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Transportation Google

Google Unveils Self-Driving Car With No Steering Wheel 583

Posted by Soulskill
from the in-soviet-google,-car-drives-you dept.
cartechboy writes: "We've already discussed and maybe even come to terms with the fact that autonomous cars are coming. In fact, many automakers including Mercedes-Benz and Tesla have committed to self-driving cars by 2017. Apparently that's not ambitious enough. Google has just unveiled an in-house-designed, self-driving car prototype with no steering wheel or pedals. In fact, it doesn't have any traditional controls, not even a stereo. The as-yet-nameless car is a testbed for Google's vision of the computerized future of transportation. Currently the prototype does little more than programmed parking lot rides at a maximum of 25 mph, but Google plans to build about 100 prototypes, with the first examples receiving manual controls (human-operated). Google then plans to roll out the pilot program in California in the next several years. So the technology is now there, but is there really a market for a car that drives you without your input other than the destination?"

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Google Unveils Self-Driving Car With No Steering Wheel

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  • by MillerHighLife21 (876240) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:04AM (#47105457) Homepage

    These this will naturally become shuttles and taxi services almost immediately. Given the protests of Uber and Lyft, what will the outcry be for these?

    • I totally recall when taxi drivers were homicidal psychopaths with mohawk hair cuts. Thankfully we will now have fleets of mannequins named "Johnny Cab" to cheerfully take us around.

    • These this will naturally become shuttles and taxi services almost immediately. Given the protests of Uber and Lyft, what will the outcry be for these?

      Cabbies don't have enough money to have a voice that's heard, The people with the money will just watch until these are cheaper than cabbies and then implement.

    • They're taking our jobs?
    • by drolli (522659)

      The implications of a technology like this go far beyond taxi drivers.

      In the moment when autonoumous cars go mainstream, half of the car manufacturers will go bancrupt and the other half will have a very good time.

    • by xelah (176252)

      Or maybe there are more controlled environments - moving people around certain parts of airports springs to mind - which will be the first targets. Places where pedestrian and other traffic isn't allowed. Public and legal acceptance is far more likely there, and it'd be a better and eventually cheaper service than waiting for one of a handful of buses.

  • by Chas (5144) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:06AM (#47105461) Homepage Journal

    Sorry. While I love technology, my not-so-humble opinion is that we're nowhere near the level of reliability needed for a car that's completely free of manual control.

    Simply put, having seen the arc of technology advance over the last 30+ years, I still don't trust an automated driver system with my safety. PERIOD.

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      Unless the automated car is on rails, it must retain manual control so that the user will be able to bring it to a guided stop. Even elevators come with an emergency stop button and they have only three states, going up, going down and stationary. A car without manuals controls to guide it to a safe stop in the event of control failure whether purposeful or accidental is really fucking crazy.

      • by Andrewkov (140579) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:41AM (#47105607)

        A quick call to google's helpdesk is all that's needed to stop the car in an emergency.

        • A quick post on google's support group is all that's needed to stop the car in an emergency.

          FTFY

      • The next article on this car will likely be on how it can be hacked (because everything gets such an article).

        Then that manual stop button might come in handy.
    • by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:26AM (#47105541)

      Sorry. While I love technology, my not-so-humble opinion is that we're nowhere near the level of reliability needed for a car that's completely free of manual control.

      Simply put, having seen the arc of technology advance over the last 30+ years, I still don't trust an automated driver system with my safety. PERIOD.

      Millions of people fly in airplanes every day that rely on computer controls (since there is no mechanical linkage between the pilot and the control surfaces). And 30,000 people die each year at the hands of human drivers.

      While the real time image recognition may not be quite ready for prime time, it will get there and when it does, computer drivers will be safer than human drivers. Google's driverless cars have already racked up 700,000 accident free miles in autonomous mode (albeit with a human ready to take over). Their car has already surpassed my own record, it's only been about 150,000 miles since my last accident (a car changed lanes into me, while the accident was not my fault, if I'd had computer-like reflexes and perfect awareness of my surroundings to know that the lane beside me was open, I may have been able to avoid the accident by sudden braking and/or making a quick lane change)

      • Millions of people fly in airplanes every day that rely on computer controls (since there is no mechanical linkage between the pilot and the control surfaces).

        If that's what counts as 'computer control,' then we already have computer control today. There are plenty of computer systems in cars, and some won't even start without going through a computer system.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fractoid (1076465)
          And this is an excellent argument against the "it will always need manual controls in case of failure" argument. Modern vehicles have fly-by-wire accelerator, brakes, gears, etc.

          The driver isn't in direct physical control of the vehicle and hasn't been for some time. Progress towards fully autonomous vehicles is a matter of degree, not of kind.
          • Progress towards fully autonomous vehicles is a matter of degree, not of kind.

            This is a true point. It's been true ever since we stopped walking.

          • by jklovanc (1603149)

            The problem is that you confuse manual controls and manual control inputs. What type of control a person or computer uses is irrelevant. What is relevant is the mind making the decisions about what inputs to make. Computers are yet to be sophisticated to handle many situations as well has humans do.

            The driver isn't in direct physical control of the vehicle and hasn't been for some time. Progress towards fully autonomous vehicles is a matter of degree,

            Completely false. Whether it is fly by wire or cables the inputs are still made by humans and that is the important part.

            The brain is the important part of the machine and not the nerves. Computer brains are not

          • by meerling (1487879)
            By the time a human realizes there is a problem if the automated system has failed, they'll be lucky to have enough time to scream.
            It's kind of like the people that don't want to wear seatbelts because they are afraid they'll end up in a crash and be hurt so bad they can't undo the seatbelt to get out.
            If you haven't figured that out, if you are so messed up you can't undo a seatbelt, there's no way in hell you'd have been able to get out of a car.
      • by Chas (5144) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:56AM (#47105683) Homepage Journal

        Sorry, but there's a big difference between flying around in a plane in a pre-planned course that's been cleared of other traffic and driving around on the ground on an expressway or city street.

      • by meerling (1487879)
        "While the real time image recognition may not be quite ready for prime time"

        It doesn't actually need image recognition. We've had systems deployed for decades that can handle identify the existence of possible collisions based on detecting obstacles and their relative vectors. It doesn't need to know that large blob on a collision course is a Ford Taurus, just that it's going to collide in 3.2 seconds on the current vectors.
        If you're curious what uses those types of systems in real time now, just look at m
      • How do autopilots in airplanes work? They work on the assumption that they have a clear path along their assigned course based on the flight plan and when that assumption is incorrect (assuming the potential obstruction has TCAS), alarms start going off to prompt pilots to do something to avoid the probable crash. As long as the pilots and ATC do their jobs right, most collision avoidance is taken care of before the plane even lifts off.

        This is very different from driving on the streets where there are no "

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:31AM (#47105555)

      Sorry. While I love technology, my not-so-humble opinion is that we're nowhere near the level of reliability needed for a car that's completely free of manual control.

      Simply put, having seen the arc of technology advance over the last 30+ years, I still don't trust an automated driver system with my safety. PERIOD.

      Sorry. While I love humans, my not-so-humble opinion is that we're nowhere near the level of reliability needed for a car that's manual control.

      Simply put, having seen the arc of traffic fatalities advance over the last 30+ years, I still don't trust a human driver system with my safety. PERIOD.

      Cars are not safe: people will die. I'd rather have shitty AI that we can iterate on and improve every time it kills someone than having to start with fresh teenagers each time. An AI can learn from millions of cars, and not miss the learning opportunity of fatal crashes. Also, people have really bad sensors for driving compared to what an AI can use. Maybe its not better than good drivers yet, but I'd prefer a shitty AI that we can iterate on to people who barley manage to pass a driving test on the third try driving in the dark while distracted, and we let people do that... Compared to a person, such an AI could be a lot better at refusing to drive in unsafe conditions (it won't give into rage or peer pressure and do something stupid). That might be annoying, but having a car that can pick you up by itself might counter that out.

      • by Chas (5144)

        If you actually trust a computer more than your own judgement in an accident situation, I feel sorry for you.

        • by dave420 (699308) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @02:07AM (#47105735)
          And if you think your judgement and perception is better than this computer system, you are full of hubris and a menace to other road users. It works both ways.
        • by jxander (2605655) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @02:18AM (#47105791)

          It's not about judgement. It's about abilities.

          A self driving car can simultaneously look in every direction around the car and never have to blink. If an object is detected and the car needs to stop, it takes a person time to physically lift their foot from one pedal and press the other(s). Not much time, sure, but in a sudden stop scenario, every little bit helps.

          Humans have much better non-linear thinking. We can navigate dirt roads, or unmapped territory. But for day to day commuting on established roads, automation is the way to go. Computers never get sleepy, they don't get distracted and they can be programmed to obey speed limits. Google's test vehicle is already well above the safety record of an average driver, with nearly half a million miles, safe and sound.

          And that's just the prototype.

          • by epyT-R (613989)

            computers are also:
            1. hackable.. one bored 16yo with a laptop on an overpass + 20000 wirelessly networked cars on a highway = fun.. oh and state mandated kill switches are only there for the children, right?

            2. careless about self preservation. A computer will happily cause an accident due to a programming bug or sensor fail. Was that a rock or a plastic bag? A human can tell, but your computer? doubtful. How about that truck carrying those huge metal pipes? Is that top pipe about to fall off the back a

            • by dave420 (699308) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @05:56AM (#47106621)

              This kid can break military-grade encryption? If that's the case we've got far bigger problems on our hands.

              So you'd run over a rock in a plastic bag because you thought it was a plastic bag, whereas the radar on the driverless cars would have seen through the plastic bag and seen the rock. The pipe on the back of the truck? Well, the car would keep a safe distance, enough for it to avoid any falling object in front of it. That's what humans should be doing anyway. The cars' LIDAR scans for objects approaching the road, and can do so far better than any human can, so your kid-running-into-the-road situation would work out worse with a human behind the wheel. The LIDAR can see farther, with more accuracy, and in 360-degrees. You can't.

              The rest of your post is ill-though-out guesswork ascribing idiocy and incompetence to the development team. They are experts in this field - you are not. You spend a lot of your time on Slashdot, being racist and sexist. I wonder who's more trustworthy when it comes to logical appraisal? You've demonstrated you are a slave to gut instincts and untrusting of data which might change your world-view, so no-one in their right minds should be listening to you.

        • If you actually trust a computer more than your own judgement in an accident situation, I feel sorry for you.

          I may not trust it more than my judgement but I trust it more than the other crazies on the road. Equally they trust it more than my ability but less the their own ability's. Logically the best option is for both sides to trust the computer. Now while I want a self driving car I want one with manual controls, not so I can take control mid critical moment but because I occasionally need/want to go off road or poorly maintained logging roads that I doubt the self driving car would handle well.

        • ah you must be a Windows user, this mistrust of computers is common with your kind :P

          All jokes aside though, will it get my favorite parking spot at the shop? Or stop spontaneously in a lay-bye to admire a spectacular view on a high mountain road? I do trust computers to do a better job than the average human when it comes to driving, but I must admit, a manual control input would be nice for some things.

    • If Mercedes really has a self-driving car by 2017, then Google might as well give up. They're behind the curve.
      • by fractoid (1076465)
        Mercedes-Benz is worth $23.5bn [forbes.com]. Google is worth $382.5bn [forbes.com]. I think Google's in with a fighting chance if they decide to take this seriously.
    • by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:45AM (#47105627) Journal

      If you drive on the same streets that I do, you trust me with your safety. As my driving skills are below median, this should be a lot more worrying to you then the prospect of being in a computer-driven car. (Fortunately for you, surveys show that below-median drivers are rare.)

    • by Ckwop (707653) <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:58AM (#47105707) Homepage

      Sorry. While I love technology, my not-so-humble opinion is that we're nowhere near the level of reliability needed for a car that's completely free of manual control.

      The Google car has done something like 700,000 miles and crashed twice. Both times this occurred, it was under control of the human occupant.

      I drive to work every morning and the number of times I see people not paying attention is extraordinary. Women doing their makeup, people texting, trying to argue with their children etc.

      Honestly, in my view, removing the steering wheel is a safety feature.

    • I think I would feel much safer driving on the Autobahn at 150 km/h surrounded by self-driving cars that I am feeling right now when driving on the Autobahn.

      Also, let your car drive you to and from parties! Wohoo! Party on!

      I for one am looking forward to our self-driving overlords. Over 100 years on, the automobile becomes even truer to it's name.

    • Sorry. While I love humans, my not-so-humble opinion is that we're nowhere near the level of human reliability needed for a car that could be under manual control.

      But seriously, if self-driving cars could be demonstrated to be safe, I'd prefer NOT to have humans behind the wheel, with their poor reaction times, willingness to get drunk, and tendency to play with their cellphones. Getting killed in a car accident is one of the leading causes of death (especially in certain age brackets). Everyone accepts th

  • Who else is ready for completely self-driving cars? Time for a Slashdot poll!

    • by GryMor (88799)

      Can't happen soon enough. Also, I like the form factor.

    • Looks like you don't have to wait long. Tesla and Mercedes have committed to one by 2017. You'll be able to buy one soon.
    • Me too - as soon as it is affordable, convenient and drives better than I do. They've got one out of three already.

    • by epyT-R (613989)

      We can't even keep our little text workstation software free of bugs.. You've got to be kidding me.

  • by renzhi (2216300) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:20AM (#47105509)
    No thanks, wouldn't want a car that I can't manually override when shit happens.
    • Re:No thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Neil Boekend (1854906) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:49AM (#47105645)

      No thanks. If I have the choice I don't want to share the road with cars who depend on the reaction speed of humans when shit happens. It has been proven over and over again that humans are not good in those situations.

      • by gman003 (1693318)

        The cars shouldn't have a manual override for emergencies - it should have manual controls for when the computers can't handle the regular driving.

        Imagine this: you're driving down a country road. It goes from a 2-lane paved road to a 2-lane dirt road to a 1-lane dirt road. At some point during that progression, the AI no longer has enough information to be able to safely operate. It come to a full stop, plays a prerecorded "Manual assistance required" message, and waits for the human to start driving. Once

    • by dave420 (699308)
      Human drivers are the "shit" that happens. Your argument is purely emotional and not based on rational appraisal of the risks and capabilities of human drivers and automated cars.
    • by meerling (1487879)
      By the time you know that 'shit' is happening, you won't have time to do anything unless you are The Flash right out of the DC universe.
    • No thanks, wouldn't want a car that I can't manually override when shit happens.

      Dude, if you want to drive a car manually you are the shit that will happen to other people on the road.

  • Driver or automated, that's beside the point: personal automobiles are the wrong way to go. They take too much room and fuel to transport, usually, only one person at a time. That's a waste. What we need is more and better public transportation: buses, subways, trams, railroads...

    • If I could get my own private compartment where people don't go when they're sick and cough in my neck and use Apple earplugs, then sure.
  • Surely Google already knows where it is best for you to go. It knows everything else about you...
  • supercouille
    This is great news. But this looks too staged for my eyes. All you actually see is an electric car going in straight lines. Great step toward the real thing though! Congrats to google!

    r7di43ee85

    It doesn't have a steering wheel, what did you expect?
  • by advocate_one (662832) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:41AM (#47105603)
    what kind of hells is that???
  • Yes please. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sasayaki (1096761) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:57AM (#47105691)

    10/10, would buy.

    Automated cars are already better than people. The trains in Canada have been automated for decades and they're fine. The Google fleet drove across the US several times, something most human drivers would probably screw up at some point.

    The only thing I dislike is the fact that I love my car and I can't think of a way to convert it economically. Otherwise I would, without hesitation. Including removing the steering wheel and pedals.

    I don't want to drive it. I want auto-driving cars and I want them now.

    • Re:Yes please. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jklovanc (1603149) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @02:18AM (#47105799)

      The trains in Canada have been automated for decades and they're fine.

      On tracks where they are the only ones with minutes between trains and controllers watching every move. This is completely different than vehicles on streets.

      The Google fleet drove across the US several times,

      Only on roads that have been high resolution scans within hours of the Google vehicle passing and with a driver taking over from time to time when the vehicle gets into trouble.

      I don't want to drive it. I want auto-driving cars and I want them now.

      Sorry but the technology isn't reliable enough yet.

      • by dave420 (699308)
        You might want to provide links for your second point, and also for your third while you're at it. 700,000 miles without incident is not a bad track record (no pun intended).
    • by Chas (5144)

      Again, like planes, trains don't don't have to share a track with other trains. They're controlled from outside by various dispatch personnel and systems.

      This is in no way comparable to an open road situation. The fact that you think it is shows that you haven't actually thought about the subject in any sort of depth whatsoever.

  • by fellip_nectar (777092) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:57AM (#47105697)

    A car which automatically takes me places I don't want to go, based on my browsing history.

  • Hell yes, consider equiping a Plug-In version of a Transit Connect Wagon with Solar Cells on the roof.

    2 hour commute? Punch in the destination, go to the couch in back, and get some well erned sleep.
  • What happens if the electronics are disrupted by hacking or EMP?

  • I'll hold out for the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride interior.
  • by Quinn_Inuit (760445) <Quinn_Inuit&yahoo,com> on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @05:58AM (#47106629)
    If you take the set of people who might be willing to buy a self-driving car (a set underrepresented on /.), few of them are going to want to do it if they're on the hook for whatever the car does. If that's the case, you might as well drive yourself. Google doesn't want that, either, and just put out a statement to that effect. My guess is that they're going to try to get the relevant laws changed, but, in the meantime, what better way to protect your users from liability than to make it impossible for them to have had any control of the vehicle?
  • by olau (314197) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:02AM (#47106911) Homepage

    So the technology is now there, but is there really a market for a car that drives you without your input other than the destination?

    I think the summary has this backwards. Of course there is a market for a vehicle (let's not call it a car for the moment) that drives you around without your input, think of buses, trains, planes, taxis. If the price is right, it will definitely be a success - it doesn't really need to compete with cars to be useful, although it seems likely that many of those who think of their car as an expensive annoyance they have to have to get around would be interested.

    But the thing is that this is still a prototype. The technologi is in fact not there yet - it may be in a couple of years, but we don't know yet.

    IMHO the prototype makes sense as a statement and as a challenge. With no steering wheel, there's no 99% self-driving non-sense - they have to have a plan for all corner cases, even if that's something like car stops and is remote-controlled around obstacle.

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