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Google Transportation

Google's Driverless Cars Capable of Exceeding Speed Limit 475

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-should-i-feel-when-a-driverless-car-tailgates-me? dept.
mrspoonsi sends a report about how Google's autonomous vehicles handle speed limits. It's easy to assume that driverless cars will simply be programmed never to exceed a posted speed limit, but Google has found that such behavior can actually be less safe than speeding a bit. Thus, they've allowed their cars to exceed the speed limit by up to 10 miles per hour. In July, the U.K. government announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads from January next year. In addition, ministers ordered a review of the U.K.'s road regulations to provide appropriate guidelines. This will cover the need for self-drive vehicles to comply with safety and traffic laws, and involve changes to the Highway Code, which applies to England, Scotland and Wales. Commenting on Google self-drive cars' ability to exceed the speed limit, a Department for Transport spokesman said: "There are no plans to change speed limits, which will still apply to driverless cars." In a separate development on Monday, the White House said it wanted all cars and light trucks to be equipped with technology that could prevent collisions.
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Google's Driverless Cars Capable of Exceeding Speed Limit

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  • by slapout (93640) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @01:47PM (#47705475)

    If you take an American driverless car to London, I hope it can figure out which side of the road to drive on...

    • by LduN (3754243)
      firmware updates
    • You jest, but that's a prety big deal in places like Thailand, which's a left-handed, but borders right-handed countries. How will an autonomous vehicle handle crossing the border?

      Same fror French Guiana in South America.
      • by Dishevel (1105119)
        Like speed limits it will drive how it supposed to depending on the road it is on. When the road switches from LH to RH it will change just like it does when the speed limit goes from 65 to 50. Rules are loaded with the map.
      • by gauauu (649169)

        You jest, but that's a prety big deal in places like Thailand, which's a left-handed, but borders right-handed countries. How will an autonomous vehicle handle crossing the border?

        Same fror French Guiana in South America.

        If my cell phone can understand the intricacies of all the time zone rules of the world, I think we can manage for a computerized car to obey differing traffic laws.

    • Not just "left or right?", but "10 mph over or 10% + 3 mph over?". In the US, you can typically drive 10 mph over the limit without getting pulled over by police. In the UK the rule is 10% of the speed limit + 3 mph for equipment tolerances. So, if the posted limit is 25 mph, your "hard limit" is 25 + 2.5 + 3 = 30.5 mph. Likewise for 70 mph (national limit for motorways and dual carriageways), the "hard limit" is 70 + 7 + 3 = 80 mph.

      Chalk it up to another case where American assumptions do not apply abroad.

      • there's this thing called 'software' that can, amazingly enough, use different configuration data based on a physical location. Or did you think Google Search was only in American English everywhere?

        That said, this magical thing called 'software' can also be hacked to do things that aren't intended by the developers so it's not a panacea, but it will still be a far bit better than humans at following the rules of the road as conveyed to it - even through the normal posted speed limit signs.
      • by wagnerrp (1305589)
        The US has no hard limit. If you're breaking the speed limit, you're breaking the speed limit, and it's the discretion of the office how bored/lazy/behind_on_quota they are as to whether you get pulled over and ticketed. The fact that the UK has actually codified this is absurd. Why not just bump the signage by that much, and make the signs themselves the hard limit?
        • by sjames (1099)

          Actually, the tolerances are codified in law for some jurisdictions and discretionary in others.

          The tolerances are there because speedometers and radar guns have limited accuracy. It is entirely plausible that speed limit is 70, speedometer reads 70, car is actually going 72, and radar reads 73.

        • The 10% + 3mph rule in the UK is actually more of a guideline than a hard limit. You could technically be pulled over for exceeding the road speed limit by just 1 or 2 mph, although very unlikely in most cases unless you're also driving like an idiot, or if it's bad weather with poor visibility. The ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) came up with the 10% + 3mph as a guide for when to prosecute, or issue points against your license / ask you to partake in a speed awareness course.

  • Safety vs Law (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gurps_npc (621217)
    When the law says X, you break it at your own risk.

    I bet most companies will follow google's plan and have autonomous automobiles (auto-autos??, auto-squared?) travel at the speed limit or lower, even if it makes things 'more dangerous'. But they should also do that only in the right lane, not blocking the left lane.

    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      Correction, I meant most companies will NOT follow google's plan and make the speed limit the max.
    • Re:Safety vs Law (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @02:19PM (#47705721) Homepage Journal

      When the law says X, you break it at your own risk.

      When a stupid law says X, you follow it at your own risk.

      • Re:Safety vs Law (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PvtVoid (1252388) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @02:27PM (#47705795)

        When a stupid law says X, you follow it at your own risk

        Which is exactly why we need driverless cars: dumb fucks who believe they're such exceptionally good drivers that the rules don't apply to them.

        • by AvitarX (172628)

          Or, according to TFA, it's true.

        • When a stupid law says X, you follow it at your own risk

          Which is exactly why we need driverless cars: dumb fucks who believe they're such exceptionally good drivers that the rules don't apply to them.

          Perhaps Google's driverless cars and their research on driving safety will someday help raise the dangerously low speed limits. Why should people risk their lives to follow an unsafe law? (Just because the official purpose of a law is to increase safety, doesn't mean it won't do the opposite.)

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by bws111 (1216812)

            Exactly how is a low speed limit 'dangerous'? It is not. It is the idiots who chose to ignore it or otherwise engage in risky behavior (following too closely, unsafe lane changes, etc) who are dangerous.

    • by mark-t (151149)
      What if you are in the left lane because you know you will be turning left up ahead?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by beelsebob (529313)

      It's not safety vs law. This car is driving in California, where the law says that you should do this. I'm sure in areas where the law says you shouldn't do this, it will not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Differences in speed are far more dangerous than moderate increases in speed. When cars have to brake/weave to avoid the one or two people driving significantly slower than everyone else is when accidents happen. So the goody-two-shoes who think that the speed limit is the law and exceeding it is dangerous are actually making the roads more dangerous for the 95% of people that are driving a tad bit faster.

  • by sinij (911942) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @01:52PM (#47705523) Journal
    It is within Google's capability to dynamically map every speed trap and even moving police cars.

    With this in place, and with computer reflexes why not speed like a maniac? I for one would buy Google car tomorrow if it could get me to work at 120mph shaving time off my commute.
    • by westlake (615356)

      It is within Google's capability to dynamically map every speed trap and even moving police cars.

      If a police car can be tracked so can you.

      If a speed trap is fullt automated, how does Google detect it before you have been ticketed?

    • Well, the problem is that the speed limit exists for several good reasons. One of these reasons is that the highway itself has a speed limit imposed by physics, that if you pass the same you simply will not be able to keep on track and will come out straight at the first turn. And the faster you go the harder it is to stop, until you reach a point that your car will simply be unable to stop by running faster than your brake system can handle. And also have the issue of safety margin: The closer you get to t
      • by 0123456 (636235) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @04:00PM (#47706749)

        The problem is that few speed limits are set based on the laws of physics, so when people run into one of the few that is, they ignore it and crash.

        The vast majority were just made up by some bureaucrat. If you're lucky, they were made up by some bureaucrat based on the performance of a 1970s road yacht, so they bear some tiny resemblance to reality, rather than just pulled out of thin air.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Why would you want to get there at 120 MPH if you were not stuck behind the wheel on the way? You can use that time for yourself, catching up on some reading or sleep, watching TV or posting on /.. Going that fast shaves a little time off but costs you an awful lot more in fuel and maintenance costs.

      I can see the commute becoming a golden time for many people. No family, no distractions.

  • by rogoshen1 (2922505) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @01:57PM (#47705559)

    Yeah, going the speed limit in certain areas will simply result in google cars getting shot at, or ran off the road.

    IE, the 101 or I-17 in Phoenix. LOL@75mph. Unless there's a traffic jam of course.

  • and makes them do all sorts of evil things
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @02:03PM (#47705615)

    If I were a terrorist group and wanted to cripple any city in America, I would get a group of 20 people together and simply go back and forth on all the major roads, driving the speed-limit abreast with one another in all lanes.

    After a few days of that the city would do whatever you demanded.

    That is, if you all survived the road rage.

    • by Ichijo (607641)
      That could only work in a city where the police don't enforce laws against obstructing traffic [ca.gov].
      • I thought about that also but if if each row had a second car behind them it would be easy enough to keep up the rolling blockade even if one or two cars got pulled over.

        Also in some places the "can't drive slow in the left lane" applies only to roads with a speed limit of 65 or higher, which is higher than many in-city highway limits.

      • How can it be obstructing traffic if they couldn't be passed anyways without breaking the law? Or does that mean the government is acknowledging that the "speed of traffic" overrides the legal speed limits?

        • by adolf (21054)

          Obstructing traffic means just what it says: Obstructing traffic. The language of such a law is about relative speeds and of particular actions (such as, say, intentionally blocking a freeway).

          Exceeding the speed limit is a whole different law.

          The two are independent constructs. Indeed, I see no reason why one could not be cited for both "obstructing traffic" and "speeding" at the same time.

          There is no conflict here.

      • by beelsebob (529313)

        You can't be obstructing traffic if you're driving as fast as the law allows you to.

    • Its been done (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ArchieBunker (132337) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @02:45PM (#47705973) Homepage

      Some people already tried it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

  • Rolling roadblocks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Once there are enough autonomous vehicles on the road, highway speeds will SLOW DOWN. Think about it. If, on a 4-lane highway, there are 4 autonomous vehicles all driving the speed limit, each in its own lane, all side-by-side, then traffic behind them will be slowed to the speed limit. The end result is a rolling roadblock. Nobody will be able to exceed the speed limit because there will be too many vehicles all doing the exact same speed.
    • by ledow (319597) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @02:11PM (#47705683) Homepage

      Dunno about the US, but in the UK there aren't 4 lanes. There is one lane, and other overtaking lanes.

      Technically, if you have four cars all at the same speed in all four lanes, at least three of them would be breaking the law (dunno about the US, assume it's similar). If they're overtaking, it's not a problem, because they have to pull back in when they've completed the maneouvure and you can overtake them then.

      To be honest, robots obeying rules will make the roads I travel on move faster. It's the dickheads who constantly change lanes and try to "beat" the queues when speeds come down that cause most of the slowdowns and "phantom braking waves" that I witness every day.

      And, to be honest, I'd rather get somewhere at 65 predictably than 70 unpredictably, in spasms and spurts and with sudden braking.

    • by vux984 (928602)

      Given that rolling roadblocks are illegal, perhaps the autonomous cars will avoid participating in one.

    • by kencurry (471519)
      Hopefully google programmers put in "cheat-up speed a little if traffic allows" subroutine. That would be awesome.
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@l y n x . b c .ca> on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @02:06PM (#47705633) Journal
    Because I would not want any driverless car I own to *EVER* decide that it is safe to exceed the speed limit if I didn't explicitly allow it to.
    • by AGMW (594303)
      Even if that was actually safer to exceed the limit at that point?
      By the time it's asked you "Do you want to allow me to potentially save your life by exceeding the local speed limit Dave?", and you've noticed the question and answered it, it could well be too late!
      So let's assume you've given it permission to save your life by exceeding the speed limit, and something happens and your GoogleCar guns it and saves your life, but your vehicle is spotted and you get a ticket. Who pays?
      If GoogleCar had dec
      • by Vlado (817879)

        That would be one hell of a career...

      • by mark-t (151149)
        If it were user selectable, I would presume it to be some sort of configuration setting where you set what you want the default behavior of the car to be rather than something that you explicity have to authorize at the time.
        • by sinij (911942)
          What else would you want to make user-selectable behaviors? Should we also have a setting to have the car not pay attention to the road while texting, drinking coffee, and shaving/putting makeup on?
          • by mark-t (151149)
            My point is that I wouldn't want my car to exceed the posted speed limit. *EVER*... even if it allegedly somehow "safer" to do so, and that if being able to do so is a desirable feature, I'd prefer the ability to turn that feature off. If not, then... well... I stick to a manual car for the time being until they are no longer available... after that, I'll just bicycle everywhere.
    • Because I would not want any driverless car I own to *EVER* decide that it is safe to exceed the speed limit if I didn't explicitly allow it to.

      In some places you will be pulled over for going too slowly should you not exceed the posted speed limit.

  • 10Mph is still an arbitrary assumption, just like legal limit. Correct speed varies far too much for such a static definition. There was an article (with video) on slashdot awhile back that explained how their heuristics work, and it said the whole stack was basically built from prefabricated scenarios, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

  • ya no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @02:12PM (#47705689)

    In a separate development on Monday, the White House said it wanted all cars and light trucks to be equipped with technology that could prevent collisions.

    And finally law enforcements wet dream of being able to remotely disable your car becomes a reality. If you think this is anything but that, you're very naive.

  • by bigpat (158134) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @02:14PM (#47705695)

    I think the V2V proposal should be scrapped altogether. It would take decades to implement, be very expensive (at hundreds of dollars per car) and it won't actually make cars safer compared with relatively simpler collision avoidance using cameras and other relatively cheap proximity sensors that don't rely on everyone else having functioning V2V systems in their car.

    Autonomous cars have cameras and other fail safe sensors they can rely on. GPS is for navigational way points and route planning. Just getting a signal from another car that it is at a certain position is not a sufficient replacement for actually seeing that car with a camera. In all cases I would program that car to trust the camera and distrust the V2V and if it didn't have a camera then the car should stop as safely as it can and not continue to try and drive automatically. GPS is better for navigational way points where precision on the scale of feet and inches is not as important. For collision avoidance in close proximity you want to rely on sensors.

  • by eepok (545733) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @02:31PM (#47705817) Homepage

    You are "driving" a Google automated car. You get pulled over for doing 10 over the speed limit. You didn't tell the car to do it, the programmers did. Who gets the ticket?

    If you do, then that suggests that you have liability for the control of the vehicle. If that's the case, you probably shouldn't allow the car to make the choice whether or not to exceed the speed limit without your input.

    If the programmer has liability, then say good by to automated automobiles! No one wants this liability.

    Thus, Google cars will not automatically speed... but they may allow you to tell the car to exceed the speed limit... thus reducing the safety of the product overall.

    • by beelsebob (529313) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @02:45PM (#47705965)

      Actually no. The reason Google's cars do this is because they (for now) drive in California. The driver's handbook in California explicitly states that you should at all times keep up with traffic, even if it means exceeding the speed limit a little bit, so that all cars are driving at roughly the same speed. You won't get a speeding ticket, because you are following the law. Presumably, in other areas, the car will be reprogrammed with knowledge of that area's driving rules, and will or won't do this as appropriate.

      • The driver's handbook in California explicitly states that you should at all times keep up with traffic, even if it means exceeding the speed limit a little bit, so that all cars are driving at roughly the same speed.

        Got a citation for that? I just checked the California driver's handbook, and it said no such thing. (The relevant sections are Speed Limits [ca.gov] and Traffic Speeds [ca.gov].) The handbook did warn against driving slower than other traffic, but that doesn't imply that there is an exception. The handbook only recommends keeping to the right-hand lane to allow faster traffic to pass, not exceeding the posted speed limit.

        Note that the Driver's Handbook is not authoritative. The actual laws relating to speed limits can be fo

      • by Ichijo (607641) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @05:26PM (#47707501) Homepage Journal

        The driver's handbook in California explicitly states that you should at all times keep up with traffic, even if it means exceeding the speed limit a little bit, so that all cars are driving at roughly the same speed.

        The 2014 manual says, on page 69 [ca.gov]:

        Driving slower than other vehicles or stopping suddenly can be just as dangerous as speeding, if not more dangerous, because you may cause a rear end collision or cause other drivers to swerve to avoid hitting your vehicle. If you are in the fast lane and you notice vehicles moving to the right lane to pass you, or a line of vehicles is forming behind you, the best thing to do is move into the right lane, when it is safe, and let the vehicle(s) pass.

    • by wagnerrp (1305589)

      You are "driving" a Google automated car. You get pulled over for doing 10 over the speed limit.

      Won't happen, barring a software bug, and a software bug IS an unavoidable liability of writing software. Google allows their autonomous vehicles to maintain pace with the flow of traffic, up to ten miles per hour above the posted speed limit. If the average flow of traffic exceeds the posted speed limit, it indicates the posted speed limit is much too low for the conditions of the road. Further, it would require everyone on the road to be similarly breaking the speed limit, which would mean those other

  • by Jahoda (2715225) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @02:37PM (#47705875) Homepage
    I can easily see a future 30 years, potentially even 20 down the road where auto-drive become mandatory on metropolitan freeways at certain times of day (rush hour). In fact, I could easily see a not-too-distant future where such a thing is mandatory, regardless of time-of-day. Now the question I ask is, as with concern with electric vehicles and lower revenues from gasoline tax, how are municipalities going to cope with the reduced revenue from speeding tickets?
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @02:39PM (#47705887)

    They need to test year around in the chicago area.

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      no need to "cut it", you can get arrested and fined for doing that on I-294. In fact, for five miles over limit on I-294.

      -- 50 year resident of Chicago area

  • "We have you for no drivers license, old title and insurance, no learners permit, failure to submit for blood test, failure to take field sobriety tests, 11 miles over the limit, and an open oil can. Son, you is in a HEAP of trouble, you hear me? BIG trouble. why, you haven't even posted your code online in open forum. we are going to haul you in, toss your butt in the scrapyard, and impound the vehicle for forfeiture. you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to a hardcopy of the indictm

  • From the story:

    Research shows that sticking to the speed limit when other cars are going much faster actually can be dangerous, Dolgov says, so its autonomous car can go up to 10 mph (16 kph) above the speed limit when traffic conditions warrant.

    Anyone know what "research" Dolgov is referring to? It's always been self evident to me that a car travelling slower than the flow of speeding traffic is a danger, but actual evidence would be nice.

    Not that it matters. We don't really prioritize safety. We pay lip service to safety and then pursue other agenda. If safety was our first priority small cars wouldn't be allowed on roads; mortality and injury severity is substantially higher [wsj.com] for light vehicles. And no, it's not because SUVs a

  • I wouldn't have a problem with going the speed limit.

    See, here's the thing. A lot of the traffic jams are because people are hopping lane to lane or cutting people off or really just not doing enough planning about where they want to go. Autonomous vehicles would know what lane to go in and what cars are around it so it would be able to plan appropriately. No more traffic jams (or at least greatly reduced)

    When I drive from MA to NY, I may break the speed limit at times, but the average speed is still 50-

  • We've all seen those "baby on board" stickers/signs, with the intention being that you should keep your distance or take extra caution.

    If I've got V2V enabled, I'd want to broadcast that my vehicle that is bigger than it really is. Or you could screw with people and spoof their car to tell other cars that the semi-truck is really a miata.

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