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Automobiles Evolve to Live Up to Their Name 297

Posted by michael
from the introducing-the-homer dept.
MauriceV sent in a story about the trend toward the completely self-driving car.
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Automobiles Evolve to Live Up to Their Name

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  • by Oncogene (708031) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:44PM (#8758280) Homepage
    Here's a non-account link to the article. Robo-Cars Make Cruise Control So Last Century [nytimes.com]
    • Holy self-driving car Batman! Someone has stolen your idea!
    • I don't get it. Seriously, what's wrong with registering? I don't expect the NYT to come to my house and mug me or anything, and the amount of spam e-mail/phone calls I get is enough not to warrant keeping a potential threat from NYT out. It's convenient to be able to use a real link instead of a partner one.

      Hm...what if Slashdot arranges to be an NYT partner?
      • Nothing is wrong with registering, but I know that I don't do it because I don't want it to become commonplace. What if every news site on the internet started requiring free registration to view their content? What if other sites started requring registration. What if I had to register at yahoo just to check ticket times or at weather.com just to check if it was going to rain tonight? If the NYT got really positive feedback about its registration system, then other sites might follow suit.

        No Karma bo
    • by BasharTeg (71923) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @11:45PM (#8759790) Homepage
      When did Slashdot degrade to one-liners? I expect some kind of summary so I can post my uninformed opinion without actually reading the article!!!
  • NYT (Score:4, Funny)

    by MC68040 (462186) <henric@digi[ ]-bless.com ['tal' in gap]> on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:44PM (#8758286) Homepage
    Someone forgot to put up the "warning: NYT (free reg. req. bla bla bla)" thingy. Now I wasted 4 secs on a registration dialog hehehe =).
  • by erick99 (743982) * <homerun@gmail.com> on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:46PM (#8758299)
    I like the idea of a car that can intervene to prevent an accident. The lane changing technology mentioned in the article sounds great. I wonder, though, if you are already doing an emergency maneuver that makes it look like you are unsafely changing lanes, would the car put you back into the lane? Possibly in harms way? Perhaps there is a way to override some of these systems. In terms of fully automatic driving, the world is such a complex place and a lot of decisions seem like they would exceed what software can (at leastly currently) provide. However, in terms of safety, I can see where this technology can save lives.

    Happy Trails!

    Erick

    • For the more complex systems (pretty much everything besides ABS) there are usually buttons or switches to turn them off. For example, in most Toyota vans, there is an automatic traction control system that will slow the wheels down if they slide from the driver pressing the gas too much. This is great for people who just don't want the car to slide when they hit the gas too much, but it really gives a feeling of being disconnected from the car. It can be turned off, but it's on by default every time the ca
      • by thedillybar (677116) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @07:05PM (#8758687)
        Also, the anti-slide feature puts a lot of stress on the transmission, and decreases its life.

        Where did you read that? Most traction control systems either
        1) Adjust the throttle position so the wheels don't spin more than 5mph (i.e. if the gas is on the floor and the drive wheels are on ice, they only spin slowly).
        or 2) They brake individual wheels to gain traction. This isn't stressing the transmission any more than normal driving. The differential is simply distributing more torque to the other wheel. And there's no way to do this without traction control or a limited-slip/locking differential. So it's not always a bad thing.

        • differential locks can put more stress on a rear due to the fact that no two wheels are going to turn at the same exact speed (more tread on one wheel, turning, etc) braking an individual tire puts less stress on the rear, but more on the brakes and robs some power. but i'd agree that they are helpful. nothing worse than a wheel slipping and no way to get the others to turn. but that doesn't mean that they don't stress certain parts
          • This is why decent traction control includes the use of limited slip differentials. In basically every case where the ABS system is worth leaving in the car the vehicle has a limited slip diff. Traction control systems usually limit throttle for brief periods, as well. VW and Subaru both had AWD ABS vehicles with front and rear LSD and they are some of the best-handling cars around.
        • Toyota's method, at least on the Sienna, is to repeatedly quickly engage and disengage the clutch. So while the engine runs at higher RPMs, the clutch slips like crazy. This heats up the transmission and causes more wear and tear than normal. It's good for normal drivers who don't know how to drive in icy weather, but it really messes up anyone who is used to snow driving.
    • by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Saturday April 03, 2004 @06:36PM (#8758551) Journal
      If it detects your age and automatically turns off the blinker if you're older than say 65, it's ok with me.
    • I've heard of a technology where you can actually hook up a large series of passanger areas that are driven by a single engine along a singular pathway known as rails. Changing lanes is impossible, but it's not nessicary because of the scalability of the technology. You can add or remove passanger areas, or add and remove engines to create a mass transportation system over these rail roads. Conjection is far less of an issue because the volume per person needed on a rail road is far less then that of a t
    • Some of the earlier airbus aircraft had technology which detected if the pilot was doing something erratic and corrected for it.

      They had this affinity for throwing themselves in to the ground, through a process of taking control untill the computer thought it was ok, then handing off to the pilot, who'd be trying to correct himself, then the computer'd take control again, and so on untill plane + passengers = crater.
    • if you are already doing an emergency maneuver that makes it look like you are unsafely changing lanes, would the car put you back into the lane?

      When I drove one of these prototypes, it would fight you at first, but ultimately relent and let you overpower the automation. Most of the prototypes I've seen have easy to use kill switches to shut the computer off, but I can't imagine the lawyers letting such a feature hit the market.
  • Uh oh! (Score:5, Funny)

    by BenSpinSpace (683543) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:46PM (#8758300)
    I can just see it now. People will start hacking into cars' computer systems... you'll start seeing random crashes, or cars doing 360s constantly. Or driving off cliffs. Not to mention that the market for off-road vehicles will either boom or bust if self-driving cars become a standard.

    Though I imagine that most of America will hate the cars anyway. How will people possibly deal with their road rage?! (And don't tell me that people won't have road rage if cars are self-driving. Don't you ever get the urge to just ram old ladies off the road just because?)
    • Re:Uh oh! (Score:4, Funny)

      by Alphanos (596595) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:52PM (#8758340)
      Don't you ever get the urge to just ram old ladies off the road just because?

      No. However, this makes available several common jokes:):

      -In Soviet Russia, old ladies ram you off the road!

      -I am an old lady, you insensitive clod!

      etc.

    • How will people possibly deal with their road rage?! (And don't tell me that people won't have road rage if cars are self-driving.

      Yeah.. whenever they automate or standardize something, they always go overboard with the safety. People wouldn't get road rage if the speed limits were higher. But the self driving car will always go the limit, navigate off-ramps at 25 kph, always leave the recommended 2 second gap from the car in front, never run a yellow light, brake for pedestrians half a block in advance,
      • Re:Uh oh! (Score:5, Funny)

        by cybermace5 (446439) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Saturday April 03, 2004 @06:16PM (#8758471) Homepage Journal
        Ok, so YOU'RE the one who blows by at 85 on the highway, takes off-ramps on two wheels, tailgates me, nearly takes off my front end running a stale yellow-then-red light, and nearly runs me over when I'm walking?
      • Re:Uh oh! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by YrWrstNtmr (564987)
        I'll have road rage in 5 minutes.

        Since the car would be driving instead of you, tough titty. Sit inside your cage and yell and stamp your feet all you want.
      • People wouldn't get road rage if the speed limits were higher.

        Um... road rage is usually caused by the behavior of other drivers, i.e. getting cut off dangerously, etc. How does the speed limit have anything to do with that?

        About the only way that I can see the speed limit affecting road rage is when someone gets in the number 1 lane and feels they have the right and responsibility to drive exactly the speed limit. But usually traffic is free-flow, and you can get around them, and the moment passes.
  • by ttldkns (737309) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:46PM (#8758302) Homepage
    So now kids will effectively drive themselves to school?! There are lost of uses for this but the emergency reaction times will never be as good as a human.

    the technology needs to be made fool proof before it can be set loose on the roads.
    • by damiam (409504)
      Machines have far better reaction times than any human. This technology has a lot of downsides, but that's not one of them.
      • by CosmeticLobotamy (155360) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:56PM (#8758370)
        Human reaction time can be negative. A computer probably won't be making any decisions regarding the guy who's swerving in and out of lanes six cars up who might run someone off the road until the guy one car up has already started braking like crazy. Probably.
        • by awtbfb (586638) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @08:52PM (#8759185)
          Human reaction time can be negative. A computer probably won't be..

          Actually, the next generation of adaptive cruise control (or intelligent cruise control, depending on the marketer) is cooperative cruise control. In this mode, cars communicate in real time within their local area on traffic conditions, braking rates, speed, etc and adjust cruise control accordingly.

          This has other benefits beyond emergency situations in that this sort of tech will suck up shockwaves in traffic, thus improving dense driving for everyone. There was a simulation paper on this a few years back that showed you didn't even need a majority of the cars to have this for these results.
    • by Timesprout (579035) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:52PM (#8758344)
      There are lost of uses for this but the emergency reaction times will never be as good as a human

      Superman is that you? Loads of machines adjust faster then me about every computer known to man can react faster than I can. As for the technology needing to be foolproof before it can be set loose on the road what about all the accidents and deaths caused by 'foolproof' drivers not paying sufficient attention or doing dumb things like speeding and insane overtaking manouvers.
      • As for the technology needing to be foolproof before it can be set loose on the road what about all the accidents and deaths caused by 'foolproof' drivers not paying sufficient attention or doing dumb things like speeding and insane overtaking manouvers.

        I do agree with your sentiments, and I find it outrageous we entrust the equivalent of 1 stick of dynamite to some of the most inferior humans to walk the earth since the first cro-magnons walked the earth, I think the idea is a person can be imprisoned,
        • by Ironica (124657) <[pixel] [at] [boondock.org]> on Saturday April 03, 2004 @09:06PM (#8759243) Journal
          I think the idea is a person can be imprisoned, executed, whatever... whereas a computer is not motivated by punishment.

          That's a point, but... a computer is not "motivated" by *anything*. This is the part I never get about people who freak out at the idea of speed cameras: you'd rather have a human being come up behind you, run your plate, and then based on the type of car you're driving, what you look like, and whether anything interesting comes up there, decide whether or not to give you a speeding ticket... than making sure that *everyone* who is speeding gets one? (Which, by the way, is the fastest way to ensure we get good speeding laws...)

          Same goes here. A computer is not motivated to tailgate the blue-hair in front of it because she's going "too slow." A computer is not motivated to cut the asshole in the Lexus off. A computer is not going to get in an accident because it was distraught over breaking up with its girlfriend.

          But you have a point. We like revenge in our society. When someone hurts you, you want them to *pay*. If a computer hurts you, there's no way to make it pay... it doesn't care if you turn it into scrap.
    • by RobinH (124750) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @06:30PM (#8758529) Homepage
      There are lost of uses for this but the emergency reaction times will never be as good as a human.

      Hmmm, I'll tell you what... do you have a car with cruise control? Next time you're on the highway, set it, and watch how closely it's sticking to the set speed, even when you go around bends in the road, up and down hills, etc. Now try staying that close to one speed without the cruise control...

      The cruise control operates by measuring the actual speed, comparing it to the desired speed, and controlling the throttle. It can react to small changes in speed MUCH faster than you can.

      If you gave it some kind of sensor to anticipate slope changes before they happen (laser range finders perhaps?), then it would be almost perfect.
      • I think his statement implies under unexpected circumstances may arise.

        What happens to cruise control when you start hydroplaning?
      • I'll tell you what... do you have a car with cruise control? Next time you're on the highway, set it, and watch how closely it's sticking to the set speed, even when you go around bends in the road, up and down hills, etc.

        Umm... the cruise control on my 2002 Honda Accord is pretty lame, actually. It generally sticks within +/- 3 MPH, but I can do much better if I am controlling it myself.

        The part that sucks is that sometimes the cruise control decides to gun the engine when going up a hill. It's unaccep

    • Fast forward many years. Imagine your typical highway. All of the cars are equipped with their own senses, but also wireless networking. Road signs could have wireless adapters as well that would broadcast their prescence. Let's say a pedestrian dashes out in front of the car. The cameras catch it and hit the brakes. At the same time, that is transmitted to the other cars so we don't have a pileup
    • the technology needs to be made fool proof before it can be set loose on the roads.

      In this age of class action lawsuits, I don't think car manufacturers are stupid enough to let a less than foolproof system on the roads.

  • Control (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KingRob (698441)
    It's going to take a lot to convince people that driving by wire safe, let alone drive by computer!
    Sure, aeroplanes have been doing it for years - changing public opinion is going to be difficult.

    Besides, most men prefer the control they have while driving
    • Airplanes have had autopilot for years in open airspace, but there aren't that many planes out there (none in the commercial world that I know of) that can land/take off, or taxi, under computer control. It's easier to have the computer doing things when you have hundreds of miles to play with, and a good radar/navigation system. It's quite another thing to have the computer dealing with a lot of traffic - some of it computer controlled, and some of it not.

      One good application for computer control would
      • the FAA would have a fit if you let planes land themselves, even though when you're using all the radar equipment modern planes come with in IFR conditions, then you're essentially landing by computer anyways, the only difference being that instead of a computer keeping the needles where they need to be, the pilot does it
    • Sure, aeroplanes have been doing it for years - changing public opinion is going to be difficult.

      With [airdisaster.com] good [airdisaster.com] reason [airdisaster.com]
  • ?

    I have nothing more to add

  • by iansmith (444117) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:48PM (#8758321) Homepage
    I would love to have all cars computer controlled and eliminate human drivers completely. People drive dangerous, slow down traffic by being greedy with constant lane changes, don't understand simple driving rules, waste time and energy, falls asleep, get drunk, eat and talk on teh cellphone, continue driving when they are tool old and uncoordinated, start driving too young when they are inexperienced and reckless...

    Of course we are so far away from totally computer driven vehicles that I doubt I'll see it in my lifetime. But I can dream.

    I like to drive.. I love long cross country trips.. but would give it up if I never had to deal with city traffic or risk my life because somone else (or myself) is being stupid.
    • by goon america (536413) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @07:57PM (#8758910) Homepage Journal
      If cars drove themelves than maybe people would see them less as a source for feelings of power, then maybe we would see people starting to drive sensible cars for their uses rather than the modern behemoth and the corresponding social costs of oil dependance.

      .... naw, just wishful thinking.

    • I love to drive, admittedly aggressively most times, but if I could get my car to drive itself on the freeway to the level where I could read a book or watch a movie (provided I got enough airflow to avoid carsickness) I would do so. But, we're never(*) going to have autonomous cars which can drive themselves around town, where most accidents occur.

      (* As in, by the time we have the technology, I fully expect us to be using some form of travel much more convenient and/or entertaining than automobiles.)

  • I don't care who is driving, I just want the other 500 million cars on the road to NOT try to drive home when I have to.
  • hahahaha (Score:5, Funny)

    by TedCheshireAcad (311748) <ted.fc@rit@edu> on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:49PM (#8758328) Homepage
    IN SOVIET RUSSIA...

    no...nevermind. too easy.
  • by Mal-2 (675116) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:52PM (#8758343) Homepage Journal
    Are you still considered to be in the care and control of the vehicle, or are you demoted to just another passenger? Will the worst consequence of driving drunk be to end up in the wrong place?

    Mind you, that would be bad enough -- to punch in the wrong coordinates, and wake up in the truly seedy part of town to find dwarves stealing your wheels -- but it's certainly an order of magnitude less severe than killing someone unlucky enough to be sharing the road with you.

    Mal-2
  • by DarkHelmet (120004) * <.mark. .at. .seventhcycle.net.> on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:52PM (#8758348) Homepage
    What the hell is this?

    This is supposed to be slashdot! There's supposed to be some sort of description of the project on the front page.

    More importantly, there's supposed to be some sort of biased opinion along with the story. Stuff like:

    DarkHelmet writes That asshole Darl McBride is saying that linux is a bastardization of unix. You can see what he's saying here [insert link]. When will he stop? Is he hellbent on taking over the world? I think so. You should too"...

    Come on! Us slashdotters want to be TOLD what to think, not make opinions for ourselves... Bastard...

    </sarcasm>

    • Geez. The one time that Michael doesn't feel compelled to offer some smart-ass commentary in the article and you're complaining. Please, don't ruin this great moment for the rest of us! :-)
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:56PM (#8758365) Homepage
    Automatic driving is still sensor-limited. The current generation of millimeter radars can see other cars, but not smaller obstacles like children. No way can they see a pothole. Vision systems are good enough for road following, but reliable obstacle avoidance still seems out of reach.

    We [overbot.com], of course, are working on fully automatic driving. We have both a visual road-follower and a millimeter radar. That's not enough.

    Even line-scanner laser rangefinders are too limited. We need a true 3D device. Such things have been built, but the market is so tiny (and they're so big and clunky) that they're all one-offs. It's clear that the problem can be fixed, but the market isn't there yet to do it.

    • reliable obstacle avoidance still seems out of reach

      And not just obstacle avoidance, but sometimes choosing which obstacle to avoid.

      Can we make the computer smart enough to avoid the child, even though it will hit something else, like the skateboard or dog he is chasing?

      If the computer mandates a minimum 1 meter bubble with other cars, do we allow it to violate that in order to avoid the kid and dog?

      It's clear that the problem can be fixed, but the market isn't there yet to do it.

      I'm not so sure
      • Rather than limited access freeways, we'd be much better off installing standardized lockdown lugs on vehicles and attaching them to train cars, and loading and unloading them using automated garage technology.
  • by russx2 (572301)
    Regarding the positive aspects of safety though... a lot of accidents that the average "careful drivers" are involved in are due to other people. Unless every single vehicle on the road is auto-controlled, you're most likely not much safer in a driver-less vehicle than one you control yourself.
    • Yeah, robot cars would work best only being robotic in HOV-like offshoot lanes, and returning to manual control once they leave the autopilot lane. Control transfers would best be done on an offramp where the car can stop...
    • You're obviously not thinking like a *AA. Just pass a law that makes it illegal for a human to drive a car. Problem solved.
  • by Mnemia (218659) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:57PM (#8758373)
    Somehow I think fully autonomous cars won't happen very soon unless we upgrade the road system to provide navigation support for these cars. I don't see cars being able to find their way from one place to another given the myriad of road configurations out there unless there are actual beacons and stuff embedded into the road to help them find their way. It wouldn't too hard (ok, it would be, but not impossible) to write software that could pilot a car down an interstate highway with no human intervention. But I somehow think city driving might be a lot bigger challenge, considering that even human drivers usually have to stay very alert in these situations.
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @05:57PM (#8758376)
    I suspect that many will not like self-driving cars because they will not drive agressively enough. For example, many dislike the automatic speed-matching systems that maintain a "safe" distance to the next car because they leave too much distance to the next car. Tailgaters honk at the automated cars because they wont close the gap and the others cut into the large gap created by these systems. What the system (and safety experts and the car maker's insurance companies) consider "safe" is too tame for most drivers.

    While many drivers are comfortable in taking risks, the corporate creators of these systems will be risk averse. That excessive risk averseness will hinder public acceptance.
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @06:03PM (#8758412)
    This would be really convenient. A bonus would be if they still worked after being lit on fire!

    In a perfect world they could park themselves underground in an automatic parking garage. [slashdot.org] Although this would require a hole in the ground large enough to fit a Humvee into, which might not be possible with today's technology. Maybe we can set one up once we have a working space elevator.
  • lawyers (Score:5, Funny)

    by moviepig.com (745183) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @06:05PM (#8758421) Homepage
    From the article - Like, what will lawyers do if self-driving cars get in accidents?

    Your car will eventually become an internet device (like everything else). Then, ad-push technology will sense your next collision, and with lightning speed emblazon the logo of Dewey, Cheatham & Howe across the airbag rushing toward your face.

    • Re:lawyers (Score:2, Funny)

      by PollGuy (707987)
      I had a slightly different reaction to that same line (Like, what will lawyers do if self-driving cars get in accidents?)

      It was: oh, I wouldn't worry about the laywers, I'm sure they'd find some way to litigate over it.

  • I do enjoy being in control of my vehicle, but I would just as much appreciate the safety of computer control.

    It would be cool if I could control the speed and steering but the computer would not allow me to drive off the road... so I could still have a blast highballing through the hills of ohio on a sunday afternoon, but also be auto-driven back from the bars on friday (or thursday.. or wednesday... or...... tuesday....) night.
  • Still waiting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PingXao (153057) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @06:08PM (#8758433)
    This has been a vision for at least 40 years. They had "prototypes" or "models" or what-have-you -- mock-ups, yeah, that's the ticket -- at the NY World's Fair in 1964. IMO there's another 40 years to wait for this. Artificial intelligence has advanced in fits and starts over the decades, but has a long way to go. Safety concerns are real and no insurance company is going to write policies unless and until thay are at least as safe as what's on the roads today. Infrastructure is another hurdle. In the U.S. there's a huge highway spending bill -- $250 Billion U.S. over 5 years -- pending that represents a hige investment in getting current roads up to snuff. How much would it cost to equip the highways for self-driving cars? A trillion $ U.S.? And that's not going to happen until there's a standard to follow. Even adter the technology has been perfected it will take another decade for pilot programs of competing standards to decide a "winner".

    To get really tin-foil-hattish about it, I imagine once self-driving automobile technology is perfected it will be really, really safe. Really safe. To the point where there will be so few accidents that it will result in insurance companies having to lower premiums drastically. To the point where they won't be able to rake in the dough like they do now on auto insurance. My hat is telling me these companies will work behind the scenes to prevent this technology from maturing any time "soon". Once it gets to the point of being usable and practical they will attempt to buy legistlation that outlaws it. In the U.S. anyway. Like I said, I don't expect any of this for another 40 years or so, and by then the techniques of hyper-lobbying (read: legal bribery) will have advanced to the point where today's legislation purchasers (MS, Adobe, RIAA, MPAA, etc.) will look like pikers by comparison.

    What pisses me off (sometimes) is all this stuff we were promised as kids. Well, where is it? I don't see any of it.
    • How much would it cost to equip the highways for self-driving cars?

      What the article in question discusses is that the highways won't *need* to be equipped. Cars can be auto-guided by GPS, radar, and cameras.

      Me, I'm not so sure about that... it seems like you'd have to have a hyper-accurate map, and heck, ours are often off by several feet currently. But it's an interesting idea, especially if the GPS component was more of a back-up and not really essential to the system.

      But the cost of implanting magn
  • by wornst (317182) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @06:10PM (#8758440)
    Obligatory Joke: "That means microprocessors can take control of the most basic driving functions, like steering and braking. "I detect with my "seat scale" that you are overweight and are steering the car to a McDonalds drive-thru. This I cannot allow. Think of your heart."
  • Closing the sunroof? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SmackCrackandPot (641205) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @06:13PM (#8758456)
    The article mentions:

    Mercedes S-Class sedans will even start shutting the sunroof and lifting reclined seats if a collision is deemed likely.

    Isn't closing the sun-roof a dangerous think to do. If the impact jams the passenger and driver doors, then the sunroof might be the only way of escape.
    • I'd rather be stuck in my car (Let's think of the situations that could possibly jam windows, doors, etc and still leave the passengers in condition enough to get out consciously) than having my face dragged along the pavement because my car flipped over while my sunroof was open.
  • non reg link (Score:3, Informative)

    by 2MuchC0ffeeMan (201987) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @06:22PM (#8758496) Homepage
    brought to you by google
    linky linky [nytimes.com]
  • What else? (Score:5, Funny)

    by cubicledrone (681598) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @06:42PM (#8758571)
    Does it have "Asshole mode" so that if the car is actually a Dodge Ram Truck, it will tailgate your ass with aircraft-landing-light-intensity headlights for several dozen freeway exits?

    Does it have "soccer mom mode" so it will go 40 MPH over speed bumps for the 200 feet from the grocery store to the bank? Will it then be sure to park itself in two spaces so Mrs. Suburbia can spend 20 minutes getting her family of eight out of the car again so they can all go into the bank?

    Does it have "lawn-mower-with-headlights dad mode" so SUVs will cruise at 75MPH on four-lane city streets and accelerate 0 to 60 in 5.5 seconds from every stoplight?

    Does it have "Ms. Too-cool-for-you mode" so it will birddog people around corners and then swerve into the next lane at 65MPH so she can get to the next stoplight 2.3 seconds earlier?

    If not, why, people might start driving with their heads out of their asses. Imagine that!

  • "Where do you want to go today?"
    • Better yet...
      It looks like you're trying to go grocery shopping.

      • Help me create a grocery shopping list
      • Just go shopping without help
  • by danharan (714822) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @07:34PM (#8758794) Journal
    3-5 km/h for 30 minutes, all the time in the same lane.

    A car that could keep a speed as constant as possible, instead of advancing in fits and jerks, would help all traffic more fluidly.

    With the sensors they have, this should be easy enough. And if they can't do that, I don't think we should trust those companies to program cars to move without your intervention when you're going 100km/h.
    • This is completely true. Another major advantage of autonomous cars is that they could simply follow more closely, letting more cars occupy the road at once, travelling at higher speeds, getting to where they're going more quickly and reducing much of the energy waste and pollution that's often associated with low speed stop-start driving.

      With a road that's designed for it, as well as cars that are designed to communuicate with the road and the other cars on it, traffic congestion could be reduced hu

    • You can do something about it [amasci.com], if you care to. The biggest causes of stop and go traffic jams on freways are onramps and offramps, and the "gotta win" mindset that doesn't let people merge into traffic flow or change over to exit flow. Start leaving a few car lengths of space ahead of you when you drive on freeways. By doing this, you're giving people room to merge in and out, and you're also giving the wave time to break up before you reach it. I've gotten into the habit of doing this, and wouldn't yo

  • I've been interested in this topic for a while. You may wish to check out some articles on the subject in my blog.

    For example, I talk about how oil companies should fund automatic car development [4brad.com] because it would make people tolerate longer drives and commutes.

    I also talk about how self-parking [4brad.com] might be the big early application. Not the already existing parallel parking, but the ability to do automatic valet parking in special parking lots.

    Alas, I finally realize that the government will try to ban d
  • Following the story of a few hours ago, I picture a minivan full of little soccer-playing robots being transported to the pitch for practice by their autonomous self-driving minivan mother.

    What? Please stop looking at me like that.

  • Car Ownership (Score:5, Insightful)

    by emacs_abuser (140283) on Saturday April 03, 2004 @08:23PM (#8759024)
    If a fully automatic car was developed, I think that could spell the end of individual car ownership.

    I know we all love our cars, but we build way too many of them. Most of them sit parked 90% of the time. A fully automatic car could come to us when we need it. With just a fraction of the cars we have now, a car could reach anyone in under a few minutes. You would just push a button and get a fully fueled and serviced SUV or compact as needed .
  • It's been a long time coming. Check out the Firebird III here - http://www.conklinsystems.com/firebird/ - it was one of a series of G.M. turbine-powered cars and it had self-drive in 1959.
  • by serutan (259622) <(moc.nozakeeg) (ta) (guodpoons)> on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:15AM (#8760249) Homepage
    I was expecting some new information, but this article seems to have been written by someone who just became aware of the idea of self driving cars, and assumes the reader likewise knows nothing about it.

    My prediction is within 10 years manufacturers will get beyond the toe-in-the-water stage and fully robotic cars will be approved for highway use. At some point someone will realize that a robotic car need not sit in the parking lot at work. It can drive home and chauffeur the rest of the family around, then return when it's quitting time. The saving on double car payments will far outweigh the cost of the additional trips.

    The next step will be to ask why the car has to sit in the garage when it's not in use. Leasing companies will offer the use of their entire fleet of cars. Cars will become robot taxis, summoned by cell phone.

    The next step after that will be to ban human-driven vehicles from the highways. When that's done, robotic cars will be able to travel at high speeds with less distance between them. Traffic jams will disappear. The annual highway death toll of 50,000 in America (consistent since the 1960's and half because of drunks) will plummet. I'm looking forward to all of this.

    Some people don't think any of this will happen because people won't want to give up control of their cars. Driving a car is fun. Sure it, but so is riding a horse, and people gave that up when something better came along. Robotic cars are something better.
  • by oohp (657224) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:19AM (#8760269) Homepage
    Blah, where is all the fun then? You can't speed a self driven car!

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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