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back to article VW to eliminate worst road hazard: drivers

Soon you won't own a car, but one will come to you on its own when you call it, then whisk you away in perfect safety without you having to drive it — and that day may be closer than you think. "If you ask, 'Is it a future story you're telling us?' No, it's not," said Burkhard Huhnke, executive director of the Volkswagen Group …

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Eliminate the worst road hazard, or become the worst road hazard?

"Well, you couldn't imagine: after a few seconds, they already took the newspaper and read the news articles. So they trusted already the machine, which was great."

Actually, I could, because I've seen people do just as bad while still driving on the road, and there's been cases where people have thought cruise control did just that. It's really easy to gain misplaced trust.

Having been a tow truck driver, I've seen not just driver error but sensor failures (VWs are particularly bad for the brake sensor ), mechanical failures (VW locks are also bad), computer glitches (Ever had to disconnect the battery of a BMW or Buick to reboot the car?), etc, etc.

Problem becomes where you either cannot or do not override the system when the system fails. It's like the issue how antilock brakes haven't reduced crashes because people start relying on them in ways that balance out all the benefits. ( http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060927201332.htm )

Let's run the blind curve scenario again, but instead of a downed car, it's a tree. Now the driver not only doesn't get a warning, but will be less likely to take action when they don't get a warning. Too rare on the freeway? Fine, how about a person walking away from their downed car. Still too unlikely? Fine, in places where car safety is needed most, cars are grandfathered in, so most vehicles (Especially large expensive ones like big rigs) would be invisible to communications. Replace the nation's entire car fleet, you say? Sure. But then when a car stopped because the alternator died*, there'd be no power for communications.

It's a cute idea, but the car-of-the-future plans they were spouting only work on a closed and tightly controlled test track.

*This is something common enough that some auto clubs offer roadside alternator replacement.

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no worse

So if it's a tree, or a pedestrian or an old vehicle the situation is no worse than today.

Currently if any of those things are around a blind corner, you run into them. Assuming you can't stop in time or go around them.

With a smart car, you still run into them.

Of course the smart car might have radar and laser sensors, and hit the brakes a lot faster than you would have done. So maybe you run into them at a lower speed.

Overall though, you've gained the ability to not run into a smart enabled car around that blind corner, and maybe reduce the severity of running into other objects. You're definitely no worse off than before though.

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if any of those things are around a blind corner, you run into them...

.... Assuming you can't stop in time or go around them.

If you can't stop in time or go around them then you are driving *TOO FAST* for the circumstances (NB this is not the same as speeding because you could be below the limit but on a slippery road or in situations where visibility is reduced)

Any computer controlled system *MUST* be able to adequately calculate the appropriate speed for the conditions and adjust it accordingly, otherwise it will be just as dangerous as drivers who think that 80mph is a safe speed on a foggy motorway...

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Badgers

Right. Why were they "merely speeding around the curve" to begin with?

"If you can't stop in time or go around them then you are driving *TOO FAST* for the circumstances (NB this is not the same as speeding because you could be below the limit but on a slippery road or in situations where visibility is reduced)"

Exactly. Why I slammed this example was because the way this was presented was such that it's likely that it'd give a false sense of security. Why drive slowly? I've got Fog Lights! Why be careful about turns with icy roads? I've got All Wheel Drive with Traction Control! Why take this freeway onramp slowly? I've got VW-Branded Computing! The article already demonstrated a scary amount of undeserved trust, with drivers reading newspapers.

I suppose it's all moot, and hopefully we'll get something that is actually beneficial, and therefore, won't be all attention-getting and thus never covered; to silently assist, not replace. No batmobile-esque autopilot, just sensors that might slow down the car in dangerous curves, prime the brakes and downshift to react quicker if something's ahead, or maybe assist the air bag AI to reduce false positives and false negatives.

Or, knowing car manufacturers, a hidden phone-home to alert the local dealer to pester you to come in for some expensive needed maintenance.

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FAIL

Huhnke envisioned a blind curve, around which a car has broken down in your lane

"...Rather than merely speeding around the curve and plowing into the rear of that stopped vehicle..."

Rather obvious but what if something other than an intelligent car is in your path? A person for instance, one who hadn't yet signed all free choice over to the machines. Or a fallen tree or rock slide. To take this into consideration manufacturers will program their cars to slow down for blind corners and take other sensible, existing precautions - thereby eliminating the need for a hugely complex and vulnerable network of moving vehicles.

Also at fail is the very concept of sharing cars. Nobody wants to give up their favourite possession, we love our cars too much. Nobody will ever want to risk getting a car on saturday night with a puddle of someone else's sick in the back, or worse! Fleet companies will try to cut corners too by having only enough cars for average load, cue hour-long waits for your ride to find you.

Lastly how is a long stretch of open road supposed to be annoying? That's the perfect time to go really, really fast.

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re: Huhnke envisioned a blind curve...

"Lastly how is a long stretch of open road supposed to be annoying? That's the perfect time to go really, really fast..."

Damn' right, man. Time to put the top down, crank up the stereo, and put the pedal to the metal.

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Terminator

Lowest common denominator

"Lastly how is a long stretch of open road supposed to be annoying? That's the perfect time to go really, really fast."

The thoughts of an individualist - they'll get you for that! One place where something like this could work well would be traffic jams; traffic might actually flow better with machines paying attention than it ever would with idiots checking on social networking sites rather than driving. Problem: somebody in government decides they haven't had a power fix in too long and changes the carbon allowance or whatever it is, and the next thing you know, the cars don't move as well as they once did.

The other problem: the "I'm scared" button on the dashboard that slows the car by 20% or whatever would be deemed safe. It would get added, perhaps for good reason. But the people who respond well to OnStar adds will never let go of the damn thing and completely louse up traffic.

It will be illegal to pass, of course, so you get to sit behind the guy who is either afraid to travel at reasonable speed OR thinks he's better than everyone else and knows that they should be spending more time in traffic in the name of safety and saving the planet. The fact that it wastes lots of fuel with all the cars idling for no reason is unimportant to him.

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Joke

@Mike Flugennock

Herr Flugennock

Your individualist tendencies have been noted by the team and will be dealt with an an appropriate manner.

The VW Driver Profiling Safety Team.

"Knowing you better than you know yourself for your own safety."

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Go

Infrastructure

While I do not doubt for one minute the feasability of Burkhard Huhnke's remarks, one area he appears to have glossed over is the requirement for some sort of infrastructure so that his cars know where the road is, and agreement on standards so that only one variety of infrastructure is required.

I agree fully with his comments about under- and over- challenging situations. I used to drive trucks around Europe, and, a common response when told what my occupation was ' Oh, that must be exciting !' . No, getting exciting usually meant it was getting dangerous, and it is not a good idea getting dangerous with 40 tons at 90 KPH ! It's an awful lot of energy. But it could be bloody boring.

Chris Cosgrove

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Anonymous Coward

Agreed and this may be mentioned below but...

What if I take my fully equipped UK car to the continent? Prorite a Droite? Or are we anticipating all vehicles on all roads being fully equipped - I think not.....

How will the technology deal with horses and other (non-driving) bovines? Elk? Aliens come to abduct me - sorry, they'd override the systems!

This is a nice idea as a stalking horse - so to speak - but cars are controlled by drivers and always should be. Only drivers should be required to appear in a court of law.

If you want to give up responsibility, take a public transport boat, plane or train.

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FAIL

Not going to happen.

In 20 years time, liquid or gasseous fuel, or electricity will be so expensive, that no-one but the elite would be able to afford it.

And by that stage, collision avoidance had better be advanced enough, because the super-fast cars will need some way to avoid the remainder of the population who's fallen back to using horses and fucking bulls to do their towing.

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Not again...

"""In 20 years time, liquid or gasseous fuel, or electricity will be so expensive, that no-one but the elite would be able to afford it."""

I'm really tired of this 'The world/society/time will end before then, why bother even trying to innovate" argument.

You do realize that your prediction is roughly equal to a total, world-wide socio-economical breakdown, right? And with so much evidence to back up your wild claims. I imagine you were thinking of peak oil or similar, but you didn't even bother to mention. In any case, if you believe the peak oil nonsense, then you shouldn't be sitting and complaining, you should invest in a few oil wells, then leave them full of oil until crude goes to $400 / barrel. Then you'll have shown us all.

I just hope they take a decade or so to secure all of this (Like most other industries that can't learn from others' mistakes...) so I can have a "Get the fuck out of my lane I don't have time for you fools" button. The first few iterations will probably have open Windows file shares, default passwords, buffer overflows, unencrypted wireless, and some implementation bugs build into the standardized protocols. I can't wait.

What are the chances that this future infrastructure would be open source, rather than closed, and used in various anti-competitive ways? What the hell will cops do for fun and income, with no speeders to catch?

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Badgers

/rimshot

"And by that stage, collision avoidance had better be advanced enough, because the super-fast cars will need some way to avoid the remainder of the population who's fallen back to using horses and fucking bulls to do their towing."

You're suggesting we'll be fucking bulls to do our towing?

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Flame

EXTREME PORNTHOUGHT!

Lock that man up, then burn him!

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FAIL

@Nexox Enigma

Did you just say what I think you said? Essentially "peak oil is never going to happen?" That's the dumbest damned thing I have ever heard. Where exactly do you think it comes from? God makes it and puts it in the ground for good little Texans to find?

There may be debate on the WHEN peak oil will happen, (quite a few believe we have already hit it,) but it is 100% inevitable. Given that, it makes more sense to me to invest in methods of propelling our cars without requiring portable chemical fuels. “The Grid” isn’t a magical source of energy, but there is a damned sight more coal than there is Oil left, and if we really get desperate there is always solar, wind and even wood burning..

If, as a society, we are going to invest in essentially ripping up our transportation infrastructure to install a bunch of sensors, guides, beacons and other goodies to allow vehicles to drive autonomously, we should seriously consider installing some sort of track system similar to light rail transit by which vehicles can continuously draw energy from the grid while driving.

There has to be a way to accomplish this without requiring either rails or overhead power lines. Preferably one that isn’t as ridiculously inefficient as inductive charging. I can think of a few ideas right off the top of my head, though they would need refinement. IF we start installing that sort of infrastructure now, alongside the beacons and sensors and whatnot, then I think we will be far further along preparing for the future than simply believing God Provideth Our Oil (or other such abiogenic nonsense) and pretending the looming energy crisis doesn’t exist.

What matters is collectively coming to a few agreements.

First: there is a looming energy crisis; this involves telling the oil companies to shut the fuck up and stay out of the negotiations for once.

Second: Even if the energy crisis is a ways off, as a society we can’t afford to keep burning our precious fossil fuels for personal transport. We need those hydrocarbons for plastics and other petrochemical industries we don’t have the technology to replace with alternates yet.

Third: We need to agree on standards. Standards for energy transfer to vehicles, standards for the beacons and sensors required to have pilotless aircraft, driverless cars and all other such things. There are some problems that transcend national borders, and the petty bickering is delaying the research and implementation which will do nothing but drive up the TCO.

Lastly: We need to come up with a way to address privacy concerns inherent in a society where all movement by all citizens is tracked. If your driverless car is responding to beacons on the road and has an array of sensors of it’s on, it is only a matter of time before someone starts recording the information collected and transmitting it centrally. We need to look at these issues BEFORE they become a problem, and legislate accordingly. (Otherwise you get some uppity island government telling everyone their privacy laws are invalid and spying on all of its citizens even whilst it is being sued and sanctioned for its misdeeds. Ooops…)

I am sorry, but when it comes to something as important to the lives of so many as personal transportation, the issues aren’t simple. They are complex and integrated into issues from the personal to the international. As a global society we need to grow the fuck up, stop it will the selfish reactionary bullshit and start actually PLANNING for the future.

Be PROactive rather than REactive; if you head of as many problems as you can before they arrive, that leaves you more time and resources to deal with the ones you didn’t expect and couldn’t have anticipated.

It’s a bloody shame that personal greed is always standing in the way. Someone stop the world: I want off.

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looking forward to it

Much prefer a CPU to a... mobile using/map reading/paper work doing/fapping/sleeping/dropped CD finding retard homo sapien any day.

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FAIL

You'd rather trust the car to some software program developed by the lowest bidding software body shop in whatever is the cheapest labour cost country at the time? Because that's who will be designing, writing and testing the software when it gets to the commercialisation stage.

I've spent many years in the software industry and even if they chose the highest bidder in the most expensive country, I still wouldn't trust it, because I know that testing is the area that corners are cut. Why do you think every software EULA explicitly denies all liability for injury or loss (life, money etc).

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Dead Vulture

@AC

Um...have you MET any actual homo sapiens sapiens? By and large, not the most alert, proactive or cautious bunch. Pretty much regulated by instinct, immediate desires/greed and distracted by shiny things.

Sure, a computer might screw up every now and again, and someone will die. Maybe even a few someones. A patch will be issued, we’ll learn a few things and our technology will advance. The point is that when you compare the operational record of software to that of wetware, I would be willing to bet my life and that of my loved ones on the fact that overall the number of collisions will decrease. Not only that, but the collisions that do occur will be far less deadly.

Just because a software based transportation system won’t be perfect doesn’t mean it won’t be a significant improvement over a wetware based one. If we can get the accident rate of automotive transportation down to even that of the airline industry, it would be a spectacular improvement.

What is it with commenters on this site? “If the solution proposed isn’t absolutely perfect, then bin it because WE’RE TERRIFIED OF ANY CHANGE.” You know what, I’m a bloody luddite. I abhor change in most forms unless there is a damned good reason for it. I don’t believe in the concept that “because it’s new” is a valid reason for ANYTHING.

Taking that into consideration, I STILL think that software is superior to wetware for most tasks. It’s far more predictable and it doesn’t get distracted. I mean, $deity man! They’ve got airplanes now that can do mid-air refuelling entirely autonomously. Do you have ANY COMPREHENSION of how unbelievably difficult that is? Automated carrier landings in rough seas. All this and more is possible, and you are worried that the computer is going to screw up something as simple as collision avoidance on a hiway? Please.

The failure rates of even the beta level equipment would probably be superior to the most of the arrogant drunken jackasses that crowd the hiways around here. Computers don’t get drunk, tired, impatient, distracted or sleepy. And their reaction time is at least an order of magnitude greater than even the best trained wetware available. You know what else? Computers keep getting faster and more capable all the time. Homo sapiens sapiens, well..

…have you seen Idiocracy?

Tombstone, because software isn't likely to get you there.

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Terminator

Re: FAIL

> "I've spent many years in the software industry and even if they chose the highest bidder in the most expensive country, I still wouldn't trust it, because I know that testing is the area that corners are cut. Why do you think every software EULA explicitly denies all liability for injury or loss (life, money etc)."

You don't generally get to do that in safety critical systems. If you're making fire alarms, life support systems, avionics or (eventually) car autopilots, if you aren't prepared to stand by the quality of your product, you will either a) be ignored by companies who aren't willing to take the blame for your shitty components killing hundreds of people or b) be unable to sell it in the first place without breaking a whole bunch of laws.

A partially automated car network whereby major roads were embedded with guidance and traffic management systems is a much more likely occurrence than VWs pie-in-the-sky dream. Common places to find long, boring journeys and long traffic jams, the benefits of autopiloted cars could be most easily seen with the least investment of effort and in a much more controlled environment with no blind corners or sudden turnings.

Road users could be encouraged to fit autopilots in return for reduced tolls or taxes, or other benefits like dedicated autopilot lanes, etc.

Making a totally general purpose car navigation system is probably an AI-hard problem in any 'legacy' road network that has built on a couple of thousand years worth of farm tracks to produce massively suboptimal routes. I'd be far happier trusting a robot to drive on a multilane trunk road than a twisty back lane, for example.

And this doesn't even begin to consider how loath many people would be to give up car ownership. Still, it got plenty of press attention so I guess it did its job.

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Looking at it the wrong way

Here is a little idea. Why don't we start looking at the car strictly as a tool. We only make it as powerful as it needs to be, so we don't need all the electronics to compensate for the over power and under skills? 60 bhp per tonne would be sufficient.

Parking assist, why? If a driver does not have the skills to park, maybe they should not be on the road.

All of a sudden we have a vehicle that is safer, cleaner and much cheaper. The only electronic that we need is a signal jamming device so imbeciles cannot use their mobile phone while driving. Another step closer to safety heaven.

There are studies in Germany that have shown that by removing road signs and traffic lights in towns, accidents decreased. This is because the driver HAS to concentrate on driving and road rules instead of having such an easy drive that the mind can wonder.

Increase education and decrease horsepower. Technology is not always the answer.

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Miles

I cover well over 30k miles a year for work and personal, I can tell you now there is no way I could do that with 60HP and stay sane!

Also less BHP does not always mean better efficiency, to cruise at 70MPH in a 60BHP car it will be screaming at 5KRPM, this will actually burn more fuel then a 160BHP car sitting at 1.5KRPM.

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wah wah wah

When my life consists only of work then I will start looking at things only as tools.

"Looking at it the wrong way" Translation :-

I don't mind using a shit little car that slowly gets me from A to B but I would feel so much better about it if everyone else was forced to use a shit little car.

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Troll

60 bhp per tonne would be sufficient?

Whaaaaaaaaaaat? Where did you get that silly idea? Maybe it's a typo and you actually mean 600bhp/tonne? YeeHaa! It's possible to accelerate out of trouble you know - a low power car can be bloody dangerous sometimes.

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Badgers

The ultimate in Nanny State meets Technology...

Just take Route 1984 down to the turnpike, and bail out at at the bridge.

Honestly, I sure don't see that idea as it ever actually happening, the whole autobot car thing.

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@C.P. Cosgrove

You are SERIOUSLY underestimating what modern technology can already do.

We can already build fully autonomous cars (It's a DARPA challenge) and while they're not far along enough yet to be reliable enough for widespread use, they do not need expensive infrastructure to know where the road is. They do need GPS to know where they are and where to go, but they use cameras and other sensors of their own to determine where the road is, if there are any obstacles and if there are safe paths around those obstacles.

They can even decide to go off-road to go around an obstacle, if programmed to do so.

The car-wide network, while it might be useful for sharing information where possible, will not be relied on to supply road safety information. It will be used to tell the other cars that there's a traffic jam up ahead and if you can use a different route, you should do so.

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Stop

I can't see why you got downvoted for that post

it seemed sensible.

Except.... What happens when you've got all 850Million cars worldwide automated to the hilt? These autonomous computers use laser scanners, radar, sonar, that sort of thing. There's another order of magnitude increase in complexity required before they'll be able to determine which ranging beams are their own and which are from another car.

Also, for this car-network thing you're talking about all the car manufacturers- and kit car builders and classic car owners- adopting one single common system. This is nigh-on impossible. Even if everything's roughly compatible the manufacturers will be creating their own extensions to the service, which will suck.

Plus I'm not giving anyone the chance to build a remote killswitch into my car. If it's there for the government/police, it's down to the level of any 14 year old script kiddie 10 years later.

I give it 6 months before the first demonstrators on the road start being attacked by GPS jammers/spoofers, laser pens to screw up the rangefinding and so on. 3 years later (if these menaces are ignored by the government), we'll have carbon-composite cars designed to not show up to automated vehicles (say, a matt-black radar absorbant system for the now much easier technology of smuggling- no-one will even know what passed them) and the use of the traffic jam warning system to direct traffic away from politically sensitive (and criminally sensitive) areas.

So C.P. Cosgrove seriously underestimated the level of modern technology. But you underestimated the huge challenges that this technology still has to face before it's anywhere near ready for the mass market.

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re: @C.P.Cosgrove

How right you are. I was driving at a moderate speed recently and approaching traffic lights at a pedestrian crossing. The traffic in the oncoming lane was stationary and the lights green for me. Then a couple of people walked straight out between the other cars and into my path.Whilst I'm pretty sure I had time to stop in this case, I'm also sure that the fact that the radar system on the car alarmed when it 'saw' them and the car's brakes were fully on instead perhaps of my taking a split second to realise I needed full braking meant I stopped sooner than otherwise. I have no doubt that if they had stepped out a fraction later or if I had been going faster, the tech might have made the difference between them looking incredibly embarrassed and being hurt. This, I am sure is only the start of the sort of tech assistance that is bound to prove valuable not just to the idiot who wants to drink his Starbucks and read the paper whilst driving but also to the rest of us who do concentrate on the task in hand!

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FAIL

API

It just requires a standard communications API defining and a common communication medium.

How the process and produce the communication contents would be down to each manunfacturer.

The idea that this would be difficult to do seems ludicrous when you're posting on the internet. We managed a worldwide network of disparate machines and different standards, yet you've managed to post, I've managed to read it and now I'm posting in reply. I doubt that we're using the same machine to do that, or even something made by the same manufacturer. In fact we may well be using a completely different communication technology, 3G, wifi, ethernet, etc...

Identifying your own laser would be trivially simple if you encode a small amount of information in it. Ie, tag it using pulse or frequency modulation.

Nor was there any suggestion that every car would have to use this technology. It's a primary requirement that the cars would work in an environment with other vehicles that aren't using this technology.

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Anonymous Coward

Good job guys.

More reasons why this is a bad idea at present:

Letting the car drive itself as much as possible means the driver gets as little practice as possible, making the driver even more dangerous when (s)he does have to drive the thing.

But if you take away the controls, then it won't be possible to fix some simple problems like getting stuck in a ditch or a patch of mud. Some areas will also be troublesome to instruct the vehicle on where to drive: off road, unmarked parking lots, temporary roads, etc.

Cars might be readily available in downtown and suburb areas, but no one wants to wait several hours for a car to get to them if they're outside the main operating areas, i.e. wilderness recreation areas.

The community bike programs have already shown what happens when there isn't much accountability in who uses them. The bikes just disappeared. Even if the cars were tagged so that they couldn't be taken straight to a chop shop and dismantled, they'd still end up with everything that wasn't tagged being removed and sold. The rental car companies have good ways of dealing with this, but it takes a good amount of time to check in or out a car.

Solutions to most of the problems that have been listed here amount to buying your own car. Make the manufacturer liable for most of the physical problems within a required warranty period and require regular maintenance. Only allow (and require?) automated driving in well controlled areas (perhaps cheap cars would only operate in the city, more expensive ones would come with controls. (Yes, that would suck.))

Far too many scientists and "futurists" simply don't want to acknowledge the realities of human society when they're building their great new future. More and more, the future just looks like the present. But the technology should turn out to be useful in urban areas where many of the issues can be controlled.

Note: Where I live, fallen trees and rock slides aren't terribly common. Far more common to have wildlife, small children or people in the road. Existing technology can handle random obstacles (static or moving,) though.

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I swear it wasn't me officer......

I am telling you it was the car that killed that cyclist

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FAIL

D'ohh, gaahhddd...

...not another goddamn' "in the future your car will drive itself" story. I've been seeing this crap on a regular basis since I first saw it in My Weekly Reader back in the mid '60s, when I was about seven years old. I've become increasingly skeptical in leaps and bounds as each new automotive technological "advance" has only caused more headaches.

Even inasmuch as drivers -- at least on US roads -- have become increasingly retarded by rising orders of magnitude, I'd still rather have humans in control of cars rather than computers, whose instruction sets are written by _humans_ who, experience teaches us, have an amazing propensity towards fallibility.

I think the problem with the current generation of "futurists" is that they're of a generation who spent a large number of hours watching Star Trek, The Jetsons, and Wonderful World Of Disney. Too much goddamn' unfounded optimism, too goddamn' much gee-whizzery, not enough sober, rational realism.

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WTF?

Will the computers get road rage too?

"Asshole, you just cut me off!"

"Asshole does not compute, please respond with course correction data."

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Coat

But I already have a vehicle that I don't need to drive and comes when I signal...

It's called a bus!

I've even got another one that moves on a different level to avoid traffic jams. I call that the underground.

Seriously, these future visions for the car are already achievable (and achieved, in some cities) by public transport, with a lot less energy consumption and pollution. It's amazing that the marketers can persuade people they need cars. What next? They'll persuade people that water is better when bought in bottles? Ah, they've already won!

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Anonymous Coward

re: But I already have a vehicle...

Ah yes... Like trains.... a means of transport that starts from somewhere you don't want to start from and takes you to somewhere you don't want to go to...

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You assume bus service can reach your area...

...which it might not if you're in a less-urban setting. You may also be taking a trip that requires cargo-carrying capacity (this is especially true in the US--hardware stores are some of the biggest retailers around).

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FAIL

Of course, cars are perfect...

@AC - if the planners in your location are that incompetent you should replace them.

@Charles 9 - so you drive around in a 4-wheel drive goods vehicle every day, because you need to move a sofa/freezer etc. up a trackless mountain once a year? I hire the capability (with driver, in most cases) when I need it, and take the bus/train the rest of the time. Hardware stores here provide reasonably-priced delivery.

The point about less-urban settings doesn't work... if the area is really that sparsely populated, it's going to take ages for the magic car to reach you from its last drop-off.

The odd thing is, with a bit of reasonable infrastructure planning and public transport, you can achieve now almost exactly the same as VW's future vision, with the exception of paying VW $$$, and with the benefit of onboard P2P social networking. A triumph of marketing.

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The best way ...

... to improve road safety is to adjust the nut behind the steering wheel.

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Anonymous Coward

this is a title

"The best way to improve road safety is to adjust the nut behind the steering wheel." is not unlike saying "the best way to cure cancer is to develop a pill to stop it" - great idea, but a little short on the practicalities.

My suggestion would be replacing airbags & seatbelts with a nine inch spike in the centre of the steering wheel.

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How to eliminate road hazzards

Require 100 hours book work, then 500 hours of driving practice. Create over passes for bikes and pedestrians . Make it a $1000 fine for pedestrians , bicyclist and cars to cross against the light. $1000 fine for pedestrians and bicyclist to cross at non designated spots . Make all moving violations a crime . No trees near the roads.

Sounds bat shit crazy right ? And yet if we did that I believe you will still have morons on the road .

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Anonymous Coward

Reply to post: How to eliminate road hazzards

Can we get a $10,000 fine for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians or cyclists in the crosswalk then too?

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Kars are King?

Seeng as you have an auto-centric world-view why not just wall the roads in and let the rest of us get on with our lives instead of tyring to legislate us out of existance --remember we was here long before tarmac. Rather than hiding everyone else - hide the cars instead.

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Silver badge

EXACTLY!

"The solution is obvious: get rid of that error-prone driver."

But instead of spending billions or trillions of dollars over the next hundred years or so, how about we actually teach people to drive in the first place, and then verify that they haven't drifted into bad habits every couple years?

Probably a more useful technology would be an electronic box that verifies the current driver's insurance & license before allowing the ignition to be turned on ... with an "Emergency" button that allows a driver to fire up the car in an emergency ... but also contacts 911 (999 or 112 to you Brits & Euros) ... Note that I, personally, wouldn't be happy to see such technology implemented as it would assume that anyone in the drivers seat is a criminal ... but over all, it would be a better use of funds.

Personally, I don't want my car to drive itself ... If I can no longer drive, lift my license.

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Keeping drivers from drifting into bad habits

@jake, how do you propose doing that?

There are some flaws with how traffic laws are enforced in most civilized countries. E.g. the same speed limit applies to everyone. It does not matter whether you're driving a 30 year old beat up wreck of a car, or a current year model of a premium brand that is as safe as a tank and has road holding abilities that would rival that of a fly sticking to a sugar cube.

In such an example, it would be unsafe for the old car to e.g. drive 60 kph in a 80 kph zone, and the new car would be safe (and then some) driving 110+ on the same road. Yet... They allow the old wreck to travel at the legal speed limit, and will gladly prosecute the safer driver for driving more responsibly. Drum brakes vs disc brakes, ABS vs used up brakes that will eventually lock and keep the oldie from steering... It is not considered. The cops only measure the speed and nothing else.

Last winter a BMW tried to overtake me as I was only driving 100 on a 90 road. He did not realize his car couldn't power through the big water pit approaching fast. After that little encounter, he decided to reduce his speed below the legal speed limit... I never saw him again. My car model (Saab 9000) is notorious for its excellent handling in adverse conditions. The factory even made sure a tyre blowout won't disturb it. Hopefully other factories followed suit, but...

So, in any case... I drive "fast". I've always driven fast. As a rule of thumb, I do respect 60 kph speed limits and lower. In my mind, such speed limits are usually put there to protect pedestrians and you never know when a kid might pop out. On 80 kph+ roads I relax more and make up for the lost speed on the inner-city roads. Driving 720 km+ per week, this seems to work quite well.

My last speeding ticket was a year ago (126 kph on a four lane 90 kph road that turned into a 110 kph one km ahead -- it was in the afternoon, clear sunny conditions, not much traffic and +8C degrees, feel free to explain to me just how road safety was being jeopardized... I had a 2008 model 9-3 at the time with ESP and other stuff you'll find in modern cars).

And finally, last week I drove behind a police patrol car on a four lane highway. Nobody dared pass it, and finally the guy in front of the police car dipped a little under the speed limit so the cop decided to pass him. While overtaking, the other car increased his speed by 2 kph or so (we were going downhill at that point), and the police car... Hit the brakes! The bastard himself did not dare to cross the 90 kph speed limit, thus making a mockery of the whole concept of having an overtaking lane in the first place.

When even the people enforcing the laws do not know how to pilot a vehicle... How should we erradicate the bad drivers from the roads?

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Coffee/keyboard

ha ha

Yeah ok. I'd like to see how that would be implemented/enforced.

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Unhappy

Cars available on-call...

Solely from the point of view that the streets might no longer be overflowing with everyone's personal precious two tons of parked metal and plastic, this sounds appealing.

I'm sick fed up of the sight of cars. Why has society let itself become so enslaved by them?

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Silver badge
Stop

Standard whine from blackworx.

Look - cars are, quite simply, the greatest thing that happened to humanity. Cheap, individualised travel, giving freedom to more people than anything else in history. People are no longer limited to small-radius travel, and can choose how far they want to go. A car at the lowest speed-limits generally set (30mph/50kph) can travel more distance in an hour than most people on foot have ever been able to in a day.* That is freedom. And don't forget the death and serious injury toll for those people that did have to walk those distances. People living in mountainous places still die every winter walking from house to house in the same village. Those that don't die are usually saved by being transported to hospital by - you guessed it - a person with a car (since the ambulance can't get up the hill).

* I wonder if there are estimates for the deaths/serious injuries if we were all (as in the current population) on foot/bicycles/horses - a quick Google didn't find anything.

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Re: Standard whine

Oh lord! And to think: there was me going my merry ignorant way, all along thinking that perhaps something as lofty and la-di-dah as the wheel, civilisation, the printing press or agriculture might be the single greatest thing to have happened to mankind but no, silly me, it's the humble automobile. How could I have been so stupid? It's all becoming so clear to me now! Of course none of us would be able to get anywhere without cars. If cars were suddenly to vanish in a puff of smoke then we'd all be stuck in our own little stone age villages, wandering about on foot, tripping and banging our silly heads on rocks all the time. Dammit I've seen the light! Cars SAVE lives! Hallelujah!

Or, to put it another way: If you're going to call me a whiner it's probably best not to completely miss my point then spout some weak, rambling argument against whatever point you thought I was making. I mean - really - ambulances can't get up mountains? More people might die if we didn't have cars? I can't believe you actually Googled to try to back that one up. Still... it's a life, eh?

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Boffin

A malware wet dream

Autonomous cars would be a hacker's wet dream. Especially given how poor the automotive industry takes security.

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Go

partial solution

I get no pleasure from driving these days. There's too much traffic on the roads, too many maniacs and too many traffic lights.

I'd like to be able to switch to an autopilot for motorway or dual carriageway (divided highway) journeys. These roads are relatively safe and most of the traffic jams are caused by inconsiderate or careless driving. Hand this stretch of the road over to the machines and traffic should flow better. No more centre lane blocking by grandad or by trucks going 1/2mph faster than the truck in the slow lane. No more following a driver who dabs his breaks every few seconds because he's much too close to the car in front. No more problems with drivers who think the key to joining a motorway is being assertive.

Driving on other roads would be very difficult to automate but better public transport would help here.

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Thumb Up

Brilliant idea

Just think of the benefits. Once the comms protocol is broken open, I'll be able to send false signals making all these automated cars believe that the roads I want to drive on are completely solid with traffic - and they'll route elsewhere leaving the roads empty for me (and anyone else still using "old fashioned" manually controlled cars) to use. Wonderful idea, bring it on !

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