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MIT Creates Car Co-Pilot That Only Interferes If You're About To Crash

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the robot-take-the-wheel dept.

Google 238

MrSeb writes "Mechanical engineers and roboticists working at MIT have developed an intelligent automobile co-pilot that sits in the background and only interferes if you're about to have an accident. If you fall asleep, for example, the co-pilot activates and keeps you on the road until you wake up again. Like other autonomous and semi-autonomous solutions, the MIT co-pilot uses an on-board camera and laser rangefinder to identify obstacles. These obstacles are then combined with various data points — such as the driver's performance, and the car's speed, stability, and physical characteristics — to create constraints. The co-pilot stays completely silent unless you come close to breaking one of these constraints — which might be as simple as a car in front braking quickly, or as complex as taking a corner too quickly. When this happens, a ton of robotics under the hood take over, only passing back control to the driver when the car is safe. This intelligent co-pilot is starkly contrasted with Google's self-driving cars, which are completely computer-controlled unless you lean forward, put your hands on the wheel, and take over. Which method is better? A computer backup, or a human backup? I'm not sure."

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Much better than Google's approach (1, Troll)

Edotopm (2684549) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655093)

This is much better than the disaster-waiting-to-happen that Google is building. Computer should act as backup, not as a master. Wasn't this one of the basics of AI? Fucking Google.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (5, Insightful)

headhot (137860) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655143)

I'm not certain but I'm pretty sure computers are landing airplanes with the pilots overseeing the process.

I also find it hard to believe that a computer cannot get better at driving a car the most people. Sure there are emergency situations the require extreme skill and judgement calls, but how many people are good in those situations? I have seen many drivers who react 100% wrong in dangerous situations. They don't understand the dynamics of the car and get confused in a panic. Computers don't have this problem.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (5, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655209)

I'm not certain but I'm pretty sure computers are landing airplanes with the pilots overseeing the process.

There's not many obstacles to avoid up in the air. On the road there's dozens of other cars all around you.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655249)

I'm not certain but I'm pretty sure computers are landing airplanes with the pilots overseeing the process.

There's not many obstacles to avoid up in the air.

It's possible that you've missed the significance of the word "landing".

Re:Much better than Google's approach (0)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655683)

There's a reason pilots are allowed to fly solo after only a few hours training but car drivers need many more (25 hours minimum where I live and even then you have to display an 'L' on your car for the first year to warn other drivers).

Re:Much better than Google's approach (1)

Capt.Albatross (1301561) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655929)

I'm not certain but I'm pretty sure computers are landing airplanes with the pilots overseeing the process.

There's not many obstacles to avoid up in the air.

It's possible that you've missed the significance of the word "landing".

There is nothing of significance for joce640k to overlook. Collision avoidance in an environment full of moving road vehicles (and sometimes pedestrians) is a far harder problem than putting an airplane on the right point on the surface with the right velocity, even when you account for other air traffic around airfields.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655379)

Yes, but if you're closing at 1100 mph, there's not much room for error.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655693)

Even a suborbital hypersonic aircraft wouldn't land anywhere near those speeds. That's close to mach 1.5 at sea level. Divide by 2 and that's still close to a modern airliner's full cruising speed.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (2)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655703)

Automated landing systems can rely on radioguidance devices and airstrips are usually large enough to take into account for error. That is not the case on a road where you have nothing else than road marks which may not always be visible if any. The speed of the airplane isn't really a factor provided the computers are much more faster at doing computations and evaluate sensors than a human given the overall setup is much more simple than the one required for a car. No computer vision is involved into an automated airplane landing system. And even if it were, the overall scene is a simple one compare to a car road where you can have pedestrians, bikes, cars, obstacles of all kind, curves, bumps, sidewalks, posts and so on.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (2)

DL117 (2138600) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655715)

Most airliners land around 130 to 150 knots, 140 to 160 MPH, and cruise around 400 to 500 knots, 450 to 600 mph. Don't be silly!

Re:Much better than Google's approach (2)

Brucelet (1857158) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655435)

Not many obstacles, but there's one really big one. And on landing, you're not tring to avoid it, but have to hit it just right.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655645)

Not many obstacles, but there's one really big one.

That one's only dangerous if you approach it off course or at a sharp angle. Computers are pretty good at linear algebra (better than humans), getting it right isn't a massive problem (how many years have they been doing it now...?)

Guiding a car safely along an arbitrarily curved road full of unpredictable other users is much trickier than landing an aircraft.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655609)

> There's not many obstacles to avoid up in the air.
> On the road there's dozens of other cars all around you.
>
> (Score:5, Insightful) <========

Thanks for the lol, people!

(A few days ago at MIT) "Hey. Shouldn't we consider that there might be other cars on the road before we release?"

"Oh, yeah! Duh!"

Re:Much better than Google's approach (3, Informative)

jbwolfe (241413) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655315)

I'm not certain but I'm pretty sure computers are landing airplanes with the pilots overseeing the process.

Correct. However, it requires a pilot to program and monitor its progress as well as very specific requirements for onboard equipment, crewmember training and triple redundancy in the event of malfunctions. I've had numerous Cat III approaches to a safe landing and it works but I wouldn't say the computers are better than the pilots. Its only used when there is not adequate visual reference for the pilot to do it. After the aircraft finishes its rollout in a straight line using ILS, the pilot still has to find his way to the gate with visibility at only a few meters.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (4, Informative)

Milharis (2523940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655401)

Auto pilot for landing exists, but it requires ground equipment that is only available in the biggest airport, and it's only installed in the biggest airliners.
The vast majority of landings are done manually by the pilots, while the autopilot is sometimes used in extreme conditions (fog especially).

Re:Much better than Google's approach (5, Informative)

Pikoro (844299) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655587)

Actually, the autopilot will usually take you to the "minimums" which is usually set to several hundred feet above the deck at which point, an audible alarm is sounded "Minimums!" and the pilot is expected to take over the throttles and yoke. If that does not happen, the AP will make an attempt at landing using nothing but the ILS and glidescope, provided you are nav and gs captured (which you should be while landing).

Re:Much better than Google's approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655597)

>I'm not certain but I'm pretty sure computers are landing airplanes with the pilots overseeing the process.

Nope, unless conditions are absolutely horrible, planes are always landed by hand.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655617)

I'm not certain but I'm pretty sure computers are landing airplanes with the pilots overseeing the process.

Yes, but that's a much, much more constrained problem.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (5, Insightful)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655159)

I disagree. Human drivers are always a disaster waiting to happen. Computers don't get drunk. Computers don't get angry. Computers don't get sleepy. Computers aren't trying to impress a woman. (At least not yet...) Sure, computers fail, but humans fail too, but much more often. My concern is with the cases where a malfunction occurs in the system, maybe a broken sensor. How does a computer driver respond to these scenarios, which are guaranteed to happen in the real world?

Re:Much better than Google's approach (4, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655225)

Computers don't get drunk. Computers don't get angry. Computers don't get sleepy.

And computers absolutely will not stop, ever, until ...... ummm, until you arrive at your programmed destination.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (3, Funny)

Zeromous (668365) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655751)

But Mommy I have TO GO NOW!!!!

Dear, please hold on the car won't stop. HOW DO YOU REBOOT THIS THING?

Uh-oh Mommy I peed on the seat...

Damn Bluescreen! On-Star,help my car won't stop and nav has gone bluescreen. what does STOP 0X00C553E mean?

I pooed too....

Re:Much better than Google's approach (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655297)

My concern is with the cases where a malfunction occurs in the system, maybe a broken sensor. How does a computer driver respond to these scenarios, which are guaranteed to happen in the real world?

The only thing that the computer can't be designed to cope with is complete hardware system failure. Are the automotive companies really prepared to put dual systems in the vehicle with backup power? And for that matter, are they going to be willing to disable the vehicle if a sensor is out of commission? They will really need to do that because drivers will become used to depending on the system.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655309)

I disagree. Human drivers are always a disaster waiting to happen.

Sounds like you'd better stay in your mommy's basement, where it's nice and safe.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (1)

jbwolfe (241413) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655329)

Have you not seen the Terminator series? Skynet felt the same way about humans...

Re:Much better than Google's approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655871)

Computers are programmed by those "disasters waiting to happen." Computers lack an understanding of context. Computers are poor at adapting to unexpected situations. My concern is when my life is in danger because you think some remote software architect's hands (and the politician or bureaucrat he conned into mandating the software's use) are more capable behind the wheel than mine.

Re:Much better than Google's approach (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655831)

"This is much better than the disaster-waiting-to-happen that Google is building."

How so? Google's car you put on the automatic, _then_ you go to sleep.
In this model you have to go to sleep and _then_ the automatic kicks in.

Must be a dream-car for drunks.

perfect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655111)

Perhaps Onstar can sell this as an option. Have a remote human take over the driving in an emergency. Would be a little laggy but hey, you can safely eat your Big Mac with both hands.
Otherwise perfect reason to have a trunk monkey.

I prefer the Google method (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655113)

Especially if I'm in the car full of kids for hours on end.

I saw this in action once (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655115)

Lamest demolition derby ever!

2001 (5, Funny)

headhot (137860) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655123)

I'm sorry David, I cannot allow you to pass that car.

This is probably a better start (4, Insightful)

ranton (36917) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655127)

While fully autonomous cars may be the more desirable future, computer backup systems like this are a more likely first step. Once people start getting used to cars making good decisions on the road, they will be more willing to give the computers even more control.

Re:This is probably a better start (1)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655193)

I can't wait for fully automated cars. It would relieve us of another monotonous task. But I guarantee this will meet great resistance from those who want the freedom to cut people off and talk on their mobile phones while driving.

Re:This is probably a better start (3, Insightful)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655333)

I would like a combination of both approaches. Full auto for when I want to turn my seat around backwards and play poker with my friends in the back, manual control for when I want to zip though some fun curvy roads, with emergency computer takeover when I forget that I'm not in a formula one car and start to do something stupid.

No, it's not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655983)

Because everyone likes a backseat driver, right? It's like I told my ex-wife: If you want to drive, then drive. Otherwise shut up and let me drive.

This is "the worst of both worlds."

Say I'm about to hit a stalled car on the freeway. Will the system steer me around it or apply brakes? If it steers me around, is it sure the next lane will be clear? (Not only at that moment, but in the near future as I'm moving into it?) That requires not only an understanding of physics, but the ability to predict how other human drivers will act and react.

If it brakes, is it sure we're not just going to get rear-ended by the guy behind us and pushed into it anyway? No. No it's not.

Re:This is probably a better start (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#40656017)

As much as I don't like the idea of turning control of my car over to a computer, I like Google's method better. I think it's much safer. MIT's system is more likely to get implemented sooner and I think that's pretty scary. If people start trusting *something else* to get you out of dangerous situations, the immediately respond by relying too much on that trust and putting themselves in more dangerous situations. People with these things in their cars will drive like complete idiots and the computers won't be able to avoid ALL of the dangerous situations. Probably in the end about the same number of crashes per driver-year will occur, but in the meantime, people will have forgotten *or never learned* how to drive a vehicle safely without computer assistance. Also, just because your auto-driver takes over and protects YOU from the consequences of your stupidity, it doesn't mean that you didn't cause another driver to react to your being out of position or going too fast and have an accident.

Something would have to be done to reduce this effect. First, you should have to drive unassisted to qualify for a license, or in an auto-driver assist vehicle with the machine making a log of the times it "came awake" because you were doing something foolish or illegal. Once you're a licensed driver, the car could emit radio message each time you do something stupid and the police could be alerted. This would act as a disincentive to be a complete shit while driving, especially if there's a threshold above which you will be fined for dangerous driving. And such a system would have to be tamper resistant so the typical driver can't turn it off.

Correction! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655131)

If it THINKS you are about to crash.

Simpsons did it! (0)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655145)

Simpsons did it!

Volvo XC60 (1)

marcroelofs (797176) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655153)

Don't all Volvo XC60's have this (as an option). Only difference is it wakes me up when it thinks I'm sleeping instead of it taking over 'until I wake up' LOL.

Re:Volvo XC60 (1)

agw (6387) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655681)

Many VWs have this standard or available as an option, too.
E.g for the Passat you get the tiredness detection, lane assistance (keeping you in the lane) and front assistance (keeping distance or doing emergency braking at city speeds).
It's probably more basic than the MIT stuff, but always expect next years models to have more and more advanced versions of those.
Commercial systems evading obstacles should be available in 2-3 years (e.g. from Continental).

Fast Lane (5, Interesting)

headhot (137860) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655155)

I would be all for this if the computer would take over once it determines you are driving too slow in the fast lane and blocking traffic. Maybe there can be 2 modes, emergency take over, and 'Nag' mode for when the computer determines your acting like a selfish asshole.

Re:Fast Lane (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655719)

All automated cars are the best choice to solve this problem. No more emotionnal decisions will taint driving decisions. And fast lanes will lost completely their significance since the flow of trafic can be accurately controlled and trafic jams/slinky effect completely avoided.

Re:Fast Lane (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40656023)

No more emotionnal decisions will taint driving decisions.

On an individual level, sure. We'll still have groups appealing to emotion and lobbying representatives to slow us all down no matter how safe the system is at speed.

Re:Fast Lane (1)

Ichijo (607641) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655999)

I hope this computer resurrects the lost art of using the turn signal.

All of the above (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655163)

I want a complete and total autopilot so that I can eat breakfast and read a book while commuting.
It should of course be deactivatable so I can drive myself whenever I want to.
Also, it should save my ass when I am doing something dumb and freak out.

Most of all, IT SHOULD BE MY SERVANT, AND NOT LOG MY BEHAVIOUR IN SOME CORPORATE OR STATE SYSTEM.

so if you want to use the autopilot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655179)

you have to pretend you're sleeping

a thought experiment....... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655187)

Flip it around for a moment...
In the today world one of the most difficult tasks for pilots is to assume control from the auto -pilot when systems problems cause the auto pilot to lose the ability to control. Transitioning from "passive monitor" mode to active control is extremely difficult - and not unusually fatal.
BUT
the robotic backup does not suffer from distraction or an inability to correctly process valid inputs. My choice - robots get my back

Re:a thought experiment....... (1)

yesteraeon (872571) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655255)

Absolutely correct. Investigations of aviation accidents involving autopilot errors, and the study of human factors more broadly, have shown that humans are really bad at passively monitoring while automated systems perform all tasks. This should come as no surprise, I suppose, as doing so is incredibly boring making it very difficult to maintain focus and extremely easy to become distracted.

Re:a thought experiment....... (1)

jbwolfe (241413) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655531)

Brings to mind Northwest Flight 188 from San Diego to Minneapolis [usatoday.com] . The degree of distraction here was extreme to say the least. Though one peice of automation that was not installed would have saved them from this mistake: most new transport style aircraft models include a system that warns the pilot that they have not interacted with the aircraft in a specific amount of time. Like the following:
PILOT RESPONSE: Advisory message after 30 min in cruise, 8 min in descent.
PILOT RESPONSE: Caution message & beeper after 35 min in cruise, 9 min in descent.
PILOT RESPONSE: Warning massage & siren after 40 min in cruise, 10 min in descent.
Since the automation is so capable it should include features like this to keep the humans honest...

Re:a thought experiment....... (1)

jbwolfe (241413) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655407)

You may be referring to AF447. An important distinction in that case was that the automation lost the data required to control the aircraft, so as designed, it disengaged and informed the crew that they were now in control- of an aircraft in severely degraded operational state (direct law) and also in instrument meteorological conditions. Those conditions were what made it so challenging, but just transitioning from passive monitor to active control is not inherently difficult.

Idiocracy in action (1)

wrencherd (865833) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655201)

From TFA:

There is also the “deskilling” issue, where eventually no one knows how to drive a car (or fly a plane). This isn’t so bad if every car on the road is autonomous, and if steering wheels are removed altogether, but the in between period could be tricky.

If all cars on the road are autonomous why don't we just have trains, light rail and subways?

Re:Idiocracy in action (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655237)

Because none of those are point-to-point, to your home and place of work especially.

Re:Idiocracy in action (2)

yesteraeon (872571) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655273)

I agree with you up to a point. However, make no mistake that there is a significant difference between a car I don't have to drive and the modes of public transit you have cited. To wit, a car (driven by me or a computer) will take me directly from A to B. No walking, no changing lines, etc. Aside from the fact that most people are incredibly lazy (I'm including myself in that number) the difference in time and convenience is significant. Yes there are cities where that difference is quite small (NYC, London, amongst a few others) but these places are very much the exception and not the rule.

Re:Idiocracy in action (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655325)

People movers yes. Trains, Light Rail, Subways, Buses go where they want to, not where I want to, and they waste my time at transfer points. People movers are more like automated taxicabs. They might work from station to station, but at least there is not 15-to-60 minute layover at one or more transfer points.

In Soviet Russia, it sees my house! (0)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655487)

If all cars on the road are autonomous why don't we just have trains, light rail and subways?

Because if we do that it's only a tiny step to socialisticalatedized medicine (i.e. death panels), being reabsorbed into the British Empire and forcible conversion to Islam.

Confusion (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655211)

Which method is better? A computer backup, or a human backup?

Both fail because both exist. Accident reports will be full of "I thought the computer was driving" and so forth.

Also any time there is none the less an accident, "its the computer's fault"

Re:Confusion (1)

Grygus (1143095) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655603)

Very true, but if the total number of accidents decreases, is this important?

Re:Confusion (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655749)

It matters to the lawyers, and the lawyers are the ones that matter.

Re:Confusion (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655797)

Very true, but if the total number of accidents decreases, is this important?

Hmm. That was my point. It'll make driving during pre-accident conditions more difficult therefore more accidents. During stressful situations you have to add the extra dimension of "who's driving" and "I have yet another thing other than myself to blame if it goes wrong" and "This might be dumb, but if I have no computer, their computer will none the less prevent the accident"

Trolley problems? (5, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655231)

There's a whole class of philsophical problems about when to save one life v. n lives http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem [wikipedia.org] . One very awkward thing about this is that advanced emergency driving systems may need to address questions that we are fundamentally uncomfortable answering or discussing. Should a system for example protect the life of the people in a car as opposed to the life of people in a nearby car that they might crash into? Which gets higher priority. Does the number of people in each car matter? Exactly what the cars do in the few seconds leading up to a crash could alter this. Essentially this sort of thing may force us to examine difficult ethical problems.

Re:Trolley problems? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655347)

That's easy. You kill them all

T-800

Re:Trolley problems? (3, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655367)

Should a system for example protect the life of the people in a car as opposed to the life of people in a nearby car that they might crash into? Which gets higher priority.

That was part of the angst of Will Smith's character in the I, Robot [wikipedia.org] movie. A robot logically decided to save him rather than attempt (and probably fail) to save a little girl - a choice that deeply conflicted with his (and probably most peoples) morals.
 
While this was a functional account, I think it does a good job of showing some potential issues with life and death decisions that aren't made by humans.

Re:Trolley problems? (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655635)

All these types of ethical questions are fundamentally flawed. They simplify the world into a binary scenario where there is a choice between two hypotheticals, which are themselves far from certain.

In a realistic example, there are more than two cars on the road, and the machine is dumb, and while there is a remote possibility that the people in the first car could be saved from the uncertain possibility of some accident whose exact unfolding is unpredictable, and there is a remote possibility that the people in the second car could be saved by omission instead due to being also spared any unknowable side effects, in actual fact the machine will very likely fail unspectacularly to deal with the main event due to any combination of factors including tight physical constraints such as time and momentum, incorrect calibration of sensors and the machine learning system, and generally the inability of simple control systems to deal with unforeseen and unanticipated events.

The fact is that ethics has no role to play here, because neither of the two proposed alternatives occurs except in the mind of the philosopher.

Re:Trolley problems? (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655677)

Once these driving machines become marginally functional, the questions will matter. If they fail as badly as you envision then aren't ready for actual implementation yet. But when they are implemented in real life, this will matter.

Re:Trolley problems? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655807)

If cars ever do start comparing cargoes and weighing lives, expect to see aftermarket modifications that make your car always report that it's carrying a cartload of orphaned kittens.

This question already shows up in the real world when you are buying cars - do you want a smaller more manoeuvrable car, with well-engineered crumple zones that protect both sides in a collision, or do you want a huge block of steel that makes you more visible, and that can compete in a mass contest with whatever is unfortunate enough to crash into you?

Trucks already have this (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655233)

I've heard truck drivers complaining about systems like this [todaystrucking.com] . Apparently it has more control over the engine speed than the driver.

"keeps you on the road until you wake up again" (1)

kakaburra (2508064) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655241)

it doesn't wake u up??

Re:"keeps you on the road until you wake up again" (1)

Phrogman (80473) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655667)

I suggest a prerecording of Bagpipe music, piped (no pun intended) through the stereo system at about 130 db, but only if the computer can detect and react to heart attacks as well :P

DO NOT WANT, THANKS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655251)

"only passing back control to the driver when the car is safe."

"safe", you say? Who judges it?

Define "about to crash"...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655269)

It will probably be extended to "all the time". Something like "If another car is less than 1 mile away.".

Analog is better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655275)

I'll put my money on the Human, with all of the inherent flaws of that system. A simple test: Park a bus sideways on the road, but leave the shoulder open. Put a pedestrian or two on the shoulder (children) and see which one the system will hit on a blind corner. Also, can the system perform the calculation to intentionally hit an object -- riding (sideswiping) a guard rail to reduce speed, choosing a small diameter tree over a larger one, a location in a ditch based on terrain, or even intentionally spinning out to lose momentum to avoid an greater accident?

Now try the same test in a northern climate with unpredictable traction conditions in the winter. I find myself turning off the best traction control systems all the time. Seems my experience of intentionally skidding around comes in handy. Try some demolition/figure 8 racing. You will be better in emergency situations. I don't even like anti-lock breaks and would "prefer" to be able to lock up the tires of my choice. Front wheel drive, manual transmission and a parking break are the best for driver control.

Re: Analog is better. (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655511)

I don't even like anti-lock breaks

I don't like anti-break locks.

But then I am a burglar.

Re: Analog is better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655641)

If you really would bet on the human to be this alert and proficient most of the time, you are in for some disappointments. The vast majority of people aren't good enough drivers, especially under stress, to reliably make any of those decisions in a rational way.

Easier said than done (2)

Manip (656104) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655299)

Anyone who has been paying attention to the "safety systems" similar to this on commercial aircraft should know that development of systems such as this always have unintended consequences. Even if they work flawlessly the flawless function could still potentially be dangerous.

Just as one example: sometimes "crashing" is the least-bad alternative available to a driver. Given the choice between hitting a person standing in the road or a row of water-filled barriers many drivers would correctly choose the barrier over the human. But this safety system will likely subvert that and take the choice away from the driver.

Human backup vs. computer backup (2)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655535)

Interestingly, both approaches have been tried in aviation.

A while back, Aviation Week reported on an experimental system that could override fighter pilots when they would otherwise crash. It waited until the absolute last second, when the required maneuver was just within the structural limits of the airframe.

Using humans as backups has a long and good operational history, but it might not work as well with undertrained personnel like car drivers. Even with highly trained pilots, dropping control onto a human suddenly in a disorienting situation can be problematic, e.g. Air France 447.

Re:Easier said than done (1)

Skinkie (815924) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655549)

Now isn't exactly this kind of reasoning some system could be always prepared for, while the driver has need to make these kind of decisions in split seconds. Multiply this split second by not breaking, the number of choices for all parties to be safe is reduced. It would be even more interesting what would happen if two cars with this system could cooperatively "crash". Hereby saving a third party. A more complex choice would be preventing a lethal accident for multiple drivers, while in any other case all drivers would be lethally injured... now compute those chances.

Re:Easier said than done (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655761)

You assume the safety system will make a bad decision in a particular circumstance while it can do the right choice, or even avoid completely this situation which often arise because someone failed to recognize and identify an obstacle in advance. It would be pretty easy for an all automated system to identify humans on the road from everything else well in advance and even looking on the side of the road well in advance for such obstacles to manifest. Something a human driver cannot do.

Exactly right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655997)

These systems are designed to eliminate choices in emergency situations, with the assumption that the computer will always make the right choice for us.

Everyone here should know that computers don't think, they merely execute instructions that it was given in a lab somewhere.

So when your automated car finds itself in an emergency situation, have no fear. Some programmer in a cubicle somewhere has already decided what the best course of action is going to be for you in that situation.

No thanks. I enjoy driving, and I intend to maintain full control over vehicles under my command. It may not always be perfect, but that's part of the human condition.

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655383)

Fuck this.
I do not like this trend.

Would it enforce speed limits? (1)

cnaumann (466328) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655411)

Would it take over if you were attempting to drive 90MPH through a residential zone? What about doing 35MPH through a residential zone?

Which method is better? (2)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655415)

I believe this very question distinguishes Boeing and Airbus and their autopilot philosophy. IIR, Boeing says the pilot is the senior authority, Airbus prefers the computer's judgement. Note the similarity in the sounds 'airbus' and 'skynet'.

Re:Which method is better? (1)

vakuona (788200) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655619)

I quite like Airbus' philosophy. Most plane crashes are caused by pilot error, so having system in place to reduce the number of decisions they have to make in the cockpit can only be a good thing. I want pilots to do what computers cannot do, which is to reason out difficult situations.

Some pilot aids can be potentially dangerous, but only because at times pilots are not trained well enough to know their equipment. One involved an MD plane where the aircraft were fitted with automatic thrust restoration, which was a really bad idea once an engine started surging during takeoff, and you really needed to reduce thrust to save the engine.

Re:Which method is better? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 2 years ago | (#40656005)

I rather don't like the portion of Airbus's philosophy wherein the autopilot can pass the buck back to the pilots if some of the instruments are not working as expected, though...

I can't imagine any situation where the available instrumentation would be inferior to the pilot's sensory experience in a small compartment with tiny windows at the end of a long tube that pivots about at the other end other than failure of all of the instruments....

More bs from educated idiots ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655443)

Instead of the abstract fantasy they are now entertaining, it would be nice to see these MIT kids making
the task of driving AS IT NOW EXISTS safer.

Of course it is much easier and better to keep things in the abstract, that way the grant money
keeps flowing.

Re:More bs from educated idiots ... (1)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | more than 2 years ago | (#40656001)

You, sir/madam/AC, have made a subtle but important distinction. This is the output of one guy who's been developing and testing it in a video game simulator and with a golf-cart in an empty field. Despite the hardware, this is very much abstract and does not appear to be backed up by the level of engineering effort that aircraft autopilots were when they were introduced. So nice idea, but still quite pie-in-the-sky.

Self-fulfilling prophecy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655541)

1. Automatic system interferes.
2. Automatic system interference causes crash.
3. Automatic system only interfered if you were about to crash? Check.

Obvious problems (2)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655543)

Firstly: How does the system detect imminent crashes? If this makes mistakes, it can wrest control away from the driver when unnecessary and cause a crash.

Secondly: How does the system react to imminent crashes? If this performs worse than what the driver was already doing, it can cause a crash.

The main problem with autonomous driving is the legal liability. The problems above still introduce the legal liability, yet without the major benefits from a broader system. I think the industry will simply skip over this straight to broader systems.

Re:Obvious problems (1)

Grygus (1143095) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655697)

What you're mostly saying here is that if the system doesn't work at all, then it's pointless. Okay.

The legal liability is a more interesting point, though; I think this is the highest hurdle such technology faces. Even when it is nobody's fault, our system demands that we assign blame.

Re:Obvious problems (1)

Jeff Carr (684298) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655705)

The main problem with autonomous driving is the legal liability. The problems above still introduce the legal liability, yet without the major benefits from a broader system. I think the industry will simply skip over this straight to broader systems.

Liability isn't too much of a problem in my opinion. Insurance will cover any issues, and rates will change based on the performance of the autopilot. As long as the autopilot performs equally as well as drivers across the entire set of cars insured, then the insurance rates will be the same, people will pay the same rates, and insurance companies will shell out the same payments. An accident wouldn't cause rates to go up, but good driving records wouldn't bring the rates down, and everyone would pay rates based on the area they live and drive in. A horrible autopilot would be detected quickly by insurance companies, and that would be the fault of the manufacturer, a poorly modded autopilot or poorly maintained vehicle would also show up as an anomaly and would be the fault of the owner. Uninsured drivers would be responsible for themselves.

Re:Obvious problems (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655937)

Secondly: How does the system react to imminent crashes? If this performs worse than what the driver was already doing, it can cause a crash.

And the related question, even if the computer did everything as "right" as possible how would you prove it did? All it takes is for a person to get up on the stand and say "No sir, I did not run over and kill that man. I was going to swerve around him into the ditch but the car took over control and ran straight over him. My driving may have been reckless but it was the car that killed him." No matter if it's true or not, would be possible or not, the makers of this system would have to get up there on the stand and defend their interference and try proving they did not in any possible way made things worse.

I agree with your analysis, if the computer can handle near-crash situations well then surely it can handle the more mundane driving of making turns, following lanes and signs and traffic lights. Near crashes have all the hard parts with pedestrians, bikers and other cars, huge set of possible actions, hard to predict outcomes and is the hard part of AI driving. If you had this system you could install it on Google's car and together you'd have your fully self-driving car already, I don't see how you could create one without the other. Not to mention then the systems could actually talk to each other rather than trying to guess the thoughts of the driver.

Re:Obvious problems (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 2 years ago | (#40656031)

In luxury cars, you can already get a speed-matching cruise control. I'm not sure if that extends to hard braking (although it would make sense to), but such a system would be a perfectly reasonable first step.

  A distance sensor for following could certainly detect the sudden acceleration of the leading car and if actually applying the brakes is unreasonable, it could certainly activate the taillights, an alarm/warning light, and disengage the throttle in anticipation of and to buy some time for the driver's decision to apply the brakes.

What about a switch? (2)

Jarmihi (2589777) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655623)

What if there was a switch where the operator of the vehicle could choose between normal driving, computer-assisted driving (MIT), and human-assisted driving (Google)? I think that would be a better option than having to choose between expensive automobiles.

A servant, or a lifeguard? (1)

Zigurd (3528) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655627)

Is this some kind of weird expression of the New England work ethic? Make the driver work just as hard as ever, but should he ever falter, a superior system kicks in and saves his ass?

If I have a computer that can handle emergencies more reliably than I can, surely it can handle the mundane more reliably, too.

Transitional (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655709)

The difference between the two approaches is a difference of perception - in one, the *human* is considered the primary while the *computer* is the backup; in the other the *computer* is the primary and the *human* is the backup.

Now, obviously, both of those elements can fail. Humans are fallible drivers, as I well know. Computers can crash, or just fail to process events properly. No matter what, you will get accidents under any of these. Hell, we still get train crashes, and they're bound to tracks and subject to tight top-down management.

I think the most likely outcome is this: we begin using computer failovers, expanding on those we already have (antilock brakes, cruise control, lane following, automatic parallel parking). Both because this allows for gradual testing and improvement of each module, and because as a society I don't think we can handle going directly to full computer control.

Eventually, however, the computers will be good enough at driving that you'll be able to have them take full control. And eventually, doing that will be commonplace.

Bad Idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655795)

As others have pointed out, have will the system make a choice between multiple bad choices? What if there's no way to avoid a crash, such as a car traveling directly towards you and the road's too tight to get out of the way. How about a tire blowing out and/or the breaks failing. How will the system handle the car not functioning as expected? Humans adapt much better than software. There's only some many situations you can test for. What if you want to use your truck to help push a broken car somewhere? The software wouldn't let you.

The other issue is humans are lazy. If you given them a car that is supposed to prevent crashes, they will speed directly into the cars ahead of them expecting the system to take over and stop for them. 'It'll break for me. Why should I have to worry about that?'

Until they're fully automatic, I don't think we should use self driving cars. The cars should only provide warnings to the driver.

One final issue, how do you disable the lock out mode? The police will use it to automatically cause cars to be pull themselves over. OnStar can already remote disable your car and does so. The plus side will greatly reduce auto theft. But dive by anyone wanted for anything and the car will see them and communicate the info back to the police. It might not be part of the first versions, but there's no reason why those features won't be added to help protect you.

On the plus side, we're going to have super detailed road maps in the future.

Depends on the situation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40655817)

Like anything it depends on the situation, and I foresee cars that do all three modes: Human Only, Computer Backup, Human Backup.

I just finished a 3000 mile family vacation. There were long stretches where I thought the car could have taken over on the highway, kept us in a single lane and kept speed while preventing the rear ending of a slower driver. But we did experience one situation with tire rubber from a disintegrated truck tire in the middle of the lane and I needed to drive around it. Wasn't a particularly hard manoeuvre, but I am not sure how a computer would have reacted...especially since I didn't see it until the car in front of me did a similar manoeuvre. It was blocked from my view by the preceding vehicle.

Perhaps special "automated" only lanes where all vehicles are forced to the exact same speed, and trucks require special safety clearance to prevent disintegrating tires. Long distance drivers would benefit from being Human Backups. However on exit from the highway, computer backup becomes the normal mode, and finally in harsh conditions, Computer backup can be disabled.

Google's better (1)

hhawk (26580) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655829)

My 2010 Prius System 5 already stops the car if i'm about to crash (PCS) and it helps steer when I have the lane keep assist (LKA) on. LKA uses machine vision so doesn't always work if there lines in the road are missing, degraded,

While clearly the MIT system detailed as more points of constraint and while I think it's could to have PCS (Pre Crash System); that problem doesn't solve numerous problems like those who are getting older (but still need mobility), those who get fatigued, using automated car "training" to smooth out high way and perhaps local traffic so that there is more throughput, less congestion, Etc.

Clearly the MIT system could be integrated with the Google approach... and I think could and perhaps should be required for new drivers (governance of new drivers) but issues of keeping drivers and passengers safe isn't the same issue has having self driving cars.

Just remember to bring the dog. (1)

protonbishop (516957) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655903)

An old joke among pilots asks: what do you need to fly a modern airplane? A computer, a pilot and a dog.

The computer’s job is to fly the plane. The pilot’s job is to feed the dog. The dog’s job is to bite the pilot if he tries to touch anything.

Seems both harder and less valuable (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40655919)

To me it seems that the MIT approach takes on the hardest part of the problem, reacting correctly in the hard corner cases, while also adding yet another hard problem, which is determining when to take over from the driver, and being less valuable to boot. The only problem the Google approach has to handle that the MIT approach does not is navigation, and that's the easiest part.

The MIT system is still going to have to have full awareness of all of the surrounding obstacles, traffic, pedestrian and other, will have to know where the lines on the road are, etc., should probably know about traffic signs and signals, etc., road conditions (ice, sand, water, etc.), because all of that is necessary to make good decisions in an emergency situation. Actually, the MIT system needs to know more about all of that than the Google car does. The Google approach can rely on the human driver to notice and take over when things get difficult (which, BTW, is why I don't think the Google car will be a solution for people who are under the influence).

As to value, lots of people will see value in not having to drive themselves, in letting a computer do the boring, tedious part of getting from place to place. I think relatively few people will see value in an undoubtedly expensive system that only operates when they screw up, especially since most won't want to believe the system can actually do a better job than they can. Most people are willing to believe that a computer can drive a car safely in normal conditions, especially with a human to take over if things get difficult, but will find it far harder to believe that a computer can handle extreme conditions better than a human, to the degree that it makes sense for the computer to override the human driver.

Computer backup needed ASAP (1)

rlwhite (219604) | more than 2 years ago | (#40656013)

My wife has narcolepsy, which means even when medicated her 15 minute commute is a risk that she could fall asleep behind the wheel. She probably won't be allowed to drive when she has to go off of the medicine for pregnancy. This emergency autopilot would be a necessity for us if it were available.

A computer backup should be able to make it to market quite a bit faster than a computer-first human-backup driving system. The Google approach is more luxury than necessity. We should push the computer backup system first, but the nature of our economy now is that the luxury of the wealthy will likely be pushed ahead of the needs of a middle class family like mine simply because they can finance it and I can't.

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