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Nissan's Autonomous Car Now Road Legal In Japan 205

Posted by Soulskill
from the as-long-as-you-don't-program-it-to-run-over-mimes dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "The current test vehicle uses what Nissan calls its 'Advanced Driver Assist System,' which isn't fully autonomous, but rather can be thought of as a really advanced cruise control system. According to the company, the system can keep a car in its own lane, while automatically changing lanes to pass slower vehicles or prepare to exit a freeway, which it can also do automatically. Along with that, the car automatically slows for congestion, and — most impressively in my opinion — can automatically stop at red lights. In other words, the car isn't fully automatic in that you can't simply type in a destination and have it do all the work, but the bulk of driving load is taken care of. Curiously, Nissan's goal appears to be to take sloppy human drivers out of the equation to eliminate road fatalities."
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Nissan's Autonomous Car Now Road Legal In Japan

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  • Curiously? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Antipater (2053064) on Friday September 27, 2013 @03:48PM (#44974317)

    Curiously, Nissan's goal appears to be to take sloppy human drivers out of the equation to eliminate road fatalities."

    "We want fewer people to die" is a curious position to take?

    • Re:Curiously? (Score:5, Informative)

      by pablo_max (626328) on Friday September 27, 2013 @03:53PM (#44974367)

      Why? Dead people tend not to buy as many cars.

    • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

      "We want fewer people to die" is a curious position to take?

      Maybe everyone texts while driving in Japan

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Or may be they have a real problem with aging population there.
        So helping the drivers as much as possible and gradually going to autonomous isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    • Re:Curiously? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gagol (583737) on Friday September 27, 2013 @04:26PM (#44974737)
      As far as general availability of self-driving cars, I see it as a good step. The technology needs to mature much more before we should consider total automation. Keeping a responsible human in the loop is not bad too. Kudos Nissan.
      • Re: Curiously? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This actually worries me, the natural inclination will be for people to stop paying attention while driving. Then when the sutuation has surpassed the cars ability, nobody will be in control and an accident could happen. At that time, it will be assessed as the "robot's" fault and may set back adoption of what is likely to be a safer form of driving.

      • As far as general availability of self-driving cars, I see it as a good step.

        Well, once self-driving cars fill the roads in significant numbers, if they'll have provisions for mutual communication and data exchange, you can count on them being more polite to each other than human drivers would.

    • by EnsilZah (575600) <EnsilZah@nOSPaM.Gmail.com> on Friday September 27, 2013 @04:38PM (#44974841)

      What's curious is the fact that this line has nothing to do with the car in the article and actually refers to Nissan's plan to build an army of ninja robots who would take sloppy human drivers out of the equation to eliminate road fatalities.

    • by EEPROMS (889169)
      what is curious for me is at what point will insurance companies insist on automated assist drive systems in cars especially considering 95% of crashes are due to human error. In 100 years it may be impossible to get insurance if you drive at all on public roads.
      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        what is curious for me is at what point will insurance companies insist on automated assist drive systems in cars especially considering 95% of crashes are due to human error.

        Citation? And you do realize, I hope, that 95% (if true) being human error is because there currently is no "autonomous computer failure" category or contestants as regular participants. I expect that the numbers will be vastly different when there are.

        Unless, of course, the NTSB uses the same standards for car crashes it does for aircraft mishaps and everything is labelled driver (pilot) error as an overarching cause. "Driver did not properly supervise the autonomous vehicle that wasn't supposed to requi

      • by epyT-R (613989)

        Then people will do what they do now with interlocks and other idiocy. Disable the devices and take their chances. It's that or not go to work/get paid/eat.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Friday September 27, 2013 @03:51PM (#44974349) Homepage

    Now it just remains to be seen if drivers will continue to pay attention to the road, or if it becomes so autonomous that people start slacking (more) behind the wheel. It really won't work to have a car that drives itself 90% of the time and then expects you go randomly jump in for the last 10%. Still, nice to see this tech getting closer to reality.

    • by Dimwit (36756) on Friday September 27, 2013 @03:55PM (#44974403)

      That's what worries me. The transition to fully automatic cars needs to be essentially 100%, or at least 99% with a "pull over and stop moving" for the remaining 1%. Otherwise I would've be surprised if fatalities went *up* due to drivers taking a nap/getting drunk/reading a book and failing to notice when they need to take back over.

      • by pablo_max (626328)

        I dont think that is true at all.
        I think it will start the way most things do. Baby steps. Most likely there will be dedicated lanes to encourage people to adopt the tech. Like fast trax or something.
        No doubt there will be a charge by the state to actually use the lane though, thus reducing its appeal.

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          Most likely there will be dedicated lanes to encourage people to adopt the tech.

          Yeah, we have so many empty lanes now that dedicating one of them to a small percentage of cars that are "not autonomous autonomous vehicles" will be a really smart idea to solve traffic problems.

          This "not autonomous autonomous vehicle" automatically stops at red lights? How nice. The local store has a red light in their signage out front and all the cars stop. Good for the store. Bad for the traffic, especially the updated version of the "not autonomous autonomous vehicle" which has that bug fixed and do

          • by timeOday (582209) on Friday September 27, 2013 @05:05PM (#44975167)
            Get ready to be annoyed for about 30 years, because "automated" commonly means "more automated than before," not "automated in every conceivable way."

            Your example about how this might cause a crash is incorrect, since the car doesn't just follow rules (such as red lights) in the hopes everybody else will also follow them perfectly. They do what you do - they also watch for and avoid other cars, pedestrians, and other obstacles (regardless of why the other car is doing whatever it's doing).

            Still I do worry about how they will accurately see stoplights and stop for the intersection even if no other cars are in view. There are bad lighting conditions where it's extremely difficult to do. (I guess as a backup it could know the GPS location of stoplights and stop if it doesn't see the light and confirm that it is green). But I am sure we will end up with some level of instrumentation on the road such as stoplights that emit at a frequency not obfuscated by sunlight, snow, etc, like visible light is.

            • by Obfuscant (592200)

              Get ready to be annoyed for about 30 years, because "automated" commonly means "more automated than before," not "automated in every conceivable way."

              Perhaps that's why the word being used is "autonomous", not "automated".

              They do what you do - they also watch for and avoid other cars,

              Part of fixing the bug that says "stop at any red light no matter where it is" results in "don't pay any attention to the red lights on the cars in front of you."

              pedestrians

              In my state, you aren't a pedestrian to be stopped for unless you are IN the crosswalk. Standing on the side of the road looking wistfully at cars as they pass doesn't cut it.

              (I guess as a backup it could know the GPS location of stoplights and stop if it doesn't see the light and confirm that it is green).

              So we're all expecting that they will stop when they have absolutely no reason to, which will cer

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            Do you honestly think that the engineers developing this thing are that stupid, and have not thought of your obvious and easily fixed issues?

            Clearly any semi-autonomous vehicle will be able to detect other vehicles and not crash into them, even if it thinks the light isn't on red. One of the obvious test cases when developing this tech is to make sure it doesn't hit broken down or stalled vehicles just because it thinks it has a green light. It seems unlikely that it would even mistake a red sign for the tr

        • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday September 27, 2013 @05:00PM (#44975129)

          I dont think that is true at all.

          Of course it is not true, because the entire premise of the GGPP's objection is false. Self driving cars do not expect the human driver to "randomly" jump in. If the SDC calculates that it cannot make the best decision, it will prompt the human to take over. If the human does not respond, the SDC will either continue if it is reasonably safe to do so, or pull over and stop. The people designing these systems are not morons.

          • by Kjella (173770)

            Of course it is not true, because the entire premise of the GGPP's objection is false. Self driving cars do not expect the human driver to "randomly" jump in. If the SDC calculates that it cannot make the best decision, it will prompt the human to take over. If the human does not respond, the SDC will either continue if it is reasonably safe to do so, or pull over and stop. The people designing these systems are not morons.

            But that's just the point, this isn't a self driving car. It's a very sophisticated driving assistant that'll handle the routine driving but throw any unexpected situation it doesn't recognize or doesn't handle in your lap. Or are you trying to argue that Nissan is taking full responsibility and liability for how this car drives while this system is active? Because I'm pretty sure they don't. The day you're no more than a swap-in driver which happen to be sitting in the driver's seat instead of the passenge

            • throw any unexpected situation it doesn't recognize or doesn't handle in your lap.

              No it doesn't. Only a complete moron would design it that way. And everyone else on the team, and the full management chain would need to be morons as well. The system will prompt the driver to take over, and if the driver does not respond, it will follow the safest course of action, which may be to continue in autonomous mode, or may be to pull over and stop. There is no way in hell that a self driving car sold to the public is going to just turn itself off while flying down the freeway.

              • by Obfuscant (592200)

                No it doesn't. Only a complete moron would design it that way. And everyone else on the team, and the full management chain would need to be morons as well.

                Two words about software designers and management chains: Windows 8. Need I say more?

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      I think that it would rather obviously need to fail safe. Depending on the contingency, this could include a panic stop - but the system can't just depend on the driver to "jump in".

      • by toastar (573882)
        A panic stop on the freeway can be pretty deadly
        • by MightyYar (622222)

          Not if all the cars are automated :)

          Panic stops happen all the time. I had to panic stop for a deer recently. I've been run into during a panic stop, too (the car in front of me panic stopped). I would assume that a panic stop would be a last-resort maneuver - if the logic got to an unhandled state or enough sensors were lost to warrant such a thing. I imagine that would be quite rare - probably less frequent than a tire blow out, for example.

    • by lgw (121541)

      That's exactly the problem I'm most eager to see how Nissan solves.

      I have their system that's 1 step back from this: it can only steer gently with the brakes (using the brakes on one side or the other), but it will keep a safe distance form the car in front of you, even stopping as needed, keep you from drifting out of a lane if you're not paying attention, and, if you let it, brake for you in cases where it seems you're not paying attention. It's good enough that, even though you can't take your hands off

      • by lgw (121541)

        Oh, nearly forgot my favorite feature: warn you if you're trying to change lanes and someone's in your blind spot.

        • by cusco (717999)

          Pet Peeve

          If you have a blind spot your mirrors are adjusted wrong. Every Drivers Education course teaches students to adjust the mirrors so that the driver can see the side of the car, but unless you're worried about a quarter-panel falling off and not noticing it you really don't need to see your own car. The mirrors should be adjusted outwards so that you need to move your head at least 6"/20 cm to the right or left before you see the side of the car. Once you've done that drive slowly past a parked ca

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            THIS!
            Push the mirrors all the way out. The rear view and sides should not have any overlap ideally.

          • by lgw (121541)

            Which is great in theory, but you will always have a blind spot of some sort unless you have heavy-truck-size mirrors. RADAR doesn't have the blind spots, which is nice.

          • If you have a blind spot your mirrors are adjusted wrong.

            You do realize that your advice only moves the blind spot, right? If I can't see the edge of my own car, that means the blind spot is immediately next to my car -- where a pedestrian or bicyclist might be.

          • by CauseBy (3029989)

            That's one way. Another is to get blind-spot mirrors. I have a little one on each side and I love them.

          • Pet Peeve

            If you have a blind spot your mirrors are adjusted wrong. Every Drivers Education course teaches students to adjust the mirrors so that the driver can see the side of the car, but unless you're worried about a quarter-panel falling off and not noticing it you really don't need to see your own car. The mirrors should be adjusted outwards so that you need to move your head at least 6"/20 cm to the right or left before you see the side of the car. Once you've done that drive slowly past a parked car and you'll see that the car appears in your peripheral vision just before it goes out of view in the mirror.

            Exactly. I put the small round mirrors on mine. I can tell at a glance if the lane is clear and if there is room for my entire car to move over without cutting anyone off. I originally got them for towing my boat so that I could see further back, but I find that they are invaluable as they completely eliminate my blind spot.

    • It sounds like people won't have to jump in randomly or unexpectedly, rather there are some types of roads that the system won't handle, requiring the driver to take over. It also sounds that if these systems sense a need to switch to manual control, warn the driver but get no response (hands on the wheel), they can at least bring the car to a controlled stop at the side of the road.
    • Now it just remains to be seen if drivers will continue to pay attention to the road, or if it becomes so autonomous that people start slacking (more) behind the wheel.

      That's a big problem with "driver assistance systems". With both lane-keeping and "adaptive cruise control" installed, the driver can take their hands off the wheel. Once that's possible, some drivers will stop paying attention to the road. That won't end well, because those two functions are only sufficient for good freeway conditions. They don't handle attempts by other drivers to change into your lane, for example.

      Audi has an "adaptive cruise control" system in test which also handles stop and go traff

  • I am all for it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pablo_max (626328) on Friday September 27, 2013 @03:52PM (#44974359)

    I cannot wait until we have automatic driving cars! I love to drive as much as the next guy. Hell, I am the go-to car guy among my friends and family. But I hate sitting in traffic to and from work. It is the same every day. I would love to be able to sit back and relax.
    So long as I can still take my Jeep out on the weekends in manual mode, you'll hear no complaints form me.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      It also means we can have a couple drinks with dinner without either fearing a DUI while sober .

    • by mlts (1038732) *

      It can mean intersections designed just for autopiloting cars. No signals needed, and instead of forcing traffic to stop, cars can be slowed down or sped up to keep an intersection constantly moving. Road upgrades is something that is something very few municipal areas want to deal with, and usually if it is a new highway, it is a toll road. This would allow existing infrastructure to work faster, especially if breakdown lanes are able to be used, and cars spaced on a road by width (SMART cars can be pac

  • That can be very unsafe / lead to a big accident.

    I know of quite a few unusual road Unusual traffic light situations / intersections in the local metro area.

    • by pablo_max (626328)

      It seems a bit unlikely that a computer will miss read a color. I would say that a human is far more likely to not see a light. Besides, I imagine that once an automatic car system is in place, they will not be looking at a light, but rather receiving a radio signal with the current light conditions.

      • As long as it's programmed to handle all traffic contingencies with caution. We have a couple of one way streets in our town with legal left turns on red.
      • not missing an color but reading the wrong head or choking on Unusual traffic lights / intersections.

        radio signals can be hacked / blocked / jammed / or misread as well. And a small gps accuracy issue can place a car on a main road with an green light when it really on the forage road that has an red with an radio based system.

        • not missing an color but reading the wrong head or choking on Unusual traffic lights / intersections.

          A computer would be less likely to get this wrong than a human. Especially since the "weird intersection" is probably already in its knowledge base.

          radio signals can be hacked / blocked / jammed / or misread as well. And a small gps accuracy issue can place a car on a main road with an green light when it really on the forage road that has an red with an radio based system.

          Self driving cars have multiple sensors: GPS, cameras, radar, inertial sensors, rotation sensors, compasses. The readings from these sensors are continuously crossed checked. If the GPS suddenly reports that the car has instantaneously transported itself to a new location, I don't think it will be blindly trusted.

          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            If the GPS suddenly reports that the car has instantaneously transported itself to a new location, I don't think it will be blindly trusted.

            You're in the middle lane of I65 going 65MPH surrounded by other cars when YOUR car suddenly decides it doesn't know where it is and needs to stop. Welcome to computer dementia. Happy travels, citizen!

            • You're in the middle lane of I65 going 65MPH surrounded by other cars when YOUR car suddenly decides it doesn't know where it is and needs to stop. Welcome to computer dementia.

              Protip: If a problem is obvious to you after five seconds of thought, then it is likely that it is also obvious to a team of professionals working on the system for years.

              There is no way in hell that this system will "suddenly stop" just because a sensor malfunctions. It will just use the other available sensors to determine the safest course of action to follow. That may mean continuing to drive, or it may mean pulling off the road as soon as it is safe to do so. But it certainly isn't going to just sh

              • by Obfuscant (592200)

                But it certainly isn't going to just shut down.

                I didn't say it just shut down. I said it decides it needs to stop.

                You admitted it doesn't know where it is. If the GPS failed, that means the GPS-based course and speed indications are unreliable. Of course the designers may have have thought of their idea of what to do in such a situation. Just like you've had time to think about it and can't see any course of action that would be called "needs to stop" that isn't "just shut down" or "suddenly stop."

                You blink, and while your eyes are closed you forget

                • You admitted it doesn't know where it is.

                  No I didn't. I admitted that it would know that one sensor (out of dozens) had failed.

                  If the GPS failed, that means the GPS-based course and speed indications are unreliable.

                  Correct. So it would use the other sensors.

                  You blink, and while your eyes are closed you forget where you are and what direction you are going. Sounds like dementia.

                  Why would it "forget" where it was? It could just read the inertial sensors to detect any acceleration, read the rotary sensors in the wheels to determine its velocity, and calculate where it is from its last known position. It could also continue to use cameras for lane detection, cameras for landmark recognition, and a combination of cameras and radar for collision avoidance

      • There's a traffic light near where I live that is unusually dim. Furthermore, with LEDs, it is possible that the light can be covered in snow. A human can see the dim red through the snow whereas a computer may not. Finally near where I live they have put in some funky new lights that indicates you can only turn left, but must yield to traffic. Threw me for a loop the first time I saw one.

        • Finally near where I live they have put in some funky new lights that indicates you can only turn left, but must yield to traffic. Threw me for a loop the first time I saw one.

          It may have confused you the first time, but it would not confuse a self driving car. The SDC would already have the rules for that intersection in its knowledge base. There are about six million intersections in America's road system, so a kilobyte or so of info on each will easily fit on a thumb drive.

    • by LanMan04 (790429)

      I bet it misreads a light less frequently than a person blowing one accidentally/because they weren't looking.

  • The autonomous vehicle in the headline is actually just an advanced cruise control / driver assist system according to the synopsis. It doesn't surprise me that this is all this is (proper autonomous vehicles are a pipe dream for at least a few decades if not more) but it does make me wonder how a headline and description can be so far apart.
    • by mythosaz (572040)

      Multiple auto manufacturers disagree with your "a few decades (or) more" assessment.

      • by DrXym (126579)
        Such as?
      • by Kjella (173770)

        They might talk big but when it comes to actually taking over responsibility and liability for the driving, put your money where your mouth is. I bet we'll have years passing where companies have cars they think is almost ready but nobody wants to go out on a limb and say if this car runs over some school children then sue us for manslaughter, not the guy in the driver's seat. More and more advanced assistance that still leaves the final responsibility on you sure, but that truly self-driving car I think co

  • by loufoque (1400831) on Friday September 27, 2013 @04:12PM (#44974591)

    Detecting a red light is probably the easiest thing in the whole system.

    • You're not impressed that a car AI can do something that most people can't?

      • No, I'm not. Would you be impressed by a computer capable of multiplying two large numbers in half a second, just because most people can't? Ok that's a mediocre example, but it illustrates the flaw in your logic...
    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      Yeah, it's not much of an AI is it? Actual artificial "intelligence" would be detecting a red light and figuring out whether you think you can make it through without crashing and without the cops catching you.
      • by bityz (2011656)
        That's nothing. Actual AI is seeing that the light has gone red, knowing that you should stop, but feeling that you don't really want to, and hoping that if you time it right you can kill the guy sitting inside you without damaging your own mind.
    • But as I said before that are lot's of ones where it can miss read them.

    • Detecting a light colored red is very easy. Differentiating between every red light you are likely to see on the road and an actual stop stoplight is a bit harder. Detecting the transition to yellow and determining if it's safe to stop is also a bit harder. Determining where the stop line is, also a bit harder. Doing it all with 8 9's of accuracy? Damn hard.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Vision is something that's easy for humans but very hard for computers.

  • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash@p10l[ ].net ['ink' in gap]> on Friday September 27, 2013 @04:30PM (#44974779) Homepage

    Is that drivers will stop paying attention and/or take their hands off the controls. Then when something bad happens that the automatic system can't handle they will be in a much worse position to deal with it than if they had been driving the car manually.

    The same is true to an extent of autopilots in planes but with a plane you usually have much more time to respond to problems than in a car. Still at least one plane has crashed because the pilots accidentally disabled the autopilot and failed to notice.

  • This is a good start but if cars "evolve" to be full automatic I hope they're going to include a bar in the final design. No more excuses for sobriety :)

  • As it helps reduce road fatigue, this seems a really good thing. However, it should require some sort of feedback that says when a driver is unresponsive in some way, the car pulls over and parks.

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