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Transportation Google Technology

Hidden Obstacles For Google's Self-Driving Cars 289

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-looking-forward-to-denial-of-driving-attacks dept.
Paul Fernhout writes: Lee Gomes at MIT's Technology Review wrote an article on the current limits of Google self-driving car technology: "Would you buy a self-driving car that couldn't drive itself in 99 percent of the country? Or that knew nearly nothing about parking, couldn't be taken out in snow or heavy rain, and would drive straight over a gaping pothole? If your answer is yes, then check out the Google Self-Driving Car, model year 2014. Google often leaves the impression that, as a Google executive once wrote, the cars can 'drive anywhere a car can legally drive.' However, that's true only if intricate preparations have been made beforehand, with the car's exact route, including driveways, extensively mapped. Data from multiple passes by a special sensor vehicle must later be pored over, meter by meter, by both computers and humans. It's vastly more effort than what's needed for Google Maps. ... Among other unsolved problems, Google has yet to drive in snow, and Urmson says safety concerns preclude testing during heavy rains. Nor has it tackled big, open parking lots or multilevel garages. ... Pedestrians are detected simply as moving, column-shaped blurs of pixels — meaning, Urmson agrees, that the car wouldn't be able to spot a police officer at the side of the road frantically waving for traffic to stop."
Paul continues, 'A deeper issue I wrote about in 2001 is whether such software and data will be FOSS or proprietary? As I wrote there: "We are about to see the emergence of companies licensing that publicly funded software and selling modified versions of such software as proprietary products. There will eventually be hundreds or thousands of paid automotive software engineers working on such software no matter how it is funded, because there will be great value in having such self-driving vehicles given the result of America's horrendous urban planning policies leaving the car as generally the most efficient means of transport in the suburb. The question is, will the results of the work be open for inspection and contribution by the public? Essentially, will those engineers and their employers be "owners" of the software, or will they instead be "stewards" of a larger free and open community development process?"'
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Hidden Obstacles For Google's Self-Driving Cars

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  • by thebeastofbaystreet (3805781) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @12:04PM (#47791317) Homepage
    I will only buy a Google pod or whatever they're going to call it when it can safely and legally get me home from a night of alcoholic excess.
    • by mark-t (151149)

      So you won't, in other words.

      I mean sure... they'll eventually get to that point, but the number of years of statistics they are going to have to collect on millions of driverless cars driving, collectively travelling billions or even trillions of miles to determine exactly how much safer they are than cars that utilize human drivers is going to be enough that most people alive today probably won't see it happen.

      • the whole conversation about google cars shows how selfish people are. the entire conversation about safety is really about safety of the occupant. it's clear from the summary that they are dangerous to pedestrians. how do they handle bicyclists? google cars should never be allowed on the road.
        • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday August 30, 2014 @01:24PM (#47791729) Homepage Journal

          You'r post tells everyone everything about you: You are a pretentious hater.

          " google cars should never be allowed on the road."
          Not: " until they can reliable detect bicycles, driver-less cars shouldn't be sold to the public.

          Have you contact Mercedes to tell them they need to stop selling there cars that can automatically follow the car in front of them? do you rally against self parking cars?

          I'm sure you ancestors railed against fire.

          • Have you contact Mercedes to tell them they need to stop selling there cars that can automatically follow the car in front of them? do you rally against self parking cars?

            Car following happens at freeway speeds. There are no peds or bikes there. Self parking happens at 2 mph. In both cases there is a driver behind the wheel. Methinks y'our being disingenuous.

        • by Cyberax (705495) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @02:37PM (#47792061)
          Google cars handle bicyclists and pedestrians just fine. They even understand the bicycle-style hand 'turn signals'.
          • by HuguesT (84078)

            Do they? How do you know? Citation required.

            • by Cyberax (705495) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @03:11PM (#47792185)
              Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] - you can see it at 1:11. A bicyclist shows that they're going to turn right and the car 'blacklists' the area left of the bicycle.
              • A bicyclist shows that they're going to turn right and the car 'blacklists' the area left of the bicycle.

                Ah, but not all cyclists behave like that. The car should also blacklist the right side in consideration for those cyclist who actually signal and turn the same way.

              • by kwbauer (1677400)

                And if the bicyclist doesn't use a hand-signal or is where a glove or has skin color the same as a the building or car in the background, will it still blacklist that area like 99.9999% of the human drivers will?

                • by Cyberax (705495)
                  Yes, why not? It's certainly possible, since they do it for pedestrians.
                • by sl149q (1537343) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @04:24PM (#47792497)

                  99.9999% of human drivers!!!!!!

                  Give me a fscking break. You obviously don't actually ride around cities on a bike.

                  I spend a huge amount of time on a bike. I'd be happy if 75% of drivers paid attention. Simply put, human drivers DO NOT pay attention at the best of times and don't see cyclists a large percentage of the time.

                  One of the reasons I want to see only Google cars on the road is BECAUSE I'm a cyclist and figure my chances of staying alive will improve dramatically.

        • by u38cg (607297) <calum@callingthetune.co.uk> on Saturday August 30, 2014 @05:59PM (#47792895) Homepage
          It's obvious you've never actually ridden a bicycle in a busy city. I have to deal with drivers making lethal mistakes every single day I commute on two wheels. Given the number of idiotic drivers yacking on their phones I'd take my chances with half a pound of silicon any day of the week.
      • ... to determine exactly how much safer they are than cars that utilize human drivers

        They don't have to determine exactly how much safer they are. They just have to determine that they are safer. Also, safety is just one of the benefits of SDCs. Other benefits include better road utilization, since they can drive much closer together. So highways won't need as many lanes. There will be economic benefits as fewer people need to own a car, since driverless taxis will be much cheaper, resulting in fewer cars but also fewer and smaller parking lots.

    • It probably can. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday August 30, 2014 @12:44PM (#47791473)

      Judging by how badly TFA was written.

      If a new stop light appeared overnight, for example, the car wouldn't know to obey it.

      Got it. So the cars cannot handle changes in traffic markers.

      Google's cars can detect and respond to stop signs that aren't on its map, a feature that was introduced to deal with temporary signs used at construction sites.

      So they cannot deal with new stop LIGHTS but they can deal with new stop SIGNS. WTF?

      But in a complex situation like at an unmapped four-way stop the car might fall back to slow, extra cautious driving to avoid making a mistake.

      And it would be "unmapped" for the first attempt. Right? Because the cars should be sending back data on road conditions and such to HQ. Right?

      Maps have so far been prepared for only a few thousand miles of roadway, but achieving Google's vision will require maintaining a constantly updating map of the nation's millions of miles of roads and driveways.

      And the car needs the map to drive, right?

      Google's cars have safely driven more than 700,000 miles.

      So they just drove over the same "few thousand miles of roadway" again and again and again and again? Until they got to 700,000 miles?

      The car's sensors can't tell if a road obstacle is a rock or a crumpled piece of paper, so the car will try to drive around either.

      As it should. Because you don't know if that piece of paper is covering a rock or a pothole or whatever.

      For example, John Leonard, an MIT expert on autonomous driving, says he wonders about scenarios that may be beyond the capabilities of current sensors, such as making a left turn into a high-speed stream of oncoming traffic.

      Isn't that one of the easier problems? The car waits until it detects a gap of X size where X is dependent upon the speed of oncoming vehicles and the distance it needs to cross PLUS a pre-set "safety margin".

  • Damn! (Score:4, Funny)

    by nospam007 (722110) * on Saturday August 30, 2014 @12:06PM (#47791325)

    The Google car has to be shown how to get to the garage, on your property, behind your house.

    But seriously, if they'd known the way already, some people would have a heart attack.

    GoogleCar: Please select the destination:

    A. Before the garage where you cook your meth?
    B. Before the garage where you distill your moonshine?
    C. Before the garage where you grow your weed?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I just played with one of these at the California Academy of Sciences, and waving at it was one of the things I did to see whether the visual representation of the lidar's output was real. It had no problem detecting that I was waving, or the movement of individuals in the crowd around me.

    • by guruevi (827432)

      But you waving vs. a cop waving is a big difference. Otherwise it would be a very effective DoS.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by Noah Haders (3621429)
        i am seriously concerned about how the google car treats bicycles. can it determine a bicyclist's intention from his hand signals? how about from where it looks on the road and if he's looking over his shoulder? google cars should be banned from shared access roads. dedicated right-of-ways and private property only.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by geekoid (135745)

          Well, you start to turn, the next millisecond the car detects something is moving in front of it and slows. Far faster then any current driver.

          You are just another object. The fact that you are on a bike getting in everyone's way is irrelevant.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by stephenmac7 (2700151)
          Yes, according to Google, it does detect biker signals [youtube.com].
  • Baby steps (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2014 @12:15PM (#47791365)

    I have worked 20 years for a major auto OEM. Every time this site runs a Google car article (and there are too many) I cringe.

    The first autonomous vehicles will only operate on controlled access expressways, and upon exiting there will be areas where the driver will have to take over or the vehicles will stop.

    It will be decades before these vehicles can handle real life situations. You will need AI that can improvise as well as a human. Good luck with that.

    • by MrL0G1C (867445)

      With a car 'improvise' is generally stop or swerve or avoid, it's not like these cars have to win at chess.

      Google painted an overly rosy picture before, I think the summary has gone the other way.

      I hope they do get these cars working to a sale-able level, they could change the face of our cities, driveways could become gardens again, the cars could park themselves in secured parking (underground), act as autonomous taxis etc. residential roads could narrow down to 1 lane + 1 cycle lane.

      It's a shame the lack

      • by number17 (952777)

        With a car 'improvise' is generally stop or swerve or avoid, it's not like these cars have to win at chess.

        Stop or swerve to avoid doesn't resolve driving on snow covered roads. All they've dealt with so far is directional driving. Nobody has mentioned anything to do with traction. So far other companies technology involves winter tires and transmission modes to prevent slipping when accelerating. This this car requires an AI than can improvise. It has to know that the hill you are about to go up is snow covered which means you have to gun it and not stop, otherwise you will get stuck. Its the type of things the

        • Stop or swerve to avoid doesn't resolve driving on snow covered roads
          The car will know way better than you ever could how well the car is gripping at any particular moment.

          People keep missing that the cars dont need to "know" things or "improvise"; they will have way better data than the human driver in most circumstances and far better reaction times. "Improvise" is somewhat of an oxymoron / bad usage anyways; computers dont "improvise", they follow a structured set of rules, and will always do so until we create a strong AI (which will never happen IMO). The thing is, if you come up with a good ruleset, theres no need to improvise.

          • by 0123456 (636235)

            The thing is, if you come up with a good ruleset, theres no need to improvise.

            So, who's going to write the rule that tells it what to do if faced with a choice between running over a baby, or swerving and running over an old granny? On an icy road. In a snow storm. With a crowd of screaming schoolkids that it will run over if it miscalculates and goes out of control on the ice?

      • by HuguesT (84078)

        Actually winning at chess vs humans is a solved problem. Driving on the road is harder, surprisingly.

      • You're talking like the car stopping isn't a problem ... just stopping the car where you aren't supposed to is dangerous.

    • Re:Baby steps (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Solandri (704621) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @12:59PM (#47791549)
      Put another way, if autonomous cars started off working on 0% of roads and you want them to eventually work on 100% of roads, well somewhere in between you have to pass through 1%, 5%, 10%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 90%. It's rather disingenuous to criticize them for not getting all the way to 100% in one fell swoop. I'm shopping for a new car right now, and the new autonomous-like features like adaptive cruise control, lane change assist, and parking assist are really nice (haven't gotten to play with lane departure warning or assist yet). By themselves, no they don't make a 100% autonomous car. But each gets you a small fraction of the way there.

      It will be decades before these vehicles can handle real life situations. You will need AI that can improvise as well as a human. Good luck with that.

      I see that problem mostly being attacked from the opposite direction. With cars getting radar and proximity sensors, and being able to electronically communicate their intent with each other before actually moving, you reduce the need for the AI to improvise. If an autonomous car wants to pull in front of your car, the two car AIs will communicate it with each other and work out a plan to make it happen before changing lanes. No improvisation required. Sure you might get the stray deer hopping through traffic that requires a human to take control and improvise. But the vast majority of improvisation situations can be eliminated before they ever happen with better communication. That is after all the whole idea behind brake lights and turn signals - to allow you to communicate your intent to the drivers behind/beside you so they don't have to improvise in response to your sudden moves.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It will be decades before these vehicles can handle real life situations. You will need AI that can improvise as well as a human. Good luck with that.

      I'm sure that there will always be a few situations where a skilled human driver will make better decisions, and produce better outcomes, than standard automation.

      I'm equally sure that there will be exponentially more situations where standard automation will make better decisions, and produce better outcomes, than average (or even well above-average) human drivers.

      I'm sorry, but "there will always be situations where a human performs better than AI" sounds an awful lot like "I won't wear a seat belt becaus

      • He said you would need AI with human levels of improvisation ... he didn't say that kind of AI was impossible. I for one agree, anyone who thinks anything short of human level AI could succeed on the road either doesn't drive much or has no concept of how AI programming works.

      • I'm equally sure that there will be exponentially more situations where standard automation will make better decisions, and produce better outcomes, than average (or even well above-average) human drivers.

        I absolutely agree with you that there are probably already "exponentially more situations where standard automation will make better decisions." Human drivers make stupid decisions all the time -- driving too fast, following too close, changing lanes abruptly without signaling, etc. But thankfully, humans are also adaptable enough to deal with a lot of bad unexpected things that come about because of those bad decisions.

        I'm less certain whether I agree with you that AI will "produce better outcomes" in

        • I'm sorry, but "there will always be situations where a human performs better than AI" sounds an awful lot like "I won't wear a seat belt because it might trap me in a burning car".

          I really don't mean to be a jerk about this, but didn't you actually just utter pretty much those exact words?! -- from earlier in your post:

          I'm sure that there will always be a few situations where a skilled human driver will make better decisions, and produce better outcomes, than standard automation.

          So, given that you said that and that you were "sure" of that statement, does that mean you also don't wear a seat belt because you're afraid of dying in a car fire? Just wonderin'. :)

          My point was this:

          There are a few situations where you're worse off wearing a seat belt than not wearing one. There are people who have died because they were wearing a seat belt.

          Those situations are immensely rarer than the situations in which a seat belt will save your life, and since "accidents" are inherently unpredictable, you can't tell in advance when you should or shouldn't wear a seat belt.

          Given these facts, it's really really stupid not to wear a seat belt, even though there are some situations in

  • by seanvaandering (604658) <sean.vaanderingNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday August 30, 2014 @12:18PM (#47791375)
    The technology is in it's infancy stages. Why the media keeps hounding Google on all these issues seems immature. I don't see any other competing company attempting to do the same thing, and if there is, they are definitely staying clear of the media spotlight.

    I see Google making some great progress in this area, but give it time people - they will work out the kinks, but it won't be done in year.. lets realistically say that maybe in 5-10 years from now we might fathom the idea that the car is safe enough for whatever weather and situations we can throw at it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jklovanc (1603149)

      Why the media keeps hounding Google on all these issues seems immature.

      It is to counter Google's skewed data that make it look like autonomous cars are just around the corner. For example, why come out with a vehicle that has no steering wheel if it is not viable for another 5-10 years (by your estimate)? Do you ever see a Google press release mention any of these limitations? All you hear from Google is a rising tally of miles driven and the fact that there have been no accidents. The fact that the miles are driven on carefully selected, heavily scanned roads under optimal co

      • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday August 30, 2014 @01:40PM (#47791817) Homepage Journal

        "It is to counter Google's skewed data that make it look like autonomous cars are just around the corner."
        Google has never said that. And this guy doesn't have all the data, nor does he know whats in development.

        "why come out with a vehicle that has no steering wheel if it is not viable for another 5-10 years (by your estimate)?"
        The same reason worlds fair showed tech that will be coming out in 5-10 years. Its' fun, it's cool. It also show they are thinking long term and not quarterly. It also shows a company spending money on RnD.
        I consider all of that a good thing.

        "Do you ever see a Google press release mention any of these limitations?"
        Yes.
        http://googleblog.blogspot.com... [blogspot.com]

        " All you hear from Google is a rising tally of miles driven and the fact that there have been no accidents. "
        Which is pretty important.

        "The fact that the miles are driven on carefully selected, heavily scanned roads under optimal conditions never seems to make it into the reports."
        That is the smart way to start, but they are moving past that.

        " Driving down the same roads thousands of times is not progress."
        Of course it is. Same roads, different traffic. The same rods can have 10's of thousands of changing variables at any given time.
        The team members are using them. A team member took one from Google campus to Tahoe on a trip.

        Do you lay awake at night just trying to think of ways to hate cool new things?

        • by jklovanc (1603149)

          he same reason worlds fair showed tech that will be coming out in 5-10 years.

          I think your 5-10 year estimate is ludicrously optimistic. Until the vehicle can classify what a person is doing on the side of the road it is not a viable solution. That person could be a statue, a child who could dart into the road, an person standing safely on the side, a police officer pulling the car over, etc. That kind of AI is much further down the road. By the way, that is one reason for the pre-scanning. The vehicle scanner can not tell the difference between a mailbox and a person let alone predi

          • Until the vehicle can classify what a person is doing on the side of the road it is not a viable solution. That person could be a statue, a child who could dart into the road, an person standing safely on the side,

            Neither of those two matter; the vehicle would ensure that it was at a speed it could stop if whatever it was began to dart into the road, and if it DID, the car could stop much faster than a person.

            a police officer pulling the car over

            That's, really, the only difficult bit.

            • by 0123456 (636235)

              Neither of those two matter; the vehicle would ensure that it was at a speed it could stop if whatever it was began to dart into the road, and if it DID, the car could stop much faster than a person.

              So you're saying that self-driving cars will slow to 10mph any time there's a pedestrian on the sidewalk?

            • I see an easy way around that problem: give police officers special IR or radio remotes that they can point at a self-driving car to tell it to stop. Specially mark self-driving cars that recognize those remotes. Let the driver (maybe) have a way to override the stop signals just in case those remotes fall into the wrong hands, depending on how likely that seems to occur.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      The technology is in it's infancy stages. Why the media keeps hounding Google on all these issues seems immature.

      Google successfully lobbied California for new laws regarding autonomous cars and they keep putting out press releases.
      Google put themselves in the spotlight.

      only if intricate preparations have been made beforehand, with the carâ(TM)s exact route, including driveways, extensively mapped. Data from multiple passes by a special sensor vehicle must later be pored over, meter by meter, by both computers and humans.

      That's more prep than a rally driver gets before he barrels down a 1-lane dirt road at highway speeds.
      That's certainly not what Google has been selling the public and State governments.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Google is big.
      Google general does good things
      So people who make money from hating need to find something, anything to get clicks from google hate.

  • To get truly self-driving cars there needs to be a lot more tech in place. We need to develop a Roadmaster computer system that 'controls' all the cars by feeding them road parameters. WE need vehicle to vehicle(V2V) comms as well. The idea that self-driving cars are going to happen without beacons and roadmaster computers and V2V is silly. All the preparations that go into the google car to make it work needs to be baked into the road system to make it work en masse. We have long way to go, and google's ca
    • by kheldan (1460303)

      more infrastructure

      Sure. Just like broadband Internet, right? Because everyone in Kansas has broadband now, right? Oh, wait, that's right, they don't! There are suburbs I've lived in where there was nothing but dialup..

      The fact of the matter is: The entire highway infrastructure will have to be completely overhauled, at enormous expense, before 'self driving cars' could be a reality, or even have a chance at being prevalent. Even then there will always be roads and places where there is no such infrastructure, and people wil

      • by geekoid (135745)

        " entire highway infrastructure will have to be completely overhauled, at enormous expense, before 'self driving cars' could be a reality"
        since they are using them everyday, and taking them on trip in CA, on normal roads, I don't think you are correct.
        Of course are road infrastructure could use a few smart changes anyways.

        It's trivial to kidnapped some in a car today.

        "There's no way they're going to code an 'evasive maneuvers'"
        Oh, I see. You think you would be able to do some Die Hard esque driving to get

    • there's a lot of people on the road other than cars. pedestrians, bicyclists. are you going to get a roadmaster computer to tell them what to do as well? some pedestrians are elderly. some are drunk. some are children. i don't know where you're from but in america pedestrians and bicyclists have the right of way.
  • If I get drunk, and my Google car drives me home and overrun a red light or something like that. Who the cops should blame? Who will get the ticket?

  • Google often leaves the impression that, as a Google executive once wrote, the cars can “drive anywhere a car can legally drive.”

    Wow, that's just a big ol' lie isn't it?

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Technically speaking they can. They just have to wait for the road to be surveyed before hand.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      What he wrote was:
      "Our self-driving cars have now traveled nearly 200,000 miles on public highways in California and Nevada, 100 percent safely. They have driven from San Francisco to Los Angeles and around Lake Tahoe, and have even descended crooked Lombard Street in San Francisco. They drive anywhere a car can legally drive."

      I like how you left out the fact that, clearly, they didn't need special roads.

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        I like how you left out the fact that, clearly, they didn't need special roads.

        Depends on how you define "special road". Google cars can only drive down roads that have been thoroughly scanned and analyzed by Google staff. Considering less than 1% of the roads in the US have been scanned and analyzed by Google I would call those "special roads".

  • Bitch, whine, moan. Autonomous cars are a work in progress. Didn't anyone think they weren't?

    Would you buy a self-driving car that couldn't drive itself in 99 percent of the country?

    Of course not. But then, no-one's selling them yet, because they're STILL DEVELOPING THEM.

  • In areas with fast growth detailed maps of every inch of the roads will require an accumulation of data almost hourly. For a specific map to be updated hour by hour may offer a billing opportunity for a major data service. Assume your car drives you to work at 8 am.. When it is time to return home the computer will need to know if any alterations or conditions have occurred during the day. Since most of us repeat patterns in daily driving those routes may update themselves while the vehicle is at r
  • by whistlingtony (691548) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @01:07PM (#47791611)

    I'm going to map my drive to work, by driving it a few dozen times. Then the car can take over. I don't care if it's no good in parking garages or my own driveway. I'll spend 3 minutes driving from my house, let the car take over, let the car do the boring freeway driving, and it can alert me when I'm 3 minutes from work. Then I'll take over and get into the parking garage and park my car.

    Are we really whining because a brand new technology can't do EVERYTHING for us? Because it only takes care of MOST of the drudgery?

    • by mysidia (191772)

      I'm going to map my drive to work, by driving it a few dozen times. Then the car can take over.

      Why not provide a mechanism so that when you drive over the road, data is sent to Google. Once enough people have driven the road, the data gets shared with all the vehicles, so it's as if they all have the latest map of the road.

      Also, there could be some mechanism designed for the DOTs, Police and construction workers, to "FLAG" a position and broadcast based on GPS coordinates as "X event now", OR "X even

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        Why not provide a mechanism so that when you drive over the road, data is sent to Google.

        One word; bandwidth. Do you have any idea the amount of data there is in a road scan? That data would also need to be analyzed by a person to filter out problems.

        • by mysidia (191772)

          One word; bandwidth. Do you have any idea the amount of data there is in a road scan?

          One word:WiFi, or Google WiFi [gigaom.com] and Background incremental data uploads and downloads with Automated analysis.

          • by jklovanc (1603149)

            When you are talking about a couple hundred vehicle trying to transfer gigabits of information WiFi won't cut it. Also, most roads are out of WiFi connectivity anyway.

            • by mysidia (191772)

              Also, most roads are out of WiFi connectivity anyway.

              I think you're totally out of touch with what the technology is capable of. After you have logged the trip, you will be within WiFi range at your destination or at other points in time.

              Also, it's up to the vehicle to distill that information, so they aren't necessarily uploading Gigabytes.

              Even if they were, it's quite doable.

              It's also quite possible analysis of the data may be distributed, and different vehicles could share that data with each oth

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Issue is not just the scanning but that the scans have to be gone over by a person to decipher them and make them usable by the vehicle. Also, what happens when something changes?

    • I'm going to map my drive to work, by driving it a few dozen times.

      And that is if you are the ONLY person with a robot car on that road. Which may be correct for the initial roll-out. But this is a great example of the "network effect". If 100 people in your state own robot cars then a LOT of your state will be continuously mapped / re-mapped / re-re-mapped / etc.

      Are we really whining because a brand new technology can't do EVERYTHING for us? Because it only takes care of MOST of the drudgery?

      There is space

    • Except that Google lobbied against requirements for these cars to have steering wheels and other physical controls.
  • by Snufu (1049644) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @01:10PM (#47791633)

    "Would you buy a self-driving car that couldn't drive itself in 99 percent of the country? Or that knew nearly nothing about parking, couldn't be taken out in snow or heavy rain, and would drive straight over a gaping pothole?"

    Google is just trying to accurately mimic the real driving population.

  • How's it going to park in a dirt lot? Recognize which spots are likely to be too muddy? How's it going to park behind the barn?

    Don't some of the breathless stories talk about whether or not these cars will need steering wheels? What's going to happen when the steering wheel-less models meet something they can't deal with? Blue screen of death?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      look at another parked car and park next to it?
      How do you know where to park?

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        look at another parked car and park next to it?

        What if there are no parked cars? What if the spot next to the parked car is a lane or restricted spot (loading zone, handicap, pedestrian access, etc)? What if the first car parked incorrectly?

        How do you know where to park?

        I look at the marks on the pavement which Google car can not do. On gravel I use my experience and intelligence to decide where to park. A rule based system like Google car is not able to do that.

  • They'll have a nice big BETA on the sides and the public will be very understanding of little bugs here and there.

    Of course manufacturers will need a little bit of time to integrate their value-added enhancements so you may want to wait for the Nexus cars for trouble-free firmware updates. Or if your model can't be updated simply get a new car every 2 years.

  • by aepervius (535155) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @02:27PM (#47792019)
    Look this is a question of cost. Self driving car must be able to detect the end of road or a hole or whatever so if google did not already install a radar or similar to check the road status ahead, it would be incredibly dangerous. And a radar or similar detection device would be far better at detecting :
    1) pothole
    2) slowdown speedbump
    3) whatever the state of the road
    better than human say, at night. Or in the fog. Or distracted.
  • When you look at the problems they have yet to solve, compared to the problems they've already solved, they don't look that menacing. To me it looks like a prototype that has been fantastically successful.

    that the car wouldn't be able to spot a police officer at the side of the road frantically waving for traffic to stop

    Well, can't solve that problem so lets hang up the entire concept of self-driving cars because of a handful of hypothetical obstacles. Never mind the lives and money saved, never mind

    • Can it swerve across the side walk when necessary? Can it make a blind turn past an obstacle just having faith that opposing traffic goes slow enough so they can stop in time? Can it turn on a single lane road in unison with lots of other cars when the road is blocked, judging the sides of the road accurately so it doesn't get stuck?

      I can go on and on and on, just like any normal person who often drives in urban environments. Even the motorway isn't safe from the sort of shit which would make anything we co

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @02:56PM (#47792119) Homepage

    Google isn't detecting potholes? Back in 1985, we had that on our DARPA Grand Challenge vehicle. The LIDAR on top of the vehicle was generating a ground profile. This was for off-road driving, where that's essential. I'd assumed Google was doing that; they have a Velodyne laser scanner that provides enough information.

    In traffic, sometimes you can't see a pothole because it's obscured by a vehicle ahead, but if the vehicle ahead doesn't change speed, direction, or attitude, it's probably safe to proceed over the ground it just covered. On high speed roads, you can't see distant potholes clearly because the angle is unfavorable, but if the road ahead looks like the near road, and the near road profiles OK with the LIDAR, the far road is probably good. That's what the Stanford team used to out-drive their LIDAR range. (We didn't do that and were limited to 17MPH).

    Fixed road components should be handleable. People, bicycles, and animals are tough.

    • Mercedes already has a pothole detector in one of it's high end models. Basically it's a camera tied into an active suspension that cushions the impact of driving over a pothole.

      I suppose it could be considered a solved problem.

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