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Google Unveils Self-Driving Car With No Steering Wheel

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the in-soviet-google,-car-drives-you dept.

Transportation 583

cartechboy writes: "We've already discussed and maybe even come to terms with the fact that autonomous cars are coming. In fact, many automakers including Mercedes-Benz and Tesla have committed to self-driving cars by 2017. Apparently that's not ambitious enough. Google has just unveiled an in-house-designed, self-driving car prototype with no steering wheel or pedals. In fact, it doesn't have any traditional controls, not even a stereo. The as-yet-nameless car is a testbed for Google's vision of the computerized future of transportation. Currently the prototype does little more than programmed parking lot rides at a maximum of 25 mph, but Google plans to build about 100 prototypes, with the first examples receiving manual controls (human-operated). Google then plans to roll out the pilot program in California in the next several years. So the technology is now there, but is there really a market for a car that drives you without your input other than the destination?"

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583 comments

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So when will the taxi drivers start protesting? (5, Interesting)

MillerHighLife21 (876240) | about 4 months ago | (#47105457)

These this will naturally become shuttles and taxi services almost immediately. Given the protests of Uber and Lyft, what will the outcry be for these?

Re:So when will the taxi drivers start protesting? (4, Funny)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about 4 months ago | (#47105585)

I totally recall when taxi drivers were homicidal psychopaths with mohawk hair cuts. Thankfully we will now have fleets of mannequins named "Johnny Cab" to cheerfully take us around.

Re:So when will the taxi drivers start protesting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105637)

These this will naturally become shuttles and taxi services almost immediately. Given the protests of Uber and Lyft, what will the outcry be for these?

I don't see why Uber/Lyft would complain, after all, this is 'disruptive' ... besides, don't their employees/contractors/independents/whatever deserve to be doing something more worthwhile ? ...

Re:So when will the taxi drivers start protesting? (2)

krashnburn200 (1031132) | about 4 months ago | (#47105755)

These this will naturally become shuttles and taxi services almost immediately. Given the protests of Uber and Lyft, what will the outcry be for these?

Cabbies don't have enough money to have a voice that's heard, The people with the money will just watch until these are cheaper than cabbies and then implement.

Re:So when will the taxi drivers start protesting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47106007)

Add to this that taxi drivers are generally disliked by other motorists (Along with cyclists, buses, semi trucks, and white work vans), and you have a further reason why they will be ignored.

Re:So when will the taxi drivers start protesting? (1)

skovnymfe (1671822) | about 4 months ago | (#47105919)

They're taking our jobs?

Re:So when will the taxi drivers start protesting? (1)

drolli (522659) | about 4 months ago | (#47105927)

The implications of a technology like this go far beyond taxi drivers.

In the moment when autonoumous cars go mainstream, half of the car manufacturers will go bancrupt and the other half will have a very good time.

No steering wheel? No deal. (3, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47105461)

Sorry. While I love technology, my not-so-humble opinion is that we're nowhere near the level of reliability needed for a car that's completely free of manual control.

Simply put, having seen the arc of technology advance over the last 30+ years, I still don't trust an automated driver system with my safety. PERIOD.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105495)

Sorry. While I love technology, my not-so-humble opinion is that we're nowhere near the level of reliability needed for a car that's completely free of manual control.

Simply put, having seen the arc of technology advance over the last 30+ years, I still don't trust an automated driver system with my safety. PERIOD.

Are you living in a cave?

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 4 months ago | (#47105777)

Have you nothing besides ad hominem to hurl at his argument?

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105505)

Ok, just because it's not reliable today but maybe in ten years, let's forget all about it.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47105675)

Again, I don't give a damn about "10 years from now".

People in the 50's and 60's were predicting flying cars being common by now.

We all know how THAT turned out.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105701)

People in the 50's and 60's were predicting flying cars being common by now.

Exactly! After all if one prediction is wrong then of course all predictions are wrong! QED (Latin for Duh).

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47105775)

That's not what was meant at all and you know it.

It's that you only trust fulfilled promises. Not predictions.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105835)

Not that I disagree with the sentiment, but if it's already fulfilled, what's the need for trust?

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 4 months ago | (#47105521)

Unless the automated car is on rails, it must retain manual control so that the user will be able to bring it to a guided stop. Even elevators come with an emergency stop button and they have only three states, going up, going down and stationary. A car without manuals controls to guide it to a safe stop in the event of control failure whether purposeful or accidental is really fucking crazy.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (5, Funny)

Andrewkov (140579) | about 4 months ago | (#47105607)

A quick call to google's helpdesk is all that's needed to stop the car in an emergency.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

rudolfel (700883) | about 4 months ago | (#47105995)

Of course, this is only possible if you agreed to give all your personal data to Google. If not, you're on your own.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (5, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | about 4 months ago | (#47105541)

Sorry. While I love technology, my not-so-humble opinion is that we're nowhere near the level of reliability needed for a car that's completely free of manual control.

Simply put, having seen the arc of technology advance over the last 30+ years, I still don't trust an automated driver system with my safety. PERIOD.

Millions of people fly in airplanes every day that rely on computer controls (since there is no mechanical linkage between the pilot and the control surfaces). And 30,000 people die each year at the hands of human drivers.

While the real time image recognition may not be quite ready for prime time, it will get there and when it does, computer drivers will be safer than human drivers. Google's driverless cars have already racked up 700,000 accident free miles in autonomous mode (albeit with a human ready to take over). Their car has already surpassed my own record, it's only been about 150,000 miles since my last accident (a car changed lanes into me, while the accident was not my fault, if I'd had computer-like reflexes and perfect awareness of my surroundings to know that the lane beside me was open, I may have been able to avoid the accident by sudden braking and/or making a quick lane change)

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#47105577)

Millions of people fly in airplanes every day that rely on computer controls (since there is no mechanical linkage between the pilot and the control surfaces).

If that's what counts as 'computer control,' then we already have computer control today. There are plenty of computer systems in cars, and some won't even start without going through a computer system.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (2, Insightful)

fractoid (1076465) | about 4 months ago | (#47105655)

And this is an excellent argument against the "it will always need manual controls in case of failure" argument. Modern vehicles have fly-by-wire accelerator, brakes, gears, etc.

The driver isn't in direct physical control of the vehicle and hasn't been for some time. Progress towards fully autonomous vehicles is a matter of degree, not of kind.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#47105711)

Progress towards fully autonomous vehicles is a matter of degree, not of kind.

This is a true point. It's been true ever since we stopped walking.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (2)

fractoid (1076465) | about 4 months ago | (#47105739)

In one sense, we've been a fully autonomous vehicle ever since we started walking. ;)

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#47105781)

I hope you get modded up

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (2)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 4 months ago | (#47105753)

The problem is that you confuse manual controls and manual control inputs. What type of control a person or computer uses is irrelevant. What is relevant is the mind making the decisions about what inputs to make. Computers are yet to be sophisticated to handle many situations as well has humans do.

The driver isn't in direct physical control of the vehicle and hasn't been for some time. Progress towards fully autonomous vehicles is a matter of degree,

Completely false. Whether it is fly by wire or cables the inputs are still made by humans and that is the important part.

The brain is the important part of the machine and not the nerves. Computer brains are not up to the task yet.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

meerling (1487879) | about 4 months ago | (#47105827)

By the time a human realizes there is a problem if the automated system has failed, they'll be lucky to have enough time to scream.
It's kind of like the people that don't want to wear seatbelts because they are afraid they'll end up in a crash and be hurt so bad they can't undo the seatbelt to get out.
If you haven't figured that out, if you are so messed up you can't undo a seatbelt, there's no way in hell you'd have been able to get out of a car.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (4, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47105683)

Sorry, but there's a big difference between flying around in a plane in a pre-planned course that's been cleared of other traffic and driving around on the ground on an expressway or city street.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

meerling (1487879) | about 4 months ago | (#47105857)

"While the real time image recognition may not be quite ready for prime time"

It doesn't actually need image recognition. We've had systems deployed for decades that can handle identify the existence of possible collisions based on detecting obstacles and their relative vectors. It doesn't need to know that large blob on a collision course is a Ford Taurus, just that it's going to collide in 3.2 seconds on the current vectors.
If you're curious what uses those types of systems in real time now, just look at military hardware, it's in more than just planes.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105555)

Sorry. While I love technology, my not-so-humble opinion is that we're nowhere near the level of reliability needed for a car that's completely free of manual control.

Simply put, having seen the arc of technology advance over the last 30+ years, I still don't trust an automated driver system with my safety. PERIOD.

Sorry. While I love humans, my not-so-humble opinion is that we're nowhere near the level of reliability needed for a car that's manual control.

Simply put, having seen the arc of traffic fatalities advance over the last 30+ years, I still don't trust a human driver system with my safety. PERIOD.

Cars are not safe: people will die. I'd rather have shitty AI that we can iterate on and improve every time it kills someone than having to start with fresh teenagers each time. An AI can learn from millions of cars, and not miss the learning opportunity of fatal crashes. Also, people have really bad sensors for driving compared to what an AI can use. Maybe its not better than good drivers yet, but I'd prefer a shitty AI that we can iterate on to people who barley manage to pass a driving test on the third try driving in the dark while distracted, and we let people do that... Compared to a person, such an AI could be a lot better at refusing to drive in unsafe conditions (it won't give into rage or peer pressure and do something stupid). That might be annoying, but having a car that can pick you up by itself might counter that out.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47105695)

If you actually trust a computer more than your own judgement in an accident situation, I feel sorry for you.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (4, Insightful)

dave420 (699308) | about 4 months ago | (#47105735)

And if you think your judgement and perception is better than this computer system, you are full of hubris and a menace to other road users. It works both ways.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (0)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47105807)

And if you think your judgement and perception is better than this computer system, you are full of hubris and a menace to other road users. It works both ways.

Whatever. My driving skills (or lack thereof) are a known quantity to me. I have some grasp of what I can and cannot do in a vehicle.

I can't say the same for a driverless car.

I'm not sure why this is such a difficult argument for some people to comprehend.

I'm not saying I won't ever use an auto-driver system. Simply that I want the option to take control in an accident situation where the car may be malfunctioning. As opposed to letting it drive me off a cliff or into a lake or something...

Re: No steering wheel? No deal. (4, Interesting)

jxander (2605655) | about 4 months ago | (#47105791)

It's not about judgement. It's about abilities.

A self driving car can simultaneously look in every direction around the car and never have to blink. If an object is detected and the car needs to stop, it takes a person time to physically lift their foot from one pedal and press the other(s). Not much time, sure, but in a sudden stop scenario, every little bit helps.

Humans have much better non-linear thinking. We can navigate dirt roads, or unmapped territory. But for day to day commuting on established roads, automation is the way to go. Computers never get sleepy, they don't get distracted and they can be programmed to obey speed limits. Google's test vehicle is already well above the safety record of an average driver, with nearly half a million miles, safe and sound.

And that's just the prototype.

Re: No steering wheel? No deal. (2)

epyT-R (613989) | about 4 months ago | (#47105957)

computers are also:
1. hackable.. one bored 16yo with a laptop on an overpass + 20000 wirelessly networked cars on a highway = fun.. oh and state mandated kill switches are only there for the children, right?

2. careless about self preservation. A computer will happily cause an accident due to a programming bug or sensor fail. Was that a rock or a plastic bag? A human can tell, but your computer? doubtful. How about that truck carrying those huge metal pipes? Is that top pipe about to fall off the back and flatten your car? A human can tell, a computer? hell no. A kid decides to step into the road at the last moment, you saw him running down the driveway from behind a line of parked cars on the side of the road. Did the computer? of course not. Did it see that huge pot hole? nope.

3. Only as good as the programmer that programmed it. Yes, a half million carefully selected miles with a person who knows the details of the system being tested in the vehicle..oh and he has an override capability that the rest of us will lack. Speed is 'a' factor, but not always 'the' factor in accidents, although the cops love to say it is (to help justify keeping the limits lower so they can rake in more cash). If that aforementioned truck is about to jackknife, it might actually be more prudent to get out from around it which will probably mean violating the speed limit. It just depends on what your options are at that moment. It would also take a human to see the fact the truck is in trouble. All the computer can do is react by hitting the brakes after it detects the truck blocking the way... gl with that, even if it was following a 'safe' distance.

As chaotic and inconsistent as humans can be, I think we're better off fixing the newfound inattentiveness while driving than trying to shoehorn more complacency and dependence into his life. Owning your mobility is an important distinction between those who are free and those who only go where they are told...and you can't tell me that governments won't want backdoor access to this.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 4 months ago | (#47105949)

If you actually trust a computer more than your own judgement in an accident situation, I feel sorry for you.

I may not trust it more than my judgement but I trust it more than the other crazies on the road. Equally they trust it more than my ability but less the their own ability's. Logically the best option is for both sides to trust the computer. Now while I want a self driving car I want one with manual controls, not so I can take control mid critical moment but because I occasionally need/want to go off road or poorly maintained logging roads that I doubt the self driving car would handle well.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

aethelrick (926305) | about 4 months ago | (#47105973)

ah you must be a Windows user, this mistrust of computers is common with your kind :P

All jokes aside though, will it get my favorite parking spot at the shop? Or stop spontaneously in a lay-bye to admire a spectacular view on a high mountain road? I do trust computers to do a better job than the average human when it comes to driving, but I must admit, a manual control input would be nice for some things.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

vidnet (580068) | about 4 months ago | (#47105989)

What kind of judgement calls are more likely to be useful in an accident situation?

1. Solving hard ethical dilemmas, such as swirving to avoid a baby carriage at the cost of running over an elderly person.

2. Out-of-the-box ingenuity, such as ramping off of the guard rail and balancing on two wheels to avoid the accident.

3. Stomping on the brakes as early as possible.

Human judgement definitely excels at 1 and 2, but in all honesty, I think 3 is the most practical. It also happens to be the one a computer would be best at.

If you exchange the 1 second human reaction time for a 1ms computer reaction time, you will go about 18km/h (11mph) slower when you hit something, dramatically increasing your and their chances of survival.

Obviously I know that you personally would be able to deftly maneuver to avoid the accident and that you'd react way faster than 1 second because you're always alert and a better than average driver (and it's not illusory superiority, because you'd have to be an idiot to believe you're good when you're average).

However, you're just one incredibly good driver, while there are a hundred million average ones. Statistically, it makes way more sense to opt for the 11mph reduction in impact speed.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#47105565)

If Mercedes really has a self-driving car by 2017, then Google might as well give up. They're behind the curve.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about 4 months ago | (#47105751)

Mercedes-Benz is worth $23.5bn [forbes.com] . Google is worth $382.5bn [forbes.com] . I think Google's in with a fighting chance if they decide to take this seriously.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (3, Interesting)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about 4 months ago | (#47105627)

If you drive on the same streets that I do, you trust me with your safety. As my driving skills are below median, this should be a lot more worrying to you then the prospect of being in a computer-driven car. (Fortunately for you, surveys show that below-median drivers are rare.)

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

ButchDeLoria (2772751) | about 4 months ago | (#47105933)

(Fortunately for you, surveys show that below-median drivers are rare.)

Unless it's an underground tunnel.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105643)

Do you really trust the other people on the road? At least self-driving cars don't get drunk or distracted.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47105717)

Do you really trust the other people on the road? At least self-driving cars don't get drunk or distracted.

Do I trust other driver?

No. Which is why I'd rather apply my own Mk.1 Eyeball and pattern recognition software than that of a computer.

MAYBE if EVERY car on the road was turned into a self-driver, I'd have a little more trust. But, the reality is that self-driving cars are going to be sharing the roadways with human-driven cars for several generations AT LEAST. And I don't trust the self-driven cars to appropriately identify/deal with erratic/dangerous situations.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

Xenna (37238) | about 4 months ago | (#47105757)

Yeah, I agree. The mix of computers and humans is probably a recipe for disaster. I've seen many a software package attempt to figure out what I want or intend to do and they usually get it wrong. Now imagine a computer trying to predict the actions of a mix of human and computer vehicles...

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47105821)

Right. I'm not saying auto-driver systems are a Bad Thing.
Simply that I don't trust them ENOUGH to completely relinquish every last bit of driver control and become an idle passenger.
If the current designers of auto-driver systems thing their software and hardware are infallible, I think they're nowhere near ready for prime-time. They're still caught in "what a wonderful fantasy" stage.
The driver should always retain an option to override an obviously malfunctioning vehicle.
The inability to do so could get the rider killed.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

Xenna (37238) | about 4 months ago | (#47105853)

There are possibly some hybrid scenario's conceivable in which an auto-automobile (how about calling them a2mobiles?) could serve a very useful intermediary purpose.

Highway driving is much simpler and much more tiring than city driving, so that could be an easy win. Especially with dedicated lanes for a2mobiles, the programming thing could become almost as easy as programming an elevator.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (4, Insightful)

Ckwop (707653) | about 4 months ago | (#47105707)

Sorry. While I love technology, my not-so-humble opinion is that we're nowhere near the level of reliability needed for a car that's completely free of manual control.

The Google car has done something like 700,000 miles and crashed twice. Both times this occurred, it was under control of the human occupant.

I drive to work every morning and the number of times I see people not paying attention is extraordinary. Women doing their makeup, people texting, trying to argue with their children etc.

Honestly, in my view, removing the steering wheel is a safety feature.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105741)

...I don't trust the vast majority of human drivers. In fact, there is a whole industry out there offering insurance both for those who can't drive, and the victims of those who can't drive.

Once you take out the alcohol, testosterone, tiredness, distraction and incompetence, non-human drivers are a far better bet. ..and this has been borne out in several hundred thousand km of trials.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105759)

It's possible to travel by taxi (or bus or subway) more or less anonymously but to rent (or own) a car you have to provide full ID. I suspect that self-driving cars will be essentially the same deal: if you're fine with the manual override being limited to an emergency stop button then you can travel more or less anonymously but otherwise you're going to have to give up your anonymity and provide full ID.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

FunkSoulBrother (140893) | about 4 months ago | (#47105899)

I don't buy it, with driverless shuttles/cabs all over the place there would be tons of people fucking/doing drugs/pissing/vandalizing in these (expensive) things.

You'll damn well need a user account and probably have 24/7 cameras on you if these things ever get off the ground.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105839)

On the other hand, I don't trust my safety to your period.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

allcoolnameswheretak (1102727) | about 4 months ago | (#47105865)

I think I would feel much safer driving on the Autobahn at 150 km/h surrounded by self-driving cars that I am feeling right now when driving on the Autobahn.

Also, let your car drive you to and from parties! Wohoo! Party on!

I for one am looking forward to our self-driving overlords. Over 100 years on, the automobile becomes even truer to it's name.

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (1)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about 4 months ago | (#47105911)

Sorry. While I love humans, my not-so-humble opinion is that we're nowhere near the level of human reliability needed for a car that could be under manual control.

But seriously, if self-driving cars could be demonstrated to be safe, I'd prefer NOT to have humans behind the wheel, with their poor reaction times, willingness to get drunk, and tendency to play with their cellphones. Getting killed in a car accident is one of the leading causes of death (especially in certain age brackets). Everyone accepts this as 'normal', but why the fuck should we?

Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47106001)

Ever flown in a commercial jet? How much do you think the pilot actually does? He/she sits there as a backup to the automated systems. Hah! your safety...

I am ready! (1)

berchca (414155) | about 4 months ago | (#47105465)

Who else is ready for completely self-driving cars? Time for a Slashdot poll!

Re:I am ready! (1)

GryMor (88799) | about 4 months ago | (#47105503)

Can't happen soon enough. Also, I like the form factor.

Re:I am ready! (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#47105599)

Looks like you don't have to wait long. Tesla and Mercedes have committed to one by 2017. You'll be able to buy one soon.

Re:I am ready! (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about 4 months ago | (#47105673)

Me too - as soon as it is affordable, convenient and drives better than I do. They've got one out of three already.

Re:I am ready! (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 4 months ago | (#47105981)

We can't even keep our little text workstation software free of bugs.. You've got to be kidding me.

No thanks (2)

renzhi (2216300) | about 4 months ago | (#47105509)

No thanks, wouldn't want a car that I can't manually override when shit happens.

Re:No thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105553)

:/

Re:No thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105563)

Fuck that. I want something I can pass out drunk in the back of and wake up in my driveway in the morning, or if I'm able to stumble into my house when it arrives. No steering wheel and no pedals would a step up in safety when you're shit wasted. Steering wheel = traffic signs stuck in my grill and mailboxes on my roof.

Re:No thanks (1)

schreiend (1092383) | about 4 months ago | (#47105635)

You shouldn't want to override anything in this car. Its logic in undeniable.

Re:No thanks (4, Insightful)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 4 months ago | (#47105645)

No thanks. If I have the choice I don't want to share the road with cars who depend on the reaction speed of humans when shit happens. It has been proven over and over again that humans are not good in those situations.

Re:No thanks (2)

dave420 (699308) | about 4 months ago | (#47105747)

Human drivers are the "shit" that happens. Your argument is purely emotional and not based on rational appraisal of the risks and capabilities of human drivers and automated cars.

Re:No thanks (-1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47105833)

So you're prepared to swear that these auto-driver systems are 100% infallible with zero bugs.

Right?

That the engineers have covered for every possible extant failure state (and possibly even a few impossible ones just in case).

C'mon. Tell us that.

I need a good laugh.

Re:No thanks (5, Insightful)

Derekloffin (741455) | about 4 months ago | (#47105851)

While I sympathize with your position, you are setting an unrealistic bar to beat, which is common place problem in this comparison. Human beings are no where near 100% infallible (in fact, you likely F up every day your drive, you just get away with it because we have a lot of sloppy driving allowances). The purpose here is not to be 100% infallible, as nothing is 100% infallible. The purpose here is to beat human fallibility ratings.

Re:No thanks (1)

meerling (1487879) | about 4 months ago | (#47105845)

By the time you know that 'shit' is happening, you won't have time to do anything unless you are The Flash right out of the DC universe.

Re:No thanks (1)

YA_Python_dev (885173) | about 4 months ago | (#47105881)

No thanks, wouldn't want a car that I can't manually override when shit happens.

Dude, if you want to drive a car manually you are the shit that will happen to other people on the road.

Aren't you a bit late on that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105915)

Well, I suppose you COULD find a car this day and age with no computers in it, although having it fit environmental standards might be difficult..

Exciting (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105515)

I can see this as a huge step for free movement for people with disabilities.

Not the right way anyway (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | about 4 months ago | (#47105523)

Driver or automated, that's beside the point: personal automobiles are the wrong way to go. They take too much room and fuel to transport, usually, only one person at a time. That's a waste. What we need is more and better public transportation: buses, subways, trams, railroads...

Re:Not the right way anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105575)

I used to feel that way too. But the outlook for autocars is that practically nobody will buy their own (why bother when they can be efficiently routed around and save you a ton of money/headaches?). That means that over time they can become slower and hybridize with other transportation methods (e.g., you ride an autocar at 40kph/25mph for the first hop, then it auto-boards you into a high speed train for a 160kph/100mph or 320kph/200mph hop, and then you take another slow autocar to your final destination. All without moving out of your seat (or looking up from your browser).

Re:Not the right way anyway (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about 4 months ago | (#47105723)

How about a detachable luggage compartment (boot/trunk)? You don't own the car, but you have your own luggage compartment in which you keep your miscellaneous crud. Call a car, attach your compartment, drive to the mall, detach compartment, shop and fill compartment, call another car, go home, detach, unpack at your leisure while the car goes on its next mission.

Re:Not the right way anyway (1)

skovnymfe (1671822) | about 4 months ago | (#47105923)

If I could get my own private compartment where people don't go when they're sick and cough in my neck and use Apple earplugs, then sure.

Re:Not the right way anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105935)

I'm a fan of transit myself, but remember that the same technology could be applied to self-driving buses and trucks / delivery vehicles. A quick Google search tells me that bus drivers are a major or even majority cost for running a bus service, so a self-driving bus could make buses much cheaper, allowing there to be a lot more of them.

Also, for a large fraction of car trips in the US at least, transit simply will never be an option because some areas simply aren't dense enough. There's an awful lot of traveling by car going on in the world, it's not reasonable to expect any large fraction of it to go away. But we can make it a lot safer and not suck as much (for those of us who dislike driving, at least for a regular commute / errands).

Why specify a destination? (2)

aberglas (991072) | about 4 months ago | (#47105531)

Surely Google already knows where it is best for you to go. It knows everything else about you...

sometimes, yes, sometimes, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105543)

being able to leave the driving to the car while on a long freeway trip would be appreciated but there are times in the city when destinations and so directions can very quickly change. so, give me a big land yacht, comfort cruiser that can drive itself on the freeway but a regular car for around towm.

yes, i know this ios contrary bto the whole idea of the automated car cleaning up the state ofdriving in the city but, heck, my driver's abstract is basically a blank page with my name at the top so i doubt i'm part of the problem.

The joke on Reddit was good. (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 4 months ago | (#47105591)

supercouille
This is great news. But this looks too staged for my eyes. All you actually see is an electric car going in straight lines. Great step toward the real thing though! Congrats to google!

r7di43ee85

It doesn't have a steering wheel, what did you expect?

Municipalities are wetting their pants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105595)

There's no solution yet to make up for the 6 billion dollar a year industry that is issuing tickets to drivers and these cars are coming faster than they handle. We might actually seem them outlawed simply because the man can't make a buck off them.

Re:Municipalities are wetting their pants (1)

Paradise Pete (33184) | about 4 months ago | (#47105731)

We might actually seem them outlawed simply because the man can't make a buck off them.

Adoption will be slow enough that ticketing will probably increase at first, as human drivers race around the self-driving ones going "too slow."

Re:Municipalities are wetting their pants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105765)

We might actually see them outlawed simply because the man can't keep his socialist ponzi pension schemes on artificial life support without them.

FTFY.

Re:Municipalities are wetting their pants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105943)

We might actually see them outlawed simply because the man can't keep his socialist ponzi pension schemes on artificial life support without them.

FTFY.

No kidding! This just sold me on autonomous cars. Without the ability to stop an erratic driver from driving erratically, the scam to force one to buy an arrest just got busted. So what happens now as they struggle to maintain bloated overtime and political stuffing of increased staff? "Well, we should be able to stop suspicious looking -- you know just in case."

Re:Municipalities are wetting their pants (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 4 months ago | (#47105875)

Um, you seem to assume that most people speed because they made an input error when operating the vehicle(i.e. pressed the accelerator down further than desired). That probably does happen, but I would be shocked if it's more than 1% of cases. Most cases of speeding occur simply because people want to get their destination faster. Are auto-driving cars really going to stop people from leaving their house too late? If given the choice between getting somewhere on time with an automated car or taking over and speeding, what do you think people who were going to speed anyway are going to choose?

No Stereo!!! (4, Funny)

advocate_one (662832) | about 4 months ago | (#47105603)

what kind of hells is that???

Re:No Stereo!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105647)

"stereo" ... wtf kind of stone-age tech is that ? ... hang on, I'll have to take my earbuds out to hear your reply ...

Yes please. (4, Insightful)

Sasayaki (1096761) | about 4 months ago | (#47105691)

10/10, would buy.

Automated cars are already better than people. The trains in Canada have been automated for decades and they're fine. The Google fleet drove across the US several times, something most human drivers would probably screw up at some point.

The only thing I dislike is the fact that I love my car and I can't think of a way to convert it economically. Otherwise I would, without hesitation. Including removing the steering wheel and pedals.

I don't want to drive it. I want auto-driving cars and I want them now.

Re:Yes please. (3, Insightful)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 4 months ago | (#47105799)

The trains in Canada have been automated for decades and they're fine.

On tracks where they are the only ones with minutes between trains and controllers watching every move. This is completely different than vehicles on streets.

The Google fleet drove across the US several times,

Only on roads that have been high resolution scans within hours of the Google vehicle passing and with a driver taking over from time to time when the vehicle gets into trouble.

I don't want to drive it. I want auto-driving cars and I want them now.

Sorry but the technology isn't reliable enough yet.

Re:Yes please. (1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47105841)

Again, like planes, trains don't don't have to share a track with other trains. They're controlled from outside by various dispatch personnel and systems.

This is in no way comparable to an open road situation. The fact that you think it is shows that you haven't actually thought about the subject in any sort of depth whatsoever.

Great, That's all I need... (5, Funny)

fellip_nectar (777092) | about 4 months ago | (#47105697)

A car which automatically takes me places I don't want to go, based on my browsing history.

Re:Great, That's all I need... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105895)

Free taxis that go through every drive through on the way to your destination.

"...but is there really a market" (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 4 months ago | (#47105727)

Hell yes, consider equiping a Plug-In version of a Transit Connect Wagon with Solar Cells on the roof.

2 hour commute? Punch in the destination, go to the couch in back, and get some well erned sleep.

PRT can be useful (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 4 months ago | (#47105761)

Self driving cars have some applications [wikipedia.org] . A system that used existing roadways would be much cheaper to set up, so there's at least some market, and such a niche would be a good place to start.

is it failsafe? (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about 4 months ago | (#47105787)

What happens if the electronics are disrupted by hacking or EMP?

Re:is it failsafe? (1)

Beriaru (954082) | about 4 months ago | (#47105859)

Probably the same if the biologics are disrupted by alcohol or drugs.

Re:is it failsafe? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47105871)

Probably the same as happens to any modern car: it stops working properly. Many (most?) new cars are at least partially drive-by-wire and have cell modems for various uses. It is known that at least some models have poorly designed internal networks that allow a properly crafted phone call to that cell modem to take control of the car's brakes, for example. Source. [autosec.org]

Not that that's not an issue, just pointing out that those attacks are orthogonal to the self-driving capability of the car. If anything, I'd expect Google to be more competent at securing a device against hackers than the average car manufacturer.

Re:is it failsafe? (1)

Przemo-c (1010877) | about 4 months ago | (#47105891)

What happens if humans are disrupted by drugs or Neutron Bomb?

Yes...but a qualified yes (1)

Doghouse13 (2909489) | about 4 months ago | (#47105887)

Funnily enough, my need for controls in self-driving cars isn't the one you usually hear ("I need to be able to take control in an emergency") - as has already been amply researched, (1) the cars are likely to be much better at not getting into trouble in the first place than their cargo, and (2) suddenly handing over control to a human who's been dozing away watching the scenery, reading a book or whatever, simply is a really BAD idea - by the time they've worked out what's going on, it will be too late anyway, and anything they do is likely to make things radically worse, not better.

No, it's a far more pragmatic, human one: Not every car journey I make is a predictable trip from point A to point B, with no regard to what comes between. Sometimes I don't know what route I'll take, until I take it. Sometimes A and B are the same place. Sometimes I don't even know, when I set off, where B is. Sometimes my plans change in mid-journey, at very short notice. And sometimes, how ever good the traffic updates are, I'm likely to spot reasons why the car's preferred route isn't the one to take just then. So I need a reliable, simple interface that will give me enough control over my "autonomous" car to get it to take a particular route, pull over, slow down, speed up and whatever. Because, say, I want to pop into that little shop we just passed, that I've never seen before. Or I need a comfort break. Or the dog's been sick. Or I simply decide I want time to take in admire the stunning view on that windy little back road. What I don't want, and would think very carefully before buying, is a vehicle that takes away some of the freedoms that come with driving for myself.

I have little doubt that, if the time ever comes when these machines finally overcome the hurdles (not least, understandable human prejudices) and make it onto the market (and, frankly, I hope that's not so far away - it looks to this casual observer as though the technology is reaching a level of maturity wher ethe hurdles are legal rather than technical), such features will be there - because, frankly, they're obvious, and any offering that doesn't have them will lose out to the ones that do. But they're definitely needed. Google's prototype's lack of controls is a publicity grabber, pure and simple.

It's a ploy! (1)

Tristao (2562287) | about 4 months ago | (#47105903)

To make "regular" driverless cars more acceptable.
It will erode opinions like "I would never buy a driverless car" so that they become "I would never buy one of those driverless cars without a steering wheel".

It's a Small World After All... (1)

d'baba (1134261) | about 4 months ago | (#47105913)

I'll hold out for the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride interior.
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