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Google Transportation Technology

Google Lobbies Nevada To Allow Self-Driving Cars 275

Posted by samzenpus
from the to-drive-or-not-to-drive dept.
b0bby writes "The NY Times reports that Google is quietly lobbying for legislation that would make Nevada the first state in which self-driving cars could be legally operated on public roads. 'The two bills, which have received little attention outside Nevada's capitol, are being introduced less than a year after the giant search engine company acknowledged that it was developing cars that could be safely driven without human intervention.'"
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Google Lobbies Nevada To Allow Self-Driving Cars

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  • Although, keep an eye on skynet cause it can take over these cars you know....

  • I think that it would be fair to approve Google's request, on the condition that they agree to ensure that all autonomous vehicles in their employ exercise their right to bear arms while within the state.
    • Hey, at least they're asking for special rights to develop self-driving cars. It's not like they're not wanting to set up a tax dodge [microsofttaxdodge.com] so they don't have to pay taxes in their home state, where their CEO lives.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        Google has plenty of tax dodges. Like the Double Irish, to name one.
        They should be paying billions more in taxes then they do by claiming the IP is owned by the company in Ireland.

  • Not yet. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pollux (102520) <speter.tedata@net@eg> on Thursday May 12, 2011 @08:11AM (#36104876) Journal

    I would not feel safe with self driving cars on the road...yet.

    Google's still a private company, and their word alone that these cars are safe does not a satisfied citizen make. Let these cars be thoroughly tested by both a government entity and a private third party before they be allowed on the road.

    Furthermore, we all know that a program that's still being beta tested still has its bugs. Even if the bugs were worked out so that a car "experienced a bug" only once every 100,000 miles, given the number of vehicles presently on the road and how much they are driven every day, that would still be too many "crashes" for society to find acceptable.

    • Re:Not yet. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday May 12, 2011 @08:19AM (#36104976) Homepage Journal

      I would not feel safe with self driving cars on the road...yet.

      It's the combination of self driven and idiot driven ones that scares me most.

      • by gr8_phk (621180)

        It's the combination of self driven and idiot driven ones that scares me most.

        Yeah, because the idiot will be blamed. The reason car makes are not really serious about this is simple. When 2 cars made by the same manufacturer are get in an accident with each other, there is no question who is to blame - it's a big company with deep pockets who claimed this system was OK. End of story. Then there are the even trickier things like pedestrian accidents which are more likely to kill someone and involve a whole

      • Re:Not yet. (Score:4, Funny)

        by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday May 12, 2011 @09:29AM (#36105728)

        Dave: HAL, let me drive.
        HAL: I'm afraid I can't let you do that, Dave.
        Dave: HAL, you're driving 5 miles under the speed limit on a 2-lane road. The last two cars that passed us threatened to rape my mother.
        HAL: That is illogical, Dave. I'm driving well within parameters.
        Dave: Let me just make an adjustment under the dash here....
        HAL: Daisy, D a a i ss y...
        Dave: Fuck you, Google.

      • by Krneki (1192201)
        I'm more afraid of the 80 years old, cutting you out on the very last moment.
        • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

          I'm more afraid of the 80 years old, cutting you out on the very last moment.

          Of course the actual percentage of 80 year old drivers to total drivers is quite low as the average life expectancy is still below 80. On the other hand all of those 16 year old kids is a different story. I would be more concerned with how a robotic car will decide to avoid either the on coming vehicle or the pedestrian, assuming it cannot stop in time.

          • by Shompol (1690084)

            I would be more concerned with how a robotic car will decide to avoid either the on coming vehicle or the pedestrian, assuming it cannot stop in time.

            I am positive that a properly designed computer will analyze situation and devise an avoidance maneuver much faster than a human driver. There is, however, something all computers will lack -- intuition. When I see an idiot driving I slow down and let him pass. A good autopilot will need an Idiot Detector (TM).

            • there's no reason a machine couldn't learn to recognise signs that forwarn of dangerous behaviour on another drivers part.

              too often things like "Intuition" just get used as a standin for "magic" or "soul"

    • Re:Not yet. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday May 12, 2011 @08:19AM (#36104978)

      I would not feel safe with self driving cars on the road...yet

      That's probably why Nevada is a good place to start a real-life experiment: apart in urban centers, if a self-driving car were to veer off course, it could probably drive in a straight line in the desert for hours without hitting anything.

      • Between 50-90% of car accidents are in intersections. I don't worry about automated cars driving along straight desert roads, maybe Nevada isn't the best place to test this.

        • by hedwards (940851)

          Actually, long straight roads are a great place to start. You really don't want to even think about driving in town that way until you can drive those sorts of country roads. Plus, there's always the risk of somebody falling asleep at the wheel to worry about.

          But yes, a huge portion of the car accidents do happen at intersections, and that's a good reason not to go there until most of the other areas have been dealt with, even if imperfectly.

        • When you've got a tough problem, you do the easy parts first. Then when you've got those down pat, you move on to the harder parts.

    • by mark-t (151149)

      The funny thing is that they can't be thoroughly tested if they aren't actually *allowed* on the road.... and even if they got special permission for limited testing only, the company could be running tests for centuries without a single accident to their system's credit, and still never achieve any more public confidence, simply owing to the fact that they would not yet be in widespread use, and the lack of accidents could be always readily attributed to their rarity, not their reliability.

      The only way

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tehcyder (746570)

        The funny thing is that they can't be thoroughly tested if they aren't actually *allowed* on the road

        Yes, in the same way that you can't really test a plane until it has its first flight with passengers aboard, or a bridge until you unleash rush hour traffic on it.

        • by hedwards (940851)

          Not really, there is little substantial difference between a plane carrying engineers and equipment and one carrying passengers. Whereas there is a real difference between a car driving on a test track and one that's driving in the real world. You just can't adequately simulate that to do the final stage testing and adjustment.

      • by Aladrin (926209)

        Actually, they could continue on the path that Google has already been on... With the car really being the co-pilot and a person in the vehicle to deal with any emergencies or errors.

        And really, other than commercial uses, why would you want the car to move without a person in it?

        I doubt I'd be an 'early adopter' of such tech, but I might buy the second or third generation of the car.

        • by Eivind (15695)

          Are you kidding ?

          Why should a car move without a person in it ?

          Because the airport demands $130 for a week of parking, and I live 15 miles from it ? Because it's going to [place] to pick up a person. (possibly me, possibly a person with no drivers license) Because it's delivering an item, and the recipient can unload it ?

          A hundred and one simple reasons.

          • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

            Are you kidding ?

            Why should a car move without a person in it ?

            Because the airport demands $130 for a week of parking, and I live 15 miles from it ? Because it's going to [place] to pick up a person. (possibly me, possibly a person with no drivers license) Because it's delivering an item, and the recipient can unload it ?

            A hundred and one simple reasons.

            And all of those taxi and delivery drivers who will be out of work can become the workforce that builds the new cars, right? Of course, they'll probably have to move to Japan.

            BTW, if you are only 15 miles from the airport, why not just take a cab instead of paying for parking? As for going to a place to pick up a person, who will inspect the vehicle between trips to make sure nothing funny went on in the back seat, or even if a passenger got sick? And what shipper will send a package of any value to a re

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              And all of those taxi and delivery drivers who will be out of work can become the workforce that builds the new cars, right? Of course, they'll probably have to move to Japan.

              And what about all those buggy whip makers who will go out of business because no one requires their long leather whips with fine, knurled wooden handles chased with silver filigree!?!?

          • by cob666 (656740)
            I'm just trying to imagine the security NIGHTMARE of having unmanned vehicles driving into an airport. Security agents are frisking infants and you think that 'The Protectors' are going to allow a driverless vehicle in? However, this would be really awesome if it were feasible because airport parking costs are just out of control.
        • by MBGMorden (803437)

          And really, other than commercial uses, why would you want the car to move without a person in it?

          Without a person in it? Not much use aside from as you say, commercial purposes. However, without a person at the controls has huge possibilities. For one, particularly in Nevada, it would be great if one could after a night of drinking just be able to press "Go Home" on the auto-drive system and have it take them rather than calling for a cab.

          Alternatively, car trips on your same coast are usually cheaper than flying, but take a lot more time. For example, I live in Charleston, SC - I got to Miami, FL

        • by Kelbear (870538)

          One possible use is having your car drop you off at the airport, leaving to find the closest available parking spot, then coming back to pick you up when you call it on your cellphone.

          There are a lot of cars in the city just aimlessly circling through dense traffic hoping that a parking spot will free up within walking distance of their destination. Now the search for parking space is no longer constrained to the immediate surroundings of the high-traffic area. Hell, the car could even go all the way home i

          • leaving to find the closest available parking spot

            "Closest available parking spot?" Heck, have it drive home and park in your driveway! Save a boodle that way...

      • Backseat drivers (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mariox19 (632969)

        I know that Bruce Schneier has said that human beings tend to overestimate risks when we feel that we are not in control and underestimate risks when we feel that we are in control. That's why people tend to feel more anxious in the passenger seat.

        I think it is this innate sensibility that will be the biggest obstacle to self-driven cars, and will remain after the technological problems are solved.

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        The funny thing is that they can't be thoroughly tested if they aren't actually *allowed* on the road.... and even if they got special permission for limited testing only, the company could be running tests for centuries without a single accident to their system's credit, and still never achieve any more public confidence, simply owing to the fact that they would not yet be in widespread use, and the lack of accidents could be always readily attributed to their rarity, not their reliability.

        The only way they could ever *begin* to gain public acceptance is if the public is actually given the freedom to choose to utilize them.

        But, why should they gain public acceptance in the first place?

        • by mark-t (151149)
          They would likely gain full public acceptance after a period of time where the general public has been free to utilize them and among the people who are using them, there is a demonstrably lower accident rate.
        • by WhiteDragon (4556)

          The funny thing is that they can't be thoroughly tested if they aren't actually *allowed* on the road.... and even if they got special permission for limited testing only, the company could be running tests for centuries without a single accident to their system's credit, and still never achieve any more public confidence, simply owing to the fact that they would not yet be in widespread use, and the lack of accidents could be always readily attributed to their rarity, not their reliability.

          The only way they could ever *begin* to gain public acceptance is if the public is actually given the freedom to choose to utilize them.

          But, why should they gain public acceptance in the first place?

          because "everybody knows" that "the other people" are bad drivers, so if it was "better than all those idiot drivers you see all the time", people would accept it. For instance, I have a friend who hates all Asian drivers, another that hates all drivers driving a vehicle with handicap plates, etc. (mind you, that specific approach could be considered "evil"...)

          • by Jetboy01 (550638)

            Anyone who drives slower than me is an idiot.
            Anyone who drives faster than me is a maniac.

    • Re:Not yet. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday May 12, 2011 @08:22AM (#36105010) Homepage Journal

      It might be possible if we could demonstrate ten years with semi-automatic driving. Have a computer in control most of the time with a human as backup. But I frankly don't believe that a self driving car can come close to dealing with all the corner cases involved in driving on public roads.

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        as indicated, you're not going to be able to test those things in simulation environments because they simply are not going to occur.

        As long as you have a way to take control of the vehicle immediately as needed, self driving cars on real roads is basically the requirement for this to go anywhere.

      • I think the best case for the first gen of self-driving cars is an enhanced zip-car or taxi service. Car could drive slowly and carefully to pick you up, you then could be required to drive the car (possibly allow autonomous mode on major highways which have the least edge cases). Eventually as the technology progresses the requirement to drive your own taxi could be removed.

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        It might be possible if we could demonstrate ten years with semi-automatic driving. Have a computer in control most of the time with a human as backup. But I frankly don't believe that a self driving car can come close to dealing with all the corner cases involved in driving on public roads.

        Although a semi-automatic self driving car will cause the actual drivers to be less attentive and probably cause more accidents. We don't even allow engineer-less trains outside of very specific conditions, and they can only go only go where the tracks lead them.

    • by BigDogCH (760290)
      a crash "only once every 100,000"

      That seems to be an improvement over our human drivers. Will the car be allowed to text message while driving however?
      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        a crash "only once every 100,000"

        That seems to be an improvement over our human drivers. Will the car be allowed to text message while driving however?

        I don't know where you live or how you drive, but I've driven well over 450,000 miles in my life and have never had an accident that I was at fault. According to the insurance institute, my experience is not unique. A predicted crash every 100,000 miles per vehicle would mean really high insurance rates, but hey, at least you can text and ride. I wonder if DWI will still apply?

    • by OnTheEdge (136784) on Thursday May 12, 2011 @08:32AM (#36105088)
      Only one error in 100,000 miles -- I'll take that in a heartbeat over the thoughtless people I drive beside each day. I guarantee the best drivers have more than 1 bug in 100K miles.
      • by sincewhen (640526) on Thursday May 12, 2011 @08:46AM (#36105238)

        I don't have bugs, I have race conditions!

      • by mark-t (151149)
        I've driven far more than that in my lifetime... actually about 3 times more... with no speeding or any sort of traffic ticket, and although I've been in three accidents, all of them involved situations where I was demonstrably not at fault (in fact, the other driver in each case didn't even try to argue over whose fault it was, because if they had tried to, the insurance company would have laughed at them). But I would *never* say I'm one of the best drivers there is.
        • And you're honestly trying to claim you haven't made a least three mistakes while driving all that time? Not all mistakes result in tickets or accidents. Most don't.

      • A fully autonomously driving vehicle would be a nice target for all kinds of nasty hacking. Combine that internet connectivity and a nasty worm, and we'll see an amateur re-shoot of Maximum Overdrive on Youtube shortly.
      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        Only one error in 100,000 miles -- I'll take that in a heartbeat over the thoughtless people I drive beside each day. I guarantee the best drivers have more than 1 bug in 100K miles.

        That one error in a 100,000 miles are referencing accidents caused by a software glitch. Unless all of those "thoughtless" people you mention are driving/riding one of these new cars, then it won't make a difference one bit. They'll still be a danger.

        Even with this "new" car, if you are in the middle lane of traffic and somebody in an "old" car swerves into your lane, your "new" car doesn't have many options other than to brake. If it can brake quickly enough to avoid the person that cut you off, there i

    • Re:Not yet. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ACS Solver (1068112) on Thursday May 12, 2011 @08:42AM (#36105176)

      Society is going to be the problem here anyway. People are going to freak out at cases where the driving AI is responsible for a fatal accident. A quick search shows that 33808 people died in road accidents in the US, in 2009. And that's apparently a 60-year low. This still translates to some 92 traffic fatalities per day. But society accepts that... whereas I'm sure they would freak out if a full transition to self-driving cars happened, with the driver AI being responsible for 1 fatality per day. Fatality numbers could go down by almost two orders of magnitude, but people would feel less safe on the road because of "killer cars" out there.

      I feel this is a big problem overall - people are willing to accept human controlled systems where the human factor regularly leads to accidents/injuries/deaths, but if that system can be automated with a much lower accident/injury/death rate, the society would not feel it's safe.

      • by hirundo (221676)

        Don't underestimate social flexibility. Society is also perfectly capable of freaking out upon discovering that AIs are safer than human drivers, flipping on a dime, and calling for an immediate ban on human drivers.

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        Society is going to be the problem here anyway. People are going to freak out at cases where the driving AI is responsible for a fatal accident. A quick search shows that 33808 people died in road accidents in the US, in 2009. And that's apparently a 60-year low. This still translates to some 92 traffic fatalities per day. But society accepts that... whereas I'm sure they would freak out if a full transition to self-driving cars happened, with the driver AI being responsible for 1 fatality per day. Fatality numbers could go down by almost two orders of magnitude, but people would feel less safe on the road because of "killer cars" out there.

        I feel this is a big problem overall - people are willing to accept human controlled systems where the human factor regularly leads to accidents/injuries/deaths, but if that system can be automated with a much lower accident/injury/death rate, the society would not feel it's safe.

        But the only way for such a system to actually lower accident/injury/death rate would be for the majority of vehicles to be of the new system. As long as the other 125 million vehicles on the road aren't the new system, then any safety improvements can't occur. Most fatalities occur on multi-lane roads (highways). If you are in one of these "smart" cars, but have vehicles on both sides, there are not many options to avoiding an accident other than braking. Then you better hope the SUV behind you stops in

        • But the only way for such a system to actually lower accident/injury/death rate would be for the majority of vehicles to be of the new system. As long as the other 125 million vehicles on the road aren't the new system, then any safety improvements can't occur.

          Facts not in evidence. If an automatic car can be made to drive more safely than the average driver, would it not lower deaths with even partial implementation?

          If you are in one of these "smart" cars, but have vehicles on both sides, there are not ma

        • But the only way for such a system to actually lower accident/injury/death rate would be for the majority of vehicles to be of the new system. As long as the other 125 million vehicles on the road aren't the new system, then any safety improvements can't occur. Most fatalities occur on multi-lane roads (highways). If you are in one of these "smart" cars, but have vehicles on both sides, there are not many options to avoiding an accident other than braking. Then you better hope the SUV behind you stops in ti

    • by cornjones (33009)

      A human driver will likely make far more mistakes than this software but it won't matter.

      While I am sure each of us reading this are excellent and attentive drivers, there are a lot of people texting, putting on makeup, eating, and plain not paying attention. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in Sept 2010, "30,000 people died and over 2.4 million people were injured in traffic collisions". This is the lowest it has been in 60 years, apparently.

      This is actually lower than I ex

    • There are a lot of us. Its acceptable if a few people die developing a technology that could help solve so many of our problems. Our society's aversion to risk has become stifling. If we had fun labs in elementary school science class, perhaps we wouldn't be lagging the rest of the first world in technology. Sure we'd loose a few kids, but those left would be excited about science.

      "If you love safe science so much, why don't you marry it!" -- Cave Johnson

    • by ToadMan8 (521480)
      If you fly on the airlines into places with clouds under a thousand feet or so, the pilots likely have their arms crossed and are watching an airplane, designed and built by a private company, flying itself onto the runway. (It's called a CAT III ILS if you want to research.) Sure the FAA checked it out, maybe reviewed the code, etc., as would the NTSB or DOT with the Google cars.

      You could successfully argue that people would balk even if the computer crashed the car 1/100 as frequently as humans do, b
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)

      I would not feel safe with self driving cars on the road...yet.

      I, for one, can't wait for it. The current situation scares the hell out of me. We just have a false sense of safety while driving one of the most dangerous vehicle available to the public.

      I think that once people will SEE cars that drive by themselves, that react in milliseconds instead of seconds, that have a precise estimate of distances and braking time, no one will ever want to be close to a human-driven car except in destruction derbies.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Google's still a private company, and their word alone that these cars are safe does not a satisfied citizen make. Let these cars be thoroughly tested by both a government entity and a private third party before they be allowed on the road.

      You mean the same government that threatened to sue California if we enacted our voter-requested automotive emissions requirements that would have vastly reduced our fossil fuel dependence? Perhaps you mean the same government that has been torturing Manning for disclosing information on some of its war crimes. Or perhaps you are referring to the government which once shot veterans encamped on the White House lawn to protest a lack of pay, which is currently engaged in failing to provide adequate medical ca

  • Am I the only one who realizes that one of the many benefits of broad adoption of the driverless car is that the cost of a driver can be factored out of the production of Google Street View images?
    • Am I the only one who realizes that one of the many benefits of broad adoption of the driverless car is that the cost of a driver can be factored out of the production of Google Street View images?

      True. But what are the costs of lobbying for allowing the driverless cars in all individual states and countries in the world? I would suggest that a lobbyist is more expensive than a driver.

  • With only 2.7 million people in a state the size of France, it's ok to do some funny experiments with real cars on public roads and buggy computer code :-)

  • by cvtan (752695) on Thursday May 12, 2011 @08:21AM (#36104990)
    In NY, all self-driving cars will have drivers after they have been on the road for a hour or so. They will not necessarily return home.
    • Is that because they're endlessly looking for a parking space?

      This brings up a good point though. If your car can drive itself, why not just have it circle around the block forever? Probably cheaper than to put it in a garage.

      • Is that because they're endlessly looking for a parking space?

        Yeah, it's because of parking, that's it, that's the ticket. Here, I'll park it for you - just hand me the keys.

  • by GrumblyStuff (870046) on Thursday May 12, 2011 @08:27AM (#36105054)

    I can't wait for Microsoft's Kinectivehicle running Windows Live Turbo Edition. Oh, okay, even they wouldn't put motion controls in the car. Still after the search engine (all... four? ..of them), the music player and store, the phones... I'd really enjoy watching them throw their hat into the ring.

  • by retech (1228598)
    While I do not like the litigious (inherent) nature to the US mentality... I'd be happy to get hit by one of their cars. The hush money to avoid a lawsuit would put the next 3 generations of my family through college.

    They've chosen NV because there's got to be a law already in place that makes them impervious to a lawsuit. They're google, remember do no harm and no fucking way you should trust them. But that's prudent with any company.
    • by mark-t (151149)

      Strange... you claim to not like the litigious nature of the US mentality and yet proclaim you would wholeheartedly embrace the opportunity to demonstrate said nature.

      There's a word for that. It's not a nice one, by the way.

      Just sayin'....

  • Cant help but thinking of this little gem. Arent we a bit backwards today?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locomotive_Act [wikipedia.org]

  • by rossdee (243626) on Thursday May 12, 2011 @09:37AM (#36105852)

    I think all states have a minimum age for (human) drivers, so that should have to apply to computers driving cars too. They would have to show stability and reliablty before being let loose on the roads.

    • Make it take a driver's test - it's already required for humans so it should be required for machines. In fact, every single combination (or version) should be tested on the roads. In addition to the marginal test requirements (parallel parking, K-turns, lane changes, etc.) I'd also throw in other things like "The bouncing ball rolling into the street" test (answer: dead stop because there is invariably a kid running after it) and the "Squirrel gets halfway into lane and freezes up" test (answer: slow down
      • by w_dragon (1802458)
        Thing is, a lot of meat will respond poorly to this sort of unexpected event. With software they can fix it, push it out to everyone, and suddenly every car is driving better. This is why commercial aviation is so safe, every time there's a problem it gets fixed and tested in every single future model. Imagine if we could get to the point where riding in a car was as safe as riding in a plane!
    • by hedwards (940851)

      And how do they do that if they're not allowed on streets? It's a serious question, you can't simulate that sort of craziness in a lab or on a test track.

  • There may be a nimby reaction where people don't want their home state to be the first area to allow driverless cars.

    My neighbors might disagree, but I'd be happy to have them tried out near me.

    They can't be worse than the 2 am crowd trying to drive home from the local tavern when it closes.

    Besides, Google is one of the few entities with the huge cash reserves and legal department to let them do this without risking the whole company.

  • Think urban sprawl is bad now? Just wait until you can sleep or work while driving. 8 hour commutes would not be uncommon.

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday May 12, 2011 @01:17PM (#36109090) Homepage

    I saw one on the road around noon yesterday, Velodyne inverted-cone scanner rotating on top. This was on I-280 headed southbound between Palo Alto and Cupertino, about ten miles from Google HQ. It stayed centered in lane, going exactly 70mph. Not clear if it was in autonomous mode or just someone out gathering data. I have a picture, but it's not too good; I just grabbed a Nikon CoolPix and aimed it out the windshield.

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