Feeds

back to article Self-driving Volvos cover 200km of busy Spanish motorway

Three cars have successfully driven themselves by automatically following a lorry for 125 miles on a public motorway in the presence of other, normal road users. The real-world trial, conducted in Spain by Volvo and car automation specialist Ricardo, put technology created for Project Sartre (Safe Road Trains for the Environment …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

WTF?

Worried

All well and good until something goes wrong.

The lady reading at the wheel will notice something has gone wrong, and by the time she reassumes a ready position, it is too late.

This would work, so long as the driver remains available to take control.

Also, if the driver is left to get on with other stuff, they'll end up following a random lorry into the HGV parking area of Sandbach MSA, not notice this then get hit with a parking invoice from CP Plus for parking a car in the HGV area, and being there for over 2 hours.

4
1

Re: Worried

"All well and good until something goes wrong."

The exact same thing can be said about the current meat-bag controlled version of driving.

"The lady reading at the wheel will notice something has gone wrong, and by the time she reassumes a ready position, it is too late."

If only there was some way we could anticipate in advance the possibility that things might go wrong, and have some kind of automated safety system that will give the driver the time needed to take over. Perhaps simply slowing down whilst remaining within the lines, or some other such crazytech.

Automated cars are not perfect, but safer than meatbags.

10
3
TRT
Silver badge

Re: Worried

They are Volvos. You know, bricks on wheels. A Volvo road train would be like a moving wall.

1
1
Silver badge
Meh

Re: Worried

All well and good until something goes wrong.

Indeed. They should be limited to 4 MPH and have someone walk in front waving a red flag.

17
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Worried

A computer can't be truly intelligent, so claiming a computer will be better than a human is rubbish.

Sure, a computer doesn't get tired, a computer doesn't get distracted and computers can be made to behave consistently. But human "hardware" is more reliable than computer hardware.

The lifespan of a human when looked after is much longer than any computer or electronic system. Try finding a computer that is 70 years old and still in use and working fine.

Do some reading about cosmic rays (don't laugh) and their effect on computer memory. There's been instances of planes plummeting due to the effects of cosmic rays on "fly by wire" systems. As memory density increases the problem will get worse, Intel have patented cosmic ray error detection for this reason.

1
4

Re: Worried

'Sure, a computer doesn't get tired, a computer doesn't get distracted and computers can be made to behave consistently. But human "hardware" is more reliable than computer hardware.'

A computer doesn't get bored or tired, it doesn't get distracted by the pretty young girl driving the red Mini in the other lane (hello!) and it doesn't get into a fight with its spouse for looking at the pretty young girl driving the red Mini in the other lane (of course I don't know her!)

4
0
Silver badge

Re: Worried

>They are Volvos

I'm more worried about them running off to chase motorbikes

2
0
Gold badge
FAIL

Re: Worried

"A computer can't be truly intelligent, so claiming a computer will be better than a human is rubbish."

That is refreshing to know. So when I ask my calculator what is 3 x 3 and get the answer 9, then I can be sure that the answer is not 9, because I am more intelligent than my calculator?

"The lifespan of a human...computer that is 70 years old and still in use..."

So are you suggesting that computer controlled cars should only be used for journeys that take less than 70 years?

Oh and I know a lot about cosmic rays, and their effect on all sorts of technology, not just memory. However, normally these cars are only driven on the surface, where cosmic rays don't reach because they hit the molecules in the air on their way down and don't reach this far. As long as they don't drive these Volvos in space, we should be OK too.

I know I shouldn't feed the trolls, but I wan't sure if you really were a troll, or just a failing Turing test.

5
3
Bronze badge
Facepalm

The big question is...

.. when it does go wrong, who gets sued?

The person behind the wheel of the vehicle that hit something else?

The person behind the wheel of the lead vehicle?

The programmers and makers of the train system?

Or, more likely, all of them, along with anyone else vaguely responsible somewhere along the line?

I'd love to know how much the insurance cost for this stunt, because the legal fees had something gone wrong would have been enormous.

A friend has just bet someone else that there will be cars driving around London like this within ten years. Obviously, it's technically possible - I remember track demos on Tomorrows World back in the 1970s - but there is still an awfully long way to go before the legal issues are sorted. I must get in on that bet...

0
0
FAIL

Re: Worried

"Do some reading about cosmic rays (don't laugh) and their effect on computer memory. There's been instances of planes plummeting due to the effects of cosmic rays on "fly by wire" systems"

Yet they are *still* safer than getting in to your car. Funny that.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Worried

"A computer can't be truly intelligent, so claiming a computer will be better than a human is rubbish."

Actually a lot of humans can't claim being truely intelligent (and some can't claim slightly intelligent) and their allowed behind the wheel.

"But human "hardware" is more reliable than computer hardware."

A computer isn't drunk or stoned or just a revv head f-wit. It doesn't need to sleep and will ignore the two kids fighting in the back seat. Yes the computer might crash and kill someone but the odds are less than human drivers. People are dying on the road every day. Don't tell me computer will be worse.

"Try finding a computer that is 70 years old and still in use and working fine."

At 70 the computer doesn't expect to drive but I can show you a 70 year with failing eyesight, failing reactions driving badly and has no intention of giving up their licence (not until they kill or maim someone)

The real issue with this system is when the truckie pulls over for a leak and brings an audience with him

3
0
Bronze badge

Re: Worried

I dare you to give a SINGLE accident report blaming cosmic rays for an incident. Because I can guarantee you won't find it!

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Worried

The most stupid thing about all this is the mass media hysteria that will ensue the moment something does go wrong with a computer driven car.

A meatsack driver crashing a car and killing someone is such a commonplace occurrence that it might - just might - be mentioned in a Page 35 police news boxout in the local rag.

The first time a computer driver crashes a car and kills someone, it'll be international front-page news on every two-bit rag from the Daily Fail to the New Jerk Times. Then there'll be the inevitable rants for this evil, destructive technology to be banned and restricted into uselessness, even though it will probably have killed less than a hundredth of the people that meatsack drivers kill every day.

3
0
Go

Re: The big question is...

Nobody gets sued, 'cos in the rosy future world where are cars drive us around, we've finally gotten around to shooting all the fscking lawyers...

0
0
Silver badge
Joke

Re: Worried

On the other hand, I would not expect computer to drive more dangerously than a large percentage of drivers (word used without prejudice) in Crete or Cyprus. Driving there was, let us say, an interesting experience, after which a quick bout of dodging charging bulls seems like a pick-nick.

0
0
Bronze badge

Volvos in Space

My new band name.

0
0
Headmaster

Re: Worried

Is 'meatsack' the new word used by 'cool' people. Is it as cool as 'sheeple' and 'simples'?

0
1

Slight problem

Who the hell wants to follow a lorry in their car on a motorway??

Now if they can make the lorrys all follow each other and not mess about trying to overtake each other - clogging up the motorway in the process, then I think they'd really be onto something.

I can't see anyone wanting to drive a great distance at 56mph, it'd take forever.

23
0
Silver badge

Re: Slight problem

Another slight problem... What happens when you find yourself coming up to a junction and the lane leading to the exit you want is full of 100 Volvos all 6 meters apart with none of the drivers paying any attention to other road users and letting them in.

17
0

Re: Slight problem

"Who the hell wants to follow a lorry in their car on a motorway??"

It's called slipstreaming/drafting and it means greater fuel economy. If you're worried about the cost of petrol, it's a good thing. If you just want to get there quickly, you wouldn't be joining a road-train.

4
1
Anonymous Coward

Lewis Page would approve.

Just forget about the car and attach him directly to the lorry.

0
1
Unhappy

Re: Slight problem

"Now if they can make the lorrys all follow each other and not mess about trying to overtake each other - clogging up the motorway in the process, then I think they'd really be onto something."

Don't forget one truck at 56mph in Lane 1, and the other at 56.1mph in Lane 2. Effectively turning the M1 into a rolling roadblock.

4
0
Silver badge
Trollface

Re: Slight problem

Who the hell wants to follow a lorry you ask? Have you ever seen the Spanish concept of 'braking distance'?

0
0
FAIL

Re: Slight problem

Exactly what I thought as well. There are some inter motorway junctions on the M25 where this would be a nightmare!

And what happens when this 'train' tries to come onto the motorway at 56mph? Does everyone else have to swerve int the middle or outer lane (if possible) to avoid it?

6m is not a lot of braking distance, is it?

0
0
Silver badge
Stop

Re: Slight problem

6m is not a lot of braking distance when the lorry driver hits an obstruction in front (due to him changing DVDs over). Thats a big crunchy pile of volvos behind him.

1
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Silver badge

But does it fail safe?

If this "platoon" is dependent on the lead lorry to provide guidance, what happens when LL fails, breaks, or loses its wifi?

I appreciate that this is more of a testbed/demonstrator than a viable option, but the key question isn't so much "can it be made to work?" but should be "what happens when it fails?" Even requiring each vehicle to have a drive who could take over isn't a complete solution. If that driver is busy doing something else: reading the paper, having lunch, getting "cosy" with the passenger, leaning out of the window trying to lick the tyres - or whatever else bored drivers get up to. If the driver can't get back to a position where they can take over quickly, or the car doesn't do something sensible on it's own then the system can't be usable.

Hopefully this particular implementation won't crash and kill everyone involved each time it goes past a roadside cafe offering free WiFi!

13
0
Emj

Re: But does it fail safe?

Up vote just for the licking the tyres option!

7
0
Silver badge

@Emj

Don't try this without expert supervision. Get your tongue stuck in the tread at speed could well be grounds for divorce.

1
0

Re: But does it fail safe?

"If this "platoon" is dependent on the lead lorry to provide guidance, what happens when LL fails, breaks, or loses its wifi?"

I don't think it's dependent on any particular vehicle -- I believe the point of such technology is that any vehicle can be the lead, allowing ad hoc roadtrains to be formed with no prior planning.

The reason for a lorry taking point here may be the increased draft/slipstream/windshadow of the larger vehicle, or it maybe that they wanted to use a more powerful (and therefore more reliable) wifi transmitter in the test, just to be safe.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Project Sartre

"Hell is other " drivers

7
0
Silver badge

Re: Project Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre also wrote Huis Clos, translated into English as No Exit or Dead End. Just like following a lorry for hundreds of miles.

I notice the Swedes were sharp enough not to use their own motorway for this adventure.

1
0
Bronze badge
Facepalm

What happens when the traffic lights change to red 'mid platoon'?

7
0
Anonymous Coward

That's easy

Elias gets shot!

1
0
Silver badge

Or the lead lorry falls off the edge of a cliff?

1
0
Anonymous Coward

@ravenviz

>What happens when the traffic lights change to red 'mid platoon'?

Anybody familiar with driving in Spain will know that when the lights turn red at least five cars will follow through so interrupting a three car convoy will not be a problem.

3
2
Bronze badge

Not that many traffic light in motorways.

This is not like the Google self driving cars, this is just for motorways/highways.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: @ravenviz

"Anybody familiar with driving in Spain will know that when the lights turn red at least five cars will follow through"

Sorry but that's not true. Largely speaking, Spanish drivers are on the civilised side of the scale (Barcelonians excepted), quite unlike most places in England, particularly the South, where everyone seem to think the road has been made especially for them and other users are nothing but a nuisance.

1
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: @ravenviz @AC05:20

No need to apologise, just come and live in Madrid for a few days and then see what you think. On my daily drive to and from work there are two sets of lights where I can guarentee a number of cars will go through on red.

1
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Why?

We've had vehicles capable of safely following a lead vehicle in a group and at the same speed for a century or so... I think they're called 'trains'.

10
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Why?

Every time I pass the old Motorail terminal at Paddington I think 'Why don't they bring this service back?'.

It would offer most of the benefits of this technology without you needing a new car or retro-fitting gizmos to it. Best of all you can go and have a beer in the restaurant car while you're en route.

1
0
Thumb Up

Re: Why?

Still around in some places.

Park your car on the train in Helsinki, wake up in your sleeper cabin the next morning in Rovaniemi. You get a decent night's sleep, save driving 1200km and it cost me less than petrol plus a hotel.

There are loads of others around Europe, but the Finnish one is the only one I've tried. And the beer was acceptable.

1
0

What about all the unprogrammed exceptions?

Programmed to follow the car in front. Till someone squeezes in between them and ends up with a convoy on his driveway at home.

Google cars have been driving around for a while without human intervention and plan to go meatbag-free soon. What happens in an accident? Who do you swap insurance details with?

Are they set up to handle someone waving at the side of the road warning that the bridge ahead is out?

Can they handle a policeman standing in the middle of the road directing traffic?

What do they do if shunted on a motorway? Sit waiting till one of their techs come and tell it how to get to the hard shoulder?

What if it has a sensor failure or a sensor disagreement? Does it stop dead where it is or guesses? And with the backlog of cars behind it, its going to be all day till that technician can get to it.

And its going to be a laugh when these bad boys find some roadworks.

I could go on with a list of possible problems, but I'd be here all day.

Guess my point is, I don't think they are ready yet.

5
2

Re: What about all the unprogrammed exceptions?

What happens when you follow the lorry to the Sainsbury's distribution centre?

Let's assume you get through the gate and it doens't squash you as it auto-closes.

Let's assume you don't have to deal with a rising anti-ram bollard.

The lorry has pulled in, and as now about to reverse into a loading bay. Your car is also going to try to do this. Probably with hilarious results.

Now, before anyone says "The driver would notice and take control", we're talking about people who are going to be busy trying to lick their tyres (Thanks, Pete!) and if they didn't have the car driving itself would happily cross a flooded ford because the SatNav told them to, or would "turn left in 100 yards" up the level crossing rather than the junction just beyond the level crossing.

2
1
JDX
Gold badge

Guess my point is, I don't think they are ready yet.

No, I guess your point is that you're hugely unimaginative and assuming they didn't consider any of these things, and the software is an order of magnitude dumber than it probably is.

Road Trains seem a wonderful idea to me.

10
0
Gold badge

Re: What about all the unprogrammed exceptions?

Exactly right. You can't really have true/false decisions for real world problems. Hence neural nets, but neural nets need programming to tune up their "weighting".

It's all very well killing people and then having the system adjust to make the decision correct the next time. But it's not exactly fair to kill so many people is it?

0
0

Re: Guess my point is, I don't think they are ready yet.

So, JDX, how do you program it to know the difference between someone in a panic, waving at the car to stop because of the emergency situation ahead, and some drunk at the side of the road who thinks you are a taxi?

Some students have been messing about at the cross roads. They have been tilting all the lights round to point at different angles. How do you know which one is which? I was at the same situation at a five-way junction, where some of the angles are tight for knowing what light does which road. There are many judgement calls that have to be made when driving.

Just like any program ever written, there is going to be a case that hasn't been coded for. Yes, they may get a lot of scenarios, but capture every possible eventuality?

1
0

Misnomer

They're not really self-driving are they, any more than the carriages of a train are self driving. At least, "following the vehicle in front" is a pretty specific sub-set of "driving".

And same as Lockwood, I'm wondering what happens when the vehicle you're following leaves the route you want to be on. I'm sure they've thought of that, but no details in the article. I think this tech would be best used as an adjunct to proper Google-style self-driving tech, i.e. the self-driving cars automatically platoon to save fuel and improve traffic flow, but are fully capable of navigating autonomously when not platooning, or when the lead vehicleis leaving the desired route.

0
0

Re: Misnomer

Your onboard computer and their onboard computer talk, and they know when the routes are diverging.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Wouldn't work on UK motorways

6m gap between cars in "platoon" ... try that in the UK and in no time another car will pull into the gap!

N.b. why did they follow a lorry (presumably limited to lower speed than rest of traffic) is probably precisely because of this ... other drivers will automatically see the lorry as the slowing down the queue of cars and thus overtake them all.

1
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.