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When Cars Go Driverless, What Happens To the Honking? 267

Posted by timothy
from the beeping-insane dept.
blastboy writes "The potential upside to getting rid of drivers: 'Today car horns are still a leading source of noise pollution in urban centers. India's honking problem is so severe that the response to it—from both activists and government officials—mirrors the response to an actual epidemic. Officials in Peru, meanwhile, began treating honking like a serious crime in 2009, threatening to confiscate the cars of people who honk when they shouldn't.'"
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When Cars Go Driverless, What Happens To the Honking?

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  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Friday January 31, 2014 @08:10PM (#46124925) Homepage

    I imagine that driverless cars will honk quite frequently, just to be on the safe side. They will be able to communicate silently to other car 2.0s but the old style drivers and the pedestrians will need warnings that there is a car that they might not be aware of.

    • by KiloByte (825081)

      Electric cars could eliminate noise pollution. What did our bright lawmaker mavens did? Legislate it so electric cars must play artificial noise, because someone might be jaywalking with a nose in their smartphone.

      So I'd expect 50 years of the equivalent of having a person walk before the car waving a red flag before we can enjoy the benefits of new technologies.

      • by JustOK (667959)
        Ridiculous! Utter rubbish! They would use that fluorescent orange colour.
      • by icebike (68054)

        Still, the car ought to be able to tell that someone is there, standing or walking toward the street.

        After all, the noise was demanded because there were drivers in silent electric cars, and the cars had no smarts to tell them about their surroundings.
        Driver-less cars will have cameras and radars and should be able to make noise only when appropriate. Of course, appropriate means everywhere on a busy city street, so a huge racket thrown up by otherwise quiet cars.

        It would be cheaper to offer free pocket ca

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        To be fair, the only way for me to get to anywhere from my house by walking is by jaywalking. There's only a sidewalk on one side of the street and I'd be walking on the side of the road if I didn't cross straight in front of my house. In winter snowbanks stop me from walking on the lawns until I get to a safe crossing point. Also the road is curved, so its hard to see when cars are coming. I often use my ears, as well as my eyes to determine when cars are coming. Sound is probably the more important factor
      • by Jeremi (14640)

        Electric cars could eliminate noise pollution. What did our bright lawmaker mavens did? Legislate it so electric cars must play artificial noise, because someone might be jaywalking with a nose in their smartphone.

        Or they might be blind, and really have no way to know that a silent car is approaching them. Or they might just be used to the idea that they can hear cars approaching, having never encountered a "ninja Prius" before.

        The noise doesn't have to be loud, it only needs to be projected in front of the car, not everywhere, and it only has to operate when the car is going slow enough that its road noise isn't inaudible. This particular noise isn't going to bother anyone any more than the traditional engine nois

        • by mark-t (151149)

          When the car is going slow enough that road noise isn't easily audible (bearing in mind that many blind people rely so much more heavily on their other senses that they can and often do notice sounds or vibrations that most other people could not), stopping distance is short enough that the driver can reasonably be responsible for avoiding an accident, even if the other person did not see him or his car.

          Should we also force electric wheelchairs or scooters for disabled or elderly people to make more nois

      • You know what's really funny? Modern IC cars are so quiet that they did a study - for most conventional vehicles, not hybrids or EVs, road noise is the dominant factor. IE tire noise on the road, gravel crunching, all that. The EVs and hybrids they tested were identical on a Db level.

        As speeds increase it simply shifts to wind noise - the engine being loud enough to be a signficant factor is actually the exception and generally indicates an ill-maintained defective vehicle.

        Anyways, a driverless car can p

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Electric cars could eliminate noise pollution. What did our bright lawmaker mavens did? Legislate it so electric cars must play artificial noise, because someone might be jaywalking with a nose in their smartphone.

        Well, electric cars are silent under 30kph or so. Above that, the dominant noise cars make is road noise caused by the tires rolling on asphalt.

        Though, it's not even necessarily people paying attention - in a parking lot, the sound of starting engines usually indicates a car is coming out (you cou

    • wtf, every truck in india has a huge sign that says please honk. it's considered rude NOT to honk in india. not being sarcastic. honking is viewed positively there.

    • no one inside of a current car with the windows up hears honking, anyway. too many other things making enough noise to overwhelm anything outside.
      • by Dahamma (304068)

        Maybe that explains why drivers in California (with way too many sound insulated Lexuses and BMWs) seem COMPLETELY unable to comprehend that you need to pull over for an emergency vehicle...

    • by icebike (68054)

      I imagine that driverless cars will honk quite frequently, just to be on the safe side. They will be able to communicate silently to other car 2.0s but the old style drivers and the pedestrians will need warnings that there is a car that they might not be aware of.

      Liability worries will probably make that the norm.

      Who will dare sell a car that does not give the same warning that a conscientious driver might?
      There will be people diving in front of driverless cars attempting to empty the deep pockets of the manufacturers.

      • by Dan541 (1032000)

        There will be people diving in front of driverless cars attempting to empty the deep pockets of the manufacturers.

        People already dive in front of regular cars, just try driving around any major city. People care more about answering that text message than they do about looking for traffic.

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          There will be people diving in front of driverless cars attempting to empty the deep pockets of the manufacturers.

          People already dive in front of regular cars, just try driving around any major city. People care more about answering that text message than they do about looking for traffic.

          The driverless car will likely have stored video to show what really happened.

          • by Dan541 (1032000)

            The driverless car will likely have stored video to show what really happened.

            Let's start thinking up names for the TV show:

            America's Dumbest Pedestrians.

            Road Kill - When man and machine come together!!!.

      • by Jeremi (14640)

        There will be people diving in front of driverless cars attempting to empty the deep pockets of the manufacturers.

        I don't think that's going to work too well -- the car will have a complete record of its sensor inputs at the time of the incident, from which it should be pretty obvious what actually happened.

        (Not that that won't stop a few opportunists from trying, of course -- it will be interesting to see how a self-driving car handles deliberately dangerous behavior)

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      In the US, at least, very few people actually honk as a measure of courtesy or to "warn" pedestrians. It's mostly to (rightfully) tell drivers not paying attention at a light to get off their phones/daydreams/whatever and GO or (wrongfully) in fits of road rage that often tends to end badly. Neither generally has much to do with safety.

  • Seriously. Use the on board radar to spot idiotic behaviour and let 'er blast!
  • by Shompol (1690084) on Friday January 31, 2014 @09:14PM (#46125317)
    Although I can imagine that driving in NYC is not a bad as India, the traffic gets pretty busy here. My driving algorithm is as follows:
    1. Aways yeld to idiots and jackasses.
    2. Maneuver to avoid accidents, honking does not help much.

    Very seldom, if someone fell asleep at the traffick light, I give it a very short blip.

    If all horns were uninstalled tomorrow we would not loose much. Now let's discuss sirens and light pollution.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As an idiot and jackass, please let me be the first to thank you for your constant yielding.

      • by Shompol (1690084)
        It is pure optimisation, actually. If you dangerously cut me off I can a) give way at the cost of 0.5 seconds of my time or b) slam that accelerator, which will result in either you reconsidering your driving habits or clipping a mirror and a body panel it is attached to. Given that you aready indicated a lack of mental capacity, there is a fat chance of spending the next hour waiting for police in your company.

        ... to stay on topic, I can also honk and be flipped a bird in exchange -- a mutual understandin

    • by csumpi (2258986)

      There is no need to honk. Ever.

      Very seldom, if someone fell asleep at the traffick light, I give it a very short blip.

      Awesome. So you are an asshole. That thing is not there to wake people up, but to avoid accidents.

      .

      • by NF6X (725054)

        Very seldom, if someone fell asleep at the traffick light, I give it a very short blip.

        Awesome. So you are an asshole. That thing is not there to wake people up, but to avoid accidents.

        Right! That's why I never honk to wake up somebody in front of me at a traffic light. I just ram them. It's the polite thing to do!

    • by mysidia (191772)

      Sure there is... how else would you propose we signal, when the car just in front of us is driving at 10 miles per hour on a 30 mph road, when a pedestrian is taking too long to finish their crossing, a car in front of us is slowing down or taking too long to complete their right turn, or the car in front of us is stopped and signalling left in the middle of the road, spending forever at the stop sign, failing to take a right turn on red, stopping at a yellow light, failing to accelerate immediately

      • I would propose that you calm down and think that perhaps the person in front of your car is moving slower than you would like for a good reason.

        Although it's always possible that they are purposely trying to make you late for your appointment, it's also possible that they need to think a moment more to avoid making a dangerous mistake. Or that slow moving pedestrian might be experiencing a bit of pain from the bullet that lodged in his leg back in the war and it might be slowing him down a little.

        Most tim

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        Sure there is... how else would you propose we signal, when the car just in front of us is driving at 10 miles per hour on a 30 mph road, when a pedestrian is taking too long to finish their crossing, a car in front of us is slowing down or taking too long to complete their right turn, or the car in front of us is stopped and signalling left in the middle of the road, spending forever at the stop sign, failing to take a right turn on red, stopping at a yellow light, failing to accelerate immediately after the light turned green, etc, etc.

        In your driverless car, you won't even notice, you'll be too busy playing Angry Birds to see your surroundings.

        When driverless cars are commonplace, a GPS outage will leave millions of drivers stranded away from home because they will no longer know how to get home on their own, not even if they are within walking distance. GPS is bad enough, but at least they generally know which roads they take, but when driverless cars are the norm, drivers won't pay attention at all to where they are going.

        • by mysidia (191772)

          When driverless cars are commonplace, a GPS outage will leave millions of drivers stranded away from home because they will no longer know how to get home on their own

          Wait.... GPS outage? If humans can find their way around without GPS; I see no reason a driverless car shouldn't be able to.

          Hell... they can have a huge map database in the car.

          All the car needs to do is use its last known position plus data from sensors and dead-reckoning based navigation to identify its current position.

          Certainly,

          • by hawguy (1600213)

            When driverless cars are commonplace, a GPS outage will leave millions of drivers stranded away from home because they will no longer know how to get home on their own

            Wait.... GPS outage? If humans can find their way around without GPS; I see no reason a driverless car shouldn't be able to.

            That's the problem - people are becoming reliant on GPS and can't find their way around without GPS. One of my coworkers has lived here for almost a year and can't find his way to a restaurant 3 miles away (that he's been to a dozen times) without GPS.

            Hell... they can have a huge map database in the car.

            All the car needs to do is use its last known position plus data from sensors and dead-reckoning based navigation to identify its current position.

            Most Inertial sensors are only good for a short time before they become too inaccurate to use. Manufacturers could have the car use pattern mapping to match its surroundings with onboard maps, but when GPS available "all the time", why bother implementing some

    • by russotto (537200)

      There's not all that much honking in NYC since Adolf Giuliani had all the honkers arrested and sent to the South Bronx. But if I had a car accident every time I've honked my horn when someone was moving their car into the space my car occupied, I'd be pretty upset.

  • by Gravis Zero (934156) on Friday January 31, 2014 @09:22PM (#46125351)

    the purpose of the car horn was not to express anger at other drivers but to warn of an emergency. there will still be people dangerously stepping into the street and the cars will honk to warn them that they may get hit. that's not to say it will warn them only when they will be hit but rather when the probability of being hit drastically increases. pedestrians are highly unpredictable and the cars have been programmed to act accordingly. also, if someone in a manually driven car might be in the process of causing an collision (e.g. turning into an occupied lane) the car will honk.

    the real question is if people will give other people the finger in traffic.

    • With two hands free, the number of middle finger may come close to doubling.
    • by Ichijo (607641)

      And by making fewer mistakes, driverless cars would elicit less honking from other drivers, except when they drive at or below the speed limit, which will be all the time. So it's hard to say what the overall result would be in the USA, at least until humans are banned, for safety concerns, from operating motor vehicles on public roads.

  • Ok, let's assume in this wondrous future, you are being driven (can't exactly call it driving if you're not in control) on some country roads and you encounter a very large bull standing in the middle of the road. Your car recognizes that there is an obstruction, stops and waits patiently for the road to clear. The bull waits patiently for the car to go away. Unless they've come up with automated cattle in the future you've got a problem. Since the car has no horn, you (the passenger) have to figure out a
    • Re:No horns? (Score:5, Informative)

      by damnbunni (1215350) on Friday January 31, 2014 @09:49PM (#46125475) Journal

      In my experience cows are rarely impressed by car horns.

      And moose ignore them completely. You sit there till the moose decides to wander off to do whatever it is that moose do when they're not blocking traffic.

      I'm not gonna ask. A moose's business is its own.

    • You should read Incompetence by Rob Grant...
    • by mysidia (191772)

      Ok, let's assume in this wondrous future, you are being driven (can't exactly call it driving if you're not in control) on some country roads and you encounter a very large bull standing in the middle of the road.

      This is why you should always, always bring firearms, flares, and some device to scare away bulls with you, when driving on country roads: especially in driverless cars --- never be without them.

      When you encounter the bull, you load your gun with a blank.... fire off the warning. This will su

    • by Jeremi (14640)

      You're imagining a car with no user inputs at all? No steering wheel, no manual override, not even any way to program a new route?

      Also, this car won't be smart enough to factor in the amount of gas remaining in the tank when making its routing calculations?

      I'm guessing that wouldn't be the most popular model.

  • I really wish I had the ability to make a more subdued honk sometimes, for alerting a pedestrian, or whatever. It seems like an obvious enhancement, and yet AFAIK such a thing has never been standard or even available, except maybe as an aftermarket item.

    • by Jeremi (14640)

      I really wish I had the ability to make a more subdued honk sometimes, for alerting a pedestrian, or whatever. It seems like an obvious enhancement, and yet AFAIK such a thing has never been standard or even available, except maybe as an aftermarket item.

      FWIW the Chevy Volt comes with just that [youtube.com].

      • Copied from the Citroën DS - it had the regular horn for in-town use, and a wake-the-dead horn for highway use.

        And yes, if you accidentally hit the highway mega-horn when a little old lady was crossing the street in front of you, it was embarrasing.... not that I'd know that myself, of course, just heard rumours.

        It is a tad surprising how many swear words a 90 year old lady actually knows.

  • ...I'd say treating honking as a serious crime isn't working terribly well. At times, the horn became a nearly continuous background noise.
  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Friday January 31, 2014 @10:42PM (#46125775) Homepage

    When Cars Go Driverless, What Happens To the Honking?

    It Will Stop.

    Next?

  • ... my La Cucaracha horn when they pry it from my cold, dead hands!

  • For every driverless car honk a tree falls silently in a forest...

  • For a robotic, self-extending middle-finger. Gonna make a ton of money on this.

  • I live in Minneapolis and it is extremely rare to hear cars honking, rare enough that when a car does honk, everyone turns their head to see what all the commotion is about.

    The bus drivers like to lay into the horn once in a while, but buses always have right of way so that's acceptable.

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @02:47AM (#46126713) Homepage

    In America, honking your car horn is an expression of anger. It is calling the other driver out that he is doing something unsafe or stupid. If someone doesn't move when a light turns green, you have to "bip" your horn by tapping lightly. A full-on honk might make the other driver get out and try to kick your ass.

    Overseas, it's different. Honking the horn just says, "I'm here." It's an auditory announcement of where you are. This is very important, as other drivers frequently don't watch where they're going. When you pass, you need to honk the horn so the other driver doesn't suddenly decide to change lanes into your car. I ride an electric moped, and my electric piezo horn is my most important safety device other than the brakes. It announces my presence so people don't hit me. Taxis honk when they pass me - it doesn't mean they're mad, it just means "I'm here."

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