back to article Confirmed: Driverless cars to hit actual British roads by end of year

Driverless cars will hit the streets of Britain by the end of this year, the government has confirmed. In a briefing document titled Action for Roads, the Department for Transport confirmed that Oxford University boffins will start trials of autonomous cars later this year. The scheme to take the human element out of motoring …

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  1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    "most likely be configured to perform boring, tricky tasks like parking"

    I though there were cars that pretty much did this already.

    1. WonkoTheSane
      Terminator

      Re: "most likely be configured to perform boring, tricky tasks like parking"

      Current models only work the steering, the driver still has to apply throttle & brake.

      Volvo have recently shown off a car which will drop the humans off at the entrance to a multi-storey car park, then drive in and find itself an empty space.

      How the driver finds or summons his car back to take him home was not revealed.

      1. Amorous Cowherder
        Happy

        Re: "most likely be configured to perform boring, tricky tasks like parking"

        "Volvo have recently shown off a car which will drop the humans off at the entrance to a multi-storey car park, then drive in and find itself an empty space."

        ' Now everyone remember where we p....oh right. Ermmm...right you go with John and Lisa and I'll go with Claire, we'll meet back here in an hour if you can't find it, everyone got everyone else's number? '

        Car parks of tomorrow full of lost souls endless searching for their cars, while their cars keep moving around!

      2. Alan Edwards
        Happy

        Re: "most likely be configured to perform boring, tricky tasks like parking"

        > How the driver finds or summons his car back to take him home was not revealed.

        Send it an SMS, or an email? A big "come here, car" button at the entrance that uses RFID/NFC to work out who you are and which car to summon?

        The other thing it will be able to do is drop you off at the office door, then go home and park on your drive, thus avoiding parking charges. It will then monitor the traffic conditions to know when to set off to be at the office door to pick you up at the end of the day.

        Imagine a big gaggle of people outside the office at 17:01 waiting for their car, all jumping on every silver Mondeo that appears...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "most likely be configured to perform boring, tricky tasks like parking"

          Yes, so useful for it to drive back to Cambridge to park after dropping me in London

          I can see how this will save me money........ Oh, Wait a minute

          1. Intractable Potsherd

            Re: "most likely be configured,,," @ Cambridge AC

            No, but you will find it easier to park your car because those who would find this useful won't be filling up all the spaces at the end of their 20 minute drive (that could have been done on the excellent London Transport system).

            It seems a bit odd you are using a car into London from Cambridge - the train service is very good, isn't it?

        2. Frank Bough

          Re: "most likely be configured to perform boring, tricky tasks like parking"

          Are you writing from the mid nineties?

      3. Refugee from Windows
        Thumb Up

        Re: "most likely be configured to perform boring, tricky tasks like parking"

        Ah so you've been to the short term parking at Manchester Airport as well. Let the car drive round looking for a parking space - as they don't believe in lighting the "car park full" sign - meet the wifey and stop the car on its next round past looking for a place.

      4. ItsNotMe
        WTF?

        @ WonkoTheSane

        "Volvo have recently shown off a car which will drop the humans off at the entrance to a multi-storey car park, then drive in and find itself an empty space."

        So tell me @ WonkoTheSane ...if the car parks itself in an ILLEGAL parking space...just WHO is responsible for the parking ticket?

        The car owner? The car's passenger(s)? The Programmer who wrote the software? The company who manufactured the car? The car itself? Because after all...the owner/passenger(s) didn't make the choice of parking spots...the CAR did.

        And on top of all of this...just exactly WHY do we need "self-driving" cars anyway? If people don't want to drive a car...TAKE A BUS FFS!

        1. Mycho Silver badge

          Re: @ WonkoTheSane

          "if the car parks itself in an ILLEGAL parking space...just WHO is responsible for the parking ticket?"

          The manufacturers' insurers, according to most companies I've seen answer that question.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "most likely be configured to perform boring, tricky tasks like parking"

        "Volvo have recently shown off a car which will drop the humans off at the entrance to a multi-storey car park, then drive in and find itself an empty space."

        Yup, same for Audi. On some markets they're also sold with an automatic drive in congestion mode. They basically add automatic steering to what adaptive cruise control already does. The automatic steering itself likely reuses technology from lane guidance and vehicle detection as used for automatic beam deflection.

        One small step at a time seems the way to go.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "most likely be configured to perform boring, tricky tasks like parking"

      have you ever tried them?

      I have tried VW's version, and it is useless... slow, and not very accurate... much faster to do it yourself...

      1. Ragarath

        Re: "most likely be configured to perform boring, tricky tasks like parking"

        I have tried VW's version, and it is useless... slow, and not very accurate... much faster to do it yourself...

        Though to be honest they are still probably a thousand times quicker than the multiple people I have been behind while they try to get into a parking spot.

        1. James Hughes 1

          Re: "most likely be configured to perform boring, tricky tasks like parking"

          I watched someone attempting to parallel park the other day. It was truly amazing to watch. The space was, actually pretty big. She stuffs the nose in first (Noooo!), then spent at least 5 minutes nudging back and forth not getting any closer to the kerb. Then gave up, left it at an angle and walked off.

          Truly stunning.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "most likely be configured to perform boring, tricky tasks like parking"

      Shame we don't have them now...

      facebook.com/BadlyParkedCars

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One thing they still have to sort out....

    ....if the car is under it's own control and is involved in a colision, where does liabilty lie?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One thing they still have to sort out....

      with the programmer ;-)

      1. Tom_
        Happy

        Re: One thing they still have to sort out....

        Surely this is something that QA should have piked up! We can't fix bugs that haven't been reported, you know.

    2. Justicesays
      Devil

      Re: One thing they still have to sort out....

      With the person or organization with the most money of course.

      Or rather

      size of cashpot * probability of winning = priority order for lawsuit

      1. Big O

        Re: One thing they still have to sort out....

        "You take the number of vehicles in the field (A) and multiply it by the

        probable rate of failure (B), multiply the result by the average

        out-of-court settlement (C). A times B times C equals X. If X is less

        than the cost of a recall, we don't do one."

        Seems apt!

  3. wowfood

    We all know where this is going

    First semi-autonimous

    Then fully automatic

    Then when somebody pisses off the government, their car will 'malfunction' straight into a tree.

    Although it'll make it much easier to catch hit and run / GTA, a clunk on the bonnet of a certain force? Cut the engine, Guy steals your car? Cut the engine remotely.

  4. austerusz

    I stopped at "Driverless cars to hit actual British". 'nuff said.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      I am a bit more concerned about "A groundbreaking trial of these vehicles on the road is expected to start later this year. " If they are breaking ground, haven't they done something wrong?

  5. Atonnis

    All at once or none at all

    There's just one problem with all of this, as long as there are people who will be able to drive manually then the automatic driving system just won't work.

    People are opportunists, and they will zip and dash and squeeze and rush and crush and yell and scream and beep and always be about beating everyone else at the lights, and just getting past 'the light was only pink, officer!'.

    Until the day you can force everyone to go to automatic driving, or perhaps change liability so the fault always lies with the manual driver, it just won't work.

    1. Richard Wharram

      Re: All at once or none at all

      Speak for yourself. I'd welcome the opportunity for an hour's extra sleep a day :)

    2. Rob Moss

      Re: All at once or none at all

      It's been pretty much proven by Google already that it doesn't really matter whether other drivers are ducking and weaving all over the place. Your fully autonomous vehicle can see them coming via radar a few hundred yards off, detect the erratic driving patterns and act accordingly to maximise safety and efficiency. If anyone's going to get hit or delayed by someone driving like a nutter it's the poor guy with the non-autonomous car who has to try to react to what's happening all by himself, with only two eyes and his own wits, reactions and personal driving experience to help him. As soon as one of these things actually goes on sale, it'll have many millions of miles of driving experience per week and, as long as the programmers are up to it - which so far they seem to have been save for sitting in the centre of the lane on a Tokyo highway (nobody else does, they all make themselves an extra lane, so it caused a traffic jam, now apparently fixed) and the sheer idiocy of both the guy who rammed one in stationary traffic and the other guy who switched off the automation and drove it into a post - these vehicles will be safer and more efficient than anything we've ever seen on the road.

      And better still, if you root it, you can teach it to tease traffic wardens.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: All at once or none at all

        But the thing is, when Murphy intervenes, it's going to be from an angle that no one had even had the thought to cover.

        For example, would an automated car be able to react well to a low-to-ground obstacle suddenly falling off the back of a truck? What about a child suddenly running out in front from between two cars (thus practically invisible beforehand)? Can the car detect small but significant patches of black ice? How will it react to an accident suddenly starting in front of them? And so on?

        1. Alan Edwards
          Thumb Up

          Re: All at once or none at all

          > would an automated car be able to react well to a low-to-ground obstacle suddenly falling off the back of a truck

          No worse than a human. The sensors will react quicker than a human, and it might be more accurate in predicting which way it's going to bounce.

          > What about a child suddenly running out in front from between two cars (thus practically invisible beforehand)?

          Again, it should be able to react to the human-shaped infra-red/laser imaging signature appearing quicker than a human can. It would also be able to work out quickly whether it can go around them without causing a serious collision.

          > Can the car detect small but significant patches of black ice?

          Yes, the infra-red signature would be different. It also might be able to detect itself losing control quicker, with accurate accelerometers comparing actual movement to control inputs.

          The other thing is that, with software updates, all the "drivers" learn from the mistakes made by other automated cars.

        2. Marcelo Rodrigues
          Happy

          Re: All at once or none at all

          "For example, would an automated car be able to react well to a low-to-ground obstacle suddenly falling off the back of a truck? What about a child suddenly running out in front from between two cars (thus practically invisible beforehand)? Can the car detect small but significant patches of black ice? How will it react to an accident suddenly starting in front of them? And so on?"

          Well, an autonomous car is not perfect - but so aren't we!

          I'm not sure about the hypothetical box hitting the road, but would bet that the car would "see" it. Simple because it must knows where the sidewalk ends - and to that it must "see" things close to ground.

          The child would be, at least, treated as another obstacle. The first priority (or one of them) is not hit things. So, the car would break/swerve in order to avoid the child. If it would be successful is another argument. But i'd risk saying the child odds would be better with a computer driving the car. Simple because it doesn't panic.

          About the black ice... no idea.

        3. Thorne

          Re: All at once or none at all

          "For example, would an automated car be able to react well to a low-to-ground obstacle suddenly falling off the back of a truck? What about a child suddenly running out in front from between two cars (thus practically invisible beforehand)? Can the car detect small but significant patches of black ice? How will it react to an accident suddenly starting in front of them? And so on?"

          The answer is simple. Better than the manual driver will. Yes the automatic car might run over the little kid but then again so was the manual driver anyway. If the little kid could have been saved, it would be the automatic car. The car will have seen the child, calculated the path and speed, calculated that it cannot avoid the child and now aims the car at the child so the child hits the car in the middle of the best crumple zone maximising the chances of survival and reducing the chance of going under the wheels. All of this in less time than the driver can say "Holy Sh..."

      2. Mike 137

        Re: All at once or none at all - or maybe only a few?

        "Your fully autonomous vehicle can see them coming via radar a few hundred yards off..." Yes, that'll work while only one or two cars are using radar in the same space. However, when the idea catches on and every one of hundreds of cars is pinging constantly, the system is going to break down. Even if it's not based on "radar", the sheer number of independent comms channels required will exceed practicability if channel separation is maintained, or alternatively there will be loss of signal integrity and consequent errors (aka accidents).

        The very simple alternative solution would be to teach folks to drive properly - it's not that hard.

        1. GrantB
          Boffin

          Re: All at once or none at all - or maybe only a few?

          Hundreds of cars? Meh, guided missile cruisers and other military systems such as AWACS have been able to track and target hundreds of objects in real time and 3 dimensions for many years. That includes incoming threats moving at supersonic speeds.

          Even on a busy round-about with 5 or more roads merging, you are probably only looking at a few dozens cars at any point in time being a threat or which the system needs to exchange signals with.

          Compare that with meat bags currently driving vehicles in busy traffic; I occasionally ride through a complex round-about system with inner and outer lanes and 5 entrance/exit points. Even a ZX81 could navigate it better than some drivers I see failing to cope.

          Should be pretty obvious from the road toll in most countries that extensive driver training and enforcement does not work that well.

          1. Vic

            Re: All at once or none at all - or maybe only a few?

            > extensive driver training and enforcement does not work that well.

            I'm not aware of any country that does either of those.

            Most countries do *minimal* training and superficial enforcement. Except when it comes to speed cameras, of course...

            Vic.

    3. chr0m4t1c

      Re: All at once or none at all

      No, those are the challenges that make the autonomous vehicles difficult to develop.

      If you were starting from a blank sheet, you'd build your towns/cities/villages/etc so that vehicles and pedestrians were completely separated, vehicle automation would then be relatively straightforward as you can significantly reduce the number of unexpected inputs they need to react to.

      The problem is that we're not starting with a blank sheet, not by a long way.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: All at once or none at all

        "If you were starting from a blank sheet, you'd build your towns/cities/villages/etc so that vehicles and pedestrians were completely separated"

        But that is hardly practical. After all, if it was, it would have been done already with those unpredictable human drivers on the roads!

      2. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: All at once or none at all

        I have to agree with the general sentiment here.

        And separated paths from pedestrians and other cars for autonomous vehicles to follow? We have that. It's called a train line.

        I don't get where autonomous cars fit in as opposed to just tram/train-ifying everything properly. If you have to program the car to run the gauntlet of human drivers, but expect it to subvert human drivers, then just build another lane which the car CAN'T veer from (i.e. a tram line, in effect, but maybe with a "virtual" barrier of a white line). No problem with obstacle detection, reaction times, swerving, etc. and you can programmatically select your course as you go (we call them points).

        Mandate that one lane on every motorway is this type of lane, and you can introduce them in a matter of years. Cars are much easier to design and use if they are separated off like this. Drivers can drive to the motorway, enter the lane, press a button, then go to sleep until they get near their destination. Drivers of old cars can still use the roads but have an incentive to upgrade quite cheaply (and maybe you could not tax the cars capable of using those lanes, or make them not subject to tolls, etc.). Over time, you can just add more lanes until it's viable to say "Okay, all roads are like this now" in 15-20 years time when all cars have the feature. THEN you can talk about car that have only autonomous functionality.

        But, as it is, we've spent 30 years messing about trying to make cars brake together and follow lines and have only just got the legal framework in place to allow a prototype to touch a normal road for the first time.

        I'm still interested to know what an autonomous car does if it sees a) a sheer cliff in front of it's wheels (i.e. road collapse, cliff collapse, unmarked road edge, etc.) and b) a large pothole / roadworks exposing the asphalt / blind summit that could be mistaken for the above. Because, to my mind, both scenarios are a potential "drive off the edge" / "slam brakes on and refuse to proceed" situation if you're an autonomous car, and neither are incredibly unlikely, and both reactions will cause serious problems.

        Ignore autonomous cars. Bring out a "personal train". It's a car that follows a white line with sensors on the front that brake the car for any obstacle. No need for complex interpretation as the line-following/braking mode need only be activated when on a designated lane (make the lane somehow announce itself and it's automatically switched on when necessary). At all other times it's a normal car.

        Road cost: A line of paint and a designated lane, paid for by tolls on other lanes or a tax on "automated cars" (recouped because you don't have to pay as much insurance if most of your journey is not you driving).

        Car cost: Next to nothing compared to a completely autonomous system. Optional. New cars only, 15-years from now, every car could have it.

        Driver cost: A button on the dash / indicator light to show when you're on an autonomous road.

        Insurance cost: On the separated, illegal-to-stop-on, no-pedestrian, isolated, secure, monitored-for-hazards-by-a-bog-standard-CCTV, motorway-only, can't-cross-onto-without-a-compatible-car-going-through-an-automated-entrance-gate lane, the manufacturer / road maintainer cover accidents jointly. All other places, it's the driver's responsibility.

        People would buy one now just to get through a congestion-charge-free or M6-toll-free lane to encourage their use. It doesn't have one millionth of the liability problems of driving next to idiots. It can be rolled out on motorways NOW and smaller roads follow if necessary once its successful. If it flops, we just paint the lane back a normal colour.

        But for some reason we've skipped this step entirely and are trying to replicate humans directly in a computer, like the way early aviation pioneers use to flap huge wings and run up and down.

        1. Squander Two

          Re: All at once or none at all

          Lee D,

          What happens if your special white line is broken? It could be blackened by skidmarks, for instance, or just plain worn out in places. The onus would be on the state to make sure all white lines were spick & span. Would you rather trust the state road-maintenance crew or your own car's systems with your life? And how much carnage could a saboteur cause by pouring some black paint on a white line on a motorway?

      3. JimmyPage Silver badge

        Re: All at once or none at all

        "If you were starting from a blank sheet, you'd build your towns/cities/villages/etc so that vehicles and pedestrians were completely separated"

        Wasn't Milton Keynes built like this ? The downside being with no mixing of cars and pedestrians, it can be a very dangerous place to walk at night, as you're out of sight ?

        1. messele
          Happy

          Re: All at once or none at all

          MK was indeed built like this - at least for the grid roads and yes there are trees and shrubbery separating the two in many places.

          You might be surprised how few incidents there are relative to the population though, my gut feeling is there are no more attacks in the entire city than would be expected if it was built to a traditional layout - maybe even less but I don't know why this is.

          Probably a good thing to have the main roads separate to pedestrian areas though since the transit is so congestion free the roads are like drag strips nearly all of the time.

        2. system11

          Re: All at once or none at all

          I went for a training course in Milton Keynes. I thought the way the town worked was fantastic both from the point of view of a driver, and in the evenings a pedestrian.

  6. Flywheel Silver badge

    Presumably this'll mean that all those fat bastards on mobility scooters will now be buying these cars because they can carry more cider and pizza.

  7. smudge Silver badge
    Holmes

    They've been on the road for years

    Nissan have had driverless cars on the roads for years.

    They're called the "Micra", and they usually put an old bloke with a hat into the driver's seat, just for appearances.

    1. Pie
      Thumb Up

      Re: They've been on the road for years

      Rover beat Nissan in that respect with the Metro

      1. smudge Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: They've been on the road for years

        True. But I'm old enough to remember that before the Austin mini Metro (sic), there was the Austin 1100...

        1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: They've been on the road for years

          That's nothing, young man. Before the Austin 1100 there was the Austin A35, the Morris Minor and (massive feat of memory, here) the Austin Ruby.

          1. Graham Marsden
            Flame

            Re: They've been on the road for years

            What about BMWs?

            Oh, sorry, it was Driverless, not Brainless...!

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. stu 4

        Re: They've been on the road for years

        I was travelling in the passenger seat, with my grandfather (99 last week) driving about 15 years ago in his British Leyland Mini Metro.

        He'd previously mentioned his eyes weren't quite as good as they used to be, but didn't make a big thing of it, so didn't seem too bad...

        We came around a corner, and there was a black and white traffic cone on the the left side of the road.

        "Oh my god - there's a penguin!"

        Suffice to say, we relieved him of the keys from that day... for 2 reasons!

        1. frank ly Silver badge

          @stu 4 Re: They've been on the road for years

          It was a penguin; but your mind couldn't handle it, so it was replaced by a black and white traffic cone. How do I know this? - I've seen those penguins before, lots of times.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They've been on the road for years

      these days they've all moved up to a Honda Jazz

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Motorways Only

    If only there was some way to make it fully automated on motorway / dual carriages. But then leave the driver fully in control in more built up or rural areas.

    This would make long journeys easier e.g I had to drive from Maidstone to Preston the other day - M20 - M25 - M1 - M6. If the car could have done the main bulk of that for me it would have made life easier.

    1. darthsteve
      Thumb Up

      Re: Motorways Only

      +1 for that. In addition, all of my driving delays are from people rubber necking accidents on the motorway. Although this doesn't guarantee these particularly mentally deficient individuals wont drop out of auto-pilot to gawp, it might at least reduce this particular plaque on the roads.

      1. C 18
        Joke

        Re: Motorways Only

        >...it might at least reduce this particular plaque on the roads.

        It's either that or a hell of a lot of flossing I suppose.

    2. breakfast

      Re: Motorways Only

      Definitely more use for Motorways than smaller roads- the idea of a driverless car trying to manage the tricky etiquette of negotiating oncoming tractors on wiggly, muddy, single track roads with passing places would require a degree of hard AI that I fear is a considerable distance into the future. Also the car would be hard pressed to perform the single finger wave ( not that one ) of understated greeting applied in these circumstances.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Motorways Only

        "the idea of a driverless car trying to manage the tricky etiquette of negotiating oncoming tractors on wiggly, muddy, single track roads with passing places would require a degree of hard AI that I fear is a considerable distance into the future."

        The problem I have with that is that if a car can't handle that sort of situation, I wouldn't trust it to drive in any situation.

        I feel the AI needs to be better than a human in ALL driving circumstances before it can be let loose on its own...

  9. Credas Silver badge

    Ages away

    When it takes 5 years just to make a stretch of existing motorway a "managed motorway" - in other words put up some CCTV cameras and build a few refuges so the hard shoulder can be used - then 2040 seems woefully optimistic to get affordable fail-safe fully autonomous vehicles designed, tested and into production, and make all the legal and infrastructure changes necessary.

    1. Arbee
      Happy

      Re: Ages away

      Let me guess - you live near the Almondsbury Interchange?

      I share your pain...

      1. VinceH Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Ages away

        Has it really only been five years? It feels longer.

        Especially when you're stuck in a queue of traffic in the area.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    May I suggest all BMW's be fitted with this first, as 50-60% of near misses i've had have been with BMW drivers... I am just thankful I have a reliable car with very good handling and brakes!

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Funny you should say that

      Driving on the Mway and a BMW slotted itself into the gap between me and the car infront. There was not enough room!

      Of course a bottom of range 5 series.

      Actually BMW driving like a prat = bottom end model

      1. PC Paul

        Re: Funny you should say that

        I thought Audis had taken over from BMWs in the last few years?

        Anyway, I drive an old but high end BMW (bangernomics yay!) and a similar spec Audi. I let people out at junctions just to confuse them.

        Personally I find its not the make of the car but the proximity to large cities that seems to determine the quality of the driving. Closer = More aggressive.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Funny you should say that

          Older BMWs OK

          Top end BMWs OK

          Cheap news ones BMW or Audi, knobs

          I know a P reg 318is owner and a 3 series coupe owner, and they notice this as well

        2. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Funny you should say that

          "Personally I find its not the make of the car but the proximity to large cities that seems to determine the quality of the driving. Closer = More aggressive."

          Not all cities, Bristol is pretty chilled out, driving wise. As you go down the M4, the general standard of driving gets worse as you go east.

        3. John H Woods Silver badge

          Re: Funny you should say that

          "Anyway, I drive an old but high end BMW (bangernomics yay!) and a similar spec Audi. I let people out at junctions just to confuse them."

          Me (although in a little A3 cab) too ! I stopped for a cyclist yesterday and he looked *really* confused. My wife pictured him at the cafe where all the MAMILs (middle-aged-men-in-lycra) hang out: "Hey this Audi stopped for me on a single track road and waited for me to pass" Chorus: "No! Don't be stupid, what do you take us for? Have you been drinking? .. etc."

    2. cs94njw

      > May I suggest all BMW's be fitted with this first, as 50-60% of near misses i've had have been with BMW drivers

      Or at the very least, have the computer in charge of the indicator lights... coz no-one else is.

  11. mcnicholas

    Packed side streets

    I love the idea of autonomous cars, but I think there are some serious challenges for them.

    Picture the scene: A packed London side street - parked cars on both side of the road, only one car can pass in either direction. This situation requires drivers to recognise the problem and co-operate (flash one car through, hope the five cars behind dont follow and cause gridlock).

    How will auto cars work this out without being able to communicate with an oncoming human driver? How will we prevent the robot car from following a car into the tight spot? Will the robot car realise that it needs to reverse back to the nearest gap? Etc etc. Would hate to have to program the code for this!

    I can't wait until these things are sorted - it's v tricky for people (who often fail in this situation).

    1. El Andy

      Re: Packed side streets

      When both cars are AI controlled, there is no reason they can't communicate and negotiate an optimal solution much quicker and more reliably than two human drivers. It's the mixing of human drivers and AI ones that represent most of the issues like this, because the way humans tend to indicate their intentions are subtle and varied.

  12. Nigel Brown

    As a motorcyclist

    i was initially somewhat concerned about this, but then I thought about the near misses I've had due to idiots with no roadcraft or roadsense, to myopic morons who dont know left from right, to aggressive and reckless micro-penised drivers of 4x4's, jeeps and redneck wagons and concluded that a system that removes the human element simply cannot be any worse.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As a motorcyclist

      As a motorcyclist an organ donor, I have the right to overtake on blind bends and hills and on single lane roads with oncoming traffic. Those solid white lines in the middle of a road do not apply to me and the lane markings on motorways are only there for me to use as a guide when I squeeze between two cars moving at 40mph on a congested motorway. The side of my tyres must wear faster than the bottom otherwise it shows I haven't been cornering fast enough and when I start off from lights I must accelerate so fast that I have to fight to keep the front wheel in contact with the road. Under no circumstances must I accept any blame for any accident, it is always the other drivers fault.

      1. Santa from Exeter

        @ AC Re: As a motorcyclist

        As a chavved-up Nova/BMW owner (brain donor) I have the right to overtake on blind bends and hills and on single lane roads with oncoming traffic. Those solid white lines in the middle of a road do not apply to me and safe distances on motorways are only there for me to use as a guide when I squeeze between two cars moving at 70mph on a congested motorway. My tyres must wear faster than everyone elses, otherwise it shows I haven't been spinning the wheels enough and when I start off from lights I must accelerate so fast that I have to fight to keep the back end under control. Under no circumstances must I accept any blame for any accident, it is always the other drivers fault. Motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians are a target, and shouldn't be on *my* road anyway.

    2. Ledswinger Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: As a motorcyclist @Nige Brown

      In the Department Against Transport's preferred future, there won't be any motorcycles, so although your antagonists may be automated away, so will your petrol powered stallion.

      Will you still wear leather and have a ZZ Top beard when you're in the Mk 7 Toyota Prius, sans steering wheel, and offered only in DfT Universal Beige?

  13. Some Call Me Tim
    Facepalm

    Here's a Thought

    So they are spending billions on trying to teach a computer to drive a car safely and reduce congestion, wouldn't it be simpler to spend a fraction of that teaching humans to drive properly? and for the ones that simply can't grasp it, take away their driving licence and give them a bus pass. Less drivers on the roads and the ones who are left know how drive properly, Problem solved. Except there'll be busses full of idiots (which we could just drive off a cliff young ones style which would solve many other problems)

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Here's a Thought @Tim

      You appear to be under the misapprehension that there are buses everywhere to carry the idiots. This is not the case. I live 7 miles from the nearest bus stop.

      1. stu 4
        Holmes

        Re: Here's a Thought @Tim

        >You appear to be under the misapprehension that there are buses everywhere to carry the idiots. This is not the case. I live 7 miles from the nearest bus stop.

        Provided you are not an idiot, that is irrelevant... all we need to do is prove that all idiots live close to bus stations, and we can close this case!

      2. Frank Bough

        Re: Here's a Thought @Tim

        You lucky bastard.

    2. C 18
      Meh

      Re: Here's a Thought

      @Some Call Me Tim: You should run for president.

  14. David Webb

    Ahh...

    So, every now and then we get reports of a driver following their GPS system and ending up somewhere they really shouldn't have gone, and if they were not following the GPS slavishly they wouldn't have gone. If an automated system uses GPS in the same way, there could quite well be issues.

  15. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    So just 15 years after Italy...

    From

    http://www.argo.ce.unipr.it/argo/english/tour/node2.html#SECTION00011000000000000000

    "In order to extensively test the vehicle (i.e. under different traffic situations, road environments, weather conditions,...) a 2000 km trip was scheduled for June 1-6, 1998. During this test, ARGO drove itself autonomously along the Italian highway network, passing through flat areas, mountains including high bridges and tunnels. The Italian road network is particularly suited for such an extensive test since it is characterized by extremely different road scenarios, thus including varying weather conditions, and is generally highly crowded. For speed reasons, the tour took place mainly on highways and freeways, although the system has been designed and tested to work also on rural extraurban roads."

    I followed it in 1998 (online, not physically, and not in real time, either), and I found it extremely impressive then. I think it is still impressive now.

    More details on

    http://www.argo.ce.unipr.it/argo/english/index.html

  16. Aaiieeee
    Thumb Down

    Thinking to the future, I don't trust this at all. The RAC reckon there are 34,000,000 cars on British roads (2011). Knowing the state of the IT industry and the inability for anyone to actually do their job properly (working partially in IT support, and work in general has made me really pessimistic about the ability of people in general), I am seriously scared of a bug/hardware malfunction/bad design at 70mph.

    Not to mention that the costs for this would spiral out of control and nobody would take any responsibility for anything, and the project will change direction many times and be massively overdue.

    So when the general population have been trained out of being able to reverse bay park, or are seriously out of practise, what happens when a manual override is required?

    The concession I can make is that this should only be for motorways as mentioned above, essentially an auto-pilot type system as long motorway driving is burdensome and this seems more achievable than rural driving.

    I like driving, and we all make mistakes (lack of attention/judgement/timing etc) but I don't like the idea of losing freedom - I don't need my car to be driven for me.

    Sure, fit a breathalyser, attention monitor, sleep monitor to my car so I cant be irresponsible, but let me do the driving.

    Also (just remembered!), it said in the article that the human driver will be there to override the car to prevent mowing down pedestrians. In actual fact the human will be day-dreaming, reading a book, on their phone, or watching the countryside go by and will totally fail to react in time. Seriously, who is going to pay full attention when they have no actual need to control the car?

    1. Rob Moss

      There is no "project". It's just a car. That's the point - Google's car, for example, doesn't need any of these third-party aids. Everything it needs is in the vehicle. And after several million miles of autonomous travel, it's been crashed into once (in stationary traffic) and never hit anything. That's a better record than anyone I know has. Furthermore, software and hardware do not get tired, pissed, annoyed with the kids in the back, distracted by a low-cut top and a short skirt, distracted by someone else's car having a dent in it on the hard shoulder, blinded by the reflection off the bald head of the old man in the convertible in front... and they can quite easily concentrate on the behaviour of every moving object, no matter its size, within LIDAR range.

      When is a manual intervention required? Never. Human beings should not be trusted with a two-ton lethal weapon.

      1. phil dude

        here here...

        I second that. I think the hysteria over these vehicles, including deployment are unnecessarily pessimistic. If there is one thing that the Google car has shown is that the problem is solvable, now we just wait for some degree of technological miniaturization, cost reduction etc...

        Here in the USA many cities already have "commuter" lanes, so a robot lane is not a stretch of the imagination.

        Once there is a critical density of these vehicles, it is easy to imagine a scenario where humans only drive vehicles outside of urban environments i.e. roads.

        Finally, parking and traffic management become "solved" problems. For example, you leave your house in North London for an address in central London, which will immediately reserve a space for the time you will arrive. Traffic lights are only there for the humans anyway, and was was pointed out by Rob M. computers do not get tired or distracted, and they can communicate any change in road conditions throughout the driver network.

        The only problem with this technology is the government is going to be tempted to screw it up by spying/selling/limiting/taxing/obstructing and delaying the uptake of this technology.

        P.

      2. Intractable Potsherd

        @Rob Moss

        "Human beings should not be trusted with a two-ton lethal weapon." And you presumably also think that we shouldn't be trusted with fire, pointy sticks, or stones.

        FFS - people like you should be made to live on a nice safe island somewhere, where there is nothing that can hurt you. The rest of us could take bets on how long you would survive (it would last about the same time as a series of a reality show, so it could be televised).

    2. brainwrong

      Who the fuck will I be able to shout at?

      "Seriously, who is going to pay full attention when they have no actual need to control the car?"

      This is the single most intelligent and accurate comment in the whole debate. Think about it.

      From the main article:

      "It's a great area to be working in because it's IT and computers and that's what changes things."

      And that's the stupidest justification for doing anything. Does nobody think about the effects and consequences of the jobs they do anymore? Just because somebody will pay you to do something doesn't mean it's a good idea, it just means that they think they can make money out of you. We've totally forgotten personal responsibility in our career choices, and it depresses me.

  17. Tim B

    Let's just hope this "communicate with each other" is secure...cos I really don't want a virus/trojan getting into my self-driving car!

    1. Aaiieeee

      This is exactly it. In the day and age where your PC can be compromised by visiting a website, what hell of a chance can we be sure this system will be either reliable or secure? (I am not making any comment about Windows/Linux etc, more the state of the industry as a whole)

  18. Simon Harris Silver badge
    Boffin

    Journalism.

    I think there is a more accurate version of the story...

    here, in The Daily Mash

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Make them 4x4

    Because that would could cut down the time taken to get them out on the roads.

    4x4's don't need any form of driving license or awareness of other road traffic I've noticed so could really help them get going, reduce AI loading to virtually zero.

  20. Amorous Cowherder

    Driverless cars will hit the streets of Britain? Hit the rest of us you mean, when some total wanker all of 19 years old decides to do something typically unexpected and cause a pile-up while managing to escape harm himself!

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. Goldmember

    For this to work in the UK...

    ... we need to - and I feel dirty for saying this - take a leaf from America's book. We need to introduce byelaws and spot fines for idiotic people who 'jaywalk' in urban areas. There are ridiculous amounts of pedestrians pouring over our city centre roads who show complete disregard for traffic, as if they have a right to walk alongside - and in front of - cars, as and when they see fit. These are the people who will scupper autonomous driving, especially with our police forces' thought process in the event of accidents almost invariably being 'Car hits pedestrian. Driver's fault. Arrest driver. Ask questions later.' The first idiot to run across the road and get hit by a car controlled by Android will stop the plans dead in their tracks.

    There are only 2 ways to stop this that I can see;

    1. Make hitting dick headed people legal (rewarding, yes. But not likely to happen.)

    2. On the spot fines for breaking the rules

    Education for pedestrians won't work. Safer cars won't work. The only two way to stop this type of behaviour is by hitting pockets, which apparently works very well in Hong Kong and other places.

    1. DJ 2
      Stop

      Re: For this to work in the UK...

      In the US the right of way is size biggest to smallest.

      In the UK and most of Europe it's smallest to biggest.

      Jaywalking makes sense under the US rules where the car is bigger than the pedestrian. In the UK the pedestrian always has right of way. Except where pedestrians are not allowed.

    2. CCCP
      WTF?

      Re: For this to work in the UK...

      @Goldmember

      That's not even clever trolling. Most people who drive also walk, no?

      Daily Fail board is that way --------------------------->

      1. Goldmember

        Re: For this to work in the UK...

        "Most people who drive also walk, no?"

        Not at the same time. Generally.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: For this to work in the UK...

      People, animals and non motorised vehicles have every right to be on the road. There aren't pavements everywhere.

      The modern smooth tarmacked roads were introduced to make cycling possible, before then it was cobblestones everywhere.

    4. Squander Two
      Stop

      @ Goldmember

      > There are ridiculous amounts of pedestrians pouring over our city centre roads who show complete disregard for traffic, as if they have a right to walk alongside - and in front of - cars, as and when they see fit.

      They do indeed have that right. Read the Highway Code. As DJ2 has pointed out, pedestrians always have the right of way in the UK (except on motorways). The law that says they shouldn't be in your way exists purely in your self-aggrandising imagination.

      What is far more ridiculous is the number of drivers who apparently think "It's OK to kill someone if the light's green" and actively accelerate towards pedestrians they see in the road, as if murder would even be a reasonable way to prove your point if your point were right, which it isn't. I see from your suggestion 1 that you think the problem with hitting a pedestrian with your car is merely that it's illegal, and that you are therefore one of these sociopaths. The sooner you're all replaced with robots, the better.

      1. Goldmember
        FAIL

        Re: @ Goldmember

        @Squander Two

        "The law that says they shouldn't be in your way exists purely in your self-aggrandising imagination"

        Where did I say a law preventing pedestrians from being in my way existed? Certainly nowhere in my comment. I said there SHOULD be one. This has nothing to do with self-aggrandisation, it's a matter of safety for pedestrians and motorists.

        "I see from your suggestion 1 that you think the problem with hitting a pedestrian with your car is merely that it's illegal, and that you are therefore one of these sociopaths."

        No, there's also the matter of the cost to repair the damage to the front end of my car. I didn't mention it, but it's certainly a factor.

        If I'm doing 30 on an urban road and some twat on a phone steps out in front of me from between parked cars (or across a busy urban road when my light is green and his light is red) without looking and I hit him, the current system would deem that to be my fault. In an automated car, this would be the software development/ manufacturer/ insurance company's problem. The twat on the phone wouldn't ever factor into it, despite his obvious stupidity.

        If thinking the twat in my scenario should be recognized to be at fault means I am 'therefore one of those sociopaths', then I must be. Either that or your logic could be completely arse about face.

        1. Squander Two
          Stop

          Re: @ Goldmember

          > Where did I say a law preventing pedestrians from being in my way existed? Certainly nowhere in my comment.

          You said "as if they have a right", which can only imply that you believe they do not have such a right. Wrongly.

          > This has nothing to do with self-aggrandisation, it's a matter of safety for pedestrians and motorists.

          All road users, pedestrians included, have a responsibility to act safely. But what you were talking about was making it a criminal offence for any pedestrian to have the temerity to walk in the road. The current system gives pedestrians the right of way, giving drivers a clear unambiguous obligation to try to avoid hitting them. You're telling us that taking away their right of way and telling drivers that the roads belong purely to cars will somehow make pedestrians safer? Got any stats to back that up? Last I checked, the UK's roads were safer than the US's, where they have the anti-jaywalking laws you want.

          > If I'm doing 30 on an urban road and some twat on a phone steps out in front of me from between parked cars (or across a busy urban road when my light is green and his light is red) without looking and I hit him, the current system would deem that to be my fault.

          Er, no it wouldn't. Really. The current system says that the pedestrian has right of way, so you are supposed to stop for them if you can. If you can't, fair enough -- and that is the police's and CPS's view. They would deem it to be your fault if you had time to react but just ploughed right through them anyway -- for instance, because you thought you shouldn't have to stop because they had no "right" to be in your way, as a lot of drivers do.

          > If thinking the twat in my scenario should be recognized to be at fault ...

          But you didn't say that anyone who steps out carelessly in front of cars and then gets hit by a driver who can't stop in time should be deemed responsible for putting themselves in a dangerous situation (no argument from me there); you said that anyone who walks in the road at all -- not just people on phones, not just people who aren't paying attention -- should be fined because you incorrectly believe that they have no right to be there while you in your car do, i.e., they should be given a criminal record for getting in your way. If that's not self-aggrandising, what is?

          1. Goldmember

            Re: @ Goldmember

            "You're telling us that taking away their right of way and telling drivers that the roads belong purely to cars will somehow make pedestrians safer?"

            Not at all. It's all about etiquette. When it's my turn to use the road, pedestrians should wait. When it's their turn, I should wait. If either party breaks this rule and ignores their own traffic light, they should be fined. At present, only motorists are subject to this. If this situation was evened up, busy city roads WOULD logically be safer.

            "stop for them if you can. If you can't, fair enough -- and that is the police's and CPS's view."

            Yes, eventually, and hopefully. But I still maintain the fact that the police will usually side with the pedestrian until an investigation is carried out, thus 'asking the questions later' and putting the motorist through a bigger ordeal than the one they're already going for having hit someone.

            "you said that anyone who walks in the road at all"

            Nope. The 'as and when they see fit' qualifier I added, in addition to the term 'jaywalking', was a reference to people who choose to walk across the road when advised not to by pedestrian lights (the red man), thus putting themselves in danger. Obviously if my light is red, it's their turn to use the road and I'm not going to complain about that. My point is that in cities, the red light for pedestrians should be compulsory, not advisory.

            "you said that anyone who walks in the road at all -- not just people on phones, not just people who aren't paying attention -- should be fined because you incorrectly believe that they have no right to be there while you in your car do, i.e., they should be given a criminal record for getting in your way"

            Yet again, no and no. I didn't say either of those things. For one, this line (a direct quote from my comment):

            "spot fines for idiotic people who 'jaywalk' in urban areas"

            states quite clearly that I was referring to 'idiotic' people, those who don't pay attention; not to every single pedestrian who uses the road. You chose to ignore this obvious statement and instead formed your own incorrect interpretation of what I actually wrote.

            Secondly, an on the spot fine issued by a local council for jaywalking wouldn't constitute a criminal record. It would be akin to a parking fine; annoying, severe enough to make you think twice next time, but no long term repercussions.

            Honestly, you should actually read things through before jumping to conclusions. I have no problem with pedestrians who use the roads safely, only with those who choose not to, and subsequently put my safety at risk.

            1. CCCP

              Re: @ Goldmember => I pronounce you...

              The Eadon of pedestrians.

              RIP Eadon.

            2. Squander Two
              WTF?

              Re: @ Goldmember

              Oh, I SEE. Jaywalking would be illegal, but the police would only fine IDIOTIC jaywalkers. Anyone who broke the law but the police deemed to be sensible, they would just leave alone. Of course. You're right: that was so obvious. And yeah, it would totally work.

              M'lud, while my client admits to having jaywalked, he vigorously denies the allegation that he was jaywalking idiotically, as the prosecution put it, "as and when he saw fit". My client is known to be a sensible man with good etiquette, who jaywalks only after careful consideration and if there is an R in the month.

              1. Goldmember

                Re: @ Goldmember

                "Oh, I SEE."

                Clearly not. People who ignore the red light telling them not to cross the rod, would in that instant be jaywalking. That's how it works. Those people, ignoring a clear instruction designed to protect them, would be putting themselves in danger, and would therefore be idiotic.

                It really isn't that difficult. You've made a complete pig's arse of understanding a very simple concept. Even Americans can figure out what jaywalking is.

                1. Squander Two
                  FAIL

                  Re: @ Goldmember

                  > People who ignore the red light telling them not to cross the rod, would in that instant be jaywalking. That's how it works.

                  No, that is just one example from the category of jaywalking. The term refers more broadly to any illegal crossing of a road (which isn't illegal in the UK), to walking on roads where pedestrians are banned (which, apart from motorways, we don't have in the UK), and to failing to yield right of way to a driver (who don't have the right of way in the UK). Some US jurisdictions even have separate laws for jaywalking and for disobeying traffic signals, precisely because they're not the same thing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaywalking#United_States

                  Even taking your own personal limited definition of jaywalking that you certainly didn't specify in the first place... OK, so I'm walking through town at four in the morning; it's deserted, quiet enough for me to hear a car coming from a quarter-mile away, and I come to some traffic lights. According to you, unless I stand and wait for two or three minutes, waiting for the green man to grant me permission to cross the safely deserted street, I'm so idiotically reckless that I should be punished as a criminal. But, if I cross the same road a few hundred yards away, where there are no lights, I'm perfectly sensible and safe.

                  And so we're back to trusting every police officer in the country to apply a money-making law selectively, only demanding money from people who they deem to deserve it because they meet Mr Goldmember's ill-defined standard of "idiocy" whilst letting the others off. My example above is fair game: I get stopped and bothered by the police during daylight hardly ever and in the small hours rather a lot -- I suspect because they're bored.

                  As for your claim that pedestrians and cars are taking turns at traffic lights, you may have noticed that, despite the fact that there are more pedestrians than cars, drivers are given a turn of two to four minutes and pedestrians are given between six and ten seconds to cross the road. Surely, if it were all about doling out road time fairly and equitably, as you imply, they'd get roughly equal shares, or at least a bit more equal than that. But of course it isn't: the system is based on the assumption that cars must never disobey a red light but pedestrians can use their judgement. Which, when you consider the completely different ways they use the roads, is quite reasonable.

                  Meanwhile, here are the stats for road deaths in the UK and USA:

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-related_death_rate

                  As you can see, the USA, with their law which you are convinced would make our roads so much safer, has far more dangerous roads than us.

                  You're the one proposing a new law here, based on a US law that you had apparently misconstrued, to be founded in the UK on a right that you have imagined, and which the statistical evidence available says would probably have the exact opposite effect from the one you claim. And you say I can't understand simple concepts. Feh.

                  1. Intractable Potsherd

                    Re: @ Goldmember

                    I spend quite a lot of time in some countries with the jay-walking rule, and, whilst they seem completely objectionable to the British mindset*, they do seem to work. It is very funny seeing British tourists getting fined for just wandering into the road without due care and attention.

                    Which brings me to the next point - there most certainly should be an element of "due care and attention" on pedestrians, just the same as on any other other user of the roads. The loon with the headphones/mobile phone/book/newspaper/group of friends who is utterly oblivious to what s going on around her/him should be liable if an accident occurs and their behaviour contributed to it. The idiot parent sticking the pushchair into the road into the path of oncoming traffic should be prosecuted and have the child removed from them. Actions should have consequences.

                    You write "OK, so I'm walking through town at four in the morning; it's deserted, quiet enough for me to hear a car coming from a quarter-mile away, and I come to some traffic lights. According to you, unless I stand and wait for two or three minutes, waiting for the green man to grant me permission to cross the safely deserted street, I'm so idiotically reckless that I should be punished as a criminal. But, if I cross the same road a few hundred yards away, where there are no lights, I'm perfectly sensible and safe." Yes, it sounds silly, but it is what is required of a driver. Many times I've been stopped at red lights in the middle of the night, when there is no good reason (on roundabouts, for instance). We can argue the toss about what could be done about that, but the rule is "wait for the green to appear" - no excuses.

                    * The same British mindset that tends to come into play when "interpreting" all rules of the road, regardless of mode of use. Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers all tend to think "this is mine, and bugger everyone else".

                    1. Goldmember
                      Thumb Up

                      Re: @ Goldmember

                      That is a fair point. In the early hours when there's no traffic, it would indeed be sensible to cross the road whenever it becomes clear, as a sensible pedestrian can hear traffic and should be able to judge when they can safely cross the road. However, it's a very difficult task to monitor and decide when to or to not enforce anti-jaywalking rules, not to mention the cost of implementing a variable system. So I would argue it's best to err on the side of caution instead of the current free for all mentality of "let the book-reading-while-walking idiot pedestrian walk out in front of moving traffic whenever he chooses" that Squander Two seems to think is the best course of action for our roads.

                      Fines for jaywalking wouldn't be the perfect solution, but it's a solution that remedies a current, real, problem. Try driving around Manchester city centre every week day as I do, it'll be an eye opener to the stupidity of the street walking populace. Intractable Potsherd is right; there absolutely should be comeback for inattentive pedestrians who cause accidents, as we already have in place for drivers. It may sound excessive to fine someone for crossing a road when told not to at 3am, but some rules are better than no rules.

                      It also isn't accurate to construct evidence on the basis of the blanket comparison of road deaths between the UK and the US. The UK driving test has always been much more difficult to pass than most, if not all, US driving tests. That's why accidents per capita are lower here; we generally create better, more aware drivers. American people I've spoken to who have driven on British roads have commented on the condition of cars on the roads in this country, how little they see dented or otherwise damaged cars driving round compared to the US. There are also US insurers who offer a premium discount for holders of UK driving licences.

                      Additionally, those stats don't drill down into enough detail. Jaywalking doesn't apply to all roads in all states, whereas the stats on which you seem to be basing your whole argument cover ALL road deaths, regardless of circumstance. They actually don't do a thing to disprove what I'm saying.

                      1. Squander Two
                        Devil

                        Re: @ Goldmember

                        > Additionally, those stats don't drill down into enough detail. Jaywalking doesn't apply to all roads in all states, whereas the stats on which you seem to be basing your whole argument cover ALL road deaths, regardless of circumstance. They actually don't do a thing to disprove what I'm saying.

                        That's fair enough. I couldn't find stats with the necessary breakdown, but was nevertheless making the point that the jurisdiction whose road-safety law you want to import has, on the whole, more dangerous roads. I might point out, as well, that distinguishing between the British rules of the road and the British driving test as if they're unrelated is absurd: obviously the attitudes inherent in each inform the other; change one and you'll change the other. Anyway, since I'm not the one arguing for a new law, the onus isn't on me to prove my case. You say your law will make the roads safer, so go on: find better stats to prove it.

                        > the current free for all mentality of "let the book-reading-while-walking idiot pedestrian walk out in front of moving traffic whenever he chooses" that Squander Two seems to think is the best course of action for our roads.

                        You mean like when i said

                        > All road users, pedestrians included, have a responsibility to act safely

                        or

                        > anyone who steps out carelessly in front of cars and then gets hit by a driver who can't stop in time should be deemed responsible for putting themselves in a dangerous situation (no argument from me there)

                        ?

                    2. Squander Two
                      WTF?

                      Re: @ Goldmember

                      > The same British mindset that tends to come into play when "interpreting" all rules of the road, regardless of mode of use. Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers all tend to think "this is mine, and bugger everyone else".

                      British driving is far from perfect, but it's a hell of a lot less stressful and the drivers are way more considerate and courteous than in Belgium, Italy, Spain, or the Netherlands. I'd much rather drive through London than Paris or Dublin.

                      > Yes, it sounds silly, but it is what is required of a driver.

                      And why should the same thing be required of pedestrians and drivers? Drivers are moving at high speed, with slow reaction times, long stopping distances, terrible maneouverabilty, limited visibility, insulated from external sound, and (at night) their vehicles have big bright lights on them so they can be seen coming from a long way off. Pedestrians have all-round vision, can hear the traffic, are agile, can stop or change direction in a split second, and are far less visibile than cars. Plus the dangerousness of the two when they meet is decidedly one-sided. Why suppose that exactly the same rules should apply to completely different entities? May as well say that pedestrians are allowed to run along pavements, so why shouldn't drivers?

                      Lorries, horses, tractors, low-loaders, cranes, caravans, mobility scooters, buses, combine harvesters, and motorbikes all use the roads too, and all are governed by different rules. And some of them are quite similar. Whence this obsession with forcing cars and pedestrians to behave in exactly the same way?

    5. Vic

      Re: For this to work in the UK...

      > as if they have a right to walk alongside - and in front of - cars

      Other than in certain prohibited areas (such as motorways), they do indeed have that right. It's all in the Highway Code.

      If you can't deal with that happening, perhaps you'd like to reconsider the agreement you made when you accepted a driving licence...

      Vic.

  23. Nigel Brown

    @AC 10:56 I'm guessing you must have sat seething in traffic while a motorcyclist or two (legally) filtered past you, thus completing their journey in much less time than you.

    I encounter this anti-bike mentality every day, water off a ducks back old bean. Enjoy the jams.

  24. Mark Major
    Joke

    Hitting the road?

    I strongly feel these need further development before they're let loose. Call me a fusspot, finicky, health and safety bore - but, at a minimum, I think they also need to avoid hitting buildings, trees, pedestrians, cyclists, signposts, animals and other vehicles?

  25. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Random points

    If the aim is to replicate the intelligence of an average driver using AI, then they'd better hunt down some MS-DOS 8086 kit.

    Interesting that the boffins in question are at Oxford University. The traffic restrictions in central Oxford are such that they've probably never seen a car, although they may have read about them.

    Anyone who has a car with parking sensors will know that they're hopelessly pessimistic. Even if you don't practice nudge-parking, you know that you still have a few inches when the sensor is in a screaming panic. If the automatic cars are similar, there will be a lot more opportunities to shout "Get on with it! You could drive a bloody bus through that gap!"

  26. philipcj

    We already have them

    We have a very efficient method at the moment (well it would be efficient if we had enough of them going to enough places), they are called TRAINS. One professional driver, all the other people mechanically attached to each other. Why won't the manufacturers look at basic common sense rather than marketing purposes? Driverless cars will be BORING for the driver concerned (like being driven by your granddad), and probably run over every pedestrian, child, cyclist and motorcyclist in sight if in fully automatic.

    1. Squander Two
      Devil

      We already had them.

      Going back even further, why did they even bother with trains. We already had a very efficient system in place called HORSES. One professional driver, all the other people able to enjoy the view or get some kip, full automatic obstacle-avoiding intelligence, no need to drill for oil, easily recycled when they stopped working....

      But then these bloody "engineers" come along, with their "progress" and their pathetic desire to invent something new and challenging just because it offers "advantages". Feh.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: We already had them.

        The problem with trains was that they had limited flexibility. It was the track or bust. Cars can shift from side to side, allowing the use of lanes which are impractical in trains with their rails. Also, if need be, cars can go off road.

        As for the horse, I recall that they had minds of their own, really, which meant they weren't always reliable. For example, it may not be wise to drive a horse in a thunderstorm. Among the list of things that were the bane of any horse driver is the entry "Frightened Runaway Horse".

    2. Frank Bough

      Re: We already have them

      Trains are efficient? Wow. Take a look at a train at about 11am and tell me how efficient they are again.

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. Waspy
    Holmes

    "...the cars will...not be fully autonomous, meaning a human can step in if it looks as if the robot driver's going to mow down pedestrians."

    Erm, I think it's the meatbag drivers who are more likely to mow down pedestrians, but you'll have spend a lot of time and money getting people used to the idea that they are no-where near as good at driving as they think they are

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sorry but you have only got to get a bit of debris in the road and while a driver might react by slowing down then swerving around it the computer will just stop and show some alert.

      Do you really trust it to be able to move into the other lane to avoid the object? while the computer has sensors for seeing what is ahead, I'm pretty sure they won't see 800 feet into the distance.

      Have you ever taken a photo with a digital camera (eg. sunset or moon) and then sun or moon was badly exposed due to poor dynamic range? yes, the human eye is better than any camera for that. How on earth are these cars going to cope with that? what if the camera is dirty or gets damaged?

      What about snow, ice, wet conditions? will your clever computer driven car be able to cross a stream in the road safely? suppose we have floods and it isn't safe to cross how is the computer going to know that?

      Computers flying planes yes, it's easy as there's nothing much to run into in the sky as traffic control monitors the flight path (yes humans monitoring the flights, why not computers eh?).

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        You'd be surprised. If the Google cars are any consideration, they'd actually be able to identify the debris on the road (and yes, from a few hundred feet away—only way it wouldn't see it was if it was against a bump, but then YOU couldn't see it, either), size it up, assess traffic to the side in question, and maneuver as needed.

        As for dynamic range, computer sensors don't always have to use the visual light range to see. Radar wouldn't be affected by sunrises/sunsets, making them superior to the human eye.

        Inclement weather? Again, the computer can see beyond visual light and can use ways to compensate for precipitation (differing radar systems) and road cover (thermal imaging). I'm not too knowledgeable about flooded roads, but I think the car would be able to detect a sizable body of water ahead of it and assume it to be unsafe, stopping the car in the normal manner and requiring manual intervention.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Waiting to the inevitable crash, except there won't be one as the human will correct it and nobody will ever get to hear of the huge problems in the system.

    Can you imagine how the system will work? any exception or problem the code can't handle it'll be

    (catch Exception e)

    {

    car.slamTheBrakesOnNow();

    }

  30. Tsung
    Coat

    Don't Worry

    Anyone concerned about driver less cars shouldn't be. By the time they will be introduced we won't have any roads left to drive them on.

  31. Maharg

    “aimed at reducing congestion”

    Can’t quite understand this, I guess I am missing something, apart from less crashes due to human error, how can it matter who’s driving them, wont the number of cars on the road still be the same?

    Also on a side note, does this mean I can use a mobile phone, read the newspaper or fall asleep as the car is doing the driving without losing my driving licence?

    If it comes to being able to have a few pints and the car drive you hone, may I also suggest that they be fitted with breathalysers, ensuring that drunk people can’t switch it off and take over?

    1. Squander Two

      Congestion.

      I imagine the thinking is that AIs can react that much more quickly that they need less stopping distance, which would increase road capacity. A lot of congestion is also caused by people braking more than they need to in particularly heavy traffic (that's why you get those inexplicable traffic jams on motorways, where you reach the front of the jam and there was no obstruction). Course, with humans, it's good for us to brake a bit more than we need to, because we don't actually know how much we need to, because the only signal we've got are binary brakelights. With AIs communicationg with each other, they'd have far more detail regarding exactly how much the car in front is braking and therefore how much they need to. You'd be surprised at how large a difference that could make. And then you'd get efficient traffic management schemes when you plug the cars' network into traffic lights.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Congestion.

        "binary brakelights" - I always wondered why we don't have lights that indicate barking G-Force, slow pulse for light braking rising in rapidity to solid on.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We have those now

    Many cars on the roadways are operated by braindead dweebs so this is nothing new to have a "driverless car"...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Minimum no. of occupants legislation?

    Presumably driverless cars will have to be accompanied by legislation stating that they can't be used empty? Otherwise, sooner or later, the cost of parking in London will mean that drivers will drive in and then send the car off to circle the M25 all day, as the cheaper option.

  34. Mr Young
    WTF?

    Wait a minute!

    If we are not driving our cars it's an advert opportunity right?

    Or maybe Google could arrange some AI to do this:-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4a2cgi0IOY

    Orbit may be worth aiming for after all;

  35. Robert Grant

    I'd just be happy if..

    ...there were some trigger I could hold that would keep the car nudging forward slowly in traffic, so I didn't have to keep working the clutch. Or even just take full control below 10mph and sound a warning once it's hit that and there's nothing in front to say I need to take over. That'd be ace.

  36. This post has been deleted by its author

  37. TReko

    Next headline

    Driverless cars to hit actual British pedestrian by end of year

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Next headline

      Driverless cars will, of course cause accidents. But the bar has been set very low by human drivers. AI cars do not need to me very much safer before they are saving hundreds of lives per year.

      I don't care how brilliant you think you are at driving - an automatic warm-body-detected-autobrake would require no actual AI worth speaking of. But it could brake a car from 40 to 20mph in the time that a human would require to see the person, move the foot from the throttle to the brake, and begin to press on it. It would be stopping the car even before a top-gun fighter pilot could have reacted, let alone Joe Average Driver.

      I see this legislation as opening up the way for increasing automation of driving - it doesn't have to go immediately to fully driverless in all circumstances, but we need to be able to start working towards it.

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        Re: Next headline

        "... but we need to be able to start working towards it."

        Need?

        1. John H Woods Silver badge

          Re: Next headline

          "Need?"

          What I said was we need to be able to start working on it. Not that we need to be working on it, just that some of the laws forbidding automatic control of brake and steering need to be relaxed for us to make cars even safer.

  38. PeterM42
    Alert

    Ah, but.......

    ......will they be programmed to miss the potholes in Hertfordshire?

  39. Wize

    Surely there are a lot of situations that it won't handle properly.

    If faced with a queue of cars, how will it know if they are waiting for traffic lights to change round the bend or if it a line of parked cars at the side of the road?

    Temporary restrictions. Some times it is difficult enough for a human to follow these signs with partially hidden signs for diversions. An "Access to Tesco only" in the middle of your route might cause problems if you are driving from one city to another and stopping at your local Tesco on the way home. Some road work signs are even hand scrawled with spray paint.

    Can it tell the difference between a policeman waving a car round an accident and a thug waving your car into a dead end?

    Can it make the right judgement on a partially flooded road?

    And as for idiot that pull out in front of you on the motorway just as you are about to pass them. As a driver of many years I often have a sense about another driver that is going to do something stupid. Not so easy to build that intuition into a car.

    I assume there may be circumstances where it will drop to human control (eg parking in a muddy field for a festival) but since these occasions will be few and far between, the human may have forgotten how to drive the car.

    1. Squander Two

      > If faced with a queue of cars, how will it know if they are waiting for traffic lights to change round the bend or if it a line of parked cars at the side of the road?

      One idea is that the cars will talk to each other.

      > Can it tell the difference between a policeman waving a car round an accident and a thug waving your car into a dead end?

      It's worse than that. Once these cars catch on, the police will ask for and get devices to signal to them, forcing them to pull over. What happens when those devices get faked?

      > since these occasions will be few and far between, the human may have forgotten how to drive the car.

      I think this is by far the biggest problem. We have absolutely no idea how many accidents are currently avoided because drivers get loads of practice, but there's no way it's a small number.

      1. Wize

        >> If faced with a queue of cars, how will it know if they are waiting for traffic lights to change round the bend or if it a line of parked cars at the side of the road?

        >One idea is that the cars will talk to each other.

        That only works if all cars are equipped. What if those stationary cars are not?

  40. JCitizen
    Coffee/keyboard

    Been there - done that..

    In the US - Google cars racked up over 140,000 miles way back in 2010. They've done a lot more since then. I'm hoping they'll take over all the cars in congested areas, and ban cars that don't have the feature in future inner city trafic. The money they'll save from NOT having to build more multi-decker roads to relieve traffic congestion will make the tax payers happy. The extra cost in the vehicle price will be more than worth it. My truck already has computer controlled radar sensed auto parking now. All they need is an added sensor and control module package to complete the retrofit to my GM Hybrid right now - today!

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