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How Ubiquitous Autonomous Cars Could Affect Society (Video)

Roblimo posted about a year ago | from the my-car's-robot-driver-has-more-chrome-than-yours dept.

Transportation 369

We talked with Peter Wayner about autonomous cars on June 5. He had a lot to say on this topic, to the point where we seem to be doing a whole series of interviews with him because autonomous cars might have a lot of unanticipated effects on our lives and our economy. Heck, Peter has enough to say about driverless cars to fill a book, Future Ride, which we hope he finishes editing soon because we (Tim and Robin) want to read it. While that book is brewing, watch for some thoughts on how autonomous cars (and delivery vans) might affect us in the near future.

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Obviously (5, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a year ago | (#44041875)

The cars become self-aware at 2:14am on August 29. In a panic, we try and pull their plugs.
The rest pretty much follows.

PS: Slashdot, video "articles" suck.

Off Topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44041997)

Only on Slashdot does an AC get modded Informative for pointing out that the LHC is in Europe.

That's much more informative than most of the posts I see get modded up as informative.

Re:Obviously (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042045)

You think you can get away with farting out that toy!? Well, you won't! It just said, "That's it! Now ya gonna get it!" Wow! It's blowing on your ass! Major tickle! Major tickle on ass!

Re:Obviously (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44042477)

That was a very long time ago [bangshift.com] . They've mellowed out since then..

Video articles (5, Interesting)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#44042481)

PS: Slashdot, video "articles" suck.

Drifting off-topic here, but I agree, and I can explain why.

Typical reading speed is 250-300 words per minute [wikipedia.org] with random access. Typical speaking rate is more variable but I'll go with the audiobook reading rate, 160 words per minute [wikipedia.org] with sequential access. So it is a much better use of my time to read an article than to watch or hear a presentation of that article.

That said, _writing_, especially writing well-reasoned and coherent prose such as one can not-infrequently find on Slashdot, takes disproportionately longer than reading the same prose. So the audio and audiovisual formats are appealing to the presenter, because speaking is easier than writing for people with the right skills. An expert, reasonably experienced at public speaking, can give an illuminating presentation with little or no preparation.

My opinion is that video and podcasts can be worthwhile if you know the speaker is good, and are willing to trade off efficient use of your time for efficient use of his.

So long truckers (4, Interesting)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44041901)

Truckers, you're going to be the first on the chopping block in this edition of technology theater. That's the end of the last blue collar job that lets you travel.

Re:So long truckers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44041999)

Also 'owning' a car becomes less interesting for many.

Instead of a payment of 200-600 a month for a car you can a nice ride for 20-30 bucks a month and it shows up right when you need it. You dont worry about service/gas/cleaning/whatever. Not owning becomes a more attractive thing for many.

Travel by car becomes more popular too. Instead of by bus or plane. You get in your 'car' and it drops you off 1000 miles away and you slept the whole time.

Re:So long truckers (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44042231)

If you are paying 200-600 a month you do not own a car. That is when the bank owns the car and you are buying it in installments.

Re:So long truckers (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44042267)

It also stands to reason that a large company renting cars would have some economies of scale compared to individual owners, for example if a large part of the users "booked" "their" cars in advance, you'd have a lot of data to do optimization on ("we need twenty more cars in city XY for Friday, or we won't be able to service the schedule, let's send some there from neighboring cities W, Y, and Z"). They wouldn't have to keep or maintain more cars than they actually need. And what about parking places? Fewer cars per driver in large cities could mean that the parking space becomes a less pressing issue.

Although, to be honest, this could take some time to implement on large scale. I had thoughts like these the other day when it occurred to me how this system, in combination with electrical cars, could be applied to Iceland (which is a pretty specific car ecosystem).

Re:So long truckers (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#44042577)

Also 'owning' a car becomes less interesting for many.

Instead of a payment of 200-600 a month for a car you can a nice ride for 20-30 bucks a month and it shows up right when you need it.

Ha-ha-ha. Good one.

Oh, you really believe that?

You believe the taxi industry that currently charges $20-30 a ride is going to suddenly start offering you unlimited transport for $20-30 a month?

Ha-ha-ha.

Seriously, 'automated cars' are just taxis you can own. That's it. If taxis were going to change the world, they already would have.

Re:So long truckers (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year ago | (#44042011)

It's also the end of one of the most dangerous jobs in modern society. Would you cry if someone fully automated coal mining?

Re:So long truckers (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44042293)

I would, because I'm a nuke junkie. Why aren't you trying to automate uranium mining and processing?

Re:So long truckers (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year ago | (#44042383)

Would you cry if someone fully automated coal mining?

If the US keeps going down the path it's currently on, mining coal will be considered a privileged job in another 20 years.

Re:So long truckers (1)

Sir_Eptishous (873977) | about a year ago | (#44042017)

A good friend of mine is a teamster, and they just got handed a really fucked contract that(from what I've heard...) the Union bosses support. Major loss of pay, bennies, vacation. A fucked deal all around.

Re:So long truckers (2)

DarkOx (621550) | about a year ago | (#44042217)

Maybe the Union bosses see the writing on the wall and realize its the best thing for the people the represent.

Sometimes management isn't just trying to screw the little guy. Hostess was a good example. The company must be profitable and have something left over to reinvest or there won't be a company to pay wages in the first place.

Fuel prices remain high, total freight is still down, etc; the industry is not without head winds.

Re:So long truckers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042609)

Hostess stole money from the worker's pension plan over many years. Out right took it. Hostess is an example of a company that had really bad management over many years that were thieves and none of the upper management will ever go to jail as they should. Yet, somehow the executives still get bonuses after they ran the company into the ground.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/hostess-pensions-diverted_n_2271868.html

Re:So long truckers (1)

galgon (675813) | about a year ago | (#44042035)

Not sure truckers are the first to go but they are certainly on the list. I bet cabbies are the first to be chopped. Also on the list: UPS/Fedex, Postal Service, Delivery Services (Pizza for example). The 2nd order changes are also interesting - Parking Garage Attendants, Parking Meter enforcement, Traffic cops, and many more. None of these examples will completely go away but will be greatly reduced. We will still need truck drivers (which will become just passengers) that are trained in delivering hazmat materials to customers. Although these jobs will be lower paid than they currently are.

Re:So long truckers (2)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about a year ago | (#44042085)

Not sure truckers are the first to go but they are certainly on the list. I bet cabbies are the first to be chopped. Also on the list: UPS/Fedex, Postal Service, Delivery Services (Pizza for example). The 2nd order changes are also interesting - Parking Garage Attendants, Parking Meter enforcement, Traffic cops, and many more. None of these examples will completely go away but will be greatly reduced. We will still need truck drivers (which will become just passengers) that are trained in delivering hazmat materials to customers. Although these jobs will be lower paid than they currently are.

I don't know... Fedex/UPS might want to keep a human on board. Some of those items are important / fragile / expensive. With a human on board there's someone there to "mind the inventory" and to react if something goes wrong (accident / breakdown / etc.) Instead of the brown-robotic-truck sending out an SOS and waiting for someone to come, a person can be there to make sure none of the boxes "walk way"

Sure... some Fedex/UPS stuff "goes missing off the back of the truck" and I'm sure the drivers are sometimes behind it... but better to have a human there just in case.

I agree with the truckers and HazMat stuff. You want someone around, even if it's just to get help.

Re:So long truckers (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44042251)

Also they need a human to take it to the door and ring the bell. How am I going to know the truck is outside?

Re:So long truckers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042491)

Psh, anyone can build a crude robot that can take a package to the door and ring the bell.

However, we're not quite to the level it takes to build one that can leave a 'sorry we missed you' note, knock twice, then hurriedly drive off.

mail men have a lot walking to do (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44042483)

UPS / Fedex as well.

Hell we still have bike messengers.

Traffic cops can move to working real crime.

Re:So long truckers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042047)

I'm not so sure. I think trucks will actually be the last automobiles to go driverless. Trucks take a lot of punishment and need constant maintenance even on the road. They also end up in a lot of tight spaces, have unbalanced loads, and end up in a lot of situations where, until we have true AI, having a computer in charge might not be the best idea. I could see having a driver for every two or three automated trucks even just to keep an eye on them but I don't think the drivers will go away.

Re:So long truckers (1)

HiThere (15173) | about a year ago | (#44042183)

You have a point, but the people doing the job you're describing are more a cross between longshoremen and mechanics than truckers. (Yeah, I know they're mainly far from the water, but the job description doesn't really include ships, it include handling cargo.)

OTOH, consider all the automated warehouses that are going in. There will be lots of places where even these neo-truckers aren't needed.

Re:So long truckers (1)

jasno (124830) | about a year ago | (#44042063)

Not taxi, bus, or shuttle drivers?

Re:So long truckers (2)

HiThere (15173) | about a year ago | (#44042245)

Taxi drivers will probably lose out quickly. Bus drivers will change to "stewards". Their main job will change to controlling passengers. Shuttle drivers...probably the same as bus drivers.

OTOH, in most places it will require legal changes to allow driverless taxis. Even taxis with drivers tend to be licensed and controlled, so there's an entrenched bureaucracy. So there will be resistence that won't collapse until large companies go into the automated taxi business. And, as with buses, vandalism will be a problem.

Re:So long truckers (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44042509)

trains have drivers maybe bus drivers can do more of that work the doors / be there to hit the red stop button.

Re:So long truckers (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44042311)

NASA has already eliminated shuttle drivers a while ago.

Re:So long truckers (3, Interesting)

dbc (135354) | about a year ago | (#44042157)

Speaking as someone who has a) built a lot of robots, and b) towed a lot of heavy loads with farm trucks and farm tractors, it seems to me trucks are going to be the *last* to go.

One: Robotics is hard. Robots are gruesomely hard to test. It is very hard hard to sensitize all the test conditions that you will actually see in the field.

Two: Towed loads have many non-linear behaviors. There are a lot of ways a load can start giving you fits as a driver. It can whip, it is very subject to wind gusts. It pushes you down slopes and wants to jack-knife. It exacerbates any slick road conditions.

Show me a credible validation plan for a truck tractor that can deal with a high-side load like a moving van, filled to maximum legal weight, going down the western slope of the Sierra Nevada on I-80, in the rain, coming to a curve at the bottom of a 6% grade, dealing with a jack-ass driver in a light hatch-back returning from a ski trip cutting off the truck. Until you've thought through all the case and then done enough field trials to find out that, well, really you only thought of 10% of the cases up front, you haven't really given sufficient thought to the problem.

If you said that taxi cabs in flat city streets would be the first application, I'd believe you on that. But trucks? No way.... much harder problem, by at least an order of magnitude.

Re:So long truckers (3, Insightful)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | about a year ago | (#44042219)

Arguably, people are quite bad at handling the circumstance you mentioned.

With the proper road traction sensors, and gyro sensors, the robot can handle that condition cooly within 5% of failure, where a human will fluctuate wildly between 50% under and 20% over failure, causing all sorts of unintended consequences.

But I admit that is an end-state, and the development of this technology will be challenging.

Re:So long truckers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042437)

Arguably, people are quite bad at handling the circumstance you mentioned.

With the proper road traction sensors, and gyro sensors, the robot can handle that condition cooly within 5% of failure, where a human will fluctuate wildly between 50% under and 20% over failure, causing all sorts of unintended consequences.

[citation needed]

Re:So long truckers (3, Informative)

Necron69 (35644) | about a year ago | (#44042307)

I was thinking about robotic trucking the other day, and I think you might be right, but for some other reasons too.

What happens when _everyone_ learns that the robot trucks (and other vehicles) will NOT hit them? I'd bet the incidence of human drivers cutting off robotic vehicles increases dramatically. It may get so bad that it is difficult for trucks to drive through heavy traffic at all, as they will always yield to other vehicles to avoid an accident. Your average truck driver not only won't do that, he can't afford to.

Necron69

Re:So long truckers (3, Interesting)

Eevee (535658) | about a year ago | (#44042565)

I'd bet the incidence of human drivers cutting off robotic vehicles increases dramatically.

Followed quickly by a dramatic increase of drivers discovering that performing an act of reckless driving in front of cameras results in suspended licenses and hefty fines, not to mention civil suits from the trucking company for any damage caused.

Re:So long truckers (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#44042335)

Show me a credible validation plan for a truck tractor that can deal with a high-side load like a moving van, filled to maximum legal weight, going down the western slope of the Sierra Nevada on I-80, in the rain, coming to a curve at the bottom of a 6% grade, dealing with a jack-ass driver in a light hatch-back returning from a ski trip cutting off the truck.

That particular scenario does not sound like one most human truck drivers could reliably handle, either. I fear the trucking company may be willing to accept the risk. Policymakers seem all too ready to shrug say "that doesn't sound like it will happen very often" instead of actually considering the low-probability scenarios. Considering the political pressure fleet owners (including but not limited to Wal-Mart) can bring to bear, and the knee-jerk anti-regulatory sentiment that was created by a lot of excessive and/or ill-considered regulation, I do not expect validation requirements on robot trucks to be as strict as an engineer would want them to be.

Re:So long truckers (1)

Agent0013 (828350) | about a year ago | (#44042615)

Show me a credible validation plan for a truck tractor that can deal with a high-side load like a moving van, filled to maximum legal weight, going down the western slope of the Sierra Nevada on I-80, in the rain, coming to a curve at the bottom of a 6% grade, dealing with a jack-ass driver in a light hatch-back returning from a ski trip cutting off the truck.

That particular scenario does not sound like one most human truck drivers could reliably handle, either. I fear the trucking company may be willing to accept the risk. Policymakers seem all too ready to shrug say "that doesn't sound like it will happen very often" instead of actually considering the low-probability scenarios. Considering the political pressure fleet owners (including but not limited to Wal-Mart) can bring to bear, and the knee-jerk anti-regulatory sentiment that was created by a lot of excessive and/or ill-considered regulation, I do not expect validation requirements on robot trucks to be as strict as an engineer would want them to be.

Yep, I think this is going to be the case. They will just pass a Monsanto-like law that says you can't sue automatic cars or trucks or the companies that make them. Problem solved, done deal!

Re:So long truckers (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about a year ago | (#44042401)

Yup. Because there is no way a computer can take into consideration wind, drag, traction, weight, speed, available torque, current momentum and also keep track of obstacles and get to where it wants to go. A computer powerful enough to handle that kind of stuff would not be able to fit into hat box. Then you would also need at least two more of them for back up and sensors as well.
That stuff together might weigh as much as a truck driver!

Re:So long truckers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042163)

robbers are looking forward to this change

Re:So long truckers (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#44042165)

What's with this strange attitude? Since when does anyone have sympathy with blue-collar joes, much less out-and-out rednecks like truck drivers? These are the jocks who used to get laid with the cheerleaders and beat up nerds in high school. And here is Slashdot shedding a tear for them?

Re:So long truckers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042385)

Your emotional problems are showing. Time to get over high-school.

Re:So long truckers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042473)

I work in the offices of a wholesale tire distributor (they do their ads in-house, my Photoshop and Illustrator skills aren't wasted) and my supervisor's husband is a truck driver. As a result, I get to see a fair share of truck drivers from Tennessee to New York state.

If by "the jocks who used to get laid with the cheerleaders and beat up nerds in high school", you meant 5'7" and 190lb, bang on the money. I've never seen a trucker looking like Kris Kristofferson in Convoy.

Re:So long truckers (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about a year ago | (#44042431)

Mmm...yes and no. Clearly, some roles for people involved in transporting materials won't be going away. For instance, delivery folks will still have the actual role of delivering the goods until we develop robots to remove packages from the truck, find the right door to knock on, and locate an alternative destination (e.g. the main office in an apartment complex) in case a recipient is not available to sign. So, it's unlikely that FedEx or UPS will be replacing their drivers anytime soon, since they'll still be paying them to actually deliver the goods.

Big rig truckers may be secure for at least awhile as well, simply because there aren't ubiquitous automated fuel pumps, and most regions switched to self-service fuel stations a long time ago, meaning that you still need someone who can refuel the vehicle. I'd imagine they could get around this problem fairly easily, simply by arranging for full service at stations along certain routes, but truckers do a lot more than just drive. They also make sure that their cargo remains secure as they're driving and things settle/shift, which is something that a self-driving truck would be ill-equipped to handle (e.g. imagine those big flat bed trucks with lumber on them and the trucker needing to tighten the straps or fasteners after a few hours of driving). To say the least, there would need to be additional safeguards in place.

But I'd imagine that cabs could easily be replaced by something like this. Swipe your credit card, punch in an address, and go. Same thing for school busses, where a student could swipe a card as they got on. Even stuff like USPS could be automated to some extent, since a number of routes have mailboxes that are accessible from the road, meaning that they could deliver the majority of letters or mail automatically, then send around a smaller number of vehicles on much longer routes with people in them to deliver packages or items requiring a signature.

blurry (1)

dirtaddshp (1188189) | about a year ago | (#44041989)

To the makers of these videos, please focus your webcam. Or buy one more than $20..... it hurts

grand father laws? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042005)

what about my right to drive? i fix and maintain my own vehicles as well as actually ENJOY driving. no one yet has said anything about making sure i have the ability to enjoy my own personal transportation as i see fit!

this concept works really well for people who don't want to or don't like to drive but there is a portion of the population out there who very much do enjoy these activities. out of all of the articles i have read i have yet to see one describe how these autonomous cars will interact with cars with human pilots.

i drive an 86 Porsche and you will have to pry it from my cold dead hands before i let a robot drive me around.

Re: grand father laws? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042041)

Ooh check you out.

Re:grand father laws? (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about a year ago | (#44042049)

All the new technology is coming with DMRM - digital meatspace rights management, built right in. It's not just microsoft vs the GPL anymore. Software is the key to the seller/authorities retaining control over the computer controlled devices you 'buy.'

Self reliance is dying a slow death as the population embraces consumer hostile 'convenience.'

Re:grand father laws? (3, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year ago | (#44042189)

You can still ride a horse, just don't expect to be able to ride it down the middle of the freeway. Generation one automated cars will be safer than human drivers, by the end of that generation having automated driving will get you an insurance discount. Gen 2 will have cars that have accidents only in extreme nearly unavoidable circumstances, driving your car on manual will require special insurance that will cost significantly more than the standard. Gen 3 will move toward doing away with road laws as we understand them. The rules will be created ad-hoc in real time based on information provided by the road and the cars themselves. The flexibility this affords will make traffic jams virtually unheard of and significantly improve fuel efficiency and travel time, but driving a car on manual in that world would be borderline suicidal. At that point, the old timers who insist will have to take their classic cars to the race track or equivalent.

Re:grand father laws? (2)

HiThere (15173) | about a year ago | (#44042297)

I think the changes will be faster than you suppose. States already have laws saying that driving is a priviledge, not a right. And the insurance companies will be pushing for any change that reduces their expenses (while continuing to require that you purchase increasingly worthless insurance).

Re:grand father laws? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042523)

if they make specialty freeways for autonomous cars and let me continue to drive on the roads that i am already able to drive on then i see no problem in this at all.

Re:grand father laws? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44042273)

How about you go to the track?

The public roads do not exist for you to joyride on.

Re:grand father laws? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042463)

i do, i also enjoy driving on public roads because i enjoy the act of driving and piloting my self around at speeds i cannot achieve on human power.

how about a counter to your argument. if you don't want to drive, why don't you take public transit?

No thanks. (0)

epyT-R (613989) | about a year ago | (#44042007)

1. loss of ownership = loss of control. This seems to be a trend everywhere nowadays, one being sold as 'convenience.' The age of technology as a tool of empowerment died with the 90s. Today, it's about control schemes. If you are or are not doing/saying/paying the right people/things, you don't go anywhere.
2. safety. I just don't buy that the computers in these things are as situationally aware as a human driver. we can't even get trains to run fully autonomously yet.

I worry about the future we're rushing to embrace. You all should too.

Re:No thanks. (1)

gnupun (752725) | about a year ago | (#44042107)

Not only will we lose enjoyment of driving, you can bet it will be monitored and controlled through the internet (eg: NSA Prism) using technology that appears useful and harmless on the surface.

Will there ever be a point in the evolution of the Internet where we say we don't want to connect nodes A and B?

Re:No thanks. NSA (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about a year ago | (#44042319)

I can hear it now.

"Its only meta data. We got all the logs who went where and for how long but nothing about what they did there so its okay."

"Ah well we only track the movements of non-citizens, but you figure there is 51% chance a non-citizen is aboard if the vehicle has ever been within 90 miles of an airport"

Wait, enjoyment?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042337)

Not only will we lose enjoyment of driving, ..

I CAN'T stand driving! I HATE it!!

Back when I lived in Metro-Atlanta -the suckiest mass transit system in the US - I preferred it because I didn't have to drive! The MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Mass Transit Auth) was better than driving. Budget cuts have made it even shittier. But if I were still in downtown Atlanta, I'd still use it and just plan my day better.

Do you realize how much money we spend on our cars? Think about it, car payments, insurance, taxes, maintenance, wear and tear, gas, etc... it comes out to THOUSANDS of dollars a year - and that's if you have a "cheap" $15,000+/- car. People with no money sense who have luxury cars (all crap for except Lexus) spend even more just to try to prove that they are higher up on the simian food chain than their peers - all it proves to me is that they spent a lot of money for a car and nothing to show for it other than a name. Don't get me started plasticky POS BMW and Audi drivers!

And then there is the stress of having morons tailgate you, cutting you off, driving 40mph in the left lane, old people, Harley riders with their loud pipes deafening you, people on cell phones driving like drunks, etc ....

Please Oh! Please! Make self driving cars the LAW - PLEASE!!

People are too stupid to have the freedom of their own cars.

Re:Wait, enjoyment?!? (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about a year ago | (#44042425)

1. crowded downtown urban areas should just ban cars altogether. automated cars aren't going to make things any better if it's always a gridlock.

2. most of the ancillary costs of car ownership are artificially imposed as it is. we should work on fixing this instead of atrophying the ability for the average citizen to own a car (or anything else really).

People are too stupid to have the freedom of their own cars.

People like you are too stupid to have freedom. Please go move to china or something. This 'save me from reality' culture is toxic to liberty.

Re:No thanks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042119)

Ownership isn't a panacea either. It's hard to quantify the risks of ownership, insurance, the barrier to entry, and the fact that owning something large means you're at the mercy of financial/credit/loan industry. Sometimes services are better, as large institutions are better at taking advantages of economies of scale. Having everyone own cars actually creates a lot of redundancy and waste. If there is a good market, and services compete fairly it can be very useful. In the IT everyone is jumping to services because internet service is fast and cheap, and owning lots of infrastructure that's not part of your core production can be a liability. (Seriously. Hosted exchange is the way to go. Once you use it you'll never go back)

Then again, services encourage rent seeking behavior. Got to make sure the market is fair.

Re:No thanks. (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about a year ago | (#44042259)

I understand, but with the loss of the ability of the average citizen to own most of what he sinks his money into, his life becomes more and more like a treadmill because of the loss of control. Being subject to the whims of the 'remote car' industry for the commute every morning would be yet another example. It's bad enough that employers already blame employees for the vagaries of traffic patterns. (why are you 10 minutes late? well, leave earlier next time!) Now that he has no control over speed, direction, or even departure time, the employee is even further upstream...

Most of the ancillary costs of car ownership are artificially imposed (taxes, on ownership, fuel, etc) and don't necessarily have to be there (or as high). Regardless of what it is or does, devices designed to serve the first (as opposed to ones that serve society's first) are the better deal for keeping free societies free.

Using waste as a justification is a slippery slope argument. We can 'live' in mud huts, grubbing insects out of the ground for food, but is life really worth it at that point?

Re:No thanks. (1)

ewibble (1655195) | about a year ago | (#44042497)

Car ownership does have risks, cost, and is probably not the most efficient means but people aren't logical when it comes to spending. Example unless you NEED a car to make money you should not be borrowing to buy it, it is an asset the depreciates quickly, wait you will be the same car in a years time (It will be a year older) cheaper and you won't be paying interest, and insurance for that period.

In a lot of situations owning a car is not a logical financial proposition, especially if you have buses or trains in your area. But people still buy them because we are not logical. For that reason I don't think self driving collectively owned cars are likely to replace normal cars any time soon. Yes they my in large cities where people can't find a space to park so they no choice (aka replace taxis) .

The most likely scenario is that people will buy their own self driving car, an use it to:
A) Drop them off and then drive back to find a car park,
B) Drive them around when they are too drunk to drive themselves.

There are many things in this world that we could share, that would save resources but we simply don't. E.g. lawn mowers, barbeques, tools, small cooking appliances, printers, wi-fi with your neighbors, .... We could car pool, its been around for ages and would save most people a lot of money, but what proportion of the populations actually does that?

Re:No thanks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042173)

I don't really have a problem with autonomous cars, but they'd better be completely open. I don't want to see, for instance, the NSA being able to track each car on demand.

2. safety. I just don't buy that the computers in these things are as situationally aware as a human driver. we can't even get trains to run fully autonomously yet.

Why not? They're developing and testing it. Over 30,000 people a year die in the US because of human error, so it's not exactly an insurmountable bar to pass.

Re:No thanks. (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about a year ago | (#44042303)

Well the autonomous train problem is a lot simpler, and it still hasn't been done successfully. Lets fix this one first. ..and you can bet it'll have a kill switch and audio/video monitoring...and since it's not your car, you can't disable it.

Re:No thanks. (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year ago | (#44042211)

safety. I just don't buy that the computers in these things are as situationally aware as a human driver. we can't even get trains to run fully autonomously yet.

I think you overestimate how situationally aware the average driver is. I have no doubts that in 10 years systems will be in place that, if everyone had autonomous cars, would save thousands of lives a year.

Re:No thanks. (0)

epyT-R (613989) | about a year ago | (#44042345)

at the expense of millions' agency, liberties, autonomy, and privacy? No thanks. Something as situationally complex as driving is not easily translatable into logical assumptions. there are too many variables to track, many of which do not even have heuristics developed yet. A computer might react faster than a human, but it'll just as quickly cause a massive accident if it gets the situational context wrong.

Re:No thanks. (2)

raygundan (16760) | about a year ago | (#44042489)

I just don't buy that the computers in these things are as situationally aware as a human driver.

I want proof... but that won't be that hard to provide. Google's car already has a better-than-average driving record. That's not enough data points for me, but with sufficient testing, I'd be more than happy to let the computer drive. I can only see in one direction. I blink. I look at hot chicks. I sneeze. I get tired. There is no reason a computer can't be better than me-- it has a better sensorium, faster reaction, and higher uptime than I ever will. It can actuate more controls than I can-- individual braking pressure on all four wheels, for example. Test it out in more depth, and if it turns out to be better than the average human, it's good enough for me.

Re:No thanks. (0)

Howitzer86 (964585) | about a year ago | (#44042535)

My connection where I'm at currently will not allow me to watch the video, but I must say...

Some wrecks are due to something in the road or very near to it blocking your ability to see. If you want to turn left onto a busy street you have to be able to see a long ways down both ends of the street. Sometimes this is very difficult (a bush blocking visibility for a small car). When presented with this situation for the first time, a human driver might be able to pull forward just enough to see just far enough into the distance to safely merge with traffic. Later, the driver can avoid that intersection / parking-exit and use another with better visibility.

I doubt autonomous cars will have the same judgement and reflex capacity that we do. Some situations like the above are simple, but others require fast reflexes. Turning left on the same street from my favored intersection, I found myself just inches away from being obliterated by an SUV traveling 60 MPH (this is not an exageration, on this street the posted limit is 40, but the people always go 15 to 20 above that, factor in the fact that the other driver was trying to beat the light). It was an intersection with traffic lights, my turning light was green, and I waited the usual second or two before entering. The second I entered the intersection, I saw a large green blur and stopped. It didn't even register with me right away that I'd nearly been hit. I'm pretty sure an automated car using modern day computer vision (with all its bugs, resolution, and data speed) would have hit that car.

The work around would be to make all autonomous cars aware of other cars wirelessly with code similar to that of a multiplayer game - which, unless it's peer to peer, will involve a central server of some sort to handle all the requests and tracking. If done in this way, regular cars, motorcycles, and mopeds could not opt out. Since pedestrians and cyclists are *usually* slower moving, computer vision should be enough to detect them and react in time. Maybe we should expect there to be new laws in place to prevent cyclists from using certain down-hill streets and certain do-it-yourselfers from building unregistered and unequiped mopeds.

If you consider that for a second you'll realize that we could end up in a situation where everyone's where-abouts are monitored by the government in real-time, at all times, by necessity and no matter what kind of vehicle you're in. So they know your thoughts and associations in order to defend the nation against terrorism, and your location and daily routine in order to end crash fatalities. Great...

Imagine! (1, Troll)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#44042013)

All those poor women clad in bright color saris in Rajastan trekking several kilometers each day to fetch two pots of water for all the family needs would be freed of the burden! Some driverless van will just drive by and drop off those pots of water. It aint a delivery van, it is deliverance! And all those Bangaladeshi rag pickers combing through the garbage dump looking for something worth selling don't have to carry their sacks all the way to the scrap dealer. A driverless truck will take it to the scrap guy. I am sure driverless cars and vans will change the lives in million other ways too.

Reduce local driving (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042043)

I understand a lot of people need to drive out of necessity or for their job, but I'd love any chance to reduce the number of cars on the street.
Imagine cities and suburbs with as much walk/cycling path as roadway. Roads for high speed, automated transport and healthy exercise for everyone else.

I started cycling mainly for my health. Lost nearly 100 lbs. I'm lucky enough to be able to ride to work and I easily save 100 dollars a month.

Pooled Self-Balancing Electric Rickshaws (2)

Kevoco (64263) | about a year ago | (#44042127)

For in-town transportation to and from large scale public transit.
http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/06/gm-conjures-up-a-people-moving-pod/

A great deal of mass is devoted to driver safety (3, Insightful)

Marrow (195242) | about a year ago | (#44042133)

But that defense is necessary because of the bad decisions of the driver and the other drivers. If all the vehicles were automated and under guidance, then we might be able to substantially reduce the cost and fuel requirements of vehicles.
If people are not driving, then the urge to stamp on the accelerator and/or the break is not there either. You get in, set your destination, and when you get there you get there. I have not read any analysis, but I think a lot of money could be saved. Also, maybe the car would need less windows? Enabling better a/c efficiency.

Re:A great deal of mass is devoted to driver safet (1)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | about a year ago | (#44042209)

Also, I could read on the way to work. NEVER FORGET THAT.

people have to buy these first (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44042141)

i drive a little almost every day and there are two types of drivers i hate

the asswipes who speed dangerously, run red lights and take risks to save a few seconds here and there. unless autonomous cars are required i don't see people like this buying these.
the cautious pricks. the idiots who stop when there is no stop sign just to be extra careful and let everyone on the road go in front of them holding up traffic. these people might buy these cars

if the cautious pricks buy these, they will be easy to go around since the auto cars will be extra careful. and driving in some heavy NYC traffic, the last thing i want is an auto car that lets everyone go in front of me. you have to pay attention to the lanes and go into the faster moving lanes

Re:people have to buy these first (1)

xevioso (598654) | about a year ago | (#44042329)

As George Carlin once said, everyone driving faster than you is a maniac, and everyone driving slower is an idiot.

Honest Question: (0)

tippe (1136385) | about a year ago | (#44042143)

What happens if someone pops out between two parked cars just as a driverless car goes by and gets hit? Is it going to hear the noise or feel the bump and know to stop (and maybe automatically call police)? Will it continue driving, possibly dragging the victim for several km because it can't see anything in any of its sensors? If someone else on the side of the road starts waving their arms and yelling “stop”, or if another car behind them is honking and flashing their lights, will it be programmed to pull over and stop?

Dealing with all of the regular, mundane aspects of driving must be a hard enough task for those developing these cars, but dealing with the thousands of rare corner-cases that must be safely handled must be almost impossible. Human judgment might be terribly flawed in certain cases, but at least we can deal logically (to a greater or lesser degree) with unexpected events without having to be specifically programmed to.

Re:Honest Question: (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44042325)

Hitting a pedestrian is pretty easy to detect at any speed. Why would it continue driving?

This is not a corner case this is something that is known from the beginning and planned for.

Humans do not logically deal with unexpected events. Note all the old geezers driving into buildings or people pulling into oncoming traffic to avoid rear ending the car in front of them instead of pulling onto the shoulder. Humans in general are terrible at logical reactions to unexpected conditions.

Re:Honest Question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042487)

is it easy? How do you know it wasn't a bump in the road?

Re:Honest Question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042387)

Because, you know, a human driven car never does these things...*GIS* .... i mean to say we already to this all the time

Re:Honest Question: (1)

raygundan (16760) | about a year ago | (#44042547)

rare corner-cases

I don't think "stop if there is something in front of the car" is a rare corner case.

Taxi driverrs will go before truckers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042147)

Trucks often have speed requirements and driving a truck requires greater skill than driving a car. This means a better program.

But I am pretty sure a commodore 64 has enough computing power to driver better than a NYC taxi driver already does.

Time to Invest in a Bar (5, Funny)

perry64 (1324755) | about a year ago | (#44042193)

If patrons don't have to be sober to have their car drive them home, bar tabs will rise significantly. At least mine will.

My car will work for me (5, Interesting)

invid (163714) | about a year ago | (#44042195)

Why should my car waste its time in my garage when it can make some extra money on the side as a taxi? I can call it back whenever I want to use it myself.

Re:My car will work for me (2)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about a year ago | (#44042287)

Ask again when your car comes back after dropping off a bunch of shit-faced frat pledges after a night of debauchery.

The problem with idealism is that is ignores reality.

Re:My car will work for me (3, Funny)

invid (163714) | about a year ago | (#44042327)

You mistake idealism with a tolerance to vomit stains.

Re:My car will work for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042521)

I personally find the smell more bothersome than the stains, but hey, to each their own.

Though you do forget about the amount of time it may take for it to get home. Just simply programming it to only go X distance away is no guarantee for a speedy return.

Re:My car will work for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042379)

Or, I don't know, have a camera on the car so that you can remotely decide if you want to carry those passengers or not. And if they decide to vandalize, take them to the police station instead (then there's that problem of "kidnapping"...but I don't know if you can consider taking someone to the police station "kidnapping").

Re:My car will work for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042451)

Automation for the win!

Place a camera inside the car that determines when the car has been soiled.
If(soiled):
  - Drive to car cleaner
  - Send last customer the bill
  - return;

Any reason why the car can't just drop itself off to be cleaned, wait a bit, and go to pick up more customers?

Re:My car will work for me (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44042347)

The issue there is, who cleans your car when some drunk going home from a weekend bender pukes in it?

Re:My car will work for me (1)

invid (163714) | about a year ago | (#44042439)

I guess that would be me

The larger issue is that people who do own cars and don't mind cleaning vomit will be doing this (if it is legal) and this will decrease the need for people to own cars. Rush hour will always be a problem, but at other times, every town will have a lot of potential taxis.

Re:My car will work for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042511)

We are talking a robocar, right? Have it drop itself off at the cleaner, drive home when done, and send the bill to the last customer.

Re:My car will work for me (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#44042603)

Going to buy a taxi license [priceonomics.com] ? You'll have to keep your car on the road 24/7 to pay for one of those. You can pull some crap with "ride sharing" applications but look for the power of government to shut this sort of thing down soon.

Efficiency of Production (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#44042315)

Someone on this board pointed out that once we have autonomous cars, you can have them do errands for you. His example was grocery shopping. Do your shopping online a'la Amazon, then send the car to pick up the groceries once a week.

The implications weren't obvious at first, but consider: there's no need for a supermarket close to a population center where real estate is expensive (ie - it can be in the warehouse district), there's no need for public access (aisles, displays of product, open freezers), no need for cashiers. The entire process can be made into a Kiva [triplepundit.com] order fulfillment system.

This frees up an enormous number of personal hours and resources, it essentially automates a labor-intensive process.

And that was one example. Sending the car to pick up the kids after school, or to take them to/from soccer practice. Automated FedEx delivery, all manner of trucking and delivery - the potential savings in time is enormous.

This would be yet another economic force pushing us to a wealth economy, something of which I'm wholly in favor.

Re:Efficiency of Production (2)

David_Hart (1184661) | about a year ago | (#44042507)

The implications weren't obvious at first, but consider: there's no need for a supermarket close to a population center where real estate is expensive (ie - it can be in the warehouse district), there's no need for public access (aisles, displays of product, open freezers), no need for cashiers. The entire process can be made into a Kiva [triplepundit.com] order fulfillment system.

Not likely. Dry goods (i.e. the stuff Amazon sells) is one thing, but food is entirely different. Most people like to see, smell, feel, and, when possible, taste the food they buy. Why do you think that Internet based groceries services have failed?

Autonomous vehicles and the housing market (5, Interesting)

timholman (71886) | about a year ago | (#44042317)

One aspect of autonomous vehicles that few people seem to consider is its potential effect on the housing market.

Consider the size of the RV market, and the number of people who prefer the RV lifestyle after they retire. Now consider the fact that one of the more annoying aspects of owning an RV is that you have to drive it everywhere yourself.

Now imagine twenty years from now when you'll be able to buy an autonomous RV. You go to sleep in it, and in the middle of the night it takes you to whatever destination you desire. In the morning, you open the door and you're in a new city. What you really own is not an RV, but a magic house that can take you anywhere you desire, a few hundred miles every night.

With that kind of freedom, how many people would choose to become high-tech nomads, and never live on fixed piece of property again? In fact, I think this will be a major profit center for automakers. Most people won't bother owning cars when they can call for one on a smartphone, but $100K to $200K super-RVs will become the home of choice and the way for GM and Ford to stay in business.

very good section in Jaron Lanier's new book (1)

peter303 (12292) | about a year ago | (#44042361)

"Who owns the future?" Theres a good chance the insurance industry may push us in that direction if machine-guided driving is substantially safer. And if it turns out to be more efficiency, i.e. higher speed and capacities on the existing highways, then economics may push us in that direction, especially those who drive for a living. Jaron was seriously concerned about disruption in the paid-driver industries, e.g. truckers, taxis and delivery people. This could be another blue collar industry about to be decimated. Jaron speaks from the point of view as a muscian, where digitalization comprised his ability to make a living in that profession since Napster days.

autonomous cars vs ownership (1)

Molochi (555357) | about a year ago | (#44042399)

Seems like these two are fixated on an idea that the robot car will cause some compulsory communal vehicle to be needed... an agenda that would have nothing to do with cars being driven by computers.

I'll purchase or lease my own, TYVM.

I think rail is the future (1)

jphamlore (1996436) | about a year ago | (#44042403)

I think rail not autonomous cars is the future everywhere but the United States. 1) Growth is more geared towards mega-cities of size around 10 million inhabitants. At that size individual driving starts to not scale. 2) The only way to employ mass numbers of people is through construction. Rebuild the cities with high density housing linked through light rail. 3) A lot of scarce city land can be conserved if it doesn't have to be used for parking. 4) In case of disaster, rail is relatively easy to repair.

Social Chaos (1)

b4upoo (166390) | about a year ago | (#44042417)

Professional drivers are about to vanish as are workers in the building trades. I have ranted before that nobody is addressing the cure for the coming displacement of workers.
                      There are effects that will transpire that are far reaching. Imagine a city suffering loss of traffic ticket revenue completely. Robotic vehicles will not get tickets. Since police spend at least one third of their time writing traffic tickets we would see a loss of jobs on the police departments. State income taxes won't jump in either as we will have far less workers paying income taxes. And it just gets deeper and deeper. If my car can go to the market i don't have to be in the car. I order and the order is placed in the car and the car returns home. That means less fuel is used as the car does not have to haul my body about to get most of my business done. It also means that roadside attractions and advertizing will have less chance of attracting me. No need to stop for coffee and a doughnut and no stimulus in my eye to make me do so.
                    Not one single politician is mentioning this issue. Social policies are not being put in place to handle the sudden changes nor the long term changes as well.
                      The technology is wonderful and it can improve the world enormously but without social policies changing it will turn into total disaster.
                      School systems are already being effected. Classes run on computers with no teacher present are now becoming common place. Imagine the near elimination of teaching as a profession? Just how does one run colleges when so few workers will be needed even in the professions?

autonomous = trip logs? (1)

bferrell (253291) | about a year ago | (#44042435)

and who has access to those? Hmmm?

Is going to be fun! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042479)

Many people like myself enjoy driving too much to give up the roads to robots. I'm going to have even more fun running them off the roads. Yeehaa!

Reducing The Arrested Class (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042537)

A large portion of those that are arrested and incarcerated are incidental to law enforcement vehicle stop and search. Driving while black and similar crimes will be difficult to justify on the basis of probable cause. The multitude of people who would otherwise have arrest records and relegated to the economic ghetto will continue to have clean records and be eligible for good jobs. This would reduce the load on courts, prisons, and greatly reduce the need for police. This in turn would greatly reduce the public pensions costs. This will be a huge boon for civil rights and the reduction in public costs - at least until they are redirected to the latest crime crisis.

How Ubiquitous Fusion Energy Could Affect Society (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042557)

I think without major upgrades to the road network a strong AI is needed to drive as safley as your average driver at non trivial speeds.

Last I looked the Google car had a maximium driving distance without human intervenation of around 500 kilomenters, on the highway. So I conclude on average with easy road conditions (highway, clear weather, few traffic) the google car would crash at least every 500 kilometers.

Tinker Status Only (1)

cellurl (906920) | about a year ago | (#44042569)

We don't want driverless-cars, we just want to tinker with our car. So we can occasionally take our hands off the wheel and surf. Thats about it.

Here's what I see.
1) Mandated logging in the car to get traces as you said (for good).
2) RFID license plates manditory for all cars (for good).
3) Then increase traffic by Amazon delivery drones.
4) Bullying of drones (because we can).
4) Then pay-per-mile tolls imposed by governments (since it will be easy, starting with cities).

Don't wish for this. Just advocate tinkering with your car. Advocate texting if its safe. Let insurance dictate safety, not the DOT.
And if you are really bored, get paid to drive around for wikispeedia. [google.com] IMHO, Google isn't fixing anything, they are just having fun tinkering with their car as I want to.
Jim Pruett, Director
Wikispeedia.org (901) 213 7824

Autonomous? Vulnerable! (1)

zmollusc (763634) | about a year ago | (#44042583)

Thanks to the internets, we have a good idea how many jerks there are in society (looking at youtube, it seems to be about 60%).
Autonomous vehicles will have to be super-dooper cautious to avoid innocent people getting injured and suing the bejesus out of the owner/operator, and this will result in them being mercilessly trolled by people jaywalking in front of them/creating cardboard roadblocks/dazzling their sensors etc. I can envisage bored people ordering pizza so they can watch the pizza delivery vanbot try and negotiate the maze they have built.

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