Humans suck at driving. The daily rush hour traffic snarl in my Manhattan neighborhood is less about the density of vehicles and more about human incompetence. At trouble spots like Broome & Lafayette, the box is routinely blocked by drivers unable to correctly judge timing and spacing (or happy to block the box in hopes they'll get home at 6:18 rather than 6:23). Meanwhile, further up the block, other drivers leave an absurd gap between them and the car in front of them, occupied as they are with their text messaging or phone conversations.
Even worse is when humans suck at being humans. Two anger-related NYC traffic incidents recently made local headlines: In the first, a cabbie arguing with a cyclist jumped the curb and hit a British tourist in midtown, requiring the young woman to have her leg amputated below the knee. In the second incident, a man was dragged from his SUV, beaten and knifed in front of his wife and child following an accident involving a motorcycle gang. (I found the GoPro-recorded helmet cam video, which went viral, too harrowing to embed.)So the case for driverless cars is looking pretty compelling. Imagine a parade of automated vehicles moving cleanly through Manhattan, like blood pumping through veins, at regular intervals and with perfect spacing. Imagine it being technologically impossible for a vehicle to strike a pedestrian or cyclist. I'm hoping I get to see this in my lifetime, and I just might following breakthroughs like Mercedes-Benz's, below, where they successfully navigate a 60-mile route (both urban and rural!) in their S 500 Intelligent Drive research vehicle:
They're predicting the system will be production-ready in as little as six years, which will ironically require the patience that modern-day urban motorists seem to lack. But it will be worth the wait. "Unlike us humans," Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche explained at a press conference, "electronic helpers never get tired, are never absent minded, and have zero reaction time."
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Actually, autonomous vehicles will spell the end of public transportation. The mass public transit model is based on centuries old technology and, while useful in its day, its day is nearly done. Autonomous vehicles (in total, there will be many different kinds) will be cheaper, safer, more environmentally sound, and even politically more just than public transit.
I hate to rain on your parade, but autonomous cars may spell the end of motorcycling on public roads -- and I say that as a lifelong motorcyclist. Once a critical mass is reached, people will start agitating to make manual driving illegal, starting in urban cores but gradually spreading. Since an autonomous motorcycle would be as pointless as a dancing robot, I don't expect to see very many of them. Motorcycling will become purely a hobby that is confined to certain areas, the way horse riding is today.
Much as I hate to see that happen, on balance I think it would be an improvement over the status quo.
Well, you might, and in fact a large number of the population around large urban centers might. That doesn't mean all of us do, and the fact that you can walk into a store and buy stuff is proof enough of that.
I actually believe this will become a requirement fairly soon after it is sold in production vehicles. You can look at the implementation of seat belt requirements as a model. Action on the part of the DOT may be faster because the safety rewards are higher. Also, it actually protects your civil liberties because it prevents another person's judgement from injuring or killing you. People argued unsuccessfully that seatbelt non-use was a victimless crime. The same argument doesn't work here so the civil liberties argument against driverless tech is actually thinner.
I feel very passionate about the potential of this technology, and wanted to express this in my comment.
Firstly, the point of this technology is that from the outset it is developed to be more reliable than humans. That is the selling point, that is what they're designing the product around, and that is something that they need to prove 100% to the public. In other words, they can't afford to not be safe. Every aspect will be scrutinised, tested and re-tested until it can be objectively proven that it's safer than human based driving. You already trust computers with your life when you fly and, in some places, take the train. Why not when you drive too?
Secondly, you know as well as I do that this technology is not a response to two isolated incidents. In the US alone, over 37 000 people died in road crashes each year, with an additional 2.35 million injured or disabled. This costs the government $230.6 billion per year or an average of $820 per average citizen like yourself. As dramatic as it sounds, having a backwards attitude to future technology, especially technology that is designed to improve safety, costs money and costs lives.
Lastly, and I will address this in two points, you state that a way to improve road safety is better road design and education. Sure, I agree with you there. But is that really all we can do? And while the government is doing this (as this is a governmental concern), what will the private sector do? Sure they can help out the government with this, but how will that benefit them? Historically, the private sector has been the driving source of innovation, and what the world needs is not just the same as always but a paradigm shift. Ignoring the potential of this technology and dismissing the initiative of the private sector is a very narrow-minded and short-sighted way of thinking that will get us nowhere.
Moreover, we've been focusing on improving infrastructure and education for years. Doing the same thing as we already do will not change anything (especially not in the 6 years or so this article gives for the timeline of this technology). Improving infrastructure is a very gradual, slow, long-term solution that is not mutually exclusive with what the article mentions. Also, let's not forget about the implication this would have on the developing world. Over time this technology would become affordable to those in countries such as India, where driver education is severely inadequate due to incompetence and corruption, and safe infrastructure almost non-existent. None of this is changing any time soon. Even if the infrastructure stays the same, which it is highly likely to, taking the inexperienced, poorly taught human out of the equation would make life substantially safer.
No matter how much money you throw at it, you can only do so much in terms of infrastructure and education, and people will always mess up somewhere down the line - even if it's involuntarily. On the other hand, a computer would never get road rage, a computer would never have a seizure, a computer would never be preoccupied changing around the music, a computer would never get drunk and a computer would never get sleepy or tired.
Self-driving cars are the future, that is quite clear. The only question is how far away that future is.
I'd argue that you already trust your life to computers in many situations, computers that are designed to function without error. Think of the computer systems already in cars, gps systems, traffic light systems, safety control systems at power plants or nuclear plants, train signals etc. All have the capacity to kill if something goes wrong. But that also works for humans too. If someone fucks up their job it might cost someone else their life. With the rigth engineering, a computer system is far more capable at making decisions than you are and can process information far faster than you.
I understand the feeling of not wanting to surrender control, but often times computers are the better answer and you shouldn't use that as an excuse to dismiss something that could potentially eliminate the vast majority of deaths due to vehicles. How many thousands of people die yearly in car crashes? All a result of people driving cars, people who trust their own skill just as you do.
I also want to make it clear I'm not trying to attack you, just make you think :)
I've been waiting for this kind of car-system for a long time. Mercedes is leading the way.
What you're doing is ignoring the statistics of what is actually safe, while claiming to do so because of lack of supportive statistics.
"Basing your contention on two isolated incidents against billions of miles driven is a non-starter. "
It was an EXAMPLE of two recent headlines where humans made mistakes that these computers arguably wouldn't have. The data already supports driverless cars being safer than human drivers based on miles driven vs accidents caused (hint: the number is literally zero).
Do you really think millions of peopel can learn to drive flawlessly? People are IDIOTS. The second we assume something is safe, we become complacent. Driving isn't a difficult task... how come accidents happen thousands of times a year? Because people don't pay attention. They get used to the status quo, assume things won't change, and die because of it. No amount of education will instill that vigilance into the brain of the average person, who can't wait to get home to watch the Big Bang Theory and so will drive 30 kmph over the limit, and doesn't check their blind spots. Maybe if someone had told them though that it's dangerous to drive like that... oh wait, probably someone did. But rather than trust in new technologies... just try to educate them further.
It's a hundred thousand times cheaper to roll out car-based AI systems for automatic driving btw that it is to actually improve our road design. Billions of dollars have already been spent to put long-lasting expansive roads down... the solution isn't to replace them, even with other, somehow "safer" road designs. Far too expensive. Keep in mind... our existing roads are design this way BECAUSE they are about as safe as we can make them. There is always a cost/benefit analysis to be done, but do you think we don't already use the best available pavement, the most visible road paints, and the most thought-out angles, slopes and braking distances we can? We could replace every stoplight intersection with a roundabout, sure, for billions of dollars. Or we could employ already-developed AI systems to allow cars to seamlessly pass through the aps in opposing flow without having to slow down at all... but you don't "trust" them.
It would do your family nothing but favour to try and base your choices on available data and rationale instead of superstitious gut instinct and fear. Your family will thank you when your car doesn't plow into a guardrail because you sneezed at the wrong time.
How does this infringe on your "freedom"? You are still allowed to drive a car yourself, no one is forcing this technology on you.
As for trusting yourself over a computer with your life/the lives of your family -- Does your bank use computers? That's all of your family's money in there. Does your house have a security system? Look out, that's a computer.
Calm down and quit viewing change as the end of the world.
The thing is, WE dont trust your driving. With good reason. You are a human, and you probably make several mistakes EVERY DAY.
Do you use calculators by any chance? or do you do it in your head, because 'you trust yourself more'?
Your concepts on 'improving road safety' with road design and drivers education are laughable. Even with the best road design and education, people are FAR more fallible than computers. Sure there will be accidents involving driverless cars - but I would bet a large amount of money these accidents will be far fewer than at present.
I see Mercedes is making giant leaps to make the roads safer. I think this video highlights the commitment and drive Mercedes has to the future
My OS is buggy, games are buggy, and somehow I'm supposed to trust that over hundreds of thousands of incidents of poor programming, someone thinks they have it right now? No dice. Keep your computers away from my gas pedal and steering wheel.
Not to mention, people looking for reasons to harm others will do so anyway. It has nothing to do with the car.
You only think that because you're afraid of the technology and you don't fully understand how it works. Do you really think this is an issue about freedom and that computers are going to take yours away?
Testing is a massive deal in computer science, especially in the world of machine learning and computer vision, where the data can be unpredictable for no reason. No doubt by the time these actually become available, it will have been the results of decades worth of research.
You are funny, because everyday you are already putting your lives in the hands of a computer (traffic lights, trains, elevators, plains.....). This is just the next logical step
I believe that we should take actions to bring about your last suggestion regardless of the availability of autonomous cars.
Have you ever ridden in a plane, Tom--on an international flight? If so, then you've already trusted your life and the lives of your loved ones to a computer (seeing as most of that is automated). Hell, there's a report out talking about how pilots would awake to find that their co-pilots were also asleep.
As a computer programmer, I can tell you that these systems will never be perfect, and in reality what will happen when accidents do occur, the driver will still be held liable for the accident for relying on his car rather than paying attention to the road.
Just like you can't blame drunk driving accident on the alcohol, you can't blame a driverless accident on the car. It is ultimately still the driver's responsibility to control and operate their vehicle safely, no matter how much assistance the vehicle gives them.
Therefore, I would expect that insurance rates for cars equipped with such a system will actually INCREASE substantially. Driver error will be replaced by human error in coding the software that powers these cars, so the risk is still there.
If a self-driving Mercedes alerts the driver of an impending accident; this cannot prevent the accident. How much responsibility and fault is the company willing to take? In most cases, the person behind a car involved in a accident is at fault. But what happens when people without self driving cars began to take advantage of this technology.
If a precedent is agreed upon by the courts that a malfunction occurred, than the company is at fault for a LONG time. People will ultimately try and work their way around this technology to take advantage of it.
There will be AT LEAST, a 60 year gap between this technology and a time when it will be regulated and enforced through society, If you think otherwise, look at russian videos of fraud accidents on youtube. It's hilarious, but also a reminder that everybody in Russia needs a gopro.
If anyone thinks otherwise, please feel free to email me your constructive opinions.
In all honestly you're much more likely to get your family killed driving than a computer.
Human stupidity and recklessness shows no limit.
He also thinks when he steps into a car he and only he will determine the safety of his family. In fact every other driver / pedestrian / cyclist / animal / weather / etc could affect the safety of his family. He rather live in a world of complete chaos at high rates of speed for 'SAFETY' reasons? Come on... Just needs to be honest and say he wants to drive his car and it doesn't have any correlation to actual safety. His freedom is more valuable than actual safety.
Finally his proposal is to increase testing and standards to drive and in the same paragraph mentions how he values his FREEDOM!! Imagine the first time someone tries to tell him he is incompetent to drive due to old age affecting his vision and reaction speed. I'm sure it will always before he thinks it's time and long before he is ready to give up his RIGHT to drive... Which is really just a PRIVILEGE long forgotten.
Finally imagine the changes in road design if you took the human element out of it. If computers were running on a road all traffic doing exactly what it needed to do you could get rid of signage and traffic signals and let the cars decide when it was best to proceed in any situation based on information from all other vehicles around them.
Good on Mercedes and I know Google is doing similar work. Get these cars on the road racking up miles to reduce/remove any issues and I'll be in line when it's ready.
Basing your contention on two isolated incidents against billions of miles driven is a non-starter.
Want to improve safety? Rational road design coupled with driver's education that's actually difficult and requires skill.
Driverless cars will be here - its only a matter of time. This technology will radically change our lives in so many ways!
With so many sensors on the cars it would be a good idea for the cars to communicate with a central asset repository not only to get current maps and conditions, but also add their sensor results to this repo. This would result in a upto date 4D map.