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Transportation

Ford Touts Self-driving Car, Launches Global Mobility Experiments 73

An anonymous reader writes in with news about Ford's latest automobile technology unveiled at CES. "Ford showcased the semi-autonomous vehicles it has on the road at CES and gave attendees a glimpse into fully autonomous vehicles now in development. The carmaker also announced a series of experiments with drivers around the globe to test its vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity, autonomous cars and the use of big data collected from vehicles. The company said a fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicle is undergoing road testing now. The vehicle relies on the same semi-autonomous technology used in Ford vehicles today, while adding four LiDAR (light, radar) sensors to generate a real-time 3D map of the surrounding environment."
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Ford Touts Self-driving Car, Launches Global Mobility Experiments

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  • by Press2ToContinue ( 2424598 ) * on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @08:04PM (#48760419)

    ... do the programmers get the blame?

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Elon shoots them with a particle beam from his power suit.

    • Where can I pay to watch that?

      All those robot fighting shows got way too boring. Time to step it up a notch with contests for self-driving cars. Self-driving races, self driving demolition derbies... etc.

  • Don't think this is a good idea anywhere kids or bikes might be, but maybe in retirement communities with low speed limits or tourist boulevards where the street goes slowly.

    Drove a Ford Hybrid (2014) just last month, like some of their rear cameras and parking computers, but even so, they have blind spots.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      doesn't make sense. you can see it being operated in the exact places where unexpected is to be happening and where a human could react fast enough due to slow speeds.

      it's not dense traffic where you would want it. it's the highway. when you're going 80mph the car can react faster than you in a meaningful way(to a moose, a stopping truck or whatever).

      • doesn't make sense. you can see it being operated in the exact places where unexpected is to be happening and where a human could react fast enough due to slow speeds.

        it's not dense traffic where you would want it. it's the highway. when you're going 80mph the car can react faster than you in a meaningful way(to a moose, a stopping truck or whatever).

        You'd want it in dense, slow traffic. Go drive the LA freeways at rush hour some time- stop and go traffic that creeps along with the cars just a few feet apart. It takes a lot of attention to drive in, but it really shouldn't be hard for a robot car to do. There's some lane changing (which is what slows traffic down- people trying to find spaces to get to the exit or merge on) but everything is very predictable. The autonomous car can safely drive closer to other cars, will have less lag before moving

  • Why does anyone need a self-driving car? What is the obvious technical or economic advantage of not having a human driver?

    This is all about rich people creating playthings because that's the only reason this is even being discussed.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @08:26PM (#48760589)

      Surely you are joking?

      hmm... i don't know... perhaps:

      1. Automate the entire long haul transport industry
      2. Cars spend 95% of the time parked. Wouldn't you like the ability to be earning the income of a taxi for the 8 hours+ your car is currently parked at work each day
      3. Eventually less accidents (take out the emotional / distracted / drug influenced drivers).
      4. Will change entire transport industry, as companies can combine the public transport efficiencies of mass transit and the flexibility of taxis to get you the last mile, so not everyone feels the need to drive an empty car everywhere.
      5 ... seriously do I need to keep going?:

      You sir are either a troll or an idiot.

      Now bring me my autonomous car!

      • Oh, look an AC calls me a troll!

        • I agree with the AC, your post looks like a short sighted (idiot) or troll comment to me. The 33,561 people in the U.S. that died in 2012 [wikipedia.org] from an automobile related incident and their families would probably be pro self-driving car.

          We can discuss (argue about) the various merits of self-driving cars all day long but I'll make it simple: I trust a computer to do complex repetitive math all day long and not make a mistake where I would expect multiple screw ups from a human. Take that same concept and a
    • Why does anyone need a self-driving car? What is the obvious technical or economic advantage of not having a human driver?

      This is all about rich people creating playthings because that's the only reason this is even being discussed.

      How about people with physical handicaps, such as really bad vision? Do you want them driving? Or the folks who, no matter how old they get, won't give up driving even though they're a danger to everyone, including themselves? Or used by under-age kids to get to a friend's place? Or someone who just now realizes they've drunk too much and wants to get home safely?

    • My driver costs my company about 2000 RMB per month (plus overtime), so there's a good economic advantage to not having to pay him to drive me and my family around.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @08:48PM (#48760739)

      Why does anyone need a self-driving car?

      1. They are likely to be far safer.
      2. They use road space much more efficiently, increasing the carrying capacity by a factor of five.
      3. Many people, due to age or disability, can't drive.
      4. They decrease costs for companies that pay people to drive.
      5. They make public transportation much more affordable and accessible, by replacing big fix-route buses with small flex-route vans
      6. Some people just don't like to drive, and would rather snooze or catch up on email.

      This is all about rich people creating playthings

      The first generation will certainly be for evil "rich people", but with mass production the cost should fall so they are similar in price to other cars. Sensors and actuators are not particularly expensive. Once you factor in insurance premiums, SDCs are likely to be cheaper than HDCs.

      • 3. Many people, due to age or disability, can't drive.

        This is the one I like. My wife has a medical condition that keeps her from driving. Man would she love to just jump in the car and go somewhere when she wants to.

        That said, I'm enough of a realist to have some anxiety about where this is going. There are people who would just love to have us limited to perfectly tracked, remotely shut-down-able little eggshells that can only go where they are allowed to go.

        • 3. Many people, due to age or disability, can't drive.

          This is the one I like. My wife has a medical condition that keeps her from driving. Man would she love to just jump in the car and go somewhere when she wants to.

          She already has this option, It's called a taxi.

          • by RingDev ( 879105 )

            I had to take a taxi from the airport to my house once.

            It cost as much a my last car payment.

            If you live in a major metro area, and you're trying to get to some place in the same major metro area, yeah, taxis are an option.

            If you live in the country, or you want to get from one metro area to another, frequent taxi service is not realistic.

            -Rick

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        1. They are likely to be far safer.

        This is very debatable. At the moment they are nowhere near as safe because they cant handle unknown situations.

        This is the number one thing holding back autonomous transport, situations that haven't been pre-programmed will be more likely to result in injury or fatality.

        2. They use road space much more efficiently, increasing the carrying capacity by a factor of five.

        Now this is wishful thinking at its finest.

        The reality is that they will use the same amount of space because the laws of physics wont change. A robot needs the same braking distance at 60 KPH as a human. As for reaction distance, hum

        • At the moment they are nowhere near as safe because they cant handle unknown situations.

          Not true. SDCs have already been driven millions of miles on public roads. Their safety record is better than humans. They may not handle all unknown situations, but that is more than compensated by not driving drunk, falling asleep, or texting on a cellphone.

          A robot needs the same braking distance at 60 KPH as a human.

          No they don't. A human needs a second or more to make a decision and move their foot to the brake pedal. A computer needs 10 milliseconds.

          Computers will have to collect information and make decisions in the same amount of time ... In that time they've still travelled as far as a human would.

          This is just flat out wrong. SDCs aren't some hypothetical concept. They have driven millions of miles, and

          • Yet again another believer in something that does not exist.

            SDCs have already been driven millions of miles on public roads. Their safety record is better than humans. They may not handle all unknown situations, but that is more than compensated by not driving drunk, falling asleep, or texting on a cellphone.

            And the reality could hardly be different [slate.com]

            ...what Google is working on may instead result in the automotive equivalent of the Apple Newton, what one Web commenter called a “timid, skittish robot c

      • by Livius ( 318358 )

        There are lots of uses for a car or other vehicle that safely drives itself.

        For some reason, there are people who keep using 'self-driving' to mean something that sort of drives itself some of the time on some roads in some conditions, which is not the same thing.

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          There are lots of uses for a car or other vehicle that safely drives itself. For some reason, there are people who keep using 'self-driving' to mean something that sort of drives itself some of the time on some roads in some conditions, which is not the same thing.

          I think the former and latter is much closer than you think and one in certainly on the way to the other. The big hurdle is creating a car where you're absolved from the legal responsibility of driving, if it still requires a legally fit and licensed driver to available and if it's only valid when it's sunny and dry on pre-approved roads at first that's the big leap. The reason it's the big leap is that this means the car must be able to determine itself when it's unfit to drive, it can't just suddenly thro

      • Kool-Aid time:

        1. They are likely to be far safer.

        In your dreams.

        2. They use road space much more efficiently, increasing the carrying capacity by a factor of five.

        Then what you have is a train. Also, when traffic is heavy, I bet you won't find any more carrying capacity if everyone is in an SDC.

        3. Many people, due to age or disability, can't drive.

        Also children and goats are excluded as well. Its so unfair.

        4. They decrease costs for companies that pay people to drive.

        They put taxi drivers out of work? Truck

      • by Toshito ( 452851 )

        2. They use road space much more efficiently, increasing the carrying capacity by a factor of five.

        When you have forced everyone to abandon their regular car and motorcycles... Seriously, this increase in capacity won't be possible until 100% of the vehicles on the road are autonomous. We're talking about at least 30 to 40 years before that happens.

    • A week ago I drove from my hometown to Paris. Took me over 6h. I was driving myself. So I stopped somewhere and stayed a night in a hotel. A self driving car had let me work on my laptop and I had taken a nap instead of a stop in a hotel.

      • by Mr Z ( 6791 )

        You needed to stay overnight somewhere for a mere 6hr drive? I usually reserve that for drives over twice that long.

        • No, not *need* but the situation called for it ... it was late at night, foggy and snowing. I would had arrived in Paris around 2:30 at night, so I stopped (especially as for some stupid reason most truck stopes where closed, except for the coffee machine area).

          • by Mr Z ( 6791 )

            Ah, that makes sense. Inclement weather is 2x - 3x as stressful to drive through, and certainly much more dangerous. I doubt an autonomous car would have been great in those conditions either, though.

            • A single automated car likely not, as many other drivers kept speeding (while I tried to have a reasonable speed) ... however I believe if half of the cars would have been automatic, the rest had adapted to a "normal speed" under this conditions. You easily could drive about 80km/h but many even ignored the 110km/h (dry road) to 130km/h (wet road) speed limit (and due to the fog + snow) I considered 110km/h to fast (and I was a bit tired).

              • by Mr Z ( 6791 )

                Self driving cars rely on a sensor array (short-range RADAR, long-range RADAR, LIDAR, SONAR, stereo and infrared cameras, temperature and accelerometer feedback) to build their world model. I admit I'm not a sensor expert myself, so I'm not really sure how degraded those sensor inputs would be in fog and snow. Obviously the thermometer and accelerometer would be fine, but each of the others would experience degraded range.

                The self-driving car may end up going a bit slower than 80km/h to avoid out-driving

                • Well, in this case the road was "clear" as the snow did melt immediately (road was till to warm) nevertheless the risk of "ice" here and there was given. Imagine snow melting and freezing a few yards further again.

                  Lane detection on a highway is easy as you have a barrier on one side and poles on the other, actually you have poles on both sides.

                  But you are right about "ordinary" roads, especially if the snow is really high and the poles are completely covered. In Switzerland they put down extra poles which a

                  • by Mr Z ( 6791 )

                    Well, in this case the road was "clear" as the snow did melt immediately (road was till to warm) nevertheless the risk of "ice" here and there was given. Imagine snow melting and freezing a few yards further again.

                    I'm all too familiar with that, having grown up in snow. We called that slick ice that results from melting and refreezing "black ice." It was especially bad in areas with wind blowing snow over the road, as that snow would obscure the ice.

                    Lane detection on a highway is easy as you have a barrie

      • Or you could have got the train. They're really fast in France.

        • That is what I usually do, but we needed the car for some stuff to do :D

          From my hometown to the heart of Paris is exactly 3h. (And train is usually cheaper than going by car anyway)

    • What is the obvious technical or economic advantage of not having a human driver?

      How about preventing some of the 43k deaths, $164.2B in damages [cnn.com] caused by car accidents a year? Give a car enough sensors and the right programming and it shouldn't hit stuff. If it doesn't hit stuff, no damage. Note: I'm not even demanding NO accidents, just reduced. Half the rate or something. I'd expect the car to be excellent in preventing accidents via 'fast twitch' responses, but lousier in avoiding obvious but unusual events (something getting ready to fall onto the highway, for example).

      Get it

      • In order to achieve anything like that, everyone would be compelled to have a self-driving car and all current cars would be scrapped. Good luck with getting that to happen in America.

        The problem is not simply the behavior of the driver, its the behavior of everything else. One way you could reduce the carnage would be to insist on alcohol and other drug tests before the engine can be switched on. Another would be to address the huge numbers of truck drivers hopped up on amphetamines and other substances to

        • by Anonymous Coward

          In order to achieve anything like that, everyone would be compelled to have a self-driving car and all current cars would be scrapped.

          Everyone? All? You're seriously claiming that in order to have fewer accidents, we'd need to replace every single car? We wouldn't have even one less accident if even one non-autonomous car remained on the road? Would that one last human driver spend every waking moment Grand Theft Auto-ing his way down sidewalks to make up the difference or something? And if you concede

        • In order to achieve anything like that, everyone would be compelled to have a self-driving car and all current cars would be scrapped. Good luck with getting that to happen in America.

          First, give us about 20 years. Average car 'life expectancy' is around 13. After some point people will end up driving their classic cars on tracks, but even without that the autodrive systems they're working on can be on the road with non-AI cars. You just need the 'vast majority'.

          Besides that, insisting on alcohol and drug tests is missing 'most' of the problem. 'Only' 35-40% of fatal crashes involved(not necessarily caused by) alcohol, and while I'm sure other drugs contribute as well, I do not belie

    • I can't believe nobody has mentioned this, but "daily commute", even when it's not all that long, is consistently among the most hated timesinks. I don't think results like this are terribly surprising: http://www.economist.com/blogs... [economist.com]. A technical and economic advantage is you can do something else while "driving" between home and work, without taking on the compromises of public transit (which may not be available at all, may take a long time or be beholden to a schedule that's incompatible with your

    • by drkim ( 1559875 )

      Why does anyone need a self-driving car?

      This is possibly the weirdest argument against self-driving cars - and yet it pops up time and again on this topic.

      What if I told you I would pay for a chauffeur driven limousine for you? It would pick you up every morning and take you to and from work. You could shave, or sleep, or surf the net while he took you to work. He would drop you at the door, and you'd never again have to look for parking.

      If you wanted to go to a club or party, you could get as toasted as you like and your chauffeur would drive yo

  • And yet... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @08:28PM (#48760601) Homepage

    They cant handle traffic on 696 or 96 in Detroit. Ford, I'll be impressed if they can self drive in detroit from Southfield to Downriver at 5:00pm.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What will happen is the purpose of cars won't be vehicles for humans to use for transportation. The car will be a giant marketing spigot, and Fords big product will be "big rich premium data".

  • by Mr Z ( 6791 )

    LIDAR stands for Laser Infrared Detection and Ranging. Why does the summary say "(light, radar)" after LIDAR? RADAR uses radio waves, not infrared laser.

    (And yes, Mr. Pedantic, I realize radio waves and infrared light waves are both electromagnetic waves. But, our mechanisms for detecting things in the radar band vs. the infrared light band are quite different, so the distinction is meaningful.)

Heard that the next Space Shuttle is supposed to carry several Guernsey cows? It's gonna be the herd shot 'round the world.

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