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Google's Driverless Car and the Logic of Safety 510

Posted by timothy
from the professor-I-have-the-solution dept.
mikejuk writes "Google's driverless car could save more than 1 million deaths per year and tens of millions of injuries. It is an impressive achievement, but will we allow it to take over the wheel? Sebastian Thrun puts the case for it in a persuasive TED Talk video. However it may be OK for human drivers to kill millions of people each year but one human fatality might be enough to finish the driverless car project — in fact it might not even take a death as an injury might cause the same backlash. Robot drivers might kill far fewer people than a human driver but it remains to be seen if we can be logical enough to accept the occasional failure of algorithm or hardware. Put simply we might have all seen too many 'evil robot' movies."
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Google's Driverless Car and the Logic of Safety

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  • by h00manist (800926) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @10:43AM (#35693708) Journal

    Brings into the light the numbers on just how dangerous automobiles are. Few activities have these huge numbers of deaths, accidents, and property loss and damages.

    • It is the driver behind the wheel which makes it dangerous.

      And here's the problem with robotic drivers... They are all identical. Every one on a particular model will be byte for byte identical. Which means a fault in one is a fault in all.

      Humans on the other hand are all different. Just because one causes an accident under certain circumstance doesn't mean another would.
       

      • ...which is exactly why it will be hard to accept them if they cause even one death or injury. If I am driving and I make a mistake it is my fault and I have to deal with the consequences. If a robot is driving I have no control over whether it makes a mistake and yet I will still have to deal with the consequences.

        The problem is therefore one of trust. I trust (most) people I know to drive me safely - after all there lives are on the line too. However with a robot I have to trust that some random progra
        • by iksbob (947407)

          We already have aeroplanes which can fly themselves

          Airplanes rarely come closer than a few miles distance from any other solid objects, except during takeoff and landing. Roadways are a winding gauntlet of potential collisions; some stationary, some moving. In many cases, these collisions must be avoided with clearances of a few feet. Failing to manage these potential collisions could mean anything from scratched paint to the car and its occupants being shredded and strewn across the landscape.

          • Re:Issue of Trust (Score:4, Insightful)

            by kasperd (592156) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @04:51PM (#35695856) Homepage Journal

            Airplanes rarely come closer than a few miles distance from any other solid objects, except during takeoff and landing. Roadways are a winding gauntlet of potential collisions; some stationary, some moving. In many cases, these collisions must be avoided with clearances of a few feet.

            The distance between the planes is larger. But there is a whole lot of reasons why you need larger distance to get the same amount of risk.

            • Planes have a much larger volume than cars.
            • There is huge volume of air around a plane where it causes so much turbulence that another plane getting into that area can lose lift.
            • If a pair of cars brush each other, you will likely damage the painting. If a pair of planes brush each other, they will likely both crash into the ground and kill everybody on board.
            • Planes move much faster than cars. At those speeds the distance between two planes can shrink to zero very quickly even if it was large to begin with.
            • Planes often fly in conditions of low visibility. If you can only see 100m ahead when driving in a car, that may not be a huge risk. If you can only see 100m ahead when flying a plane, you will be in huge danger unless you have other means of knowing where other planes are.
            • Even if you did have visibility, there are much more angles another plane could come from due to them actually moving in three dimensions compared to cars mostly moving in two.
            • If the drivers of two cars notice they are on a collision course, they can often avoid the dangerous situation by slamming the brakes. Doing the same on a plane is not particular safe.
      • by dachshund (300733)

        And here's the problem with robotic drivers... They are all identical. Every one on a particular model will be byte for byte identical. Which means a fault in one is a fault in all.

        You are confusing a security argument for a reliability argument. In general, if there's a reliability issue subtle enough to slip through testing and general usage, then by definition that flaw must appear in only a tiny fraction of usage situations. Since at any given moment most people will not be in those situations, the fl

    • by LordNacho (1909280) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @02:03PM (#35694944)

      Brings into the light the numbers on just how dangerous automobiles are. Few activities have these huge numbers of deaths, accidents, and property loss and damages.

      If anything, this just brings to light how USEFUL cars are. Otherwise it wouldn't be worth the cost.

  • Will we? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dogers (446369) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @10:44AM (#35693712)

    but will we allow it to take over the wheel?

    As I don't live in a country that's very sue-happy (yet, we're heading that way), yes! Please take the wheel! A snooze on the way to/from work would be excellent, thanks.

    • by scribblej (195445)

      You can have that today. That the bus or train.

      If you haven't got 'em, take a carpool. Or taxi.

  • Say what? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "save more than 1 million deaths per year"

    Wouldn't it be much better to save 1 million LIVES per year?

  • by Velex (120469) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @10:45AM (#35693722) Journal

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again. You can't take revenge against a computer. A human being killed is a-ok with most people as long as you can take revenge.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 02, 2011 @10:54AM (#35693760)

      That's not what people fear. It's the perceived lack of control, even if automated driving is statistically more safe. Same with nuclear energy paranoia.

      • by CastrTroy (595695) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @11:14AM (#35693886) Homepage
        I've been saying the same thing for years. The driverless car will never catch on because people want to be in control. I'm still amazed we have autopilots landing aircraft. Granted the pilot is paying attention at all times (or should be) and is ready to take control in case of a malfunction. For driverless cars the dream is that you can read the newspaper while going to work. But the reality is, that even if your car is driving itself, you should still be there to take over in case something malfunctions. If you have to pay attention anyway, you might as well be driving.
        • by c.r.o.c.o (123083) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @12:30PM (#35694346)

          I've been saying the same thing for years. The driverless car will never catch on because people want to be in control. I'm still amazed we have autopilots landing aircraft. Granted the pilot is paying attention at all times (or should be) and is ready to take control in case of a malfunction. For driverless cars the dream is that you can read the newspaper while going to work. But the reality is, that even if your car is driving itself, you should still be there to take over in case something malfunctions. If you have to pay attention anyway, you might as well be driving.

          Autopilot landing is EASY. You have a stationary runway, known wind, ground velocity, altitude, weather conditions,etc. Also the airplane is in the air, surrounded by nothing for miles unless the air traffic controller messes up. Even autopilot landing a fighter jet on a carrier in choppy seas is more predictable than driving a car in traffic.

          A car is surrounded by obstacles on all sides, some stationary others in motion, it has to obey laws, traffic signals, and must adapt to unknown weather and road conditions. Most people don't give it a second thought in a car, but I can promise you nothing ruins a bright, warm day of motorcycle riding faster than hitting gravel in a turn.

          This push towards automating driving is yet another attempt to nerf the entire world. Doomed to failure, but that won't stop the "visionaries." They should instead of focusing on having much better driving schools, much more stringent driving exams and recurring examinations. I find it ridiculous that having passed two laughable exams, I can now drive my car and ride my bike FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE (or at least for the next 50 years) without any retest.

          Granted, some people will fail more difficult driving exams, and I'm ok with that even if I fail myself. They lack the hand-eye coordination required to be in control of a multi tonne vehicle, and should not be on the road. They can ride the bus, take a cab or walk. I'm not being facetious, I truly mean it. The day I fail a driving exam is the day I stop driving, at least until I can successfully retake it (and there should be a limit on retests too). :)))

          • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @01:58PM (#35694900) Homepage

            This push towards automating driving is yet another attempt to nerf the entire world. Doomed to failure, but that won't stop the "visionaries." They should instead of focusing on having much better driving schools, much more stringent driving exams and recurring examinations. (...) Granted, some people will fail more difficult driving exams, and I'm ok with that even if I fail myself. They lack the hand-eye coordination required to be in control of a multi tonne vehicle, and should not be on the road. They can ride the bus, take a cab or walk. I'm not being facetious, I truly mean it.

            Bus? Not available.
            Cab? Too expensive.
            Walk? Too far.

            Let's face it, many people are completely dependent on having a car. Even if you tell them to rewrite their lives to be car free - possibly abandoning childhood homes, neighbors and local communities - there are many things that are completely dependent on having a car. There'll never be any public transport to take you up to your mountain cabin for the weekend and the taxi driver would charge you a small fortune for it. You can of course say "don't do those things" but that's a really crappy solution to the people you want to take it away from. Particularly for many elderly the car is a lifeline for getting around, losing their license and being "stuck" in their apartment is one of the saddest day in their sunset years. Given the alternatives, I can understand the "You can pry it from my cold, dead fingers" attitude many have to their driver's license.

            If there is to be a change of tune, I think it will come from these people. People that know that maaaaaaaybe they shouldn't actually be driving, but they don't feel they have a choice. People that could say "hey, this is enough for me to let me get my groceries and visit my grandkids", who don't give a crap about any loss of manual control - they never really asked for it in the first place. Like a cab, without the cost of a cab and that is your personal space. And commuters, honestly who thinks that is fun driving? Just get in, tell it to go to the office and spend the time doing something else while the computer limps after the tail lights ahead of you. Or just people that don't care, it's a tool to get from A to B and as long as the computer gets you there in roughly the same time that's fine.

            Not to mention, driverless cars also enable passengerless cars. The implications of that could be great, like I get off and the car parks itself. I call it and it comes to pick me up - perhaps not even in the same place, I don't need to return to where I parked it. I could drive myself to the airport and it'll go park itself. Or even drive home and wait for me to schedule a pickup. Also things like people that aren't old enough to drive. Deliver your kid to soccer practice? Put him/her in the car, tell it to go drop him off. If they're old enough, maybe even pick them up on their own. Or when you're drunk and can't drive yourself, no more need for "designated drivers" - which nobody wants to be in my experience.

            Seriously, driverless cars would be the solution to so many problems that only skilled drivers would never solve and which is pretty much a pipe dream anyway. Most people are just average and the great majority is not going to "throw out" themselves.

  • by merchant_x (165931) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @10:47AM (#35693730)

    People are obviously much more tolerant of human error than machine error. Machines in life safety areas are expected to be perfect.

    Also who is liable in a fatal accident caused by a machine? People want a human scapegoat.

    • by gblackwo (1087063)
      Machine error is still human error. The difference is normally the one who makes the error takes their own life. In this case it is someone else's "error".
      • by peragrin (659227)

        programmers never take the blame when their software fails.

        there fore the blame lies with the party who assembled it at best.

    • by rhsanborn (773855) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @11:05AM (#35693834)
      US courts won't hold the owner of the vehicle responsible unless the owner knew there was something wrong and it would be considered reasonable that the owner should have prevented the accident. The manufacturer of the vehicle would be more likely to be held liable, but they'd have to be shown negligent. A more sane solution would be for the government to take a role in this. It's in the nations best interest to prevent 35k deaths a year from auto-accidents. They could handle payouts to victims or create a non-profit that would handle it and pay for it either through a surcharge placed on such vehicles or a surcharge placed on auto-insurance. This would avoid forcing victims, who are likely not to have a lot of money, to have to go up against the legal teams of large auto manufacturers.
      • You could also just build the cost of insurance into the cost of the car, which is what will happen if the auto manufacturer is liable. It's not like plaintiffs' lawyers aren't taking on insurance company lawyers now.

      • It makes perfect sense to hold the manufacturer responsible. Anybody who is making driverless cars (or cars of any sort, really) is a very large business and can afford to pay for the shortcomings of their product. It will also provide a very strong market incentive (which is what large businesses, by necessity, understand) to improve the safety of the vehicle. The manufacturer probably wouldn't even bother to purchase insurance from an insurance provider, as they could provide what amounts to their own

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          Uh, nobody can make a perfect car. It is virtually guaranteed that some people will die in these cars. These deaths will be shocking to the public, and will garner huge verdicts. Manufacturers won't bother to make cars as a result.

          This is why childhood vaccine manufacturers are shielded from general liability (there is a government-regulated pool to reimburse victims of vaccine side effects). If you give 100M people a shot, you'll probably save 30M lives, and be certain to kill a few thousand or whateve

      • by naoursla (99850)

        Just wait until a human driver is found negligent because he caused an accident that a robot vehicle would have prevented.

      • It's in the nations best interest to prevent 35k deaths a year from auto-accidents

        The idea that computer-controlled cars would prevent all automobile fatalities in the US (and that's what 35k means) is preposterous. Consider equipment failures, "black" ice, drunken pedestrians, and the occasional murder by pushing someone into traffic.

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          Ok, it is in the nation's best interest to prevent 34,950 deaths a year from auto-accidents.

          A solution doesn't have to be perfect to be great.

          Oh, and cars that drive themselves would eliminate road rage, the need for parking lots (which are horrible for the environment), handicapped parking spots, and in many cases would allow families to get by with fewer cars (if the car can drop people off at work and return you can get more utilization out of it). It would also make on-demand rental fairly straightforw

    • by Jimmy_B (129296)

      Also who is liable in a fatal accident caused by a machine?

      The insurance company that owns the policy for the vehicle, same as if it were being driven by a human. And while the general public may have a hard time reconciling statistics that say driverless cars are safer with a few stories about them getting into fatal accidents, insurance companies do not have that problem and will support whichever costs them less money in claims.

  • Nanny State (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @10:54AM (#35693762)
    Obviously the base programming of these cars will be to have them follow the local rules and being computers will be very good at this. Which means that government types will feel free to keep adding more and more rules to satisfy every voter. Thus these cars will quickly stop following the most efficient routes and going the fastest speed that is safe but will end up following routes that take them away from schools, parks, politicians' houses, and whatever whim they want. Even though these cars will soon be able to scream around at full speed safer than cars now they will end up going slower.
    Also how are the morality police going to get their rocks off if now you can be passed out drunk in your car?
    If the cars are all carefully following the rules and in theory you need far fewer traffic cops then who will catch people who jailbreak their cars into ignoring speed limits?
    Lastly in this litigious society who will you sue if an empty car has an accident? The owner, the coder, or the local government who probably designed a crappy intersection or whatnot that induces the cars to crash at that spot.
    • by mini me (132455)

      Lastly in this litigious society who will you sue if an empty car has an accident? The owner, the coder, or the local government who probably designed a crappy intersection or whatnot that induces the cars to crash at that spot.

      All of them?

    • There are concerns have already stopped thinking for themselves but this "complaint" seem a bit overboard. One of the most monotonous, most error prone, and rarely deadly common activities people in the US do is drive to and from work. Its boring but requires our focused attention. This means the 30 to hour minute drive is often a lost time activity that we do twice a day. A repetitious activity that can easily bore a human and has to be done to time and safety tolerances? These are all of the hallmark

      • by sznupi (719324)

        ...most people don't seriously or rigorously plan their drive to work anyway

        And they are already guided by machines more and more, not only on a drive to work (and particularly on the "be free!" trips to unfamiliar places). Machines which are often aided by quite centralized systems of road info.

        Machine says "turn right" - the mechanism doing the driving, the cog in the middle (aka "human") does what the machine says...

    • Modern cars could easily be programmed to never exceed 80, the current top speed limit in the USA, but there are no regulations forcing this and no cars do this. We could in theory get rid of a lot of invasive search laws if there were no DUI excuses. I don't own a car or drive, so it makes it very difficult for me to be unreasonably searched as I'm not capable of endangering those around me with 40,000kg*m/s of momentum.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CodeBuster (516420)

        Modern cars could easily be programmed to never exceed 80

        And we could easily prevent you from committing a crime in the future by preemptively locking you up. That sort of thinking leads to all sorts of absurd rules and regulations in the name of "public safety". Do we want to live in a Fischer-Price nanny state or would we rather be treated like adults who can handle themselves responsibly unless we demonstrate otherwise through our actions?

        I don't own a car or drive

        And yet you gleefully propose onerous regulations on driving because even a miniscule improvement in your safety is worth e

        • by sznupi (719324)
          Go to any largely car-free place (quite a few of those [wikipedia.org]), move around it a bit even just on foot or bike. Now try doing it anywhere near as quickly and conveniently (nvm pleasantly) in a place completely hijacked by cars. Then start talking about those creating inconveniences (also... [www.kyon.pl])

          And as a matter of fact, places focusing in prevention (not in your straw-man style of course) of crime, disease, accidents, etc. fare quite well with that approach.
    • by sznupi (719324)
      If a society (ultimately govs are their reflection) wants to break away from how cars hijack its cities, then it will do so. Sure, a lot of people were despairing during... every shift in the way of life, in the primary mode of transport - but a) I don't see how the comfort zones of those who were brought up in very different times should be the deciding factor b) the problem takes care of itself in few short decades anyway, humans have limited lifespans.

      Also, do you despair for how elevators operate on
  • by h00manist (800926) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @10:54AM (#35693768) Journal

    I would venture to say the self driving car is simply inevitable, as the economic forces behind it are huge. Millions of people will buy additional cars, to replace theirs as well as to get extra ones to take their kids to work without them, create truck and taxi fleets with no drivers, etc. After cars become self-driving, they will become smaller, as they will really almost always carry one person and be used within city limits. That will be basically the same as PRT systems, which exist already. --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_rapid_transit [wikipedia.org] --- Personal rapid transit (PRT), also called personal automated transport (PAT) or podcar, is a public transportation mode featuring small automated vehicles operating on a network of specially-built guide ways. PRT is a type of automated guideway transit (AGT), which also includes systems with larger vehicles, all the way to small subway systems.

  • by snookerhog (1835110) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @10:55AM (#35693770)
    Sadly, safety is something that is not handled rationally by the masses. It is mostly an emotional judgement.
  • by Grapplebeam (1892878) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @10:55AM (#35693774)
    Until it becomes mandated and I can't drive. I enjoy driving. I also understand most people would take the alternative to having to do it themselves if given the chance. Which is good, because a lot of them suck at driving. Of course, I'll die, and this generation will be fine with it because they grew up with it.
    • by rhsanborn (773855) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @11:04AM (#35693824)
      You may have to accept personal liability for any accident you are involved in if you are manually driving a car once this technology become more commonplace. That could be a very steep price to pay. You'll also likely have increased insurance rates as your risk relative to the drivers who use the technology will be higher.
      • How will this technology go everywhere I want it to? I do drive places now which don't actually have proper paved roads.

        This overall just sounds like limited use, HOV-lane style BS.

        And what about motorcycles? Are you just going to ban them?

  • by EnglishTim (9662) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @10:57AM (#35693790)

    I like the idea of a robot-driven car, but I think the difficult thing is that in the case of a death or an injury, people want to be able to hold a person responsible. It's difficult to know exactly how that would pan out with a robot car. However, I guess one advantage is that you would probably have a 'black box' that could give you a much better idea of exactly what happened.

    To be honest, people probably worry about this more than they should. We already have the situation where injuring or killing people with a car is very lightly punished. It's exceptionally rare (at least in the UK) for anybody to do jail time for killing people. You can do all sorts of idiotic things in your car, kill someone and get away with a fine of a few hundred pounds.

  • If a human with a net worth of negative $10^5 to positive $10^5 is behind the wheel when something happens, maybe one or two lawyers will take notice. But if a machine that was built by corporation X, which is worth $10^9, get out of the way of the lawyer stampede towards the courthouse that will look something like the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Just look at the unintended acceleration claims so far.
    • by mc6809e (214243)

      I agree that it will be fear of lawsuits that will probably prevent the production cars that can drive themselves.

      Solutions to this problem include limiting the liability of the maker to an amount that equals the net worth of the typical driver, or, force everyone to buy insurance that grants very large, multi-million dollar payouts.

  • by AdamHaun (43173) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @11:09AM (#35693858) Journal

    I think the real selling point for driverless cars isn't going to be safety, but efficiency. Road maintenance is very expensive. Adding more roads costs a lot of money, and widening existing roads often means tearing down whatever homes or businesses are built alongside them. Driverless cars could use cooperative algorithms to better handle things like lane closures and overall congestion. You wouldn't have free-rider problems (no pun intended) like people cutting in at the front of a line, slowing everyone else down. When a stoplight turns green, every car could start moving simultaneously, getting more people through the light. I bet a huge reduction in rush hour traffic would be a selling point for a lot of people (and regulators).

    It would take a long time to implement. And there would be a backlash from people who want to do (possibly selfish) things the algorithms won't. But it's still a neat idea.

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @11:10AM (#35693864) Homepage Journal
    Evil robots in movies is one thing in a world of fiction. Windows misbehaving, bluescreening and doing strange things, in the other hand, is something usual in this world. And the plenty of malware for it doesnt help exactly. Adding to that scenario the capability of harming people in big scale as isolated drunks do from time to time is not good.
  • In spite of how complex the notion of cause is in a situation like this, in spite of how completely illogical it is, without someone to blame or punish people will feel very cheated if a robot driver kills or injures a human. At least when a human driver does it we can punish them to appease our human desire for blame.
  • I LOVE driving (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c.r.o.c.o (123083) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @11:32AM (#35693998)

    I drive manual transmission cars, I ride motorcycles, and I love going to the racetrack and testing the limits of both myself and my vehicles. Never had an at fault accident, but in the interest of disclosure I was rear-ended while waiting at red lights TWICE.

    So while I have a personal problem relinquishing control of my car to a computer because I enjoy driving it myself, I can see the benefits of computer aided driving especially on public roads. But I believe an in between system would vastly improve safety while leaving people in control. Instead of the computer having absolute control, have it perform the same analysis and assist in collision avoidance.

    Approaching a red light at a speed beyond safety margins? Apply the brakes. Start fishtailing on the highway? Apply corrective steering measures. Changing lanes into another vehicle, cyclist or turning into the path of another vehicle? Sound warnings, apply brakes, etc.

    The trick is setting the thresholds to a level where people are completely in control up to the point where they are somewhat close to having an accident. Because if you believe computer driven cars will remove ALL collisions, you're deluded. All it takes if for a child to run out between two parked cars in the path of another car, and all the computer systems in the world will not counter its kinetic energy.

    And it would be VERY important for the vehicle to be usable with the computer systems disabled, for several reasons.

    First, because many people enjoy driving. Short of banning every single existing car on the road, people like me will always be able to purchase and drive a non-computerized vehicle. Even today I can buy a functioning Ford Model T. Think about that for a second, and you'll realize it could take a hundred years before the last current car stops being available, short of outlawing them. But just like with cigarettes and alcohol, I doubt that will ever happen. Can you imagine the lobby all the wealthy car collectors will mount?

    Second, because computer systems fail and sometimes they cannot be inexpensively repaired. A current car can still run with many of its electrical systems disabled (power seats, windows, navigation system, even alternator and starter) for a while. Having worked with cars and motorcycles for a long time, I can tell you I'd rather rebuild an engine than diagnose an electrical problem. A cold solder on a PCB can ruin a while weekend trying to figure out why your car will not start in hot weather, but works fine in cold (I'm looking at you Honda Main Relay!!!) The complexity of a computer that can drive a car is beyond anything we have available today ANYWHERE, and it has thousands of failure points. Sensors, cameras, gps, servo motors, switches, wires, PCBs and only lastly the main CPU. The fact it runs in testing is great, but these systems have to last 10+ years of abuse WITHOUT FAILURE.

    Lastly, having fully computer driven cars will make people even more dependent on technology, which is NOT a good thing. I've had my GPS tell me to go down a railway track once. I looked at it, smiled, and found the real route myself. But people HAVE driven on railway tracks, into lakes or in remote areas where they died of hypothermia. Imagine if you program your car to drive you, without any input, and it makes such a mistake?

    • by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @11:47AM (#35694088)
      As soon as it is proven that computers cause fewer accidents than people do, the rates for manual insurance will rocket. Just like it's now impossible for a teenage man (and when the non sex discrimination rules kick in, teenage women, too) to get any insured for less than several thousand £££'s, so it will be for drivers who wish to be in control, themselves. SO while the law may allow people to drive, it will soon be impractical for reasons of cost. Shortly after that it will become socially irresponsible and after that people will start to wonder why anyone would ever want to. It'll take a decade ot two, but sooner or later the only place people will be allowed to control cars themselves will be on private race-tracks next door to hospitals - provided you can afford the medical care.
  • It's science fiction, until we can program a creative and reasoning mind.

    Yes, we can build warning systems, or even systems that delivers fault free driving in most conditions,
    but exceptions happens, and our technology is far from beeing able to handle the unknown.
    The margins for errors when driving is frightfully small - we are travelling inches from death, and
    even small errors are potentially fatal.

    The human mind is excellent at doing fast intuitive reactions, and there is nothing that makes you gain resp

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @11:34AM (#35694006)
    It's ok for coal to have killed and maimed thousands directly and more than a million indirectly, but a nuclear incident that gives a few workers a dose over limit.....
    • Hell coal generation in the US releases more radioactive minerals (mostly uranium and thorium) than is contained in all the nuclear plants in the US! If you live near a coal plant you get a higher average dose then living next to a nuke plant!

      And the effects of coal related radiation is secondary to the respiratory illness caused by coal particulates released from mining and power generation.

      If the coal industry was held to the same standards as the nuclear industry it wouldn't be profitable.

  • You include a Black Box that records 360 degree video (maybe buffering the last 30 seconds). That way accidents can be replayed and there can be no doubt where, or with whom, blame lies. I think once it can be shown that in (almost) all cases the fault lies away from the computer then the feature will become accepted, just like seatbelts and airbags are now.

    It seems pretty obvious that the cost of this system will see it installed in high-end vehicles first: lorries and vans (and possibly luxury cars) bef

  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @11:42AM (#35694048) Journal

    Judging from the number of cars I see with drivers blabbing on cells phones while drifting around on the road, people stuffing their faces, digging around the passenger seat, etc I'd say we've had driverless cars for some time now.

  • I remember a plot point from the Shadowrun games being the GridGuide system, something like this but additionally using a "routing system" using transceivers placed in/by the road. I assume you could use a peer-to-peer system of some sort where the individual nodes sort out the shortest path for any given vehicle and then transmit that route to the vehicles, recalculating it every so often to make up for the changing conditions. People would probably accept a system with some measure of central control easi
  • "I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that. There's a 'No Left Turn' sign there. To do so could only be the result of human error."

    Will computer steered cars be able to dodge other dingbats on the road who are: twittering, spilling their coffee on themselves and putting on makeup? That is the real danger on the road. And those are the types of folks who will refuse a computer chauffeur.

  • A million deaths per year sounds inflated. Last year, the us had "only" 42k deaths. I can't believe the rest of the world accounts for 660k deaths, ESP when the US has a disproportionate amount of vehicles.

    Stipulating "1m deaths" as fact makes me suspect the rest of this analysis.

    • by Jason Pollock (45537) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @01:58PM (#35694898) Homepage

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_collision

      Worldwide it was estimated in 2004 that 1.2 million people were killed (2.2% of all deaths) and 50 million more were injured in motor vehicle collisions.[1][39] India leads with 105,000 traffic deaths in a year, compared with over 96,000 in China.[40] This makes motor vehicle collisions the leading cause of injury death among children worldwide 10 – 19 years old (260,000 children die a year, 10 million are injured) [41] and the sixth leading preventable cause of death in the United States[42] (45,800 people died and 2.4 million were injured in 2005).[43] In Canada they are the cause of 48% of severe injuries.[44]

      Complete with references.

  • by Paracelcus (151056) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @03:41PM (#35695520) Journal

    Have my car drop me off, go park itself and when I'm ready I'll call it on the cell phone and it'll pick me up.

    Now I could go for that!

  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Saturday April 02, 2011 @04:34PM (#35695768)

    Google's driverless car could save more than 1 million deaths per year

    What curious wording. Most safety inventions would strive to "save more tan a million lives, but this one wants to save more than a million deaths. I guess now you can just use any words in a sentence and expect people to figure out what you intended.

  • by kikito (971480) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @06:05AM (#35698486) Homepage

    If we don't trust robot cars, we shouldn't trust robot elevators.

A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention, with the possible exceptions of handguns and Tequilla. -- Mitch Ratcliffe

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