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Google Transportation

Google Wants To Test Driverless Cars In a Simulation 173

Posted by timothy
from the do-you-want-to-be-a-virtual-pedestrian? dept.
An anonymous reader writes Google has been testing its autonomous vehicles on U.S. roads for a while now. In fact, they're required to, by law. "California's regulations stipulate autonomous vehicles must be tested under "controlled conditions" that mimic real-world driving as closely as possible. Usually, that has meant a private test track or temporarily closed public road." It's easy enough to test a few prototypes, but whenever autonomous cars start being produced by manufacturers, it'll become a lot more complicated. Now, Google is lobbying to change that law to allow testing via computer simulation. Safety director Ron Medford said, "Computer simulations are actually more valuable, as they allow manufacturers to test their software under far more conditions and stresses than could possibly be achieved on a test track." Google spokeswoman Katelin Jabbari said, "In a few hours, we can test thousands upon thousands of scenarios which in terms of driving all over again might take decades." Shee adds that simulator data can also easily provide information on how human behavior creeps into driving. "It's not just about the physics of avoiding a crash. It's also about the emotional expectation of passengers and other drivers." For example, when one of Google's computer-controlled cars is cut off, the software brakes harder than it needs to, because this makes the passengers feel safer. Critics say relying heavily on simulation data is flawed because it doesn't take into account how other cars react to the computer's driving.
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Google Wants To Test Driverless Cars In a Simulation

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  • by turkeydance (1266624) on Friday August 22, 2014 @07:38PM (#47733775)
    until it's your life.
  • by m2shariy (1194621) on Friday August 22, 2014 @07:41PM (#47733781)
    Test in the fscking simulation and then test on the street. Win-win.
  • by Carnildo (712617) on Friday August 22, 2014 @07:49PM (#47733829) Homepage Journal

    The problem with simulator testing is that you can't test scenarios that you didn't think of. This is particularly important to find problems arising from multiple simultaneous situations. For example, you might test the scenarios "front camera obscured by rain", "car ahead of you performs emergency stop", and "dog runs into street", but that doesn't necessarily tell you how the car will respond to a combination of the three.

    Real life is far more creative than any scenario designer.

  • by siphonophore (158996) on Friday August 22, 2014 @08:03PM (#47733887)

    Are we really having a public, political, emotional discussion about the relative merits of ATE vs Validation testing? Come on, Slashdot, you're a bunch of engineers, right? Does the CA state legislature have ANYTHING of value to add to your FMEA? What about your production planning? Test plan? V&V protocols?

    It's the height of hubris for outsiders (especially lawyers in the state legislature) to come in and dictate low-level engineering details. A responsible legislature (and public) would acknowledge that they have NOTHING of value to add to the discussion.

    The only appropriate regulation is "make it X safe." Don't tell us engineers to get there, and we won't tell you lawyers how to snort coke of a hooker's tits.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday August 22, 2014 @08:05PM (#47733895)

    For example, you might test the scenarios "front camera obscured by rain", "car ahead of you performs emergency stop", and "dog runs into street", but that doesn't necessarily tell you how the car will respond to a combination of the three.

    This seems backwards to me. Testing combinations of scenarios happening simultaneously would be far easier in a simulator.

  • by dnavid (2842431) on Friday August 22, 2014 @08:14PM (#47733943)

    Test in the fscking simulation and then test on the street. Win-win.

    You don't need to ask for permission to test your car with simulations. You only have to ask for permission to replace real world testing with simulations. Personally, I'm not fond of replacing real world testing completely with simulations. The problem is that the point of testing software is to make sure the programmers have properly dealt with as many possible real world situations, and to reduce the likelihood the programmers haven't ignored an unexpected circumstance. Simulations can only test for what the simulation programmers have accounted for. Its substituting the system programmers' judgment for the simulation programmers' judgment. Its useful, but in my opinion insufficient.

  • Re:I'm confused (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday August 22, 2014 @08:24PM (#47733991)

    Simulations don't account for faults in the design or manufacturing.

    You don't have to test every car to find faults in the design. You only have to test one.

    Faults in manufacturing are not unique to self-driving-cars. So why should only SDCs require testing of every car?

  • by siphonophore (158996) on Friday August 22, 2014 @08:31PM (#47734033)

    A regulatory "light hand" is appropriate here for a few reasons:

    1. The current state of the art is, comparatively, extremely dangerous (even with attentive, good drivers).
    2. Google (or the next few guys coming down the pipe) already have an extremely strong incentive to make their cars as safe as possible (speed of adoption, fear of future regulation).
    3. OTA updates would resolve problem behaviors after only a few incidents.

    Google is coming to the public with a (statistical) goldmine for human development. The cold skepticism they're getting is totally unwarranted and will do nothing but delay the enormous social and economic benefits that fully autonomous roads will bring.

  • by siphonophore (158996) on Friday August 22, 2014 @08:38PM (#47734063)

    The real story is an unbroken 50-year streak of improvements in safety driven and executed by engineers. A series of recalls is nothing compared to the 60% decline in traffic deaths brought about by new safety technology and it's rapid adoption. Driverless cars are a new safety technology. Let's adopt them already!

    Would 2014 America hold up seat belt installation for ten years just to make sure they are totally, exactly, 100% safe?

  • by Your.Master (1088569) on Friday August 22, 2014 @09:15PM (#47734237)

    I'd flip it around. An automated car should be required to pass both a road test and a bevvy of simulated scenarios.

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