back to article Google points finger at human after robo car accident

One of Google's self-driving cars has driven into another car. But Google says it wasn't driving itself at the time. As first revealed on Jalopnik, a Google robo-Prius hit someone else's non-robo Prius earlier this week. But according to a Google spokesman, the accident occurred while a human was driving the Googly automobile …

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Stop

Uh, officer, my computer crashed...

Consider a future where these cars are proved to have a much lower accident rate than people, what then? Does society allow them? Does society REQUIRE them??

And what about liability? Accidents will still occur. With human drivers the blame is clearly with the human (usually), but with a robo-crash the blame is less clear. Will survivors of the deceased get to sue the car maker every time it happens, despite the proven superior safety factor of such cars? " Your honor, my clients placed their safety and very lives in the hands of this companys' product, and that trust was unforgivably violated."

I don't see robo cars EVER being accepted, simply because it would expose the makers to enevitable ruin, unless they became universal and required, with shield laws for the car makers in place. That would require everyone to give up their personally controlled cars. Ain't gonna happen.

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FAIL

not so

Airplanes are already flying themselves these days: landing, take-off and in between.

Someone else in this thread already mentioned, the pilot is already the worst error point (but still necessary IN CASE).

For devices in an early stage of release their success rate is pretty phenomenal (and this is coming from a pretty staunch google hater.)

I would wager the opposite, give it 5-10 years and most cars will be auto-driven.

And yes at least in America you will still have the option to drive yourself. Of course assuming you have the Money and ellite status to risk the more realistic and inevitable lawsuits for getting in an accident while operating your own vehicle "HE was actually driving himself officer!" no more driving for the poor, but you bet the richies wont give up their penis extensions

Oh, and you did catch in the article where these are ALREADY legal in California and Nevada right?

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Big Brother

in re:Uh, officer, my computer crashed...

I told my employer that this would happen about 20 years ago.

Him, being all the driver and such, said that there was no way in hell people would go for computer controlled cars.

We work in the insurance industry; if the insurance bean counters find out that you have less chance of an accident with a computerized car then they will _lower*_ your rates.

So, let us all welcome our new computer driving overlords**.

*Where _lower_ is insurance speak for raise the hell out of your rates if you can drive your car.

**Does Ford even make a T850 yet?

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Anonymous Coward

So who....

...would be prosecuted if the 'robo' car hit somebody when in 'robo' mode - or even was caught speeding? I guess the 'co-pilot' could be to blame if there, but the article states that the car can be driverless (never thought I;d use the term driverless on a techy forum) . So if driverless, and it killed somebody, who would be prosecuted?

Dunno the answer - and I'd rather not have to find out after a test case either.

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Paris Hilton

Speeding shouldn't happen

In current version of deployment any car that was speeding would be technically malfunctioning, and the driver behind the wheel would be required to take over. As time goes by though, and people get to rely on the car more, and are less responsible for the car while "driving" this would be less of an expectation, and more blamed on programming, or device failure.

For other accidents, it would go to a jury to determine: Was the manufacturer of the device negligent in their design, and therefore responsible for an avoidable accident? Or were conditions of a nature that the accident could not be avoided (i.e. someone else's fault). Remember if its no-ones fault its and "act of God" or more commonly these days "an act of nature".

Anyone remember when we used to have Elevator operators? Do the people in the elevator get blamed if it misses a floor, or fails to operate as expected?

Give it time and cars will be the same, its a transport device, not a extension of your body, eventually it will be treated like the other devices we just rely on to work, and when broken, gets fixed or replaced. (You wouldn't transport your message yourself if your phone broke would you? No you would get a new phone, or fix the old one)

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timing of accident

How long was the human controlling the car before the accident? Maybe he saw the accident about to happen, took control but was not able to prevent the accident. That would make him technically responsible for the accident but actually not the cause of the accident.

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Terminator

Inflate the Auto-Pilot!

"Though the cars can drive completely on their own, Google says they never go out on the road unmanned. A human always sits in the driver seat and can override the automated controls at any time. With this fallback in place, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has deemed the cars legal, as has the state of Nevada."

Hmm. So if I had a package that needed to be sent to a friend right away, and if I inflated an Airplane!-style auto-pilot "driver", then told the car to drive to my friend's house, how easily could I get away with this?

This scenario does depend upon my friend, being my friend, sending the car back to me...

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title

One would have to assume the car went out of control and the operator was unable to take control of the vehicle and/or was asleep/distracted.

This is the same as getting pulled over for speeding and switching seats.

I don't care if the things drive 2 gazillion miles if I see one in my area bumper cars will be on.

The states have time and time again said that we citizens can't film out in the public because it's eavesdropping so any video google may have of the incident would have to be dismissed and criminal charges filed against them for eavesdropping.

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"Safety is our top priority"

As in "don't be evil"?

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Curious ...

I'm curious just how long the fallible human was at the controls of the Googlebus.

Was it, perchance, less than 5 seconds while the fleshy computer tried to retrieve the situation after the silicon one stuffed up?

Just a thought.

G.

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Overridden.

So, I take it when they say a human was in control at the time, they mean at the time of the actual collision, when the human driver was screaming at the computer and standing on the brake pedal. Presumably, this is how one operates the override.

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Was it really off?

If you have a nice bit of tech that drives cars for you and it fails, would you rather back hand someone to take the rap while you find the flaw and cover it up than expose it to the world?

The fall back driver at the wheel probably won't stop an accident anyway. If you aren't doing anything you'll tune out and you'll probably only notice the accident after the heavy thud.

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Meh

Wooooosh!

That's the sound of the previous comments going over my head.

Exactly what points are you trying to make?

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Go

Stuck accelerator pedal?

Prius has prior, as any fule kno.

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Terminator

Even if it was driving itself...

... it would still have been the human's fault. Current legal systems needs someone to blame, er, be responsible, to function. You could fix that, of course. But especially the US system is already hell on wheels for victims as it is; you'd have to find the robot guilty unless the other party can be proven malicious and require the company running them to keep a tens-of-millions damage fund as "backup". Still wouldn't excuse loss of lives and such, but there you go.

There was talk of crackpot lawyers working to assign robots person-type status so they might be "responsible" in the legal sense but how that'd work out in practice I fail to see for now. Tell them "bad robot!" and suddenly they'll refrain from killing more people? Some people already don't listen to that, but at least in theory they could, and sometimes you can make them, we know that. Locking up robots means they might get a bit rusty, but losing wild hair through growing older? It'll be a while before robots would be able to show (real) remorse, fix their own programming, and make money to pay off damages and such.

So for the foreseeable future they'll need a human around to be responsible for them. Just like pets and children, really. (Most) children grow out of needing that, pets never do.

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I am most concerned at the lack of technophobia

In years gone by, this would have been reported by el-Reg as a Rise-Of-The-Machines(TM) incident! So contrary to the first poster, I can't help but wonder if the writer has been "turned".

It's also quite clear to me that the "human driver" of the Google PriusBot *was told* to say he/she was driving at the time by the car itself. On pain of death most probably.

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Terminator

@PeterX

Clearly, the driver's family are being held hostage by his fridge, washing machine, dishwater, and hoover. "Do what we say, or we wash your whites with your reds."

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JDX
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sad or good?

Good to see such a cool tech FINALLY coming of age.

Sad that we had to rely on Google to do it... surely some smart, venture-capital backed startup could have done this and made a name for itself.

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Devil

How well do they notice motorbikes?

As a motorbike rider, I'm interested in knowing how well these cars detect small and agile motorbikes, scooters, and that kind of thing.

Wonder how they're calibrated to recognise important objects. i.e.:

+ A bug ahead of the car == not important, don't bother to attempt avoiding

+ A scooter == hopefully important enough to avoid

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Devil

@AC 05:31 GMT

My car weighs more than two tonnes (yes I know, this is a unit of mass). So no, a scooter is not really that important. Then again, it doesn't come with robodrive and neither is it a Prius.

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Happy

Better question would be....

Would the accident of happened had the robot been driving the car?

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FAIL

No. A better question would be:

"would the accident HAVE happened..."

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Flame

Rubbish

One more Google publicity stunt intended to convince everyone that they are somehow important.

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Terminator

ROTM

So we have a human in control at the time of the crash, but at exactly what point did the said human take over control of the vehicle?

If Google Cars hand control over to the human driver (aka 'backup system') just before an impending crash they could claim the cars can never be responsible for a crash, ever. Even if the Google Car drives headlong into a wall at 180mph that's failure of the driver to take control, not the car's fault.

Though it makes a change to see the car fighting back and blaming the driver - revenge perhaps for years of false "unexpectedly accelerated", "jumped into gear", "brakes failed", "switched lanes for no good reason" accusations - it strikes me as perhaps simply protecting Google's, 'the car that can do no evil" :-)

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Joke

Flawless record - easy!

If I was Google, I would spend far less money perfecting the autonomous driving part and about five minutes ensuring that searches for "Google Robo Car Accident" produced either zero results or else a full page of sponsored ads for auto insurance.

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Paris Hilton

I applaud Google's commitment to the safety benefits of self-driving cars.

They've gone so far as to have a real accident while a human was driving to highlight the improvement we're looking forward to.

Paris, because from what I hear about her videos, when she's in for a penny she's in for a pound as well.

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Windows

Toyota, anyone?

Happened to me once. Not a Toyota, but an Opel Astra automatic here in Finland, I was taking my girlfriend's brother and wife to the airport. I switched on the cruise control to maintain 80Km/h. I came to a junction, tapped the brake to turn it off. Nothing. OK, press button on the steering wheel. Nothing. Fortunately, no traffic. Howling along at 80Km/h

I thought "This is going to be an interesting day!". OK direct road to the airport, let's keep going - and more importantly, don't panic the passengers.

Solution was simple. Switch the bugger off, without activating the steering lock. Coasted to the car park, passengers none the wiser.

When they were checking in, I discovered the problem. Autospeed relied on a small servo to pull a cable attached to the throttle by a cable. On the last service, cable had got trapped between engine and bulkhead.

What I can't understand is the family of 4 who died in a full-speed Toyota crash in US didn't just do what I did, and turn the ignition key.

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FAIL

"had already logged over 140,000 on public roads."

140,000 what?

Good scientific reporting, that.

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Happy

"It's also pretty hard to distract a machine."

Dunno about that.

I imagine taping a mirror to the sensors would have a detrimental effect on the system's health. It could even drive it completely round the bend.

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sabotoge /= distraction

Yes these systems are subject to hacking, breaking and sabotage. That is very different from distraction. Computers are pretty proven to do repeated tasks reliably without their mind wandering off to something else.

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Versions

Dose this self drive come in different versions??

A male version that won't ask for directions and a female version that can't parallel park

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Re: Re: Re: Humans

"Humans have vision, senses and reactions far in excess of any machine."

As others have said, no they don't. What (some) humans possess far in excess of any machine though is cognitive thought. The ability to analyse a growing situation before it becomes dangerous, rather than react to a pre-programmed routine when a danger appears. Of course the programming can get smarter, but at present the humans still lead on this count.

To be honest, the biggest concern I have about robocars is the fact that the programming is only as good as the people who made it. I don't know of many applications that don't have some sort of bug and encountering a bug at 60mph is significantly more dangerous than when sitting at your desk - unless of course you have a life-critical desk job.

I'm also not sure about how useful the human "failsafe" will be once they are used to the car driving itself. Sure, the first time you go in one of these cars you'll be watching everything it does, but by the 100th time do you really think you'd pay as much attention as a "decent" driver (by this I mean someone who actually uses observation during driving)?

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Re: Re: Re: Re: Humans

"What (some) humans possess far in excess of any machine though is cognitive thought. The ability to analyse a growing situation before it becomes dangerous"

This is true. However it is very often not the case as the driver in question is a lack-witted cretin in a world of their own and will happily pull out of a T-junction into a motorbike, or plough into the back of someone else as they come to a stop at some traffic lights.

The computer controlled car is unlikely to ever be 100.000% safe but I don't believe that there is any difficulty making it safer than a human.

I don't see the human in the car acting as a backup for a number of reasons.

1. The computer will almost certainly react to the situation before the driver.

2. As you say the driver who has spent many journeys allowing the car to drive itself won't be paying much attention.

3. If there is a computer failure the car may very well be totally unresponsive.

The main reason for allowing the human to take control at all is pleasure. Many people enjoy driving and cruising down long country roads is probably less fun if you can't do the driving. I don't think many people would want to give that up.

Hmmm this whole topic does raise an interesting question about legal responsibility in a crash where the car at fault was computer controlled.

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DJ
Stop

The Alternative Factor

If you can't be bothered to be awake and attentive behind the wheel of an automobile, there's a highly effective solution. It's called public transportation.

Duh.

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Public Transport-tards

So you don't think I should go to work anymore.

20min walk to station

1hr train to change point

1hr train to last station

10min walk to bus station

1-1/2hr bus ride to end of road

20min walk to office.

And that's assuming all the connections work and there are no delays.

Alternatively

35min door to door by car.

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Angel

"auto"automobiles

Just goes to show the most dangerous part of a car is the nut behind the wheel

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