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back to article It's Google's NO-WHEEL car. OMG... there aren't any BRAKES

Google is building a driverless car that comes sans steering wheel, accelerator pedal or brake pedal, because - it claims - the vehicles don't need those controls. Mountain View said it is currently creating prototypes that will work "safely and autonomously without requiring human intervention". It is so confident about the …

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Eh? Didn't California change it's law mandating that driverless cars under test should have a human which can take over at any time?

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The test cars have a plug in steering wheel and controls, apparently they can be removed once the system gets it's town car badge or summink.

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These cars are a lawyers wet dream.

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Pint

Can these cars be sent off without a passenger on-board?

"Thanks. Now, go downtown to the dealer and get yourself serviced. Be back here by 5:30pm."

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Dream? Nightmare!

Get rid of the stupid piece of error-prone, easily distracted and downright unreliable meatware in charge of the thing.

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Safety system.....from Google,,, I don't think so.

I'm all for new technology believe me,,,but i would not be caught dead in one of those.

When some a$$hole hack the vehicles control system (and it will happen) what chance do I stand?

This is such a dumb idea its not funny.

How can anyone put so much trust in this kind of technology.

Damn stupid.

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Re: Can these cars be sent off without a passenger on-board?

"Thanks. Now, go downtown to the dealer and get yourself serviced. Be back here by 5:30pm."

I see your point, but its even better than that - virtually no servicing. An electric motor is basically an alternator ran in reverse, and you don't routinely service an alternator.

A major service of a normal car typically includes:

Brake fluid - you'll still need this doing.

Gearbox oil - you might need this depending on gearbox.

Coolant - you won't need this.

Engine oil - you won't need this.

Air filter - you won't need this.

Oil filter - you won't need this.

Fuel filter - you won't need this.

Diff oil - You won't need this as driverless cars will almost certainly be front "engined" front wheel drive - possibly 4 wheel drive if they later use 4 motors.

Cam belt - you won't need this.

You might need to top up washer fluid, but its possible later cars won't have windows, just screens onto which images are projected.

I guess you could still wash & wax it, but many driverless cars will simply be a white good, and will have fibreglass panelling that doesn't rust, so you could just leave it out in the rain. Later versions may have solar cells instead of bodywork so your car can recharge a little while you're at work.

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Re: Safety system.....from Google,,, I don't think so.

When some a$$hole hack the vehicles control system (and it will happen) what chance do I stand?

I would imagine that the only part of the car that it would even talk to the outside world without a hard connection would be the navigation system, and the only realistic thing you could do with that would be to mess up the maps. Even that would be difficult because it likely talks directly to Google Maps. All in all it would be a lot like trying to remotely hack a Garmin. Why would anyone with the resources to do it bother when it's so much easier to sabotage the thing while you're in the office?

Of greater concern, to me anyway, is that if the navigation system works like they navigation app for Android and you stop for a restroom break in an area without cellular service you're in trouble. That happened to me once on a long road trip. I suddenly couldn't pull the maps for my navigation app and, as evidence of how dependent I am on my technology, it never occurred to me to stop and buy a map. It was the one time I've ever been lost on a road trip. (Full disclosure: my wife would say it's just the only time I've ever admitted to being lost.)

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Re: you don't routinely service an alternator.

You don't routinely service an alternator... you just hit it with a hammer if it stops working.

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Re: Safety system.....from Google,,, I don't think so.

You have such faith in security after all that has happened....HHHMMMNNNN

I have some FOOLS GOLD selling,,,are you interested.

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Re: Safety system.....from Google,,, I don't think so.

> I have some FOOLS GOLD selling,,,are you interested.

That kinda begs the question, why do you have all that FOOL'S GOLD in the first place?

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Re: Safety system.....from Google,,, I don't think so.

You have such faith in security after all that has happened

It's not 'faith in security'. It's more like 'faith that there's nothing there to be hacked.' I'd trust it for the same reason I don't bother pointing security cameras at blank walls: there's no door for people to come in through.

In all likelihood the navigation system will be controlled by a system that feeds data to the robotics controller, which would have no reason to talk to the outside world. Nor is there any reason for the nav system to accept input other than maps and GPS data. Even if you did somehow feed it different data, what's it going to do with it? It'd be like trying to hack a computer not hooked up to the internet by hacking into a Garmin that happens to be plugged into it.

Of course I could be wrong. Google could have done something stupid like put an SSH server in the thing with access to wifi, or they could have set up the nav system and the robotics on the same ARM chip without properly sandboxing the system, but I don't think they're that idiotic.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Safety system.....from Google,,, I don't think so.

EEeek! Google maps!

Your determined route has you making a turn on a bridge to get to the road underneath it because the map thinks it's an interchange. Just hope the proximity sensors have jurisdiction over the nav system or else it could be a bumpy ride.

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Childcatcher

Re: Safety system.....from Google,,, I don't think so.

I would imagine that the only part of the car that it would even talk to the outside world without a hard connection would be the navigation system...

Why? Because car manufacturers in general, and Google in particular, have such a great track record in putting security concerns first? Even "dumb" cars have been hacked - El Reg has covered car hacking in a number of articles (e.g. 1 and 2). As far as what will connect using wireless... if it is more convenient to use wireless, there will be too much market pressure to resist.

To TopOnePercent's point, I think the only major components that will need to be serviced on a regular basis will be the tires. I suspect we will see tax breaks (in the US) for electric vehicles go away and for taxes on them to exceed those for gas burners as jurisdictions seek to recoup lost revenue no longer generated by the gas tax. Even so, I still want my built-in electric chauffeur.

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Re: you don't routinely service an alternator.

Ah, yes. Someone else with a deep knowledge of the Modified Haynes Manual technique of automotive maintenance.

For those not familiar with the Modified Haynes Manual technique of automotive maintenance, it is based on a simplification of the instructions in the typical Haynes manual.

I cannot claim any originality for this, but it's worth posting again, just for the shitz and gigglez. Here goes:

Haynes Manuals - Simplified

Ah: Haynes Workshop manuals. There are many phrases and euphemisms which bear translation into everyday English. Here are just a few:

Haynes: Rotate anticlockwise.

Translation: Clamp with molegrips then beat repeatedly with hammer anticlockwise.

Haynes: This is a snug fit.

Translation: Clamp with molegrips then beat repeatedly with hammer.

Haynes: This is a tight fit.

Translation: Clamp with molegrips then beat repeatedly with a hammer.

Haynes: As described in Chapter 7...

Translation: That'll teach you not to read right through before you start. Now you are looking at scary photos of the inside of a gearbox.

Haynes: Prise off...

Translation: Hammer a screwdriver into...

Haynes: Undo...

Translation: Go buy a tin of WD40 (giant economy size).

Haynes: Retain tiny spring...

Translation: PINGGGG - "Jesus, where the hell did that go?"

Haynes: Press and rotate to remove bulb...

Translation: OK - that's the glass bit off, now fetch some good pliers to dig out the bayonet part (and maybe a plaster or two).

Haynes: Lightly slacken...

Translation: Start off lightly and build up till the veins on your forehead are throbbing then clamp with molegrips then beat repeatedly with hammer.

Haynes: Weekly checks..

Translation: If it isn't broken don't fix it.

Haynes: Routine maintenance...

Translation: If it isn't broken, it's about to be. We warned you!

Haynes: One spanner rating.

Translation: An infant could do this... so how did you manage to **** it up?

Haynes: Two spanner rating.

Translation: Now you may think that you can do this because two is a low, teensy weensy number... but you also thought the wiring diagram was a map of the Tokyo underground (in fact, that would have been more use to you).

Haynes: Three spanner rating.

Translation: Make sure you won't need your car for a couple of days.

Haynes: Four spanner rating.

Translation: You're not seriously considering this are you?

Haynes: Five spanner rating.

Translation: OK - but don't ever transport your loved ones in it again.

Haynes: If not, you can fabricate your own special tool like this...

Translation: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Haynes: Compress...

Translation: Squeeze with all your might, jump up and down on it, throw it at the garage wall, then find some molegrips and a hammer...

Haynes: Inspect...

Translation: Squint at really hard and pretend you know what you are looking at, then declare in a loud knowing voice to your wife, "Yep, it's as I thought, it's going to need a new one"

Haynes: Carefully...

Translation: You are about to suffer serious abrasions.

Haynes: Retaining nut...

Translation: Yes, that's it, that big spherical blob of rust.

Haynes: Get an assistant...

Translation: Prepare to humiliate yourself in front of someone you know.

Haynes: Difficult to reach ...

Translation: Assembled at the factory and never meant to be touched.

Haynes: Turning the engine will be easier with the spark plugs removed.

Translation: However, starting the engine afterwards will be much harder. Once that sinking pit of your stomach feeling has subsided, you can start to feel deeply ashamed as you gingerly refit the spark plugs.

Haynes: Refitting is the reverse sequence to removal.

Translation: Yeah, right. But you swear in different places.

Haynes: Prise away plastic locating pegs...

Translation: Snap off...

Haynes: Using a suitable drift...

Translation: Clamp with molegrips then beat repeatedly with hammer.

Haynes: Everyday toolkit

Translation: RAC Card & Mobile Phone (but don't forget your molegrips and hammer!)

Haynes: Apply moderate heat...

Translation: Unless you have a blast furnace, don't bother. Alternatively, clamp with molegrips then beat repeatedly with hammer.

Haynes: Index

Translation: List of all the things in the book, bar what you need to do.

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Re: you don't routinely service an alternator.

Molegrips? I thought you were supposed to apply the hammer directly....

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Paris Hilton

"what is basically a holy-shit-stop-now panic switch."

So... a brake then.

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Unless your idea of a car has a binary switch controlling the brakes, then no.

More like a kill switch

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Anonymous Coward

"Unless your idea of a car has a binary switch controlling the brakes, then no."

You've clearly never been in a car with my wife driving.

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"So... a brake then."

More like a "this is so we can pretend our system isn't safety critical" switch.

I'd really be find it a bit more reassuring if there were a few gnarly old been-there-done-that-got-the-t-shirt engineering types in their video, in place of some of the bright eyed young messianic ones.

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"You've clearly never been in a car with my wife driving."

So more of a die switch then.

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The bright eyed messianic ones eventually evolve into the gnarly old been-there-done-that-got-the-t-shirt ones.

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Silver badge

More like a "Google is not liable if you hit something" switch. That switch means Google can plausibly say "The occupant had the ability to prevent the collision, so that is where you should be looking for money." I suspect people are still going to need to pass basic sight tests before being allowed to use these - that blind man on the video isn't going to get his automotive freedom.

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Anonymous Coward

I'd guess at least 95% of crashes are due to the human element in the car removing the human element is a rather good idea.

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Anonymous Coward

"87% of statistics you read in a comments section are entirely made up"

-Abraham Lincoln

(it's actually 90%) but technically it is 100% as mechanical failure or a tree falling down are a direct result of a poor decision by a human to either skip maintenance/use cheap components or to drive in weather where they should really have stayed at home.

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Facepalm

...because we all know no regularly maintained machinery has EVER failed for any reason whatsoever, and weather is a localized instance following the driver - ie. once you leave the house it never changes at all until you finish you journey, even if it was across a continent.

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Anonymous Coward

"because we all know no regularly maintained machinery has EVER failed for any reason whatsoever,"

That's true, but that's also not what was said. I said that the reason is ALWAYS human error, and over the years of investigating component failures in detail for the airline industry I have not found a single case where human error wasn't a factor in the failure.

The same is true of cars, most cars have the majority of components ignored for the whole of their life, when was the last time you maintained your engine block, or suspension, or the little bolt that holds your hand break on? the answer will be never.

And the weather is a fairly predictable phenomenon nowadays just turn on the weather channel to see if it is safe to drive.

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I'd guess at least 95% of crashes are due to the human element

I'd guess it's more like 99%. Maybe even 99.5% or 99.9%. Mechanical failures that result in collisions are fairly rare. Collisions caused by humans not watching where they're going or running stop signs or driving drunk or being just plain stupid, however, are extremely common. As long as all the systems in these cars remain in good working order I wouldn't expect them to ever be in a wreck unless it involved a second, human operated vehical. The problem is that if one of the systems isn't in good working order you'll probably not find out until it hits something.

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It begins!

"My uncle has a country place

That no one knows about

He says it used to be a farm

Before the Motor Law..."

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Pint

Re: It begins!

Ah, a student of the classics, I see. I salute your eminent refined good taste, Sir!

GJC

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Re: It begins!

Yup.

"They've taken care of everything, the words you hear, the songs you sing .."

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Total Recall

Shouldn't there be a Johnny in the front seat?

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Happy

Re: Total Recall

"Shouldn't there be a Johnny in the front seat?"

I'm sure there will be several...

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Re: Total Recall

Ewwww...

How long before the first couple get pulled over by the police for making use of all that free time in the car...

Are these supposed to be be replacements for taxis? If 50 or 60 different people could conceivably have been sat in the same seat as you, unsupervised, that day I'd want someone to clean up all the urine, poop, blood, semen, snot, whisky bottles and big mac wrappers at regular intervals.

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Re: Total Recall

Are these supposed to be be replacements for taxis? If 50 or 60 different people could conceivably have been sat in the same seat as you, unsupervised, that day I'd want someone to clean up all the urine, poop, blood, semen, snot, whisky bottles and big mac wrappers at regular intervals.

If you think that's bad, try using the Tube!

There was some study done a good few years back on Tube seats which were sent to a lab for analysis. The results made exceptionally grim reading.

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h 2

Bar Transport

Great for getting home from the pub or after a night on the town.

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Re: Bar Transport

Or for old people... right now there is a trade off between limiting driving for elderly due to safety (sight, reaction speed,...) and the consequences of taking away their mobility (need to use taxi, bus,... not always practical or economic).

This would be perfect for them.

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Re: Bar Transport

Getting back from the pub: you still need to press the 'Go' button and walk up the stairs home, rather have some mate call a cab. Worst case scenario the driver can carry you home.

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Re: Bar Transport

"Or for old people"

Or for young people who are too stupid and irresponsible to drive safely

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Re: Bar Transport

> Or for young people who are too stupid and irresponsible to drive safely

Young people often drive too fast but for causing accidents, you need look no further that the person who think doing 34mph in a 60mph zone is safer and more sensible, without considering drivers actually using the road responsibly arriving behind them from a corner only to find the equivalent of a jogger in the way. Throw in a somewhat fast and loose interpretation of the use of indicators and you have a hazard that will crawl serenely through the chaos they have caused, shaking their heads at all those dangerous drivers and their accidents that you see just everywhere these days.

I've never understood why old people drive so slow. It's bizarre when you think about it - they haven't got a lot of time left. Me, I'd have my foot down. What's the worst that can happen? Death? Hey, I'm going to do that pretty soon anyway, right?

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Re: Bar Transport

" the person who think doing 34mph in a 60mph zone is safer and more sensible, without considering drivers actually using the road responsibly arriving behind them from a corner only to find the equivalent of a jogger in the way."

You know that there might legitimately well be a jogger there? Or a horse, a cyclist, a deer or a tractor? Hell, I've come round a corner late at night on a country road to find a broken down traction engine in the road lit only with an oil lamp.

Your attitude is more dangerous than someone travelling at 34MPH.

You must be able to stop within the distance you can see to be clear. That's the most basic road safety rule of them all, pretty much.

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Pint

Re: Bar Transport

True. You'd have to be drunk to trust Google with your life.

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Re: Bar Transport

> Your attitude is more dangerous than someone travelling at 34MPH.

Given that you should always drive to your ability to stop, statistics do clearly show that more accidents are caused by drivers traveling moderately less that the prevailing traffic than those traveling faster.

It's why advanced drivers are encouraged to "go with the flow".

So much aggravation and danger is caused by speed differential rather than speed per se.

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Re: Bar Transport

> I've never understood why old people drive so slow.

Driving slow is the way people reach old age.

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Re: Bar Transport

@Terry Barnes

"Your attitude is more dangerous than someone travelling at 34MPH."

I disagree. One should also consider the vanishing point *behind* as well as in front and adjust speed accordingly.

"You must be able to stop within the distance you can see to be clear. That's the most basic road safety rule of them all, pretty much."

That doesn't work. Consider a brick wall round a tight bend. We'd all hit it if we used your rule. Now put some oil down, none of us would even reach the wall, let alone hit it.

Common sense is the key factor. It allows us to adjust the rules in real-time to suit the circumstances. Doing 34mph in a 60mph zone is not common sense.

Obviously we're talking about a left-hander here. Position your car correctly on entering the bend & you'll be able to drop your speed to under 34mph before Mr 34mph has even realised there is a problem. You also have two straight line braking vectors for a complete stop.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bar Transport

> Position your car correctly on entering the bend & you'll be able to drop your speed to under 34mph before Mr 34mph has even realised there is a problem. You also have two straight line braking vectors for a complete stop.

As you point out, there's quite a complex set of advanced skills required to operate a current generation vehicle safely.

This seems like a good argument for self drive vehicles, which would provide a transport solution to users who don't have either the time, inclination or ability to acquire this skill set.

Even for those who decide to drive their own vehicles, the adoption of a vehicle sensor network would lead to smarter, safer cars - for example, informing the driver an obstacle / slow vehicle around a blind corner.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bar Transport

Most of them passed their tests before speed limits on Motorways too

But then, an Austin maxi struggled to get 80

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Re: Bar Transport

My recent comment above still stands - because of that kill switch, the nominal driver (which actually raises some issues - how will that be determined when there is more than one occupant?) will have to be capable of operating it safely. Drunk, poor eyesight, shagging on the way home, reading a book, watching a movie etc, will still put the liability firmly on you in the event of collision that you could have avoided through the use of that switch. Let's face it, Google are not going to make themselves responsible for every accident (and there will be some) that occurs in these things - someone is still going to need to be insured to operate it.

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Re: Bar Transport

"As you point out, there's quite a complex set of advanced skills required to operate a current generation vehicle safely."

Driving well is not really a skill so much as an attitude. MANY people I know who have the attitude of "get from a to b" are crap drivers. It's not that they don't have the time or ability, but simply don't care. Not caring about driving is a major cause of danger on roads (not caring about sensible speed, not caring about indicating, not caring about other road users, etc).

There should be an attitude test before being given a license. If you're not that keen on driving, don't!

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