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Autonomous Road Train Project Completes First Public Road Test

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the follow-the-leader dept.

AI 148

theodp writes "Covered earlier on Slashdot, but lost in the buzz over the Google driverless car is Project Sartre (Safe Road Trains for the Environment), Europe's experiment with 'vehicle platooning,' which has successfully completed a 125 mile road test on a busy Spain motorway. Three Volvos drove themselves by automatically following a truck in the presence of other, normal road users. The Register reports that on-board cameras, radar and laser tracking allow each vehicle to monitor the one in front, and wirelessly streamed data from the lead vehicle tells each car when to accelerate, break and turn."

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148 comments

Break (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40137607)

Well I hope they didn't send the "break" signal too often. That'd be a real bummer.

Re:Break (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40137713)

Fuck anything from The Register.

Truly a bottom feeding troll site that trolls it's own dimwit readers

Re:Break (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137819)

Whats wrong with a good honest troll?

Re:Break (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40137755)

Just avoid using American cars and they won't break that much.

Re:Break (2)

AJWM (19027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137771)

Not quite where I thought you were going with this...

"Breaker one-nine. Looks like we got us a convoy."

Re:Break (1)

starfishsystems (834319) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138487)

Check out some of the other comments. A fair number of people seem unable to distinguish between "break" and "brake".

Okay, fine. Spelling is a fairly minor skill in the grand scheme of things. But I have to wonder at how far the confusion extends, if we take as a premise that language is essentially built upon metaphor. Do they have a mental image of something breaking when the brakes are applied?

Re:Break (1)

Director of Acronyms (232303) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138617)

Spelling is a fairly minor skill in the grand scheme of things.

Tell a compiler that...

Re:Break (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40138681)

No, we don't, because we'd be pedantic assholes. Its a spelling error, they chose the wrong homophone and it's because there spelling the sounds rather than the words. Apart from pedantic shit heads most people don't even think about it, they just keep reading because they knew what the poster meant.

Re:Break (1)

tarball (34682) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138727)

And you are a prime example of why the world is going to hell. People who think it's ok to get things wrong.

Re:Break (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40139423)

"Apart from pedantic shit heads most people don't even think about it, they just keep reading because they knew what the poster meant."

Actually no. I _don't_ keep reading, why would I read the opinion of some redneck who can't spell when there are perfectly spelled alternatives farther down in the comments?

Additionally you spelled shithead wrong and you seem to ignore its meaning.

"Shithead is an insulting term for a person that is ignorant, narrow minded, cruel, and/or unintelligent. It is generally considered to be a vulgar and profane term."

People who can't spell, like you and don't know homonyms, heterographs, heteronyms, homographs and homophones are usually homophobes as well.

Re:Break (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40139351)

"Okay, fine. Spelling is a fairly minor skill in the grand scheme of things."

People who don't know homophones, don't read much or they think they are gay.

Re:Break (1)

JakartaDean (834076) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139411)

Check out some of the other comments. A fair number of people seem unable to distinguish between "break" and "brake". Okay, fine. Spelling is a fairly minor skill in the grand scheme of things. But I have to wonder at how far the confusion extends, if we take as a premise that language is essentially built upon metaphor. Do they have a mental image of something breaking when the brakes are applied?

I agree with you that there has been some confusion or wordplay with break/brake, but I think you've missed the larger point: The iconic 1975 song "Convoy" by C.W. McCall. There's even a Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] entry. Ahh, the memories of taking the 45 out of it's sleeve and playing it over and over again...

Re:Break (1)

starfishsystems (834319) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139653)

Hasn't that dang thing gotten enough play by now? It's half the reason why I gave up listening to commercial radio.

The tune was certainly iconic here as well. Only here, the exploding market for CB radios in 1975 consisted mostly of kids from Hong Kong driving Japanese cars with spoilers and tinted windows. They don't go in for a lot of country music.

Or you could just take an ordinary train (3, Insightful)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137609)

With mechanical linkages and a track instead of this complicated virtual 'pretend' train

Re:Or you could just take an ordinary train (4, Funny)

digitallife (805599) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137643)

Yes, because a real train is exactly as convenient and practical as driving my car on the highway. Should I get off your lawn now?

Re:Or you could just take an ordinary train (4, Informative)

Anaerin (905998) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137647)

This system allows anyone to join and leave the train at any time while it is in motion. It allows users to transfer from one train to another. It can form trains of (theoretically) any length. It allows you to choose your own personal entertainment without disturbing anyone else in the train. It allows you to travel from start to destination without having to wait, or go outside. Need I continue?

Re:Or you could just take an ordinary train (3, Insightful)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137871)

More importantly it does not require laying new tracks (provided the network highways is already good enough), and lets me take my car along.

Re:Or you could just take an ordinary train (3, Interesting)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139533)

...and since headwind is reduced, that could mean a LOT more efficientcy fuel wise.

Re:Or you could just take an ordinary train (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40139217)

It allows you to travel from start to destination without having to wait, or go outside. Need I continue?

Absolutely agree with you. Traffic jams do not count as waiting. Please do continue.

Re:Or you could just take an ordinary train (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40139357)

This actually helps to mitigate traffic jams by streamlining traffic.

Re:Or you could just take an ordinary train (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40139567)

So if one person needs to cross the street (or an animal or kid or tumbleweed or etc...) then it'll have to wait for the entire train to pass or half the train will have to stop and let the object by. That's one hell of a trafic backup for long trains. Normally a person could quickly walk accross in the varying distances between cars. Not anymore.

Re:Or you could just take an ordinary train (1)

Jesse_vd (821123) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139867)

That's called j-walking. Have you ever heard of crosswalks or traffic signals?

Re:Or you could just take an ordinary train (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139919)

You are pretty much guaranteed to die, if you ever tried to cross an Expressway. So yeah, you dont have wait for train to pass, just start walking.

Re:Or you could just take an ordinary train (0)

lessthan (977374) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137655)

This is the spawn of the the idea that if you get reeeealllly close to an 18-wheeler, the suction of the displaced air will pull you along a bit, saving gas. The problem being that "reeeealllly close" translates to red smear after one sudden braking on the trucks part. Basically, they are trying to invent a button to let you air drag without dying.

Re:Or you could just take an ordinary train (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40137901)

Have they got a solution to the sand blasting that you are going to get? The repaint will cost you more than the gas savings.

Re:Or you could just take an ordinary train (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40138663)

Good point. Not to mention the windshield damage due to pebbles being kicked up by the truck (or sand, or even larger objects).

Re:Or you could just take an ordinary train (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40139771)

you're not behind a random truck/cars, those trucks/cars are specifically designed for this purpose. I guess they will put some sort of plastic cover just behind the wheels.

Project Sartre???? (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137621)

That's ABSURD!!!!

Re:Project Sartre???? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40137707)

You could have taken say, 3 seconds, and done something better, like...

They were driving on the highway, and discovered there was no exit.

I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (3, Interesting)

BagOBones (574735) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137631)

On long mountain roads far to often I see someone try to aggressively pass long sets of cars only to have to abort half way, causing other drivers to let them in quickly to avoid an accident..

I wonder if this road train would let them in.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40137711)

.. or maybe they aren't being aggressive, but have to keep going because no one lets them in.. Everyone tailgates everyone else, so you have to pass all the cars.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137737)

or, you know, stay in line.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (0, Troll)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138515)

or, you know, stay in line.

You know who else liked to stay in line? Nazis. Think about it.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40138555)

and they were right to do so too.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139999)

And they were beaten by the British. And what do the British like to do? Form queues!

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (2)

Adriax (746043) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137761)

When there's enough room for not only the first guy but both the idiots who started passing as well without checking, then yes, they're driving aggressively.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (1, Insightful)

TurtleBay (1942166) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137767)

If you don't see open road ahead of the car in front of you when you pull into the lane for opposing traffic, you are being an aggressive driver. If you are behind a line of traffic, you should not pass. Allowing passing in oncoming traffic lanes is intended for passing individual slow moving vehicles.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (0)

Zaelath (2588189) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138085)

On the other hand the people that have to "let passing cars in" are tailgating, or if the lead vehicle is going so slowly that they're not tailgating then it should be pulling over to let them all pass.

Your position that you're only allowed to overtake lone vehicles is not supported by law in any juristiction in the world that I'm aware of.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (2)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138435)

On the other hand the people that have to "let passing cars in" are tailgating, or if the lead vehicle is going so slowly that they're not tailgating then it should be pulling over to let them all pass.

Let N meters be the minimum safe following distance at the speed of the cars being passed.

Let one of those cars be following another at N meters distance. By definition, this is a safe following distance, and that car is not tailgating.

Now, let another car cut in between them. That car is now following the one in front at less than N meters distance, so it's tailgating, and the car behind it is following it at less than N meters distance, so that car is tailgating, too -- through no fault of its own -- unless it "slows down to let the passing car in".

"Safe driving" does not mean "everybody else get the hell out of my way".

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (4, Insightful)

Zaelath (2588189) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138647)

Agreed, excepting that N meters is rarely "minimum safe distance" in practice. At 60Kph on the 2 second rule, that would be 33 meters which would hardly make most people feel "cut up" if you slot a 5 meter car into it. And I never see "safe" drivers leaving that kinda gap; that might encourage someone to fill it!

Once you do make the pass then yes, you and the car(s) behind you need to slow a little for a short time to re-establish the MSD but the risk there is far smaller than the usual method of maintaining 1s gaps all the time so that no one can overtake 1 car; they need to charge the queue and round up 4-5 cars generally forgetting that it takes quite a while and the whole time they have their foot on the accelerator getting up to dangerous speeds.

This is usually the domain of impatient youths, but I tell you what, the assholes that are riding my ass in traffic while I keep an actual 2s gap in front of me are just as often middle aged. The youths ( 25 ) at least have an excuse, the science says their brains aren't good at calculating risk, it's the 30+ crowd that tailgate and act like the laws of physics don't apply to them that irritate me.

Safe driving also doesn't mean enforcing your own theories on every other driver on the road through passive aggressive driving.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40139781)

I've never, ever, not even once seen anyone driving at the prescribed safe distance.

it is indeed a failure in risk perception, but don't forget that people are really bad at judging distance; 150mt at 130km/h are very hard to maintain.

also, note that at 30km/h, the safe distance is 9mt, two entire cars! very hard to maintain, in a crowded city.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (2)

david.given (6740) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137867)

Yeah, that was my thought too; they'd have to let the car in, because that kind of stupidity is real life human behaviour that the machines are just going to have to deal with in order to operate on real roads. (Simply hanging a sign on the back saying 'road train, do not overtake' isn't an option because you know some moron is going to ignore it.)

So the options are: (a) break the train --- but this is bad, because you're suddenly going to have to alert everybody from the break downstream that they're suddenly going to have to drive on manual, without much warning, or (b) maintain the train, but with a foreign car in the middle.

(b) is actually reasonably plausible; motorways are very regulated environments, and the cars are going to have to cope with foreign vehicles anyway, so it's not that hard a problem. You can still rely on the train for high-level navigation and long distance sensing, which is the bulk of the value. Theoretically you could have the train spread over some distance, interleaved with ordinary traffic... but that's getting a bit hairy. (Plus, you get a potential for train breaks if the cars get too far apart for radio communication.)

OTOH the FAQ on their website specifically says that the entire train changes lane as a unit, at the discretion of the lead driver. So maybe they're not going for that sort of autonomy.

*shrug* I'd be interested to know more.

Automatically notify authorities (3, Insightful)

erice (13380) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138201)

So the options are: (a) break the train --- but this is bad, because you're suddenly going to have to alert everybody from the break downstream that they're suddenly going to have to drive on manual, without much warning, or (b) maintain the train, but with a foreign car in the middle.

In either case, the cars in the train should identify the vehicle and notify the authorities. It would also help to update the traffic law to make it only legal to join a road train from the back with an approved autonomous tracking system. Anything else results in an expensive fine and a moving violation on the driver's record.

Re:Automatically notify authorities (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138471)

In either case, the cars in the train should identify the vehicle and notify the authorities. It would also help to update the traffic law to make it only legal to join a road train from the back with an approved autonomous tracking system. Anything else results in an expensive fine and a moving violation on the driver's record.

Just be easier if the train had defensive weaponry and could shoot back. In fact, I'd join a train for just that option alone..... Hmmm....

Re:Automatically notify authorities (2)

adolf (21054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139681)

If they notify authorities that aggressive passing is happening, then those authorities should also use this information (demographically) in order to determine which section(s) of roadway need improved/widened/better-patrolled/whatever sooner instead of later.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (1)

complete loony (663508) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138949)

The system should allow the train to break into smaller trains, and rejoin into a larger one. If the train is too long, it will need to allow for merging traffic as well as aborted overtaking. But every vehicle needs to be smart enough to take over the lead role.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139679)

Total disagree here.

First of all a train should never become too long. And that's easy: every train head (the truck they used) should accept only a certain number of vehicles. If it reaches that number, other cars will simply not be allowed to join the train. This as otherwise you could get infinite length, blocking all exits for the other traffic and so. At 6m separation between vehicles it's simply not possible to cut through such a train.

Secondly you can not just break a train, and ask an arbitrary driver to take over. Who knows what they're doing? They are may be two hours away from their exit so may be sleeping. You can not put a car into manual mode without a certain warning time.

Finally only trained drivers should be allowed to head such a train. They carry responsibility for the safety of everyone behind them, and a normal driver is trained to operate a single vehicle with optional trailer, not longer than say 15m or so total, not to operate a train which may be ten times that length.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40137913)

While there may some day be a configuration like this on any road, I'm pretty sure it is limited to divided highways with a common direction of traffic, for now. If was going to play a "fear" card, I'd wonder how well these systems handle emergency manouvres when they have to shift left to avoid a stalled vehicle or something. That would probably not be a good time to be in the overtaking lane.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (1)

slazzy (864185) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137943)

Very interesting, I think they would need to add in a lot of "real world" situations like this into their programming.

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (1)

linatux (63153) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138083)

traffic lights that change when the train is half-way thru?

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138553)

How does the law handle traffic signals that change when a tractor-trailer is halfway through?

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139043)

Or maybe the system isn't active on long 2-lane mountain roads. Or most 2 lane roads. There might be a few exceptions for some roads such as the ones in the middle of nowhere (center of Australia, western US, etc).

Re:I wonder how well it handled agressive passing (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139661)

The article says that the cars were following the truck at an average separation of just 6m. That's roughly the length of a typical car. Good luck moving in between two of them (unless the train cooperates - which would require the overtaking car to communicate with the train's control systems).

This sounds like a system suitable for motorways only - where traffic is highly predictable, and you never have to abort overtaking. The human driver in the front, who basically drives the complete train, is then in charge of stopping the train in case of traffic jams and so.

Interesting issues that are not mentioned in the article, but that must have received thought:

1) when a car in the train reaches its intended exit, the driver will have to take over again. How do they manage that with say the second car in line? Having a human driver in control at a 6m separation doesn't sound like a great idea. Or will the car automatically be moved on the slipway where control is handed back?

2) breakdown of a car in line: there must be some sort of fail safe in place. Will it move the car to the emergency lane and stop automatically?

Break? (3, Funny)

djbckr (673156) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137635)

Seriously, how easy was that one? Brake is something that slows down a vehicle. Break is when it fails to Brake!

Re:Break? (4, Funny)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137725)

...and wirelessly streamed data from the lead vehicle tells each car when to accelerate, break and turn.

It's not a typo. The lead car has special sensor to determine when a car is getting fatigued, and will call a 'break time' when it senses enough cars getting tired.

Re:Break? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40137807)

... and then it accelerates, breaks and turns at the same time?

Could someone remind me, is it a future transportation or a prop for Michael Bay movie?

Re:Break? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40139035)

No, OP was correct. The computer tells the car when to break—right after the warranty expires.

Re:Break? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139689)

The cars will also have to be instructed to break out of the train. When they reach their exit.

I assume at least that the end goal is going to be for cars to be able to hook up arbitrarily, and to be able to be "dropped off" arbitrarily. The latter isn't that hard either: when your vehicle reaches the start of the exit, the system sends your vehicle to that lane (basically next to the train), and you can take back manual control (and if you don't, take you back in). Then the rest of the train closes the gap and moves on.

Hope they're using some level of security (0)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137699)

I can imagine sending the other vehicles the "signal" to head to my place for unloading. The security implications are tremendous.

Re:Hope they're using some level of security (0)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137785)

Wirelessly streamed data from the lead vehicle tells each car when to accelerate, break and turn, all in real-world traffic conditions.

The trust issues sound... problematic.

Re:Hope they're using some level of security (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137963)

That 'signal' would have to be a substantial bribe. The lead truck is driven by a human.

Anonymous? (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137703)

Who else read "Anonymous Road Train Project"?

Picturing guys in business suits with Guy Fawkes masks on.

Re:Anonymous? (2)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138521)

Who else read "Anonymous Road Train Project"?

Picturing guys in business suits with Guy Fawkes masks on.

Reminds me of the demotivator I threw together the other day [facebook.com] .

What's the point? (2, Insightful)

countach (534280) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137731)

I can't see the point in pursuing automated drivers. I mean, even if you could get them to work well 99% of the time, that 1% failure (or even .001% failure) would be just unacceptable.

I know we get computers to control aircraft, but it is a rather different situation. The problem of controlling an aeroplane with nothing up there to run into is a problem 10000 times easier than on the ground where there are so many hazards to avoid. The software would be so complex, there would be no way of knowing when it is going to plunge the vehicle into a tree. Odd happenings like this even occasionally happen to aircraft, but at least then the pilot usually has time to recover the situation before it is fatal. And that software is going to be MUCH simpler and auditable.

Re:What's the point? (4, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137789)

I can't see the point in pursuing automated drivers. I mean, even if you could get them to work well 99% of the time, that 1% failure (or even .001% failure) would be just unacceptable.

And in this magic world you live in human drivers work right 100% of the time? For that matter, car breakdowns can cause accidents too, and we more than accept those. A .001% failure rate would certainly be acceptable (although "rate" is, in this case, ambiguous: do you mean .001% of driverless cars would ever crash?) That is vastly superior current percentages, which is roughly 2-3% per year. Even 1% failure rate per year would be a significant improvement over human drivers. And there really aren't that many hazards on the highway or especially freeways. In residential neighborhoods? Maybe, but that is a relatively small fraction of driving which can be overcome by having humans as backups, or highly cautious software. For most driving, you stay between the lines, note the position of nearby cars, and break to avoid any obstacles. A computer can perform those functions better than most humans, since it can track every single car nearby and their exact speed, trajectory, behavior patterns, etc. Humans cannot.

Re:What's the point? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139703)

While of course you are totally correct, psychology comes into play.

Humans are just not good in handing over control to machines. That's why most subway trains still have drivers on board, even when they are actually operated fully automatically.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40140097)

He's not totally correct, he spelled "brake" wrong!

Re:What's the point? (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137793)

The point is that you have a flesh-and-blood driver in the front car. Therefore, you "only" need to consider what can happen within the tightly controlled corridor of vehicles forming the train. In heavy weather etc, things can still get messy. However, the software could possibly adapt by lengthening distances (causing less than optimal drag) or simply disabling the automatic train. At this point, it is a convenience and efficiency-improving measure while on the highway, not a replacement for a human driver that should be ready to retake control. It is adaptive cruise control on seriously heavy steroids, but no auto-pilot avoiding pedestrians à la Google.

Re:What's the point? (2)

Derekloffin (741455) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137795)

The problem is, you assume humans work well 100% of the time, when in fact it is considerably lower than that. That's the key issue, not the pursuit of perfection, but the pursuit of something better than a human. Computers can have potentially have better response times, more awareness, and more correct handling of common danger scenarios than humans. We still have a ways to go till we reach the point when we swap a human driver with a computer, but computer assisted driving is getting more a more common.

Re:What's the point? (4, Insightful)

cavePrisoner (1184997) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137851)

I suspect laws will still prevent this for a long while, but I can think of two good situations to use automated drivers. The first is very long drives. In a few weeks I have to make a 24 hour drive. If I didn't have to stop to sleep, I could literally be home in 24 hours. Instead it will take much longer. The other case comes up more, since I'm stuck in a place with nonexistent public transportation. It can drive my drunken self home on weekends.

Even sober, long duration driving and driving at night (ie tired) result in a lot of crashes. Even if it has a failure rate, it will be better than most human driving anyway. I can think of times (when overworked of course) in broad daylight that I've fallen asleep at red lights. But I still have to get to work. I can't choose not to drive. This gives somebody like me the ability to get to work more safely, if not completely safely.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40138193)

In a few weeks I have to make a 24 hour drive. If I didn't have to stop to sleep, I could literally be home in 24 hours. Instead it will take much longer.

That's an argument for permissive drug policy, not for autonomous vehicles...

Re:What's the point? (2)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139291)

It can drive my drunken self home on weekends.

My elderly relatives like to remind me that a horse and carriage can do that too. The horse knows how to get home.

Re:What's the point? (2)

rts008 (812749) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137879)

I disagree on several points with your comment.

The 1%, or 0.001% you mention....
IMHO, if that 1% turns out to be safer than the tens of thousands of fatalities every year due to human error we have now, your objections are silly. (not even taking into account all of the other non-fatal traffic accidents that snarl traffic, damage property, and cause injuries we currently experience)

And the comparison to operating an automobile to an airplane?....WOW, what are you smoking?

I would speculate that if getting a pilot license was as trivial as getting a drivers license, you would see a dramatic increase in deaths, crashes, and property damage across the board compared to current automobiles.

Remember: gravity is a stone cold killer bitch...if your engine dies, you can't pull over to the side of your flight path and wait for a tow-plane.

Don't get me wrong, I'm one of those that like to be fully in control of my own car. I avoided automatic transmissions until around 1997-8, because I did not want 'my car deciding for me when to shift'!

No Drivers Needed for Road Crew Escort Vehicles? (1)

theodp (442580) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138549)

Those caravans of state highway escort trucks [wdrb.com] accompanying road work crews would only need one driver.

There will only be very few accidents (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137825)

But they will be really really awesome!

Since working on a car, I theorized trains (2)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137835)

I worked on Carnegie Mellon's Red Team racing for a bit, but I didn't do anything major. I wanted to put in a redundant vision detection to their laser range finding and GPS guidance, but I got shot down. At least they let me poke around with GPS tweaking for a bit.

Anyway I always thought it'd be much easier to just make a train system where the rerouting sections get switched depending on your trip you programmed in. By being off normal rider roads, you'd only have to contend with other computerized trains, which could be tracked. The key thing at this point is just having some way to avoid deer and downed trees. I would think by first getting an automated train system up, then we could move into car systems later. The real trick is finding a city that doesn't have car transportation that wants to risk itself into automated trains. There are other problems with automated trains such as vandalism and terrorism and such.

Re:Since working on a car, I theorized trains (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139701)

Mudslides, bridges out, unknown construction closures, fallen rock, trees down, escaped farm cows, and flooding are all major obstacles that I, myself, have encountered on lesser-travelled roads but never on a major highway.

Take all of that into consideration, and you might have my vote for your concept. (Unless I happen to live on one of these secondary roads, in which case I might take offense at any proposition to dramatically increase traffic, automated or not.)

Simpsons did it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40137899)

Just make sure we let the drivers know not to lay out on the hood of the truck, we managed to cover the story up by introducing the Google Driverless Car project, we don't want the general public to know..

old news (1)

ozduo (2043408) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137905)

We have had road trains here in OZ for many years http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_train [wikipedia.org] Passing one is virtually impossible as the amount of air they drag along with them will either push you sideways or you get sucked under their wheels, I expect a close convoy of cars would have a similar drag effect.

Re:old news (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137971)

Oh yeah? How are you getting the cars in behind to drive themselves?

Re:old news (1)

ozduo (2043408) | more than 2 years ago | (#40137995)

Oh yeah? How are you getting the cars in behind to drive themselves?

They don't need to drive themselves, they get pulled along therefore saving fuel.

Re:old news (2)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138529)

Oh yeah? How are you getting the cars in behind to drive themselves?

In Australia, a "road train" is a transport truck with multiple physically coupled trailers, not a convoy of independent vehicles. It's like a train - but on the road. Hence, the name: road train [tripod.com] .

Re:old news (1)

Zaelath (2588189) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138103)

4-5 car road trains are the scariest thing I experienced when I drove from Adelaide to Alice Springs.

At the time there was no speed limit in the NT and the road trains were all doing ~140Kph.

I think the difference between those and this idea is; if a road train passed a car, when it pulled back onto it's side of the road the last trailer in the train would oscillate about a meter for quite a while, where as a series of trucks have steering on each.

Re:old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40138183)

Wait, you mean that the road train passed you?

Lord, I feel you.

Am I going to get rolled over? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40137949)

As a pedestrian, longboarder and cyclist, I wonder how do those AIs fare with obstacles that are moving but are not cars.

I mean, what the fuck, human drivers are already pretty bad sometimes...

Re:Am I going to get rolled over? (1)

snookums (48954) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138469)

As a pedestrian, longboarder and cyclist, I wonder how do those AIs fare with obstacles that are moving but are not cars.

Why are you walking, longboarding, or cycling on the freeway?

Re:Am I going to get rolled over? (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138525)

As a pedestrian, longboarder and cyclist, I wonder how do those AIs fare with obstacles that are moving but are not cars.

Why are you walking, longboarding, or cycling on the freeway?

Cocaine is a helluva drug?

Re:Am I going to get rolled over? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40139605)

When your car breaks down. When something falls off your car/truck. When you got lost in the woods and finally found a road. When you don't own a car but still need to get somewhere. When you're doing a multi-state run, When zombies attack. Etc...

Re:Am I going to get rolled over? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138585)

Well, an AI is not going to give you attitude, curse at you, deliberately try to run you off the road, etc. If you are obeying the rules of the road, you should be perfectly safe. Driver AIs are built to respect all users of the road.

Having said that, get your wretched skateboard off the road, and pull up your mother-lovin pants.

Convoy! (1)

theodp (442580) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138503)

Convoy [imdb.com] (1978): Truckers form a mile long "convoy" in support of a trucker's vendetta with an abusive sheriff. Based on the country song of same title by C.W. McCall. Trailer [youtube.com] .

A drunk could probably drive 125 mi "successfully" (3, Informative)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138563)

Most of the time highway traffic is safe and predictable. Driving 125 miles under favorable conditions (perfect weather and visibility if the news photo is any guide) without incident? Drunks do that and often get away with it; so do texting teenagers and fatigued truck drivers.

If someone demonstrated that he could drive 125 while smoking marijuana without having an accident, would we conclude that driving while high is safe and should be allowed?

The accident rate on highways is so low that 125 miles tells you nothing at all. The average accident rate in the United States is 8 fatalities per billion passenger miles. There is no way in the world a single 125 mile test involving four vehicles can tell you whether the accident rate for these car-trains is the same, ten times as high, or ten times as low. This is just a stunt, and proves nothing except that someone at Volvo had guts, and that someone in authority exercised bad judgement and allowed it.

Re:A drunk could probably drive 125 mi "successful (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138903)

This is just a stunt, and proves nothing except that someone at Volvo had guts, and that someone in authority exercised bad judgement and allowed it.

TFA Said: The 125-mile test run was conducted at an average speed of just over 50mph and kept the three cars behind the truck at an average separation of 6m.

You might as well blindfold the drivers in the convoy, because at 50mph their reaction time works out to at least twice the 6 meter interval between cars.
Long story short, there is fuckall they could have done if something went wrong.

Re:A drunk could probably drive 125 mi "successful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40138967)

How the hell is it both perfectly safe and also bad judgement for it to be allowed?

Of course it's a stunt, also known as PR.

Re:A drunk could probably drive 125 mi "successful (1)

MsWhich (2640815) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139443)

The accident rate on highways is so low that 125 miles tells you nothing at all.

I disagree. It tells you that the automated system will not instantly fail and cause the cars to drive into other cars/off the road/etc. Is that an acceptable substitute for long-term data involving thousands more miles and many more vehicles? No, but it will possibly allow for that data to now be collected, since they've demonstrated that the automated convoy isn't an instant death trap.

Is it a PR stunt? Obviously. But PR stunts can be useful. And if this particular one gets us closer to the sci-fi dream I've had ever since I was a kid of having a car automatically drive me to my destination while I read a book and relax in luxury, then I'm all for it.

I get it (1)

Mantrid42 (972953) | more than 2 years ago | (#40138603)

On the road, hell is other people.

Car chases, no or yes?! (2)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139173)

Will this make them more exciting or less exciting. In the movies?

Is this really new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40139333)

I recall back around 1990 the local (small town in Northern New South Wales, Australia) rubbish pick-up trucks had a master slave remote control configuration. The rear truck would just automatically follow the lead truck which had a driver. The trucks did not move quickly but they were master/slave with warning signs on the slave truck to warn other motorists placarded all over it.

So sure, maybe this new setup is a LOT more complicated, but its not all that new, preceded by some 20-odd years by our local council's rubbish trucks.

Target For Terrorists (1, Flamebait)

DaneM (810927) | more than 2 years ago | (#40139761)

This seems like a very cool idea, but I can't help but think that any system like this that goes "widespread" will be a prime target for crackers looking to do a little terrorism. Seeing as many public-use devices--pacemakers, and others that have been reported on Slashdot--utterly fail to be secure against such attacks--and since this one requires wireless receiving wireless signals in order to function, it's only a matter of time before an enterprising "cyberterrorist" decides to cause a pileup. Therefore, I question the wisdom of enacting such systems, even though the technology is cool, and could be very helpful if it worked properly (and reliably).

I often wonder if a Shweeb-like system [shweeb.com] , modified with partial motorization for long stretches of (high-speed) highway, uphill areas, etc. might be a more sensible approach. Sometimes advanced technology doesn't make things "better," despite how fun it is to think so.

Re:Target For Terrorists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40140017)

Someone could put a spikestrip (or caltrops, or...) down on a busy highway at rushhour and cause a massive, more-than-likely fatal pileup.

Someone could set up a small EMP to fry some cars on the road, what with every modern car relying on computers these days

Someone could rig a small explosive to the linkage between a tractor and its trailer, blowing it up at the right moment to create maximum carnage

Someone could stand naked by the side of a major highway to distract the drivers

Someone could stand naked on a major highway to distract the drivers

Fault tested before running production mode? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40139861)

Please tell me they have done a full set of failure mode tests before letting this shit lose on the public and isn't a case of 'the code compiles so ship it'.

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