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Transportation AI

Autonomous Cars Will Save Money and Lives 389

cartechboy writes "Autonomous cars are coming even if tech companies have to produce them. The biggest hurdles are the technology (very expensive and often still surprisingly rudimentary) and how vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communication happens (one car anticipates or sees an accident, it should tell nearby cars). So what are the benefits to self-driving cars? They may save us thousands of lives and not a small amount of cash. A new study from the Eno Center for Transportation (PDF) suggests that if just 10 percent of vehicles on the road were autonomous, the U.S. could see 1,000 fewer highway fatalities annually and save $38 billion in lost productivity (due to congestion and other traffic problems). Right off the bat you can imagine autonomous driving easily topping your average intoxicated drivers' ability behind the wheel. At a 90 percent adoption mark those same numbers in theory would become: 21,700 lives spared, and a whopping $447 billion saved."
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Autonomous Cars Will Save Money and Lives

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Cops won't like it because they'll see lower revenue from DUI fines, speeding fines, and all that crap they love taking money for.

    • by Chuckstar ( 799005 ) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @08:11PM (#45230049)

      Why do you think cops care about that money? Municipalities may care about that money, but the cops couldn't care less (they don't get a cut, after all). But cops do try to avoid hearing "how come everyone else writes more tickets than you do?" So they make a point of writing tickets. But they really don't care about revenues, per se.

      • They'll care if less municipal revenue means layoffs at the police department.
        • by Bigbutt ( 65939 )

          That assumes the standard street cop thinks that far ahead.


        • by NoKaOi ( 1415755 )

          But cops do try to avoid hearing "how come everyone else writes more tickets than you do?" So they make a point of writing tickets. But they really don't care about revenues, per se.

          That's part of it. Another part is that it's their job to enforce the law, and so that's what they do. It's not their job to decide which laws to enforce (although obviously that happens to a degree). If a cop only enforces the laws they feel like enforcing, then they become the judge and jury too and our system generally tries to avoid that (federal agencies excepted of course). Sure, some cops are jerks that just want the opportunity to power trip on you, but for the most part that's a minority of cop

    • Cops won't like it because they'll see lower revenue from DUI fines, speeding fines, and all that crap they love taking money for.

      I'm sure the governments will figure out a way to bust people for DUI even if they are riding in an auto-auto. They already do it for sitting in cars that are not running.

  • 30 minutes more sleeping?

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @08:07PM (#45230037)
    or put another way, what'll happen when we have half a trillion dollars less economic activity? Since our entire civilization is based around getting people to trade among themselves. I just don't see all these productivity gains are ever going to make it down to my level...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, Autonomous cars are a productivity gain that quickly translates, by allowing you to nap or read in the car after you buy one.

      We want to put as many people out of work as possible, that's really the whole point of technological advancement, that's how we make our lives better. There are obviously powerful people who steal our productivity gains, like Wall St. and real estate brokers, our expanding law enforcement and industrial prison system, etc. We must reclaim these productivity gains for ours

      • Autonomous cars are cool though because they require no connected political reform, just put all the drivers and cabbies out of work (yey!), and save everyone an hour or so per day (double yey!).

        Welcome to 1904.

        The Wobs may have been too militant for their own success, but they well understood the nature of the battle. IT and business/knowlege workers today are facing the exactly the same threats to their enjoyment of life now, and will need to decide how to respond or be overwhelmed.

        Where the machine is put in, some of the workers move out. One worker with a machine, or a small working force with machinery, will produce more goods than a large working force with hand tools. So that machinery displaces laborers. This is the feature of machinery that secures its installation in industry. But machinery does more than merely throw workmen out of jobs, it renders the versatile skill of the craftsman unnecessary. So the machines have won their way into every industry, and wherever they went less labor was required until eventually the aggregate of these surplus laborers grew to such proportions that there came into existence what is known as the army of unemployed.

        At first the unemployed were largely of the mechanical trades, but the invention of new mechanical devices, and the improvement of machinery, which has been going on, has reduced the unemployed to a working class contingent in which the unskilled workers predominate.

        Ask the average worker what relation machine production has to unemployment, and you will find that he is unaware of the fact that machinery will explain unemployment. Yet this fact, which is potent enough to be self-evident, is a mystery to the average unionist, let alone to the average working man and woman. The unemployed, even after many experiences, on the average only understand that "the job was shut down" by the boss. It is accepted that the employer has an unquestioned right to shut down industry, regardless of the social consequences.

        http://www.iww.org/history/library/iww/isandisnt/6 [iww.org]

        Autonomous cars are tangential to the conflict, but apportioning the benefits they will bring will require political reform.

      • by FishTankX ( 1539069 ) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @10:51PM (#45230871)

        I don't think it'll necessarily put cabbies out of work, because unless i'm mistaken the primary reason people would take a taxi other than drinking, is either they lack a car (by choice, or a family with only one car, where the wife or husband needs to get somewhere while the car is out), or there is no parking at the destination. It would seem that autonomous cars wouldn't benefit people in either of these cases.

        • There are schemes like ZipCar that give you access to one of a fleet of cars for short periods. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to extend this to self-driving vehicles. I don't see taxi companies that have human drivers competing with ones that don't - the driver is a significant part of the total cost.
    • by debrain ( 29228 ) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @09:27PM (#45230445) Journal

      or put another way, what'll happen when we have half a trillion dollars less economic activity? Since our entire civilization is based around getting people to trade among themselves. I just don't see all these productivity gains are ever going to make it down to my level...

      Not all economic activity benefits society. Perhaps the most well known demonstration is the parable of the broken window [wikipedia.org]:

      The parable of the broken window was introduced by Frederic Bastiat in his 1850 essay Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas (That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen) to illustrate why destruction, and the money spent to recover from destruction, is actually not a net-benefit to society. The parable, also known as the broken window fallacy or glazier's fallacy, demonstrates how opportunity costs, as well as the law of unintended consequences, affect economic activity in ways that are "unseen" or ignored.

      The productivity gains failing to make it to your level are arguably a problem of inequality of the distribution of wealth, not lack of economic activity.

    • This sounds remarkably like arguing for the broken window fallacy. In this case we are talking about windows that don't have to be broken anymore.
  • Whoever owns control of the car wins.
  • What utter crap (Score:2, Interesting)

    by onyxruby ( 118189 )

    Hey, let's play this game with computers, after all we don't need freedom behind the keyboard either and **AA's claim piracy cost the economy countless billions of dollars every year. Let's have autonomous computers! We'll make the operating system and hardware completely closed to prevent anyone from altering their 'trusted' environment. Now in order to keep anyone from hacking into their computers and driving by themselves we'll have to make sure that we take away the ability to install software that hasn

    • We'll make the operating system and hardware completely closed ... make sure that we take away the ability to install software that hasn't been approved. We'll do this through a centralized market place where every application is signed and approved. Now the signing agency ... get a cut of 30%.

      Dude, you just described Apple's marketing strategy, not Microsoft RT.

  • "the U.S. could see 1,000 fewer highway fatalities annually and save $38 billion in lost productivity (due to congestion and other traffic problems)"

    ...and less dead people unable to be put to work

  • Skeptical (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    You know . The way they're painting this , it seems like there's not going to be any unforeseen problems with it.
    I can already predict crashes due to hacking/ buggy softwares and etc.

    Don't get me wrong. I agree with the fact that automated cars are a step in the right direction. However, what I dislike is how it is being presented here. It is presented as if it was a holy grail of driving. The solution of all problems. That's very misleading and dangerous. That's what I can't stand. The dishonesty of it a

    • Slashdot management have a serious car-boner for this tech so you'll read lots about it here. Also, page hits.

    • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

      Agreed. This dishonesty should set off alarm bells about their true intentions and priorities.

    • Re:Skeptical (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday October 24, 2013 @09:53PM (#45230587)

      I think it's a wonderful idea - maybe because I'm older. It would allow my in laws, for example, to continue being mobile in their late 70-s and 80's, whereas now they can't drive. It would allow me more mobility too, since I can't really drive due to health reasons. I can imagine automatic-only roads, where the speed limits are increased and traffic flow is automated - no more traffic jams, traffic lights would result in faster trips and more efficient fuel use.

      Of course I like driving as much as the next guy, but I wouldn't mind if it became relegated to a "hobby" as opposed to an unavoidable daily chore.

  • >Right off the bat you can imagine autonomous driving easily topping your average intoxicated drivers' ability behind the wheel.

    Didn't anybody pay attention to the DARPA Grand Challenge?

  • Personal Time Saved (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Salgat ( 1098063 ) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @08:29PM (#45230159)
    I'm extremely frugal and I'd still buy one the instant an affordable one is released simply because an autonomous car represents a potential savings of 4,000 hours of my life over the life of the car. That's represents 2 years of a full time job. That's time that could be spent doing whatever I usually do at home, including sleeping, entertainment, and personal work/finances. It's incredible to think about.
  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Thursday October 24, 2013 @08:34PM (#45230183) Homepage

    People are willing to endure a risk orders of magnitudes higher of crashing by human error than by machine error.

    Much as they're okay with the risk of dying from flu every year by not vaccinating, but not the comparatively negligible risk of a terrorist attack.

    • You can sue an individual with some chance of winning (though mandatory insurance tries to make us into mini corporations, it doesn't completely succeed.)

      If the accident is blamed on a company like Google, do you think their attorneys would have let the product out the door without closing off the product liability exposure? Google et. al. will not roll a product like auto-drive out to the general public until they've successfully lobbied themselves teflon body armor.

    • I'd say it's more a matter of people being HUMAN. Humans have a whole range of emotions too, which often prove detrimental or at least reduce efficiency at attaining the desired outcome in a particular situation. Should we just eliminate all those pesky feelings too and become strictly logical?

      I think we all realize we're going to die eventually one way or another. When it comes down to it, we're generally far more okay with it happening because we made a mistake while doing something we enjoy (or even som

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @08:41PM (#45230211) Homepage Journal

    That's the problem.

    Currently, they're looking at data for autonomous vehicles in a complete vacuum.

    I'm quite sure that having such cars on the roads in percentile quantities will yield their own sets of unique fatalities sooner or later.

    In the mean time, I'm not an quadriplegic. So I'll choose to drive my own damn car.

    • Yup, GIGO. Let's assume that this tech works great under real-world conditions. Then we know that it will be a big improvement. Wow, such insight.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      That depends. Although I agree that road conditions could, for example, become suddenly unpredictable in an earthquake or land-slide or bridge collapse and the computer couldn't handle them. But then it can be argued that a human driver would not have been able to do better, either.
  • by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @08:49PM (#45230243)

    Right off the bat you can imagine autonomous driving easily topping your average intoxicated drivers' ability behind the wheel.

    Um, what? Self-driving cars will drive better than drunks? That's an endorsement?

  • Just sayin'.

    And I don't think that 10% computer driven cars would do much to change congestion.

  • Because people won't trust them.
  • by jcdick1 ( 254644 ) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @08:59PM (#45230315)

    Because you know that as soon as your car is recognized as autonomous, some asshole kid is going to say "Let's make it crash!"

    • Re:Don't be first! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tftp ( 111690 ) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @11:59PM (#45231087) Homepage

      Does it matter that the autonomous car will be continuously recording everything around it, and will retain plenty of that recording to put that kid in jail for attempted murder? Not too many people will dare to even approach such a car with bad intent. I'd build such a car to record everything around it all the time, even when parked :-)

  • Insurance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @09:06PM (#45230351) Homepage Journal

    This topic has been discussed here several times now, but one thing I haven't seen brought up is insurance. If my vehicle is driving itself and causes an accident, then what driver is to blame? The person sitting behind the wheel? Why would my insurance company want to pay for an accident caused by a piece of software when they can go after the company that produced the software? Or what if they will only insure Ford cars and not Chrysler because statistics show that one auto-driving system performs better than the other? If my car's autonomous system just flat out runs over a little girl playing in the street and kills her, could I be charged with manslaughter because I was behind the wheel reading the newspaper?

    Think back a few years to the Toyota "auto acceleration" issue, and the lawsuits and government testing, etc, etc that was going on over that one issue. And that was possible hiccup in a single system that merely relayed user input to the engine. It wasn't even remotely as complex as a vehicle actually driving itself.

    There's going to be a whole lot to figure out in the legal, insurance and liability areas that makes the technical challenge and development look like child's play.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SeanBlader ( 1354199 )
      Self driving cars do not cause accidents, therefore insurance isn't necessary. Autonomous cars are such a huge game changer in society because of the number of ancillary things that go away because of them. Traffic cops, car insurance, taxicabs, truck drivers, all disappear. It's the next massive paradigm shift in world society, at a level comparable to the changes brought on by steam and electricity. The effects on the global economy and society won't be fully understood for decades afterwards. Flat out,
      • The problem is, that kind of autonomous car isn't here yet. There is no autonomous car that doesn't require a person to be sitting in the driver's seat ready to take over in case something goes wrong. That's why I think this whole thing is stupid. If I have to be sitting in the driver's seat, paying attention to the road, I might as well be driving. Because if the car is doing most of the driving, it's more likely that I won't be paying attention when something bad happens. Until the cars are good enough t
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dan East ( 318230 )

        Self driving cars do not cause accidents, therefore insurance isn't necessary

        That's ridiculous. Things will happen to autonomous vehicles that will result in deaths and destruction of property, even if 100% of vehicles are autonomous. Insurance will not go away because the stakes are too high both with liability and the cost of the hardware involved.

      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
        No taxi drivers? What the hell will all the immigrants do for work?
    • If only there were some other highly-automated transportation system in place we could use as a model. Maybe set up some sort of mandatory validation methodology for the control systems and a post-accident review system to assess problems found in the field. If we nationalized those services they might be called the Federal Automated Automobile Administration and the National Automative Transportation Safety Board. But that's just silly I know -- these problems are totally new and we are completely unable t

    • Quite a few of the crash tests are done by the I Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insurance_Institute_for_Highway_Safety [wikipedia.org]

      The insurance companies pay for it so they better understand the costs involved in insurance different cars. I don't see why they wouldn't do the same thing for software.

  • This is very old, but in some wierd way relevant. In fact, #10 already materialized.

    If cars were like computers [york.ac.uk]
    If General Motors had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:
    1. 1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.
    2. 2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.
    3. 3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull over to the side of the road, clo
    • You left out the part where the car goes a million miles per hour, runs on electricity from a rechargeable battery, and costs $100. Unfortunately, it fits in the palm of your hand.

  • and 1 bad accident / death will lead to a lot of time and money in the courts??

    and will they be able to have some outsourced coders be forced to come to court / how much will the courts like to have to deal with a big list of contracts / Sub contracts to get to who did what piece of the over all system.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @09:43PM (#45230525)

    airplanes autopilot still don't cover all stuff and they have less to deal with then a car does.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Thursday October 24, 2013 @10:24PM (#45230749)
    Where this is going to get interesting is when nearly all the cars on the road are autonomous and the last remaining hold outs will be preventing many other cool solutions that only work when you have 100% autonomous such as eliminating traffic lights. Eliminating traffic signs such as one way, speed, stop, etc signs. Eliminating speed limits. Even eliminating things such as lanes.

    Basically the last manually driven cars will be seen to be a homicidal menace and high cost nightmare.
  • 1 - If the car hits someone. Who is responsible
    2 - If the car hits another autonomous car who is at fault.
    3 - Imagine the much more complex and costly process to sort out damage claims.
    4 - Strict standards and regulations will be required. This of course means less freedom.
    5 - Government will want to switch off your car when you don't comply. For safety of course.
    6 - The NSA and FBI will get their hands on those switches and do with you as they please (Movie: Fifth Element)
    7 - The perceived benefits are so

    • We can regulate automated cars and deal with accidents the same way we already deal with automated planes (and trains and other such things) -- with regulation on the systems qualified to control the vehicle (FAA) and investigations into accidents (NTSB). We'll need some new rules, but the general problem space is well understood and already regulated.

      Beyond that it's not clear to me why the government would be in any better position to disable your self-driving car than your human-driving care -- if they'r

We don't know who it was that discovered water, but we're pretty sure that it wasn't a fish. -- Marshall McLuhan