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Robot cars on public roads? California says yes (arstechnica.com)
267 points by vectorbunny on Aug 30, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 152 comments

This is fantastic! The adoption could be very fast, e.g. if insurance companies give benefits if you drive a self-driving car.

One current roadblock is the price of the system: the LIDAR (the thing on the top of the car in the picture) retails for ~$75K currently. There should be significant volume to drive the price down. But a lot of people would buy them for prestige, too (e.g. many early Prius adopters), so if the cost of the system can be reduced to perhaps $4K-$5K levels people will seriously think about this.

Yes, the lidars are expensive. It is believed that the Ibeo will come down to the sub-$1K range in volume production.


If everybody had a self-driving car, would insurance be obsolete?

Not entirely. There's three main parts: liability, comprehensive, and collision.

Liability is the part that's legally required in the US. If the numbers showed that self-driving cars were much less likely to cause an accident, it would be considerably cheaper for them (a much more dramatic version of how anti-lock brakes can make your liability coverage cheaper).

Comprehensive (mainly stuff that happens while you're not in the vehicle) would remain unchanged. But it's also the cheapest part.

Collision is what covers repairs to your own vehicle if you're at fault or if someone at fault isn't insured themselves (you can also skip the first part and just get uninsured motorist coverage). The uninsured at-fault driver case doesn't change until there are enough self-driving cars on the road that accidents as a whole go way down, but the first case (damage to your own vehicle that was your own fault) should be much less likely and thus cheaper to insure.

This question keeps coming up. The answer is no.

Insurance covers much more than drivers running into other things - theft of vehicle, parts of vehicle, or damage to vehicle and theft of contents - fire + natural disasters (flood etc) - damage to the vehicle by other drivers, both moving and parked - personal liability for damage while using the car - damage to the car from accidents

Note that in multiple vehicle accidents sometimes 'blame' is shared out between insurance companies as a way of sharing costs.

As to the fiction that accidents will never happen with autonomous cars, this is simply false. Of course there will still be accidents. The accident rate should decrease but this will take a long, long time to happen.

Take this example : workers have a self-driving pickup, but don't secure a ladder on the roof properly. While driving along the freeway, the ladder comes off and smashes into self-driving car behind. Neither self-driving car can prevent this. Same goes for self-driving cars failing to detect black ice on the road and skidding into railings/trees/other traffic.

Liability for accidents with self-drive vehicles will fall on the owner of the vehicle, possibly with insurers pooling 'fault' when one or more self-driving vehicles are involved.

Theft would still be an issue. Also, the bots may be less than perfect.

An Orwellian version of autonomous car theft:

"PriusBot has detected you are not authorised to use this vehicle. In accordance with law XYZ-00A, you are now being driven to the nearest police station as a precaution."

PriusBot would be unable to do much about being loaded on a tilt-tray, taken to a chop-shop and relieved of the various sensors, air bags, catalytic converters and body panels.

Not to mention a hit from Mr. Short Circuit: http://ameblo.jp/ishinkaia/image-10951939627-11353773528.htm...

Only until someone arms the bot, by installing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blaster_%28flamethrower%29.

It gets more Orwellian than that:

"PriusBot has detected you have been classified as a public menace. In accordance with statute XYZ-00N, you are now being driven off the nearest bridge."

This could actually be a serious concern. By riding in a self-driving car, we're putting our life directly in to a machine's hands. Of course, this isn't very new: pacemakers, for example, are controlled by computers. They can be reprogrammed, but only when you're physically near the target [1].

But a self-driving car would almost inevitably be connected to a network: an central computer could algorithmically control where all the cars are, where they're moving, how fast they're doing it, and basically make accidents nonexistent; such a system would be enormously beneficial to society at large. Yet, the downside is that all the cars are connected to a network, which an attacker could use to, as you say, send the target "off the nearest bridge".

1. http://www.secure-medicine.org/icd-study/icd-study.pdf

Yes, some of these networks hackable.[1]

Our investigation shows that an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (1) is potentially susceptible to malicious attacks that violate the privacy of patient information and medical telemetry, and (2) may experience malicious alteration to the integrity of information or state, including patient data and therapy settings for when and how shocks are administered. Moreover, standard approaches for security and access control may not always be suitable for IMDs due to tensions between security (e.g., access for pre-authorized parties only) and safety (e.g., access for previously unauthorized parties in emergency circumstances)

Nsa will have e911 equivalent and warrantable backdoor to anything DMV/govt approved, though one would think.

[1] Some physical design limits were cpu and power, plus other operational concerns.

No, an Orwellian state wouldn't kill you before you became sane.

Since nothing about that is totalitarian at all, I don't think the term Orwellian is correct. Having computers recognize us and authorize or authenticate is solely at the whim of the consumer. It becomes Orwellian when the government demands that government controlled sensors be included in every car.

The US has alterted a few folks in the middle east they they were [Unauthorized] to [drive their vehicle] any longer, because they were on bad terms with the NSA. Try adding [Predator Drone] and [Targeted by Hellfire Missle] into the same sentence.

Again, that may be an act of war, but since it's not against it's own people, it's not Orwellian.

It becomes Orwellian when the government demands that government controlled sensors be included in every car.

Apr 19, 2012 – A bill passed in the U.S. Senate would require black boxes to be installed in all new cars sold in the U.S. by 2015

The humans are less than less than perfect.

Not so fast. What if a moose or a deer hits the car?

Mandatory insurance exists in case you hit someone else.

If things like that are all insurance is used for then it should be about 1/100th of the current cost I guess.

You can figure it out when you look at the cost of your insurance.

It depends on what you pick for coverage and what car you are driving, but for me roughly 50% of my bill goes to liability and 50% goes to comprehensive coverage.

In a world with self driving cars, your liability wouldn't be 0 but it would be lower. The 50% that goes to comprehensive coverage would remain. That covers theft, falling trees, flooding, fires, etc.

That 50% will not go completely away. The total cost of liability insurance will only drop insofar as driving gets safer. You may not be responsible for hitting that other car, but someone will have to pay.

Because of that, you likely wil have to pay a premium on top of the 'real' costs of such a car to the seller of the electronics, either as a lump sum, or as a per year and/or kilometer contribution.

>it SHOULD be about 1/100th of the current cost

Yes, it should be. However do you think that insurance companies are going to allow that? They'll form the insurance-equivalent of the RIAA before that happens.

I highly doubt that. Insurance companies don't represent a "precious resource" (aka celebrities), so it would be easy for somebody to come in underneath them.

Besides, insurance companies make money on the difference between rates and claims. If claims fall significantly, rates can, too, yet the insurance companies can still take home the same sized paycheck.

>insurance companies make money on the difference between rates and claims.

This isn't true, but is a common misconception.

Insurance companies make money by earning an investment income on the retained premium (the premium earnt between when a policy is paid for, and a claim is paid out). You can easily see this by reading analyst reports on publicly-listed insurance companies, which will analyse in detail the return on the retained premium.

An insurance company collecting more premium than claim costs is overpricing itself. An insurance company paying out more claims than premium is underpricing itself.

The idea is that the risk is managed through actuarial study, so the premium/claim payout is managed, giving an optimal time lag between collected premium and paid out claims.

The ability of insurance companies to create a very large pool of investment funds is why Warren Buffet buys them. He is an expert at investing, and the premium pool gives him the size he needs.

I agree that it will market forces will drastically lower the price, but if the margins stay the same the insurance companies will still make less money as the overall premiums will be smaller.

This assumes the cost of auto insurance is based on actuarial science, as opposed to whatever the industry lobby can get through state legislatures.

If you had a self-driving car, would a malfunction in the car causing a crash be your fault?

With self driving cars, why would you own one? Why bother making a capital investment and paying to park a rarely used vehicle when Übercab could provide rides everywhere at much lower cost with much greater availability?

If you had a human driven car, would a malfunction in the car causing a crash be your fault? [1] I can see that if you hadn't updated the firmware of the car then maybe it could be claimed that you had not performed adequate maintenance?

[1]: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1236020/Horror-ride-...

Vehicle integrity is the responsibility of the driver for human driven cars, I assume it would be the same for autonomous vehicles. The problem comes when you are driving a 15 year old car because you can afford new. For non autonomous vehicles mechanical safety is dependent on powertrain, steering, and brakes, all of which are under manual control. Maintaining the integrity of autonomous system--its computer, its sensors, its radar/gps, the accuracy of its maps, will be even more important than the maintenance of those manual system.

I could also see increased adoption if HOV lanes were set aside only for automated cars.

I would object. If you want to use the HOV lane, have multiple people in your car. I understand the rationale for extending it to things that are sufficiently fuel efficient. I don't see it here.

HOV lanes promote multiple people to reduce congestion, and self-driving cars are touted as a way to reduce congestion. If the latter claim is true, then HOV lanes could reduce congestion by allowing self driving cars to drive in them.

I actually think they will do the reverse. A self-driving car will likely do more miles. What's more, it will do empty-passenger miles. The travelling patterns of people are unlikely to change. But there remains the distinct possibility that people will get their cars to drive to work, then home (or at least to remote parking) again if 'work' does not have parking.

Thus the potential for cars without people driving around. This is inherently worse for congestion than 1-person cars.

Ah, right - I guess I'm just so skeptical of the claims that didn't think of it. I expect self-driving cars to be driving like a cautious human driver for at least 5 years. If we get to the point where they're in fact driving closer together, then there is indeed an argument for letting them in the HOV lanes.

I assumed he meant HOV and autonomous. So that the HOV lane could go faster with higher density for example.

I think the LIDAR approach will have to go. Laser systems are inherently susceptible to jamming with a cheap laser diode. We cannot afford to have mass adoption of cars where somebody can create weeks of citywide gridlock with a few thousand dollars of lasers.

Thrun said in a talk I saw posted on HN earlier today that this wasn't being considered a problem. I'm not certain if targeted LIDAR jamming was on his mind, his comment was specifically in reference to operating with many other autonomous cars on the road.

He was concerned about GPS jamming though, but thankfully these cars have been designed from the ground up to not rely on GPS (as a signal from a satellite is not reliable). I believe as long as the area has been 3D mapped by Google, the car is capable of driving and navigating without GPS assistance.

The degradation mode is that you have to drive your car. Not, everyone not being able to drive.

You assume that the car is occupied by a sober adult who can drive. Not something you'll be able to assume any more when mom can send the car to do the school run.

You cannot drive your car in 1 meter spaced convoys. In many cities jamming the navigators would cause the cars to not fit on the roads, resulting in gridlock for however long the jammers could be kept going.

And dumping 500 caltrops off an overpass would likely have the exact same effect. Worrying about someone actively attacking this kind of system using theoretical jammers that could seize up multiple lanes of traffic (without easy line of sight!) and operate for hundreds of feet at this point seems premature.

I hate what 911 has done to people's thinking. We're talking about the future here but people can't stop with their fantasy bond villain nonsense.

You can't do the caltrop trick at 50 locations for weeks on end.

The thing about lasers is they use a very narrow slice of wavelengths. Environmental light like sunlight has very little power within that slice, so its easy for the LIDAR to see its own laser. But that makes it really easy to jam. You could probably build a jammer today for a few hundred dollars, which means that in the future every disaffected monkeywrencher will do it. Ergo the approach is not suitable for the mass market.

You can jam the human eye with a cheap laser diode. Does that stop you from driving?

Besides, using the right modulation would make LIDAR as hard to jam as would be needed.

The eye is broadband and the desired light is bright, so it takes a very high power density to jam it. LIDAR receivers are very narrowband and the desired light is fairly dim, so jamming it will be quite easy. Modulation does not help when the light detector is saturated.

To keep the detector saturated for any period of time you would need to have aim that's a little too perfect. Besides, my central point was that there are lots of vulnerabilities in existing cars and they're still driven.

In case you decide to test your theory about lasers and human eyes, please don't use someone else as a test subject.

I think it can be done without aiming, assuming the light detector uses a wide angle lens. You just have to illuminate the scene observed by the LIDAR with a few watts per square meter of laser light. That's doable today, and easy in the future.

Does anyone know how a self driving car would potentially handle scenarios like:

1. A traffic light being out and cop is directing traffic? (Would it have to learn hand gestures?)

2. Stopping at a guard booth.

3. Crossing a solid yellow line to pass a stopped car or a garbage truck?

Perhaps in the future a group of people will have the job of moving cars that have gone into failsafe mode, and no one else will have to drive.

Take the case of elevators, originally they had manual operators who needed to make sure that they leveled out on a given floor so people could safely get on and off. Today elevators function on their own with users simply requesting their desired location. Every now and then they do get stuck, which requires calling in a certified technician to move the elevator, help trapped passengers, diagnose and repair problems before returning the elevator to service.

A well designed control system will have a good fail safe, but having to wait two hours for the closest technician to arrive because a branch has fallen accross the road would be annoying.

The last time I read the legislation (sorry, didn't have the time now), it still requires a licensed driver to be at the wheel and at the ready to take over. I presume this sort of intermediate step will help the developers gradually transition to these type of exceptional real-world scenarios.

Also, autonomous cars will eventually obviate the need for a traffic cop in the aforementioned scenario.

Or indeed the traffic light itself.

Long term I think self driving cars fix the traffic light problem without a cop. All the cars can just work it out over a network and go like it's a stop sign or just continue as if the light is there (if the city is on-board).

I wonder how it handles merging in tight traffic, such as when the current lane is closed ahead and you need to merge into the other lane. If the car doesn't have rerouting information in its database, does it go all the way up to the "closed ahead" sign blocking the road before it considers switching lanes?

Or when coming onto something like a highway where traffic has slowed down to a crawl. Normally you have to be a bit pushy and squeeze into the traffic, otherwise drivers in the other lane will never yield. Will the self-driving car know to do this, or will it wait forever for an opening in the traffic?

Looks like you are forgetting manual override.

Google employees pay attention to the road as the cars drive because that's their job. Consumers will read the paper and go to sleep while the cars drive. Manual override is not a solution to this problem. A panic mode that alerts the driver to take over in uncertain situations could help.

The cars will be programmed to always ensure that there is enough room to stop the car safely when something unexpected happens. BMW already has a system to automatically stop the vehicle safely if the driver is suddenly incapacitated. And Volvo has one that stops you rear-ending someone. Pretty soon we'll have cars that are pretty tough to crash, even though the human will still drive it almost 100% of the time.

That will be amazing, I can't wait!

Which is precisely why the 'hey we won't need insurance' call is completely wrong.

As long as people can override the function, people will make mistakes and cause damage. And this will always be the case, nobody wants to be stuck on an isolated road, unable to proceed because their lane is partially blocked, but it is safe to cross the lane and proceed.

Maybe the cop could have a device that lets the cars know when it's ok to turn or continue.

I'm very glad to see that this is spreading. It would have been really annoying for Google to perfect their car and then have nowhere to drive it because of silly legislations. It wouldn't be the first time senators were afraid of change...

Yes, imagine that you were going to revolutionize the way people get around. And then cities around the country made it illegal to use your revolutionary device on the sidewalk. [1]

I'm still waiting to see what the opposition is going to do when they get organized. If you thought Uber was a threat to cabs, they don't hold a candle to a fleet of self driving cars with an NFC payment option.

[1] Which was of course a challenge for the Segway

Uber is a small company. Google is big enough to pay politicians. I don't think political opposition will be a big problem.

As someone with bad knees, for whom a bicycle isn't an option, this is enormously frustrating. What a disgrace.

The impact on your knees from riding a Segway would also make them a big challenge I'm afraid.

That said, it wasn't legislation that made Segway fail.

"That said, it wasn't legislation that made Segway fail."

True, but it was pretty contributory. For much of its 'early adopter' period people had no idea whether or not they would get a ticket for riding one on the sidewalk, and then later the knew that they would in most places. That certainly mitigated sales significantly.

Similarly if self driving cars were available today and you could only 'legally' use them in California and Nevada in self driving mode, and they were "probably" going to be illegal most everywhere else, that would make it hard to sell them.

I ditched my car and have walked everywhere for the last 5 years, I must honestly say I'm glad they didn't take off. People riding bikes on pavements and people in their motorized chairs are annoying and dangerous enough.

Sometimes governments actually get it right.

I agree with you, but I think that is because we both tend to walk a lot. Fast moving vehicles (generally bicycles and skateboards) in foot traffic are a damn menace.

But I can see how in the vast empty sidewalks of some suburbs that riding bicycles on the sidewalk is a good idea, and did so myself when I was a child.

Translated: "Damn kids, get off my lawn!"

Um, no. You ever been hit by a bike? Then again I saw a car reverse blindly onto a main road and a guy on his bike go flying over it. I'm sure that hurt more.

Truth is there isn't enough space for sedgeways over here. Pavements too narrow, roads too littered with parked cars.

It isn't "fear" of change, it is that political systems get captured by status quo interest groups that fight against change.

I don't know that it's just that. Car and driver ran a fearmongering editorial about it in their most recent issue. ("We can't trust them with our credit cards and now they want us to trust them to drop little Sally off at the pool?") There will definitely be grassroots backlash.

My guess is that comfort with this as a concept will be generational, as are lots of things. I like the idea a lot, but I also will miss driving. I doubt my daughter will miss driving in the slightest.

I doubt my daughter will miss driving in the slightest.

I don't think anybody will miss driving in traffic, but until there's some other way to experience the combined sense of control, shifting G-forces, and the world streaming by, manual driving on sparsely populated roads will always be desirable.

Preaching to the choir. :) But my point is that I doubt she will have experienced enough of that to miss it.

See Chris Paine's 2006 documentary 'Who Killed the Electric Car?' for background on the politics of transportation in California. Hopefully Google will be up to task.

Of course Google has a lot more influence in the California legislature than any car manufacturer. I'm not sure you could get this passed in Michigan or Detroit.

Or that the people who can see the benefits never show up to try to convince anyone.

Where's the anti-robot car lobby? I doubt most cabbies are even aware of this.

Further, I would submit that this is mostly due to the legislators themselves.

The anti-robot truck lobby will probably come out in full force soon.

A trucker that doesn't have to 1) eat 2) sleep 3) experience fatigue -- this trucker is vastly superior. There is already a lot of analytics measuring truck performance, metrics which would make autonomous trucks very feasible.

Here is a political ad against someone who supported self-driving cars.


Wow! Just wow!

And this is the true market for robotic vehicles (at least at the outset).

Transport trucks spend hours on interstates between points going in relatively straight lines, at relatively low traffic times.

The trucking industry will be dead 5-10 years after robot trucks start appearing on the road.

EDIT: Sorry "trucking industry" should be in quotes, as yes, by this I mean the idea of people driving trucks, which is 90% of the "industry". The actual industry itself isn't going anywhere, agreed. My fault in the miscommunication.

I'm pretty sure that long-haul truckers are well under half the truck driving profession. Pay attention to the number of semi-trucks delivering food and other products to schools / restaurants / convenience stores etc. Oh and those drivers have to unload the shipments as well. I don't think the truck industry will disappear, but there will be a shift in the mix of long-haul vs. short-haul truckers.

The "shift" as you put it will be very temporary though. It will quite quickly become common place for all commercial vehicles to be self directing once some vehicles are. (Think FedEx, UPS leading this charge)

That said, that "shift" is when it's going to be a really, really shitty time to be a truck driver, as the influx of people competing for fewer and fewer jobs is going to drive prices (wages) down into pits of dark despair.

With FedEx and UPS you still need someone to drop the package in the mailbox...

Sure, but now that person doesn't need a commercial drivers licence, or a licence at all.

This is a very important point. Not just that, but the "offload person" won't be a member of the teamster's union (seeing as how they aren't actually driving the truck) and will have a more reasonable wage.

As chollida1 points out, UPS/Fedex may not be allowed to lift the CLD requirement quite yet, but that will probably come in time.

IIRC, If you are under 26,001 Lbs GVW you don't legally need a CDL (unless Hazmat). Some carriers like UPS/FedEX may require a CDL anyway, but that is a company policy.

> Sure, but now that person doesn't need a commercial drivers licence, or a licence at all.

I'm pretty sure the laws stipulate that a licensed driver must be in the drivers seat.

I'm not really thinking FedEX or UPS, I'm thinking of the driver for Reinhart food services delivering food to my son's school. That is a Semi-truck backed into a very small parking lot and he has to hustle a dozen or more two wheel hand trucks full of food/supplies off the truck to the kitchen, before he goes on to another school/hospital/restaurant.

Not so much the industry as trucker as a profession. Trucks will be all over the place, just not driven by humans.

And then there's all the service stops which now offer food, etc for truckers. I expect few of them will successful transition to serve tourists exclusively.

The industry will be just fine. It's just the truck driver profession that will die.

The existing actors, however, might well be unable to drive that transition and they might consequently die and be replaced by other, new actors.

It depends on how good their marketing is. Trucks will initially probably still need a human in the cab. Truckers often drive in pairs so that the rig can be rolling for 20-22 hours per day. The way you get drivers to embrace the technology is by lobbying for laws that would allow a single driver to be at the wheel for, say, 14-16 hours at a time.

That's enough for a pair of drivers to keep the truck on the road continuously, and maybe almost enough to make it worthwhile to have just a single driver (so the cab owner doesn't have to split his profits with anyone). After gradually raising hours over the course of a few years, you can declare drivers optional. Owner-operators would still ride in the cab so they could handle pickup and delivery of trailers, but fleet owners might just hire drivers on the spot for things like that.

Edit: My (mis)understanding of trucking hours of service was based on a conversation with a truck drive a few months ago. Apparently, you can drive 14 hours continuously after taking 10 hours off. However, I think the point still stands that truck drivers will be less resistant to the introduction of robotic trucks if they perceive the change as a (at least short-term) benefit to them by increasing allowable driving time.

Luckily, truck drivers don't just drive. For a lot of short haul trucking (and probably long haul), they have to load and unload the truck.

And fix the truck when it breaks down (if possible). And deal with problems when the wrong shipment goes to the wrong place, etc.

And protect the contents of the truck.

Driving is just one piece.

Freight prices are low enough that I saw a company complaining that they can't afford the insurance on inexperienced drivers. So it at least has the potential to be a short term problem.

Truckers are safe as long as the bots require a human standby at all times. Their job will be much easier.

I imagine the teamster's don't like the idea. Insurance companies and similar businesses may also have a bone to pick with the idea.

I'm hoping insurance companies are for self driving cars. I also expect a very serious conflict between teamsters and companies like UPS and FedEx, which employ a lot of drivers.

As an interesting side-note, FedEx was buying adds a while ago complaining about the "Brown Bailout." Apparently there was some to-do about how UPS's pilots were part of the teamster's union (or its drivers were part of the pilot's union--I don't remember--in any case, FedEx didn't like it). For that reason, I wonder if we'll see a third player (maybe Amazon) enter the local delivery market because it doesn't have to deal with legacy contracts with the teamsters.

I think that fedex and ups will use them only for the long haul driving and still employ a lot of drivers at the last mile delivery points.

Senators want to get re-elected. That's pretty much their only fear. So if robot cars. Ring wealth to their districts they will be all for them, until the first accident that kills someone. Of course human drivers kill people all the time too, but that won't matter.

We should have put the tech into the mars rover.

Previous discussions of earlier versions of the bill: in March: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3688267, and in May: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4010297

Current bill text: http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/sen/sb_1251-1300/sb_129...

What seems to have changed since May:

- The California DMV will set safety rules before 2015 instead of waiting for NHTSA to allow production use,

- The manufacturer must apply to the DMV before production use.

- Cars must record sensor data for 30s before every collision.

What I don’t like about the bill is that it requires an operator to be able to take manual control of the vehicle at any time. I’d imagine that as autonomous vehicles develop in the coming years, this restriction will have to be removed.

> What I don’t like about the bill is that it requires an operator to be able to take manual control of the vehicle at any time.

I'd feel very strange being in a car without a manual override of some sort. Maybe in 10 years and only if the vast majority of cars are self driven it will be a different story. I can't imagine trying to drive through Chicago hoping that my little robot driver is aware of the two tow-trucks weaving through traffic behind me at 90mph.

10 years seems optimistic to me. If autonomous vehicles take off, I doubt they'll hit majority in less than 30 years, 50 more likely. These probably won't even be purchasable for 10 years.

When horseless carriages first became legal, the legal requirement called for "a man with a red flag to walk in front of any self-propelled vehicle on a public road at no more than 4mph".


In the future, if manual override becomes undesirable or unneeded, it will probably be repealed. Actually, I'm surprised by this many steps forward so soon (I was a bit cynical of them ever being approved)

I think I understand your complaint. If people can take control, i.e. take responsibility, then it's imperative to show evidence they were in control if something were to go wrong.

This will always be tricky because even Toyota a couple of years ago had trouble defending against alleged bugs that turned out to be completely untrue.

This will always be tricky because even Toyota a couple of years ago had trouble defending against alleged bugs that turned out to be completely untrue.

The silly conspiracy theorist in me wonders if the excessive media focus on Toyota had anything to do with the government's Detroit bailout. Probably not, but if I were writing a conspiracy novel, it'd be an easy plot point to add.

The manual control at any time is actually a feature I want to have. It doesn't have to be the current style steering wheel, stick and pedals but maybe something else like a joystick.

How is this different from what happened in May?


"California Senate passes bill for self-driving cars"

Legislature is an iterative process--

The votes:

Senate Floor (08/29/2012), Assembly Floor (08/28/2012), Assembly Floor (08/24/2012), Assembly Committee (08/16/2012), Assembly Committee (07/02/2012), Senate Floor (05/21/2012), Senate Committee (04/10/2012)

The senate approved a version in May, and sent it to the Assembly. The Assembly added some markup. Only in the last week did the Senate and Assembly vote on the same bill, which is the process needed to send a bill to the governor.

(Full history here: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=sb_1...)

It has now gone through both houses of the legislature, presumably after the bill from May went through reconciliation. It is on its way to the governor, who, given its apparent lack of controversy, is likely to sign it.

California legislators have sent a bill to the governor’s desk

- Not yet signed. So not yet law. Still.

I've been rear-ended 7 times in the past 5 years. I'll be glad when everyone else has self-driving cars.

(My GF says I drive too fast and stop too quickly. She's probably right, although 3 of those times I was moving at less than walking speed.)

7 times sounds atypical; perhaps by changing your driving behavior you could reduce your risk. You might try decelerating slowly, keeping 2-4 seconds of following distance, checking your rear-view while braking, and leaving extra space in front of your vehicle at a stop--moving forward as cars come in behind.

Don't be so logical. You sound like my defensive driving instructor! Killjoy! :(

sarcasm intended

you should try racing (real-race-track variety racing) with something expendable, you'll learn to remember there might be people behind you very quickly.

7 different roads?

Autonomous trucks are already used in mines in Australia. They are apparently more reliable than humans, because they never drive too fast, they never drive too close to the edges, and of course they never get tired or distracted.

Alright! New field of hacking,security and development will emerge now. People will try to hack, other people will try to make it secure and some of us will work on developing fancy apps for these vehicles.

Mario Kart IRL?

Good. The first thing they should do is force anyone over 75 years of age to use them.


I personally can't wait to read a book on the way to work.

> I personally can't wait to read a book on the way to work.

Yes, what wondrous technology it must be that enables this!

Have there been any studies on whether people actually want autonomous cars (a quick google search only shows one: http://www.alpineautotrans.com/?p=326)? I think it's a good idea, and I bet most people on HN would agree, but what's the downside? How many people in the general public would trust a robot driver? Can you still speed -- if you're late for work -- if you need emergency medical care? Can you take manual control of the vehicle -- would that raise insurance rates if you did so? How many people in the general public would be ok with that?

Good questions, but overcoming consumer resistance is not a new science. The autonomous car will be just another in a long line of products that were initially dismissed by consumers.

Many cars you can buy today are practically autonomous anyway. You may still feel like you are in control, but the computer systems will take over in many cases. Going fully autonomous is the natural leap. The trick is only one of marketing to get the people comfortable with the idea. These frequent announcements is one way to build that comfort level before the first production units are ready to be sold.

A robot-driven version of my personal car (and how I use it today), is moderately appealing. But as a stepping stone to a future where an autonomous robot-driven (flying?) cab pulls up curbside, picks me up, and smoothly, safely speeds me through a city where the absence of any manually driven vehicles allows for safer more efficient use of road-space, well, that's very exciting to me.

> A robot-driven version of my personal car (and how I use it today), is moderately appealing.

Really... you wouldn't find never having to park again very appealing? Having your car pick you up somewhere, or go get serviced while you're shopping?

Moderately appealing. I guess I'd better give the context... I ride my bike whenever I can, which is >90% of my journeys (I live in SF; the same was also true in London). I've only ever commuted to work by car for a brief period of time, and I plan on avoiding it in the future. I prefer to combine train (CalTrain) and bike for commuting. I occasionally use my car to do a big grocery shop - it's 5min each way, so I can take or leave a robot there. The reason I own a car (Subaru) is to get to very remote places in the Sierra Nevada mountains, to go white water kayaking. The drive across the Central Valley is very boring, and for that I would love a robot. The bits on hairy mountain roads (often broken dirt roads), I'd be amazed if we see a robot car capable of that in my life time (we're talking reading individual boulders to figure out the line through). What I really need is a helicopter, and pilot..

So that's why I'm only moderately excited for my personal car - I just avoid using it so much that its not a big deal.

Now, if we could remove SF's rude and navigationally challenged taxi drivers* from SF'd taxi's, then I'd be happy..

* - they arent all rude..

Well of course if you don't drive much.

Interestingly, I frequently heard the idea of not needing parking because your car would drop you off at work, drive home, then pick you up at the end of the day. But since almost all cars on the road right now are gas or gas hybrid, you are doubling your miles driven, thereby halving your effective fuel economy. You are also doubling the amount of time on the road, so now rush hour lasts twice as long. From 7-8 in the morning driving everyone to work, and then 8-9 empty driving home. This may potentially have infrastructure issues--road capacities, paving, etc.

I didn't say you don't need parking, I said you don't have to do it. The car can drop you off and then go park on its own. Driving home would be stupid.

Take a trip down to the nearest suburban elementary school to see whether "getting dropped off and picked up at the door" necessarily translates to "never having to park again".

In many situations, you won't have to hunt for a spot. And that'll be great. But for an awful lot of trips, you'll wind up walking just as far due the line-up of cars. Or waiting an awfully long time.

Don't get me wrong, I'm absolutely sold on an autonomous car for its other benefits. But the auto-parking/pickup bit is ... overstated in its applicability.

Kids getting out of school is a special case. Most things I do don't involve mass arrivals or departures. When my car drops me off at the mall and then parks, then picks me up at the door, I don't think I'll run into that problem.

At the mall, probably not. But going to or leaving work? Or a theatre? Or restaurants [1]? Or a party? Or your beer-league bowling/darts/softball games? [2]

Pretty much anything with a predictable schedule would be quickly swamped and delays will compound quickly.

Which isn't to say it's a non-feature. It's just to say, again, that it's being oversold.

[1] Fixed schedules alone won't be in trouble. Anything with a 'busy period' will manifest this.

[2] To say nothing of professional sporting events, concerts, tourist traps and things like theme parks -- precisely the places where parking is such a bummer in the first place.

If political ads are any clue to sentiment:



Politician creates attack ad based on his opponent's support for autonomous cars.

You won't have much of a choice after 5 years, all new cars will be semi-autonomous. A few year after that, people will enjoy the benefits so much that, that there won't be much demand for driveable cars. It's the same story as the horse to car, letter to telegram, paper to radio, radio to tv, tv to flatscrren, flatscreen to 3dtv... Okay, maybe not the last one.

From the view of some consumers (I might be one,) a car may be considered to be a black box that is used to transport someone/something(s) from point A to point B. I do not automatically assume that it is always better to instrument a machine to control such a box rather than having a qualified person control it.

I'm pretty sure you'll have to sign a 'terms & waiver' document similar to the one before Sky Diving.

Yes! Driving in traffic is mind-numbing.

It also doesn't help that traffic seems to be getting worse in the bay area.

But think about how convenient your self-driving car will be when you're sitting in traffic!

I've seen google's robotic cars already driven on the 280, specifically the Lexus SUV.

On a related note, does anyone have an idea on how Google plans to commercialize their technology?

What the hell happens when hackers manage to hijack control of these thing going down the highway?

I love to drive in any kind of traffic. No thanks on the robot car. I want to remain in control.

I can see it now: a Lidar and autonomous system integrated on my Tesla S.

I'm all for this, but I'm a bit miffed about the terminology: autonomous/robot/self-driving cars. "Autopilot" is shorter, simpler and well-established - and IMHO more accurate, as long asa human driver ready to take over at any time is still required.

I'm surprised we haven't heard from Hoffa.

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