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Old 10-21-11, 07:27 AM   #1
Mithrandir
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Cyclist/Vehicle relations in the age of Robotic Driving

Last night I was cycling home from work. At one point I needed to make a left-hand turn across a 4-lane road with no turn lane, so in preparation for doing so I took the right lane when there was no traffic in it, about 1/2 mile before the turn. My normal plan is to continue in the right lane until there is light traffic in the left lane, at which point I signal, switch into the left lane, and slow or stop until it's safe to cross the two oncoming traffic lanes.

This time it was different though. As I got closer to the turn, I noticed some headlights coming up behind me rapidly. The road is 30mph but this person was coming up much faster than that. I would say it was going at least 50, maybe even 60mph, judging by how fast it approached me. I got scared and started thinking about veering into the gutter, not sure if this person even saw me (which they should have, I had just changed my rear light batteries the day before, and at the current level of charge I should be visible for almost a whole mile still). I guess they eventually did manage to see me, because they finally slowed down and then sat on my tail until they could merge into the left lane. When they did that they layed on the horn as they sped by me. I turned to look and saw it was some blonde driving a gigantic SUV, frantically doing something on a cell phone with her right hand and holding the horn with her left.

I was annoyed. I rarely give drivers a one-fingered salute, but last night I was feeling generous and gave her two. I just couldn't believe how selfish someone has to be to become that annoyed that my presence wouldn't allow her to go way past the speed limit, passing people on the right, while texting or whatever the hell she was doing with the phone.

I have no doubt that we all have stories like this. Something like this happens to me several times a week, where a driver expresses anger that I am cycling on the road. Now, since I am not a mind-reader, I cannot claim to know why they are annoyed at us with certainty. But judging from comments I have heard from colleagues and opinions voiced on many internet forums, universally they seem to be annoyed because we subtracted several seconds from their day by having to force them to pay more attention to the road and slow down to go around us.

As a software developer, over my career I have witnessed a trend towards automating virtually anything that humans can do that doesn't require creativity. Back when I was in college I wrote a paper on how eventually cars will become automated and controlled with software so that people no longer have to drive them. It's not a far-fetched idea; after all, almost all airplanes are mostly automated now. The Space Shuttle launch and landing are also both completely automated, with the exception of a single man-controlled operation during landing (a human must lower the landing gear; since the landing gear on the shuttle cannot be retracted, if they were lowered too early the shuttle would burn up, and thus they decided it was too difficult a task to trust to 1970's automation). Many science-fiction novels and movies often display this concept as well.

But it always seemed like a far-off idea that may not happen in our lifetimes... or is it?

http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/r...ving-car-works

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Once a secret project, Google's autonomous vehicles are now out in the open, quite literally, with the company test-driving them on public roads and, on one occasion, even inviting people to ride inside one of the robot cars as it raced around a closed course.

Google's fleet of robotic Toyota Priuses has now logged more than 190,000 miles (about 300,000 kilometers), driving in city traffic, busy highways, and mountainous roads with only occasional human intervention. The project is still far from becoming commercially viable, but Google has set up a demonstration system on its campus, using driverless golf carts, which points to how the technology could change transportation even in the near future.
This is earth-shattering in my opinion. Not only for drivers, but for cyclists as well. Since most drivers are annoyed that we slowed them down slightly, and in my experience it's usually their own fault for not paying enough attention in the first place, it seems to me that if there's an automated car that handles the driving for them, then the majority of drivers complaints about cyclists can become completely nullified.

Think about it; a car that doesn't get confused and knows exactly how to react when there's a cyclist on the road. The best part is that the people in the car probably won't care in the least; they'll be busy texting or watching TV or whatever the hell it is that people want to do in cars if they don't have to actually pay attention to the road anymore.

Does anyone else think that as we transition towards automated cars, a new era of driver/cyclist cooperation will be unleashed? How far off is it? 5 years? 10?

Is there an active part we can play in the development of these systems? Should we attempt to contact Google and form some sort of advocacy group to let them know that they should take road cyclists dead serious in their software? They showed the software recognizing a cyclist in the video in that link, and they said that they've driven these cars thousands of miles through San Francisco, where there's lots of cyclist activity already, so maybe they already know exactly how to work with road cyclists?

I'm excited. I look forward to the day when "I didn't see him" and "I was texting" are phrases that no longer terrify the cycling community.
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Old 10-21-11, 09:15 AM   #2
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Does anyone else think that as we transition towards automated cars, a new era of driver/cyclist cooperation will be unleashed? How far off is it? 5 years? 10?
Yes. I think this will finally make vehicular cycling fully practical for all of us, and it will reduce the number of collisions on the road overall. Robot cars will probably also change how we deal with cars and may even change our whole notion of ownership of cars.

How soon? That is hard to say... Google has done and is continuing to do extensive testing on various robot cars, and has persuaded Nevada to change their state laws so robot cars can be legally used on the roads there, AND humans inside such vehicles can use electronic devices.

The hardware is almost there, the testing is being done, it is only a matter of time.

The downside is that many motorists believe that "driving is fun," and are not likely to want to purchase a robot vehicle. (There is tremendous association in this country between one's status, ego and the vehicle one owns, that the situation to overcome this social enigma alone will be difficult)

I tend to think that over the next 20 or so years, fuel for current vehicles will become increasingly expensive and at some point the only vehicles that will be available to run on "new fuel" will be robot cars, and then a transition to robot cars will take place.
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Old 10-21-11, 11:44 AM   #3
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We'll probably still have road raging motorists, but they'll be passengers yelling out the window instead of drivers who could control their car as a weapon.

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The downside is that many motorists believe that "driving is fun," and are not likely to want to purchase a robot vehicle. (There is tremendous association in this country between one's status, ego and the vehicle one owns, that the situation to overcome this social enigma alone will be difficult)
Unfortunately, this type of person is also the type most likely to hate cyclists.
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Old 10-21-11, 12:08 PM   #4
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We'll probably still have road raging motorists, but they'll be passengers yelling out the window instead of drivers who could control their car as a weapon.
Let 'em. Words have ceased being able to hurt me a long time ago.
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Old 10-21-11, 12:12 PM   #5
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Reality is, by the time they can get this by the lawers, we'll be out of oil.
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Old 10-21-11, 12:55 PM   #6
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A robotic car will free up the driver to use both hands to throw stuff at us.
Also, drivers will demand an override if the cars refuse to pass a bike within 6 inches.
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Old 10-21-11, 02:04 PM   #7
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Now, throw in to the equation the hacker who hates cyclists.
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Old 10-21-11, 03:08 PM   #8
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We'll probably still have road raging motorists, but they'll be passengers yelling out the window instead of drivers who could control their car as a weapon.
.
I don't think so - I can't ever recall being yelled at by a passenger in a cab, bus or a limo, which would be more or less the same thing. I think that the road range that we see comes from the fact that driving a motor vehicle is a stressful activity, and when someone under stress encounters an obstacle, they tend to react badly. As a passenger in an autonomously piloted vehicle, I believe that the stress levels will be much lower, and the likelihood of road rage will be much lower.
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Old 10-21-11, 03:29 PM   #9
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I don't think so - I can't ever recall being yelled at by a passenger in a cab, bus or a limo, which would be more or less the same thing. I think that the road range that we see comes from the fact that driving a motor vehicle is a stressful activity, and when someone under stress encounters an obstacle, they tend to react badly. As a passenger in an autonomously piloted vehicle, I believe that the stress levels will be much lower, and the likelihood of road rage will be much lower.
While I agree with you regarding the potential for lower stress in a driven vehicle vice being the driver... I have to chuckle at you never being harassed by passengers of a vehicle.

I once had several cups of beer thrown at me by passengers of a party bus that was leaving a local football game. I was only hit by some splashes of the beer, not directly... but certainly I was the "target" of several "passengers."

On the plus side, I have also been "catcalled" by female passengers in passing cars... of course this was many many years ago when I was young and "studly." (us "older gents" don't get "catcalled" much anymore... guess I should leave the beer belly off the handlebars... )
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Old 10-21-11, 07:01 PM   #10
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(us "older gents" don't get "catcalled" much anymore... guess I should leave the beer belly off the handlebars... )
C'mon Gene. You need to get back to Europe more. Even a guy like me can get some attention from the French...
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Old 10-21-11, 08:17 PM   #11
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I would still be worried because the technology will never be there. Roads are dynamic and constantly changing each day. The two companies who are responsible for making the maps for GPS use human drivers and they are doing a terrible job! All the mistakes I discovered on the road that would have driven me over a cliff and in one case off a bridge are just part of human error involved in map making. Yes it is humans and not robots making the maps on our GPS's and all units have advisories warning users not to depend on them 100% of the time and use caution. They are not responsible if the GPS tells you to drive down a one way street in the opposite direction. Google GPS related accidents and you'll see page afer page.

I use a GPS all the time and have lost signals in New York City skyscrapers, rain storms and forest.

The space shuttle is not a good example. It lands in an area void of trees, tall buidlings with good weather. Plus it's well maintained with experts checking all the systems. Do you think a 15 year old car badly abused is going to have all thoese sensors working properly?
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Old 10-22-11, 08:54 AM   #12
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I would still be worried because the technology will never be there.
The technology already is there.


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Do you think a 15 year old car badly abused is going to have all thoese sensors working properly?
I think it's entirely possible to make the sensors work better, on average, than the current human sensors are working.
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Old 10-22-11, 09:21 AM   #13
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I never thought about it in terms of for the cyclists! Welp here's to hoping we run out of oil so the car companies let it happen...
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Old 10-22-11, 09:53 AM   #14
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I would still be worried because the technology will never be there. Roads are dynamic and constantly changing each day. The two companies who are responsible for making the maps for GPS use human drivers and they are doing a terrible job! All the mistakes I discovered on the road that would have driven me over a cliff and in one case off a bridge are just part of human error involved in map making. Yes it is humans and not robots making the maps on our GPS's and all units have advisories warning users not to depend on them 100% of the time and use caution. They are not responsible if the GPS tells you to drive down a one way street in the opposite direction. Google GPS related accidents and you'll see page afer page.

I use a GPS all the time and have lost signals in New York City skyscrapers, rain storms and forest.

The space shuttle is not a good example. It lands in an area void of trees, tall buidlings with good weather. Plus it's well maintained with experts checking all the systems. Do you think a 15 year old car badly abused is going to have all thoese sensors working properly?
The systems do not rely fully on GPS, but only use GPS as a general guide as to how to get somewhere, otherwise they "see" the road and hazards and drive according to what they see, with sensors that don't blink, are not distracted, don't doze off, and don't have an agenda.
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Old 10-22-11, 12:14 PM   #15
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I get the mail I deliver put into order my a machine, controlled by a computer. I get a few mistakes a day in the letters, and few mistakes in the magazines. Every time I find one I think about cars being controlled by someone other than a human driver. Remember, the cars we're talking about already being tested are being set up by the experts that designed them. When they are all over the place by the millions, they will be set up by the average technician.
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Old 10-22-11, 02:43 PM   #16
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I get the mail I deliver put into order my a machine, controlled by a computer. I get a few mistakes a day in the letters, and few mistakes in the magazines. Every time I find one I think about cars being controlled by someone other than a human driver. Remember, the cars we're talking about already being tested are being set up by the experts that designed them. When they are all over the place by the millions, they will be set up by the average technician.
As a software engineer it is usually my experience that machines screw up because someone cheaped out on something. Some idiot manager somewhere decided it would take too long to test or fix a known problem, so they let it pass, because there's no real penalty for when it screws up. The customer might get mad but we already have their money and they usually just wait for a bug fix.

This will not happen with cars. Someone gets killed with one of these things, the lawyers will circle like sharks and destroy whomever is at fault.

This is one of those rare cases where it truly doesn't pay to sweep bugs under the carpet.
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Old 10-22-11, 03:50 PM   #17
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I just see it becoming more problematic. The only way I see for an automated car to become aware of a cyclist 'taking the lane' or any other lane position, is when cyclists have to start wearing some mechanical device, that would warn an automated car. Human drivers are like automatons anyway.
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Old 10-22-11, 09:09 PM   #18
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The only way I see for an automated car to become aware of a cyclist 'taking the lane' or any other lane position, is when cyclists have to start wearing some mechanical device, that would warn an automated car.
Not true. You give the computer 'eyes' of cameras and it can see a cyclist just as easily as a person. AI keeps advancing.
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Old 10-23-11, 04:48 AM   #19
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The Space Shuttle launch and landing are also both completely automated, with the exception of a single man-controlled operation during landing
There have never been even two shuttles in the air at the same time, and they've always had priority in the airspace when launching and landing. That means lots of physical room (pretty much the entire sky) for error on everything except final approach. If there had been 254 million more shuttles all on independent schedules, I doubt they would have trusted even current automation capability.
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Old 10-23-11, 05:00 AM   #20
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The systems do not rely fully on GPS, but only use GPS as a general guide as to how to get somewhere, otherwise they "see" the road and hazards and drive according to what they see, with sensors that don't blink, are not distracted, don't doze off, and don't have an agenda.
And can't make a value judgment in a crisis situation. What will it pick when all the choices result in collision, the softest target, the lowest value target, etc.? How quickly can it differentiate between a 100lb deer and a 100lb child that darts out in the road too close to stop and decide whether to hit the obstacle or risk crashing into something else? I guarantee if it wrecks avoiding the deer or flattens the child, the developers and the car manufacturer will be looking at a really expensive lawsuit.
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Old 10-23-11, 05:29 AM   #21
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Now, throw in to the equation the hacker who hates cyclists.
Or just a kid who figures out how to vandalize the sensors in a way that doesn't immediately cause a shutdown-worthy error condition.

Or a kid who figures out it's fun to swerve on his motorcycle at the last second and watch the robot cars go into the ditch avoiding him.

Or a group of kids in a pickup with a bunch of cardboard boxes; get in front of a robot car and drop a 3'x3' obstacle right in its path.
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Old 10-23-11, 06:53 AM   #22
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And can't make a value judgment in a crisis situation.
Huh? Computers can and do make value judgments all the time. Chess and poker playing computers do so, for example, and they have both beat human world champions.

http://www.popsci.com/technology/art...utonomous-cars
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The car is remarkable in its restraint, yielding to pedestrians during a left turn at an intersection. But what's even more remarkable, is its ability to be more "aggressive" when it needs to be. For instance, it's able to compensate when other motorists don't exactly adhere to right of way rules. In response, the car will inch forward into the intersection, signaling the other drivers its intention.


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I guarantee if it wrecks avoiding the deer or flattens the child, the developers and the car manufacturer will be looking at a really expensive lawsuit.
Of course.

Human mental abilities are not on some un-reachable pedestal over computers. Computers can fly and land airplanes in crowded airspaces and have done so for years, for example. Heck, the Reaper flies combat missions on its own.
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Old 10-23-11, 07:17 AM   #23
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I figure even freak scenarios where the system fails or where people try to circumvent the system would still end up with a net safety increase over the current situation of people not paying attention, driving drunk, simply inept, etc. Therefore it has my full support.
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Old 10-23-11, 07:49 AM   #24
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Looks like it buzzed a cyclist at 8m15s. It seems to have adjusted its course according to a stationary obstacle model, meaning it cut back in early.
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Old 10-23-11, 02:09 PM   #25
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And can't make a value judgment in a crisis situation. What will it pick when all the choices result in collision, the softest target, the lowest value target, etc.? How quickly can it differentiate between a 100lb deer and a 100lb child that darts out in the road too close to stop and decide whether to hit the obstacle or risk crashing into something else? I guarantee if it wrecks avoiding the deer or flattens the child, the developers and the car manufacturer will be looking at a really expensive lawsuit.
What and humans CAN do this?

We kill 40,000 fellow humans a year based on this "keen judgement" you attribute to humans... humans that also make the decision to distract themselves with texts, drugs and rock and roll. And you are now concerned that we should not let a tireless dedicated set of computers do this task?

Look I'll be the first to say that robot cars will not be perfect, but certainly what we have and do now is far far from perfect...

If you want to hold up the judgement of "perfect" against robot cars, hold that same judgement to human motorists too.
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