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Google Designing Cars That Drive Themselves
Are you feeling lucky?

 10:14 pm on Oct 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

There is even the farther-off prospect of cars that do not need anyone behind the wheel. That would allow the cars to be summoned electronically, so that people could share them. Fewer cars would then be needed, reducing the need for parking spaces, which consume valuable land.

Of course, my first thought was how I had been working with Google Maps for months to get one small locality I work with moved correctly placed in the US instead of the UK.

Anyway, I'm being clever. Interesting story.



 12:07 am on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Pie in the sky nonsense...

If I get run over by a computer, who do I sue, the owner of the computer or the programmer? The owner will rightly say the programmer is responsible but the EULA for the software will disclaim all liability. And then of course, someone might blame the hardware, someone else might blame a lack of software upgrades, and then someone else might blame the lack of software upgrades on faulty network software. And we haven't even started to talk about CPU fans, dry heat-sink couplings, dust, etc.

Ok, Apple could bring out an iChauffeur that includes all the hardware and software but we've still got that EULA to deal with that will disclaim all liability which means that insurance companies will ban them until they are proven to be safer than humans and how is that going to be achieved given that insurance companies won't permit their use.



 1:18 am on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Come on. Apple would never build an iChauffeur - no Flash allowed, remember? :-) Maybe an iPlane . . . .


 12:49 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Its going to be legally difficult, but automated cars will probably be a lot safer than human drivers: they will not get drunk, they will not get tired, they will not get distracted, etc.

We rely on automated systems to do things that much much more important, although we usually have human supervision when consequences of failure will be really severe (e.g. an autopilot).


 2:25 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

automated cars will probably be a lot safer than human drivers

Who will stand up for humans!


 3:27 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Wouldn't it be much easier to set up some kind of guidance system instead of this autonomous automation? For example on highways? Simply put transmitters in cars which keep the distance to the other cars and other transmitters at the side of the road which keep the car on the road? I don't think automation that relies on a computer that assesses its environment will work in the near future.


 3:29 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Too many distractions now with more to come. Coupled with legislators who want to criminalize what comes natural to humans (poor judgment, stupidity, brain farts, etc.) vehicles that operate without human intevention are inevitable.


 3:52 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

so that people could share them.

LOL, seriously...who writes this stuff?


 4:17 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

vehicles that operate without human intevention are inevitable

vehicles : yes - they already exist, e.g. the space shuttle
cars : no - it may happen eventually, but the most advanced microprocessors and software are nowhere near doing the job. In the UK there are roadworks everywhere (with very little happening most of the time). Until we have genuine artifical intelligence (i.e. skynet/terminator level intelligence) there is no chance of computers being able to cope.

Maybe, just maybe, current CPU designs will suffice as they become more advanced, but current software designs will never be able to achieve the intelligence levels required.



 7:10 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

You're thinking too narrowly kaled. Full autonomy is not required and AI is not necessary. I'm thinking about a modified infrastructure approach.


 2:21 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think that there will be liability issues but really this is just a natural progression/marriage of cruise control and gps. there were issues when cruise control first came into existence and look at it now, try finding a new car without cruise and I have yet to see raise in my insurance premiums because my cars have cruise. the benefits are too positive to be ignored; fuel economy, reduced traffic congestion, safety features to make us better drivers. One downside (not really) that could be argued is the reduction, if not elimination, of revenue from traffic violations but I'm not sure how our local municipalities will argue that one without looking like idiots.


 6:38 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I wonder what the opponents of Google Street View will do when they realize that soon people can actually drive out and look at their homes in real time and 3D. There will be riots on the street.


 6:46 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I saw that on TV. Way cool. They said in test runs there was only one accident and that was when the robot car got rear ended at a stop sign by one of those old fashioned human drivers.


 8:25 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

They said in test runs there was only one accident
The issue is not how many accidents occurred, the issue is how many interventions were required by the human supervisor - the statement with respect to accidents (or lack of) is just spin!

lawman said
You're thinking too narrowly kaled. Full autonomy is not required and AI is not necessary. I'm thinking about a modified infrastructure approach.

I'm going to be blunt - it's what I do best...

You're not thinking at all. We have electrical/electronic infrastructure on the roads already, have you never seen traffic lights? I'm guessing you have seen traffic lights but have you ever seen traffic lights that are guaranteed to never go wrong? Have you any idea how much it costs to install a set of traffic lights? Have you any idea what it would cost to install the infrastructure you're talking about? Have you any idea how long it would take? Your suggestion of using advanced infrastructure to automate driving is even more of a white elephant than what Google is trying to do.

Just for the record, I have a degree in Cybernetics (albeit a long time ago) so I do know what I'm talking about.



 9:29 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

does that google car already know where you want to go?
when you ask for the car to take you to your mom's does it suggest "Did you mean Mama's Pizza?"
does it "instantly" change direction as you vocalize each syllable of your destination depending on what it thinks you're about to say?
can you turn safe mode off?


 10:40 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hello kaled:

I never set a timeline, never said it should be done all at once, never limited the method, and never said it would be cheap. I just said it was inevitable.

For the record, I don't have a Skynet degree but hold a ThD (Doctor of Thinkology) and firmly believe that the sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side.


 12:09 pm on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

It is hardly inevitable that we will spend billions upgrading roads and billions more upgrading cars when the only benefit is that cars will do what they do already (albeit with human help) but possibly not as well.



 4:06 pm on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I want to know how effectively any of these automated systems can react to fast-moving people or animals crossing the road unexpectedly, perhaps emerging from close-growing shrubs, etc.

For instance, say I'm driving along a narrow, winding country road with small trees and shrubs on each side. There's a light breeze and the foliage is waving gently. Up ahead I see a deer browsing just inside the undergrowth. I recognize it immediately, and my response is to slow down, possibly move to the center of the road, and watch for any signs of the deer turning to dart across my path.

But would a computer be able to make that distinction? Based on other attempts I've seen of computers trying to distinguish images, my guess is that my Googlecar would either, a.) Drive at a snail's pace the entire way because it can't tell the moving foliage isn't alive, or, b.) completely overlook the deer and plow into it at 55mph when it gets startled and makes a dash for it when the car is too close to stop or swerve.

Or, what about that low, small object moving across the interstate? Will the computer know the difference between an empty paper sack and a more dangerous item....say, a skunk?


 4:19 pm on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Driving a car vs. flying an airplane- which is more difficult?

car: 2 dimensions (x & y axes); plane: 3 dimensions (x, y, and z axes)
car: usually less than 70 mph; plane: 600+ mph
car: follow the paved road, avoid other vehicles; plane: follow the flight plan, avoid mountains and tall buildings, avoid bad weather, avoid other flying objects

We already have planes in production and every day use that can fly and even land themselves.


 4:23 pm on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's all about flying cars really and they'll be much easier to automate than driving ones.

I'd never buy a automated car from google. Who do you speak to when it goes wrong? No problem darling, let me just check the FAQ's for heading off a cliff...


 5:19 pm on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

My automated google car will recognize the heat signature of various animals, so it knows which ones to repel with a species-specific high frequency sound beam, and which ones to harvest and package.

Mmmmmm, animals...


 5:19 pm on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

A car from Google? :-) I bet those are the cars that tells you "Take a right turn" with a Scottish accent while you are driving on the middle of them bridges. Not that depressed really. :-) I've reached DEAD END streets following G. driving directions before.

They turned off 411 or are about to. Google smart cars will go the same route. The project will be abandoned. It's in Google's dna to be a quitter.


 6:08 pm on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

If the Google car works like Google it will go something like this:

You will tell the car to drive to Paris in Denmark [da.wikipedia.org] however Google will detect by your accent that you are french and must be mistaken. It will correct your "mistake" and will take you to the french capital.


 6:56 pm on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Driving a car vs. flying an airplane- which is more difficult?
For a computer, driving a car is far more complicated than an aircraft because of the enormous variety of road types, conditions and obstacles that have to be handled and also the density of traffic.

For those that are interested, I believe that Concorde could land on autopilot in thick fog from day one, that was over thirty years ago, before the first IBM or Apple personal computers. Also, standard autopilot functions go back much further, completely pre-dating computers altogether.

Google doesn't spend vast sums on advertising so it can afford to throw money at the electronic equivalent of a Victorian folly - some people are guaranteed to be impressed and that's what counts. There are millions of people out there that think "cloud computing" is the future simply because other people say so (five of them are presenters on the Gadget Show in the UK).

I'm tempted to start a thread on dumb ideas that people believe - would anyone else like to go first?



 7:04 pm on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm tempted to start a thread on dumb ideas that people believe - would anyone else like to go first?

I have high confidence that no one could top your list of dumb ideas so you might as well go first - in a new thread of course. ;)


 8:21 pm on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Driving a car vs. flying an airplane- which is more difficult?
The sheer volume of ground-based traffic is vastly higher than what an airplane has to deal with, plus that volume is crowded into a much smaller area - namely, roads. ;)

Plus, I suspect that variables in the road itself are far more complicated to a computer than the z axis could be.


 12:55 am on Oct 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

the sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side

stick to law, man.
the pythagorean theorem only applies to right triangles.
and the "remaining side" specifically must be the hypotenuse.


 10:44 am on Oct 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

Car crashes are an accepted fact of life in a way aircraft crashes are not. Automated cars do not need to be anywhere near as safe as aircraft.


 1:36 pm on Oct 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

But automated cars do need to be safer than non-automated cars.

Comparisons with aircraft are nonsensical for reasons too numerous, too complex and too pointless to discuss. However, it is perhaps worth noting that fully-automated systems exist only in aircraft costing many millions of dollars - I don't think you can buy a single-engined Cessna that can take off and land by itself - but that should be achievable.


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