back to article SOULLESS machine-intelligence ROBOT cars to hit Blighty in 2015

Robotic cars are set to prowl the streets of Britain by next January without human supervision – as Westminster prepares new rules to allow autonomous vehicles on the public highways of this sceptr'd isle. Today, driverless cars are only allowed to travel on private roads. New laws will allow them out to motor across the streets …

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Coat

by 2020 no one should be killed or seriously hurt by a Volvo.

They should be careful what they ask for, after all no-one's been seriously hurt or killed by an Austin in years...

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"no-one's been seriously hurt or killed by an Austin in years..."

Depends on how you define seriously hurt. My Healey Sprite fell off it's axle stands onto my foot last week, hurts like a bugger and I think that's quite serious.

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Bring it on!

I for one welcome our new robotic automobile overlords!

As someone who is barred from driving due to disability, it might mean I no longer have to rely on unreliable public transport or extortionate taxis to get to places outside of major towns and cities.

It would also be nice to be able to travel in the late evening or on Sundays, when many public transport operators can't be bothered to provide any kind of service.

I just hope the government eventually allows completely unattended operation, rather than the cop-out of insisting that driverless cars must still have a 'driver' with appropriate licence who can take control if required.

I'm still not sure how well they'll handle 'off road' situations, such as parking in a muddy field at a car boot sale, marshalled by a bloke in a hi vis jacket with no traffic direction ability.

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Re: Bring it on!

I'll wait for MKIII with the "fills self with fuel and uses car wash so you don't have to" addons.

And the built in toilet. "The car in front is a Kohler Mira GTi"

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Anonymous Coward

I want a driverless car!

Well, I do! Don't know what the AA are on about. Driving is boring and tiring and ripe for automation. Plus you could send a driverless car off to park itself - no need for ugly city centre car parks. And you could let it go and do other stuff during the day, instead of sitting at the station. And lots of other things.

I'm sure if it was 1890 the AA would be talking about how nobody is ready to give up their horses.

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AC:- Re: I want a driverless car!

Wrote "you could send a driverless car off to park itself - no need for ugly city centre car parks"

So ugly out-of-city-centre car parks instead then. Whoopee. More traffic on the roads too with driverless cars cruising around loooking for car parking spaces. Of course, drivers do that now, but at least there is a limit to how far they will go.

If I had set off by car from where I used to live in the London suburbs to go to the centre, I would have ended up parking further from the centre than where I started from. That's why I always used public transport to travel within London, as do most people. However, expect many more people to be using driverless cars in cities, sending them to park miles away (tens of miles away in London's case) until recalled.

Did someone claim this will be green and/or reduce traffic?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

Perhaps they can use the car parks at some of those mega supermarkets that are apparently being made obsolete by e-commerce.

I doubt you'd need to have cars cruising round looking for spaces - it seems a small further step to link the car up to something that would tell you where there was a space? And perhaps to put the car to some good use while you're doing your shopping - so perhaps, fewer cars overall, used more intensively. I don't know. i'm sure there could be "green" benefits, but they're not certain. It depends on how (whether) the technology is used. With careful, intelligent planning and some thought, it could have great advantages. If it's just flung into the mix with no real plan, it could be a mess.

Oh...

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Holmes

Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

" they can use the car parks at some of those mega supermarkets that are apparently being made obsolete by e-commerce."

That will be no time soon.

I doubt you'd need to have cars cruising round looking for spaces - it seems a small further step to link the car up to something that would tell you where there was a space?"

That facility is not specific to self driving cars. Moreover, when I drive though city streets I very rarely see any spaces, and whenever car pulls out of a space ahead, someone in front of me invariably pulls straight into it. It would seem that most cars driving along city streeets are just cruising for a parking space. waiting for this to happen, so there is zero chance of an empty space half-a-mile away still being empty by the time I reach it. As for city-centre car parks; oh, the GP did away with them becase they were ugly..

"And perhaps to put the car to some good use while you're doing your shopping"

What would that be? Lend it to a neighbour? - no thanks.

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Re: Don't know what the AA are on about

They're on about if lots of cars are out and about and automated, their services wont be needed so much any more.

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Re: I want a driverless car!

"And you could let it go and do other stuff during the day, instead of sitting at the station. And lots of other things."

- Excuse me sir, are you the registered owner of a light coloured 2 door saloon with registration OFP 857?

- Yes that's right officer, it's parked in my garage. What seems to be the problem?

- I'm afraid you'll need to come down to the station with me sir - that vehicle was involved in an armed robbery less than 2 hours ago.

- <Yells> Herbie! Get out here right now! What did I say about moonlighting as a getaway car when I'm at work? You are so grounded...

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Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

"However, expect many more people to be using driverless cars in cities, sending them to park miles away (tens of miles away in London's case) until recalled."

Why do that when in London it will likely be cheaper to just send it to crawl about in traffic for the day - especially when combined with start / stop ignition.

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Re: I want a driverless car!

I like the idea of sending it off to park itself, and then calling it back when needed. I want to be able to call it back by whistling though.

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Stop

Re: I want a driverless car!

"Driverless" might not mean "unattended"; legislation might still require a human to be in the vehicle, nominally ready to press a big red button to stop the vehicle in case of an emergency that the vehicle fails to detect.

Of course, they'll never press the button in time, because they'll be too busy texting, but at least there'll be someone to blame.

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Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

@nuke. You have made the assumption that you own the car.

There is already a model for using a community car (let's call them taxis) that are responsible for taking someone from A to B . There's also the Car2go concept where you rent the car for the journey but drive it yourself. Combine the two into a driverless car model and it might work.

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Why even park?

Just leave the car in the middle of the road.

If plod comes then tell him the car is driving itself and you don't know why it isn't moving.

It brings to mind a whole lot of interesting questions...

Who is going to be fined/charged when a car does not obey a cop and pull over/move on etc?

I'm expecting a lot of engineers are going to spend a lot of time in court explaining why the car did X when people think it should have done Y.

Just look at all the crap Toyota went through due to issues iwth just their accelerator. Imagine what the bunfights will be like when the car is fully autonomous.

One group of people who're smacking their lips are the lawyers and "expert witnesses" who make hundreds of $ per hour either prosecuting or defending these cases.

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Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

Driverless cars could immediately make more parking space available on streets by shuffling around to close up the gaps, then cooperate to let cars out again. Because human parked cars are static*, a sizeable portion of the potential parking space is wasted by the arrival and departure of different length cars and the inadequacies of many drivers.

*Mind you I like the Paris solution where cars are parked with soft handbraking so arriving and departing cars can shunt them forwards and backwards.

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Go

Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

"With careful, intelligent planning and some thought, it could have great advantages. If it's just flung into the mix with no real plan, it could be a mess."

Yeah, and "careful, intelligent planning" is so much he government's forte. Oh, it would be local governments doing these things? Oh well, as you were then.

Seriously, "just flung into the mix with no real plan" isn't such a bad idea. Let the ideas evolve around it, once we have it. Presumably driverless cars will be subject to the same taxes (road tax, petrol tax, parking charges, congestion charges) as the rest of us, so why not let them find their own optimal usage pattens?

Sure, I can see problems. For instance, a lot of supermarkets in busy town centres will let you park for free for 90 or 120 minutes; I can see a driverless car abusing this by going and waiting 89 minutes in one, then moving a mile or so along and stopping in another for 119 minutes, then going back to the first... and so on, as it whiles the day away. That's an obvious abuse, and I'm sure it'll come up, and the supermarkets affected will change their policies or infrastructure somehow to deal with it.

But let it evolve naturally. Don't try to plan everything from the get-go, that's a recipe for (at best) paralysis, (at worst) a clusterfuck of NHS IT programme proportions.

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Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

@Bill B… And, if several people are going in the same direction, they could share a larger community car.

Hmm, needs a catchy name… how about a Bus?

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Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

Hmmm I can have another transport scheme to setup...

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Devil

Re: I want a driverless car!

"And you could let it go and do other stuff during the day, instead of sitting at the station."

I await with interest the first occurrence of a driverless car being cited as the third party in divorce proceedings..

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Re: I want a driverless car!

I'm not ready to give up my horse now, but she's not tremendously practical as a way of getting from A to B and for some reason the office don't have any stabling or grazing arrangements.

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Anonymous Coward

The lawyers are probably able to see all kinds of legal problems with these new cars and are already smiling on their way to the bank.

If a self driving car is the guilty part in a crash, should police arrest the responsible owner of the car?

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Since a self-driving car needs a range of cameras and sensors, it would be an obvious step to link them to a black-box recorder. So I rather suspect that in the event of a crash sufficiently serious that the police feel the need to arrest someone, their first step will be to review the video and then arrest you (since it won't be the driverless car making the mistake). :-)

Another issue will be fraudulent injury claims by passengers: "the car suddenly stopped and I got whiplash" type stuff. The only protection the insurance companies will have is to video and data log entire journeys; any sharp braking will get recorded. Which means that if you cut one up and cause it to brake sharply, and the passenger complains, you'll be the one getting the summons for 'driving without due care and attention' and the injury claim from the passenger, suitably inflated by their lawyers.

Welcome to the brave new world of driving.

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"...since it won't be the driverless car making the mistake..."

I'm a fan or driverless cars however I'm also a software dev so I know they will make mistakes. Some of those mistakes would be crazy silly things that no human would do in a million years. And the fact that, on aggregate, they will save plenty of lives will not stop the tabloids going on a crusade against them because of those mistakes.

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re: since it won't be the driverless car making the mistake

It might just though, see Toyota's Killer software -

http://www.edn.com/design/automotive/4423428/Toyota-s-killer-firmware--Bad-design-and-its-consequences

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Pint

Does this mean we can start driving to the pub again?

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You always could drive to the pub. It's driving home afterwards that's problematic.

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It's not a problem if you don't drink.

Although that does sort of make the journey to the pub a bit pointless.

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Joke

You could always do that - at least according to the old anecdote:

Friday night at the pub, the plod is outside waiting. As it starts getting late, the first guy bumbles out looking for his car - he's stumbling all over the place, tries the wrong car repeatedly etc.: obviously drunk as hell. The plod is following him closely ready to bust him when he leaves - as others start getting into their cars and drive away. The bloke eventually finds his car (the only one left by then), climbs in and rolls out - to be immediately waved down, of course; except incredibly, he seems strangely sober now, and his alcohol level measures zero. "How is this possible?!?" the cop cries out "let's test again!". "Oh, it's quite simple" the man replies "it's just that I was the one on duty for tonight..."

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Trouble is that if you can drive to the pub sober and your car will drive you home when you're drunk, the market for 11pm taxi's will disappear.

Considering how much of a stink that cabbies kicked up over Uber, I imagine your 5 minute journey home will take an hour due to protesting cab drivers organising a night time go-slow protest.

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Call me an old fuddy duddy, but I quite like being the designated driver (or driving to a mates 40 miles away for a catch up, bringing the booze but not drinking it) normally because I'll leave post-midnight sober as a judge, and then the roads are empty and you can really make progress on the way home.

York to Scarborough as a daylight driver? Anywhere between one and a half and two hours depending on the number of 40-mph-everywhere-numpties and the non-overtakeable queues they generate.

Same trip at night. 45mins is easy, but I've heard of people managing it in closer to 30. Presumably they don't have much time for points on their license, and have excellent headlights :-$

It does make the daytime trips seem like horrribly painful affairs though.

Steven R

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The market for taxis is - not completely dead yet, but certainly looking at a sharp decline.

But the average taxi driver isn't exactly rich, either in cash or free time. If significant numbers of them can even spare enough energy and petrol to drive slowly around the roads at 11:30 p.m. with no-one paying them, I for one will be astonished.

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Unaffected by new laws

"However, the public-funded body's mouthpiece said work on these vehicles would be unaffected by the new laws because they drive on the pavement. "

I've noticed that most vehicles driven or parked on pavements are unaffected by both existing and new laws. Luckily speed and bus lane cameras are handling all the serious crimes.

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HMB

Re: Unaffected by new laws

Don't get me wrong, most motorists commit speeding offences so they're no angels, but at least most motorists don't drive around at night with their headlights off or drive consistently on the wrong side of the road for no good reason. I even saw some police cycling without proper lighting recently!!

When I was cycling I wasn't perfect but I did bother to put lights on my bike front and rear.

I realise I'm sounding like a cliché.

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@HMB Re: Unaffected by new laws

Wish I'd been there; the barstewards 'ad me for that one many years back. Barely dusk, 5 minute journey, actually had lights but front batteries were on last legs - what really got me was half the cars around me didn't have their lights on yet, nor did the city buses!

(Note: I did not voice these observations. I'm sure it's just a local phenomenon, but the police around here aren't too fond of engaging in debate on the defensibility/proportionality of their actions, for some reason...)

When I see velociplods(TM), I always wonder whether they've volunteered for this, or couldn't think of an excuse fast enough...

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£10,m?

Should just about cover the legal costs of one accident.

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Re: £10,m?

It was well over that for Selby rail crash

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Heck_rail_crash

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Anonymous Coward

Re: £10,m?

We [Fortis as was] were underwriters for that. It's still used in induction courses as an example of why *re*insurance exists ... we palmed it off at £10m. As our tutor said, you'd be amazed how much a railway carriage costs ....

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MJI
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Re: £10,m?

And the bastard has been released!

RIP to the rail staff and passengers

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Re: £10,m?

The guy had been awake all night and fell asleep while driving. That was his choice.

How many of us who work on call end up with no sleep and the have to go into the office the next day. Employers are expecting staff to turn up and also to cover out of hours. Sure there will be some who have a responsible approach, but many don't. Couple this with the macho act from many who do provide in call cover and I wonder how long it will be before some systems admin who has been up all night fixing a problem or who has spent 20 hours in the office kills someone or themselves while driving home.

"The bastard" is an easy target and has served the sentence set down by the law. How do we address someone who ends up doing the same because they are overtired because of their work? A good reason for having the Working Time Directive.

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Re: £10,m?

how long it will be before some systems admin who has been up all night fixing a problem or who has spent 20 hours in the office kills someone or themselves while driving home.

Already happened at my place about 6 years ago, an engineer worked a full day and then got called and had to work through to about 4am. He fell asleep at the wheel on the way home, hit a lorry (I think it was a bin wagon or a skip truck) and died.

I seriously doubt that he was the first or the last.

The only practical way to prevent this kind of thing is to have shifts so that you're always limiting the amount of time people are likely to be asked to work. In reality that costs money and the suggestion seems to put the screaming heeby-jeebies up about 50% of the work force for some reason, so it isn't always possible to implement.

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Re: £10,m?

"A good reason for having the Working Time Directive."

It might be, if every contract I've ever been sent to sign hadn't included an opt out. In theory this may be optional, but in reality, at least in the City, it isn't.

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Re: £10,m?

Fell asleep when driving? Common occurence in junior doctors. More so since the EWTD, as we no longer spend 9am till 5pm the following day in the hospital, but do brutal amounts of work between 9-6, 2-11, 9-9 night shifts and various other shifts with no consideration for circadian rhythms. Oh, and you move around multiple hospitals in a region every few months so your home is almost certainly a drive away.

Driving home after a shift is dangerous, and widely recognised as such.

I will welcome self driving cars, and spend the time doing something more fun. People who like driving will not, but will be nudged into them through insurance, which tends to favour the safer option irrespective of anyone's personal preference.

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MJI
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Re: £10,m? (agincourt)

The guy had been awake all night and fell asleep while driving. That was his choice.

Not even working just chatting up women.

And where was the choice for John Weddle & Stephen Dunn?

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Cars won't be the first self drive vehicles on the road it will be buses in London and long distance night time trucking lorries on the motroways

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Will these night time trucking lorries

have special software in them to accommodate the need to pass other lorries in an overtaking manoeuvre that lasts at least ten minutes?

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It will be taxis

Lorries quite often carry expensive freight which will need chaperoning and cross legal jurisdictions which adds to the legal complexities.

Milton Keynes introducing driverless public transport pods by 2017

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Re: Will these night time trucking lorries

"have special software in them to accommodate the need to pass other lorries in an overtaking manoeuvre that lasts at least ten minutes?"

If (MySpeed - OtherSpeed > 0.00000000000001)

AllowOvertake = True

Else

AllowOvertake = False

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Re: Will these night time trucking lorries

Correction:

....

Else

AllowOvertake = Hey, why not.

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Headmaster

@AceRimmer - Re: Will these night time trucking lorries

Wrote "Will ... lorries have special software in them to accommodate the need to pass other lorries in an overtaking manoeuvre that lasts at least ten minutes? .. If (MySpeed - OtherSpeed > 0.00000000000001)"

It's worse them that. MySpeed is often only > OtherSpeed because it is in Other's slipstream. Once past, the situation is reversed and OtherSpeed becomes > MySpeed.

It is even worse than that because each lorry has a bow-wave and tail-wave of air. Once alongside eachother they can get stuck together aerodynamically and can stay like that for miles until one of them throttles right off.

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