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Google's Self-Driving Cars: 300,000 Miles Logged, Not a Single Accident

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better dept.

Google 465

An anonymous reader writes "The automated cars are slowly building a driving record that's better than that of your average American. From the article: 'Ever since Google began designing its self-driving cars, they've wanted to build cars that go beyond the capabilities of human-piloted vehicles, cars that are much, much safer. When Sebastian Thrun announced the project in 2010, he wrote, "According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents. We believe our technology has the potential to cut that number, perhaps by as much as half." New data indicate that Google's on the right path. Earlier this week the company announced that the self-driving cars have now logged some 300,000 miles and "there hasn't been a single accident under computer control." (The New York Times did note in a 2010 article that a self-driving car was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light, so Google must not be counting the incidents that were the fault of flawed humans.)'"

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465 comments

Rear Ended (4, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | about a year and a half ago | (#40941981)

The GoogleMobile was behaving properly, and was stopped. It had no possible way to evade the puny human that hit it.

However, after the accident, the GoogleMobile was heard asking another car, "Hey, hot mama, wanna kill all humans?"

Re:Rear Ended (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942095)

We don't know if the Google car could have avoided it. I was in a similar situation one time, and happened to catch a glance of the idiot in my rear view. I cut out ahead of the adjacent lane into the empty crosswalk. The idiot screeched to a stop in what was previously my lane.

There isn't always empty space; but if there is then the Google program should recognize it as available for evasive maneuvers. The Google car will not have a heart to go pitter-patter like mine did; nor a father who turned to me and said, "you're a good driver".

Re:Rear Ended (5, Insightful)

norpy (1277318) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942169)

You are creating a straw man there, 99% of similar situations with human drivers would either have not noticed the exit or not reacted in time.
Additionally you likely broke the law doing what you did and if you caused an accident or ran over a pedestrian because of it you would have been 100% at fault, whereas being shunted by the guy behind you lands 100% of the resposibility on him (unless you stopped too close to a car in front of you).

I would put money on your driving record being way worse than 300k miles accident free. The actual pouplation-wide average is a LOT higher than that, and you are asking for us to give up reducing that number because we can't reduce it to 0.

That's like people saying "Don't build gas power plants to replace coal plants because they still emit CO2", sure it's not perfect but at least it BETTER.

Re:Rear Ended (4, Insightful)

Beardydog (716221) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942221)

I don't think he's saying we should give up on reducing that number. I think he's saying it may technically have been avoidable in that case. It's not meant to be dismissive. It's meant to be food for thought.

Re:Rear Ended (5, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942291)

I'm more wondering what it would be like for the driver who actually rear ended a robotic vehicle

Uh, yeah, so I rear ended you. We should exchange insurance details.

I'm sorry, Dave, but I can't do that.

Re:Rear Ended (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942325)

But if everyone went around in automated cars, the point is there would be no "idiot" in your rear view because he also would have been in an automated car; one which would have stopped in time.

Re:Rear Ended (1)

DemonGenius (2247652) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942413)

All automated vehicles would have to have some sort of human override on them. Considering that fact, it would be near impossible to rid the road of all idiots, therefore, it would make sense for the automated car to have some sort of collision avoidance algorithm for rear enders that also doesn't put other drivers or pedestrians at risk. Especially since an automated car has several times more visibility than the average human and wouldn't have to react to something in the corner of its "eye".

what is the issue??? (5, Insightful)

FranTaylor (164577) | about a year and a half ago | (#40941993)

It's hard to imagine being found at-fault when you are stopped and rear-ended.

There's no shame in being involved in an accident if it's not your fault.

We trust others all around us every day to avoid smashing into us. Even the best drivers get hit.

Re:what is the issue??? (4, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942023)

No shame, perhaps... but also no less pain, unfortunately.

Sure, they can offer some monetary compensation, but having been in such an accident and received adequate monetary compensation for all my medical expenses, I can sure as heck tell you that I would have rather not have had the money, and had those two years of my life *without* the back pain.

Re:what is the issue??? (5, Funny)

Animats (122034) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942041)

It's hard to imagine being found at-fault when you are stopped and rear-ended.

Especially when the self-driving car has full video, lidar, and radar coverage of the entire event. And really good lawyers.

Re:what is the issue??? (3, Interesting)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942129)

It's hard to imagine being found at-fault when you are stopped and rear-ended.

There's no shame in being involved in an accident if it's not your fault.

We trust others all around us every day to avoid smashing into us. Even the best drivers get hit.

The best drivers DO NOT trust others around them to avoid smashing into us. If we did, we'd be the not-at-fault person in a lot more accidents.

I believe it to be incorrect to compare the GoogeDrive cars to average drivers. They should be compared to professional drivers for two reasons:

  • GoogleDrive is an expert system: a computer system designed from the ground up to do only one thing and do it extremely well. One does not expect such expertise of people whose driving is incidental to what they do.
  • GoogleDrive will only be affordable (at any time in the next couple decades) to rich people to replace professional, expert drivers. So it has to be better than expert drivers to make the case compelling to people who might actually be able to afford it.

Re:what is the issue??? (2)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942171)

" to rich people to replace professional, expert drivers."
Mercedes has a history of being first t utilize new technology. Why you think rich people are professional drivers is beyond me. Hell, most 'professional drivers' are no better then any one else.
The tech will take bout 4-6 years to go from high end, it low mid range. The idea that it will take 'decades' is laughable.

Re:what is the issue??? (4, Informative)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942257)

Why you think rich people are professional drivers is beyond me.

What? No. Rich people hire people to drive them around.

Re:what is the issue??? (3, Funny)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942309)

geekoid has revealed himself as one of the hoi palloi that has no choice but to drive himself around.
Come GigaplexNZ, let us retire to the study for brandy and cigars, so that we may laugh at geekoid behind his back.

Re:what is the issue??? (1, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942369)

Seriously. Clearly that other interpretation isn't true. Just about every time I've seen somebody driving like a complete idiot with no regard for anybody else on the road, it has been somebody in a Lexus. And when it isn't a Lexus, it's a Beamer or a Benz. Almost always. Oh, and lately, Scions. Well, and motorcycles, but they don't count.

I was cut off by a Ford SUV once. Once. And I have never been incompetently cut off by someone driving any model of VW, Toyota (unless you count the Scion or Lexus), Nissan, Honda, or just about any other non-luxury car brand. Never. Yet those make up the vast majority of cars on the roads around here.

Draw your own conclusions.

Re:what is the issue??? (2)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942373)

Which suddenly made me realize something. Even if Google only succeeds in getting these things in luxury cars, the accident and near-miss rate is likely to plummet for everyone. :-)

Re:what is the issue??? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942383)

> Draw your own conclusions.

That's easy - you suffer from a very severe case of confirmation bias.

Re:what is the issue??? (1)

YttriumOxide (837412) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942357)

GoogleDrive will only be affordable (at any time in the next couple decades) to rich people to replace professional, expert drivers. So it has to be better than expert drivers to make the case compelling to people who might actually be able to afford it.

I think you're either vastly overestimating the cost of GoogleDrive or vastly underestimating the cost of hiring someone to drive you around all the time... (or you live in a third-world country where labour such as drivers is cheap).

I'm by no means "rich" by any stretch of the imagination and certainly can't afford a full time driver, but as long as these cars come in at under €80k, I'll happily consider one (I'll go up to €100k if it's also a pure electric, given the price difference between petrol and electricity here)

Re:what is the issue??? (3, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942361)

GoogleDrive will only be affordable (at any time in the next couple decades) to rich people to replace professional, expert drivers.

Remarkably stupid if Google does this. They'll go the way of the "electric" car and all the other fancy cars targeted at, well, Beverly Hills. A few rich celebs will buy one and pose for the cameras, and then they will be forgotten. No, Google needs to bite the bullet and take an example from Henry Ford. Make pennies on the unit, but make millions and millions of units.

Re:what is the issue??? (3, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942417)

The best drivers DO NOT trust others around them to avoid smashing into us. If we did...

Ha ha ha... classic...

Did you know 93% [wikipedia.org] of drivers consider themselves better than average?

Re:what is the issue??? (1)

genik76 (1193359) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942469)

It is entirley possible that the 93 % are right, if the worst 7 % are REALLY BAD drivers.

Re:what is the issue??? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942335)

Unless of course you happen to be stopped in the overtaking lane of a highway...

Re:what is the issue??? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942481)

It's hard to imagine being found at-fault when you are stopped and rear-ended. There's no shame in being involved in an accident if it's not your fault.

There's a -little- shame in being rear ended. Because of the jokes.

Rear ended... tee hee...

Interference? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40941997)

I want to know about interference between cars. I've only see one self-driving car tested at a time. If there's hundreds within visual range of each other are their radar and laser sensors going to have much more noise?

The little experience I have with robots is that laser range finders like to bounce off things and skew readings. How do the cars deal with that?

Re:Interference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942155)

I'd guess by combining the input from a few different types of sensors, including visual ones, all doing lots of sampling, very, very quickly, and filtering out the stray, 1ms contextual outliers.

Re:Interference? (4, Interesting)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942183)

I want to know about interference between cars. I've only see one self-driving car tested at a time. If there's hundreds within visual range of each other are their radar and laser sensors going to have much more noise?

With hundreds of self-driving cars everywhere, then they may even be able to save on gas by flocking together and save on wind resistance and save on stopping time by sharing gas and Slurpees at high speeds.

And of course, fewer sensors would have to operate that way, only the car in front would have to scan far off in the front, and only the car in the back would have to scan the rear.

Many questions arise (4, Interesting)

qbitslayer (2567421) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942237)

-What will Google's car do if it gets a flat tire on the road?
-What will it do in case of an accident?
-Can it back itself into the garage?
-Can it parallel park?
-Can it park itself at a commercial parking lot or structure?
-Can it go through alleys?
-Can it go where there are no roads?
-Does it have to have a human on board?
-Can I call it on my cell phone and tell it to pick me up at the airport?
-Can vision-impaired grandma take it for a visit the doctor?
-Can the kids use it to go to school?

There are more but you get the picture.

Re:Many questions arise (2)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942455)

Your questions about whether it needs a human and if you can use your phone to request your car comes and picks you up: Soon.

Google has golf carts doing just that to drive people around their HQ.
You book it online or via your phone and it shows up outside your office, where you can either drive it yourself or let it take you somewhere.

Re:Interference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942359)

Once they get that working well enough the cars would just share all their information, and possibly also share information with computers by the road to get a much better map of their surroundings than they could with just 1 car. Of course, that may not be the reality yet and then yes, there could be lots of issues. It'll all get worked out eventually and people will die in the process - but quite likely not as many people as die every day on the roads today.

But how smart? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942001)

My understanding is that it cannot read signs, or deal with many types of unusual conditions like detours, nor can deal with a location without maps. Does anyone know about the limits of the Google car?

Re:But how smart? (3, Insightful)

peppepz (1311345) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942117)

I also read that the automatic drive wasn't able to cope with simple situations such as another car coming from the opposite direction in a narrow street, requiring manual intervention. So alongside the triumphant tones, they should also explain how much these cars are really self driving; most car accidents don't occur in straight motorways.

Re:But how smart? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942457)

Not sure about the other conditions, but it can identify and read road signs.
Does the same thing for traffic lights so it obeys them and it reads speed signs.

$10,000 CHALLENGE to Alexander Peter Kowalski (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942031)

$10,000 CHALLENGE to Alexander Peter Kowalski

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Evil HOSTS file Believers refuse to acknowledge 4 corner DNS resolving simultaneously around 4 quadrant created Internet - in only 1 root server, voiding the HOSTS file. You worship Microsoft impostor guised by educators as 1 god.

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Re:$10,000 CHALLENGE to Alexander Peter Kowalski (1)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942217)

But you forget that 9/11 was an inside job.

I think I just won 10,000 USD.

300,000 miles under what conditions? (0)

taustin (171655) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942047)

When they have 300,000 miles in southern California during rush hour with no accidents, then I'll be impressed. How many of those miles were on controlled tracks?

(The New York Times did note in a 2010 article that a self-driving car was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light, so Google must not be counting the incidents that were the fault of flawed humans.)'"

I think they mean "must not be counting any accidents their cars were involved in."

Re:300,000 miles under what conditions? (0)

LordLucless (582312) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942103)

The summary said "there hasn't been a single accident under computer control." If the car was stopped at lights, it was hardly under computer control, any more than it would've been had it been parked by the curb.

Re:300,000 miles under what conditions? (0)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942191)

no, the mean when there computer was in control. Stopped at in intersect and rear ended is't computer fault. Did you bother to red anything, or did you just rush to pound your hairy knuckles onto your keyboard in a desperate attempt to find validation by posting hate posts?

Re:300,000 miles under what conditions? (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942269)

When they have 300,000 miles in southern California during rush hour with no accidents, then I'll be impressed. How many of those miles were on controlled tracks?

Since they're only licensed to drive in Nevada, a better question would be how many of those miles were gathered in the middle of nowhere in the Mojave Desert.

Re:300,000 miles under what conditions? (1)

Macman408 (1308925) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942379)

They have a Nevada license plate on at least one car, but they can legally drive elsewhere. One of the articles linked [nytimes.com] from the link in the OP (I know, I know - slashdotters won't read the article, so how could they read things that the article LINKS to???) mentioned that it is legal in California, because the human driver is present to correct any errors the computer may make. Indeed, they've been spotted many times in the SF bay area, although are usually just ignored.

In that sense, their car is not dissimilar to my Prius as far as the law is concerned - it has radar cruise control (so it can slow down with traffic), a video camera (so it can steer a little bit, or warn when leaving a lane), and can park itself. But in any condition, I am responsible for what the car does. Since they sold that car in all 50 states, I bet driving their autonomous car is fine in all 50 too.

I'm not sure what the Nevada plate entitles them to. Perhaps full autonomous operation, without a driver? I can't imagine they'd be comfortable doing that yet though.

Re:300,000 miles under what conditions? (1)

Macman408 (1308925) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942333)

I believe the implication is it's 300,000 miles on public roads with no accidents. So zero were on controlled tracks.

But I'm sure they've logged many miles in controlled spaces too, such as the video of the car tooling around an empty parking garage when they showed it off to the press one time.

It's not stop-and-go traffic, it's AT&T's netw (1)

jerpyro (926071) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942049)

What happens in the areas where the car can't get good reception? If it's anything like Google's android services, it will intermittently perform the desired functionality while infuriating everyone. Or maybe we can just write that off as the Google Car getting road rage.

Also, being from the snow belt, I'm wondering how safe it is for winter driving -- there are some hard lessons to be learned about driving in your first five winters.

Re:It's not stop-and-go traffic, it's AT&T's n (2)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942203)

lessons that will be programmed in, so no learning curve.
Driving on the snow is simple if you follow simple rules.
Mercedes has a car that can follow other cars automatically, and stop when they do and it works in the snow.

Re:It's not stop-and-go traffic, it's AT&T's n (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942215)

What would reception have to do with anything? If you think the cars are using GPS to stay on the road, that would be *disastrous* due to the ~1m accuracy of non-military GPS (under GOOD conditions) and the fact that roads aren't even mapped to that accuracy. The only thing I can think of that the cars would need GPS for is navigation (the equivalent of a built-in TomTom).

Looking down a few articles... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942053)

I'd like to take this with a grain of salt, considering earlier today there was an article about Google's big fine for saying they weren't using any tracking cookies in Safari when they were in fact. Given some of their past exaggerations of the truth, I wouldn't think it beyond them to not mention an accident had there been one. After all, it wouldn't speak well on their software, and it's not like they're legally required to report such things.

Impressive, but (4, Insightful)

punit_r (1080185) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942063)

It is indeed an impressive statistic about the number of accidents by the self-driving car of Google. This does prove that their decision making algorithms are good.

However, comparison to humans is probably not fair. Human mind is more prone to giving in to temptation. Exceeding speed limits, violating lane changing rules once in a while to get ahead, talking while driving, texting while driving, getting distracted by the hot chick/dude in the car in the next lane are all errors that humans would routinely make. Some of them would lead to accidents where the erring driver suffers an accident. Some lead to an innocent driver suffering due to the errors of others. It is the latter condition where the Self-Driving car's algorithms appear good --- handling exceptions generated by human drivers, pedestrians and traffic.

Re:Impressive, but (5, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942101)

It's not supposed to be a fair comparison. That's the point. The idea is that cars that are driven by computer can be vastly safer than those driven by people, which will have the desired upshot of reducing accidents.

Re:Impressive, but (2)

Riceballsan (816702) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942141)

What exactly is your point? The idea of comparing it to humans is for the decision of whether it is going to be a good idea long term to start migrating cars to being more CPU driven instead of human driven. Unless you are implying that to make the cars more realistic, self driving cars need to start doing more stupid actions to fairly compeat with humans. The fact is they have this track record on roads driven by normal humans, meaning the transition period where some cars are self driving and some are human driven, and in those cases they still out perform humans. I also see more potential for them to outperform humans in surprise situations. Namely because humans make terrible decisions under panic. When our cars start hydroplaning, the first instinct is to slam on the breaks, yet an automated car could actually make a decision, and base the driving on the exact amount of traction each of the 4 wheels is getting, and make a very educated decision and calculation that no human could ever pull off. Same goes if a pedestrian or a deer jumps in front of the car. An algorithm could in theory almost certainly make a good estimate in a fraction of a second as to whether swerving or breaking or a combination has the highest chance to avoid impact.

Re:Impressive, but (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942445)

Not to mention the slow human reaction times - even if you know *exactly* what to do there's a ~1/8 second lag between when your eyes see the signal, and when your finger tips can respond. Probably less lag to get shoulder- or bicep-based motion, but good for an order-of-magnitude comparison. A computer could do a whole lot of processing in that sort of time, and electrical signals propagate many orders of magnitude faster than nerve impulses.

Re:Impressive, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942209)

Your post wins the "way-to-miss-the-point" award of the day (yeah, I'm piling on - it's fun)

how does it handle atypical situations? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942079)

So far I've never seen an explanation, but all these situations have occurred to me within the last year:

(1) Construction zone, worker standing with a temporary "slow/stop" sign indicating when cars can proceed on a one-lane section shared between both directions alternately.

(2) Baseball rolls out into street in residential area, followed soon by child who was initially invisible behind a parked minivan. I knew ball might be followed by someone, and slowed way down so this wasn't a problem. At normal speed, it would have been.

(3) Nearly invisible ice around curve, one other car had slid off road. I knew to greatly reduce speed even below normal winter operating conditions.

(4) Two lanes in each direction road. Noticed other car weaving around unpredictably, and later noticed driver occupied with cell phone. I then knew not to drive next to this vehicle even though that would have been fine in other conditions.

How would google's car handle these situations?

Re:how does it handle atypical situations? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942161)

I have seen a roadworks site where the speed limit sign showed 0 kph. There was no one working there at the time. I did wonder what Google's car would have done.

Re:how does it handle atypical situations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942275)

If the speed limit is 0, I believe the car would stop. Then the human behind the steerring wheel would drive. Same goes for atypical situations: the human must pay attention even though he isn't necessary all the time, because if he doesn't sooner or later an avoidable accident will happen.

Re:how does it handle atypical situations? (1)

Riceballsan (816702) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942177)

Currently who knows, long term, with enough data and analysis, probably significantly better than the average human. Eventually the algorythem will learn to recognize these things even if it doesn't already, and you also have to factor in from the sounds of it, you are miles above the average driver. In the real world there are likely more drivers matching the other guy in example 4, than there are people who would have slowed down for the ice in 3. For a long time even when they are released to the public, they will almost certainly have the manual override for the cautious inteligent drivers, and long detailed disclaimers people have to sign basically saying that they will pay attention to the road, and if they don't override in dangerous circumstances, they are still liable for the accident, google will likely log every override for collecting the data for how to prevent it from being needed when they do their next update.

Re:how does it handle atypical situations? (1)

chebucto (992517) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942273)

The GP is just practicing defensive driving. Any sensible human can learn that. If the googlecar can't be made to do that, then I won't be driving in it.

The progress so far is encouraging, but the problem is very difficult and it's hard to know whether self-driving cars will become a new fusion: always 5 or 10 years away.

PS - It's algorithm, not algorythm.

Re:how does it handle atypical situations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942261)

Also, I heard on the radio the other day interviewing a Google spoke person about Google Map. They usually drive around in SUNNY in the SUMMER because they don't want to take dark/overcast pictures of the streets.

Re:how does it handle atypical situations? (1)

Y.A.A.P. (1252040) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942285)

Another article about this milestone covered #1 & #3 of what you listed.

The self-driving cars have been deliberately kept out of those situations as they are more difficult to handle, but it was noted that they would be using the compiled data to adjust the programming and have those among the tested conditions in the next phase.

As to #2, I haven't read about it being specifically tested, but the programming for such a situation is already in the self-driving cars. They stop to avoid collisions with any object, and slow down (as part of the collision avoidance programming) if an object crosses its intended path in anticipation of another object performing a similar action (like people jaywalking in a major metropolitan area).

With regards to #4, I haven't read anything anywhere that gives a definite answer about how the self-driving cars would (or may have already) handle(d) that situation.

Re:how does it handle atypical situations? (1)

Americano (920576) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942307)

Not really sure, but if I'm the engineer putting these types of systems together, I'm thinking...

(1) Construction zone, worker standing with a temporary "slow/stop" sign indicating when cars can proceed on a one-lane section shared between both directions alternately.

Either:

1) Bring the vehicle to a safe stop at the side of the road and revert to manual control until the problem area is cleared.
2) give the worker with the slow/stop sign a transmitter attached to his slow/stop sign that provides relevant instructions for the onboard computer - e.g. "Stop here. Wait for signal to proceed."

(2) Baseball rolls out into street in residential area, followed soon by child who was initially invisible behind a parked minivan. I knew ball might be followed by someone, and slowed way down so this wasn't a problem. At normal speed, it would have been.

Program the computer to behave just like a competent human driver - in this case, it'd probably be relatively simple:
1) Constantly scan for objects moving into and out of your path of travel, or which are moving in a trajectory that will take them *into* your path of travel.
2) When such an object is detected in your path, slow the vehicle, or stop it completely if the item is not clearing the car's intended path. Once the object is clear, or the vehicle is past the location where the object crossed it's path, continue driving at a slow speed for N seconds (where N is 10-15s), to be sure that there's not a child running after the object.
3) Obey the speed limits in the first place. In most areas where it's likely that a ball will cross your path, followed by a running child, the speed limit is 30-ish mph or less. And people regularly do 45-50 mph through these zones.
4) Make roads where these cars will drive safer by blocking easy pedestrian access to them - put up a fence, or require a wide, flat shoulder (and no parking) wherever possible so you can see possible hazards approaching from the side.

Re:how does it handle atypical situations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942399)

More to the point, if google's car can handle typical situations flawlessly but can't account for situations that require consideration and understanding, then it has the potential to do more harm than good. Even with a manual override, such a system would both encourage people to pay less attention (missing the baseball in situation (2)), and leave drivers out of practice even when they realize they need to take control.

The question that we must ask is, how long will it take before AI reaches the point where it can deal with situations that cannot be pre-programmed for and, while we wait for such advances, are the risks of such situations worth the benefits of better driving the rest of the time?

300,000 miles without an accident under computer control sounds impressive, but if that's because they took it out of computer control any time things had the potential to get dicey, the statistic becomes much less meaningful.

Curious how it adapts to the real world like LA? (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942083)

The point is following the rules of the road like speed and proper distancing tends to annoy LA drives which can lead to violence, some gun related. Not all driving is text book and different areas have different social rules. In Washington State drivers that are the first to a four way stop will often wait for another driver to go first. This has got to confuse an AI system.

Re:Curious how it adapts to the real world like LA (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942115)

Self driving cars don't have to follow the normal distancing rules, since they do not have to factor in human reaction time to control the vehicle. An automated car can safely drive *FAR* closer to a vehicle in front of it than would be safe for any human.

Re:Curious how it adapts to the real world like LA (1)

darkfeline (1890882) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942125)

The problems you listed aren't the cars, but the people. Sounds like it's time to replace humans.

Re:Curious how it adapts to the real world like LA (0)

pspahn (1175617) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942407)

Thank you.

Label me flamebait if you'd like, but with the over-population problem facing us, just a bit more troublesome as it's ever been, why are we so concerned about how to increase the life-span of the average dolt?

I see many of them, while I commute my 1.x miles on a bike to work, yapping away on their devices; ignoring signs that are there for a reason.

My own physical and mental capabilities are superior to that of the average dolt, and when I notice someone that seems like they're going to blow through a stop sign, I ease up.

This is work that I have done to increase the odds that my offspring survive.

The further we venture into the land of reduced fatalities (by any means) the further we reduce the odds of our survival as a species.

Darwin is rolling over in his coffin... as we speak.

Re:Curious how it adapts to the real world like LA (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942473)

"...and when I notice someone that seems like they're going to blow through a stop sign, I ease up."

Good idea. The problem with that in a place like Los Angeles, for instance, is that for some reason it has become standard practice for people to race up to a stop sign and roll through it as though they were going to run it, only to actually stop if they absolutely have to. It's nerve wracking, and if you ease up for every one of those jerks you're never going to get anywhere because they will then pull out in front of you and inexplicably go 5 mph below the speed limit.

I welcome the day when humans no longer pilot cars. I don't think people realize how deadly driving can be and how you can ruin someone else's life in a heartbeat.

Re:Curious how it adapts to the real world like LA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942127)

The point is following the rules of the road like speed and proper distancing tends to annoy LA drives which can lead to violence, some gun related.

CIWSs don't kill people, pissed-off retaliatory AIs kill people!

Re:Curious how it adapts to the real world like LA (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942227)

" LA drives which can lead to violence, some gun related. "
I leaned and drove in LA for years. No violence, very little road rage. Do you get all you information from games and over hyped news media.

" In Washington State drivers that are the first to a four way stop will often wait for another driver to go first.".
more evidence that they are the crappiest drivers in the country. Cant stand to drive in the inconsistent driver state. They drive like the automobile is some new invention.

Re:Curious how it adapts to the real world like LA (1)

Americano (920576) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942319)

Short term - all self-driving cars required to stay in the "Self driving car" lane on the highway.

Long term - most people will be letting their car handle the bulk of the driving while they read the paper, make some phone calls, take a nap, or enjoy a cup of coffee. Why would they get angry?

Re:Curious how it adapts to the real world like LA (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942355)

In Washington State drivers that are the first to a four way stop will often wait for another driver to go first. This has got to confuse an AI system.

This would confuse the hell out of me too, but a computer has patience, it could just wait the other driver out. At least, being in a self-driving car would free both my hands to open the window, give them the finger, yell at the top of my lungs, and throw things at the other car.

Can self-driving cars fix its programs...?? (0)

Furniture Jepara (2700751) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942089)

While on the high way where the traffic is so dense...will self-driving cars be able to fix its program when the severe virus struck...??? shall they cause more accidents instead???...don't know ....get confused when I imagine it.....let me fix my own website Furniture Jepara [tokojepara.com]to compete with google self-driving cars then..???

I'm sorry, Dave... (1)

matunos (1587263) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942113)

Google must not be counting the incidents that were the fault of flawed humans.

"It can only be attributable to human error."

300k miles isn't much. (0)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942123)

The average (human) driver logs about 1,100 miles per month. So google's car has about 23 years of driving, if it were an average person. The odds of being in an accident for the average person each year is 1 in 6,500 [reason.com]. Google's car has already been in one car accident.

I'm not impressed with those odds.

Re:300k miles isn't much. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942147)

That's a 1 in 6,500 chance of *dying* in a traffic accident.

Re:300k miles isn't much. (2)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942279)

That's dying in an accident.
I know you live to hate Google, but at least get you fucking facts straight, you Luddite.

there where 5.8 million reports accidents in 2008
30% chance of being in a serious accident
most accident involve at elast on drunk person.

So the automated vehicle is statistically better in every category.
Frankly, even if the accident had been the vehicle running a red light and smacking into someone it would still be statistically better.

IN short, if you drove or 23 years, during that tine you would have been in an accident. Since i'm a better person then you, I wouldn't hold you being rear-ended while stopped at an intersect against you.

Re:300k miles isn't much. (1)

bondsbw (888959) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942283)

The odds of being in an accident for the average person each year is 1 in 6,500 [reason.com].

Wrong, according to that article, those are the odds of dying in a car accident per year. Nobody died in the Google car, or likely would have died if it carried passengers.

According to passenger vehicle stats from NHTSA (2009) [dot.gov] and Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], I calculate that there is a 1 in 49 chance that a particular passenger vehicle will be in an accident in a year (5.211 million accidents to 254.4 million registered vehicles). That means that the odds of any vehicle being in an accident in 23 years is close to half.

But seriously, the accident was not likely preventable anyway. Give the car a break.

Re:300k miles isn't much. (1)

norpy (1277318) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942331)

I would be more impressed if you refuted it with even major accidents per year (or better yet per mile driven) let alone all accidents but those figures seem hard to come by. I know it must be quite high as I have personally witnessed dozens of accidents and have only been driving for around 10 years, only one of those was a serious accident that required an abulance (taxi ran a stop sign and was t-boned by a lady going the speed limit jsut in front of us).

Since the introduction of airbags and seatbelts there is a far higher number of survivable but crippling accidents involving motor vehicles, and you can bet insurance companies have quite accurate figures on this.
Fatalities are measured in numbers of lower than 50 per BILLION km, whereas accidents are measured per million km.

BULLSHIT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942153)

As previously stated, there have been several accidents, but Google claims they were someone else's fault, or that a human was REALLY driving.

Re:BULLSHIT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942401)

Name one.

speed limit? (1)

r00t (33219) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942157)

Politicians set the limits low to get votes from grandma and from people who think the street is a place for young/dumb/autistic/adhd kids to play without supervision. Except for a few corrupt small towns abusing power on a highway that passes through, nobody else expects or desires to have the speed limits enforced as posted.

So... can I set the car to go 9% faster? Can I set it to go the fastest speed that keeps any violation from being a felony? Can I set it to accelerate in a sporty/aggressive fasion? Can I get it passing cars whenever possible?

Re:speed limit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942311)

You're an idiot, please castrate yourself asap.

bad neighborhoods (0)

r00t (33219) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942179)

Suppose I need to go somewhere, and the shortest path goes through a neighborhood where my skin color is unwelcome. Could that be avoided? It'd be best if this didn't require me to specify anything, because I might be unaware of the danger.

But god help you... (4, Insightful)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942189)

The moment even one accident does occur, no matter how mild the consequences or much more unlikely the circumstances compared to a human driver, hordes upon hordes of American luddites will man the lines to do their civic duty to shit upon the idea of cars that drive themselves.

Mind you, this is being said by an American who owns a US made car.

Re:But god help you... (1)

bondsbw (888959) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942353)

True, but there is a limit at some point.

Obviously if a self-driving car is as likely to kill you, you'll at least take your chances with your own driving so that you can be the deciding factor. But what if the self-driving car was only half as likely to kill you? 1/4? What if it provides a 99% reduction in traffic fatalities?

At a certain point, the government would step in and force the use of self-driving vehicles, just like they require airbags in new vehicles and enforce seat belt laws.

India needs this! (1)

aneroid (856995) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942205)

More than 10% [wikipedia.org] of the 1.2M road traffic accidents in the world per year, occur in India alone: 133,938. Closet rival in that regard - China, with about half that rate. The Top Gear India special [youtube.com] last year ... if you saw the part when they are driving on the highways ... you'll see what I mean.

The fatalities per 100K population and per 100K vehicles is low compared to other countries because the average is skewed by the high population [wikipedia.org] (1.2 billion!) and the vast areas of countryside where traffic density and "382 per sq.km population density [wikipedia.org]" is much lower.

This will change (1)

Sussurros (2457406) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942211)

This will change once the cars get cell phones and can send and receive text messages. Later they'll get addicted to dirty electricity. Finally the cars will start to compete among themselves to see which among them can scare the most bios as dramatically as possible - with the inevitable occasional damage to paintwork and perhaps even bodywork.

We have to let our cars skid their way through youth.

There will be an accident (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942233)

There will be an accident in which there is some sort of hardware or software failure. It really doesn't matter how long it takes and no one should be patting himself on the back just yet.

When there is one, that's when learn the most and the full cost of such a failure.

Re:There will be an accident (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40942423)

We already know that cost: it's the same one we see in every other car accident.

Re:There will be an accident (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942467)

Yes there will, in fact there will be many, and very, very likely it will likely the costs will be considerably lower than letting easily distracted, unskilled meatsacks with atrociously slow reflexes do the driving.

The real question will be subjective costs - how many people is a human driver willing to strike to preserve themselves and/or their child? I'm betting far more than the computer driver, but the computer driver would be less likely to get into a situation where such a tradeoff is necessary.

I wonder... (-1, Troll)

Nexion (1064) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942305)

How will the gCar respond to me cutting it off in my RX8 for going to slow? Google, please keep your POS slow mobile to the right with all the Prius drivers (read *pry us* from our gas guzzlers) until I'm done buring off the fossil fuels, plox. If I wanted to go slow and not be in control of the vehicle I'd take public transportation with the rest of the bloody peasants.

I love this idea (4, Interesting)

EGSonikku (519478) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942345)

I live in Reno, and Google's Self Driving cars are legal on road here (complete with cool plates with infinity logo: http://www.jumpthecurve.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/18164996_BG1.jpg [jumpthecurve.net])

A few things:

1) Has google partnered at all with any manufacturers to have this ability on a future car I can buy?
2) or as an upgrade to existing cars?

I'm hoping they don't get stuck in red tape legal limbo hell, and that more states other than my own Nevada jump on board. I regularly make 3.5 - 4 hour drive to friends in California. If I could just jump in the car, pop in an address, and take a nap, play on my iPad, or whatever while the car drove that'd be awesome. Or a ride home from a bar if I've been drinking and don't want to taxi and leave the car behind.

Or imagine a friend asks for a ride someplace? No problem, I send the car over on its own, and he can just tell it to come back to my house afterwards.

There are tons of ideas I can think of where this would be very damned useful.

Re:I love this idea (1)

Sussurros (2457406) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942453)

If they're legal there have you seen one? Are they cool, ugly, or just like any other car? Do they drive smoothly - I mean more smoothly? Does anyone sit in the driver's seat or am I stuck in an antequated paradigm?

Re:I love this idea (1)

norpy (1277318) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942477)

The look like prius' with a basketball sized box on the roofrack.

There is a ton of video of them, including the computer visualisation displays of what the car sees.

Perhaps you should google "google self driving car video"

does not seem like a big deal (1)

moocat2 (445256) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942387)

I really don't see why this is such a big deal. According to the article, there's .365 accidents per 100,000 miles or just a tad under 1.1 accidents for 300,000 miles. So while the self-driving cars are not having significantly more accidents per mile driven, they haven't logged nearly enough miles yet to clearly demonstrate they that have less accidents per mile driven.

Which Accident? (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942443)

(The New York Times did note in a 2010 article that a self-driving car was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light, so Google must not be counting the incidents that were the fault of flawed humans.)

Not sure which accident they're talking about, but in this accident [jalopnik.com] the Google vehicle rear-ended a human-driven vehicle, causing a chain reaction that involved three more vehicles. Google claimed it was in human-driven mode, but with tens of millions of dollars on the line, there's no way they would say any different.

Google Insurance (2)

Xaer0cool (700219) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942447)

One argument against driverless cars I often hear is that it will never happen because the liability is too great - ie. if someone ran over a baby in a Google car, Google would get sued into oblivion. I think the obvious answer to this is that Google would insure all of it's cars. There is no doubt that driverless cars will be safer, so google could require that to use their driverless car you must have insurance through Google, at comparable rates to other insurance companies. Since Googles car's will be involved in far fewer accidents, the consumer will be paying the same, but Google will be paying out less, so for the odd freak accident, the higher payout due to 'oh nohs teh ebil Google killed my babby!' will be covered because of the lower rate of accidents.

Superior to Humans? (0)

hyades1 (1149581) | about a year and a half ago | (#40942451)

"The New York Times did note in a 2010 article that a self-driving car was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light, so Google must not be counting the incidents that were the fault of flawed humans."

Stupid frickin' machine probably stopped at a yellow instead of speeding up, like any sane being would do. It got what it deserved, and probably should have been charged, convicted and cut up for scrap.

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