back to article Wanna run someone over in your next Ford? No dice, it won't let you

Ford has been flaunting the latest gizmos it plans to add to its cars, including a self-parking mode designed to squeeze motors into smaller parking spaces. At a testing facility in Germany the company has been showing off the latest gizmos that have been built into one of its Focus cars. The vehicle is equipped with radar, …

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  1. ElectricFox
    Mushroom

    How useful!

    Your car automatically avoids that plastic bag that just blew in from your peripheral vision and steers into a concrete bollard instead....

    1. Thorne

      Re: How useful!

      Maybe not steers but it could make you brake suddenly and have someone run up your backside....

      1. Yet Another Commentard

        Re: How useful!

        My car has this, and does not react to plastic bags. Mind you, I have not noticed it do anything, ever. That may be because I've already taken the action needed or because it doesn't work. It seems churlish to test it by getting my wife to jump in front of the car and see if I run her over or not.

        Don't forget these things are only set to do stuff at relatively low speeds, reducing the possibility of the rear-ending.

        A rear-end shunt is always the problem of the tailing car. The driver should leave an adequate gap. Of course, no consolation to you if you are the chap up front.

        1. VinceH Silver badge

          Re: How useful!

          "Of course, no consolation to you if you are the chap up front."

          Or, in my case, the chap behind - someone recently rolled back into mine on a hill, when a queue of traffic began to move again.

          You might think I didn't leave an adequate gap between my car and the one in front, but I did: She actually managed to roll back four sodding times!

          Luckily for her no-claims discount, there was only minor cosmetic damage that I'm not going to worry about.

          I expect most people who passed us on that hill probably assumed that I had driven into the back of her car.

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: How useful!

            wonder what happens if the sensors get covered in flies, goo, bags etc. I have an older ford that has adaptive cruise control and that has failed to spot things before now.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How useful!

            AC about the 'hill roll back' comment....

            I remember I traded my old automatic car in for a shiny new car with a 6 speed gearbox.

            Being a 6 speed, reverse wasn't traditionally below 5, but you pushed down and selected 1st.

            You can see where this is going...

            Hill start, new car, panic, lean on gearstick, revs, take off and it starts going backwards!!

            I'm very lucky that the car behind left plenty of room!!!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How useful!

      "Your car automatically avoids that plastic bag that just blew in from your peripheral vision and steers into a concrete bollard instead...."

      That's awesome, how people on this thread spend 2.5 seconds thinking of some idiot scenario where the system might fail (plastic bag, swerving into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting a deer, etc.) and then assume that Ford engineers all have the IQs of small dogs and haven't though of any of this and designed the system accordingly.

      1. Nordrick Framelhammer
        FAIL

        Re: How useful!

        It is the people that need this sort oi thing that are the ones that "have the IQs of small dogs ".

        As far as I am concerned, if you cannot park a car yourself you should not be driving a car.

        Ford, dumbing down drivers.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How useful!

      > Your car automatically avoids that plastic bag

      Unless the plastic bag sufficiently matches the IR signature and shape of a person (or animal, depending on the system), then the car will not worry about it.

      > and steers into a concrete bollard instead....

      The system only controls braking, not steering.

      Any other insightful contributions from you today, Sir?

  2. Tom 260

    This does make me wonder if it would result in frying pan into the fire incidents, like taking avoiding action by going into oncoming traffic (or in some cities, a tram)... Just so long as it doesn't encourage people to let their guard down by not paying as close attention to the road around them, thinking the car will save them.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      "frying pan into the fire incidents"

      That's my first thought as well. I just find it a bad idea to take control away from the person who's life may depend on having that control. When I was working on motorized wheelchairs there was a short but decisive debate about giving whether to enforce a stop or reduce performance at a critical motor temperature until the motors cooled back off to prevent the motor burning out. In short we decided in under a minute to warn the user about overtemping the motors but ultimately to let the user burn out the motor if they so chose. The reason was we could never know if the user was actually trying to escape a burning building where it may be impossible to cool the motors.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "frying pan into the fire incidents"

        > That's my first thought as well

        Ito, given your alleged experience on wheelchair design, where you have been exposed to analogous problems, what makes you think that the engineers who designed this system (the name of the designer / manufacturer escapes me right now--no, it's not Ford) are any less astute than your team?

        For info, I have a similar system and it never "takes control away". I am perfectly capable of ramming into the car in front by taking positive action like stepping on the gas. It's only if I do nothing that it will try to slow down/stop, and that only at a distance that is so uncomfortably close that any non-incapacitated driver would have slammed the brakes by reflex well before the thing intervenes. It will also, I'm told, aim to stop as close as possible to the obstacle in front, so as to give following drivers plenty of braking room.

        Other teams also do think things through sometimes. I respectfully suggest you go and try one of these systems before formulating opinions on the basis of non-information. After all, you wouldn't like people talking bollocks about your own design either, would you?

        1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          Re: "frying pan into the fire incidents"

          @AC 20:49

          "what makes you think that the engineers who designed this system are any less astute than your team?"

          I don't know what you read but I did not state any such thing. I merely agreed with the original poster that the frying pan into the fire scenario was my first though as well. I never said it was my only thought but don't let that stop you from claiming that I'm "talking bollocks" when it's evident I'm not. I stated that I think it's a bad idea to take control away from the operator and merely stated my experiences. If it can be manually overridden then it doesn't fully take control, does it? It may be that a simple flick of the wrist will release the system back to the driver but that isn't clear since overriding the system isn't shown in the linked video. Granted, it's partially implied since the driver has his hands very near the wheel so as to catch it if it goes wonky but it isn't known if that is just a technology demonstrator in debug mode or something much closer to the final product. I also understand engineering, especially the research and development variety, and it comes with lawyers, lots of lawyers who not only obscure the language to shift as many patents as possible but also ones who understand that anyone hurt by the latest miracle will be launching massive sueballs at the company.

          Since you mentioned non-incapacitated drivers, what do you suppose it does with one who is incapacitated and the car decides to swerve instead of stop as shown in the video? Does it then proceed to stop or wrongly release the car back to a person who is incapable of controlling it? I don't know. I also don't know if the engineering team thought of it because they didn't mention they had so I must assume they have not and would prefer they think about it now that it's been brought up. As a result this is a great technology demo but we don't know if it will make it past the lawyers to become a real product or even if the U.S. government will go ahead a make it mandatory like they did with tire pressure warning lights, traction control and soon rear view cameras for reversing.

          "After all, you wouldn't like people talking bollocks about your own design either, would you?"

          For your edification, I have these things called design reviews. The purpose of these is to do our best to determine if we have thought of all the details such as was the case with the wheelchair. In short, no I don't mind at all if people want to point out potential deficiencies in my designs, in fact I prefer to get such feedback as early and as often as possible. I'm not anywhere near that arrogant, as you so obviously think.

    2. Great Bu

      Umm...

      Unlike the driver on occasion, systems like this scan the whole road ahead (in this case for up to 200m) so the evasive action it takes is not just to dodge the immediate threat (like a reflex action that a human driver might take) but to avoid the immediate threat by moving into a space that is not threatened. So surely it is likely to be safer than a person, not just plow you into oncoming traffic to avoid a cat.......

      1. MrXavia
        Facepalm

        Re: Umm...

        But 200m down the road I can still see an idiot hurtling along at 90Mph in a 60,

        it can't, so a dear runs out in front of me, normally I would break, instead this thing steers me around it into the path of the mad driver it could not see...

        I have forward alert on my car and it is great, because it does warn me of potential collisions and I react to break, there are times when you need to check blind spots, and that is when your eyes are not forward, and that is when forward alert is great.

        But I would not trust my car to change lanes on me...

        I've tried auto parking on different cars, it is shit..... I can park in spaces MUCH tighter and more accurately than it can...

        1. Great Bu

          Re: Umm...

          Even if your 90mph idiot is there, as soon as the on-board system detects you are in line to hit them (at it's 200m range) it avoids him too - if you are doing 60mph and the idiot is still doing 90mph your closing speed still gives the system around 3 seconds to get you out of his way, at 60 mph you will have travelled 80 metres in that time - more than enough to get you out of his way too.

          The point being that the system (like a Terminator) sees everything all the time, not like a human that sees pretty much just what you are concentrating on and little else - it's not perfect but chances are it's better than you (or me).

          The issue is eloquently expressed when you say 'I would not trust my car to change lanes on me' - it's the trust of the device that needs educating. People are quite happy to trust a car to use ABS appropriately or brake force distribution or stability control - all these things can significantly alter your vector without your control, so why is the steering special ?

          Granted, there might be very, very, very unusual circumstances where the system gets it wrong, but killing one person by mistake using a system that saves 999 others by its operation is surely worhthwhile odds.

          1. bigtimehustler

            Re: Umm...

            Errrm, hang on. So your car has moved you into the oncoming lane to avoid a car or person in your lane, so your in the wrong lane now, then it detects that 90mph idiot on his way, so where does it go then? It can't necessarily go back into the correct lane as there may be traffic ahead in that lane or you may not have passed the obstacle you originally avoided. So what does it do? Take you onto the pavement to kill a pedestrian or let you hit the 90mph car head on? Personally id rather have stayed in my own lane and attempted to stop in time. The system just can not account for what it is going to get you into by taking this action and who is liable, Ford or you?

            1. Darryl

              Re: Umm... (Reading comprehension fail)

              "If it doesn't sense you responding accordingly by braking or maneuvering it will take over and apply the brakes so that you avoid that collision."

              Nothing about swerving into oncoming traffic or off into the ditch. It just applies the brakes.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Umm... (Reading comprehension fail)

                @Darryl - No fail here, he's just read the same article on other sites like the BBC News or even the press release where it's clearly stated that the system _will_ steer you into another lane and doesn't just apply the brakes.

                1. Darryl
                  Thumb Up

                  Re: Umm... (Reading comprehension fail)

                  AC - gotcha. So more of a reporting comprehension fail then...

              2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
                Childcatcher

                Re: Umm... (Reading comprehension fail)

                Nothing about swerving into oncoming traffic or off into the ditch. It just applies the brakes.

                Yeah, I thought the same, but I followed the supplied links and found that it will in fact take over both steering and braking as needed. I still think the system Nothing about swerving into oncoming traffic or off into the ditch. It just applies the brakes.more likely to react better than most drivers to surprising situation. To get back to the point concerning a deer wandering into the road, so very many people swerve when dealing with one of these beasties, and end up hitting a tree instead. Since this is one of the most common situations in which something fairly large wanders into traffic, I would hope that Ford tested for exactly this.

              3. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Umm... (Reading comprehension fail)

                > Nothing about swerving into oncoming traffic or off into the ditch. It just applies the brakes.

                ONE! There is ONE who has read the article! Hallelujah! :)

          2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

            Re: "killing one person [..] using a system that saves 999 [..] is surely worhthwhile odds"

            Unless you're the one.

            I don't think that the "needs of the many" argument holds much water in court either. If you run over someone you're still guilty of manslaughter. Saying that the system didn't do its job is not going to get you out of jail.

            1. Great Bu

              Re: "killing one person [..] using a system that saves 999 [..] is surely worhthwhile odds"

              @Pascal Monett - so your contention is that no new safety system should be introduced unless it can be shown to be 100% risk free even in a highly unusual scenario ? Yes, the one dead person is still dead but by that logic we should go back to 1950's style cars with no safety features at all because they can all lead in some way to a death (seatbelts can entrap you in a burning car, airbags can damage your face or hearing etc.) - The "needs of the many" argument holds plenty of water in court as long as the manufacturer can demonstrate that the system is made as safe as it could be and is overall beneficial.

              It would appear, also, that many commentards are clearly ninja level drivers, on account of them being much more aware and fast than a computerised system despite the fact that in the crash scenario under discussion their vaunted skill has already got them into a situation where they are having to choose between hitting a car in front of them and hitting one coming the other way and have failed to react to that developing situation for so long that the computer has needed to intervene.

              In such a situation, the driver "in control" of the car has already failed to act properly. They are not at the point of making a sensible decision about choosing the lesser of 2 evils by bumping the car in front instead of pulling into the wrong lane, they are about to have a hideous crash. The computer is perfectly able to judge which of 2 definitely happening crashes will be the less serious and opting appropriately. It is more likely to make the correct decision than the driver who, as a human, is more likely to choose to avoid the immediate (but less serious) crash because it's right there in front of them and their reflex will have made the dodge before their poor old brain has even realised it's happening.

              So the question seems more to be about whether you would prefer to kill 10* people but retain that human touch or kill one but have it done by a machine. I suspect the 9* saved by the machines might have an opinion on that.

              *Actual numbers made up and not relevant to the point - if the computerised system is even 1 in 1000000 safer than the human option, then it still wins.

          3. swampdog

            Re: Umm...

            "People are quite happy to trust a car to use ABS appropriately".

            I guess I'm the only one that hates ABS then?

          4. Eddy Ito Silver badge

            Re: Umm...

            The issue is eloquently expressed when you say 'I would not trust my car to change lanes on me'... all these things can significantly alter your vector without your control, so why is the steering special ?

            Steering is special because it can typically "alter your vector" at a much higher rate than differential braking pressure can since the former can do it with nearly zero tire scrub while the latter must add considerable drag to change the direction of the vehicle. Add to that the traction control systems also expect the driver to, well, drive. Also the function of traction control systems are to compensate for simple mistakes by the driver, such as stepping on the brake or accelerator too hard, in order to help the driver maintain control not take control away. In the end, differences in tire pressure can change cause a car to drift too but I'm not about to sweat the course correction required by having an extra 2 psi in the left side tires.

            The other thing this system ignores is the fact that there exists an enormous unknown and that is the reaction of the other party or 'target' if you will. Should it assume that since it has changed lanes only to find an oncoming idiot going 90 that the idiot will remain on course or that it will steer into the target it has avoided? Will the idiot have the same system and both systems respond by juking into any open space only to find that space occupied by its equal and they juke and jive back and forth until they meet in the middle? Granted it should be applying the brake to reduce the impact but a reasonably skilled driver might also pick the lesser of two evils and switch back into their original lane and I doubt a computer ever would.

            Finally, I don't really mind the braking when something darts in front of you so much but assuming the system has previously warned the operator of a potential collision or hazard, which it could easily do in the scenario shown in the linked video, why doesn't it then proceed to make a safe stop? It has decided the operator is deficient for not reacting to the warning so why shouldn't it come to a complete stop as safely and swiftly as possible? It has no way to know if the operator is awake or suffering a medical emergency such as a stroke or heart attack so why would it ever give control back without some sort of confirmation from the operator that they are able to resume control?

          5. Charles Manning

            Two big problems with any of these systems

            Sure, they might save people's lives some of the time, but they have two major downsides:

            (1) They confuse responsibility. The driver should always be responsible for all actions and outcomes of all acts in the car. Now were confusing that picture by stepping in with technology. Instead of checking there is no kid crawling around on the driveway, the driver takes a chance that the technology does not work. It won't always work.

            (2) Even though a device might save 999 for every 1 it kills, that 1 will get the car makers and the engineers in court and get their pants sued off. The 999 that were saved are non-events. That 1 that dies is a newsworthy event that the media and lawyers will feast on.

            A glaring example of this is Therac25 which, over a period of 2 years or so, nuked 6 people, killing three and earned itself a place in the cock-up hall of fame/shame. This cost the makers millions in legal fees and damages and no doubt tainted the engineers involved for years. Nobody remembers the fact that during the same two year period thousands of people were treated and their lives were saved.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Umm...

          "I've tried auto parking on different cars, it is shit..... I can park in spaces MUCH tighter and more accurately than it can..."

          So can I, but it's pretty clear that there's a large number of people who can't park for shit.

          Self parking is NOT going to stop people double parking, parking on double yellows, on corners, footpaths or on the wrong side of the road (yes, it _is_ illegal in the UK, unless park lights are left on) but it'll go a long way towards sorting out the wankers who leave 3 metre gaps front and rear.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Umm...

          oh dear, what happens if it is not your dear but a deer? how many pieces do you break into?

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Trollface

    I, for one, protest

    This takes away my freedom to choose not to run someone over.

    1. Thorne

      Re: I, for one, protest

      But some cyclists need it........

      1. Sloppy Crapmonster

        Re: I, for one, protest

        Running over? Abso-fucking-lutely. "Share the road" means cyclists need to obey traffic laws, too.

        1. Roo

          Re: I, for one, protest

          No disagreement with the principle. That said I have found that obeying traffic laws as a cyclist does bugger all to improve how other road users behave. I still get tail gated when following a slow car, I still get cut up by folks making left turns and treating the gap I am maintaining as a handy place to put their car while they brake as hard as possible to avoid running into the car in front.

          In my experience someone who rides a bike in an inconsiderate, dangerous and illegal manner will also drive cars in exactly the same way. The fact is some folks really should not be on the roads full stop and given the choice I'd rather they rode bikes than drove cars because they can do a lot less damage to those around them with a bike.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I, for one, protest

          > Running over? Abso-fucking-lutely. "Share the road" means cyclists need to obey traffic laws, too.

          You know? I drive "premium" cars, the kind that most people assume we think that road laws do not apply to us. As far as I'm concerned, though, the cyclist is making progress by means of his own physical effort, exposed to the elements and, more worryingly, to motorists and other hazards. Why shouldn't I show some deference to them, and be tolerant of any minor transgressions that may occur in the interest of safety or efficiency?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: I, for one, protest

      You may joke but I guarantee that the first time something like this prevents some woman escaping her attackers it'll die messy and expensive death.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I, for one, protest

        "...prevents some woman escaping her attackers..."

        Oh, don't be silly! That'll NEVER happen...

        You'll never read about some gang of punk sleezeball motorcyclists in NYC surrounding a vehicle and threatening the (Lien) family within.

        /sarcasm

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I, for one, protest

          "You'll never read about some gang of punk sleezeball motorcyclists in NYC surrounding a vehicle and threatening the (Lien) family within."

          No, because said vehicle wont have been doing a GTA impression and running a load of said motorcyclists off earlier up the road.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I, for one, protest

            "...running a load of said motorcyclists off earlier up the road."

            Perfectly untrue. It's unlikely that Mr Lien will even get a ticket.

            The bikers were out looking for trouble. They found it. I think that they might have forgotten that they were on motorcycles and were 'taking on' a Land Rover. Idiots.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I, for one, protest

              "Perfectly untrue. It's unlikely that Mr Lien will even get a ticket. The bikers were out looking for trouble. They found it. I think that they might have forgotten that they were on motorcycles and were 'taking on' a Land Rover. Idiots."

              So far, apparently however public opinion is begining to question the events, statements made by the police and other factors, and now Ray Kelly is stating its possible Lien will face prosecution for his part in it too. Apparently that group of mindless thugs also included undercover police and some off duty uniforms too.

              Meanwhile, I read the comments left by most "normal" people about Mieses and how he deserved it (even though it was Cruz who triggered the incident) who was crippled while parked up and attending to someone lying injured on the floor and trying to calm a situation down and see people baying at how they would run everyone else over in the same situation, pull out guns and plug a few people full of lead etc.

              And for my shame I actually drive a Land Rover so risk being tarred with the same.

              Posting anon because I am completely aware that my reasoning offends "normal" pre programmed people from clearly stated non shouty discussions in my office at the coffee machines. Such is the price of media hysteria. And I have to keep my role while saving up for some oasis as far away from "civilized" society as possible.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I, for one, protest

          It never happens?! It ALWAYS happens, like, in every movie, right?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...and like the speed governor

    this will also be disabled in my car. At least my traction control has a button to turn it off if I'm driving on gravel (or practicing sliding/fishtailing on the snow/ice in un-occupied parking lots).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ...and like the speed governor

      > (or practicing sliding/fishtailing on the snow/ice in un-occupied parking lots).

      In other words, being a wanker on someone else's property? I hope you'll be kind enough to pay for any damage caused, e.g., next time you run into a lamppost.

      There are facilities specifically for practising this kind of stuff, with experienced instructors at hand for a very affordable price.

  5. Gronk

    "Self-parking cars are nothing new. Volkswagen showed off a self-parking car in 1992, Toyota has its Intelligent Parking Assist System (IPAS) that comes with some Lexus and Prius models, and Audi and Volvo have also got similar systems. Ford hasn’t given a data for the release of its try in the area, but has promised some news by Christmas."

    I think Ford's version is already out. My mother's 2013 Ford Explorer has Active Park Assist and it works very well. I had to give it a try when I was visiting the family last month.

    1. Big-nosed Pengie
      Headmaster

      "Active Park Assist"?

      If they can't even get primary school English right, how good could their tech be?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Active Park Assist"?

        this is so that it could fit the restrictions imposed by google adwords ;)

  6. zb

    ... object avoidance must look like a piffling production

    If that were true my wife would hit a lot fewer objects,

  7. SoaG

    "car widths have increased 16 per cent in the last decade"

    Nonsense, and in '91 my first car was the 1977 Ford LTD to prove it!

    That beast was always over the line on both sides and hung out the back a foot and half. Heck, I had a 2-door and it was bigger than my grandparents 1980 LTD wagon.

  8. 4ecks

    No more Ford product placement...

    in those high speed Hollywood action movies, or Zombie apocalypse stories unless the sensors can tell living from living-dead and will let you plough them down.

    On serious note - will the parking sensors leave enough gap between parked cars so that you don't box others in?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No more Ford product placement...

      > On serious note - will the parking sensors leave enough gap between parked cars so that you don't box others in?

      No. The driver is always in control of the throttle and therefore it is him who decides how much space to leave. Park assist systems will just give out the usual proximity indication from parking sensors (which are a requirement for these systems to work) or rear/front cameras if installed.

      Btw, I tried the Ford system on a hired car a few months ago and it was rather poor at identifying kerbs so it would often park with a wheel or two on the pavement. Also, I did not find a way to select parallel park. Can it only do inline?

      I have also tried the system available on Volkswagens (another hire). It performs much better at both spot detection and manoeuvring, and can do both parallel and inline parking. Still a waste of time for any skilled driver, mind you, but I understand why it is useful to some people (not to say they're bad drivers once on the move, just bad parkers).

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it clever enough....

    To tell the difference between a person, and say, a badger/pheasant?

    The last thing I'd want is a lift off oversteer inducing moment on a muddy backroad because the car tried to steer my around an object it'd be far safer hitting, all things considered - I got a pheasant the other day at 50mph - it literally sprinted into the road a few meters in front of me. it got safely (from my point of view) punted into the next field like a drop kick, the only mark on my car beings it's bowls evacuating as it bounced off the bumper, which is obviously made of sterner stuff that I feared at the time!

    Even something like a sheep - I'd rather slow to 15mph and twat it than potentially put the car into a position where it can slide off the road due to aggressive steering on a slippery surface into a ditch - or on some of the roads around here, some nasty ravines....

    As long as it's switchable, I'm happy, basically. The number of people who just step into the fecking road in towns these days is staggering considering how batshit mental an act is is to do it. If some kind of MAGIC can stop me from being blamed for someone elses stupidity, and I can switch it off when I'm in the dirtier, unkempt, poorly cambered, muddy backroads, I'm all for it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is it clever enough....

      "...and twat it..."

      Ahem. There's a dozen jokes struggling to be heard, but no...

      Anyway, don't worry about oversteer. Cars have ESC and simply will. not. skid. Saw it on Fifth Gear.

      1. John Tserkezis

        Re: Is it clever enough....

        Anyway, don't worry about oversteer. Cars have ESC and simply will. not. skid. Saw it on Fifth Gear.

        How conveniently you forget that you'll need to replace your brake pads and disks every two months.

        It has its place, just remember there's a cost to everything - and the car makers are NOT going to tell you what they are.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Is it clever enough....

        "Anyway, don't worry about oversteer. Cars have ESC and simply will. not. skid. Saw it on Fifth Gear."

        I hope you remember that next time you run into black ice on a bend and find yourself approaching a bank sideways (I was travelling at 10mph, so no comments about speed thanks.)

    2. MrXavia

      Re: Is it clever enough....

      Switchable? it will be a chargeable extra! do you really think ford will GIVE this to you?

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Is it clever enough....

        pheasants arent too bad. Grouse seem to be made of concrete up here in the borders. They tend to simply punch through the plastic grille and get embedded on the intercooler :(

      2. Someone Else Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: Switchable

        I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, namely higher insurance rates, and possible prosecution, when the l'il black box notices that these avoidance measures were switched off prior to an impact (even if the impact were not to be your fault).

        No, I lied...I'm not waiting for that. Dreading is more accurate....

        1. Steven Raith

          Re: Switchable

          Fuck it, I'll just run an old shed (by that time, probably a £1000 Focus ST/BMW 335i, arf) on a classic policy....

          And if I can't do that, I'll just, I dunno, go on a killing spree or something.

          Steven likes his cars. Ideally un-aided to a greater or lesser degree*

          Steven R

          *ABS is good though - although you don't realise how good till you *really* need it - like 'need to steer around a deer at 50mph' need it and it stops you from locking up allowing you to keep control of the car. After which, you never grumble about it kicking in early again.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is it clever enough....

      "I got a pheasant the other day at 50mph - it literally sprinted into the road a few meters in front of me. it got safely (from my point of view) punted into the next field like a drop kick, the only mark on my car beings it's bowls evacuating as it bounced off the bumper, which is obviously made of sterner stuff that I feared at the time!"

      This is much more satisfying to read if you exchange "pheasant" with "peasant".

    4. hplasm Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Is it clever enough....

      Aarg! A Badgerpheasant!

      It's coming right at us! Twat it!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is it clever enough....

      Yeah, OK, I'll be the guy who asks why you think doing 50+mph on "the dirtier, unkempt, poorly cambered, muddy backroads" is OK. Sounds like dangerous driving to me ...

  10. Jan 0
    Big Brother

    Assisted parking

    Back in the late '50s the Daily Express had a competition in which I remember an interesting (prizewinning?) idea. A pair of gizmos allowed your car to swing sideways into a parking space. The gizmos were pivoting rubberised cones. When pressed against the driven tyres they would raise the tyres off the road and rotate to move the car sideways. This could be modernised, using compact electric motors and small retractable wheels to achieve the same effect but using modern sensors and electronics to choose and move a car sideways into a parking space.

    Ah, it seems that someone down under had a similar idea in 1937: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1301&dat=19370209&id=6OVaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=DZIDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1627,1301272

    Icon, for the contemporary moustache.

  11. MrDamage

    The one thing I truly despise about "auto parking" is that it no longer forces people to learn the size of their own car, decreasing their spatial awareness, and actually making them a more dangerous driver on the road.

    As for "collision avoidance" systems, you can get out of a lot of problems easier with a brief squirt of power and a a touch of skillful maneuvering, than you can with brake and swerve.

    For fucks sake, auto-correct gets us into enough trouble sending texts on our phones, and they now want to put it into cars?

    Due to all the modern "safety" features, I only buy older cars these days anyway. I hate having the infernal machine beep at me incessantly, all because I just put a bag containing a bottle of milk and some bread on the passenger seat for the short trip home.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Facepalm

      "I hate having the infernal machine beep at me incessantly, all because I just put a bag containing a bottle of milk and some bread on the passenger seat for the short trip home."

      So just fasten the seatbelt over the shopping like most people do. That way when some silly twunt jumps out in front of you the shopping has at least a fighting chance of not ending up splattered all over the passenger side footwell.

      My problem is the beeping the new Kia Ceed does if the drivers door is opened when the key is in the ignition (engine NOT running) and that it won't let me start the engine without putting my foot on the clutch even when the gear stick is in neutral.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Indeed, there's something incredibly irritating about a system that won't let you do something you weren't going to do anyway...

      2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        "won't let me start the engine without putting my foot on the clutch"

        That is something I would worry about for that (very slim) chance of it stalling on a level crossing and not being able to start, and yet not being able to lurch in 1st gear off using the starter motor.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "won't let me start the engine without putting my foot on the clutch"

          But... if you follow the rules you would have plenty of time to exit the vehicle, and there would be plenty of time for the train drivers to see you and slow down right? i mean why else are there barriers and warning signs that kick off minutes before the train arrives?

        2. swampdog

          Re: "won't let me start the engine without putting my foot on the clutch"

          That technique saved three lives here. Many years ago my father stopped on an unmarked swiss train track(*). Flooded the engine when he realised there was a train coming(**). Fortunately he listened when I told him to just stuff it into 1st, turn the ignition & keep holding it(***). Fortunately we were over the apex so it cranked off quite quickly. There wouldn't have been the time to have done it backwards.

          (*) Bloody obvious to me in the back but my parents were having a row.

          (**) Saw it coming in the distance well before it started blasting its horn at which point parents noticed.

          (***) Had to release the handbrake myself though!

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "won't let me start the engine without putting my foot on the clutch"

          That is something I would worry about"

          That did concern me too for a minute or so. Then I remembered I'd not had to use that technique since I grew out my early 20's and could afford cars which were at least a step or two up from old bangers :-)

          Seriously though, it does bother me a little to have some control taken away from me as the driver.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Due to all the modern "safety" features, I only buy older cars these days anyway. I hate having the infernal machine beep at me incessantly, all because I just put a bag containing a bottle of milk and some bread on the passenger seat for the short trip home.

      A 1 litre bottle of milk and a few loaves of bread do not exert enough pressure to activate the seat occupation sensor on a properly engineered (i.e., not French) car, so I hope that was not an actual example. On the other hand, if your groceries do weight enough to trigger the seatbelt reminder, they also weight enough to cause serious harm when they go flying in an accident, so you'd be better off sticking them in the boot.

  12. cyberdemon
    Devil

    Self-driving cars are never going to take off

    One word: Lawsuit.

    No matter how good they are, the whole concept of the self-driving car is doomed in today's society.

    The average person (apparently) makes about 1000 road journeys per year. Therefore, even if a self-driving car were "nine-nines" safe, i.e. 99.9999999% certain to get you from A to B without killing you, that's still one death per year per million customers as a result of product imperfections, each with the likelihood of a nasty lawsuit or even a corporate manslaughter charge.

    On top of that, 1% of the entire population every year are killed on the roads (730k in the UK, apparently), with a significant proportion i'm sure where the wrong person (or robot) gets the blame.

    Even if the robot car were 100% perfect, humans are idiots, and there will be plenty of them ready to hurl themselves in front of the robot cars if there is even the remotest possibility of a big fat payout.

    The nice thing about human-driven cars of course, is that there's a fleshy meat sack behind the wheel who assumes (nearly) all legal responsibility for its use.

    Call me a cynical git, but I don't really see a way around it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Self-driving cars are never going to take off

      Why not assume 'fifteen-nines' (99.9999999999999%) and re-run the analysis?

      15 is just as valid an ass-plucked number as 9.

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Self-driving cars are never going to take off

      "On top of that, 1% of the entire population every year are killed on the roads (730k in the UK, apparently)"

      Bit of a reading comprehension fail there - if you read the referenced article, it says 36k deaths over 12 years (1999-2011). 730k in 12 years is deaths+injuries (estimated).

    3. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: Self-driving cars are never going to take off

      "Therefore, even if a self-driving car were "nine-nines" safe, i.e. 99.9999999% certain to get you from A to B without killing you, that's still one death per year per million customers as a result of product imperfections, each with the likelihood of a nasty lawsuit or even a corporate manslaughter charge."

      For comaprison - from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_driverless_car#Road_testing :

      "In August 2012, the team announced that they have completed over 300,000 autonomous-driving miles (500 000 km) accident-free"

      I suspect humans are considerably less than nine-nines safe...

    4. Geoff Campbell
      Boffin

      Re: Self-driving cars are never going to take off

      Your figures are *way* off. Under 2,000 people died on the roads in the UK in 2012, with a further 23,000 serious injuries. The total number of injured people is under 200,000, with ~90% of those being minor injuries.

      http://www.rospa.com/faqs/detail.aspx?faq=296

      GJC

    5. auburnman

      Re: Self-driving cars are never going to take off

      "On top of that, 1% of the entire population every year are killed on the roads (730k in the UK, apparently), with a significant proportion i'm sure where the wrong person (or robot) gets the blame."

      That 730K is the figure for killed OR injured. If 2000 people were dying every day on the roads there'd be uproar. Mind you, the very fact that the figure of 730K works out to 2K/day makes me wonder if the 'official estimate' was pulled out of someone's arse.

    6. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: Self-driving cars are never going to take off

      "One word: Lawsuit."

      erm... right now if a meatbag driver causes an accident, there aren't any lawsuits flying around unless recklessness or alcohol/drugs were involved. If I'm driving and cause an accident, my insurance pays up, and I get slapped with higher premiums. If a self-driving car goes completely mental and mows down a group of schoolchildren on a zebra crossing, yes I'm sure lawsuits will fly. But again, that's the case even with meatbag drivers behind the wheel (remember for example the case of the magically accelerating Toyotas)

      What will happen with self-driving cars, I bet, is that first few years it will cost a bomb to insure, so insurance companies cover their arses. As the claims data comes in over the months and it turns out that (surprise) auto-cars are causing less liabilities than meatbag-cars, the premiums will start to shift, and probably 10-20 years down the line it will cost a lot more to insure a self-drive car than an auto-drive.

    7. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Self-driving cars are never going to take off

      "The nice thing about human-driven cars of course, is that there's a fleshy meat sack behind the wheel who assumes (nearly) all legal responsibility for its use."

      Really?

      Our judicial system doesn't agree with you:

      http://beyondthekerb.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/what-the-law-told-us-this-week-no-4/

      It’s not your fault. It may be your vehicle, it may be the weather, but it’s not you that’s ultimately in control of your vehicle. Nor, thus, are you responsible for it destroying the lives of others either within or without it.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Self-driving cars are never going to take off

      "One word: Lawsuit.

      No matter how good they are, the whole concept of the self-driving car is doomed in today's society."

      The parts in a self-driving car that make it self-driving are just that, parts. Not unlike other car parts that can be poorly designed or malfunction and cause accidents and death, like wheels/tires (think Ford + Firestone SUV rollovers) or poorly placed gas tanks, etc. There is plenty of legal precedent here. I don't think self-driving cars will run into nearly as much trouble with customer acceptance and legal issues as most people assume.

  13. kain preacher Silver badge

    Liability

    So what happens if the auto park malfunctions and rams it self in ?

    1. John Tserkezis

      Re: Liability

      So what happens if the auto park malfunctions and rams it self in?

      You mean like every other person in [insert suburb of choice here] does anyway?

      At least today's vehciles will automate the crash, take pictures from their now many cameras, and print out a report that conclusively incriminates the OTHER non-smart car that was coincedently standing still at the time. And because they didn't have on board computing power and various sensors active at the time, they can't prove they weren't standing still.

      Insurance companies will love it.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Liability

        if the person is bad enough to need autopark then the one time it fails means they dodged a higher insurance premium the other 99 times. Still a win for the bad driver.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Liability

      > So what happens if the auto park malfunctions and rams it self in ?

      How? It doesn't actuate the throttle.

      Or was that another post brought to us by the "No Idea What I'm Talking About But I'm Going To Say It Anyway" department?

  14. Mr. EMan

    Google Cars (Beta)

    Ask Google how much their self-driving cars costs.

  15. Martin Budden
    Childcatcher

    Won't someone think of the children!

    if you're planning a high speed chase and want the car to avoid the inevitable baby in a pram for you, you're out of luck

    I'm pretty sure it's the baby who is out of luck.

  16. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    What really worries me

    is that I can't help feeling the engineers designing these systems are the same young chaps who grew up with the, er, ballistics of video game car chases.

    Many moons ago, before proportional joysticks became common, I recall watching people using a simulator at the Science Museum. The old folks were doing a fine job, but da youff were just banging the controls from one end to the other...

  17. moiety

    Can you still bag cyclists if you're drifting?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes.

      I don't see why not. It just takes additional skill.

  18. Myvekk

    Possibly quite good.

    The engineers & techs who make it aren't allowed to write the press release, Marketing comes up with the names & spiel. If the engineers did write it, you could end up with honesty in the reporting, and we can't have that...

  19. Myvekk

    And when a sensor fails and indicates there is something in front of you even when there is nothing there?

    1. Alfred

      Well, let's take this logically. I expect that if the sensor fails, and decides there is something there, it will take avoiding action just as if there really was something there,

      I have to say, as puzzlers go, that one was pretty simple. Could you really not work it out for yourself?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Alfred, that's almost certainly *not* what would happen. Any system like this is going to have internal checks and redundancies.

        Think about it this way - ABS brakes require sensors to determine if the wheel is locked, right? Well, when one of those fails, does your car assume that a wheel is locked and refuse to apply the brakes, or does it disable the ABS and turn on a dashboard light to warn you?

        The people who design these things aren't complete morons, you know...

        1. Alfred

          I disagree. I think that if a failure causes the erroneous, identical presentation of a "something is there" signal state, the rest of the system will treat that "something is there" signal state as it would treat a completely identical "something is there" signal state.

          When my ABS decides the signal state indicates a wheel has locked, it acts as if the wheel has locked. Assuming that any positive signal state is not, in fact, a real reading and it's actually some kind of error, is insanity. For starters, nobody's ABS system would ever work; any time your wheels locked up, you'd get a dashboard light instead of a life-saving ABS intervention.

          The error-checking mechanisms that exist, if they work correctly, can present a "your system is broken" signal state, but that is a different signal state. This is a ""something is there" signal state.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > Well, let's take this logically. I expect that if the sensor fails, and decides there is something there,

        From memory, if the sensor fails, the green pilot light on the dashboard turns yellow and you get an announcement that the system is no longer operative. It happens quite often when driving in heavy snow, as ice blocks the front-facing radar (pedestrian detection relies on the camera, not the radar, and works by detecting pedestrian and animal-looking shapes in the IR range, but similar principle applies).

        > it will take avoiding action just as if there really was something there,

        Before taking any sort of action on the controls, it gives you plenty of warning. If you disregard it or override it (e.g., by exerting throttle pressure), the beeping just annoyed the hell out of you but that's all.

        Seriously, go and try the system before telling us all that's wrong with it. :(

        1. Alfred

          "From memory, if the sensor fails, the green pilot light on the dashboard turns yellow and you get an announcement that the system is no longer operative. "

          That's not a failure. That's doing exactly what it's meant to do in the event of some problem arising with the sensor. It's a success. Well done designers and builders, good job.

          A failure is doing what it's NOT meant to do; in this case, the failure state posited is that it reports the existence of something that isn't there.

  20. Smeg77

    Ford - The Car-Jackers Choice

    So basically what Ford have now done is created an easy way for people to Car jack, or better than that stick this on a VIP's car, now you have an easy way to assassinate them.

    I believe in Brazil you can drive through Red Traffic lights after 10pm to reduce your chance of having your car jacked and being killed. Ford believe they've been doing it wrong, so now you just need to stand in the road and wait for the car to stop for you....Ford Making thieves lives easier

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Ford - The Car-Jackers Choice

      who'd want to jack a focus? Sure if this was an S Class merc or an overfinch range rover. I cant imagine much of a black market for a 1.4 diesel focus.

  21. grammarpolice

    Do No Evil

    Perhaps Ford are finally trying to make up for all those donations to the Nazi party and the Ford Pinto case.

    Or maybe they're just trying to make money.

  22. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Alert

    As long as you can disable it...

    As long as you can disable it without having to agree to several pages of lawyerly crap on your screen, then maybe a good idea. If you cannot, then forget it.

    I hope to never have to run someone over, drive my car through a barricade, etc., but if I do, I don't need the idiot brain in my car thinking it knows what's best. It's bad enough when Windows thinks it knows what I want to do. (and always gets it wrong)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scenario B, your being chased by someone in a vehicle behind for whatever reason, lets say you are in something nicely manoverable, so you overtake a new ford, and nip directly in front of it which isnt dangerous as you are already moving faster, the collision assist takes over as you are inside the safe distance zone its been configured with, and moves the ford into the outside lane due to the speed of travel and no time to slow, right into the path of the pursuer, or even into a collision with them, as they presumeably will be travelling with excess speed also. Maybe the pursuer (police?) might be forced to have collision assist and their vehicle back off. letting the meatback vehicle sod off into the distance using the equipped cars as assets to be used in this way...

    Scenario C, onramps for motorways with speeding naughty person in car or on motorcycle, I'd already be travelling faster than the vehicles on the carriageway already, so can just nip straight out across a gap between traffic in the left lane into the right hand lanes. A few beeps of horns and I'd be gone. Try that with automated response systems and you'll see plenty of carnage in your rearview as the systems all kick in.

    The future sounds fun to me, I look forward to "Ghostrider goes mad in the UK with driving assist police cars" hahaha :)

  24. tony
    Paris Hilton

    Who to kill?

    If two people jump out on both sides of the roads simultaneously (assuming no room to drive between) who does it squish?

    If a person jumps out in front, and a moment later a second jumps out onto the other lane, will it divert back to the first squishee or stay locked on the second?

    1. Harvey Trowell
      Coat

      Re: Who to kill?

      I imagine the car would deal with such cases on a first-come, first-swerved basis.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pedestrians walking out in front of you

    I pay a lot of money each year for the privilege of driving on the roads in the UK. If some idiot thinks they can just saunter out in front of me and expect me to slow down to accommodate them, I'm more than happy to let them 'debate' the issue with my car directly.

    And while waiting for the ambulance to come and scrape up the various pieces of said idiot, I'll ask them if they either liked their free flight, or what the current condition of the sump, running gear and exhaust on my car is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pedestrians walking out in front of you

      I suggest re-taking your driving test, or better still handing in your license until you are responsible enough to drive a car.

      I really do hope that you are never unfortunate enough to accidentally step out in front of a driver with the same mind set as you.

    2. Otto is a bear.

      Re: Pedestrians walking out in front of you - A Gentle reminder

      In the UK Pedestrians have right of way on all roads except clearways and motorways. It is up to you to avoid them, not the other way round. You have to slow down for them within the laws of physics. You should also prepare to stop when approaching pedestrians at the side of the road and, especially unaccompanied ones. Run a pedestrian over and you'll be debating it with the legal system. Don't forget most pedestrians pay road tax as well, and I'd expect you would like motorists to take care when you cross the road on foot.

      BTW Isn't all this technology already on Some Volvos and Mercs? Parking is old hat.

      1. Otto is a bear.

        Re: Pedestrians walking out in front of you - A Gentle reminder

        The missing word is children.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pedestrians walking out in front of you

      > I pay a lot of money each year for the privilege of driving on the roads in the UK.

      You mean, like every other road user? Or did you just fucking buy the road outright? Twat.

  26. SirDigalot

    reading what the press release said

    the car simply brakes if you do not do anything it does not steer or so weird stuff, I know that is a big thing out here in the ex colonies, since a.) no one can seemingly drive b.) those (especially in large pickups) think they are nascar drivers (physics as usual is just a theory to them and does not apply, until they realize it does, then they usually need that other voodoo thing called medical help when their top-heavy-vehicle-with-no-weight-in- the-back-designed-for-moving-lots-of-heavy-stuff looses control and either rolls crashes or takes out a few of the other vehicles on the road that are not paying attention c.) are on the phone, texting, eating, reading, applying makeup, all of those d.) doing everything I just mentioned, basically avoiding the task of driving!

    This does not include large HGV truck drivers who think that doing 70 and sitting 10ft from the car in front of them is sufficient for a 40ton truck to stop (they get all pissy when people are tailgating them though!)

    so they are installing it in a lot of cars here... I have noted there is a Mercedes that basically does everything.

    The art and skill of driving I feel is lost, and now with all the safety features Darwin also loses out on some prime candidates (though also they seem to manage to pro-create (excessively) well before they get expunged from the gene pool also).

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: reading what the press release said

      I thought HGVs were speed-restricted to 56mph. I wish the bloody things could do 70mph, then you wouldn't get a bunch of cars in the outside lane of the motorway while an HVG at 56mph overtakes an HGV doing 55mph! (And then the gradient changes, and the one doing 55 speeds up to 56 ....)

  27. Reallydo Wannaknow
    Trollface

    choices ...

    So, if there are *two* potential objects, how does the car choose between them? Will there be moral programming? Who to take out, the baby in the pram or the old lady with a walker?

  28. Robin 1

    This strikes me a lot like the "traction control" feature, which nearly ever Canadian turns off the instant the snow hits. I have no interest in losing control over my vehicle during an emergency situation.

  29. Zog The Undeniable

    car widths have increased 16 per cent in the last decade and parking sizes haven't got any bigger

    This is a big problem. Most garage doors are exactly seven feet wide, meaning you can't actually drive a new VW Golf or Honda Civic into the garage without either folding the mirrors or risking a scrape (the clearance on each side is only an inch or two - good luck with that when you do it 365 days a year). So everyone clutters up the street with their second or third cars and fills the garage with broken barbecues and other crap. Many cars are banned from the Rotherhithe Tunnel for the same reason - they won't fit through the new entrance bollards.

    I know the world's people are getting fatter and fatter but there really ought to be a limit on car width. No-one is going to go and widen all the roads by 16%.

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