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Driverless Buses Ruled Out For London, For Now

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the controlled-by-ai-is-the-next-step dept.

Transportation 84

An anonymous reader writes The office of the Mayor of London went into a bit of a panic this week after their own paper suggested that driverless buses could appear on the streets of the UK's capital at some point in the next four decades. The Mayor's office went so far as to suggest that they were really talking about driverless underground trains. Even more bizarre was the reaction of the city's taxi drivers' association — whose spokesperson claimed that the failure to deliver 'simple' software tasks such as speech recognition meant there was no chance of driverless buses appearing on London's streets.

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Republicans hate Obama! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47587927)

One of the lies that has been sold by the left and media (but I repeat myself) is that it would be impossible to deport a large number of illegals already here, and that nothing we do could persuade those here to self-deport. Nothing could be further from the truth. I will tell you how to do it and make it successful within about 5 years.

1. Follow through with the long promised border fence. Hire enough border and ICE personnel to manage it.

2. Create and enforce a strict visa management program that tracks entry and exits, and triggers follow up for those visa holders who fail to appear for the stated job or education opportunity. Require periodic reporting from the employers and colleges to verify continued presence of the visa holder.

3. Require the IRS to report all known false tax ID numbers to ICE. The IRS knows the exact disposition of at least 1/4 to 1/3 of illegals currently in the country.

4. Mandate E-Verify for ALL employers on ALL employees current and prospective. Funnel the results of positive hits to ICE for investigation and arrest as needed.

5. Enforce all laws that penalize employers for hiring illegals to the maximum penalty available.

6. Allow ICE to process and deport ALL illegals detained by local law enforcement during ordinary encounters. No more long delayed court dates, no bail, no bonds, no more "catch and Release". Hold them, bring them before the judge and unless there are REAL issues in the way, deport them.

7. Deportees will be expelled but will not be penalized when they apply for visas, UNLESS they have been through the process once before. For those who repeat, their files are marked for automatic rejection.

8. Prohibit the transfer of money by any means to a foreign country by any person lacking a legal citizenship or current work visa.

9. Terminate all cash or kind benefit programs being given to illegals. No welfare, no food stamps, no housing assistance, etc.

10. Repeal, modify or get a final ruling on the 14th Amendment eliminating the "anchor baby" problem. When passed and ratified, the Amendment was clearly intended ONLY for freed slaves and native Americans not already considered citizens. Only in the mind of a Progressive or Liberal can the intent be perverted into the current interpretation.

If these procedures and actions are implemented, I guarantee you that a majority of illegals in this nation will self deport. They will do so in droves. We KNOW they will simply from the observation of their actions during the initial run up of the Arizona efforts in this issue.

As the outflow begins to ease off, the ICE personnel can then be turned loose to root out the remaining violators. Make a general announcement that those who remain after a certain date will be barred from reentry when caught and deported. That will in turn trigger another spike in self-deportation.

The key and core issue that far too many of you have forgotten is that every one of these illegal aliens are criminals simply through the act of violating our immigration laws. They are not "undocumented". They are not "Immigrants". They are CRIMINALS under our law, and under the laws of EVERY NATION ON EARTH.

I'm officially old I guess (4, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 4 months ago | (#47587949)

When I was younger, I worked on speech recogntion problems - well, expert systems and neural networks in general. It was the toughest nut our team had ever been tasked to crack, and we didn't crack it.

When the man on the street perceives speech recognition to be simple - and coming from a taxi driver, that's more than a little ironic, considering they're essentially human Traveler Salesman Problem solvers - you know technology has overtaken you beyond hope.

Me, I can't stop being complete blown away by what can be achieved today. Driverless cars are almost a reality everybody can buy, yet I still vividly remember MIT experimental self-driving trucks trying to hold a straight line on a closed circuit at 1 mph!

Speech recognition (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about 4 months ago | (#47588015)

Perhaps the problem of speech recognition is that we try to teach computers our language. We could also make a spoken system where the language and pronounciation is drafted for the task.
The second unnecessary difficulty of speech recognition is to convert sounds (triphones) into letters.

Re: Speech recognition (1)

iamhassi (659463) | about 4 months ago | (#47588831)

Agreed, why would you need speech recognition on a bus? I can maybe understand on a taxi, but a bus just goes from one stop to another.

Anyone else notice it said next 4 decades? 40 years, yes everything will be driverless in 40 years. That's sort of obvious, we already have much of the driverless technology in many high end cars now, with them able to stay in a lane, adjust cruise control and even stop to avoid a collision.

Re:Speech recognition (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 4 months ago | (#47590391)

Perhaps the problem of speech recognition is that we try to teach computers our language.

AFAIK the problem of speech recognition is that a human can use the context to guesstimate what a garbled message might have meant, but a computer can't since it doesn't have a model about the subject. It would take a fully sapient computer to reach human-level speech recognition.

Re:Speech recognition (1)

lucien86 (917502) | about 4 months ago | (#47594147)

. . .

AFAIK the problem of speech recognition is that a human can use the context to guesstimate what a garbled message might have meant, but a computer can't since it doesn't have a model about the subject. It would take a fully sapient computer to reach human-level speech recognition.

Even then its one of the most difficult tasks. Fluid conversation-speech in particular requires a remarkable degree of co-ordination, and incredible processing power - requiring a system that can solve problems in incredibly tight real time windows. Effectively the brain can only do it by making a constant stream of predictions several seconds ahead. Speech is one of the areas where organic brains probably have to use quantum 'computing' to actually work.

ATO - GoA 4 (4, Informative)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about 4 months ago | (#47588021)

Unattended train operation is a reality -- see here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
I wasn't aware of that. See also here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

Re:ATO - GoA 4 (1)

blippo (158203) | about 4 months ago | (#47588701)

It's a trillion times easier than driving a car.

The existing train protection systems have a map of the track with speed limits, acceleration and braking gradients, and what not.
Moving the trains automatically is "solved" with a huge amount of engineering, but it's hardly AI. You still need a pair of eyes to monitor everything.

The "fuzzy" problems that probably need some kind of AI includes:
  - Detecting obstacles on the track ( not that important, nothing is supposed to be near the tracks anyway.)
- Operating the doors in a safe manner. (hard)
- Detecting derailment and other fault conditions. (hard) ... and probably a thousand other tasks that is done by a human. Reacting to fault conditions for instance (very hard)

Re:ATO - GoA 4 (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 4 months ago | (#47590421)

Operating the doors in a safe manner. (hard)

How so? You don't even need a computer. Just make it so the train doesn't move if the doors aren't closed, the doors move with little force, and if they fail to close they re-open and try again in 5 seconds.

... and probably a thousand other tasks that is done by a human. Reacting to fault conditions for instance (very hard)

If anything is outside its normal parameters, hit the brakes, cut the power, and send an alarm.

Human drivers can't really do much else, either.

Re:ATO - GoA 4 (1)

dkf (304284) | about 4 months ago | (#47592325)

Operating the doors in a safe manner. (hard)

How so? You don't even need a computer. Just make it so the train doesn't move if the doors aren't closed, the doors move with little force, and if they fail to close they re-open and try again in 5 seconds.

I've seen a few driverless trains around the world (e.g., in Paris, Copenhagen and at ORD in the US for transfer between terminals) and they usually operate with two sets of doors: one set on the train, and the other on the platform. This keeps people from accessing the track area except when the train is there to let them board. Combine this with obstruction detection when the doors are closing (without which millions of automatic doors wouldn't be safe) and I think we can say that this particular problem is solved.

Or was the GP foolishly assuming that they had to use the existing equipment? That no investment was possible?

Re:ATO - GoA 4 (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | about 4 months ago | (#47588861)

25 people have died on the Portland Max tracks (driver operated trains). 54 people have died on BC's Skytrain tracks (automatic trains).

Re:ATO - GoA 4 (2)

drosboro (1046516) | about 4 months ago | (#47589043)

You make it sound like the trains are crashing, killing people. Of the 54 Skytrain deaths, 44 are suicides, and the rest are people falling onto the tracks at the stations and being struck by trains. These are not deaths due to train collisions. There have been no Skytrain collisions since it opened in 1985. Perhaps you were thinking that a driver would have spotted the person on the track and stopped the train - but that’s pretty doubtful. Trains don’t stop on a dime. All in all, nearly 30 years of operation with zero train collisions is a pretty compelling argument FOR driverless trains, I’d say.

Re:ATO - GoA 4 (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | about 4 months ago | (#47589097)

Right - so how many of those suicides would have been prevented if a driver saw someone on the track and was able to stop the train successfully?

I've been on the Max where we stopped and I saw a whole set of clothes/shoes on the platform - there was a kid in his undies about a mile up the track that the driver saw, did a very hard stop quickly enough and was able to get help for this youth.

See what I'm saying? Train tracks are probably the most controlled environment for AI to exist, but if you can't handle this seemingly simple condition (obstruction on the track) how can you navigate a far more complicated roadway?

Re:ATO - GoA 4 (2)

drosboro (1046516) | about 4 months ago | (#47589159)

Probably not many. There's not many spots on the Skytrain track where you can see the track "about a mile up", especially coming into stations. The design of the track is recessed, which doesn't help either. Additionally, if I recall correctly most of the suicides have been of the "throw yourself in front of the train as it enters the station" variety. There are closed circuit cameras monitoring the stations (not to mention transit police some of the time), and they DO stop the trains if something goes amiss on the tracks. But if there's no time to stop, there's no time to stop.

Either way, MAX and Skytrain are two rather different systems - MAX is at-grade light rail, Skytrain is elevated / subway with an , etc. Pretty hard to draw safety conclusions based on one factor (driver vs. driverless) when there's so many other variables at play. Most of the "experts" that I've heard/read on the topic of Skytrain safety have been much more interested in changing station design to avoid accidental falls onto the tracks, and much less concerned about placing a driver on the trains.

Re:ATO - GoA 4 (1)

drosboro (1046516) | about 4 months ago | (#47589187)

And on further examination... Skytrain daily ridership is apparently about 3x greater than MAX ridership. Trains run 3-4 times more frequently (2-7 minutes vs 15 minutes). Per train or per rider, that would make Skytrain arguably safer than MAX.

Re:ATO - GoA 4 (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 4 months ago | (#47589433)

Right - so how many of those suicides would have been prevented if a driver saw someone on the track and was able to stop the train successfully?

Trains with drivers don't tend to stop before they run over people, especially suicides. They can't. There's a lot of kenetic energy, and very modest traction on metal wheels/rails. So probably zero or there about.

Re:ATO - GoA 4 (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | about 4 months ago | (#47590505)

You didn't even read my post - I was on a train where they did stop for someone that was on the tracks - it was a very bone jarring stop too - like so fast that if I wasn't holding on to something for dear life I would have broken my nose.

I'll give you they can't stop for everyone, but there would be conditions where they could and should.

Re:ATO - GoA 4 (1)

guruevi (827432) | about 4 months ago | (#47591243)

There is technology out there that could detect humans/animals even in the darkest portions (in tunnels etc) well in advance, outside human drivers' visual range. However whether or not that would make a difference is a big question, you can't stop a chunk of steel weighing in at 10T in a matter of seconds - well, you could (rocket boosters and whatnot) but then the meat bags inside the train would be omelets.

Re:ATO - GoA 4 (1)

James McGuigan (852772) | about 4 months ago | (#47592483)

The alternative hypothesis is that as someone who has chosen to commit suicide by train, would you prefer to watched in your final moments by a train driver, or would you prefer a little privacy

Re:ATO - GoA 4 (2)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 4 months ago | (#47589139)

Well first.. those two numbers are very similar.

Second- as he points out, a lot of them were suicides. Suicides also occurred on the Portland.

These are exceptions which will be figured out- and once they are there (and they will be) will never be "rookie" drivers or "sad drivers because they had a death in the family" or "old drivers" or "sleepy drivers" again.

And if you are suicidal enough to jump in front of a train (a grisly way to die), then you are probably going to find another way to suicide (like jumping off a building).

I don't think your argument is very powerful. You have a point. But we allow a lot more deaths to occur for other reasons which don't save as much money.

Re:ATO - GoA 4 (1)

Trogre (513942) | about 4 months ago | (#47591817)

I would just like to point out that the AI required to drive a train that effectively requires no steering nor split-second decisions is completely different to what would be required to acceptably drive a car.

Re:I'm officially old I guess (1)

cmdr_tofu (826352) | about 4 months ago | (#47588133)

Taxi drivers have a reputation (whether deserved or not I will not speculate) for having heavy accidents. However I don't see why speech recognition is necessary. A keyboard and screen, or a touch screen would be fine to say where you want to go.

Re:I'm officially old I guess (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | about 4 months ago | (#47588949)

Why is he wrong? I agree speech recognition is a complex problem, but today its only marginally better than when I was a child and I was born in 76. I love to play around with Google now and show it off to friends - but its not perfect - I'd say its about 60%-70% on simple stuff - Google now seems about as good as the IBM speech recognition system I got to play with in the 90's and that was pretty mind blowing.

I also used do document imaging at a university, and even the best OCR engines with the best images (often type written forms...) off the best scanners weren't 100% accurate and still had to be manually indexed by a human in the QA phase of the workflow. Driving AI on a live street in London to me sounds like 20 times as complicated a problem to solve than solving human speech patterns or recognizing type written text on paper. Not only would you have to understand moving a 20+ ton bus around in commuter traffic, but you'd also have to understand signals (hand signals, car signals, and traffic signals - imagine understanding a traffic signal where its been preempted by an emergency vehicle) and recognize speech patterns inside and outside the bus.

I've been to London and I think the bus situation there is a lot more complex than where I live now (Portland), but I've seen streets in Portland OR where a bus driver has to cross over the bike lane safely, unload/pickup people, and then cross back over the bike lane with 20+ bikes flowing through there - dozens of times in just a few miles. You could introduce bugs that could get people killed.

Re:I'm officially old I guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47591455)

Driving AI on a live street in London to me sounds like 20 times as complicated a problem to solve than solving human speech patterns or recognizing type written text on paper. Not only would you have to understand moving a 20+ ton bus around in commuter traffic, but you'd also have to understand signals (hand signals, car signals, and traffic signals - imagine understanding a traffic signal where its been preempted by an emergency vehicle) and recognize speech patterns inside and outside the bus.

And yet they don't have to override the AI when they ride around in the autonomous cars.

Recognizing typewritten text on paper isn't that difficult to do reasonably well. However, it's difficult to get perfect. The problem is that to do it correctly, you have to understand what the text says. It's not enough to just match words to a dictionary, you have to understand how they fit together. Speech recognition is even harder, as people change how they speak. Pattern recognition is really hard when faced with imperfect patterns.

In driving, they don't need to be perfect nor to recognize complicated patterns. It's not necessary to know where the potential obstacles are heading. It's not necessary to know what they are. It's enough to know if they can enter the area where the autonomous vehicle is. In your emergency vehicle example, it doesn't have to figure out anything -- the emergency vehicle can turn off all autonomous vehicles nearby. The autonomous vehicles don't need to figure out anything, including whether the emergency vehicle is going to cross their path. If the autonomous vehicle hits a confusing pattern, it can slow down or stop to allow the situation to resolve itself.

Other than questions (which the autonomous vehicle doesn't have to handle itself), what speech recognition needs to be done? Bus drivers do not listen to people outside the bus unless they are asking a question before getting on. Answering those questions is useful but not required. The bus will operate fine without it (and if you want to maintain that functionality, add a phone to the bus). The automatic bus would need an emergency button (or perhaps a lot of them). It may need a way for people to indicate that they want to get off (all transit buses that I've ridden have had cords for that).

Re:I'm officially old I guess (1)

guruevi (827432) | about 4 months ago | (#47591233)

Speech recognition has been in computers since OS/2 Warp and MacOS9. It's a 'solved' problem. However we speak much slower than we either think or type/move mouses so it's a bit of a solution looking for a problem (and with mobile there are some practical uses eg. driving a car but it's still weird to talk to a device in public as if it were your butler; heck it's weird to talk to a human butler). What isn't solved very well is understanding natural language and having a 'conversation' with a computer.

Trains sound like a good idea. (2, Interesting)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#47587959)

There have been a number of drivers' strikes that I'm sure make them unpopular. No doubt management would leap at the chance to be rid of them. The hard part will be keeping the union from finding out too soon and taking preemptive protest action against redundencies.

Re:Trains sound like a good idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47588003)

Trains would indeed be a good idea.
The train system could be run 100% without any drivers and perform considerably better.
Drivers are actually holding the system back.

Buses, taxis and such are considerably harder.
There is that communication gap that would need to be overcome.
So, in essence, you'd replace the drivers with outsourced virtual drivers... oh god the horror.
Either that or have a nice big touchscreen with coloured regions. (or direct touch for taxi)
Voice systems are still not all there yet. They are right in the middle of being awful and useful.

Re:Trains sound like a good idea. (-1)

NotInHere (3654617) | about 4 months ago | (#47588029)

The classical path of industrialisation for a country was to first move large amounts of simple material (steel, coal, you name it) around, which become less and less the more basic infrastructure is rolled out. Then the economy concentrates more and more on more sophisticated materials and technology. The amounts get smaller, and the recipients get more.

For highly developed countries, trains are no solution.

They fit very well for the time of industrialisation: no complicated machinery is needed for their setup, and they are ideal to move big amounts of material around, and between seldom changing parties.
However, trains are not ideal for the transportation of small amounts of stuff. They need train stations, and are large and have a strict schedule.

Perhaps trains can be utilized in some areas, but in most, cars are better for an industrialized society. The fuel problem will be solved as soon as we have unlimited energy from fusion.

Re:Trains sound like a good idea. (2)

Torp (199297) | about 4 months ago | (#47588039)

Let me guess, an american who has never seen public transport :)
Hint: the OP is talking about in-city transportation.

Re:Trains sound like a good idea. (1)

NotInHere (3654617) | about 4 months ago | (#47588073)

Wrong :): EU, and of coure I've seen public transport, but not used it on a daily basis except in my school time. You are true, my comment was on goods transport.

Re:Trains sound like a good idea. (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 4 months ago | (#47588975)

so European who has never seen Americas freight network US moves 10 times as much over rail as Europe does, over 25% of all freight is moved by rail in the US

Re:Trains sound like a good idea. (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 4 months ago | (#47589469)

Public transport is passenger transport.

America doesn't have much public transport because the car companies bought as much of it up as possible and scrapped it, and used every other lobbying power they had to ensure people had little alternative to private cars.

In Europe that was not possible as governments see it as one of their responsibilities to ensure adequate public transport is available.

Re:Trains sound like a good idea. (2)

dkf (304284) | about 4 months ago | (#47592335)

US moves 10 times as much over rail as Europe does, over 25% of all freight is moved by rail in the US

I suspect that this difference may be in large part due to the more widespread use of water-based transport in the EU; it's a lot more efficient than even rail (provided you've got a suitable river going in the right direction or are close to the sea, which describes more of the EU than the US).

Re: Trains sound like a good idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47588301)

America might not have it as good as some places, but we do have quite a bit of public transport. For some of the more iconic, New York has subways and San Francisco has the trolley cars. For the less iconic several cities like Dallas/FW have aboveground subway trains and most major cities have regular bus systems. Bicycle rental services are becoming more common, and has even reached my slow to adopt anything new hometown of San Antonio with B-Cycle stations. Despite or reputation there is quite a bit of public transport. Maybe we just need to use it more.

Re:Trains sound like a good idea. (1)

IrquiM (471313) | about 4 months ago | (#47597769)

Cars are never a good solution within city borders. The reason for this is that they're inefficient when it comes to square metres.

Re: Trains sound like a good idea. (2)

prefec2 (875483) | about 4 months ago | (#47588079)

There are already some driverless underground railways in operation. For example in Nuremburg and even in London. Buses would be possible when driverless cars are working. In most cases talking to the driver is limited to asking for a ticket by specifzing the destination. A ticket machine can provide the same service.

Re: Trains sound like a good idea. (1)

xaxa (988988) | about 4 months ago | (#47588489)

In London it's not necessary to talk to bus drivers. The fare is a flat rate (£1.45) regardless of distance and cash isn't accepted, only smartcard, credit card and some other prepayment method.

Re:Trains sound like a good idea. (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | about 4 months ago | (#47588439)

Actually, the technology is just about there for no-driver subway and commuter rail trains. Japan could probably start implementing this on their subway systems probably within a decade (they're already doing this on monorails and automated guideway transit systems).

Re: Trains sound like a good idea. (1)

xaxa (988988) | about 4 months ago | (#47588495)

I'm on a driverless train right now, the Docklands Light Railway on London. It's been running without a driver since 1987, the one accident was minor, and under manual override.

A Wikipedia list was posted above of similar systems.

Re:Trains sound like a good idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47600405)

a driver strike seems short sighted when they are going to completely replace you.

what are you going to do, quit? they will replace you with the machine then. Organized labor works when labor has a value. the world we are moving to is where many classes of labor is now worthless, or even less then worthless (designing a train with good forward visibility for the driver compromises structural integrity and aerodynamics).

Link fixed (1)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about 4 months ago | (#47587963)

Well done to timothy for replacing blog link with actual news article link in summary.

Re:Link fixed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47589013)

While I think it's great that he pulled the news article link into the summary, it's worth noting that the blog article would make a worthwhile comment on its own. The comparison between speech recognition and driving is spot on. Driving is incredibly simple compared to speech recognition. Even the traveling salesman problem is reasonably solvable in comparison.

See the blog article at http://cartesianproduct.wordpr... [wordpress.com]

I still think that the summary is missing some citations. It would be nice if someone could link the original paper as well.

How many drivers? (3, Interesting)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about 4 months ago | (#47587973)

Tried googling, couldn't find anything much other than job adverts.

How many professional drivers are there in the UK or US? Including bus, taxi, cab, private mini bus, postal, delivery and haulage? My guess would be 500,000 to a 1,000,000 in the UK alone.

That's a lot of jobs that could be lost to autonomous driving.

Re:How many drivers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47587989)

They're not jobs that could be lost to autonomous driving, they're jobs that WILL be lost to autonomous driving.

Re: How many drivers? (2)

iamhassi (659463) | about 4 months ago | (#47588863)

Will be as in inevitable or will be as in the jobs are in the future so they're not really "lost" since they don't exist yet? I'm guessing you mean both. Very few will be fired from driverless cars, I'm guessing most people will stop choosing a career as a bus driver. Besides 40 years is long enough that everyone who drives a bus now probably won't be in 40 years.
Taxi drivers could be replaced by smartphone apps, you'll tell your smartphone where you want to go and a taxi arrives to take you do the destination, no need to tell anyone in the taxi where you need to go so no problems with speech recognition or a language barrier

Re:How many drivers? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47587999)

Only because jobs are lost doesn't mean its bad. The problem arises when it gets to distribute the advantage gained from the cost cuts. Do you give it to the rich? Do you build a welfare state? Perhaps invest into better life quality? Luxurious government systems (like Democracy -- I think democracy *is* a luxury)? Less work hours? Instead of cutting 80% of the jobs, you could make 5 people work one day a week. The question "who pays that?" misses the point: progress pais that, we only need to determine how to distribute it.

You suggest we don't take progress. Progress has "cut jobs" since it has existed.

Re:How many drivers? (1)

sirlark (1676276) | about 4 months ago | (#47588059)

I agree that the distribution of the benefits of progress is a big problem, but consider also the distribution of losses. By its very nature, technological progress tends to cut low-skilled jobs, because those are the easiest to automate. In general, when progress happens it means we as a society have to become more educated just to get on the bottom of the employment ladder. If anything, the distribution of benefits should be generously apportioned towards creating and extending free education up to graduate level at least. When driver-less cars come into widespread usage, there will be some replacement of lost jobs with other ones: maintenance of driver-less cars, design and production of apps/entertainment systems for driver-less cars, etc. Those are all skilled labour positions. However, there's one thing that doesn't require any skill. Owning a car. And owning a driver-less car allows a single taxi operator to run multiple vehicles. Sure it requires a capital investment, but the point is, it doesn't remove the income stream entirely, in fact, it might even allow more income if handled correctly.

Re: How many drivers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47588257)

Indeed it is invested in better life quality. The humanity problem always was there few lives improved significantly and the rest had to fight for it including beheading of owners class or a threat thereof.

Re:How many drivers? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 4 months ago | (#47588849)

At least the UK has NHS.

Re:How many drivers? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 4 months ago | (#47588007)

From the numbers I was able to find, my city of 1 million people has close to 1500 bus drivers for local transit. Assuming .15% of the population in total, and the US with a population of 300 million, that's gives 450,000 local bus operators. It might be more or less if my city isn't average, or if you account for larger cities having subways, which require fewer drivers, but still I would say it's a decent estimate.

Re:How many drivers? (1)

Imrik (148191) | about 4 months ago | (#47588081)

You also need to account for the 20% of the population that live in rural areas that aren't usually serviced by busses.

Re:How many drivers? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47588017)

Oh god, it will be just as horrific and devastating as when so many veterinarians, stablehands, blacksmiths, buggy makers, and drivers lost their jobs after cars replaced horses!

Re:How many drivers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47594091)

Get a copy of the Movie "The Magnificent Ambersons" by Orson Wells Mercury Theater (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magnificent_Ambersons_(film)) It is the story of the impact of the automobile on American culture and wealth.

Re:How many drivers? (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 4 months ago | (#47588019)

That's a lot of jobs that could be lost to autonomous driving.

Seems to me a lot of jobs were lost when we gave up on horse-drawn carriages also.

So, should we be required to keep professional drivers employed in spite of the job being completely pointless in a few years to a decade?

False equivalence (3, Insightful)

aepervius (535155) | about 4 months ago | (#47588089)

The loss happened at the heigth of industrial revolution where there was a lot of other job openning, compeltely new job market for uneducated and untrained people.

Nowadays the job market for untrained and potentially uneducated job is *shrinking*. This is not the same as back when horse cariage were gone and automobile came in.

There is a high chance that untrained and uneducated job lost today, are definitively lost thru job market shrinkage. Think about that. Think about what that means for the economy as a whole when 100.000 jobs are lost. Nothing good for the economy or for the social stability.

Re:False equivalence (1)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about 4 months ago | (#47590177)

Back during the industrial revolution, 80 hour work weeks and child labor were the norm. All those children lost their jobs permanently, and adults had their hours cut in half. How horribly it would be if our hours were cut further and we were forced to enjoy ourselves!

Re:False equivalence (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 4 months ago | (#47591123)

It's spelled heighth; you know, like "length, width, heighth and weighth."

Re:How many drivers? (2)

bhalter80 (916317) | about 4 months ago | (#47588205)

It'll be a long slow death, commercial aviation has been in this position for decades and most commercial ops still require a crew of 2. There are a lot of factors that can go wrong, especially when co-mingling autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles. What you will see though is wage pressure and those jobs will pay less.

"So what?" (2)

Doghouse13 (2909489) | about 4 months ago | (#47588095)

Yes, and the buggy-whip makers won't be pleased, either.

That argument does not pass the "So what?" test, and never has. Technology advances, and society changes; it's why we're not still all running around dressed in skins, hunting down our food with rocks. When it does, some types of job inevitably become less-sought, or even redundant. If that job's what you do, or me, that's just tough; the world doesn't owe anyone a living. If your job goes away, you go look for another. Yes, there's a social argument for cushioning the transition, if things are moving so fast that lots of people are going to find themselves out of work in the same place at the same time - but that's rarely what actually happens.

Re:"So what?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47588469)

We're fast approaching the point where "cushioning the transition" could become "just hang out and do whatever you want and your basic needs will be covered" without much trouble. The only reason welfare states have trouble right now is because a) we're still a few years off from having machines take care of that much labor and b) too many sick greedy rich people who insist on having more money than their granchildren could ever spend in a lifetime.

Re:How many drivers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47588183)

Tried googling, couldn't find [...] How many professional drivers are there in the UK or US?

They want to save that question for people who are applying at Google.

Re:How many drivers? (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 4 months ago | (#47588203)

Well, from Norway the total figures for land transport of goods and people is 4,6% of the employment, though that may include related service like loading and unloading. However, there's also work in the primary industries (agriculture, forestry, mining) and many operating trucks and such in production industries that are also potential targets for automation. The biggest productivity boost is that people could use the time they spend driving for other things though. Limiting myself to personal cars (not taxis, buses, delivery vans, trucks etc.) the average driver's licence holder drives 18812 km/year. I'm not sure if there's some professional use of personal cars in there. But it's certainly hundreds of hours per year per year, just my short commute is 15 mins*2*200 days/year = 100 hours plus everything else in evenings, weekends, vacations and so on.

Re:How many drivers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47589077)

It's hard to get numbers for all commercial drivers, but for those with commercial licenses, it looks like there are a little under five million in the US: http://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/Intern... [dot.gov]

I would guess that there's probably a similar number of drivers without commercial licenses, as those are mostly needed for larger vehicles. That would give a total of ten million, about one in thirty.

It's also worth noting that there are a bit over thirty thousand fatalities per year in car crashes. Roughly a third (down from a half) of these are precipitated by drunk driving. Presumably those fatalities would disappear entirely if we eliminated manual driving. It's unclear how many of the remaining twenty thousand could be eliminated. Presumably some number of software errors would replace human error.

Future Shock (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 4 months ago | (#47588097)

Robotic automobiles are just one small example of what will happen quite rapidly now. Governments do not confront the problem and almost no group at all gives voice to the problem. We are going to eliminate almost 100% of human employment. And that is a good thing as long as our financial structure is built around the change. A few sociologists have made statements about how this rather drastic change will come upon us. Basic concepts that we are familiar with will vanish. Capitalism will be a quaint, old, failed idea. And all nations will shake under this transition. Yesterday we had concerns that American business and American labor might not be able to compete with the cheap, labor pool in China. All of a sudden that issue is self extinguishing. Instead of our factory competing with their factory now we have the question " can my robot work cheaper and better than your robot?".

Re: Future Shock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47589401)

You are mistaken in the belief govs do not do anything to combat the problem. They do although I would have hard time thinking that they do it voluntarily and consciously. We see that they for instance try real hard to have russkis rolling their tanks so that we would need more cunnon fodder and joystick killers.

Good Job London (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#47588211)

Kudo's for ruling out a service that doesn't exist yet. Thats getting ahead of the game. Think of all the things that one day might exist that we could go ahead and regulate right now! Here's one that should be banned:

touchscreen underwear.

Any other recommendations?

Re:Good Job London (1)

pslytely psycho (1699190) | about 4 months ago | (#47590891)

"touchscreen underwear"

(files patent)

Speech recognition is not really an issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47588271)

The London bus system is great. In my experience the busses are safely and courteously driven, frequent and on time. If I have one criticism it would be that it is often almost impossible to talk to the driver.

Unlike everywhere else I've been, the busses have this perspex shield completely isolating the driver, with just a few holes drilled in. Due to London's diversity a lot of drivers also have accents that may be difficult to understand in less than ideal conditions. This means that when its noisy (and London is a noisy place), you may be trying to communicate with someone who you may not understand very easily (and who may not understand you very easily) through a few tiny holes which the driver is a few feet from.

I was dragged off a London bus, interrogated for half an hour and fined (I appealed successfully). The reason this happened was that I tried to ask the driver if my card had been read successfully and he waved me on. Clearly I see now that he hadn't been able to hear a word I said over the noise, and hadn't bothered to actually try to speak because I wouldn't have heard him either.

Really not a lot would change if you couldn't talk to the driver at all. Its not like you can actually buy a ticket on the bus or anything.

Driverless trains (1)

rbrome (175029) | about 4 months ago | (#47588291)

...are already quite common. That's nothing new. Fully automated subway trains have been deployed all over the world. I recently rode one in Barcelona (the new L9/L10) and it was quite nice. That should be (relatively) uncontroversial. Busses navigate extremely complex environments. Subway trains navigate remarkably simple, controlled environments.

Re:Driverless trains (1)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | about 4 months ago | (#47588381)

We already have them in London on the Docklands Light Railway. Been running since 1987
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D... [wikipedia.org]

Even some deep level Tube lines were built to have driverless trains but the Unions won't let Tfl introduce them.

Re:Driverless trains (1)

Mirar (264502) | about 4 months ago | (#47592815)

I find this the most interesting comment in the thread so far. I was wondering, how are driverless buses within 4 _decades_ unlikely?

Of course they are unlikely, because the union will stop them.

Re:Driverless trains (1)

nogginthenog (582552) | about 4 months ago | (#47593115)

The Victoria line has driverless trains since the late 60's, but they still have a 'driver' to open and close the doors. Not sure why this can't be done by platform staff, probably a union thing.

Why do you need speech recognition? (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 4 months ago | (#47588397)

Why would you need speech recognition on a London bus? You never talk to the driver. You get on, touch your Oyster card to the reader, and get off when you get to your stop. That's it. It's a flat rate fare. You can't even use cash on them anymore - you have to use an Oyster card.

Living in the past! (3, Funny)

nightfire-unique (253895) | about 4 months ago | (#47588435)

Let's face it, driverless buses don't really exist. But so long as we don't regress back into the awful world of proprietary or non-standard extensions, why should buses need drivers outside of those shipped with the kernel?

Methinks the mayor of London has a soft spot for microchannel!

Re:Living in the past! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47588919)

More like living in sci-fi. I would like to see a demonstration of a driverless car handling non-optimal situations - traffic light outages (and the fights for right of ways), skids on ice, road construction lane changes. Driverless cars are the Mechanical Turk for the 21st century.

Re:Living in the past! (1)

Skinkie (815924) | about 4 months ago | (#47589281)

Driverless buses do exist in The Netherlands since 1999. The only known crash was when a human override the system. http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]

Nothing to see here, move along... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47588455)

Various non-technical people make predictions about the limitations of technology 40 years in the future. Politician makes guarantee of policies that will be followed long after he and most of the people that voted for him are retired or dead.


If only there were some map-like thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47588625)

that customers could interact with to chose their destination. It could plot the route and everything!

*sigh* There is no chance that Google or Apple would come out with such a complicated piece of software.

Buses are technically easier to automate, but (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 4 months ago | (#47589101)

Trains are actually the easiest vehicle to automate, because they run on fixed tracks. The automation system need only worry about merge points, plus what is ahead and what is behind the train. Buses are easier to automate than cars because they run on fixed routes at relatively slow speeds, but the liability exposure of a busload of people in an accident is much greater.

Re:Buses are technically easier to automate, but (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 4 months ago | (#47589513)

I imagine the elimination of blind spots is another thing that will be an even bigger advantage for busses than cars.

Public transport will be obsolete (1)

CoolCucumber (183650) | about 4 months ago | (#47590555)

Once driverless car technology has sufficiently matured, there will be no need for buses, underground trains, or any other current public transport system. City authorities should be planning for driverless cars (including driverless "taxis" for those who do not own a car) instead of continuing to think about and invest in soon-to-be-obsolete modes of transportation.

In addition to the regularly mentioned benefits of driverless cars, such as reduction in road deaths, and freeing commuters to use travel time more productively, another very important advantage is significantly improved efficiency. Eventually cars will communicate their destination to a central computer, which will coordinate the journey with all other cars. The route and speed will then be determined so that cars traveling in different direction will cross junctions at different times, avoiding the necessity of stop lights and thereby allowing cars to travel at almost constant speed to their destination. Not only is this more time efficient, but avoiding the regular large expenditure of energy on accelerating from a stop will also make cars more energy efficient. Furthermore, the reduction in the need for acceleration means that cars will not require such large engines, and the almost elimination of car crashes means that weight can be greatly reduced by stripping safety features and heavy metal bodies, further improving efficiency. Taking more direct routes to destinations, rather than the circuitous routes often required when using public transportation, also improves efficiency. I am surprised that environmental campaigners are not all urging the rapid implementation of this technology. More efficient road use will also mean that existing road infrastructure can be used more efficiently, which may reduce the need for road expansion projects. City authorities should therefore not only avoid throwing more money into public transport methods whose days are numbered, but they should also be reconsidering road expansion investments. The money should instead be directed to driverless car research, and planning for this coming revolution.

Re:Public transport will be obsolete (1)

dkf (304284) | about 4 months ago | (#47592361)

Once driverless car technology has sufficiently matured, there will be no need for buses, underground trains, or any other current public transport system.

Are you sure about that? You seem to be assuming that everyone will be travelling from and to different places and that there will be no concentrations of people attending the same location at the same time. It's been my experience that people don't work like that. I also suspect that the price that these vehicles would charge would make them rather less economic than you think. Unless there's evidence that what you propose would be cheaper than public transport currently is, or that there will be no common locations and times for people to go somewhere, there will be an incentive to have public transport of some form.

Couldn't be worse. (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 4 months ago | (#47590899)

I've seen bus drivers take a corner without considering the other lane, and wipe out a driver and passenger in a truck, waiting in the turn lane. I've seen a bus driver carelessly activate the bus-stairs-convert-to-wheel-chair-lift before it was safe, completely knocking over an elderly wheel-chair bound person onto the concrete, head first . . . and then just sit there, not doing anything, requiring myself and another passenger to jump off and assist the person.

I don't see how automation can do much worse.

Re:Couldn't be worse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47591627)

Then you would make a lousy engineer. The way these things can be screwed up is incalculable.

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