of fuel = 182 kbarrels of oil per day - a large amount, to be sure, but remember that we still consume about 18.5 million barrels of oil per day in the US. Eliminating congestion would be helpful but not lead to quite the dramatic savings one might expect.

Re:Major differences (1)

renoX (11677) | more than 3 years ago | (#32977290)

Not really: think about the oil used for building a car in the first place!

'self-driving car pooling' would allow using less cars to do the same kind of transport that we have now,
except that it would be better because you don't have the need to find a packing place.

Of course it's not simple: in Paris we have 'bicycle pooling' and there are issues with vandalism, theft, etc, 'self-driving car pooling' would have the same issue (but worse as car are more expensive).

Re:Major differences (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 3 years ago | (#32978308)

Not necessarily.

Self driving cars could network together and all apply the brakes at the same time (if needed) so they could travel a lot closer together. This could also reduce fuel consumption by the drafting effect.

Congestion would also be reduced by the 'drivers' not having egos and letting other cars merge/change lanes etc.

Also, if you're not driving, there's less incentive to get a car with a massive engine, so more people would be driving 'sensible' cars which use less fuel.

Lastly, with more nuclear/renewable power, and better electric cars,the increased fuel usage will be less of an issue.

Re:Major differences (2, Interesting)

dargaud (518470) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975140)

The cars will be scrupulous about obeying traffic laws and speed limits. But even with a small part self-driving cars, they will act as pace cars and slow and smooth traffic for everyone. Even more so, as they'll be recording everything happening around them, and other drivers know it. Pace will be slower, but people will arrive sooner.

I agree with everything else you wrote but the above. Some experiments have shown that a few outliers (read, poor drivers: too fast or disregard of others) can actually better the flow of traffic. One example: you have an intersection in complete deadlock; the asshole who drives on the sidewalk to escape can actually free a spot that will end the deadlock. If everybody follows the rules in this case, nobody comes out. There are other cases.

The other point is that driving slower doesn't necessarily always make it safer: I've fallen asleep and gone off the road while following a long unpassable line of 'just a notch under the speed limit' cars. Driving off the road doesn't meet the definition of 'arriving sooner' but I eagerly wait the day when I don't have to waste concentration at the tedious and dangerous task of driving.

Re:Major differences (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975190)

I eagerly wait the day when I don't have to waste concentration at the tedious and dangerous task of driving.

So far this year I think I've travelled about 2500km on land without driving (in a train). I've also gone about 3000km by bicycle, almost all of which could easily have been done by train instead.

Is it really necessary to use a 2 tonne metal box to transport a person around a city?

Re:Major differences (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975822)

Try cycling on the road in Moscow...

There's a reason there are no bikes and very few motorbikes - longevity is severely reduced if you choose either.

The Metro, though very good, would not be able to manage if people stopped driving.

Depends on where you live. I'm really hoping the Cycle Highways in London work well, would love to cycle to work, but currently risk outweighs benefits.

In Moscow its not even close...

Re:Major differences (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975988)

The cycle "superhighways" in London, which officially opened on Monday, look like nothing more than some blue paint on the road. I haven't had a look myself yet, but from the news reports it looks like they're on the busiest roads, that cars are allowed to park in them for much of the day, and much of the distance is shared with buses. The mayor said they'd be wide, safe, direct routes where bikes would have priority over cars, but they aren't wide or safe, they're less direct than the car route, and little to no car-space has been removed so it's clear which transport mode is seen as the most important. They do seem to be more direct than the existing cycle routes, but that's about it.

It is a start, but it's not a very good one, and I think the whole thing's been done in completely the wrong way. Instead of a 1.2m wide strip of blue paint on some A-roads they should have closed some parallel roads to motor traffic and made a wide and continuous cycle-only route.

I will stick to my 2-minutes-slower backstreet route to work, which is on an A-road for about 800m out of almost 8km.

Hopefully the cycle hire scheme will be successful.

Re:Major differences (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975396)

>I agree with everything else you wrote but the above. Some experiments have shown that a few outliers (read, poor drivers: too fast or disregard of others) can actually better the flow of traffic. One example: you have an intersection in complete deadlock; the asshole who drives on the sidewalk to escape can actually free a spot that will end the deadlock. If everybody follows the rules in this case, nobody comes out. There are other cases.

Except that if everybody scrupulously follows the rules, and the rules themselves can then be modeled based on the expectation of perfect behavior - then deadlocks can't happen in the first place.

The reality also is that the inverse of what you are saying is FAR more often the case. In my hometown there is on guaranteed 24 hour a day massive traffic jam. It happens on the offramp from one major road as it crosses over a highway. Two lanes, the left lane joins the highway in one direction and the right lane joins it in the other - but ALSO continuous for those who need to say on the main road.
Obviously the righthand lane has far more traffic then since it feeds two roads. While it's understandable it would be slower, it is far worse than it ought to be and the reason: the selfish pricks who assume they have more reason for haste than anybody else - who drive in the left hand lane until the very last possible moment and then try to push into the right to jump the qeue, thus slowing everybody down far more than they otherwise would.
The more it slows down, the more pricks push past the qeue the worse it gets.

Such patterns are common all over the world - selfish drivers generally make traffic problems much worse, not to mention the worst daily problems are usually caused by accidents - which you could (at least almost) entirely avoid with a system of driver-less cars.

Re:Major differences (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 3 years ago | (#32976366)

Except that if everybody scrupulously follows the rules, and the rules themselves can then be modeled based on the expectation of perfect behavior - then deadlocks can't happen in the first place.

Hah! You are telling that to a guy who just gave up after 3 months debugging deadlocks in a multithreaded app...

Re:Major differences (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | more than 3 years ago | (#32976976)

>Hah! You are telling that to a guy who just gave up after 3 months debugging deadlocks in a multithreaded app...

Multithreading *is* breaking the rules :P

Re:Major differences (1)

krnpimpsta (906084) | more than 3 years ago | (#32976862)

Ok, was modding, but decided it was more important to respond to this common misconception.

Obviously the righthand lane has far more traffic then since it feeds two roads. While it's understandable it would be slower, it is far worse than it ought to be and the reason: the selfish pricks who assume they have more reason for haste than anybody else - who drive in the left hand lane until the very last possible moment and then try to push into the right to jump the qeue, thus slowing everybody down far more than they otherwise would.
The more it slows down, the more pricks push past the qeue the worse it gets.

Such patterns are common all over the world - selfish drivers generally make traffic problems much worse, not to mention the worst daily problems are usually caused by accidents - which you could (at least almost) entirely avoid with a system of driver-less cars

1) Please get off your high horse. If you're merging early, you're making the problem worse.
2) Studies have shown that the ideal merge pattern is for everyone to merge as late as possible, in a "zipper" fashion where the lane is ending. When you merge early, you are actually creating multiple merge spots. Multiple merge spots = more slow down. More congestion.

If you merge early, you are a part of the problem.

Here is one source: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/744926sv#page-2 [escholarship.org]

Re:Major differences (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | more than 3 years ago | (#32977028)

There IS no "merging" here.
The lane on the left is SUPPOSED to be ONLY for people going to the East-onramp. The lane on the right ONLY for people going to the WEST-onramp OR Straight ahead.
In other words - the people changing into the left lane are the ones merging here - and that's not the lane with the problem. People are going in a lane reserved for a different turn-off and at the last moment squeezing into a lane reserved for the other way making everybody slower.

Perhaps you misunderstood. I should have specified, in my country we drive on the OPPOSITE side of the road compared to America so that may be why you were confused and thought people were merging. This is NOT a merging road, it's in fact, for all intents and purposes a Y-junction, and people are driving on the way to one side of the Y up to the last moment then rushing across to the other side because they think they matter much more than everybody who is already in the qeue for it.

Re:Major differences (3, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975710)

* The cars will be scrupulous about obeying traffic laws and speed limits. But even with a small part self-driving cars, they will act as pace cars and slow and smooth traffic for everyone. Even more so, as they'll be recording everything happening around them, and other drivers know it. Pace will be slower, but people will arrive sooner.

I don't know what you're smoking, but when I was in Germany, the blitz camera (for speeding) in my part of town didn't cause people to go slower except in the very spot it was in. It caused enough rage that it was actually shot at night on multiple occasions.

In America, I live near a highway still marked an antiquated 55 mph, and everyone goes at least 70 mph. In my experience, there is nothing magically special or wise about the arbitrary speed limits, except they are set way too low in order for the cops to generate revenue on demand.

Your little do-good buggy will a) in fact slow me down on the highway causing me to get there slower and b) cause road rage in someone that will drive that little piece of shit off the road, taped or not.

As for you pace car idea, here is the execution in real life:
http://green.autoblog.com/2007/08/25/what-happens-when-highway-drivers-are-forced-to-go-55-mph-its/ [autoblog.com]

Re:Major differences (1)

sgtrock (191182) | more than 3 years ago | (#32977178)

* The cars will be scrupulous about obeying traffic laws and speed limits. But even with a small part self-driving cars, they will act as pace cars and slow and smooth traffic for everyone. Even more so, as they'll be recording everything happening around them, and other drivers know it. Pace will be slower, but people will arrive sooner.

Oh? Does this mean that the cars will know the traffic laws in every jurisdiction? For example, it is illegal to slow traffic down in the fast lane in Minnesota. So, your theoretical pace car would be breaking the law if it was holding up faster traffic in the left hand lane.

How about Germany where speed limits on the autobahn change due to weather, current traffic load, accidents, construction, and probably other factors that I'm not aware of? Will a smart car be able to correctly interpret a speed limit sign that's marked '120 kph' with a cancelled circle on it one moment, then '70 kph', then '25 kph'?

That just covers speed limits. Traffic merging laws vary by jurisdiction, too. Other examples that I can think of off the top of my head include parking, behavior when passing a cop pulled over to the side with his lights going, etc.

Re:Major differences (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 3 years ago | (#32977186)

* Driverless drive-ins means you can send a car to do a lot of your errands.

No, it means that the car-hop will go around to the passenger window to take orders and deliver burgers.

only 100Tb? (1)

MalHavoc (590724) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975012)

I'm a little surprised that the trip will only accumulate 100Tb of data. Slashdot ran a story a while ago about the IT side of F-1 racing [slashdot.org] and TFA mentioned that during a single race they accumulate 20 Gb of telemetry. This trip across China is obviously far longer, so I would expected even more data.

Maybe there is just less stuff being monitored. They obviously don't need to monitor the vital signs of the driver :)

Re:only 100Tb? (1)

Freultwah (739055) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975540)

100 terabytes is 5000 times more than 20 gigabytes and a trip from China is considerably shorter than 5000 F-1 races. A regular F-1 race is about 300 kilometres long, which makes the trip from China about 43 times longer. (8000 miles being approximately 13000 kilometres.) So they are getting way, way more data than from F-1, about 60 times more per car kilometre.

Mallware (yes, double L) (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975048)

The real question is: can it be remotely hacked/cracked or whatever you call it when someone takes control over your car from a basement in their mom's house?

Will a car with mallware drive you only to a mall to convince you to buy things you don't need?

Re:Mallware (yes, double L) (1)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975404)

The real question is: can it be remotely hacked/cracked or whatever you call it when someone takes control over your car from a basement in their mom's house?

Will a car with mallware drive you only to a mall to convince you to buy things you don't need?

Would you rather trust the state / corporation to handle your security or will you take the responsibility to make sure you car security is up to date?

we've had that for a while (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975122)

driverless car... we just used to call them brainless drivers ;)... now, 100 tera bytes of their driving would definitely interesting and puzzling :)

Careful what you wish for (1, Insightful)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#32975780)

Totally autonomous cars also mean surrendering control and anonymity. Is the reduction of traffic jams and maybe a reduction of accidents worth being tracked in real time? One might even have to declare how many occupants for the levying of fuel/power consumption taxes. Law-and-order types will demand only legal citizens be allowed on the 'auto' roads (papers, please). Oh, and since you can't have a mix of manual and guided cars sharing the same road, the poor need not bother (to the mud and washboard for you lot!).

Re:Careful what you wish for (2, Informative)

Zerth (26112) | more than 3 years ago | (#32978484)

Oddly enough, this is an issue I'm willing to hand the Feds a glove and say "go for it".

While I enjoy a good road trip, I consider commuting a complete waste of time and would much rather spend my drive sitting in the passenger seat doing something useful while Robo-Jeeves does the work for me.

I would feel slightly bad for the elimination of taxi drivers, but robot taxis would actually reduce the impact of car non-ownership on those that can't afford one.

Alternator? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32976900)

"to collect about 100 TB of data, which requires a hefty electronics and battery load — the scale is such that the cars can only run for about three hours before needing 8 hours to recharge the batteries" I guess they've never heard of an alternator. It's a nifty thing in most cars that can charge batteries while driving. I doubt their electronics are running at more than 30 amps, which is what an alternator can easily put out. Or is 8 hours the time required for their Rayovac to top of their AAs?

Doesn't the Batmobile already do this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32977218)

Doesn't the Batmobile already do this?

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