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Transportation Technology

Vans Drive Themselves Across the World 157

Posted by Soulskill
from the next-up-beer-runs dept.
bossanovalithium writes "Four driverless electric vans successfully ended a 13,000-kilometer test drive from Italy to China which mirrored the journey carried out by Marco Polo in the Middle Ages. The four vans, packed with navigation gear and other computer software, drove themselves across eastern Europe, Russia, Kazakhstan and the Gobi Desert without getting lost. They had been equipped with four solar-powered laser scanners and seven video cameras that work together to detect and avoid obstacles."
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Vans Drive Themselves Across the World

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  • Very cool, but... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ... as cool as it sounds, the vans were mostly designed to form a "virtual train" after a human-driven vehicle, so it's not quite autonomous navigation just yet.

    Hey at least something cool out of my home country for once!

  • by Ltap (1572175) on Friday October 29, 2010 @08:50AM (#34061386) Homepage
    Did they bring back any spices or silk? And we can't trust their tall tales of two-headed men without proof!
    • by rossdee (243626)

      Fortuately since there was no people in them, they didn't bring back the black death or bird flu or otther deadly diseases...

  • Frist Thumbs-up! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pinkushun (1467193) on Friday October 29, 2010 @08:51AM (#34061392) Journal

    At one point, a van stopped to pick up hitchhikers.

  • Sponsor (Score:5, Informative)

    by flyingkillerrobots (1865630) on Friday October 29, 2010 @09:02AM (#34061458) Homepage
    For those of you who want to know who made the vans, it was sponsored by the European Research Council. The lead researcher works at the University of Parma, Italy. Why, oh why do the summaries lack useful information? Yes, I am new here.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      That's what's really interesting and new about this story to me - this wasn't done by the usual characters from CMU or Stanford who have won the DARPA driving challenges in the past (the google car is from that same lineage also). Whether developed independently or replicated, the technology is getting more widespread.
    • by autophile (640621)
      Maybe they got rid of "Who, What, Where, When, How (and in investigative journalism, Why)" since the time I was in school.
    • It's been like this for a long time. Just in the last six months or so it's seemed to get really bad. At least this summary isn't an outright falsehood like many in the last week.
  • Rather than replacing drivers it is hoped that the technology will be used to study ways to complement drivers' abilities

    That's become the problem with ABS, traction control, airbags and many other safety features: make drivers feel like they're safer, they will drive more like idiots. I'd far rather this system was developed to replace drivers; granted it will take more work to make it completely reliable, but it would mean fewer people thinking that because they've got the latest safety systems in their

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ltap (1572175)
      The problem is that most people would rather trust a human in life-or-death situations, despite the fact that humans would be hampered by slow decision-making and reflexes.
      • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Friday October 29, 2010 @09:33AM (#34061674)
        Humans might make slower decisions, but they have a much broader and more integrated matrix of perceptions and conceptions to draw from. Until AIs are strong enough to understand environments intelligently and intuitively as a whole rather than programmed to respond to a few set objects in a few set ways, a human decision and action will be necessarily more complete even if it is slower.
        • Yet still, the number of accidents caused by human drivers is staggering. An AI, if made properly (as you said), would outdo a human and make far fewer mistakes. I really don't think that absolutely groundbreaking AI is needed for this, though.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by shentino (1139071)

            A human still has to program the sucker.

            And I would much rather have a human I could watch and monitor than an AI concealed in an opaque chip that I would just have to trust implicitly.

            I barely trust people as it is even when I can watch them.

            • "A human still has to program the sucker."

              Yes, and while humans do make mistakes, that is precisely why it would be rigorously tested before mass producing it.

              "And I would much rather have a human I could watch and monitor than an AI concealed in an opaque chip that I would just have to trust implicitly."

              The AI would do exactly as it was told. In reality, there would likely be far fewer accidents if it was, again, made properly.

            • From my experience most accidents are due to distracted, impaired, unskilled drivers or skilled drivers exceeding safe speeds for the conditions. A well programmed AI would take out the driver skill variable and should make the car's safety equal to all but the best drivers -- much like a computerized chess AI is better than all but the best humans.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            "Staggering"? Hyperbole. In the first place rates vary culturally. Iceland has 3.8 fatalities/year per 100000 people, less than a quarter of the rate of the US at 12.3, which in turn is about a quarter of the rate of the worst country for fatal car accidents: Eritrea at 48.4. Even that highest rate is still only 0.0484%/year, and at the risk of sounding cavalier about human life, I wouldn't call that staggering.

            Also your assertion that the AI problem would not require a groundbreaking solution is founded
            • " Does the AI in the first vehicle know it's winter and black ice may interfere with braking? Does the AI know that turning out of the other vehicle's path toward the mountainside may result in the vehicle flipping? Does the AI know that if it turns away from the mountain to avoid the other vehicle that it could cause it to plummet to its doom?"

              Obviously, it should. I didn't underestimate the problem. I knew exactly what you were trying to say. I mean, sure, it will require more knowledge of AI than what we

              • I really wish an AI developer/researcher were around to punch you in the dick. I can only intuit the problems, but I do know as most do that imitating human awareness and decision-making capacity in dynamic environments is one of the holy grails of AI. Hell, there have been countless projects and contests year after year since AI development has existed, none ever fully achieving that goal. To continue to trivialize it as not "groundbreaking" is to demonstrate a fundamental ignorance of the field even as an
                • No. I did not say it wasn't impressive or that it wasn't extremely difficult. I merely meant to say that, compared to some other things that an AI could be made to do, it wouldn't be as difficult. I did not mean to imply that it wasn't impressive or incredibly difficult. I know that it is.

            • by robot256 (1635039)

              Also your assertion that the AI problem would not require a groundbreaking solution is founded on what knowledge? I think you vastly underestimate the problem. Example scenario: a vehicle is traveling on a rural road in the winter around a tight, blind turn on a mountain road. Suddenly, another vehicle appears heading toward the first in the middle of the road. Does the AI in the first vehicle know it's winter and black ice may interfere with braking? Does the AI know that turning out of the other vehicle's path toward the mountainside may result in the vehicle flipping? Does the AI know that if it turns away from the mountain to avoid the other vehicle that it could cause it to plummet to its doom?

              There are many different types of driving situations, some more difficult than others. Why must an AI be able to cope with all of them for it to used at all? I would hope that the operator of such a vehicle would understand the limits of its AI and revert to manual control in situations like you describe. If it were able to out-perform humans in the most common settings--interstate and city during fair to somewhat severe weather--then I see no reason to ban its use outright. Heck, in severe weather the

              • [...] it knows where the walls and cliffs are and not to hit them.

                You're missing the point. It's a Kobayashi Maru-style scenario. Of course an AI isn't going to just ram itself into a rock wall, but if it has to make a decision between an oncoming vehicle, a rock wall, and a cliff, what is it going to do? Could it really come up with the maneuver that maximally increases survivability? (Which, by the way, is progressive braking swerving as close to the wall-side as possible, hoping that the other vehicle compensates in the opposite. However, if the oncoming vehicle is on

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by robot256 (1635039)

                  True. But how many humans could actually do that when pressed? Not all of them, that's for sure. Yet they are still allowed to drive as much as they want, since they are willing to take the risk or avoid the situation. The same could be true of an AI. It could simply refuse to drive on what it knew to be prohibitively dangerous icy mountain passes. Or your perfectly cognizant human would recognize the situation and take over from the AI, which prior to this had done a perfect job of avoiding walls, cl

                  • A woman died near my parent's house a couple of years ago, at 3 in the afternoon, on a dry road, doing 60+ around a corner marked 30. She started to slide, overcorrected, went off the corner and on the way down the bank, rolled the car 90 degrees, and wrapped it around a tree roof-first. Happened to be the same corner my sister went off (headed the other direction) in the rain at 50+ about seven years prior. She only took out the sign marking the corner and a telephone pole with the nose of the car, and was
            • by HiThere (15173)

              There are real problems, but you didn't list them. The problems you listed are refinements of the current system. Real problems are what do you do if an animal runs in front of the car? A child? A child in a Halloween costume? How much damage should you take to avoid each? And how do you distinguish cases 1 and three?

              Things like that. Complex object recognition, particularly when in disguised form, is an unsolved problem, and *does* require a breakthrough. Driving skills, terrain recognition, standa

              • Yes, there are additional problems, and no, that doesn't make "driving skills" and "terrain recognition" less than "real problems" or mere "refinements". Christ, "driving skills" is such a broad category it could include practically everything, and "terrain recognition" is quite a similar problem to "complex object recognition". You're never going to wholly solve one without wholly solving the other, and I did touch on it briefly (iced over body of water vs solid ground, what if the ice is dirty?).

                And "black ice" isn't necessarily hard to see.

                Tell that

            • by Firethorn (177587)

              "Staggering"? Hyperbole. In the first place rates vary culturally. Iceland has 3.8 fatalities/year per 100000 people, less than a quarter of the rate of the US at 12.3, which in turn is about a quarter of the rate of the worst country for fatal car accidents: Eritrea at 48.4. Even that highest rate is still only 0.0484%/year, and at the risk of sounding cavalier about human life, I wouldn't call that staggering.

              You're looking at fatalities, he stated 'accidents' [wikipedia.org].
              Worldwide, 2004, 1.2M people killed in crashes. 2.2% of deaths. On a worldwide scale, I'd rate anything capable of breaking single digits in death rate as 'significant'. Still, there's a lot more to auto accidents. Most survive - 50M injured a year. In the USA alone, 46k/year dead, 2.4M injured, sixth leading preventable cause of death. Canada - 48% of severe injuries.

              Some more stats pulled off the auto accident wiki:
              57% due solely to driver factors
              9

          • by Firethorn (177587)

            Personally, I think that my question becomes one of 'what do you do when somebody successfully designs an AI driven vehicle that is statistically safer than a human driver and cheap enough to be affordable?'

            I'm not saying that it'll be perfect. But it'll never get tired, drunk, or distracted. It may not be able to handle all situations, but those it can it handles far better than humans.

            How do you settle liability in such cases? Would you still say it's the 'drivers' fault? The owners*? The car company

          • by nmos (25822)

            I really don't think that absolutely groundbreaking AI is needed for this, though.

            Maybe not to handle a modern well marked highway but It'll be a while before they can handle the typical neighbourhoods without lane markings and stop signs overgrown by trees etc much less construction zones and parking lots. IMHO the real question is if we develop cars that can deal with 90% of the driving will our driving skills become so poor that we can't properly handle the 10% where humans are still needed.

            • by JWSmythe (446288)

              I was wondering how AI's would deal with the same thing. Around an international airport that I live by, they were changing the highways. About 5 highways go to or pass through that area. Pretty much over the last 6 years, all the roads have been torn up and laid back down. New ramps and overpasses have been installed. It was confusing enough that even locals who don't drive that route every day would get confused on where to go. Even when I drove it every day, sometimes I'd find that w

        • by robot256 (1635039)

          Humans might make slower decisions, but they have a much broader and more integrated matrix of perceptions and conceptions to draw from. Until AIs are strong enough to understand environments intelligently and intuitively as a whole rather than programmed to respond to a few set objects in a few set ways, a human decision and action will be necessarily more complete even if it is slower.

          But sometimes a complete solution is useless if it is too slow, and the limited perception of humans leads to suboptimal solutions. If the AI can sense more accurately react faster than a human, it doesn't need as much predictive capability. Why do you need to anticipate a pedestrian running into the road if you can stop as soon as they actually do? And I think you underestimate the quality of AI these days. But in any case, AI and human drivers have different strengths, and I believe the best solution

          • In general, I agree, as Omar Bradley once said: "The second best decision in time is infinitely better than the perfect decision too late."

            However, predictive capacity isn't the point, and in fact I never mentioned it. Where humans excel AIs is interpreting layered dynamic environments intuitively. Your example of the kid running into the street is nice and simple. Obstacle presents itself, car immediately brakes, problem solved, eh? Oh yeah? What if there is a car tailgating at speed? Does the AI split t
            • by robot256 (1635039)

              It's very easy to come up with pat simple scenarios and make a program that simply executes little when A do B routines, but combinations of conditions do not always result in a combination of responses. Humans can intuit their way through layered conditions in a dynamic environment in a way that makes up for the time it takes to come up with the solution.

              It's also very easy to ramble on with hypotheses without knowing anything about the AI in question. How do you know it's simply a collection of if A then B routines? Intuition is not magic: it is simply the ability to run an accurate predictive simulation of your environment. This is entirely within the scope of an AI, and in question is only the relative accuracy of the predictions.

              An AI can identify objects and classify them into cars, people, animals, unknowns, etc. Each class of objects will have a

    • by somersault (912633) on Friday October 29, 2010 @09:10AM (#34061524) Homepage Journal

      Who do you know that drives more like an idiot because their car has safety features? I drove like an idiot even when my car didn't have ABS, and these days even though all cars I drive have ABS, I drive like less of an idiot.

      Traction control is no use for driving like an idiot. I switch it off when I want to have some fun.

      • by Eevee (535658) on Friday October 29, 2010 @09:47AM (#34061808)
        You don't ride taxicabs in Munich [queensu.ca]

        Subsequent analysis of the rating scales showed that drivers of cabs with ABS made sharper turns in curves, were less accurate in their lane-holding behaviour, proceeded at a shorter forward sight distance, made more poorly adjusted merging manoeuvres and created more "traffic conflicts". This is a technical term for a situation in which one or more traffic participants have to take swift action to avoid a collision with another road user.[3] Finally, as compared with the non-ABS cabs, the ABS cabs were driven faster at one of the four measuring points along the route. All these differences were significant.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        I drove like an idiot even when my car didn't have ABS, and these days even though all cars I drive have ABS, I drive like less of an idiot.

        Translation: You grew up and you got experience. If we could fill the roads with 40 year olds with 20 years driving experience, the accident rates would go way down but it doesn't work that way.

        • Well, put it this way. In the same timeframe that I had my Golf (no ABS, no airbags, no aircon, no nothin!), I also had access to my mum's car which had ABS and was faster. I was 19. I didn't consciously take more risks simply because the car had ABS and airbags. Certainly I have become a better driver with experience and further training, but I don't rely on electronic driving aids to keep me on the road. The only times my ABS has been active have been in wide open areas like carparks or muddy areas where

          • Meant to say "only times my ABS has been active in the last year". I have had it kick in on real roads on occasion, usually in very wet or icy conditions.

      • I drove like an idiot even when my car didn't have ABS, and these days even though all cars I drive have ABS, I drive like less of an idiot.

        Perhaps you like got older or something. Maybe you even grew up a little, who knows?

        This, children, demonstrates the importance of a control group in experiments.

        • I've grown up very slightly - in large part due to taking an advanced driving course and having a subsequent driving ban due to speed, rather than simply because I'm older - but the point is that I definitely don't take risks just because I know my vehicle is "safer".

          I suppose if someone doesn't actually know what ABS does then they may be more inclined to allow less time for braking etc, but ABS can actually increase stopping distance, for the sake of retaining directional control.

          An interesting point from

      • by JWSmythe (446288)

        You've also grown up, which changes things. Our teenage immortality is abandon for the reality that we are going to die soon, so lets not make it any more painful than necessary.

        I was in a car accident in the 80's. I learned then that vehicles don't stop as fast as you want them to, and pain can last an awful long time (permanent damage to the fleshy operator). So I drive more and more conservatively as time goes on. But... Incidents have happened that were outside of my

    • It seems to me that this is an "all or nothing" kind of thing. Either all vehicles are computer controlled, or none of them. My experiences seeing average humans interact with computers would make me not feel safe in my computer controlled car while panicky meatbags are on the road with me.

    • by jeffmeden (135043) on Friday October 29, 2010 @09:44AM (#34061782) Homepage Journal

      That's become the problem with ABS, traction control, airbags and many other safety features: make drivers feel like they're safer, they will drive more like idiots.

      Never mind the fact that traffic deaths (in the US at least) have been decreased INCREDIBLY with the aforementioned technologies. Some do choose to drive like increasingly effective idiots, but not nearly enough to outweigh the safety benefits. I will go with the safety technology versus the notion that the sword of Damocles is effective at preventing accidents, thank you very much.

      • by nmos (25822)

        Never mind the fact that traffic deaths (in the US at least) have been decreased INCREDIBLY with the aforementioned technologies.

        Of course, the average age of drivers has also changed during the same period. How can you be sure the change in traffic deaths has to do with tech. rather than the number of older/safer drivers on the road?

      • by houghi (78078)

        So you don't believe in Darwins law?
        If we have no security in cars, within a few generations, all people will be able to jump out of the way of cars.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by balbus000 (1793324)

      I don't think we'll ever have completely automated cars. Even if they reduced accidents by 80%.

      People will see a big difference between getting in an accident by human error or by a malfunctioning computer.

      The fact that it's completely up to the computer will make it feel like playing a slot machine. Sure there are times when human error by someone else is completely out of your control, but I think people will perceive it differently.

      • "Even if they reduced accidents by 80%."

        Yeah, humans are illogical like that. Now to wait until the people against technological advancement die off...

        • by jeffmeden (135043)

          Hold your breath for the odds that one (or a handful) of companies want to be directly responsible for the 20% of accidents that are left over. It's not about being a luddite, it's about not wanting the risk involved. With individual drivers making mistakes (that admittedly add up to a lot of accidents) you still have a low risk/responsible party ratio. If every single fatal accident that happened (even if the count were reduced by 80%) resulted in a lawsuit claiming the car was at fault because the huma

      • by dwandy (907337)

        I don't think we'll ever have completely automated cars.

        Fully automated cars are inevitable.
        We can debate how they will come about/be implemented (1), how long it will take(2), how they will work(3), if there will be insurance requirements and who would pay it(4), but their arrival is guaranteed.

        ...by human error or by a malfunctioning computer.

        Cars today are already almost 100% computerized. The controls you touch tell a processor what servos to enact.

        ...will make it feel like playing a slot machine.

        I'

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      News flash -- idiots drove like idiots before the safety features, too. What's making them more dangerous these days is cell phones. But even accounting for cellphones, there are still far fewer deaths per driven mile than there were before the safety features.

      However, I, too would like a self-driving car.

  • by ledow (319597) on Friday October 29, 2010 @09:05AM (#34061488) Homepage

    The problem with autonomous vehicles is not what they can do successfully, it's what happens when they fail.

    If I don't press my brakes in time to prevent an accident, I risk going to jail for dangerous / careless driving.
    If the autonomous van doesn't... well... what? We can take the human "driver" off the road, sure, but that's not fixed the problem. So the second one person has an accident in an autonomous vehicle, you're looking at major liability and lawsuits directed towards the car manufacturer - whether or not it was their fault and whether or not a human driver could have prevented the accident in *any* car. That manufacturer now has to take responsibility for that car versus every idiot on the road, every pedestrian that runs out and everything that can confuse one of its sensors.

    Autonomous driving *is* possible and quite easy - but we need autonomous roads to make it work, with nobody but the autonomous vehicles on it. Nobody, nowhere has actually built a real-life one of those on a real road that people would want to use because you have to use their vehicles to do it and you have to (indirectly) pay for that vehicle, that road, and any mistakes those vehicles make. And those roads don't and won't exist for decades if at all - or, more accurately, it's called the rail network. Automated rail networks are commonplace - London has the Dockland's Light Railway that has no drivers.

    If you're going to have to build a road that only automated cars can use, and make some cars to use that road, you've effectively built a railway, or else you're putting billions of pounds of effort into avoiding obstacles and keeping to a strict lane when you could just make the thing run along a rail.

    Why is there no call for an automated rail network? You can make it as fast as the super-express trains, it's very safe in comparison to any road, on established technology, you know it's not going to veer off the road, you can pack thousands of trains onto the rails if you do it right and take thousands of passengers in each etc. But instead, people honestly think that it's more sensible to put an automated system of even the best technology on an open road with other idiots and do this on a one-person, one-car basis (hence millions of units and billions of pounds) with complete freedom over how it moves the car, among other traffic that will stop it ever doing anything a human couldn't do? It's ridiculous.

    Stop wasting your time and build a personalised rail network when I can get into a "pod" or something, enter my destination and it would take me there on good, solid, metal rails and a bit of signalling. And I don't have to worry that it thinks the man walking along the street with a cardboard cutout is actually a small child running in front of the car, or that it doesn't spot a police tape which has been strung across the road to close it because of a pedestrian parade further up the street.

    An automated car has to have a human in it. It's the best call ever made on the introduction of a new technology so far. An automated car needs exclusive automated roads to every destination in order to work anywhere near effectively under autonomous control - that's called a railway and any more "transportation routes" being built just for automated cars is a fantasy world in a modern city. Automated cars have been shown to crash WHEN DEMONSTRATING how they were uncrashable. An automated railway already exists and works perfectly and has an excellent safety record. Use it.

    • by caluml (551744) <slashdot@spamgoe ... g ['ere' in gap]> on Friday October 29, 2010 @09:12AM (#34061528) Homepage

      Stop wasting your time and build a personalised rail network when I can get into a "pod" or something, enter my destination and it would take me there on good, solid, metal rails and a bit of signalling.

      Indeed. A packet-switched transport system. Broadcast your destination via Bluetooth, "routers" can receive that and direct you the best way. The pods would be unpowered, but pushed/blown along - possibly compressed air?
      If you had a system of tubes under the ground, and some sort of decent bearings, you could make it work. You could also have large "trunk"/"backbone" roads, which smaller roads joined. Basically, model it on the Internet. But without the packet loss, or routing loops. Or collisions.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by RivenAleem (1590553)

        And keep the porn. There should be a mechanism whereby I can get off whenever I desire.

      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        Basically, model it on the Internet. But without the packet loss, or routing loops. Or collisions.

        The success of the Internet thus far has been thanks to the fact that every few years we manage to develop another novel way to pack a digital signal into a tenth of the space it once occupied. If your series of tubes are to be successful, we are going to need miniaturization (of the passengers) and a LOT of it. Sadly the trend (in the US at least) is for the average passenger to get larger over time, not smaller.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Compressed air is really not a very efficient way of storing and transporting energy... (really, why would you want to throw away all the experiences with mechanical design of, well, cars?)

    • There are pilot projects of Personal Rapid Transit [wikipedia.org] systems going on.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770)

      A car needs a semi-drivable asphalt / gravel / dirt road to drive on. There's endless miles of them that it wuold cost trillions to replace and billions to maintain per year. The vast, vast majority of people want a drive that takes them to the doorstep and ends in their driveway, not some railway station far off from which you need to carry all your belongings and goods. Most of those that can comfortably do without already take the bus / tram / metro / railway.

      And even if you happened to be on the network

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Rethinking our habits would be required with autonomous cars anyway (for starters - how to deal with 80-90% of drivers thinking they are in the top 50%?). We might as well not limit ourselves to just one wundersolution...

        Not giving away the cities to cars, not building them primarily around the requirements of cars, would be a good start. Would help in not inhibiting bikes, too. Which BTW, in the form of folding(*) or "rental" bikes, nicely expand the utility of public transport ((*)and such bike is often a

    • "The problem with autonomous vehicles is not what they can do successfully, it's what happens when they fail."

      I wonder what people do in the many, many occasions when human drivers make a severe error...

      • I wonder what people do in the many, many occasions when human drivers make a severe error...

        They die. The driver gets sued. When Robodriver pooches something, it will be a godsend to the victim's family [lawyer] as they will get to sue $AutoManufacturer, $SoftwareCompany, and $ThirdPartySupplier, all of whom have more money than the owner of the vehicle.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rockNme2349 (1414329)

      So the second one person has an accident in an autonomous vehicle, you're looking at major liability and lawsuits directed towards the car manufacturer - whether or not it was their fault and whether or not a human driver could have prevented the accident in *any* car. That manufacturer now has to take responsibility for that car versus every idiot on the road, every pedestrian that runs out and everything that can confuse one of its sensors.

      I've thought about this problem for a while, and here is my guess how it will proceed. When cars started being made with cruise control, the responsibility in an accident still belonged to the driver. There are cars being built today which automatically apply brakes when they sense an oncoming collision, but in the event of a malfunction or accident, the human driver is ultimately held responsible.

      I don't believe anyone is going to drop an autonomous car into the market, but instead it will simply be more a

      • by sznupi (719324)

        I do think there will be uproars when accidents do occur, like we have seen with the Toyota problem...

        More precisely, uproars at perceived problems with autonomous cars. Certainly perceived chiefly by drivers - 80% of which think they are in the top 50%.

    • by master811 (874700)

      London has the Dockland's Light Railway that has no drivers.

      That's not entirely true though. Yes they don't have drivers per se, but they still have a trained staff member on board at all times, to manually control the train in the event of an emergency and to generally control when the train leaves and departs, - especially during peak hours, when the network is busy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sznupi (719324)

        As was the case with elevators for a long time...even when not strictly needed.

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      Why is there no call for an automated rail network?

      There actually is - Personal Rapid Transit [wikipedia.org]

      These vans are attempts to design a system that can move on actual roads, with people still driving on them. Obviously, this is far more difficult than to design a constrained system.

    • by houghi (78078)

      If I don't press my brakes in time to prevent an accident, I risk going to jail for dangerous / careless driving.

      If that is your reason for pressing the brakes, then there is something seriously wrong with you. You mean if those were NOT consequences you would not break?
      Why not say: If I don't press my brakes in time to prevent an accident, I risk hurting people or damage property (be it my own or others).

    • by dmitriy (40004)

      This is second successful trial of autonomous vehicles in traffic we've heard about (the first is Google). It's clear that technology is viable. It's clear what benefits it will give.

      The arguments against this technology remind me the early days of the Web: it was widely believed by skeptics that no one will ever use the Web for commerce because (1) there's no framework for financial responsibility, (2) internet backbone is closed for commercial traffic, and (3) there is no accepted technical solution for H

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      The problem with autonomous vehicles is not what they can do successfully, it's what happens when they fail.

      That's no different than when anything else on your car fails. If your brakes fail, you'll be damned lucky not to hit something or someone. A left front tire blowing out almost killed me in 1976. A year later, a friend did die when the motor mount on his hopped up 396 Camaro broke and pulled the throttle wide open; he hit the 17th car of a freight train at 96 mph according to the accident investigator

  • by Sonny Yatsen (603655) * on Friday October 29, 2010 @09:08AM (#34061510) Journal

    This last line caught my eye.

    The vehicles ran at maximum speeds of 60 kilometres per hour and had to be recharged for eight hours after every two to three hours of driving.

    I think Marco Polo probably made better time with camels. Still an impressive feat, though.

  • Packed with navigation gear and didn't get lost you say? Wow! Seems like a very achievable goal to not get lost when you are packed with navigational aids. I suppose what is more interesting is if they make the journey without human intervention..i.e..not needed a human to get them unstuck.

  • Every time I see the name Marco Polo I'm instantly 12 again, screaming MARCO!!!! while at the city pool. All my "friends" left me and went to the snack bar.

  • That's miles better than when they did the DARPA challenge???
  • I need one of these vans for my morning commute. I can sleep in the back while the van takes all the strees from the bad drivers, horrific traffic, scared deer and occasional road-rage :)
  • I drove 27000 around the coast of australia this year. maybe instead I should have driven from the UK to Perth.

  • They had been equipped with four solar-powered laser scanners and seven video cameras that work together to detect and avoid obstacles."

    I read that as:

    They had been equipped with four solar-powered laser cannons and seven video cameras that work together to detect and avoid obstacles."

    Those vans were almost a hell of a lot more awesome.

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