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back to article Google's driverless car: It'll just block our roads. It's the WORST

Driverless cars will solve congestion. Driverless cars will improve road efficiency; driving along closely behind each other in platoons. Driverless cars will stop you waiting at the kerb for a taxi. Yeah, yeah; it’s all drivel. The tech is wonderful, gee-whiz-that’s-great stuff, but there’s a few things that are unbelievably …

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Platooooooon - HALT!

> Google’s saying blind and disabled people who can’t drive will be able to call up and use a Google car. This means more vehicles on the road.

Personally I don't see this as a bad thing, if you translate it to mean that more individuals will be able to have some independence and mobility when before they would have none.

Although the 1 second delay at a green light will, almost certainly, lead to more Google cars getting a shunt (though only if they're first at the light) as people *always* move in anticipation of lights turning green - if by no other means of spotting the opposing light turning red. It doesn't necessarily mean more congestion as traffic lights are often as much about breaking up traffic flow which, counter-intuitivly reduces congestion.

One will also assume that a "platoon" of cars won't be permanently bound together and that they will have a protocol to "break ranks" and create smaller groups. One possible reason being if a non-autonomous car cuts into their middle. Though just how well they'll respond to other drivers "gaming them" (like speeding up when a Google car / platoon tries to overtake) and whether they'll solve the other perennial problem of not finding a parking space, are issues we'll have to wait to see what happens.

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Re: Platoooooo0n - HALT!

Do you really believe that? What do you think blind and disabled people do now if they want to go anywhere, sit at home depressed because they can't? No, they call something called a Taxi that drives them to their destination. Calling a Google car is no different, except they won't have a chat with the Taxi driver (or put up with his inane drivel depending on how you see it).

As usual the bods at Google are making assumptions and being condescending rather than actually engaging with people and finding out how they really live their lives.

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Re: Platoooooo0n - HALT!

Taxis are expensive, especially wheelchair equipped taxis, require planning to use, have limited flexibility (how long will your shop take), and require depending upon a total stranger (will they actually turn up and pick you up at the requested time?). Having their own pod available when they need will greatly improve the lives of many disabled people.

If they are calling a pod rather than owning it then some of those arguments go, but again the reliability is likely to be greater and the psychological view of it different as well.

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Re: Platoooooo0n - HALT!

> especially wheelchair equipped taxis

Trying to get a wheelchair into Google's noddymobile looks like a right laugh for a disabled person.

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Re: Platoooooo0n - HALT!

This is a prototype not an end product..

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Meh

Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

"...Although the 1 second delay at a green light will, almost certainly, lead to more Google cars getting a shunt (though only if they're first at the light) as people *always* move in anticipation of lights turning green..."

Ha.

A 1 second delay is about 29 seconds faster than the dimwit at the front of the queue realising the light has changed. Multiply by the number of cars...

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JLH

Re: Platoooooo0n - HALT!

"Taxis are expensive, especially wheelchair equipped taxis, require planning to use, have limited flexibility (how long will your shop take), and require depending upon a total stranger"

Almost completely agree.

London black cab drivers are diamonds, and as they are all wheelchair ramp equipped are fantastic and helpful. (Reference the Uber app articles - minicab drivers are not required to have wheelchair access).

But outside London?

Just try getting off at Southampton Parkway when there are engineering works and try to get on a taxi. Oh - you have a wheelchair. Errrrr.... no go.

Or just arrive at Southampton Central where there are a whole line of taxis outside -none of which take wheelchairs. Ho hum.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Platoooooo0n - HALT!

"Just try getting off at Southampton Parkway when there are engineering works and try to get on a taxi. Oh - you have a wheelchair. Errrrr.... no go."

Just call up a local taxi firm (radio taxis), order a cab asking for wheelchair access and they send the next available one to you. It costs the same as a normal taxi but they do take longer to get to you. I use them all the time in Southampton!!

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JLH

Re: Platoooooo0n - HALT!

AC, I honestly tried that one Sunday not so long ago.

Radio Taxis wouldn't help.

Local cab firm in Eastleigh saud 'Oh yeah - we do have a wheelchair capable cab. But the bloke who runs it is not working today'

My point really being that you can't just assume that taxi transport will be available if you are accompanying someone in a wheelchair. You really have to plan ahead and make SURE.

Like the night I booked a wheelchair equipped taxi to call at a hotel to go to a big do.

Sure enough Mr Private Hire turns up in a normal saloon - with no wheelchair facilities.

They often just try to chance their arm, resulting in a vastly delayed journey or no journey at all.

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Re: The Disabled, Sitting at Home

Wow, talk about making assumptions... Speaking as a blind person with a disabled wife, let me debunk this poster's condescending, prejudiced and incorrect guesses.

Try to get a taxi at rush hour, or in the rain. It can take hours, longer if you need an accessible taxi that will take a wheelchair. Try to get a taxi out in the 'burbs, or at night. It can take an hour. It can also take 2 minutes, so you have basically to sit on the couch with your coat on waiting for the thing to arrive. To make a long story short, if taxis were anywhere near comparable to the convenience of having a personal car, then this poster and everybody else would be riding in taxis.

Not to mention that taxis are far more expensive than owning a cra on a mile-per-mile basis. Try to afford a taxi if you work as a low-wage clerk or greeter. Basically you can't accept such work because you can't afford to *go* to work. So the disabled sit at home on the government dole, and the economy does without their productive labor.

Disabled people are stuck today with a menu of unpaletable transportation choices that would be completely unacceptable if there was anything they could do about it. Yes, it's absolutely true that disabled people sit at home being depressed, because the expense and hassle of getting out in the world is so great that only grim necessity overcomes it. That's why the disabled are so invisible. Yeah, downtown you see a passle of disabled-and-homeless folks on the sidewalk. That's because they can't go anywhere!!!

A driverless car would cut an hour off my commute each way (versus the bus). Wow, two hours a day. Probably doesn't seem important to temporarily-able-bodied people, because they already have those hours. Bet you'd miss 'em if they were taken away though. A driverless car would let my wife and I go to a restraunt other than the one mediocre place within rolling distance of home, without having to plan our outing three days in advance. It would cut the cost considerably too. We could choose to live in the suburbs in inexpensive housing, instead of in the city where housing is expensive but transport options are better. We could even take our kids on vacation, which you can't do in a taxi at all. Woo hoo!

It's hard to overstate the convenience of having a car in a world that caters to people with cars. Having this choice would be worth a lot of money, so even if driverless cars were expensive compared to conventional cars, I'd find the money somewhere.

It turns out that software engineer is a job you can do if you are blind or wheelchair-bound. I'd bet big money that the googlers have plenty of input from disabled people.

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Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

Anyone who starts to move when the light turns green without checking to see if the car in front has begun to move is an idiot who shouldn't be driving in the first place. It's simply basic common sense, and it's morons like this who cause shunts at lights and then try to blame the person in front for not being quick enough to move when the lights changed colour.

Drivers should be focused on the vehicle in front at lights, it's down to the person at the front of the queue to be aware of when the lights change... everyone else in the queue can see the car in front move and follow accordingly.

It's basic common sense that people seem to have either forgotten or simply ignored because they feel more entitled to be on the road that others... A tone that this entire article is dripping with.

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Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

I have to wonder if the author has driven in the US? In the UK, you can anticipate the green light because it has a preceding red + amber light. In the US, the light switches immediately from red to green. Drivers of the mostly automatic cars then have to switch from brake to accelerator - no sitting with the clutch depressed, other foot on the accelerator and a hand on the handbrake for a quick getaway.

The highway code assumes about 0.7 seconds reaction time. I'm going to guess the computer driven car will have a much smoother departure from stationary than your typical driver too, so I doubt there would be any particularly noticeable delay from other road user's perspective.

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JLH

Re: The Disabled, Sitting at Home

Kurt, and The Mole

I agree abotu getting wheelchair taxis out 'in the burbs' as I've said above.

But let me speak up for public transport in London - which is bloomin marvellous on the whole.

All bsuies have wheelchair ramps, the DLR and a lot of the Jubilee Line is completely wheelchair accessible. As is a lot of the Overbround too.

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Pint

Getting lost in tunnels, sigh...

"What happens when the GPS data is unavailable, as with a long tunnel? Does the car get lost?"

My Mercedes navigation continues to dead-reckon in tunnels (e.g. under Chesapeake Bay). It can even figure which way we went at Y-intersections underground (somewhere near NYC I think). I believe that the system is based on a U-Blox GPS chip (pure guesswork on my part) that includes individual wheel speed data inputs (from the ABS sensors) to support dead reckoning and turns.

In summary, it's a solved problem for tunnels (where they're mapped). Parking garages not so much.

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Pint

Why is anyone worried about this (in terms of safety)? Think about it...

It's not as if they're going to build a trillion billion Googly Cars and then let them all loose one lovely Tuesday morning. Even the most extreme production rates would amount to a tiny trickle of menacing Googly Cars being released onto the streets. If they immediately start crashing into things here and there, then someone will do the sums and their liability insurance rates will skyrocket. It'll self-correct without anyone gnashing their teeth and being all worry-wart about it.

Relax...

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Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

Might work in a city but out here never.

Another GOOD reason not to move.

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Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

"We call it blocking the traffic and lowering the number of vehicles that can cross a traffic light-controlled junction."

I call that adding in human like reactions where a computer may (read may, I've not tested the Google car to confirm) react too quickly. Though I'd love to see this thing do 0-60 with no driver and no G limit due to being all squishy...

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Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

I Like Heckling: "Drivers should be focused on the vehicle in front at lights, it's down to the person at the front of the queue to be aware of when the lights change."

How about everyone in the queue pay attention to the light, and also the car in front of them?

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Coat

Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

And other vehicles on the junction. I've heard it's quite unpleasent to start prompt on green, to get hit by the 18-wheeler that thought it could beat the lights…

This thread is developing a Spanish Inquisition / What have the Romans… tone to it. Yes, the one with the dead parrot, please.

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Re: Platoooooo0n - HALT!

"What do you think blind and disabled people do now if they want to go anywhere, sit at home depressed because they can't?"

No, I think they roll their walker out to the Cadillac and then cruise around at 25 in a 70 like all the other grandmas, because they can't see over the steering wheel.

If these things can get even 10% of the elderly off the roads they're a blessing. Other disabilities are pretty much invisible to me, but jesus, old people...

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Devil

Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

Honestly, I think everyone is missing the point. Since automated cars will be required to obey to "security and safety" messages, a simple black box will be all it takes to slow down any platoon so I can pass them at leisure. A similar "clear street X" message will be all it takes to clear the way so I get quick and easy passage to my destination. Since I know someone who knows someone, I expect I'll be just fine on a road full of automated cars. Don't know about everyone else tho'...

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Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

"In the US, the light switches immediately from red to green. "

More importantly, in the US and other countries, the green light goes on at the same time as the red light in the other direction goes on.

Which means if you rollout on the green, you stand a fair chance of encountering someone running a late orange in the other direction. (Sit at an intersection and watch how many drivers go into it just as or fractionally after the lights flick red. It's enough to justify the tiny pause - redlight cameras don't usually take shots until the red has been active for 1-2 seconds.)

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Re: Platoooooo0n - HALT!

My father is 70 and drives like a maniac. So does my mother.

Don't paint them all with the same brush.

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Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

"as people *always* move in anticipation of lights turning green"

"Always"? Nope, and those who do are idiots who quite-rightly deserve to have the insurers rule-against them when they pile into the back of the car in front.

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Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

The article raises some valid points but mostly buries them under a mountain of FUD. Google have been testing their driverless cars for years, you think they would not have considered any and all of the points raised?

From all of the issues raised there is only 1 that (per the article) seems doubtful, and that is if sensors stop working in difficult weather conditions. Personally I believe this claim is either made-up or embellished by the author as surely Google will be using a combination of sensors, some of which will continue to work in any condition. In any case all these issues will have been ironed out before a public lauunch.

Given the potential liabilities involved, Google would be stupid to launch if there were the possibility of big financial and reputational liabilities, and whatever they are, Google are certainly not stupid.

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Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

"Anyone who starts to move when the light turns green without checking to see if the car in front has begun to move is an idiot who shouldn't be driving in the first place."

Well said. I disagreed with a fairly large portion of the article. Having lived in a busy UK city centre for several years and having to contend with dickhead taxi/ bus drivers on a daily basis, I'd love to see fewer of them on the road. Fleets of cars that drive defensively, know how to sit in their own fucking lane without swerving into mine, know how to indicate BEFORE moving, don't run red lights and simply don't take stupid risks to shave a second or two off their journey times sound like something I'd welcome on the road.

Also, if they were cheap enough to own, imagine being able to go out for a few beers and then getting your car to drive you home afterwards....

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Re: Platoooooo0n - HALT!

My Mum doesn't drive but she doesn't use taxi's either. Why? Because they are cripplingly expensive! She will use them if it's somewhere not on a bus route and she absolutely has to be there at a certain time, otherwise no way.

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Re: The Disabled, Sitting at Home

@Kurt Guntheroth

<irony>

That's just Sour Grapes. Who are you to criticise the authors "I'm all right Jack" approach. Your independence obviously isn't worth 5 minutes on his or anyone else's journey time....

</irony>

To be fair, the whole article is a crock, if this had been written 100 years ago, it'd be claiming the Wright Brothers were insane and Henry Ford would do better using Eugenics to breed a faster horse. :-/

Google are experimenting which is great. And while we're on the subject of Henry Ford these critics who scoff might well remember his quote - "if you think you can, or you think you can't, you're probably right..."

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Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

<sarc>Pah, the car can't even drive through thick fog in treacherous conditions?!</sarc>

I'd expect the Google car can still "see" better than I can in thick fog...

In fact, don't BMW (or some German manufacturer) already offer a HUD that helps see through fog, and points out the last speed sign it read, state of traffic lights etc?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

In my place, people don't pay attention to the green light anymore, or the red light for that matter; they pay attention to the yellow right on the crossing traffic whenever possible. I tried it, and it gives you enough time to:

a) actually judge what will cross your path, even if somebody hacked the city traffic lights and forced all of them to go green at the same time. The same goes for the eventual ambulance, police cruiser, or runaway cement truck on a steep hill with no brakes. Spot the yellow, look around, clutch.

b) Clutch in the first gear quickly, instead of getting your left foot tired on it, or losing time after it went green. As soon you are firmly on 1st gear, it will be green, and off you go.

c) Get moving as it goes green, and be surprised of how much time people take to realize the light went green. I usually get a good 40 ft ahead of all cars, even some bikers, and I'm not particularly fond of burning rubber. There, I just reduced traffic by opening space to fit 2 more cars in a lane, per light.

One city fixed that behaviour by turning the lights into countdown stopwatches. You see a red lit number changing from 3, to 2, 1... applying the same principle on the green light too. You then realize that's a 90-second intersection, or 45-second intersection... no more tickets for gunning the yellow light a bit late.

If the googly car can actually read the traffic ahead, delaying 1 second to go is BS given it can achieve the same awareness as us.

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Re: Platoooooo0n - HALT!

My father is 70 and drives like a maniac. So does my mother.

The plural of anecdote...

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Gav

Re: The Disabled, Sitting at Home

"To be fair, the whole article is a crock"

The whole article is a near perfect example of straw man construction.

The author doesn't know how driverless cars work, doesn't know what research has been done and doesn't know what scenarios have been tackled. But that doesn't stop him guessing how they work, assuming no research has been done, and inventing scenarios like no-one else is smart enough to have already thought of them.

And then having constructed his strawmen, he destroys them.

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Re: The Disabled, Sitting at Home

"It turns out that software engineer is a job you can do if you are blind"

No offense, but how exactly? Sure, you can type in on a brail keyboard but how exactly are you supposed to read - for example - a load of text scrolling up a terminal at 10 lines a second or a debugger output? And thats before we even get onto writing GUI code.

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Re: The Disabled, Sitting at Home

"assuming no research has been done, and inventing scenarios like no-one else is smart enough to have already thought of them."

Google can research as much as like - but they cannot predict the behaviour of other drivers to these things - especially in a platoon of them - out on the road until they've actually done live tests on live roads so IMO the concerns raised by the author are entirely valid.

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Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

Guess what? Human sensors don't work in fog either, and are significantly impaired in falling rain and snow. It's very hard to believe that the sensors on the Google car can actually be worse than the mark one human eyeball.

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Re: The Disabled, Sitting at Home

A braille screen-reader, an audio screen-reader, and/or other haptic feedback devices. You would be amazed at how fast these devices can be used.

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Meh

@Alan Brown - Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

Wrote :- " in the US and other countries, the green light goes on at the same time as the red light in the other direction goes on. Which means if you rollout on the green, you stand a fair chance of encountering someone running a late orange in the other direction."

OTOH, in the UK the newer traffic lights have ridiculously long overlaps of red in all directions, several seconds in fact and sometimes what seems like minute. I think it is for the benefit of (usually non-existent) pedestrians to cross (I am not talking about lights with explicit pedestrian lights - that's extra). On top of this, some newer lights seem to be programmed to change to red as you approach even if there is no other traffic around - supposedly for traffic "calming".

The result is that drivers are losing their respect for red lights.

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@James Micallef - Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

Wrote : "The article raises some valid points but mostly buries them under a mountain of FUD. Google have been testing .. for years, you think they would not have considered any and all of the points raised?"

OTOH, the article (which is only about the congestion angle) and the discussion barely scratch the surface of the issues raised by these vehicles. I don't know where to begin, so I won't try here.

These things will be fine in dedicated environments such as a taxi service within Google's own campus, a large hospital and perhaps in a new town built with them in mind. Otherwise it very much reminds me of the Sinclair C5 fiasco, in which after a blaze of publicity in which we were told we would all have our live changed for ever, the few that were produced ended up as transport within some holiday camp.

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Re: The Disabled, Sitting at Home

"A braille screen-reader, an audio screen-reader, and/or other haptic feedback devices. You would be amazed at how fast these devices can be used."

So for example - I've got a program writing a hexdump of received packets on one xterm, debug output on another xterm and actual program operation in a GUI window. Please explain how a blind person is going to operate in that enviroment?

I'm not having a go at blind people but I find it hard to believe that someone with no vision could operate effectively as a serious developer. Simple line Basic programs yes - modern developement - no.

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Re: Getting lost in tunnels, sigh...

Mine shows the direction of travel & position whilst in underground car parks. The older satnav's had gyros's etc that where used to determine location when gps signal was lost, hence part of their expense. Not sure on how the newer ones are working, i suspect a newer cheaper gyro.

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Re: Platoooooo0n - HALT!

There is no information yet on how much calling up a "pod" would cost. It might be more expensive than a taxi.

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Re: Getting lost in tunnels, sigh...

Before GPS was available, airliners were routinely flying thousands of miles with their position computed accurately to a better precision than GPS gives us by means of an inertial navigator. Essentially a box that measured yaw and acceleration in all axis and a computer that integrated them to derive velocity, then integrated again to derive position. Those accelerometers, gyros and associated computer were incredibly expensive - but like all things electronic have now come down in price so that it can be achieved by a few square mm of silicon with costs in the tens of dollars - especially when it only needs to maintain accuracy for a few minutes until a GPS signal is re-acquired rather than over a 10 hour longhaul flight.

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Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

JustWondering "How about everyone in the queue pay attention to the light, and also the car in front of them?"

Well that's obvious... I said focus on the car in front, not 'devote 100% of your time to the car in front'

In the same way that you focus on the road ahead whilst driving, yet are able to flick your eyes to mirrors and your speedo... At least that's what I do, along with every other person who can drive properly. It's about being aware of what's going on around you... and if your focus is not on the car/road in front of you... that's when accidents happen.

Or were you just being pedantic?

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Re: Getting lost in tunnels, sigh...

"Before GPS was available, airliners were routinely flying thousands of miles with their position computed accurately to a better precision than GPS gives us by means of an inertial navigator"

Bollocks. Inertial systems can have quite a high rate of drift, they're nowhere near as accurate as GPS. Over the course of a few hours flight they can be miles out - enough to put you into the side of a mountain if you don't use other forms of navigation.

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Re: The Disabled, Sitting at Home

"So for example - I've got a program writing a hexdump of received packets on one xterm, debug output on another xterm and actual program operation in a GUI window. Please explain how a blind person is going to operate in that enviroment?"

They aren't. You've clearly chosen your tools to suit the relatively high bandwidth that you can channel through your eyes. I don't believe you are reading, far less memorising, those hex dumps. Much more likely is that you're skimming them for something that catches your eye. Fine, but don't imagine that's the only way to develop software and certainly don't imagine that it is the most effective way for a blind person to do it.

I'm guessing, but I would expect a blind person to spend a lot more time thinking about what they *expect* to see, and writing tools to parse the incoming stream to pick out deviations from that. For certain kinds of software development, such people may in fact be *more* effective than the average programmer, simply because the average programmer's approach of "try it and see" is so far from optimal for certain classes of problem.

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Re: The Disabled, Sitting at Home

@boltar: No offense, but they'd probably start with a simple Google search, like any other vaguely-capable developer encountering a new problem. If you'd done that, rather than poring through your green screen hexdump, line-by-line (are you a character in an 80's sci-fi film?), you'd have found this as one of your top hits:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/118984/how-can-you-program-if-youre-blind

It features lots of very experienced, blind software engineers, detailing their experiences and advice for practical "modern development" with limited or no vision.

Also, if you find you're starting any statement with the phrase, 'no offense', may I suggest you pause for a moment and re-think the wording of that statement.

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Re: The Disabled, Sitting at Home

@Kurt Guntheroth: Great post, and thanks for introducing me to the term 'temporarily-able-bodied'. As a temporarily-able-bodied person myself, it made me pause and think about the full implication of what it means. I shall do my best to use the same phrase myself in future.

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Re: Platoooooo0n - HALT!

Clearly they are over-empahsising the value to different people that would use their product. That's just called 'marketing'. Every brand does this.

Isn't it condescending to say "Blind or disabled people don't need cars, they have taxis"? As an able-bodied person I'm happy that I can make the choice to drive or take a taxi. Why shouldn't a blind person have that same choice? The only thing currently standing in the way is availbility of technology.

The point is that this technology is a step towards equality of transport options.

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Re: Platooooooon - HALT!

People saying "A computerised car can't do X, Y or Z" are missing the point - in order for such cars to operate the computer will have to be able to do these things, if it can't it wouldn't be allowed on the road and nobody will buy it!

In the long run, computer technology will get to the point that it can drive a car, if it has not already happened.

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Re: The Disabled, Sitting at Home

Clearly there could be limitations, but there's a lot between a simple program and debugging hex dumps. I class myself as a serious programmer but I rarely need to debug hexdumps. In a team you use the person best suited to each task.

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