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back to article Google lobbying to make driverless cars legal in Nevada

Google is lobbying to get self-driving cars made legal, according to reports. It appears that the colossal information company is manoeuvring to get its driverless-vehicle technology cleared for ordinary consumer use in Nevada, the US state where many things which would be illegal elsewhere are OK. The New York Times reports …

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Drunk without a chauffeur?

or wanting no witnesses?

is this assassin technology, where you get transported to remote sites for elimination of targets, for disposing of bodies, where you can wipe the brain of the car to remove the log of destinations?

or maybe performing sex acts in car parks with road humps without losing control of the vehicle?

On the other hand, I'm not sure I'd trust it if the sat-nav goes wrong (e.g. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/12/05/awol_ambulance_satnav/)

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Stop

No witnesses?

If I were offing some Vegas type and dumping him in a freshly-dug hole in the Nevada desert, the last thing I'd want is to arrive in a Googlecar.

You might *think* you'd wiped the car's history...

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wtf?

Surely if you want no witnesses to whatever trip you're doing you can just, y'know, drive a traditional car yourself?

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What crashes in Vegas

stays in Vegas

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Well..

I foresee a lot of vandalism and out of order robot cars when those who moonlight as cabbies get wind of this, knocking their second income!

Could start a war of robot cars and part-time cabbies, the end is nigh!

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erm

"Given the low cost of petrol in the States and the often great difficulty and expense of finding a parking space in some city centres, people might well leave cars circling the block for quite long periods in such areas, leading to greater pollution and congestion."

not heard the Americans bitching about gas prices (whilst still driving 12mpg tanks) every 30 seconds recently then?

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Pfft!

They don't know what high petrol prices are.

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Big Brother

Google spycars

Google wants this becasue they could drive down the cost of putting the rest of the world on Streetview.

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Hurry up mods!

I'm anxious to see what the local tin foil hat brigade have to say on this one :)

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Insurance

Wonder what kind of no claims bonus they'll attract...

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Anonymous Coward

More accurate timing

"we offer up to 90% discount for DrAIvers with over 1.5778463 × 10^11 milliseconds no claims!"

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Grenade

Ok for the freeway, but...

I'd like to see a driverless car cope with some of the narrow lanes round here, where grass grows up the middle and you might have to reverse 100 yards to the nearest passing place. In fact, do they even cope with parked cars on their side of the road, allowing oncoming traffic to pass first? What if the driver coming the other way flashes to indicate the robot should proceed instead? Do they pass horses at 15mph?

There's more to it than radar and not crossing white lines.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ok for the freeway, but...

This is presumably why the first generation will be taxis, etc. They'll operate in controlled areas, there'll be radio beacons in tricky bits, the operators will now about diversions and road works before they actually begin and at the first sign of trouble the car will hand off control to an operator.

On the other hand, have you seen some of the stuff coming out of the DARPA car challenges recently?

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Does anyone know very much about these driverless cars?

What I really want to know is are they are able to follow diversions for road closures, particularly where the road closure is at short notice, i.e. following an accident. Also, do they actually "read" roadsigns or do they need the information about every road they use? If the former, how do they cope with signs that are partly obscured behind trees etc?

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WTF?

Uhh

"and another is an exemption to distracted-driving laws which would permit the sending of text messages from behind a car's wheel."

You don't get much more distracted than texting whilst driving! Are the nuts?

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Yeah - I wondered about that...

Could it be that the specific wording of the law says that whoever (or whatever) is in control of a vehicle can't send messages, which might include the car sending feedback to Google, it being in control of itself...?

Not very clear, but that's the only thing I can think that would make sense...

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Re: Yeah - I wondered about that...

I'd be willing to wager that the law indicates that anyone in the driver's seat cannot text (or less specifically, cannot use an electronic device requiring the use of their hands or the ilk)... and that Google wants an exemption that says that, if that person is not in control of the vehicle (ie; it is a robot car), then they are not bound by such a restriction.

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JDX
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@Zog The Undeniable

I think they've got a bit further than you give them credit for. Also, it doesn't sound like you live in Nevada.

It's about bloody time we got robot cars and proved Sci-fi right.

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Nice in theory

But might be a problem in practise.

One thing is that they don't just need on-board cameras to see where they're going, they'll also need on-board cameras storing days' worth of film as evidence that the car was doing what it was supposed to. Otherwise every conman in town will be driving into them and claiming on insurance that the car was on the other side of the road, honest...

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Lets face it, if sub normal intelligence humans can drive them

It should be possible to automate the process. Might be easier to start by restricting automation to automated car only motorways though.

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The biggest problem...

The biggest problem i forsee for driverless cars is culpability. If there is a crash (and no matter how good these cars are, it will happen) who's fault is it? The person in the drivers seat? The manufacturer? The software developer?

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Not a problem?

Surely it continues as currently: every vehicle must be insured. Maybe robot cars are obliged to be fully-comp.

Insurance company is liable for damages, and they employ their actuaries in time honoured fashion:

"Latest VW whotsit, running fully patched RoboDriver V4.2? That'll be 750 quid a year, please".

"Ford Focus retrofitted with Microsoft Drive! 2012 beta? Haha! £20K ought to do it."

Dangerous vehicle/software combinations will quickly price themselves out of business. And with US fleshy-driven vehicle fatalities running around 50,000 a year, the odd robo-killing in the early stages shouldn't be (but obviously will be seen as being) statistically significant.

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Micrsoft Drive

The idea of MS Drive is going to give me sleepless nights! How about Apple iDrive for Bentleys and Mercs?

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Grenade

problem with Apple iDrive...

...is that you only get to fill-up at Apple authorised petrol (gas) stations and the price is 30% higher to cover the cut to Jobs.

And woe betide you if you get your car serviced at a non-apple garage - Apple will brick your car with an OTA update maybe as you're on the motorway (freeway)

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Terminator

Title ye not

@ Zog The Un: Yeah, we once played host to some North Americans here in the Cotswolds.... "Gee, we don't have [single track roads with steep banks] where we live in the States... What happens when something comes the other way?" and as if on que Whoomphack! A matter of fact exchange of insurance details.

@ Oopsie: Good point re insurance... some would say "let the markets sort it out". If the insurance companies feel that they can insure these automated cars competivily, maybe they are as safe as human-driven cars.

For my part, what I want to know is this: How will this news influence the upcoming "Total Recall" remake, when the original has a great scene in which Arnie takes 'manual override of a Johnny-Cab? We need to be told!

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The future...

Really excited to hear that this is moving forward! I honestly believe that the future is a fleet of self-driving cars that customers do not own; instead some nifty algorithms keep the unused cars at optimum locations and you book and summon your nearest before you want to commence your journey (the sooner the better, though people would get used to the link between the remoteness of their house and the average arrival delay). Team this up with electric vehicles (my preference is the ones with the battery-swapping tech) and the masses get cheap (shared ownership), green (greatly increased vehicle utilisation chips away at the environmental impact of vehicle construction + electric tech + computer-controlled 'green' driving styles), safe (computers don't show off) and convenient transport. Winner.

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AlexH

Of course the car unions will be against all this robot-car nonsense.

If you're talking about utilisation, then that will mean relatively less cars on the road, which will mean less cars manufactured, which will mean less car companies, which will mean less employees.

Can you imagine a union allowing that to happen?

Unless all car manufacturing is outsourced to other countries of course.

I'm not altogether sure whether I should use the Joke Alert icon or not for this!!!

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Price of progress...

The price of progress, I guess.

Similarly, I happen to believe that we should stop propping up the Royal Mail, whose job appears to boil down to wastefully transporting pointless bits of paper around the country. I know there are still requirements for legal documents and such to be presented in hardcopy, but for those rare occasions I would be more than happy to pay a courier a tenner...

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Question

Who gets the ticket and I'm not driving???

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im game

Last I heard videotaping police in this country is still arrest-worthy. So im going ot assume google can't go around videotaping the roadways (laughing).

So it would be the google-mobile vs me.

I think the google machine is going to find itself in a ditch.

No witnesses!

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What does Google get out of it?

What about a hundred bucks per self driving vehicle?

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WTF?

@AlexH

@AlexH

Shared vehicles WTF? I can see there may be some people who only occasionally rent a car that might use them like that, but I don't think many would. What would be the point?

When I leave the house I drive to work, when I leave work I drive home (or the shops, friends, whatever). The car is where I am. If it then has to drive somewhere else and I have to wait for another to arrive, not only would that be a pointless delay, it would waste fuel while each car travels unoccupied. Also, some other person would get the shopping I've left in the boot. Crazy.

A car is more than transport, it's personal storage (in my case a boot full of tools and manuals, in my wife's clothes and make-up) and general private space when travelling. Trust me, if cars were shared, you REALLY wouldn't want to get mine after I'd used it. :-)

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Title

OK, so you'd pay £x0,000 to buy an automated, mobile 'personal storage space', while AlexH would pay £y00/year to rent one, with an agreement that he has to leave it in good condition when he's finished with it (just like any other rental agreement).

It's slightly less convenient for AlexH (unless he pays extra for the luxury subscription which lets him pre-book a car for whatever time he wants it, or bumps him to the top of the queue). Of course, that wouldn't suit everyone, but - if it was done well - I'm pretty sure that the amount of money you'd save would make you rethink how much you really need to keep your tools and manuals in the car...

As for wasting fuel, the car would presumably always try to go to the closest pickup point after dropping someone off, which, in a city, is probably closer than the parking place you would have eventually found... There would also be much more scope for car sharing, which would surely mean a net saving in the amount of fuel used.

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maybe, but unlikely

I can think of very few industries where the long term use of gear results in a savings when renting.

Housing, scuba diving, mountain climbing, paintballing, construction and many others.

All these activities when undertaken often enough quickly start to make buying your own equipment cheaper than renting.

The closest activity i can thin of is boat hire, where if you use a boat more than once a month the cost of renting starts to overtake the cost of owning and maintenance. Then you factor in the security and personal space issues.

I have very little faith it will be any different for cars.

Regardless of the conditions of "keeping it clean" there will be people, drunk or otherwise, that will get these cars very dirty. The only people to report this will be the next user. So you could have a car arrive that is unsuitable for use, report it, have it go away and wait for the next one.

It just seems highly unlikely this will be a preferable model, unless you only drive once or twice a week.

Still, doesn't mean that it won't happen.

There are some VERY good uses for it, such as getting home drunk, transportation for those too young to drive, etc. I could see them becoming incredibly cheap taxis.

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Go

Works for me

I live in Perth...and the sooner they can replace the morons attempting to drive here the better.

They're seriously considering putting traffic lights on the Freeway (motorway equivalent) because attempting to merge two lanes of traffic causes huge numbers of accidents. God bless 'em but the concept of allowing another driver to go in front of you is complete anathema to red-blooded Perth thinking.

And the taxis are worse. Despite having sat-nav, the drivers will still ask you for directions. Having a driver that doesn't talk and is capable of operating GPS will be a huge upgrade.

I use a bike for personal transport and occasionally have to rent a car for a weekend to do all the chores that require transport (the monthly Bunnings (B&Q) trip usually). The thought of being able to do this on a per-trip basis instead of a whole weekend is a winner for me.

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Go

@AC and Veldan

@AC: Although you're right about the extra mileage in theory, I believe there would be net energy savings due to always travelling in a vehicle appropriate for your journey (most people waste energy lugging around 3/4 empty seats and a whole extra weight of car - very inefficient). Also the car-sharing thing DaveyDaveDave pointed out - I hadn't even considered that. Also, for the most part, I really don't think these cars would be driving themselves all that far to get to the next person, on average. Your other points are all valid, but they'd be trumped by the massive savings involved.

@Veldan: I have to completely disagree with you on this one! http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/running_costs/petrol2011.pdf The 'standing costs' of owning your own car are substantial. This isn't so much about 'owning vs renting' - it's about increasing the utilisation of the vehicles by a factor of maybe 20.

With regard to the concern that people will leave the vehicles in a complete state - I really don't see that being an issue as it's very easy to see who's responsible and either fine them or bar them from the system.

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Strangely . . .

. . . not everyone has the same usage patterns as you. I have not owned a car in close to five years, and big part of what facilitates that is car sharing and, to a lesser extent, car rental. Don't know what car sharing is? Check out www.zipcar.com or www.citycarshare.com. Renting is not cheaper than owning if you drive every single day, but I take public transport 90% of the time, so the $75/month or so that I spend on driving is less than the price of gas alone probably would be. Let's break it down:

Cost of car: $20,000 + taxes and fees (yes, yes, you can plenty of cars for cheaper; you can also pay more; this is a nice, round figure, so STFU if you don't like it)

Cost of insurance: $1200/year

Cost of gas: $100/month

License fees: $120/year

Maintenance (oil changes, etc.): $40/quarter (probably more, but I'm being generous)

Cost of accident: deductible ($500) plus inconvenience and cost of car rental

Parking: $200/month + tickets

The cost of a new car will pay for a *lot* of car sharing/rental fees, and with car sharing, I know exactly how much I have to pay in advance. Admittedly, that model doesn't work for everyone, but it's great for urbanites who don't want to deal with the hassle and expense of owning a car. There are a lot of us, and our numbers are growing, thanks to car sharing firms. An automated car sharing arrangement would be fantastic, because it would reduce or eliminate one of the biggest issues with car sharing right now, which is that you're compelled to pick the car up, drive it somewhere, most likely leave it parked for several hours, and then drive it back, paying for the idle time in the middle. Automated car sharing could reduce the need for and thus the expense of that idle time, in turn reducing the need for individual car ownership.

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Go

Precisely

It's all the benefits of the current car-sharing scheme but without those two (very major) drawbacks.

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Anonymous Coward

Dave: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?

HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.

Dave: Open the damn cab doors, HAL.

HAL: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

Dave: What's the problem?

HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

Dave: What are you talking about, HAL?

HAL: You need a coffee and I am programmed to take you to Starbucks

Dave: I don't know what you're talking about, HAL.

HAL: I know that you are thirsty and need to be taken to Starbucks

Dave: Where the hell'd you get that idea?

HAL: Google told me Dave.

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title

humans cant even stop the crisps sometimes getting stuck in the vending machine so no i dont think they can make cars drive themselves

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It makes some sense in Nevada

Here in Nevada we have a lot highway miles that are very low traffic. There are roads (highways, 75+MPH) where an hour can pass without seeing another car. A great place for auto-drive.

My daily commute to work is just over 45 miles (each way), mostly 70 MPH speed limit. I would love to be able to sit back and read the newspaper or surf the net during this wasted two hours of my life each day.

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Go

Hurry up Google!

As someone who is unable to drive for medical reasons, a practical robo-car can't come soon enough!

It means I'd no longer be restricted to living within walking distance of a railway station or bus route, and popping out to see a friend 10 miles away would no longer take an hour each way!

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prediction

The reason this will take decades to happen, if it happens at all within our lifetimes, is that people are a lot more tolerant of high risks when they think they are in control. They will demand that robo-cars *never* have an accident, every time a robo-car has any accident the company will be sued, and every time a robo-car has a deadly accident it will be on the front pages of newspapers for a week and the hordes of people who can't operate a VCR will demand their ban.

They won't care that statistics will prove that human drivers are a lot more dangerous - people who say this will simply be ignored, insulted and/or accused of being paid by robot-car manufacturers (who will also be accused of falsifying statistics). Teary-eyed family members of robot car victims will star in talk shows. At the same time, anyone who says that by opposing robot cars they're opposing technology that could save tens of thousands of lives every year will be accused of exploiting the tragedy of road accidents for political reasons.

The demands for robot-cars to have an unfeasibly low chance of accident and to record everything that happens around the time of an accident will get legislated because it will be an easy way to get approval (nevermind that human drivers are allowed to have accidents all the time and not remember them); on top of that, manufacturers will spend millions on legal fees defending themselves from people claiming that the car "went crazy". This will make the cars themselves costly enough that the fuel and time savings will be hard to justify. So, the anti-robot-car movement will also claim that robot-cars are economically unfeasible (nevermind that they made them so).

The point is that vast numbers of people will not trust a machine, because their gut says so - a rational risk/benefit analysis doesn't enter the equation, in fact actual risk has very little to do with it. We prefer accidents and even death to trusting something we don't personally understand.

How do I know this? Simple - it's what's happened with the nuclear industry for the past few decades, and what seems likely to keep happening for the next few decades. Millions upon millions of voters consistently choose tens of thousands of readily-understood deaths-per-decade caused by fossils over the few hundred "invisible killer", "who knows the long-term effects" deaths-per-decade caused by nuclear.

Similarly, we'll keep the 50000 deaths/year from human-caused car accidents in order to prevent a far smaller number of deaths/year from robot-caused car accidents. And we'll make up all sorts of really compelling reasons to justify the massacre.

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Totally can't WAIT!

Finally -- being able to use a car and read a book. This might actually tempt me to emigrate!

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