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Transportation Technology

Road Train Completes First Trials In Sweden 345

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-aboard dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports technology that links vehicles into 'road trains' that can travel as a semi-autonomous convoy has undergone its first real world tests with trials held on Volvo's test track in Sweden. Researchers believe platoons of cars could be traveling on Europe's roads within a decade cutting fuel use, boosting safety and may even reducing congestion. SARTRE researchers say that around 80% of accidents on the road are due to human error so using professional lead drivers to take the strain on long journeys could, they say, see road accidents fall. They also predict fuel efficiency could improve by as much as 20% if 'vehicle platooning' takes off, with obvious benefits for the environment. 'An automated system is likely to make it safer as it takes away driver error but it would have to be 100% reliable,' says John Franklin 'This kind of system would also require a complete change in motoring culture for drivers to hand over control.'"

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Road Train Completes First Trials In Sweden

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  • by somersault (912633) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @05:41AM (#34937692) Homepage Journal

    That figure seems a bit low. Unless an animal runs across the road or similar, other problems are all IMO human error.

    If something falls off a truck, that's human error for not securing the load properly. If high winds knock over your truck, that's human error for driving in dangerous conditions. If you skid on an ice patch, that's your error for driving too fast for the conditions, etc.

    • by orphiuchus (1146483) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @05:49AM (#34937722)

      Tire blowouts, serpentine belt breaks, break cylinders exploding. Sometimes its a maintenance issue, but a lot of the time things just fail. I had the rear cylinder explode on a vehicle I was driving at highway speeds like 10 years ago, I just barely managed to stop myself with the hand-break on the shoulder without running into the stopped traffic ahead of me, but if I had hit then 100% of my accidents ever would have been caused by mechanical failure with no forewarning.

      • Okay this is true, but do you really think that failures on well maintained cars is the cause of 1 in 5 accidents, or even 1 in 10? I'd think it was more like 1 in 1000.

        • I cant say for sure, but for me its 100%. (or it would be, if I'd had the accident.). For fatal accidents I imagine about 80% are either falling asleep at the wheel, alcohol related, or typical young male dumb shit, the remaining 20% could easily be caused by high speed blowouts and things of that nature.

          For overall accidents I'm inclined to agree with you, the vast majority of what I see is caused by young women talking on cell phones, but those are usually very minor. Talking about lives lost I think the

          • For high speed accidents then unexpected failures would probably count for more (though I still think that 1 in 5 is giving people too much credit). Even at lower speeds though, there's still serious danger of maiming or killing pedestrians, so even those women on their cell phones are a danger.

            I was taught that basically all accidents are human error. This page [smartmotorist.com] claims it's at least 95%. Too many people try to blame external factors when in fact the accident was avoidable. I really don't like to hear that s

            • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @08:43AM (#34938668) Homepage

              I was taught that basically all accidents are human error. This page claims it's at least 95%. Too many people try to blame external factors when in fact the accident was avoidable. I really don't like to hear that someone crashed "because it was raining/icy/snowy". They crashed because they were driving too fast for the conditions.

              Every accident would be avoidable if you drive at 5 km/hr, no matter what the conditions are. The question is what is reasonable and unreasonable to expect, if you hide behind a tree near a high speed road and jump out in front of a trailer you will with 99% probability get splattered even if it's a perfect day and the driver goes no faster than the posted limit. But in retrospect you can always claim it's human error and too fast, even though that's how fast we actually expect people to go. In fact under good conditions they will fine you for being way below the limit.

              Even if you're driving at speeds that seem reasonable given that it's snowy and icy you can get caught by surprise. I've been off the road once because I got tricked by a bus pocket. It was heavy snowfall, I was already going something like 50 km/h instead of the limit of 80 km/h and for the briefest of moments I followed the curve into the pocket. The road was quite well trafficked and worn clear, but in the pocket there was nothing but polished ice with light snow on top so nothing could get a grip. I couldn't steer, couldn't brake fast enough and went off the road at the end of the pocket. I checked now in a calculator and I couldn't have stopped on 15 meters of ice with with 30 km/h (20 mph) and one second reaction time.

              I suppose you could call it human error. But either you assume I would have avoided the situation - which is unlikely - or it would really taken a massive speed reduction to avoid it. Like way, way below what people normally drive, even under those conditions. Either that makes 95% of us reckless or it's jusr acknowledging that driving that car at those speeds under those circumstances is an acceptable but non-zero risk for all the benefits and liberty it gives drivers and their passengers. Not that we shouldn't make roads and cars safer, but until something will literally block me from driving over a pedestrian or off the road we will have accidents.

            • by GooberToo (74388)

              so even those women on their cell phones are a danger.

              A fact which always surprises people is that some stereotypes are actually true. Women are far, far worse drivers then men. BUT, while women have far more frequent wrecks, they are typically less severe than those created by male drivers. Whereas male drivers have far less frequent accidents but when they do wreck its typically far more serious. This is why young males are more expensive to insure.

              So if you say women are bad drivers, its not only a stereotype but statistically accurate. Just the same, a mal

          • by Tom (822)

            I cant say for sure, but for me its 100%.

            Calculating a percentage value for a single data point is slightly bonkers.

          • by thethibs (882667)

            I cant say for sure, but for me its 100%.

            This being slashdot, it's astounding that you think that's relevant. I'd have thought that, even at a low-ranked school, basic stats would be part of CS.

            If anything, you've demonstrated that not all moving mechanical failures result in accidents, which weakens your case.

      • by Tom (822)

        It happens, but it is the exception, not the rule. In 20 years of driving experience, I have not once experienced a mechanical failure that would've resulted in an accident. I have seen a lot, and I mean several orders of magnitude, more driver errors than car failures. So while switching the human driver for an automated system only exchanges one source of errors for the other, yes, it does exchange one source with a fairly high rate of errors against one with a fairly low rate of errors.

        • by The_Noid (28819)

          I've had a back tyre run on of the flange in a sharp turn. The valve was leaking and the low pressure in the tyre combined with the sideways forces due to the sharp turn caused the tyre to run off. This caused me to lose control over the vehicle and swerve over the other lane. I didn't hit anything fortunately, and due to the relatively low speeds involved it probably would not have resulted in a fatal accident if I had hit oncoming traffic.

          It was definitely caused by mechanical failure. but at the same tim

        • Lucky you. I've had a throttle stick (due to shaft wear on a carburetor) and on a different car I've had a brake master cylinder seal fail. Neither event resulted in an accident because I reacted appropriately, but they certainly could have. I do tend to agree with you though -- the vast majority of accidents are due to human error.
      • Cars have brakes to stop them. "Break" is a verb.

      • by bhtooefr (649901)

        First off, serpentine belt failures are usually such that you can still get the car pulled over, albeit requiring more steering force.

        Second, how long before that failure did you have the brake fluid flushed. Should be done every 2 years. ;)

      • I don't think statistics work the way you think they work...

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        I had a head-on collision in 1976 when the left front tire blew out and threw me into oncoming traffic, and they were new tires. Of course, I guess you could say that the faulty tire was human error on the manufacturer's part.

    • Usually, too much importance is given to the immediate cause of an accident. Most accidents don't happen due to a single cause, there's a number of circumstances that must exist together for an accident to happen.

      In modern highways, the usual circumstance for most accidents is crowded lanes. The usual cause for crowded lanes is a few dumbasses of the i-hate-tailgaters-and-i-have-the-right-to-drive-at-any-speed-below-the-limit species.

      Make it a severe offense, same penalties as drunken driving, to drive on t

      • Usually, too much importance is given to the immediate cause of an accident. Most accidents don't happen due to a single cause, there's a number of circumstances that must exist together for an accident to happen.

        In modern highways, the usual circumstance for most accidents is crowded lanes. The usual cause for crowded lanes is a few dumbasses of the i-hate-tailgaters-and-i-have-the-right-to-drive-at-any-speed-below-the-limit species.

        Make it a severe offense, same penalties as drunken driving, to drive on the left lane with someone behind you and those "80% accidents" will go away.

        Make it a severe offense to tailgate and you get the same solution, plus its the assholes instead of the timid that you would be punishing.

        I get it when someone is going 55 in the left lane, that's insanity, but the vast majority of people whom I know that think like this are usually going 15 over the speed limit and riding the ass of the guy going 5 over. The tailgaters and aggressive drivers are the ones who cause fatalities.

        • This is true, but it's still frustrating for those of us that are attentive and efficient in our driving, to be stuck behind some guy that is being far, far too cautious. There are times when you need to be cautious, and there are times when it's basically completely safe to be doing 100mph (outside of an "act of God" like an unforeseeable mechanical failure), and so for someone not to even be doing the posted limit is just needlessly frustrating those behind. The driver behind may have too short a temper,

        • by mangu (126918)

          Make it a severe offense to tailgate and you get the same solution

          It would not be the same solution because the road would me more crowded overall.

          Assume one person doing 55 starts passing another doing 54. In order to avoid tailgating altogether, everybody in a long stretch would have to slow down. If someone is driving slowly in front of you, you have to drive even slower until the space between your cars increase to a safe distance. The driver behind you would be forced to drive slower than you to get the same safe distance between you and him. And so on, the rest foll

          • by Zironic (1112127) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @07:33AM (#34938180)

            You fail at both driving and physics. To get a safe distance to the car infront of you you only need to slow down for 5 seconds at most then you can match speed with car infront of you, there is no recursive slow down for the entire road.

            "It takes two to tailgate, a tailgater and a tailgatee. As I said, accidents usually aren't caused by one single cause, in most cases if just one of a set of circumstances didn't happen there would be no accident."

            That's like saying it takes two to punch someone, the puncher and the punchee. It's retarded. There exists none, zero, zip, nada excuse to tailgate. There exists no situation where you're better off tailgating the person infront of you, you don't even get to your destination faster.

            And for the record it is already illegal in most of the world to drive slow in the left lane (Usually under some law conserning disrupting traffic ) however that only applies if he's driving slower then the limit, if you think that's to slow then that's your problem. However there's never really any reason to go faster, suppose you drive at 110 on a 100 mph road, now your 30 minute trip takes 27 minutes, who cares? Those 3 minutes are a rounding error of your day.

            • ...It takes two to tailgate, a tailgater and a tailgatee

              ...That's like saying it takes two to punch someone, the puncher and the punchee. It's retarded....

              Damn, you beat me to it.

            • by FooAtWFU (699187)
              From a practical perspective, it's not a good idea to drive only the speed limit in the left lane when people are trying to go faster. There are probably safer ways to drive .

              From a legal and moral perspective, though, I really do find it hard to see the outrage. "This vehicle in front of me has the nerve to obey the law and obey posted speed limits! Does he not realize that this lane of the road is, by ancient right, the proper and fitting domain of criminals such as myself? How dare they intrude!!! Curses

          • by Lumpy (12016)

            So by your logic it's safer for me to install push-bars and shove the slower drivers off the road into a tailspin.

    • by Eil (82413)

      By "human error," they likely meant "human driving error," wherein a driver in control of a vehicle takes (or fails to take) an action based on insufficient information or poor judgement that results in an otherwise preventable accident. Accidents resulting from objects falling off trucks, high winds, or ice patches are not always preventable even when the driver is fully alert, following all of the pertinent traffic laws and rules, and is maintaining situational awareness.

      But I do agree that 80% seems like

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @05:44AM (#34937706)
    An engineering lecturer at Cambridge was proposing something like this in the early 1970s, but with vehicles having a mechanical connection - inherently safer because sudden braking would merely load up a damper, not cause an impact.

    The problem where the UK is concerned is that motorways are actually our safest roads - it's people like the idiot woman this morning in the Range Rover who think that size overrides the Highway Code that present the problem, and this doesn't address it.

    • by slim (1652)

      it's people like the idiot woman this morning in the Range Rover who think that size overrides the Highway Code that present the problem, and this doesn't address it.

      On motorways it might -- because the idiot woman would join a road train for selfish reasons (reduction in fuel costs; ability to relax rather than drive), and hence would do a couple of hundred miles without the opportunity to drive badly.

      • by ledow (319597)

        She drives a Range Rover. Fuel costs won't be on her mind. In fact, judging by the average driver, anything to get someone to their destination quicker will be welcomed, not deliberately running in the most fuel-efficient way - I get much more efficiency at 50mph, how many people do that speed on a major motorway?

        • by houghi (78078)

          I am sure it will be even better if you drive 40mph and even better with 30, 20, ... all the way to zero. So why not drive 30mph? I am sure 2 wheels will be more fuel efficient as well. So take a moped and drive 10mph if fuel efficiency is what is important to you.

          • by Chrisq (894406)

            I am sure it will be even better if you drive 40mph and even better with 30, 20, ... all the way to zero. So why not drive 30mph? I am sure 2 wheels will be more fuel efficient as well. So take a moped and drive 10mph if fuel efficiency is what is important to you.

            No, nearly all cars drop in fuel efficiency below 20mph. I can't find more recent information but it looks like many cars are most fuel efficient at somewhere between 30 and 55 mph [wikipedia.org], have a quite flat consumption in that range, and drop off below this fairly quickly and above this rather more slowly.

          • by Zironic (1112127)

            Actually fuel efficiency is worse at lower speeds, but don't let facts get in your way or anything.

            • Another "urban myth". For gasoline engines, efficiency is lower at low specific output because the gas isn't compressed enough. Diesels are not affected by this and their efficiency curve is pretty flat from minimum to maximum power.

              However, even for gasoline engines, the power required at low speeds drops more rapidly than the fall off in engine efficiency, for any sane value of engine size. Briefly, if your fuel consumption worsens at speeds below about 40mph, you are probably driving an old US V8 with a

          • by ledow (319597)

            Apart from the fact that most cars *are* more fuel efficient at about 50mph (some new ones lower, but generally most cars capable of 70mph are more fuel efficient at 50mph than most other speeds) - basically 5th gear, lowest revs - there are millions more ways to make thing fuel efficient which don't affect driving (e.g. use aircon instead of opening a window, remove roof-top boxes, etc.) and most people don't do ANY of them.

            My point is - fuel efficiency is NOT a big seller for this idea. Nobody *really* c

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      Use your horn. Make sure these people know their driving is crap. If it happens regularly enough eventually they might stop.

  • Perhaps one day we could have automated platoons of Slashdot submissions about the same damn thing, too?
    • by Eudial (590661)

      Perhaps one day we could have automated platoons of Slashdot submissions about the same damn thing, too?

      The last submission was about SARTRE before the tests started. This is the results.

      • Perhaps one day we could have automated platoons of Slashdot submissions about the same damn thing, too?

        The last submission was about SARTRE before the tests started. This is the results.

        Ohh? http://tech.slashdot.org/story/11/01/18/0411235/How-Europe-Will-Lower-Emissions-mdash-Self-Driving-Cars [slashdot.org] (2 days old)

        The team behind SARTRE has now conducted its first real world test, using a sole Volvo S60 sedan that followed a lead truck around the automaker's test facility near Gothenburg, Sweden. In the video, the driver is free to take his eyes off the road and his hands off the wheel. In fact, he uses neither his hands nor feet during the test.

        And yes, it's the same fucking video. DUPE.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Invalid test if they did not have another car T-bone or sideswipe a car in the "train" to see what happens.

  • by orphiuchus (1146483) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @05:45AM (#34937712)

    One of my engineering professors worked on something like this in the 90s, when I asked him why we never saw anything like this come into use he said that they knew that the first time anyone was killed in an accident involving one of the automated vehicles the entire project would be dead. Regardless of if it was from something like a blowout causing a computer driven car to swerve into the other lane, or some drunk ramming headlong into a "platoon" of cars.

    Even if it is much safer, the lawyers will be salivating while they wait for the first death.

    • by teh kurisu (701097) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @06:18AM (#34937856) Homepage

      The protocol for leaving the platoon and returning manual control to the driver is going to be the most difficult thing to solve I think, particularly where it occurs in a emergency situation. A blowout on the motorway is dangerous enough, but a blowout on the motorway where control of a car is suddenly returned to a driver in the middle of drinking a coffee and reading a newspaper could be disastrous.

      • by adamchou (993073)
        Lets take that blowout idea one step further and imagine the driver in the lead truck somehow losing control, going over the side of a cliff, and a pack full of lemmings following suit. I'm sure that'll be awesome.
    • by timholman (71886) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @07:15AM (#34938088)

      Even if it is much safer, the lawyers will be salivating while they wait for the first death.

      I think the fear of lawsuits preventing autonomous vehicles is way overblown.

      Historically, the auto industry has had several design flaws that have led to huge lawsuits, e.g. exploding gas tanks on the Ford Pinto. Ford's gas tank design led to numerous deaths and injuries, and corporate memos later showed that the company was even aware of the problem, yet Ford was not sued out of business. Even today, with all the fuss and lawsuits concerning Toyota's computer systems, Toyota is doing just fine. Lawsuits are part of the cost of doing business in the auto industry.

      The technology being used in autonomous vehicle research was, by modern standards, painfully primitive 20 or 30 years ago. I could see how people would fear legal liability, because those older systems weren't smart enough to deal with every contingency in a roadway environment. Today's research vehicles are much better, and in ten years they'll be even better still.

      The question to ask is this: can autonomous vehicles do better than 35,000+ fatalities, 2 million+ injuries, and $200B+ in liability / medical costs per year? That's what the U.S. alone is paying right now with humans behind the wheel. 20 years ago, engineers knew their vehicles weren't robust enough for the roadway. As Google's own experiments have recently shown, things are much different now.

      There's no doubt that autonomous vehicles will fail from time to time, and occasionally someone will be injured. But fatalities from a well-engineered system will be rare, and the roadways will be orders of magnitude safer. The fear of autonomous vehicles is basically a classic example of flawed risk perception by human beings - they are uncomfortable with a few hundred possible auto accidents with a computer in control, yet think nothing of millions of accidents with the current system because they all think "I'm in control of the situation".

      • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @07:29AM (#34938154)

        The question to ask is this: can autonomous vehicles do better than 35,000+ fatalities, 2 million+ injuries, and $200B+ in liability / medical costs per year? That's what the U.S. alone is paying right now with humans behind the wheel

        That is the sensible question, but in reality it would have to be much safer to be accepted. We see this when there are train crashes. A train is already hundreds of times safer than a car but there are public inquiries, people brought to book and calls for improvement when they happen.

    • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Thursday January 20, 2011 @07:15AM (#34938090) Homepage

      Even if it is much safer, the lawyers will be salivating while they wait for the first death.

      There is a good reason why this project is sponsored by the EU and not the US.

      While not perfect, the legal systems in most of Europe aren't not quite as broken as in the US.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        There is a reason US innovation has begun a slow march backward. You'd have to be out of your gourd to bring anything new to market in the States, these days.

      • by hypertex (165243) <kc6wgr&gmail,com> on Thursday January 20, 2011 @08:01AM (#34938372)

        Even if it is much safer, the lawyers will be salivating while they wait for the first death.

        There is a good reason why this project is sponsored by the EU and not the US.

        While not perfect, the legal systems in most of Europe aren't not quite as broken as in the US.

        There were tests of this in California in the 1991 timeframe but I don't know if it was the State or the Feds. A train of 5 white cars would assemble at speed on interstate 15 between Palm Springs and San Diego. With only inches in between, the train would travel back and forth on the freeway . Perhaps another can find a record of this as my Google-fu is not adequate.

    • by Tom (822)

      Which is probably why this system is being developed in Europe, where the term "ambulance-chasing lawyer" is strongly associated with american lawyers, because we don't have the same kind of liability craze over here.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      Strange how accidents didn't kill autopilots in aircraft, electronic lift control, electronically controlled boilers, fly-by-wire, drive-by-wire in cars etc. Toyota's electronics have caused fatal accidents but no-one is suggesting that they should go back to the old mechanically linked accelerator pedals.

      You might as well argue that once people discovered that metal can fatigue or that pitons can freeze over it will kill air travel. People are intelligent enough to understand that a small number of acciden

    • A system like this will indeed have to achieve a phenomenal level of safety, at least in the USA, because of how liability for accidents is assigned. Even if it saved 10,000 lives for every death it caused, on trial for causing that one death the manufacturers and system operators would get precisely zero credit for the lives saved, and would be vilified for causing the one death.

      We have already seen this problem with vaccines, and it required special legislation to enable vaccine manufacturers to stay i

    • by martijnd (148684)

      > Even if it is much safer, the lawyers will be salivating while they wait for the first death.

      Sound like this will work fine in Europe, and will never make it to the US

  • by pmontra (738736) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @05:52AM (#34937738) Homepage
    You can trust the system, but the system doesn't know what's happening to your car. It knows what's happening to the leading truck. Suppose that a car in the convoy has a failure, a blown tire, anything that makes it slow down or change trajectory (maybe some bump or hole in the road). How do following cars avoid it if their drivers are sleeping, reading a book, having lunch? I know that people start car accidents while they are driving (texting, playing with music controls, having lunch) but I wonder if road trains are really safer than an equivalent number of cars each with its own driver. I think that this [4x4truckstrailers.com] is the only safe road train.
    • You can trust the system, but the system doesn't know what's happening to your car. It knows what's happening to the leading truck. Suppose that a car in the convoy has a failure, a blown tire, anything that makes it slow down or change trajectory (maybe some bump or hole in the road). How do following cars avoid it if their drivers are sleeping, reading a book, having lunch?

      Exactly. Or maybe it's not a failure, per se, but something as simple as running out of gas? Is the system going to communicate all t

      • by Tom (822)

        You are being ridiculous. There is no reason for the probability of someone driving in a road train running out of gas being any higher than the same for someone driving normally. With the system in place as described in the video, this would result in one car slowing down, those behind if following suit (distance sensors!) until the link to the lead car gets lost. At which point you are in the common situation of dissolving/leaving the road train, which there will have to be a solution for anyways.

        • You are being ridiculous. There is no reason for the probability of someone driving in a road train running out of gas being any higher than the same for someone driving normally.

          Except that if the driver is reading the paper or watching TV instead of paying attention to the car, they are less likely to notice their level of gas.

          Do you disagree that letting drivers become more passive could introduce more situations like this?

      • I'd bet all those cars have to be equipped with active ACC (adaptive cruise control) systems. Those use radar or lidar, and sometimes other optical systems, to determine speed of and distance to other cars, and can actively control the speed of your car accordingly. Those are commercially available since over 10 years, so sudden deceleration of idividal members of such a train would not have any serious consequences.

        I'd guess if somebody has to fuel up, the driver has to manually pull his car out of the tra

    • by Tom (822)

      Suppose that a car in the convoy has a failure, a blown tire, anything that makes it slow down or change trajectory (maybe some bump or hole in the road). How do following cars avoid it if their drivers are sleeping, reading a book, having lunch?

      RTFA. It's even embedded. They do say that they have a system in place monitoring the road, the distance to the car in front, etc. They are not just blindly sending instructions from the lead car and executing them.

      but I wonder if road trains are really safer than an equivalent number of cars each with its own driver.

      Statistically speaking, if the average chance of a driver having an accident is 1% (it isn't, but it's easier to calculate with simple numbers), then 10 individual cars will have a total probability of 9.562% of at least one car having an accident. The road train will have a probability of 1%. Th

    • Systems that match your speed to the car in front of you, including breaking to a full stop, are commercially available for over 10 years. I've personally driven in such a car, and the driving experience is (IMHO) fantastic.

      However, those systems don't take over steering, so you still have to operate the wheel and thus keep attention on the road. They return full control to the driver in case the surroundings get "dangerous", i.e. outside of the parameters, e.g. if you get cut by somebody. In that case, you

    • I know the system's still in early trials, but I can't see anything about safety testing in their own site (or any article about them). They've tested in snow, so I assume they've seen a bit of ice, but there's nothing about them deliberately trying to find the system's fail points.

      And that seems a little too common in these automated systems. Remember Volvo's infamous lolfail video? An anti-collision system that happily drove into a truck. Or Top Gear's experience with a production auto-park system, which

    • Think it will be more like a Swam (or flying "V" of geese)

      The Lead sends out speed & direction signals to cars behind it.

      The cars behind send the lead vehicle info on their location in the swam.

      As most cars have been filled with all sorts of sensors it would not be hard to send that as telemetry to a lead vehicle to give it an exact picture of the state of each vehicle.

      If one reports a problem (blow out, fuel, engine problems accident) the lead then can either tell other cars to slow down, change lane o

  • Professional human drivers do make errors too. Not to mention what really makes a driver "professional", a fresh taxi driver has less experience than many "amateurs". Computers may not be distracted or sleepy or drunk but sensors certainly can by rain and snow and low sun. They too can miss that there's an oil spill on the road and go flying off it, or an elk about to cross the road. And while the theory says you're never supposed to go faster than that you can stop on what road is visible to you, that rule

    • by vidnet (580068)

      They just need to make it safer to trust the auto than trust the driver, not perfection...

      Ideally, yes. But try telling someone that the computer they're entrusting their lives to is almost 100% perfect, killing only 7 people per 1B miles driven*.

      Also, people can only relate to human mistakes. If you hit an elk because it jumped into the road and you didn't react fast enough, people understand - even if a computer would have handled it easily.
      If the elk was quite obviously standing in the road under a tree,

  • There's no such thing in technology as "100% reliable". It needs to be as safe as the current system (because it offers potential benefits in time and fuel efficiency) -- probably rather safer to overcome resistance to handing over responsibility for safety (most people will accept more risk if they perceive that they control the risk ourself than they will accept if they perceive somebody else to be controlling the risk). But not "100%" reliable.
  • I have no intention to scaremonger all of us. But I just thought of the way to go with a loud BANG when one of the low moods hits me, again. I will enlist to become a road train conductor. I fancy I should be vividly remembered.
    • by Tom (822)

      For about a week, yes.

      If you want to take 10-20 others with you, there are easier ways to do that, today. Becoming a road train conductor, which will probably be accompanied by some training and a test or two, would certainly be a very long-winded way. Like joining the NRA and becoming an experienced game hunter just so you can shoot yourself.

      • Becoming a road train conductor, which will probably be accompanied by some training and a test or two, would certainly be a very long-winded way.

        Keep in mind we're geeks and that we try and solve our luxury problems through knowledge and by employing technologically interesting methods. It is a mere coincidence -a very luck coincidence in this hypothetical example- that we generally get bored shortly before having mastered the skill and that we simply move on and forget about our original purpose.

        In any case, you're always better of with knowledge -however useless it may be- than without in two identical situations.
        Right now, for instance, I'm s

    • I'd bet that every car will be equipped with safety systems of its own, so if the leading car runs amok, the rest will simply initiate an emergency break.

  • by Loosifur (954968) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @07:14AM (#34938074)

    Good luck selling this to anyone from the Washington, DC area. The Metro is, rightly or wrongly, notorious in the DC area for being dangerous. The WMATA is notorious for everything from ignoring safety recommendations, running old cars, and skipping maintenance, to promoting a culture of hostility within its workforce. Metro employees are underpaid, overworked, and, to put it delicately, benefit from a somewhat lenient hiring process. Now, who would you propose will be driving the lead car around the Capital Beltway? Unless you pick this one segment of public transportation to be contracted out to a private company, it's gonna be the WMATA in the DC area. If I wanted some surly bastard with no professional training who hates his job and hasn't slept in a day to drive, I'd do it myself, thanks.

  • Somebody should've told them that the term "road train" is already widely used for a related phenomenon.

  • Currently, if the lead truck in a convoy does something stupid, unexpected, or dangerous, the following trucks with their human drivers are able to instantly make the decision to stop following the first truck's lead and instead perform a much safer action, such as slowing down, changing lane, taking a different route, pulling over etc, regardless of location, road condition, weather, catastrophic damage to the route (landslide, bridge out etc). They are also able to reform the convoy and deliver their own

    • Of course, and if the lead driver gets killed in an accident and some of the passangers in other cars survive the crash, they will be automatically shot to follow the lead as closely as possible. Also, everbody who works in automotive research is stupid and not able to see this obvious problem.

  • If Sweden had sunshine, I'd move there in a second.

    Oh, and at least one NFL and one NBA franchise.

  • "Don't worry, the 'road train' is driving me home."

  • How is this different from http://tech.slashdot.org/story/11/01/18/0411235/How-Europe-Will-Lower-Emissions-mdash-Self-Driving-Cars [slashdot.org] posted two days ago? It is a slightly different angle but the same technology.

  • How does the convoy agree to change lanes? Is there a discussion between all the vehicles' sensors or will some poor bastard get sideswiped into the guard rail? What happens when two convoys are side by side and roadworks narrow the road to a single lane? Imagine the chaos as a hundred 'drivers' have to be awakened/climb back into the front seat/ put down their spaghetti/ find their driving glasses etc.

    And so i don't look out of place, I hope nobody will 'loose' their life when the 'breaks' fail.

  • An automated system is likely to make it safer as it takes away driver error'

    Good luck with that. Railway trains are highly automated and the rails even take guidance out of the driver's hands, but trains still crash due to human error.

    Which makes me think that all the Swedish system needs now are some rails to do the guidance. Wow, I'll patent that! Oh wait ....
  • The professional drivers may be better and cut down on accidents but they are still human. When they do have an accident it could take out the whole 'train'. This might still lead to fewer total deaths but each accident will get a lot more press coverage. Compare this to airplane travel. You are much more likely to die on the road than flying but how many people are afraid to fly vs afraid to ride in a car?
  • What if we built a single rail that mimics the interstate system, but made to hurdle small cars that meet a standard specification for size, weight, and aerodynamic profile. Perhaps the track is a single electromagnetic pipe cars hung from? You could then purchase a car with a built in connector to operate on this track, and a dash panel to choose destination and cost. You can drive local, and hop on the rail to travel longer distances. The rail control computer could slow and speed individual cars to gr

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