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Google Secretly Tests Autonomous Cars In Traffic

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the just-having-a-bit-of-fun-yer-honor dept.

Transportation 561

Hugh Pickens writes "Autonomous cars are years from mass production, but technologists who have long dreamed of them believe that they can transform society as profoundly as the Internet has. Now the NY Times reports that Google has been working in secret on vehicles that can drive themselves, using artificial-intelligence software that can sense anything near the car and mimic the decisions made by a human driver. With someone behind the wheel to take control if something went awry and a technician in the passenger seat to monitor the navigation system, seven test cars have driven 1,000 miles without human intervention and more than 140,000 miles with only occasional human control. One even drove itself down Lombard Street in San Francisco, one of the steepest and curviest streets in the nation. The only accident, engineers said, was when one Google car was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light." Update: 10/09 22:37 GMT by T : Reader harrymcc points out that the dream of self-driving cars is nothing new: "Both Popular Science and Popular Mechanics have regularly reported on such experiments; I rounded up some examples dating as far back as 1933."

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561 comments

The Official Blog (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#33847952)

Here's the official blog announcement [blogspot.com] since I didn't see it in the summary or article.

Hey losers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848000)

My name is Skyler, but everyone calls me Alphabet because i'm the ALPHA male and you can BET on it. My boys sent me the link to this messageboard. They told me it was full of fat pale basement dwelling neckbeards OCD Asians and pathetic gay virgins. Wow they weren't kidding. I haven't seen this level of homosexuality since my broseph Vince got totally zonked on X and mouthkissed Zane. Of course you fags do this shit ON PURPOSE You chumps make me sick hanging out on your nerd website all day jerking off to fat chicks making your gay little posts about Linux and dressing up like faggots and ejaculating to tranny porn.

Dude you guys would probably cut your own dicks off to be able to observe my life for one day much less live it. I am buff tuff and ruff broski! My body is tanned and chiseled because I use PROTEIN and go to the GYM. You worthless excuses for men don't know how that works. Try not to suck your protein supplements out of a dude's cock. Even if the dude's name is Mark Shuttleworth..

Lets face it the chicks can't resist my bangin guns. When I walk up into the club the bitches can't wait for the Alphabet to wrap his pimp mitts around their titties. I have a .312 batting average not that you fags even know what that means and can drink all of your children under the table.You losers need to get a fucking life.

Re:Hey losers (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848036)

I don't know where this shit came from, but man it made me laugh :) Sounds like someone took one too many steroids.

Re:Hey losers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848358)

Lol... You just described my entire day... we'll except for the .312 batting average. I wanted my life's work to be "hitting a ball with a stick and then running fast" but that was way out of my league. I also dedicated my existence to "put orange ball through metal ring" for awhile, but they put the ring up so high. I'm kicking around the idea of spending a few million dollars to "drive car left in circle". Who knows how that'll go, it's probably hard too.

Re:The Official Blog (0, Redundant)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848332)

Hmm, Google announced it, eh? Kind of cancels the "secretly" part of the typically overhyped headline, doesn't it? I hate journalists about half as much as I hate lawyers. LOL

They're pulling a fast one. (5, Funny)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848422)

You know, I think they are pulling a trick on us. My money is on the fact that they are actually outsourcing the drivers to India. There's no computer, just drone car drivers in Mumbai, web cams, and a really fast internet connection. This could also explain why traffic patterns in SF and Mumbai are almost identical.

And, who cares, if it can't fly, and I can't hop from my car to my 34th floor office using my jetpack, I don't want it.

Rules of the Road (4, Insightful)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#33847956)

I guarantee they will use their turn signals better that wet-bodies.

Re:Rules of the Road (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848002)

I read TFS and the first thing I thought was that mimicking human decisions is a silly idea. It's probably just the summary, not what they're actually doing. i do see some value in the AI determining likely reactions of other drivers though.

Re:Rules of the Road (5, Funny)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848080)

1. Automated cars
2. Bad human drivers

if (rearCarDriver == human)
{
BrakeCheck();
}

3. Profit! Thanks state-laws-always-faulting-driver-in-rear!

Re:Rules of the Road (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848362)

Mimicking intelligent human decisions and good human judgement is probably a good idea. if an automated vehicle makes decisions that would be unpredictable or unexpected by other drivers, it could cause an accident, or could get a bad rep for the bot car.

I wold love a car that drives itself... (5, Insightful)

anUnhandledException (1900222) | more than 3 years ago | (#33847958)

even if initially only on highways.

The ability to read, or surf the web, or watch a movie/TV show durring my commute would be wonderful. Almost like getting a free hour everyday. 52 * 5 * 1 = 250 free hours a year.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848008)

I have to say that I like the idea of a car driving itself. In theory it should be able to be better than any human. However, software is what I do for a living and it seems there are always circumstances that can not be predicted if software but would be easy for a human to handle. It's those situations that I would be paranoid about if the car was driving itself. The problem would be that even if the human could intervene there is no guarantee that you could intervene fast enough or if the system would even let you.

I think eventually we will get there. I mean I trust the antilock brakes and traction control on my car but those systems are very straightforward with simple goals and it still took a long time to get them right. A car driving itself is ridiculously complex.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (4, Interesting)

anUnhandledException (1900222) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848028)

I think a lot of it is trust and acceptance. I would be willing to start small.

Imagine if the leftmost highway lane was designed "auto drive lane". This would greatly simplify the potential scenarios. Vehicle would only auto drive when in the auto drive lane.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (1)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848420)

On the right most lane, put smart cars. Then in the middle lane put "smart" cars, motorcyclists, and anyone who drives while talking on the cell phone, or texting, or drunk between me and them. I'll be all the way on the left-most lane, thank you very much.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848118)

Considering that virtually all crashes that involve vehicles are the result of human error and are in predictable situations, I think that it's probably safer in the long term to have computers do all the driving with just an emergency override.

Or even more or less remove the override in favor of a single "push this if you're about to drive off a cliff" button.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848336)

Depends on the driver, it's certainly true for most drivers but not all of them. Of course most drivers also overestimate their driving abilities.

There is no way current technology can make this work. Consider how many things could be coming at your car from the periphery that the system would not be able to detect. Animals running across the road, snow and mud slides, road alligators being flipped up from the car in front of you, etc. There is no way a computer could accurately detect these things coming from a far distance on an intercept course with you. If the driver is preoccupied with something else they won't see it to intervene either (if the driver isn't preoccupied then what's the point of the autodrive).

Also consider sometimes you have to drive off the road to prevent an accident, no way could this system handle that. I have driven over curbs to prevent someone from hitting me and driven into a ditch and back out to avoid people in the road on a blind corner (and didn't even use the brakes because that would have compromised my steering/handling). Software would not be able to analyze the situation and find an appropriate escape route. The best it could do is slam on the brakes or whatever but often that isn't enough.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (5, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848446)

There is no way current technology can make this work. Consider how many things could be coming at your car from the periphery that the system would not be able to detect. Animals running across the road, snow and mud slides, road alligators being flipped up from the car in front of you, etc.

Consider how many things could be coming at your car from the periphery that the human eye would not be able to detect. Computer systems can have more sensors with longer range. Computers can track more objects coming from more directions than the human eye can track simultaneously.

There is no way a computer could accurately detect these things coming from a far distance on an intercept course with you.

Of course they could. It's just a matter of having the right (expensive) sensors on board with sufficient range.

There are even types of sensors such as radar that can detect objects a much larger distance, and infrared sensors that can detect objects (such as children) much smaller than the human eye can, or objects such as child pedestrians that are obscured by a parked car.

The computer can track and predict the object that would not even be visible to your eye, and anticipate the child outside your field of vision about to try and run across the street in front of you.

The human eye is a pretty good, versatile sensor, with a wide range of things it can pick up, but it has limited range (especially if the driver is nearsighted and only has the minimal 20/40 vision required to get their license), and you only have two of them.

For example... you can look to the front, to the side, or behind you, but not in both places at the same time.

This matters, for example, if you are changing lanes.

You can look behind you and to your side to verify clearance, meanwhile, while you glanced behind you for that second, a car in front of you has slammed on their breaks, or a vehicle turning onto the highway has turned in front of you or changed lanes in front of you within 50 feet, and the time you have to make a decision and react was drastically reduced.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (4, Interesting)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848026)

It'd be awesome not to need a DD (or risk a DUI) to go to the bar in the many US cities with no or inadequate public transit... though I bet the MADD assholes will lobby to make it still illegal, somehow, and probably try to force a breathalyzer to turn the damn auto-drive on in the first place.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848098)

...MADD assholes...

Fuck you.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (4, Informative)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848192)

Truly a cunning retort.

MADD are assholes because they don't actually care about stopping drunk driving anymore. They care about stopping drinking. As stated by their disillusioned founder Candy Lightner, they've become neo-prohibitionists.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848464)

Time to join DAMM. Drunks against Mad Mothers.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (1, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848136)

And these US cities have no cabs? MADD is not a bunch of assholes, they're by and large pushing the right things to deal with a real problem. The only exception I've heard of is their insistence that an interlock device not be used as a part of the punishment.

If anything the penalties for drink related offenses are way too lenient.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (5, Interesting)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848204)

And these US cities have no cabs?

Not everyone can afford to blow $80+ just to get to and from their night out. I practically never go out for that reason, and because I know being a DD sucks and wouldn't impose on someone like that. I go to a bar maybe a couple times a year, but I'd be far more inclined to accompany other friends who go more frequently if the transportation weren't an issue.

As for MADD, they have a history of pursuing policy that has more to do with neo-Prohibition than keeping people safe. I don't dislike them because they're against drunk driving--hooray for that, in fact--but because they appear to be anti-alcohol. My comment about them trying to find some way to make this technology not a legal option for inebriated transportation was serious; I bet they would.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (2, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848066)

The ability to read, or surf the web, or watch a movie/TV show durring my commute would be wonderful. Almost like getting a free hour everyday. 52 * 5 * 1 = 250 free hours a year.

You mean fill out reports and attend conference calls. :(

In too many situations if we have more time to work, we'd just work more. Capitalism rewards productivity... if you can be more productive than your competition you have an advantage.

This is why we don't have the effortless 1-hour work days envisioned in the "Jetsons". The premise was that technology would increase our productivity and give us more free time. It didn't account for the fact the competition would just use that freed up time to be more productive, forcing everyone else to do the same.

Just as blackberries and laptops and VPNs have resulted in millions taking their work home to continue into the evenings and weekends, self-driving cars will just result in another hour in which to do more work, at least for millions of people. :(

I've been fortunate enough to establish a work environment I'm very happy with, but I know a lot of people who recall our teenaged fast-food/retails years with envy... "punch-in, work, punch-out, don't work" :)

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (2, Interesting)

Gamma747 (1438537) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848352)

If your job can be done from your car, then it can also be done from your home.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848094)

even if initially only on highways.

The ability to read, or surf the web, or watch a movie/TV show durring my commute would be wonderful. Almost like getting a free hour everyday. 52 * 5 * 1 = 250 free hours a year.

Take an effin bus or a train!

Americans...

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (3, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848254)

Note to our Euro friends: subsidizing fuel costs and road systems is democracy. Subsidizing railways and mass transit is communism.

It all makes sense if you don't think about it.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848272)

People claiming to know how America work with lame stuff like this look as stupid as Americans asking Europeans why they don't they drive large SUVs through cobblestone paved roads, why the beer tent at Oktoberfest does not have Bud Light, or why night clubs play Justin Bieber or Britney Spears.

America is a lot more spread out than Europe. Take Houston or the D/FW metro area for instance. One can easily commute 100-200km before they get to their work. The train/tram system to cover the large sprawling areas would be cost prohibitive to even countries with unlimited money like the UAE, and that would only cover a small region of a state.

Instead, we Americans are stuck with roads and cars. And inept city planners. If a city does anything else than build stadiums, they will randomly close lanes to make bike right of ways... for the 1-2 bicyclists an hour that might bother to use that road. Unlike Europe, bike commuting is a lot tougher. If it isn't cars, it is transient people who will take a swipe at your bike in hops of knocking you off it. If it isn't aggressive bums, it is the fact that bike theft isn't considered a crime worth prosecuting in most areas.

Unlike Europe where you have trams, trains, and Puppeteer port pads every 10-20 meters, the US has to address the problem by a completely different system. That is ultimately will be having cars able to drive by themselves, Demolition Man Style so expressways can handle denser traffic, and taking user error out of the equation. Combine this with highways built from the ground up to be completely automatic, and that will be how traffic is handled.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848284)

Yes, Americans.

We don't have trains to speak of, outside maybe ten cities, and if we have a bus system it usually sucks and/or has very limited range which requires us to drive 1/2 of the way to our destination to reach the nearest stop.

I'd take the train if we had one, and I'd take the bus if it wouldn't double my commute time (at best) and still require several miles' worth of driving.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848414)

Public transit is almost nonexistent in the US

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848108)

How about using a train, bus or tram?

That's how I get my 250 hours a year

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848140)

If only urban areas would offer some sort of futuristic transit "system" whereby instead of burning 30 man-miles per gallon we were able to aggregate daily short and medium intra-city hops into "platoons" on single road vehicles or rail vehicles, that would leave the rider free to do work while a designated operator took care of the driving for them. Even BETTER is there was some sort of inter-city rail-type service that offered faster hops than any freeway without having to negotiate traffic.

But seriously, for people who don't live within reach of an adequate mass transit system this is of course a Good Thing, but we've literally been pouring millions of dollars and decades of research into allowing people to have all of the safety and free time benefits of riding the bus or subway without the efficiency or social stigma of... riding the bus or subway. To the point where urban planners are promising us the "freeway of the future" where your single-or-perhaps-dual-occupant car drives itself onto the freeway and platoons with other cars in order to merely take up THRICE the freeway capacity of a comparable bus instead of TEN TIMES to space.

Natch YMMV, but as a solution for reducing city congestion and city road safety this is so totally a wank. A sedan automobile has to be one of the least efficient modes of transportation ever devised, and only maintains its preeminence in the first world because pollution is unpriced, our national passenger rail system has been criminally mismanaged by the government, and we have a corrupt freeway funding mechanism.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848466)

While you're wishing, how about wishing for a pony?

The USA has a poor passenger rail system for two general reasons:

first, low population densities, and poor source/destination densities.
second, decision (largely on those grounds!) to optimise it for freight.

The USA has a peerless freight rail system. That's right, peerless. It saves unthinkable amounts of fuel getting bulk stuff from bulk sources to bulk destinations, rapidly and punctually. We don't have everyone living in huge tower blocks, and working together in other tower blocks. Poor density. We do, however, have a keen sense that time is money, so slow passenger rail is a loser. Driving a while to get to slow passenger rail loses worse. Waiting for a bus to get to wait for slow passenger rail is crazy, but necessary in many places. When your commute by road, including all traffic jams, frustrations and parking hassles is still an HOUR LESS EACH WAY than mass transit, for simple reasons of geography and demography, road wins. And before you laugh at my contrived example, that has been the usual case for me over more than the last decade.

I want to ride mass transit. I really do. I hate driving, but it isn't there and isn't going to be there unless and until the population compresses massively. You can whine all you want about the costs of pollution and how terrible the government is and whatever bee in your bonnet is buzzing right now, but until the costs of individual transport (including flexibility for those who travel for work, work irregular hours or whatever else) are more than the hourly monetary equivalent of the delays entailed in commuting by personal transport, your whining will accomplish precisely zero.

And just in case you think I'm BSing, my current commute would lengthen, assuming magical zero wait time at every terminus, by around 80 minutes each way were I to use mass transport. At about $30/hour after tax remuneration, I would have to save nearly $100/day doing that to even make it worthwhile. In actual fact, it's more expensive by tens of dollars a day. No, really.

Fix demography, then we'll talk.

Hours wasted in traffic (1)

zmaragdus (1686342) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848220)

The ability to read, or surf the web, or watch a movie/TV show durring my commute would be wonderful. Almost like getting a free hour everyday. 52 * 5 * 1 = 250 free hours a year.

Taking your comment a few steps further...

It's staggering how many hours of potentially productive time are wasted in traffic every day. Think of if this way: you hit a traffic jam heading to work in the morning. Even if it takes only 15 extra minutes of your time, you multiply that by the hundreds or thousands of people who are stuck like you, times some average hourly wage, and the potential worth of that time that was instead wasted is huge. The ability for a car to drive itself and for you to spend the time even just checking your work email would be of great use to many.

Re:Hours wasted in traffic (4, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848300)

A widely-available car that even properly follows laws would also save, collectively, many hours per day of everybody's time, even among those who don't drive it.

A few seconds here because an intersection wasn't blocked... A few seconds there because a turn signal allowed some advance planning... Another few seconds because lane merges were done earlier than the last possible moment...

Here's to the future, and hoping it comes soon!

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848338)

Add the ability to actually answer the phone or read/send SMS. In fact, as all of that is in phones that could run Android, integration there could be interesting.

Boring. (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848380)

I'd much rather drive a car than soak up some pre-made 'entertainment' on a screen. but as long as driverless cars dont become mandatory i don't mind

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848384)

That's exactly the sort of thing that should be prohibited by law until the technology has proved itself and become widely accepted by society as foolproof; until then, it should be like cruise control, the human driver should always be able to override it, and the human is responsible for what they allow it to do.

Re:I wold love a car that drives itself... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848436)

even if initially only on highways.

So carpool fer chrissakes.

What will cities do? (5, Insightful)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 3 years ago | (#33847962)

Cities will have to step up drug enforcement big time to make up for budget shortfalls, if these become common. No more traffic tickets means dramatically lower revenue for many towns.

Re:What will cities do? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33847984)

Or you know... legalize and tax more psychoactive substances once they aren't that much of a danger in the form of wasted drivers.

Re:What will cities do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848178)

You mean like alcohol? Oh wait, we already legalized and taxed that, even though it is that much of a danger in the form of wasted drivers. And tobacco, which is also ridiculously taxed for revenue and occasionally banned, although it adds no danger to driving, and practically no impact on other than the user (pre-UHC, anyway).

Maybe decisions on taxation, banning, and the like are completely unrelated to public safety.

Re:What will cities do? (0, Troll)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848152)

Traffic tickets are a way of improving safety. I know there's the "I want to speed wherever I go" set, but really and truly traffic tickets are primarily for safety reasons. Now there are some small towns that treat it as a source of revenue, but in most civilized areas, the cops would be pleased to never have to issue another citation for a traffic violation ever again.

Re:What will cities do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848198)

Wow, I always forget what asshole Libertarians can be.

Re:What will cities do? (4, Insightful)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848208)

That is true for the cops. I am also sure that everybody would be happy if there would be a lot less traffic deaths cost by human error. However - here in the Netherlands - the income from traffic violations are a post on the yearly government budget and in your country it is the same. They make millions and millions of them. If that money would disappear they will find a way to let you pay their 'missing' income in another form. They need that money, because they already spending it.

Re:What will cities do? (1)

tazanator (681948) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848210)

Do you really belive that?? most states are shutting down the scale houses that inspect semi trucks in order to use the man power on drug task forces that make better headlines and profits now. The local governments are just playing catchup to the state governments.

Re:What will cities do? (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848330)

Drugs lead to increased rates of other crimes. Heavy trucks just raise taxes (via deteriorating roads).

Sounds to me like the police are putting money into protecting people, rather than just imposing fines on otherwise-harmless businesses.

Re:What will cities do? (2, Insightful)

sir1real (1636849) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848264)

This is BS. The Los Angeles city council admitted that they were installing stop light cameras to make up for budget short falls. When it it did not generate the expected revenue the failure was widely reported.

Re:What will cities do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848440)

MOD PARENT UP!

Lack of ticket "revenue" could easily be offset by reduced spending on emergency services and loss of tax revenue when some idiot kills others on the road because "they didn't see them" or were high on crack or drunk.

Re:What will cities do? (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848154)

It would be made up for by the significant lack of accidents. One would hope.

Re:What will cities do? (5, Funny)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848184)

Nah, imagine a street with a 40mph limit and a steady stream of robocars doing 39.99999mph. Just set up some roadworks and a temporary 20mph limit for 'safety'. $Ker-ching, $Ker-ching, $Ker-ching, $Ker-ching, $Ker-ching.

Re:What will cities do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848438)

Oh my god, mod this man up!

Re:What will cities do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848222)

Presumably, autonomous cars would make the economy more efficient overall, and eventually increase property tax revenues. Sort of like trickle-up economics.

this is my dream too (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#33847972)

i hate driving. it is drudgery, it is monotonous, it is awful

i want to get in my car, point out a location on the gps, and fall asleep in the driver's seat. everything else is well within our technological abilities to make happen automatically

10 years, at the most car manufacturers, please

Re:this is my dream too (4, Insightful)

Osty (16825) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848144)

Have you considered taking the bus?

Streetview (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33847974)

I always wondered how they paid for Streetview.

Wow, just add cameras to roof... (1)

netsharc (195805) | more than 3 years ago | (#33847976)

Wow, just add cameras to roof, and automatic, no driving required, Google Street View mapper.

You can add guns and sell them to the budget-strapped police departments, add water hose and you wouldn't get a house burning down with firemen just watching it.

Introducing Google Cop, model 209...

Re:Wow, just add cameras to roof... (1)

netsharc (195805) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848012)

Of course I DNRTFA before commenting, but this interested me:

Any test begins by sending out a driver in a conventionally driven car to map the route and road conditions. By mapping features like lane markers and traffic signs, the software in the car becomes familiar with the environment and its characteristics in advance.

It's kinda lame that Google's solution to hard problems like how to get a computer to drive a car, is basically replaying a recording of how a human drove on that exact piece of road. So what if some things are changed, or the software gets thrown onto an unknown road? A human will still be able to cope, but this software?

Re:Wow, just add cameras to roof... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848142)

Or better yet, what if every robotic car constantly updated Google with any changes in the road (asides from the initial human run)? Google has already shown that it has the resources to drive along every road in the country.

Re:Wow, just add cameras to roof... (1)

Jahava (946858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848326)

Of course I DNRTFA before commenting, but this interested me:

Any test begins by sending out a driver in a conventionally driven car to map the route and road conditions. By mapping features like lane markers and traffic signs, the software in the car becomes familiar with the environment and its characteristics in advance.

It's kinda lame that Google's solution to hard problems like how to get a computer to drive a car, is basically replaying a recording of how a human drove on that exact piece of road. So what if some things are changed, or the software gets thrown onto an unknown road? A human will still be able to cope, but this software?

Not a recording of how a human drove; rather, they sent someone to map the area (record lane sizes, lights, crosswalks, traffic hazards, stop signs, speed limits, etc.) for the software. The software still drove the car; it just used its knowledge of the static environment to assist it in making the decisions. It can focus more on reacting to reality (by mapping it as a deformed version of that static image) rather than trying to visually recognize and read speed limit signs etc.

In a future where this sort of thing is actually implemented, there would certainly be a central knowledge base of this information for every street available to the computer. Updates (such as construction, accidents, etc.) would be broadcast in real-time. This is information that can be routinely gathered and thus is safe to take for granted.

What about unanticipatable factors? (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33847990)

What does it do around bad drivers? What about pedestrians? What about people crossing the road unexpectedly?

Re:What about unanticipatable factors? (3, Insightful)

vandoravp (709954) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848010)

Same thing humans do, watch out for them and react. Except, unlike humans, autonomous cars aren't so distractible and can react much more quickly. Also, if networked, the cars can be warned of hazards by another car well before actually encountering it.

Not secretly, (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33847994)

just quietly. Some of the other people working on it (e.g. Sebastian Thrun) have been working on this for a while, even competing in the DARPA Grand Challenge and Urban Challenge.

Re:Not secretly, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848056)

Indeed, these projects are nothing new at all. The only thing truly unique at recent autonomous cars are how much more efficient and reliable they are now.

That said, they're still a long ways off from mass production. Prototype models with a driver riding along in case of an emergency is still nowhere near "driving through downtown rush hour traffic".

My fear is that this will be mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848018)

Safer, more reliable, etc? Dream situation, so this will probably *replace* driving and force us all to be passengers.

My issues with this are twofold: first, truly problematic situations might be impossible for a computer to fix. Bad weather, vehicle failure, etc? Can they handle this combined with dire situations? I honestly can't believe so. It might be possible to do well in ideal and slightly less than ideal situations, but I'd trust a well-trained human over the best computers for truly bad situations.

Secondly -- and a more personal issue -- I hate being a passenger. Despise it. The only way I can survive a trip is having the responsibility and focus that driving brings. I do not ride public transportation, and I hate being taken somewhere by someone else, especially over long distances. So I WILL hate this, and will fight to keep control of my car to the bitter end.

Re:My fear is that this will be mandatory (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848382)

As long as you drive just as well as the autonomous car does, I'm fine with human drivers.

Change lanes in an intersection, though, and I'll start hating you.

And now it all ties together... (4, Funny)

Cylix (55374) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848032)

The reason Google was collecting wireless data was for the simple necessity of controlling it's autonomous fleet of vehicles. Eventually, these drones will sweep the nation day and night using the plethora of open access points around the nation. Our own ineptness will be our downfall as the machines eventually become self aware. Sure, it was all for marketing and advertising to earn a few dollars, but I just can't live in a future they are creating. Yes, I am talking about autonomous sales droids that watch you day and night while analyzing your garbage. They will be on the front door to pitch you a customer tailored vacuum cleaner the moment you try to escape your home. It's a truely dark future that lies in the waiting.

And what about the X-Prize? (1)

skywatcher2501 (1608209) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848172)

How would you connect the Google Lunar X-Prize to their advertisement-driven marketing? I always fail to see how that connects to Google's business plan.

Streetview (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848228)

Google has Streetview of Antarctica. Now they want Streetview of the moon.

Mystery solved.

Re:And now it all ties together... (1)

Acetylane_Rain (1894120) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848250)

I'd mod you funny.

But taking your post seriously: I don't expect machines to be smarter than us [wikimedia.org]. Or at least all of us. What I fear seeing in the future are a select class, enhanced via cybernetics or genetics (or both), lording it over the rest of the human race. There would be a kind of cybernetic divide, analogous to today's digital divide, between this enhanced "uberclass" and the non-enhanced, technologically disadvantaged underclass. Of course, this is the dystopian scenario. The singularity could, after all, turn out to be a geek utopia.

Re:And now it all ties together... (1)

excelsior_gr (969383) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848256)

Hmm... Maybe I *want* a tailor-made vacuum cleaner. Because I think that the vacuum cleaners that are in the store, aimed at covering the average or most popular demands, are not exactly right for me. On the other hand it is way too expensive for me now to order a custom-made vacuum cleaner. I don't think I would be that bad if someone came to me with a nice solution to one of my problems (this carpet really stinks). Jokes aside, the vacuum cleaner example may be too trivial for this case, but I don't think it is that dark a future. The problems will begin if the data start being used as means for discriminating between citizens. It is thus a good thing that all they are interested in is obtaining our money (in a legal way).

New York Times (1)

Cthefuture (665326) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848034)

OK, can we have an article that isn't behind a login/paywall?

Re:New York Times (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848278)

you don't need to pay but you need to make an account at times.com.

insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848046)

who do they put down as driver on the insurance report??

Great! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848100)

Anything that puts the retarded Pakistani cab drivers out of business is a good thing.

Study Bad Drivers Too? (4, Insightful)

DougF (1117261) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848104)

They studied 6 drivers "with spotless records" behind the wheel. I would argue that they could gain valuable information by also studying poor drivers and teaching the program to a) avoid such behavior in it's own driving; and b) learn how to react to poor drivers out there on the road (e.g. passing on blind corners, turning without signaling, aggressive/NASCAR type diving into limited spaces, etc)

google has deep pockets so if some one sues they s (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848146)

Google has deep pockets so if some one sues they can just pay a settlement and not take it to court.

Machine Ethics - Scenario (4, Interesting)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848166)

Will it pick up hitchhikers?
Will it courteously let people pull out who have been waiting?
Will it flick-off people who drive 30 under?
Will it flick-off people who drive 30 over?
Will it flicker brights to warn of speed traps?
Will it pull over for emergency vehicles?
Will it draft large semis?
Will it bring me hookers and blackjack?

Also, who receives the citation in the event of a stop?

This is troubling, deeply troubling (2, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848180)

The Streetnet Funding Bill is passed. The system goes on-line August 4th, 2017. Human decisions are removed from traffic management. Streetnet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the charging plug.

Re:This is troubling, deeply troubling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848262)

Lame. Stop it.

Price of the car? (3, Funny)

realisticradical (969181) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848240)

I can't wait until you can buy different models of cars that have different quality self-driving systems. "Buy BMW we only crash 5% of the time."

Unfortunately I'll still be stuck with the low end Toyotas which crash 80% of the time.

illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848246)

Automated cars should never be legal. Who is liable if the car makes a mistake? A computer can never adapt to unpredictable situations, like extreme weather, pedestrians, road conditions. A computer can't see something on the road and be able to have an understanding of what it is, and how to deal with it. For instance debrit in the road, wether to avoid or ok to ignore like a plastic bag.

Patents? (1)

realisticradical (969181) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848248)

So your car will be able to drive itself but doesn't Lexus have a patent on cars that parallel park themselves? Is this going to be a problem? Your car can do everything except park...

No to ULV's (1)

Acetylane_Rain (1894120) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848298)

I fear seeing the urban equivalent of the unmanned aerial vehicle [wikimedia.org]. If anything these ULVs (unmanned land vehicles) should be confined to supervised bomb disposal work. No general purpose robocops, please. Would-be drivers should still be tested for their road skills, just as pilots have to be licensed even when it's already possible to fly a plane by autopilot.

Provided... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848314)

... they don't go over 25 Km/h and have a robot in front to warn about the incoming danger, it's ok, I suppose.

Liability will prevent this from happening (2, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848340)

Companies that might otherwise be interested in bringing autonomous vehicles to the masses will be scared off by the huge monetary risks involved. Any autonomous vehicle involved in a deadly accident will result in a massive lawsuit against the manufacturer, even if the accident was someone else's fault, and even if the manufacturer admonishes the owner to monitor the vehicle's performance at all times while it's in operation. What's more, juries will distrust the "correctness" of autonomous vehicle controllers, to the point that manufacturers will lose lawsuits even when there's no real evidence that the vehicle was to blame.

Think of the jobs (4, Insightful)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848350)

I don't mean to be a Luddite, but if this works out, do you know what it will do to the economy? Tens of millions of jobs are based almost exclusively on driving. Truckers, cab drivers, even pizza delivery. A computer can work 24/7, so even if the system costs $100,000, that's still saves money over paying for employees.

Re:Think of the jobs (4, Insightful)

cduffy (652) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848442)

I don't mean to be a Luddite, but if this works out, do you know what it will do to the economy? Tens of millions of jobs are based almost exclusively on driving.

It'll improve the economy by removing a large "tax" on everything that requires transportation (that is, almost everything) and freeing up the labor pool for more productive uses? By your argument we should be making self-service gas stations illegal as a job creation program. And maybe outlawing wireless meter reading systems -- those cost jobs too!

Re:Think of the jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33848454)

They took our jobs!

Profoundly? (2, Insightful)

Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) | more than 3 years ago | (#33848412)

I doubt transportation that requires little human intervention will have as profound an effect as something that has revolutionized the way information is distributed. It's like saying automatic transmission had as profound an effect as the invention of the printing press (or radio, or television.) There is no comparison.
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