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*While under computer control at least

Ever since Google launched its self-driving project back in 2010, the company has been working out the kinks with self-driving cars. The ultimate goal is to create technology that allows vehicles to drive passengers to any location without driver input. Google is testing fleet of these vehicles in Nevada and California, and has recently announced that its self-driving vehicles have accrued over 300,000 miles.
During those 300,000 miles, not one of the vehicles has been in an accident, at least not when under computer control (one Google self-driving automobile was involved in an accident while under human control).
When the project was initially launched two years ago, Google noted that 1.2 million lives were lost each year in traffic accidents and the search giant hoped to develop technologies to help reduce the number of traffic fatalities. The national average accident rate in 2009 within the United States worked out to about .366 per 100,000 vehicle miles driven.
Google has given its cars an edge on the accident front by operating them in environments that are easy to tackle. For instance, Google's automated fleet drives on mostly dry roads in moderate conditions. Google does want to begin testing its vehicles in harsher conditions, such as snow in the future.

Analyst Brian Walker Smith from Stanford Law School says that it is still much too early to say unequivocally that automated vehicles are safer than human driven vehicles. "Google's cars would need to drive themselves (by themselves) more than 725,000 representative miles without incident for us to say with 99 percent confidence that they crash less frequently than conventional cars,” Smith concluded. “If we look only at fatal crashes, this minimum skyrockets to 300 million miles."
Automated vehicle technology still has a long way to go to win approval with drivers and state and local authorities. So far, Utah is one of the few states to allow automated vehicles to drive on public roads.
While fully automated vehicles may be a long way away, many automakers are starting to integrate technologies that will automatically stop a vehicle when an impending accident is sensed. Cadillac has also unveiled technology that will steer a vehicle and operate the brakes and throttle in traffic.

Source: The Atlantic

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I hope they make it
By bug77 on 8/13/2012 9:19:19 AM , Rating: 3
If this works, it would be a tremendous breakthrough. Think of all the SF movies where robots talk among them in English (or at least in audible spectrum). I would assume two robots will talk in binary language and that's precisely what two automated vehicles will do. They won't need to light a bulb/led to signal they want to turn left, they'd broadcast this so that 10 vehicles around them will know what they want to do. This will allow for infinitely better planning.
To get an idea of how much the human factor is hindering traffic, see here:

RE: I hope they make it
By Flunk on 8/13/12, Rating: 0
RE: I hope they make it
By lotharamious on 8/13/2012 9:35:14 AM , Rating: 3
I for one don't see the need to own a car that I don't get to drive myself.

Oh, but I do. I live in a rural area where the shortest trip I need to take is 2 hours. I would love to be able to visit anyone (8 hours in any direction), and not actually have to drive. How wonderful!

RE: I hope they make it
By bug77 on 8/13/2012 9:37:59 AM , Rating: 4
Why would we need automated cars?

Cheaper taxis and trucking for starters? Also, look at the link I posted, I really didn't see that one coming.

And nobody's funneling any money, it's just Google spending their cash as they see fit, can't see why you'd have a problem with that.

RE: I hope they make it
By Rukkian on 8/13/2012 9:55:30 AM , Rating: 2
Because not everybody lives in a major metropolitan, and stays only within that same metro.

I used to live in Minneapolis, and while they had a pretty good bus system, it only really worked if you lived or worked downtown. I lived in the burbs and worked in the burbs, but would have had to take a bus downtown, then back out to my work, making a 10min commute take 1hour+.

Now I live in the Des Moines, IA area and currently have a 60 mile one way commute (until I find something closer), and I doubt any public transit would make sense for that case either.

I would love to have a vehicle that I could drive if I wanted, or just put it on auto-pilot for the long car rides, and that is what these vehicles offer. I would also like it if we could make the average commute have less backups, and fix some of the idiots that have no idea how to drive, or are trying to text/read/shave/whatever while driving.

RE: I hope they make it
By Helbore on 8/13/2012 11:01:47 AM , Rating: 5
There are lots of good reasons. A machine has quicker "reflexes." Automated cars can drive closer together, reducing congestion. Machines can't go drink-driving. Machines won't get tired on long journeys. They won't get distracted by phones or passengers. Cars can be sent home and called to retrieve you in poor parking areas. Some people are crap drivers, but need a car anyway.

All this whilst having the obvious convenience of a car over public transport (no fixed routes, no sharing with annoying strangers, no stopping to pick other people up on a regular basis, etc)

There are so many useful practical applications for an automated car that its unbelievable some people can't see them.

RE: I hope they make it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/13/12, Rating: -1
RE: I hope they make it
By JDHammer on 8/13/2012 12:39:41 PM , Rating: 2
Well, that would be awesome if we could call our cars KITT
Nothing like a car that talks to you and holds a convo! Now if they could do that, sign me up!


RE: I hope they make it
By Helbore on 8/13/2012 12:42:43 PM , Rating: 3
The idea of a flawless system where traffic and wrecks are eliminated by some automatic driving systems are a fantasy. You're living with your head in the clouds.

Of course it wouldn't be flawless. I never said it would be. I also never claimed there wouldn't be drawbacks. I simply stated that there are many potential benefits to this.

AHAHAHA!!! Like the Batmobile? HAHAH!! Dude, that will be the day. Holy shit, I haven't laughed that hard in weeks. You really believe this shit, don't you

Is there any need to be a cock about it? How about just politely responding, instead of throwing out insults?

If the cars are fully-automated, why wouldn't it be possible for them to come and collect you? They're doing all the driving. You have GPS on you, so it can determine your current location. It's hardly impossible. It's not going to be available next year and probably not in 5-10 years. But it isn't impossible.

Thinking "it cannot be done," is what leads to technology stagnation. The technology is here NOW for a machine to locate your current position. The technology is here NOW to allow a machine to plan a route. The Google car proves that the technology for a vehicle to safely navigate a road on its own is at least possible, even if its practical ability remains - as yet - unproven.

Seriously, think about all the technology we have today that people would have laughed at in the past.

RE: I hope they make it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/13/12, Rating: -1
RE: I hope they make it
By blue_urban_sky on 8/13/2012 1:36:53 PM , Rating: 3
With NOBODY in the car to "go manual" in case something breaks with the system or the car? Dude that's nuts! Would you trust that?

I'd trust a computer. At the end of the day accidents are physics at work, A computer can compute the trajectory of everything around it. It can also run probability analysis to take other humans into account. and as for system malfunction, you would hope that there would be redundant systems on the redundant systems.

What if someone wrecks your car? Oh let me guess, the car will automatically text you that it was in a wreck right?

I'd hope so, as well as informing the emergency services.

If your car runs over someone and kills them while it was driving itself, who do we blame? Who gets sued?

the person hit I would have guessed. Driving is based on relatively simple rules that a computer would always stick to. Add to that cameras and a black box recording everything.

This is fundamentally different. Nice try attempting to paint anyone with objections to this as some kind of Luddite.

I don't think he was inferring that, you were aggressive and sounded like it could never happen, which is clearly false as its all a question of time scale.

It's 2012 and computer AI frankly still sucks. It's going to take amazing AI for something like this to actually work in real life conditions for prolonged periods of time.

They can beat a human at chess tho...

RE: I hope they make it
By Helbore on 8/13/2012 1:41:29 PM , Rating: 4
You seem to want to turn this into some sort of "pro-autocar" vs. "anti-autocar," fight.

I said the technology has potential and that potential is fairly obvious. I haven't suggested that its a guaranteed success or that it doesn't come with problems.

The difference is I am willing to accept there are possibilities and they are worth considering. You are dismissing something because you can't see how it would be any good with our current technology.

I don't disagree with any of the negatives you've posted. They're all real issues. But then there are negatives with anything. You could easily post a list of negatives against anyone having a car of any type. It doesn't erase the existence of the positive points and stating a lack of technical capability certainly isn't a reason to consider the development of future technologies.

If you told a biplane pilot in WW1 that it might be a good idea to have the plane be able to fly itself, he might think its a good idea in theory, but bloody impossible in principle. He probably would laugh at the notion of it actually being possible. If the idea ended there, then we wouldn't have autopilots on modern aircraft.

Future tech is developed by the "wouldn't it be great if..." brigade. Granted, they don't always come out with a success - but they're more likely to than those who say "it can't be done with what is available now, so why bother?"

RE: I hope they make it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/13/12, Rating: -1
RE: I hope they make it
By Helbore on 8/13/2012 2:24:08 PM , Rating: 3
Well maybe if you explained first computers and GPS and modern avionics, he would have a more firm grasp on the autopilot concept. Also explain to him that it just holds a speed and course, not actually "flies" the plane. But I digress, this is another stupid analogy. The idea of a self-driving car isn't some super futuristic mind-blowing idea!

I think you missed the point entirely, which is why you think its a stupid analogy. I'm not suggesting someone from the future goes back to speak to a WW1 pilot. I'm suggesting someone of that era had the "crazy idea," of a plane that could fly itself.

Perhaps if someone came back from the future and explained the advancements in computer technology, then you would have a more firm grasp on the autocar concept.

But then actually suggesting that might happen really would be silly! The point is, none of us know what technology will definitively be able to do in the future. That's why we research new ideas.

Well yes, that's generally step #1 of any discussion I enter :) Divide and conquer!

Again, you seem to be spectacularly missing the point. You cannot make this "pro. vs. anti," because I am not picking a side and defending it as a definite, unalterable position. I am not pro or anti. I am interested in the possibilities of the technology.

All you are doing is fighting an enemy that isn't there.

I already did that though. The difference is I applied realism, logic, and common sense. It's a radical concept called "critical thinking".

But you don't have all the variables. None of us do. This is an emerging technology. You are dismissing it based on current limitations. That's not "critical thinking," that is jumping to conclusions and stubbornly sticking to an opinion.

Can you honestly say you can see no positive possibilities to an automated car? I'm not saying that they outweigh the negatives or that there aren't any negatives - only "can you see that there are positive points?"

RE: I hope they make it
By Ammohunt on 8/13/12, Rating: 0
RE: I hope they make it
By Helbore on 8/13/2012 4:23:21 PM , Rating: 3
Considering most of the other points you bring up seem to be in relation to "pro-choice," then assumedly you are not against the development of automated cars? Fair enough if you don't want to use one - but I assume you are not against other peoples' rights to buy and use them.

RE: I hope they make it
By Ammohunt on 8/13/2012 10:06:56 PM , Rating: 2
develope all you want until it becomes a government mandate.

RE: I hope they make it
By avxo on 8/13/2012 7:33:36 PM , Rating: 3
Also explain to him that it just holds a speed and course, not actually "flies" the plane.

I normally don't feed the trolls, but what the hell, it's Monday!

Commercial jetliners spend most of their flight time actually flying themselves, not just "holding speed and course." Airlines have found that it is much more efficient and results in less wear and tear on the airplane.

The course is, by and large, pre-programmed, but the auto-pilot has the authority to actually adjust the parameters up to a certain percent.

The only reason we have warm bodies up there is because we, collectively, feel warm and fuzzy about knowing a pilot is up there, wearing his trusty goggles and weathered leather jacket, using the experience collected over thousands of hours of flight, to guide us safely to our destination.

Of course, we feel warm and fuzzy about the pilot but don't realize that on modern fly-by-wire planes the pilot is not actually in command - the plane itself is. Every move the pilot makes is ran through a computer, which evaluates it and decides whether to issue it unaltered, modify it and then issue it, or reject it outright. Why? Because the computer will not allow a pilot to deviate from the flight envelope.

Feel free to think that self-driving cars shouldn't be allowed. You know what they say, opinions are like a certain body-part... But when self-driving cars are allowed on public roads, don't worry; you will be able to "leave" yourself out of it: stay home.

RE: I hope they make it
By chimto on 8/13/2012 8:37:04 PM , Rating: 2
Many fly-by-wire planes would be difficult or impossible to fly by the hands of a human. B2 bomber is a good example. The pilot is only telling the plane where to go when using the controls. The plane is actually making all the decisions on how to use the control surfaces to maintain stablility and get where the pilot wants to go.

RE: I hope they make it
By bug77 on 8/13/2012 12:59:43 PM , Rating: 2
It doesn't have to come close to being flawless, people are rather bad drivers in the first place. It only has to improve on the safety record. The average person has a response time of about a quarter of a second. When doing 60mph, that's 8 yards traveled before you even have a chance to react. And still, one of the biggest advantages would be predictability.
One of the first uses is having a truck convoy automagically follow the leader. Research is pretty advanced in this area already.
And this is not about driving around either, with self-driving vehicles all over the place, taking the car would be like taking the escalator today. But of course, that's the distant future.

There are lots pf things self driving cars can improve upon, but just as usual, there will be downsides. And for that, I think the human driver will live on, if only as an option.

RE: I hope they make it
By HrilL on 8/13/2012 2:08:25 PM , Rating: 2
Having an automated car would save me about $100-200 a month in taxi fees since we all know driving drunk is illegal and not safe. I would be able to have my car drive me home safely and not spend that on Taxis. Also on long road trips it would be nice to sit back and talk to a friend and not worry about driving. This would also allow cars to drive faster than our current speed limits safely so going longer distances would be quicker as well for most people at least. Some already drive a lot faster than the speed limits to cut hours off of a trip.

RE: I hope they make it
By Rukkian on 8/14/2012 8:52:53 AM , Rating: 2
I could also see cheaper auto-taxis (jonnycab?). I would love to not have to drive on long car trips, and either sleep or have a good conversation, as it can be exhausting concentrating on the road for a long period of time.

RE: I hope they make it
By HrilL on 8/14/2012 1:25:58 PM , Rating: 2
Or sit back and watch a movie or tv shows. Pull out the laptop and do some work. Sooo many options.

RE: I hope they make it
By drycrust3 on 8/13/2012 2:40:25 PM , Rating: 2
Why would we need automated cars?

The biggest value of a new technology is something you've never thought of. In this case, we only think of automated cars driving on roads because that is how we think of cars, but the technology has much wider uses. For example, the technology could be used as for fire fighting equipment that allows firemen to stand distant from a major blaze and still fight the fire, or as part of a cleanup after a nuclear disaster, or it could be used in tanks and armoured vehicles in combat zones.
It could even be used for road sweepers that clean the roads in the early hours of the morning, although I personally think I would prefer to employ people to do this work.

RE: I hope they make it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/13/12, Rating: 0
RE: I hope they make it
By Iaiken on 8/13/2012 12:48:24 PM , Rating: 2
Just because it's not for you or not for me doesn't mean self-driving cars are all for naught.

Would I buy one? Never! However, there are certain arenas where they would be hugely useful.

- taxi/shuttle service
- auto shares
- short-haul freight
- people who shouldn't/can't drive themselves

The last reason is actually the most compelling to me since eventually the laws will switch from needing a special license to have an automated car, to needing a special license to drive yourself. The only people driving themselves would be people who actually like to drive and are good at it.

RE: I hope they make it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/13/2012 1:00:18 PM , Rating: 2
The last reason is actually the most compelling to me since eventually the laws will switch from needing a special license to have an automated car, to needing a special license to drive yourself. The only people driving themselves would be people who actually like to drive and are good at it.

And that's how it starts folks...

I'm not surprised that YOU would favor discriminatory and arbitrary standards designed to marginalize those who decide to drive for themselves, but I'll have none of it.

I swear, you collectivists...

RE: I hope they make it
By senecarr on 8/13/2012 1:19:27 PM , Rating: 2
Because people that drive their own car now don't need a special license? Damn, what have I been doing waiting at the Secretary of State (your area might call it DMV) every few years? And then paying them on top of it.

RE: I hope they make it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/13/2012 1:29:28 PM , Rating: 2
Yes but it sounds like to me he wants lax standards for those who would let their car drive for them. Which is just a very BAD idea. We have to treat everyone equally and assure that everyone at least have a minimum of driver knowledge and ability, regardless of whatever technology might be in their vehicle.

RE: I hope they make it
By Helbore on 8/13/2012 1:46:19 PM , Rating: 2
So everyone should only be licensed to drive a manual car right now, right? No more automatic licenses for those who don't like gear shifts.

RE: I hope they make it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/13/2012 1:52:39 PM , Rating: 2
Where did I say that? Wtf are you even talking about? Reading comprehension isn't your friend apparently.

RE: I hope they make it
By foolsgambit11 on 8/13/2012 2:20:31 PM , Rating: 2
Let's put it this way: should everyone be required to take their driving test on a manual transmission with no power steering or power brakes?

To use an analogy, driving by hand would be like being an EMT, while the training the average car owner would get would be more like a Red Cross First Aid course. Prepared to handle exigencies, but not fully versed in the minutiae.

RE: I hope they make it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/13/2012 2:22:27 PM , Rating: 2
There's a HUGE difference between those transmissions, and not driving at ALL. And you know it.

Come on, enough with the silliness. You're not going to get away with not taking a driving test because under some circumstances your car might be able to drive itself. That's silliness.

RE: I hope they make it
By ArcliteHawaii on 8/13/2012 6:20:41 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure your ability to drive yourself isn't in danger of being affected for the next 30 years or so. However, once self driving cars are mainstream and statistically proven to be less accident prone than humans, human driving will become more regulated and more expensive. It may take a couple of decades to get the technology right, but I think it's a forgone conclusion a computer will be a superior driver than a human given that it will have 360 vision, faster reaction times, can be programmed for the correct avoidance response for multiple incoming vectors, never gets drunk or sleepy, etc. etc. The government will probably mandate that most mass produced cars at least have the option for self driving, even if they are capable of manual driving. And insurance companies will increase your car insurance if you choose to drive yourself, or may even refuse to cover you at all like some housing insurance refuses to cover houses in flood zones for example since they are too high risk.

RE: I hope they make it
By Reclaimer77 on 8/13/2012 7:17:35 PM , Rating: 2

The scenario you describe is a literal nightmare. What a horrible horrible future to have to live in. You're talking yet another massive blow to freedom and liberty, courtesy of Government mandates.

Anyone who thinks that's an ideal situation is a seriously mentally disturbed person. We'll just have to hope that something drastic happens to prevent the travesty.

RE: I hope they make it
By Iaiken on 8/14/2012 11:34:19 AM , Rating: 2
You're talking yet another massive blow to freedom and liberty, courtesy of Government mandates.

You don't even need the government mandate for that to happen, market forces will make it happen as insurance companies will eventually either refuse to insure human drivers, or charge them such ridiculous rates that only the rich could afford it.

RE: I hope they make it
By Helbore on 8/13/2012 2:33:06 PM , Rating: 2
Manners really aren't your thing, are they?

You can already get different classes of licenses for different types of vehicles. Vehicle licensing isn't on an even footing at the moment.

RE: I hope they make it
By Iaiken on 8/13/2012 3:40:38 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not surprised that YOU would favor discriminatory and arbitrary standards designed to marginalize those who decide to drive for themselves, but I'll have none of it.

The comprehension is not strong with this one...

YOU already need a special license to drive for yourself.

Do you feel marginalized now? The difference between the two licenses in the future is that one needn't be predicated upon the other license to get the other.

You may return to your regularly scheduled freak-out...

RE: I hope they make it
By bh192012 on 8/13/2012 1:48:57 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, but it's still a long way off. From the linked article (which this article glosses over apparently)

"A passenger has been present to make minor adjustments, like when a bicyclist ran a red light during a recent test drive."

That's not an ...... adjustment........ that defeats the purpose of an automatic car if you can't relax. I'm guessing this is the type of thing they're trying to fix, but it's a difficult problem.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith
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