back to article Volvo demos automobile auto-pilot tech

Hell, said French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, is other people. If the EU has its way, it could be other motorists. Volvo today said it has successfully demonstrated technology behind Project Sartre, the EU's Safe Road Trains for the Environment scheme, which gathers groups of vehicles and has them proceeding down the …

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Windows screensaver?

Is that the default windows XP screensaver I see on that display? Not getting in that car!

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Madness

What happens when the car in front decides to turn left, or a child runs out in between? Who becomes liable in the event of an accident?

Let's hope the car in front isn't some tosser in an Audi/BMW driving at 120Mph 2 metres from the car in front of him.

By bunching cars up more tightly there will be less margin for error, and probably not enough of a gap for the "driver" to perform an emergency braking manoeuvre.

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Boffin

The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

Presumably your car is also looking at the road lines, and as for brakeing - a computer can do that much more reliably that you or me anyway... probably 50% or more of the space you need to leave from the car in front is for reaction time - time that a computer doesn't need.

I still agree that it's a fail (for now) though, as even if this tech was available in this country, the handwringers would still require you to be sat up and alert watching the road - no way they'd allow for you to sit there with a newspaper and a coffee!!!

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Hmm.

Link the satnav to the auto-pilot, and no need for a driver. Instant reduction in road fatalities.

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Think of the Children...

...on the school run.

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Anonymous Coward

Until....

...the truck turns off and your car follows... Or the truck turns off and your car (gps route enabled) decides not to follow and instantly hands back to manual control.. just as you've poured a cofee and opened the paper (as per the picture).. It'll give you as much warning of a handover as the lorry gives that he's about to turn off... which if your lucky will be about 3 seconds worth.

hmm no thanks..

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I was going to say the same thing

I also think it gives a false sense of security if a vehicle wants to pull out.

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Train

What happens when you reach a junction where there is no obvious straight on? The front of the train turns right, the second vehicle turns left. Does the third car follow the second or first vehicle? Or does the system expect the driver to suddenly expect the driver to take over?

The rules might be that you still have to pay attention when you're hooked onto a road train, but how many people are going to doze off or read a book? Now maybe the autopilot will have good accident avoidance, maybe it will bring the vehicle to a safe halt if the driver doesn't take over. However I can see it causing plenty of "traffic chaos" (as they like to say in the tabloids) when some driver dozes off and then the car in front pulls off.

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Vehicle ahead turning off

Actually, if it's hooked up to sat nav, then 95% of the time it should be able to give you a warning of a turn off/upcoming junction (more likely to be an issue on the motorway - if you are on a main road with a small side turn, the rapid slowdown as the car automatically compensates for the vehicle ahead turning into it should be a strong hint to pay attention!) and remind you to be ready to take control if necessary, on the offchance that the next 'lead car' is too far away for the system to track.

Volvo have probably done their sums on this one, I'd expect - their history and reputation in road safety and environmental issues would certainly suggest so.

That said, running XP, I can see me removing the fuse. Unless they will have CTRL-ALT-DEL on the steering wheel, or a full size keyboard that you can quickly type 'SHUTDOWN -A' to abort an emergency shutdown with, etc, insert your own Windows jokes here.

(in all seriousness the XP system is more likely a placeholder to run the development tools until it gets turned into a true embedded system, which would negate 95% of Windows issues, lets be honest)

Steven R

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Train

Not many junctions like that on the motorway.

Once you've turned off, yes, but not while you're on the carriageway.

This is a technology for motorways - ie. everyone going in the same direction.

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Anonymous Coward

I stand by my post

So what if the vehicle in front turns off the motorway? how much notice do you get? its still only 3 seconds. Showing a cup of coffee and a paper is all well and good, but its stupid publicity only. Even when you are following a car on the motorway you are going to have to pay attention and be prepared for the car in front to turn of at EVERY junction. UNLESS your car can comunicate with the car infront and knows where it intends to be turning off... even then you wont know if the driver suddenly intervenes and cuts off for the services..

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Oh really?

"Not many junctions like that on the motorway.

Once you've turned off, yes, but not while you're on the carriageway.

This is a technology for motorways - ie. everyone going in the same direction."

So if it's a technology for motorways why are they testing it on country roads?

I regularly drive a couple of junctions like the one described on motorways. Anybody who's ever driven the M67 will be able to tall you about them. And there are others.

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Megaphone

Professional drivers

From the SARTRE website: "A scheme will be developed whereby a lead vehicle with a professional driver will take responsibility for a platoon."

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re: I stand by my post

If only there was some method of warning in advance that could be taken care of.

Something that legally had to be on all cars that could be used to indicate the drivers intentions to turn off at the next junction. These indicators could be spied by a camera in the system and it could adjust to suit.

Failing that, I'm fairly sure as has been stated above, that Volvo would have thought about this and also I suspect it's not supposed ot be a non-driving form of driving, but like cruise control, an aide to help you munch the miles but you still need to pay attention.

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Ahahahahahaha

"From the SARTRE website: "A scheme will be developed whereby a lead vehicle with a professional driver will take responsibility for a platoon.""

Because everybody knows truck drivers can be trusted to drive in a safe, legal and considerate way don't they?

They don't? Well blow me down.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Lottie

Whilst Volvo fit these devices to thier cars, the car in front is a BMW... (what now?)

"and it could adjust to suit." do you mean beep at you? there is no car in front now! so put your coffee down and fold the paper, and grab the wheel... Have you ever seen people try to fold a broadsheet in a car? next time you stop at the services have a look around.

100m of indication @ 70mph = 3.196 seconds. enough time to react and maneuver when you already have your hands on the wheel.

As I said I stand by my post.

beep 3 2 1 arghhhh.

Leaving aside the dangers of resting things on the override device. So the picture showed a paper resting on the wheel, but how long before a laptop? which if it runs flat now has a cable and power brick connecting the steering wheel to the cigar lighter... somehow I doubt they'll be disabling the steering wheel whilst in follow, so ...

I will not be interested in one of these cars until they are fully automatic (eg Stanley of Darpa fame) and can not only follow the car in front but also navigate on an open road or in traffic.

This Volvo first step is only that, not enough to walk yet.

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@This is a technology for motorways

I'd like to see it tried on the M25 where a gap of more than a vehicle's length is immediately filled by *another* vehicle...!!

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Stop

Just don't try it in Devon.........

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12179160

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Confused.

"aimed at drivers who do not wear seatbelts or talk on their mobile phones while driving."

I thought you weren't supposed to use mobile phones while driving.

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FAIL

Devon

Dorset?

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Doing their job

So basically what we have is plod doing the job that they are supposed to do. Indeed plod doing the job that they used to do.

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Grenade

Hmm, Platoon....

I seem to remember the poster for Platoon had an image of Willem Dafoe dying in agony after being shot in the back.....

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Don't get it

"the approach makes for more environmentally friendly driving through reduced fuel consumption"

I can understand the potential for reduced fuel consumption from vehicles being up the chuff of the vehicle in front, but what if the driver in front drives in a less economical way than the drivers behind otherwise would?

I can see one big issue that would potentially increase fuel consumption. How many drivers are going to miss their exit because they are in a "road train" and have to travel miles further to reach their destination?

Any observant driver will notice, particularly on long motorway journeys, that lots of drivers already miss their turns. The signs are pretty obvious if you watch other drivers. People just get into the groove of driving in the flow of the traffic. Imagine how much worse this will be if they're just sitting there doing nothing.

Then there's the fact that some drivers won't be happy with the speed the train is going and will want to overtake. Will this pull the rest of the train with them, or will they just opt out?

What happens if a driver thinks the train is going too fast? They can presumably take manual control and slow down, but then you'll get at least some of the train behind wanting to continue with the head of the train.

I don't think this has been thought through all that carefully, but there's been a lot of money spent on the technical aspects before they've really dug into the practical aspects. Developing a system without a proper spec? Who'd a thunk it?

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Joke

It's called a train

drives like it's on rails?

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The Blue Screen of Death.

Now available with real Death......

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I would've tried to use the acronym "CONGA"

because, you know, like the dance. Plus it'd be more fun for the front car to swerve about and make it like a party on the motorway.

Or you could call it "SNAKE" and make it like Snake on the old Nokias, where you get more points and go faster and faster the more cars you collect. And you have no brakes.

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Car Ordered Navigation Group Alliance

Or something better..

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car turns off etc

<irony>Oh Damn, say the engineers who've put all the design effort into this, how come we didn't think of what half the commentards here have come up with with 30 second posts... </irony>

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Yes

Platooning is a great idea, except for the objections.

Hang the vehicles from a monorail, safe from ice and intrusions. The rail design to allow vehicles to choose to steer off the main route.

And design so that vehicles may also run on their batteries on old fashioned roads.

Then we get in the car, drive into the system, select Mum, and go to sleep for twenty minutes. Drive off the system with the battery fully charged. And Tescos carry their stock from warehouse to store driverless.

The trouble is it's not much fun.

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expect the unexpected

You are meant to keep the full stopping distance, not just the reaction distance from the vehicle in front of you. Part of the reason for this is that if something falls of the car in front (or the it has a head-on collision) , you will need to stop faster than the reaction time.

In an ideal world, where all vehicles are computer controlled, with fully secure loads, and there are no animals to step in front of them, then driving within the (computer) reaction time is safe. Until then, there is too many things to go wrong to make platoons fully safe.

Slip-streaming is only effective if you are very close to the vehicle in front, far within the braking distance.

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TRT
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Joke

Oops!

I can just see it now. Press the voice recognition command button... beep... "Close All Windows"... beep... CRASH

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So innovative...

"Each car monitors what the car in front is doing - its distance, its speed and the direction it's moving in - and adjusts its own speed and steering to keep just behind it."

That's what 90% of motorway drivers do anyway, it would seem.

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Joke

Sorry Officer

It wasn't my fault I was speeding, there must be a 0-day in Windows that allowed that guy with roadrage to boost my speed!!!!!!

What? Yeah the computer appearing to be turned off and disconnected is obviously part of the attack!

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Go

(untitled)

I cannot wait for this tech to come in. It should cut down on HGV drivers insisting on overtaking one another at a relative rate measured in yards per month. Basic human decency and consideration for others won't make 'em ease off that last .00008mph they can get out of their limiter, maybe sheer laziness will.

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Why?

Why would it stop them?

On the one hand, if it did stop HGV drivers from deciding to overtake then it would also do the same to you. If the system forced the HGV driver to follow the one in front then it would also force you to follow him. So you'd actually be worse off than you are now.

OTOH if it doesn't force HGV drivers to follow nose to tail then they will still choose to overtake each other. So you'll still be in the same boat as you are now.

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Don't believe it...

The last time Volvo tested this, they smashed a car into a lorry without it even braking and ran over a cardboard pedestrian in another.

Are we expected to believe they improved this quickly and trust them when they say we can drive on top of someone elses shadow safely now?

Stop sign because your car won't stop.

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FAIL

Volvo?

I think you're thinking of the Mercedes test video which was actually a different tech altogether (crash avoidance tech) and was actually down to some idiot forgetting to switch the stuff on before the car set off.

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RE: some of us actually do research Grease Monkey

No, it was the Volvo test

http://www.topgear.com/uk/car-news/volvo-s60-crash-video

Unless you think a volvo s60 is a Mercedes

Epic Fail

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it a pity

Wow, El Reg does have more than its fair share of idiot responders, doesn't it.

@lieberman, AC etc. Do you really believe that among the dozens or hundreds of talented engineers working on a high profile project for an automobile company with a reputation for safety, not one of them thought about "what happens if a child runs out" or "what happens if the truck turns off"?

Do you really, honestly believe that in the 30 seconds you thought about it, you came up with an idea that hadn't occured to the team at Volvo (who's job it is to think of these things) in the several years they have undoubtably been working on this?

I suspect that the article, in the intrest of brevity, doesn't quite give all the technical details of the system.

And, might I add, nice one Volvo - looking forward to seeing how this pans out.

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Alert

How about lane changing?

Some obvious problems:

Front car sees a gap in the outside lane and pulls out to pass. Do the following cars pull out, even if there's not enough gap?

Front car then pulls in again right in front of the lorry he passed. Do the following cars pull in, or wait until they pass the lorry? What happens if the lorry accelerates, or the front car decelerates?

BMW driver pulls into the middle of the line of cars, despite them being really close together.

BMW driver comes up behind the car at the back of the long queue and starts honking and flashing his lights.

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Coat

Er... Isn't this called a ...

Train?

Coat? It's already on.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Preacher - Thank you

Now we know what happened to Constable Savage after he was transferred to the SPG.

Promotion and moved to Traffic (which I should have foreseen).

Readers under 35, please look up "NTNON savage" and adjust your monitors back to 2D.

If you are using an AV receiver, check you have woofers and tweeters.

Grandad

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Sound familiar

Paper-less office....

Driver-less cars...

Fail on both predictions..

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IT Angle

Open the Pod Bay door please Hal.

Says it all really.

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FAIL

penalty points

Instant ban in the uk that would be for driving with no hands on wheel and other equipment taking drivers attention away from the road

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Oh please...

Scarlet this is EU mandated tech. Do you not think that UK traffic law would change to take this into account. Laws change. A lot of things we do on the road now would have been illegal at one time. Or do you still have the bloke with the flag?

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Badgers

Laws change..

Good good! I look forward to being able to use my electric personal mobility device (aka segway, elctric bike [not elctro assist]) on the highway/pavement.

Oh not yet?

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Project Sartre

Nothing like computer-steered cars to give you a feeling of existential uncertainty, after all. Like "will I still exist in 10 minutes time...?"

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Joke

No news here...

"Take your feet of the pedals, your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road..."

So in other words, drive like most people in the rural parts of the US?

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Coat

Yes, but what if the car in front...

...is a Toyota?

;)

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