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Transportation Google

Google Unveils Self-Driving Car With No Steering Wheel 583

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 @02:04AM (#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?

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @02:26AM (#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)

  • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @02:45AM (#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 jxander ( 2605655 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @03:18AM (#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 swilver ( 617741 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @05:05AM (#47106209)

    Public transportation takes about 50-100% longer to get where you want, unless you are part of the "lucky" few that live next to a major station and works next to another major station. It also often costs about as much as it would cost in fuel costs -- yes, you can factor in the car costs, but those are sunk costs as living without a car is not an option anyway (I'm not gonna bring my shopping in the train for starters).

    Public transportation is really an abysmal failure, especially on the cost aspect. Its supposed to achieve economy of scale, but in reality it can't even beat a car with two passengers (and often not even with one passenger). And that's ignoring the time aspect (time is money, especially my free time).

    If you really want to solve these kinds of problems, I'd look beyond transportation, but more to the reason we transport ourselves: work. Make it so people can work from home or nearby reuseable offices.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @09:13AM (#47107495)

    1. That goes for manually driven cars too. If it has a kill switch your hacker could just as easily kill the power at a "fun" time, say when you've just pulled round to overtake a truck with what you thought was enough time to pull back in in time to avoid the oncoming. And what kind of idiot would expose the AI to the internet, least of all via wireless? Designed properly it would be a little black box receiving carefully filtered inputs from the sensors, providing carefully filtered outputs to the actuators.

    2. Citation needed. People get squashed by falling loads which suggests that they aren't good at spotting them reliably. An AI? Don't know. But they would spot the child you referred to, and be tracking its movement and capable of stopping in time. (The radar is located higher up than your eyes, has all-round coverage and is specifically feeding algorithms looking for child- (or person-)sized moving objects, among other things. And while I don't know for sure about the pothole if the radar is any good it ought to detect an anomaly - which it can be trained to avoid. Best of all it has a better idea of where its wheels are running than most drivers I've seen, so the avoiding action could be less drastic (ride over the pothole not around it into the oncoming traffic).

    3. Citation needed. The whole point of machine learning is that it can improve on itself. The codebase can be relatively small and very rugged, the learned behaviour can be more complex. Also, with the kind of high resolution radar google is using there should be no problem detecting pre-jackknife behaviour in your hypothetical truck.

    Pretty much all of your post is unsubstantiated rhetoric. If Google turned up at my house with a prototype driverless car and a legal indemnity would I get in, let it drive me to work and have a snooze as it did so? Probably not today. But it's not like they're offering the public these today. It's another step along the testing roadmap. My guess, having followed developments in this area since working at a company doing early lane guidance and collision avoidance work in the mid 90s, is we'll see these cars, or their successors, on general sale in around 2020, in high end vehicle lines initially (think executive class motors like Merc E class, BMW 7 series, Jag XJ) and then in the consumer market around 5 years later, with the technology becoming pretty much universal in new cars by around 2030. It's not a question of "no steering wheel, no deal" - if you don't make the deal, others will so you'll still be relying on the safety of these computer controlled vehicles for your safety on the roads, just like you rely on the skill of other drivers at the moment.

    To be provocative, I wouldn't be surprised if human driving of cars on public roads was outlawed by 2050, with old manual vehicles either requiring an AI / servocontrol retrofit or being restricted to track use. So eventually, if you live that long, you'll be required to make the deal or stay off the roads.

  • by locofungus ( 179280 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @11:17AM (#47109053)

    and we wouldn't have to worry about being late so much because of traffic jams

    I'd expect there to be far more traffic jams because no longer is there an incentive not to let your car drive into the city.

    Can't find a parking space - just leave your car driving around. Intelligent cars would actually seek out traffic jams so as to minimize fuel use.

    Almost at your destination and crawling along. Get out and walk the last bit and let your car get there in its own time.

    Stuck in traffic jam, get out, pop to the newsagent catch up with the car and get back in again.

    For the more proactive, stick your Brompton in the back and let the car drive most of the way to the city. Once it starts getting snarled up in traffic, hop out, cycle the rest of the way and let the car do the rest of the journey on its own ready for when you want to leave.

    Time it right, and the car will arrive just as you're ready to load your shopping (and bike) back into the car. Hopefully, these automatic cars won't block the roads for the drivers trying to leave the city so the route out will be fast, unlike human drivers who block junctions all the time.

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