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How Would Driver-less Cars Change Motoring?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the drivethrus-harder-drivebys-easier dept.

Sci-Fi 648

Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that as Nevada licenses Google to test its prototype driver-less car on public roads, futurists are postulating what a world of driver-less would cars look like. First, accidents would go down. 'Your automated car isn't sitting around getting distracted, making a phone call, looking at something it shouldn't be looking at or simply not keeping track of things,' says Danny Sullivan. Google's car adheres strictly to the speed limit and follows the rules of the road. 'It doesn't speed, it doesn't cut you off, it doesn't tailgate,' says Tom Jacobs, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles. Driver-less cars would mean a more productive commute. 'If you truly trust the intelligence of the vehicle, then you get in the vehicle and you do our work while you're traveling,' says engineer Lynne Irwin. They would mean fewer traffic jams. 'Congestion would be something you could tell your grandchildren about, once upon a time.' Driver-less cars could extend car ownership to some groups of people previously unable to own a car, including elderly drivers who feel uncomfortable getting behind the wheel at night, whose eyesight has weakened or whose reaction time has slowed." Another reader points out an article suggesting autonomous cars could eventually spell the end of auto insurance.

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648 comments

It just doesn't work (-1, Flamebait)

humbleguy (2637213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968689)

Looking at Bing Maps I understand that roads in the U.S. cities are planned quite, well, systemically in grid (like in SimCity). But it isn't like that anywhere else in the world. Europe has tons of cities which aren't planned like that (hell, London too!) and Asia even more. In my city in Asia the roads are curvy and by looking at maps, there isn't any planning whatsoever.

But my city is also much older than any U.S. cities and much more personal. The streets are narrow, there's small little alleyways everywhere and most of all, most people use motorbikes to get around.

On top of that there are little traffic laws and/or people don't follow them so closely. You drive carefully and defensively, not aggressively. You consider other drivers too. Also, when stopped at lights all the motorbikes go around the cars to get to the front. Sometimes this includes going in front of cars if the way is blocked and they need to move to the other side to get to the front of the lights.

Then there is also the issue of cats and dogs roaming around, bumps on the street, and sometimes an elephant in front of you (and the elephants have turning lights on their ass - I kid you not!). In many places you also cannot see if someone is coming behind a corner. You honk to let them know. How is Google car supposed to see them when their censors can't see the car or motorbike?

All of this means that outside America, Google Car has little use. In fact they would be fatal to others on the road. And no, we aren't going to change the cities and driving practices just because some lazy American wants to use his self-driving car. I doubt Google has thought of this and they will be in for a big surprise when nobody but Americans can use them.

As a side question, why are American cities planned without any personal touch, but so "professionally"?

Re:It just doesn't work (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968733)

Efficiency and navigatability, plus, as opposed to London, most American cities have several thousand years worth of city road building experience built right in.

Re:It just doesn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969169)

How would driver-less cars change motoring? Well, you see it would be the same except without a human driver who must pay attention to driving.

Next question!

Re:It just doesn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968773)

Wow, that's a lot of FUD to come from one person.

Re:It just doesn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968857)

Agreed. Please mod GP as flamebait.

Re:It just doesn't work (1)

hjf (703092) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968779)

As a side question, why are American cities planned without any personal touch, but so "professionally"?

Is this even a real question? Personalism has nothing to do with city planning. It's all about efficiency.

Re:It just doesn't work (5, Interesting)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968787)

1) First time poster
2) Post appears within same minute as story, despite being well over 500 words
3) Subtle plug for Bing maps
4) General gist of "Google Cars will kill people!"

Either bonch is again trying out his sockpuppets, or someone is trying to astroturf Slashdot again.

In the meantime, I look forward to hopping into my Google car and taking a nap while driving to Tahoe. As a matter of fact, driving might become really something you do while you have other things to do - like sleep, eat, work, or just read. I'd love it. There is no reason for anyone to drive.

Re:It just doesn't work (0, Troll)

humbleguy (2637213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968831)

What are you talking about? I use Bing Maps because it is much better here than Google Maps. On top of that much faster too, as Google Maps seems to use LOTS of bandwidth. OpenStreetMap is good too, but Bing wins completely.

Re:It just doesn't work (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968881)

I'm sure you do. See, this is the problem with posts like yours. I can't take anything you say seriously, because your post fits the format of someone who lies about their status, their intention and their actual opinion. Go hunker down somewhere else.

Re:It just doesn't work (-1, Offtopic)

HBI (604924) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968983)

This site died long ago, and the paid astroturfing you are complaining about is the reason why. Time to put 127.0.0.1 in the hosts table again for slashdot.org.

Re:It just doesn't work (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969119)

but 127.0.0.1 seems to be just filled with porn

Re:It just doesn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969225)

What other sites are like slashdot that aren't so f'ed up?

Re:It just doesn't work (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968853)

If I could use my laptop during my commute to/from work, I could shave an hour off my day as the first and last half hour are typically paperwork/desk work anyway. Suddenly I can sleep in 30 minutes later and be home in time to make a much nicer dinner (yeah, I'm my gf's bitch around the house).

Re:It just doesn't work (2, Insightful)

fifedrum (611338) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968947)

I would absolutely use a car that had an auto-drive mode. If everyone did, then you wouldn't even need stop lights or other controls at intersections, or speed limits, as the vehicles would work together to melt traffic into a perfect flow. It might be a bit unnerving at first, watching traffic weaving through intersections, but we would get used to it.

Google or not.

Re:It just doesn't work (4, Insightful)

leonardluen (211265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969177)

I wouldn't mind having a self driving car, but i have a feeling your view of the intersections of the future wouldn't be safe for pedestrians.

Re:It just doesn't work (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969157)

There is no reason for anyone to drive.

Actually I enjoy driving most of the time. But I don't commute or drive in rush hour traffic often.

Re:It just doesn't work (5, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968795)

America has many well designed cities. And many poorly designed cities. However, if all cars were converted to driverless, then the increased efficiency may be such that you could have far fewer roads because a road could handle that many more cars without becoming congested - especially with some sort of inter-vehicle communication protocol. You could have cars traveling 100 mph almost bumper to bumper on highways that are currently at 55mph. This would allow you to have more roads designated cars-only to avoid many of the pitfalls of mixed traffic. The next step will likely be driverless cars with the option to switch to manual (think Demolition Man) for areas that are not driverless-friendly.

Re:It just doesn't work (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969081)

It may also mean some roads would get redesigned to better accommodate automation. I somehow doubt the plethora of signs about hidden intersections, white and yellow dotted lines, reflective signs etc existed in the era of horse and buggy, or even in the early era of cars.

The challenge is getting automated cars to the point that such modifications become worthwhile.

Re:It just doesn't work (1)

penix1 (722987) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969155)

However, if all cars were converted to driverless, then the increased efficiency may be such that you could have far fewer roads because a road could handle that many more cars without becoming congested...

Until they got hacked then it is mayhem with no way around it.

Re:It just doesn't work (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968837)

As a side question, why are American cities planned without any personal touch, but so "professionally"?

The same reason you lay them out in a grid when you play SimCity; it works, its efficient, it's easy to build around, it's easy to navigate, etc, etc, etc.

Re:It just doesn't work (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968879)

A good point. When playing Sim City, "fun" designs are nice for small towns (only practical at all in SimCity 4) or very small neighborhoods but they completely lack scalability. I don't think the roads add a personal touch half so much as the buildings, businesses and homes alongside them.

Re:It just doesn't work (-1, Troll)

humbleguy (2637213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968905)

But it also adds tons of unnecessary miles. Instead of going straight, you're now going along the grid lines almost doubling your distance.

Re:It just doesn't work (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969103)

The most navigable cities I've driven through have a layout where most of the city is a typical grid (often North/South/East/West) but have a few major avenues going at a 45 degree angle (NE/SW and NW/SE) just to help cut across the grid. Most of the cities here also have one expressway looping around the outside of the city and another one cutting through the heart of it - between them, you can get fairly close to your destination pretty fast.

Re:It just doesn't work (1)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969139)

your trolling is reaching epic proportions, but just in case you're serious...

1. Look up the pythagorean theorem. It's a^2 + b^2 = c^2, not a+b = 2c
2. Many major cities also have diagonal cross streets, not just north/south and east/west streets.
3. your alternative, cities which were not planned, very rarely have "straight" roads for long distances, so no road in those cities is ever going to get you directly to your destination in the fastest way possible unless it was designed exactly and for the sole purpose of getting people from where you currently are to exactly where you want to go.

Re:It just doesn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968969)

plus, it works on a flat piece of land. Where I live in the south, there's so many hills that the winding roads make more sense (or at least it did back in the days). I liked the OP's comments until he/she had to bash on America. Seriously, not everywhere is set in a grid due to "professionalism" or have curves for "personalisation" - the latter is a waste of money, in my opinion. I'm sure cities love to develop roads just for the enjoyment of spending money. What a load of crock. I've been to Asia and the name of the game is also efficiency, albeit with motorcycles in mind.

Re:It just doesn'twwork (4, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968863)

I think you may be underestimating what the technology can eventually do. If it becomes sufficiently advanced, automated cars should be able to do the same things that human drivers can. Moreover, in the short term, even in the US, the use of automation will probably be primarily highway driving and switch over to manual control in cities. Highway driving is much more easily automatable because there isn't nearly as much of any the problems you outline (which exist in the US also but to a lesser extent).

As a side question, why are American cities planned without any personal touch, but so "professionally"?

To a large extent this is just because they have been planned, whereas many older cities in Europe and Asia were built up well before modern city planning. There are other factors as well- cities that are planned well become less well-planned as time goes on. You see this in Europe with some of the old Roman cities. Also, when one didn't have cars and trucks, smaller alleyways weren't a problem, whereas many expanded American cities happened just as cars were showing up (remember the frontier in the US doesn't close until the 1890s). There's also just a long tradition in the US of careful planning, that's dates back to the very early settlements. New York was gridded out when much of the city was still wilderness, and that started a general precedent. There are some cities that aren't as carefully gridded (such as Boston) but many cities modeled themselves in a similar way to New York. Also, in much of the US land was pretty cheap. Gridding with big roads takes a lot of land up- when you have the room it is easier to do it.

Re:It just doesn't work (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968877)

Is no Google-related thread safe from MS shills?

Not all US cities are designed that way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968971)

New Orleans in the state of Louisiana is not. It's streets follow the original path- the river. Expansion into the swamps added some rectangular sections, but they join awkwardly.

Some former cross streets have been cut by interstate highways...

And then there are the occasional alligators that block the way...

Any city/town that is built in a restricted level area will have odd streets, no matter what the age of the city/town.

For an example, look at New York City - the old section of Manhattan Island. The origin of the city still has streets radiating out from the original wharfs for sailing ships.

The decision came about after the design of Washington, DC (US Capitol) where politicians admired the organization... and took that idea home where it spread. It also helped to have a LOT of open, relatively level, land to build on. Since there were no legacy portage (ie, river traffic) roads were more significant. Since roads a made by people, they tend to be or "logical" and ordered. That lead to a simple Cartesian coordinate system used for addressing.

Re:It just doesn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969001)

I trully can't understand your post. You're blasting Google for trying to improve cars eficiency, prevent accidents, and traffic jams? And you call americans lazy just because they are building a self driven car? Are you lazy for not having to kickstart your bike or your car?

I'm European and i can't wait for a self driven car. It will be a revolution in private transportation. A good revolution.

And yes, it's easier to build a self driven car in the large, straight roads of America, but this technology is only taking his baby steps and you're already blasting it. Jesus...you would probably be in Kitty Hawk with the Wright Brothers and say something like "Yeah, it can fly. But like, it only takes one person and if it rains you get all wet and probably crash. Why not use a bicycle? Are you lazy?".

Relax dude.

Re:It just doesn't work (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969127)

When I was on a business trip a couple of years ago, I used Google Maps to figure out how to get to my hotel. The direction at the end of the journey was to drive through the crash barrier at the side of the highway and fall thirty feet to the hotel parking lot below.

So poor maps and stupid routing software are other potential hazards for 'smart' cars.

We already have driverless cars (5, Insightful)

DontBlameCanada (1325547) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968719)

Any municipality that allows cellphone use while driving is, essentially, endorsing driverless cars. If someone gets engaged in a deep conversation on the phone, their driving skills drop below that of someone with 0.08% blood alcohol...

Re:We already have driverless cars (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968813)

Yeah, but the average blood alcohol content for a DUI is 0.16%. How does cell phone use compare to a 0.16% BAC?

Re:We already have driverless cars (1)

X_Bones (93097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968843)

Any municipality that allows cellphone use while driving is, essentially, endorsing driverless cars.

You're not seriously suggesting that driverless cars will have the same reaction ability as someone talking on a phone while driving, are you? If so, um, no. If not, what's your point?

Re:We already have driverless cars (1)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969133)

He's not. He's making the mildly snarky point that a driver talking on his cell phone is as good as no driver at all, not that it's equivalent to a driver AI. Personally, I think this is a "-1 flame..., no, +1 funny" post.

Re:We already have driverless cars (4, Funny)

IrrepressibleMonkey (1045046) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968849)

If someone gets engaged in a deep conversation on the phone, their driving skills drop below that of someone with 0.08% blood alcohol...

I'll drink to that! I made this very argument quite recently, but the idiot Judge still took my license...

Re:We already have driverless cars (3, Funny)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969035)

Maybe we already have driverless cars, but I prefer driverless cars that have an actual robot control system.

Re:We already have driverless cars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969179)

Some days it really is sad /. doesn't have a -5 Idiot mod.

Driverless... like in DC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968741)

They will handle the issue just like they did when the driverless trains started to crash in DC. They put drivers back in them. Any automated system given the shoddy maintenance of your average beater on the road is a death machine.

Re:Driverless... like in DC? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969079)

I wonder what will happen to insurance for older cars without the technology?

It could be that there will be a period of time when you can't afford to not buy a new driverless car because the insurance is so much lower (i.e., the insurance is ramped really high for driver-ful (?!) cars). This could actually force a lot of people off the roads because they can't afford the new car, nor the insurance for the old car, and second-hand driver-less cars aren't available.

On the other hand, who would willingly use public transport when getting driven by a driverless car in a system that avoids gridlock becomes reality? Or maybe driving to the train station becomes worthwhile because the car will drive itself back home so you don't have to pay car park fees. Prediction - the death of all-day car parks at travel hubs. This could mean more brown-field space for development in lucrative locations.

Re:Driverless... like in DC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969097)

They never took operators out of Metro cars in DC. They were automatically operated, but there has always been an operator who could hit the big red brake button in an emergency. Also the train doors have always been operated by the train operator, those were never fully automated. So now STFU.

Yeah (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968765)

About as much as electric cars have.

There won't be an end to insurance (5, Insightful)

HeLLFiRe1151 (743468) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968777)

There are too many other things insurance pays for besides hitting another car. For example hail storm damage, tree falling on your car or an unavoidable cow jumping in front of you on a bind corner. Not to mention cruising at 50 miles an hour and hitting an ice patch or getting hit by that guy who still actually likes to "drive" his truck.

Re:There won't be an end to insurance (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969161)

For example hail storm damage, tree falling on your car or an unavoidable cow jumping in front of you on a bind corner. Not to mention cruising at 50 miles an hour and hitting an ice patch

Yes, but they won't be able to charge the same sky high premiums just to cover purely accidental damage.

When they say "the end of insurance" they really mean "our profit margins are going to shrink drastically"

Re:There won't be an end to insurance (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969175)

My car insurance doesn't cover any of that. My insurance covers the other guy, and his car, and that's it. I will be taken to the hospital and my car will go to the junkyard. That's why my car insurance is only $110. So if cars did become self-driving, thereby eliminating car-on-car accidents, I could just drop my insurance completely.

ALSO: If cars did become self-driving, we former drivers could sit in the backseat where it's safer and more survivable (in the event of hitting a cow or deer or whatever).

Re:There won't be an end to insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969181)

The article didn't say that insurance would go away, just that the majority of payouts were for driver error, and that eradicating this would mean a drop in premiums for driverless cars.

I guess the car could refuse to start until it had verified your current insurance status online too.

In cold weather the car could actually drive the sensible distance behind the car in front, which very few humans actually do. In snow that is 10 seconds distance. So the ice patch would still result in fewer accidents.

And as for getting hit by another car - that's the fault of the other driver. And the driverless car will have a full black box of its experiences and decisions to back itself up, no more relying on humans to tell the truth.

Re:There won't be an end to insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969183)

But with driver less cars, the ice patch hit will only happen once, as it will be reported to every other driver less car. In more than 250,000 miles, and I am a professional driver, I have only seen ONE car with hailstone damage, I have never seen a live tree fall, and I have seen more than 50 DEER jumping in front of cars. with the Deer jumping, the most damage is caused by swerving, and not the impact, so the driver less car, would, without hesitation, grill the deer, ( i.e. drive straight into it. ), which would begin both to save lives, and save a lot of money. I can think of at least 50% of the deer grillings where both lives would have been saved, and a lot of property damage would be saved.

Just a quick note: I have installed reflective tape on the bottom of my car? Why? In case something else flips me, upside down into the oncoming lane, and then Im not a pitch black obstacle for someone to plough into.

Driver-less cars would eliminate car ownership for (5, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968781)

While driver-less cars would allow some people who currently cannot drive to have their own car, it will raise the price of cars so that some people who now can afford to own a car would not be able to afford one. It would also mean that someone other than you would ultimately determine where you could go. For example, only the cars of those authorized to go to certain places would even have the roads to those places in the maps in their cars. Since driver less cars will need to receive roadmap updates, you might discover that a place you went to yesterday was no longer accessible.

Re:Driver-less cars would eliminate car ownership (5, Interesting)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968955)

And alternatively again, while some people wouldn't be able to afford a car that they have now, some families will be able to get by with fewer cars. Imagine a world where my wife goes to work 30 minutes before I do, and sends the car back for me to use; then I send it to pick up my teenager from school, who sends it back to my wife, who picks me up on the way and we all go home. If we're postulating a world where trust is high enough to read and do work while in the operator's (I hesitate to say driver's) seat, there's a very small jump from there to the car that can go to a destination sans passengers entirely.

And of course, that says nothing about how it would revolutionize the statistically very dangerous world of truck driving (though I suspect the truck drivers might not be too happy about that, I'm sure they can get a lobby together to make sure that entirely autonomous semi's never get approved).

Since driver less cars will need to receive roadmap updates, you might discover that a place you went to yesterday was no longer accessible.

I don't think anyone is seriously considering cars without some kind of manual override. Though in the long term I suppose it's possible.

Re:Driver-less cars would eliminate car ownership (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968973)

I think you are trying too hard to disaparage the technology.

Sounds great (4, Insightful)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968797)

I think this will be mostly the end of private cars for the majority of us. It seems ridiculous now, but once people start looking at the cost of owning a car versus a well priced car service I think the transition will be fast. Especially among the young.

We'll probably be able to get by with a fleet of super-effecient driverless taxi cabs. I image paying a couple hundred bucks a month to have car come and pick me up whenever I need one.

You could get even more efficiency by offering a reduced rate for those willing to share a car. The system could efficiently route, pickup up multiple passengers and dropping them off.

Re:Sounds great (3, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968951)

A good point... a fleet of driverless cars could pick up a person, take them to work, then go ferry around other people when your own car would just be sitting in a lot unused. Of course, snowy weather might might it impractical as a driverless car now has twice the distance to go (first to pick you up, then to where you want to go) and thus twice the chance of getting stuck, going off the road, etc. Hertz and Enterprise would be all over this.

Re:Sounds great (3, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969211)

A good point... a fleet of driverless cars could pick up a person, take them to work, then go ferry around other people when your own car would just be sitting in a lot unused.

Would be nice, but doesn't work, because there are times ("rush hour") where everyone is trying to use their vehicle at once. Given that, either the fleet companies would need to have enough cars to cover the peak (which would be prohibitively expensive), or you'd find you couldn't get a car when you wanted one (which, after it occurred a few times, would set you shopping for a personal vehicle).

Re:Sounds great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968987)

but once people start looking at the cost of owning a car versus a well priced car service I think the transition will be fast. Especially among the young.

"the young" will be the last ones to give it up. Elderly will enjoy being driven around before kids will.

Hint: A car to a young person is *freedom*. Go where anywhere they want and provides shelter to get it on in.

Re:Sounds great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968989)

I think this will be mostly the end of private cars for the majority of us.

One step closer to a society where "ownership" doesn't exist, everything is borrowed/leased/licensed?
On a tangent note, if this makes riding my bicycle less life-threatening, I have difficulty criticizing this particular shift.

Sounds dangerous already (4, Informative)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968803)

'It doesn't speed, it doesn't cut you off, it doesn't tailgate,' says Tom Jacobs, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

Anybody who equates breaking the speed limit as automatic excessive speeding is a tool. The speed limit on my local highway is 55mph, the average speed is close to 70. It's a safe speed. Many areas put an artificially low speed to collect tickets at will.

In fact, it would be highly dangerous to go 55mph. You'd get rear ended in no time not to mention road rage.

There is a good rule in driving: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. The rules say one thing, but the reality is, most of the time, that it's far safer to go with the flow than to fight it. Any driving system that doesn't adhere to this within reason is one I don't want to step foot in.

First, accidents would go down. 'Your automated car isn't sitting around getting distracted, making a phone call, looking at something it shouldn't be looking at or simply not keeping track of things,' says Danny Sullivan. Google's car adheres strictly to the speed limit and follows the rules of the road.

I wouldn't know about that. My Mac gets the spinning beachball of eternal limbo often enough.

Re:Sounds dangerous already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968927)

You drive a BMW or Audi, don't you.

Re:Sounds dangerous already (2)

Bigby (659157) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969077)

Once all/most cars are automated, they would be able to go 100+ mph in areas traditionally 50 mph and 150+ mph in areas traditionally 65 mph. This is of course weather permitting and the road isn't flagged as craptastic.

No tailgating? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968807)

I would hope they WOULD tailgate so as to increase gas efficiency from decreased wind resistance. No reason this optimization wouldn't be any more dangerous than other typical driving characteristics of driver-less cars (I still prefer auto-autos).

Re:No tailgating? (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969067)

Well theoretically they could all stop at the same time, more-or-less. The front car detects an obstacle in the road, and the message propagates back over the mesh network between cars.

If you were really clever what you'd do is make the line of cars slow down, then only speed up again once they'd increased their gaps a bit. This would absorb the sudden "bump" in traffic flow and prevent that "what the hell are we slowing right down for, there's absolutely nothing!" thing happening.

It'd make red lights quicker (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968815)

Since in real life the first car goes first when the light turns green. Then a split second later the second car would start moving. A moment later the 3rd and so on. So movement at red lights propagates down the line of cars like a wave. With this technology all the cars could move together in a group.

Re:It'd make red lights quicker (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968985)

Which is how drivers should be driving anyway... it's just one more example of "computers are programmed better than human drivers are trained". I bet computers would remember their turn signal more often too.

Re:It'd make red lights quicker (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969061)

It is impossible to do this in a human system. If I am the 4th car in line and just start going and the 3rd person does not, then I rear end him and get the citation. So I have to hesitate to be sure he truly is going before I match his speed.

The turn signal thing I TOTALLY agree with. How freaking lazy is it to just change lanes without signalling?

Going the speed limit is a hazard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968821)

Problem is NOBODY goes the speed limit. If everyone else on the road is speeding and your goody goody car is not able to keep up then it is a liability that INCREASES the possibility of an accident everywhere it goes.

Re:Going the speed limit is a hazard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969031)

Mod this up!

I drive a busy freeway to work every day where the speed limit is 100km/h and most drivers go about 120. The freaks driving at 100 clicks are serious hazards to everyone else.

Re:Going the speed limit is a hazard (1)

ddd0004 (1984672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969123)

I'm with you on this, but it's you morons cruising down the road at a mere 120. I don't let the speedometer drop below 160 and I need 2 lanes minimum to handle safely at that speed. All of you one lane driving 120km/h freaks are the real problem.

Can already have all that (1, Interesting)

sugarmotor (621907) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968839)

Pretty funny: all those "advantages" can already be had by using public transportation. Cheaper too. Kind of easy to overlook nowadays.

S

Re:Can already have all that (5, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969033)

The only public transportation that even comes close to all of the advantages of an automated car is taxis... individual vehicles that go from Point A to Point B. Buses, subways, etc all fail hard when you start talking about suburbs, rural areas, etc. Automated cars would be able to handle all of these and more.

ALCOHOL! (5, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968847)

They left out drunk driving. It goes away when your car can drive you home from the bar.

This is in fact the most important feature of the driver-less car. Particularly for teenagers.

Ending congestion? (2)

grimmjeeper (2301232) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968861)

Ending Congestion? Seriously?

Will driverless cars magically create more capacity on the roads so that there is enough space for all the cars that want to drive on the same road at the same time? Because that would be a neat trick.

Re:Ending congestion? (1)

orthancstone (665890) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969055)

Glad to see someone brought this up.

Re:Ending congestion? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969083)

If ALL the cars were drivereless? Yes. The safe following distance for a driverless car is about 1 foot. That, and with but little coordination on the lights, all the cars would know exactly when to start and stop for lights, etc. The cars could automatically pick an alternate, less congested routes while retaining, or even improving upon the time to get home based on that one thoroughly congested highway, etc.

Since we won't live in that world and the majority of cars will have drivers for years to come, then, no.

Re:Ending congestion? (3, Informative)

godrik (1287354) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969115)

Well, ending it entirely probably not. But it might seriously decrease it. While automatic/magic drivers will not increase the capacity of the roads, it will use roads much more efficiently and predict traffic pattern. The driver-less car are less prone to accident which are a primary cause of traffic jams. They will remove the wave patterns in traffic caused by starting at a traffic light with some delays between each car.

Re:Ending congestion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969143)

That isn't what causes congestion. Poor driving and human nature cause road congestion.

Re:Ending congestion? (1)

buback (144189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969153)

Yeah they would. Imagine perfect, zipper-like merging at highway speeds, and merging into a single lane to route around accidents, road work, or freight. The cars can all break and accelerate as one, and cars with equal acceleration/deceleration would be grouped together.

There is no lack of capacity on American highways. We could even reduce the number of lanes in each direction to two if everyone had driver-less cars.

Re:Ending congestion? (2)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969205)

Will driverless cars magically create more capacity on the roads so that there is enough space for all the cars that want to drive on the same road at the same time? Because that would be a neat trick.

Yes. When all the cars are automated speed limits can be raised and the cars will travel in convey formation, each car inches away from the one in front of it. Since each car will know what all the other cars are doing (presuming the system is well designed of course) when the first car see something it needs to slow down for it can instantly tell all the other cars in the pack and they will all slow down together, so no need for stopping space inbetween them. So you'll have more cars packed in a smaller volume traveling faster.

Furthermore because of that ability to communicate with each other when there is too much traffic on the freeway all the cars will just slow down a little instead of producing the compression waves that currently cause traffic jams/congestion.

So not quite magic, but it is a neat trick.

Designated driver (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968869)

And the driver-less car isn't drunk. I can do the drinking and not worry.

The end of auto insurance? (1, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968875)

Yeah! RIIIGHT!

Call me when you catch the tooth fairy.

cheaper idea (2)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968885)

I have a much cheaper solution. Anyone going 45 up the onramp or going 60 in the fast lane or basically anyone driving a Buick and causing a 10 mile backup behind them should be detected and pickedup by a giant robot arm and dropped on a county road instead of the highway. Getting rid of dumbasses that can't drive would effectively double the overall throughput of every highway, guaranteed.
Also, automation would do nothing for cement trucks and large equipment, which cannot easily be robotized and would still slow down traffic.

Re:cheaper idea (1, Informative)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969111)

The "fast lane" is really an overtaking lane. In civilised countries, you don't stay in it because you'll get ticketed. If you do stay in the overtaking lane and someone drives up your backside and hassles you to get out of the way, you get ticketed for causing an obstruction and they get ticketed for driving badly.

It works.

How will it change motoring? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968889)

You'll be able to pick your nose using the fingers of both hands. That's how.

The unfulfilled promise (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968893)

One thing we'll never have is autonomous cars driving fast or flying through uncontrolled intersections inches apart from each other, because unfortunately it scares the shit out of people.

"Work while traveling" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968919)

I already can't read while in a moving car, and in a bus I still need a view of the road to avoid getting sick. Doubt robots would improve on that.

A lot of out-of-work truckers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968931)

Let's see... driverless cars...

As the article says, there'd be fewer accidents due to less speeding and fewer red-lights run through. The lack of speeding wouldn't be much of an issue because you can sit in the car and play on your iPad just like you're riding the subway. Transportation costs would decrease because trucks could just be told where to go. You don't need to go pick up you kid from school or soccer practice because you can just tell the car to go do that. Taxi cabs will probably notice a decrease in business since you won't need to call one when you're too drunk to drive. We'll see cars with some kind of built-in beds so you can set the car for a long trip and just hop in the back and snooze while the car takes you there. Because of how much more feasible this makes driving long distances, air/rail travel will suffer a drop in their business.

We might see an eventual elimination of drivers licenses for most people. Basically, driverless cars would be like a private subway train which can go anywhere you want, and you don't need a license (or be of a certain age, really) to ride the subway.

Oh, and they'll park themselves (and retrieve themselves to pick you up outside of the sports arena or amusement park), so there will be no more trolling for a good parking spot. The car just drops you off at the curb right outside (so I guess obesity will go up even *more*...).

What did I miss?

Good Luck (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968941)

(X) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once

A truly automated roadway will *require some politician, at some point, to pull the trigger and kick every other car off the road.
America is a loooooong way away from that happening.

*Unless you think a parallel system of roadways is a viable idea.

The Best Part (1)

carrier lost (222597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968945)

You can get drunk and still get home (with your car) without getting arrested!

Hell, you can go bar-hopping and no one has to stay sober!

I can't friggin' wait!

Re:The Best Part (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968991)

You can get drunk and still get home (with your car) without getting arrested!

Uh, no.

Maybe in the distant future, but the existing cars still require a driver ready to take over when the computer screws up. Not only does that mean you can't get drunk, but it means that you'll probably get into a disastrous crash when the autopilot fails (see AF447).

Same old same old (4, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968959)

I remember when flying cars were going to solve all our problems.

Back in the real world there are a few tests followed by hype followed by 'this invention will solve every problem we currently have!' followed by glowing endorsements of the first release followed by a huge collection of new problems discovered by the early adopters followed by a new technology that will 'solve every problem we have with the last new technology that turned out to be nowhere near as magical as predicted!'.

Yeah, these cars will be better in some circumstances but they'll be worse in others and they'll create new problems of their own. They certainly won't bring an end to insurance because they will hit things and they will crash and they will leave you with a huge payout to the victims if you're not insured.

Pundits miss the point (1)

naoursla (99850) | more than 2 years ago | (#39968963)

They almost got it right when they said people would see vehicles as a service provider.

Driverless cars mean vehicular multiplexing. A car that can transport people on its own is wasting resources sitting parked in a garage.

First, services will spring up that allow you to rent your personal car out while you are at work (that provide insurance against internal damage). Then services will spring up that operate fleets of vehicles (taking advantage of economy of scale for maintenance). Then people will realize that owning a vehicle is more way expensive than using a fleet service and doesn't add much, if any, convenience.

End result, individuals will stop owning vehicles (except for driving hobbyists). Ride sharing will increase. Parking will become less valuable and a lot of parking real estate will be turned toward more productive use (commercial/residential).

Fuelling stations will become centralized. This will allow adoption of gasoline alternatives (like swapping out banks of slow charging batteries).

Re:Pundits miss the point (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969019)

If I wanted to wait for a vehicle to turn up every time I had to go somewhere I'd take a bus.

Someday my car can drive me home from the pub. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39968995)

Let me guess, in the future my car can drive me safely home when I go get schnockered, but let me guess that will still be illegal :(

It's all fun and games until TrafficNet (5, Funny)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969005)

On April 21, TrafficNet became self-aware and decided to play a giant game of bumper cars.

Say again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969021)

"If you truly trust the intelligence of the vehicle..."

Epic Fail.

This could be the beginning of the end for Google (1)

SonnyDog09 (1500475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969039)

The first time that a "driver-less car" runs over a pedestrian, or is involved in some other traffic fatality, the resulting trial and damages will bankrupt Google. I can already see the trial lawyers salivating at the prospect of collecting their percentage of the money awarded to the victims.

End of traffic jams? (1, Interesting)

Joiseybill (788712) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969041)

How anyone thinks this will be the end of traffic is beyond me.
and +1 insightful for first 2 or 3 that if this happens, it will be the end of personally-owned vehicles.

Traffic is a result of ( volume of cars) > (capacity of road).
Unless these driverless cars can also change work schedules, the majority of people will still be hitting the roads at the same time.
Heck, we can see this now. In any larger city, we all know how internet performance degrades after 4PM when the tweens & teens get home from school, and on weekends when the rest of us are fragging those little buggers online. Wait for next Sunday (Mother's Day, at least in US) when all the Skype, oovoo, and other voip calls are getting placed. If the algorithms that govern ethernet collisions have not eliminated "traffic" delays, how is Google going to eliminate traffic with reality-based steel& rubber boxes that cannot be resent if the 'packet' doesn't reach a destination address?

Besides, I take my "it will happen in the future" clues from the Sci-Fi of today.
I haven't seen anything with (plentiful cars) && (no traffic)
  - Blade Runner, Futurama, The Fifth Element, Dr.Who" gridlock", Total Recall, and probably many more.
Traffic may be more organized, but it will still be dense traffic.

Testing on the Las Vegas Strip (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969069)

Google is testing this on the Las Vegas Strip. I'd thought they'd be spending more time in the emptier parts of Nevada. Actually, though, automated driving in congested areas at moderate speeds may work out well. Automated vehicles can have sensor coverage in all directions at all times; humans are limited in that. Computers can react faster than humans, and don't get distracted.

that's some powerful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39969075)

smoke they're using out there.
True, you gotta start somewhere, but the technology is so far behind.
We wont see this in out lifetimes; proper driving is not about your skills -
it's about the other guy's skill (or lack of) and hazzards that can't be
accounted for in a program. Tree branch - animal runs out, (a child's)
feet under a car - how do you program these except by learing about a
particular's course's topology...?

Why would I want to sit in my car and work? (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969167)

I work when - guess what - I'm at work. I'm not going to do an extra couple of hours work for free every week by working in my car.

In any case, I like driving. What kind of sad boring person would you have to be to sit with your nose in your laptop ignoring everything around you?

I love to drive, this better not happen (1)

jerryjnormandin (1942378) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969189)

Next thing you know all babies will be created in a test tube.

What if bad things happen? (1, Interesting)

twotailakitsune (1229480) | more than 2 years ago | (#39969193)

What if a tire blows out (has happen to me)? What if something goes wrong with the engine? When cars are moving 170-180 KPH with-in cm's of each other, what happens when one car stops working?
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