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Old 11-03-09, 03:12 PM   #1
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Self-Driving Cars

With experiments like the Opel Vectra and the DARPA competitions, cyclists have to look forward to the replacement of the distracted driver with self-driving cars. Not today, but it's coming.



What are your thoughts on this subject?
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Old 11-03-09, 03:26 PM   #2
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I think it will take 2-3 generations of self-drive to become acceptably reliable. It will come and go a few times, and more than a couple people will die because of the glitches.

When it finally arrives:

Road rage will be a thing of the past -- unless there is an override that isn't severely restricted, to emergencies and such. When people are 'being chauffeured', they will be a bit less agitated. Cell phone laws will be modified, if not outright stricken from the record. There will be more emphasis on creature comforts in the passenger cabin (hard to imagine more than NOW!), and an expansion of the already-in-place 'maintenance notiications' that send an e-mail to the owner when service or repair is needed.

A more realistic, and therefore unlikely, alternative to private robo-car ownership is the concept of mass, self-drive taxi service. Perhaps on a lease basis....
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Old 11-03-09, 03:57 PM   #3
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A more realistic, and therefore unlikely, alternative to private robo-car ownership is the concept of mass, self-drive taxi service. Perhaps on a lease basis....
They have something like this in Montreal http://www.communauto.com/comment_ENG.html There is a car pick-up point right next to where I live. However I prefer Montreal's Bixi bike rental system, but they havent yet extended their stations to my neighborhood.
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Old 11-03-09, 04:22 PM   #4
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The technology exists, and may soon be cost effective, for self-driving cars to avoid collision with lawfully operating cyclists. Tracking the same-direction motion of an upright warm body on the roadway ahead is easier than seeing the lines on the road through a construction zone in the rain and much easier than predicting the actions of children on a neighborhood street or even adult pedestrians downtown.

The big question in my mind is, will the level of caution required by the robot driver, in order to protect the deep-pocket car manufacturer from negligence lawsuits, require too slow a speed to suit the preferences of buyers?

That is, if a typical human driver would save time by passing at unsafe distance with oncoming traffic, but a robot driver would not, will car buyers want the robot driver?

I am reminded of Asimov's robot novels, where humans would confidently boss around robots, and often depended on the robots to rescue them, because the First Law. I wonder if cyclists might learn to do the same to robot drivers.
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Old 11-03-09, 04:26 PM   #5
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It will come slowly, and incrementally.

One step might be a vision system which provides gentle steering contra-pressure as the car drifts from the center of the lane, driver could still overcome and steer the car in whatever direction he wanted, but if left with hands off the wheel, the car would remain in the middle of the lane.

Another technology is a cruise control which also has a minimum following distance - as you approach another vehicle, the cruise would slack off to maintain a safe distance.

Perhaps I have too much faith in technology, but I fear the failures of these technologies far less than I fear the failures of human beings who think that they can control their automobiles.
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Old 11-03-09, 04:37 PM   #6
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By the time self-driving cars arrive, self-riding bikes will either have been invented, or the bicycle banned from public roadways.

Probably easier to ban bicycles than for the first generation of self-driving cars to be sensitive enough to track and avoid bicyclists.

Besides, banning a minority (cyclists) will be much easier, politically, than taking the control of cars away from the majority.
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Old 11-03-09, 04:57 PM   #7
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Interesting question.

My guess is that we will first see this in limited access situations, as a temporary way of dealing with the traffic generated by continued urban sprawl.
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Old 11-03-09, 11:33 PM   #8
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I think the current generation of Ford Rustang is a pretty fugly car to begin with, and slapping on a pile of body cladding (and not one, but two deck spoilers ) doesn't help.

Seriously, I think self-driving cars are are a couple rungs below flying cars on the pipe dream ladder. It's one thing to produce driver aids like radar/sonar to tell you the range to target is decreasing. To have all the systems integrated flawlessly so that the car "knows" where it and other objects are on the road under all conditions will prove to be extremely expensive and impractical.

But someone will try it, and it will be all fun and games till a gasoline tanker plows into a school after the truck's computer's copy of Windows 19 goes kaput while downloading a patch.
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Old 11-04-09, 08:13 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by sggoodri View Post
The technology exists, and may soon be cost effective, for self-driving cars to avoid collision with lawfully operating cyclists. Tracking the same-direction motion of an upright warm body on the roadway ahead is easier than seeing the lines on the road through a construction zone in the rain and much easier than predicting the actions of children on a neighborhood street or even adult pedestrians downtown.

The big question in my mind is, will the level of caution required by the robot driver, in order to protect the deep-pocket car manufacturer from negligence lawsuits, require too slow a speed to suit the preferences of buyers?
Why would speed matter if the occupants of the vehicle are occupied on the phone, or playing games or browsing on a computer.

Currently far too many drivers use speed to enhance the driving experience and make it more exciting.

If they don't even have to pay attention, and arrive at their designation on time, what does it really matter how fast they go?

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That is, if a typical human driver would save time by passing at unsafe distance with oncoming traffic, but a robot driver would not, will car buyers want the robot driver?

I am reminded of Asimov's robot novels, where humans would confidently boss around robots, and often depended on the robots to rescue them, because the First Law. I wonder if cyclists might learn to do the same to robot drivers.
I suspect the "time saved" is really scant seconds. I know I have watched drivers that chose to weave in and out on the freeways while I maintain a steady speed and notice that we often arrive at the same exit (even 30 miles away) at practically the same time. (ultimately they may exit 10 cars in front of me, but I was close enough to see them exit) The fact is that a second here or a second there only adds up to anything significant over a very long drive.

The "delays" that motorist mention when following a cyclist are only 3-5 seconds typically. Traffic lights are more of a delay. Waiting for elevators is more of a delay.

The need for speed is more of an entertainment thing.
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Old 11-04-09, 08:17 AM   #10
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I think the current generation of Ford Rustang is a pretty fugly car to begin with, and slapping on a pile of body cladding (and not one, but two deck spoilers ) doesn't help.

Seriously, I think self-driving cars are are a couple rungs below flying cars on the pipe dream ladder. It's one thing to produce driver aids like radar/sonar to tell you the range to target is decreasing. To have all the systems integrated flawlessly so that the car "knows" where it and other objects are on the road under all conditions will prove to be extremely expensive and impractical.

But someone will try it, and it will be all fun and games till a gasoline tanker plows into a school after the truck's computer's copy of Windows 19 goes kaput while downloading a patch.
Actually Volvo has a self driving test car already on the streets. It is highly disguised and has a team of drivers to modify the software and verify the movements.

This is far closer to reality than flying cars.

Here is an interesting blog about what self driving cars may bring.
http://ideas.4brad.com/robocars-are-future
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Old 11-04-09, 08:18 AM   #11
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It will come slowly, and incrementally.


Another technology is a cruise control which also has a minimum following distance - as you approach another vehicle, the cruise would slack off to maintain a safe distance.
This cruise control already exists... it is called adaptive cruise control.
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Old 11-04-09, 08:22 AM   #12
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I think the current generation of Ford Rustang is a pretty fugly car to begin with, and slapping on a pile of body cladding (and not one, but two deck spoilers ) doesn't help.

Seriously, I think self-driving cars are are a couple rungs below flying cars on the pipe dream ladder. It's one thing to produce driver aids like radar/sonar to tell you the range to target is decreasing. To have all the systems integrated flawlessly so that the car "knows" where it and other objects are on the road under all conditions will prove to be extremely expensive and impractical.

But someone will try it, and it will be all fun and games till a gasoline tanker plows into a school after the truck's computer's copy of Windows 19 goes kaput while downloading a patch.
Without a new Pontiac to uglify....

I predict the availability of self-driving cars on freeways in 10-15 years, using some combination of GPS, LIDAR, RADAR and multispectral computer vision.

I suspect the systems will disable self driving outside of freeways due to the much more complex traffic and obstruction hazards on normal streets. I suspect they will use GPS to determine the type of roadway they are on, as well as the posted speed limit.

The question is, will car owners accept a robot driver that won't speed? I don't think the government will accept a robot driver that will speed.
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Old 11-04-09, 08:39 AM   #13
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Without a new Pontiac to uglify....

I predict the availability of self-driving cars on freeways in 10-15 years, using some combination of GPS, LIDAR, RADAR and multispectral computer vision.

I suspect the systems will disable self driving outside of freeways due to the much more complex traffic and obstruction hazards on normal streets. I suspect they will use GPS to determine the type of roadway they are on, as well as the posted speed limit.

The question is, will car owners accept a robot driver that won't speed? I don't think the government will accept a robot driver that will speed.
Probably the real question is when this technology will be adopted by Americans. The issues of liability and potential law suits tend to hold back developments in the US auto industry... unless mandated by law.
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Old 11-04-09, 08:45 AM   #14
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Probably the real question is when this technology will be adopted by Americans. The issues of liability and potential law suits tend to hold back developments in the US auto industry... unless mandated by law.
That's why I think it will be easier for the inventors to demonstrate a good safety record on freeways than on ordinary streets. On freeways, a driver is not faulted for colliding with traffic that comes unexpectedly at them from the side, but on ordinary streets, with blind pedestrians, children, etc. this happens all the time. It will be hard to develop a system that has the capacity to perform as well as a human driver can, which I think will be the benchmark mandated by the public and their government, despite the much lower bar set by what many human drivers do. A robot cannot communicate or judge the intentions of people and animals like a human can.
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Old 11-04-09, 08:53 AM   #15
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That's why I think it will be easier for the inventors to demonstrate a good safety record on freeways than on ordinary streets. On freeways, a driver is not faulted for colliding with traffic that comes unexpectedly at them from the side, but on ordinary streets, with blind pedestrians, children, etc. this happens all the time. It will be hard to develop a system that has the capacity to perform as well as a human driver can, which I think will be the benchmark mandated by the public and their government, despite the much lower bar set by what many human drivers do. A robot cannot communicate or judge the intentions of people and animals like a human can.
Kind of a strange irony that humans as drivers manage to kill 40,000 other humans a year and that is the metric.
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Old 11-04-09, 09:16 AM   #16
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"These cyclists slowed down my auto-driver so much until I dialed-down my cyclist passing distance setting to 3 inches."
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Old 11-04-09, 09:40 AM   #17
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If they don't even have to pay attention, and arrive at their designation on time, what does it really matter how fast they go?
This is why Amtrak and Greyhound are so wildly profitable.
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Old 11-04-09, 09:58 AM   #18
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With experiments like the Opel Vectra and the DARPA competitions, cyclists have to look forward to the replacement of the distracted driver with self-driving cars. Not today, but it's coming.


What are your thoughts on this subject?
As long as they follow the keep-it-simple concept and go step by step, learning and improving along the way, its a great idea. Automobiles and roadways are certainly less of a challenge to tackle than airplanes and flight paths, and the latter have been under 99% computer control for years.

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Old 11-04-09, 10:00 AM   #19
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I won't even own a car that has ABS or traction control. No way in hell I'm going to buy a car that drives itself.

I wonder if they will program the robot cars to honk and buzz bikes
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Old 11-04-09, 10:09 AM   #20
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By the time this technology comes to fruition, we will have moved past the need for large numbers of single-occupancy vehicles because the fuel and room to run them will be on the downslope of availability. I don't know why we should spend a crapload of money to duplicate something that can be done cheaper, better, and more responsibly with mass transit.
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Old 11-04-09, 10:14 AM   #21
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I wonder if they will program the robot cars to honk and buzz bikes
I will certainly reprogram my bicycle-mounted-collision-avoidance-transponder to emit a "wide load commercial vehicle" signal.
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Old 11-04-09, 10:29 AM   #22
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I won't even own a car that has ABS or traction control. No way in hell I'm going to buy a car that drives itself.
Won't you think about the car-hating cyclists who don't think people should be allowed to drive?
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Old 11-04-09, 10:37 AM   #23
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I won't even own a car that has ABS or traction control. No way in hell I'm going to buy a car that drives itself.
I wonder how many people said "I won't even own a car that has seatbelts or airbags" - fact is, you have very little choice in what 'features' they put on your car unless you do as I have done, and don't own a car at all.

As someone who sees drivers as being far more dangerous than cars, I would like to see the accellerator pedal removed from cars - I would trust a machine with watching out for my safety far more than my fellow man (or 90lb suburban housewife, drivin' in her S.U.V. )
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Old 11-04-09, 10:46 AM   #24
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Kind of a strange irony that humans as drivers manage to kill 40,000 other humans a year and that is the metric.
You're only thinking of the US. Worldwide it is on the order of a million fatalities per year, and most of the victims worldwide are pedestrians and bicyclists. A distant future where robot cars are programmed not to hit pedestrians and bicyclists might be worth considering.
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Old 11-04-09, 11:00 AM   #25
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As someone who sees drivers as being far more dangerous than cars, I would like to see the accellerator pedal removed from cars - I would trust a machine with watching out for my safety far more than my fellow man (or 90lb suburban housewife, drivin' in her S.U.V. )
All kinds of features could be incorporated as the software and knowlege base of such a system is improved and perfected. Once cars can sense one anothers presence, cars passing thru intersections would not be much more difficult than pedestrians at crossing sidewalks and paths...the speed and passage would be adjusted so that they flow continuously, rather than have the energy and time wasting stop and start we have now.

What makes anti-car luddites really shiver their timbers is they think a system like this might require that all roadway users be a part of the system, or be removed from the roadway entirely. Who knows. Maybe not! Maybe crazy urban assault cyclists would have a computer chip in their frame identifying them as such, and vehicles around them would make sure they received 3 feet, clear paths ahead to zoom to their destination between lanes, and prevent right and left hooks.

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