back to article Google's self-driving car breakthrough: Stop sign no longer a problem

Google has updated the software in its self-driving cars after spending the past year running prototypes around its hometown of Mountain View, California, to test the vehicles' performance on hectic city streets. The advertising giant said its code had spotted hundreds of distinct objects, having logged thousands of miles of …

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  1. NoneSuch

    Can it handle hand signs from a traffic cop? If so, color me impressed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Can it handle hand signs from a traffic cop? If so, color me impressed."

      Already pretty impressive as it stands, particularly the comprehension of and coping with construction works.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Yeah, this rather scuppers the typical comments every time self-driving cars come up in the news "sure it can handle a boring empty road but what about city driving".

        Very cool. I wonder how specialised the algorithms are, i.e. can they be transferred easily to all kinds of other areas automation has traditionally seemed too difficult?

        1. Graham Marsden

          @JDX

          > this rather scuppers the typical comments every time self-driving cars come up in the news "sure it can handle a boring empty road but what about city driving".

          Sure, nice, reasonably ordered US cities.

          Now try checking out some of the video clips of driving in Russia or, even better, what about this traffic in India. How do you think it will cope with that?!

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLUm3Q-7iZA

          1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

            Re: @JDX

            Now try checking out some of the video clips of driving in Russia or, even better, what about this traffic in India. How do you think it will cope with that?!

            How would most non-native drivers cope with that? I've seen many British drivers who can't cope well with London traffic.

            I suspect the biggest problem for driverless cars will be in being too cautious, which perhaps requires being more reckless, which in turn raises the risk of accidents, and perhaps voids the 'more safe' advantage. Programming 'calculated risk' should be an interesting challenge.

          2. Alan_Peery

            Re: @JDX

            By going through slowly, and only moving forward when there isn't an obstacle, as the current crop of cars is doing.

            Watch it closely for a while. You'll see fun things like the madman walking his bicycle against the main circulation of traffic https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=pLUm3Q-7iZA#t=43 -- the one with the orange load on his bike trailer. People recognize what direction he is moving, and veer left or right so that 1) don't hit him and 2) give him room to move forward.

            Thanks for linking this video -- it's joined my list of favorite videos as a wonderful example of human cooperation.

          3. Not That Andrew

            Re: @JDX

            That's not as chaotic as it appears at first glance. Seen worse driving in London. And while the pedestrians seem careless they don't expect to be given right of way, like British pedestrians.

            1. Robert Grant

              Re: @JDX

              They have right of way. Unless it's a motorway or slip road. If you're in that much of a hurry, you should've left home 7 seconds earlier, to make up the time.

              1. 's water music Silver badge

                Re: @JDX

                They have right of way

                and as any fule kno very few drivers will deliberately engage in a crash. Stepping out into traffic without appearing to look is simply a rational strategy for pedestrians wanting to make progress through London motor traffic

          4. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

            Re: Indian traffic

            The only thing that did not make sense to me was the motorcyclist who stopped and made a phone call. How could he hear anything and why did he stop?

            The obvious way to make that junction safer is to wire the horn to the brake pedal so drivers have a hand free to make phone calls.

          5. Vociferous

            Re: @JDX

            > Sure, nice, reasonably ordered US cities.

            That's good enough. Another ten years of development and it may even be able to tackle the "no lanes, no lights, no zebra crossings and pedestrians milling everywhere" traffic of south-east Asia.

            Also, once you get above a certain percentage of self-driving cars in traffic, even the grinding carnage of south-east asian traffic would dissolve, because the self-driving cars would start setting the pace and tone of the traffic.

          6. Rene Schickbauer

            Re: @JDX

            > Now try checking out some of the video clips of driving in Russia or, even better, what about this traffic in India. How do you think it will cope with that?!

            Now, thats easy. Here's some pseudo-code:

            while(1) {

            if(location == 'India') {

            honk();

            speed=2; // kmh

            } else {

            drive_normally();

            }

            }

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'Can it handle hand signs from a traffic cop? If so, color me impressed.'

      Only if the traffic cop stands in the middle of the road with a target pasted to his forehead and waves his arms in an up and down panicky manner.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I can see Death Race 2000 becoming a reality.....

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Trollface

        "...when the end came, the culprit wasn't Skynet after all - it was a virus that one night simultaneously installed Carmageddon on every smart car we had..."

        1. Ben Rosenthal

          Well, at least when the machines do decide to wipe us out, they'll do it to a rockin' soundtrack! :D

    4. Tim Elphick

      When did you last see a traffic cop giving hand signals?

      On the other, er, hand, sometimes I have trouble working out which set of traffic lights apply to me. If it'll do that for me (and take the blame) then bring it on!

    5. Robert Grant

      It can already handle any command signals the NSA throws at it. No more pesky guns needed for assassinations.

  2. James Hughes 1

    Bugger

    That's some clever stuff, right there.

    Still, pretty sure Jake already had a self driving car in the 90's. This is old hat. And to be honest, it's just plugging together a load of standard components, nothing really new. Waste of time reporting it really. Very unimpressed, wake me up when it does something clever. *

    * For those not paying attention, this is the story of my day.

    1. dogged

      Re: Bugger

      > Still, pretty sure Jake already had a self driving car in the 90's

      He calls it a car. I call it a horse.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bugger

      Sorry jake isn't here to answer your call right now. He's currently piloting the first manned mission to Alpha Centauri, using only pre-1980s, off-the shelf equipment and COBOL for the mission software - pretty straightforward really. Steve Jobs is his co-pilot.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bugger

        Too many Jobsians on this thread.

        I remember one evangelical who informed me that Jesus was his co-driver. Jesus wasn't paying attention either on the day he wrapped a hire van round a lamp post because a Luton is a bit longer and wider than a Corsa.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bugger

          Darwin is my co-pilot.

          He says we're going to crash.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Would be useful after one too many down the pub, but no doubt that will be an illegal use of a driver-less vehicle.

    1. Cubical Drone

      Google's co-founder, Sergey Brin, seems to have the same idea:

      "Too many people are under served by the current transport system. They are blind, or too young to drive, or too old, or intoxicated."

      Emphasis added.

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        Existing Solutions

        Sergey Brin, and others that see self-driving cars as a solution for people that are "under served by the current transport system" are missing an achievable existing solution: public transport. People who anticipate sending their car to collect their shopping are overlooking the efficiency of a delivery van, that can deliver groceries for you and, say, a dozen neighbours in one trip versus 12 self-drive cars clogging up the roads.

        As an example of how public transport can work, look at Hong Kong, with a tenth of the vehicles per capita of USA and buses on most routes at 10 minute intervals. If 9 out of 10 urban Americans abandoned their cars, there would be enough demand for frequent, convenient public transport.

        I admire the improvements in self-driving technology, but see it more as a niche solution. Maybe, one day, a self-driving bus would be even better, if it can answer passengers' questions and deploy the wheelchair ramp safely when needed.

        1. DropBear Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Existing Solutions

          Sergey Brin, and others that see self-driving cars as a solution for people that are "under served by the current transport system" are missing an achievable existing solution: public transport

          Oh, you mean this existing solution...? Yeah, I can see how it's welcoming some of the 'under served' ones... http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-14/public-transport-troublemakers-to-be-handed-on-the-spot-bans/5198664

          1. DeathSquid

            Re: Existing Solutions

            The problem with intoxicated passengers on public transport is not the alcohol. There are plenty of tipsy people on the trains in Japan and very few problems. On the other hand, your typical bogan Aussie downs a VB or three and turns into an idiot looking for a fight. Sigh. It really is embarressing to be Australian sometimes.

        2. dotdavid

          Re: Existing Solutions

          @Allan - unfortunately public transport in most places suffers from the fact that it a) doesn't go where you want to go and/or b) doesn't go when you want to go. Having a Hong Kong (or indeed London-style) bus service anywhere other than in densely-populated cities where there is likely to be enough people wanting to go somewhere all the time would be very expensive, even if everyone was forced somehow to abandon their cars.

          Delivery vans for groceries have other problems, like the store fobbing off the sub-par fresh produce on you as you can't pick and choose your own items, and the requirement for you to be available to collect the delivery at a certain place and time which is awkward for some.

          I see self-drivng cars as being more than a niche thing. It would decimate the taxi industry entirely, and I suspect there would be less second and third cars around if a family's primary self-driving car could be better utilised during the day. With no labour costs a taxi-style rental service would potentially be cheaper and therefore some might not bother to purchase a car at all. No, I think if they can get the tech working well, this could be very good for congestion, pollution and whatnot.

          1. Ted Treen
            Headmaster

            Re: Existing Solutions

            "... there would be less second and third cars around..."

            You mean bits are going to drop off them - or do you mean "... there would be fewer second and third cars around..."?

            1. dotdavid

              Re: Existing Solutions

              @Ted - ""... there would be less second and third cars around..." "You mean bits are going to drop off them " - no, I mean the LIDAR and other bits required for self-driving will probably get more compact as the technology improves. Obviously ;-)

          2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

            Re: Existing Solutions

            @dotdavid OK, there's a threshold for population density below which bus and other public transport becomes infrequent and inconvenient. I suspect that the threshold is lower than you think - any town there is a problem with road congestion is probably dense enough to benefit from a good bus service. As for the costs, everyone having their own car is an enormous capital cost and continuous fuel cost.

            You mention people being forced to abandon their cars, yes, many people have a deep, personal attachment, somehow it's part of their identity (or a symbol of their virility?). This makes it difficult for people to realise that, to live closer together, they need to share more. Personally, I find not having a car liberating, it's cheaper, I don't have to find parking spaces, I can drink, if the traffic is bad I can hop off and walk.

            The problems for delivery vans apply the same to using a self-drive car for an unattended grocery run.

            Better utilisation of the family self-driving car would probably increase the number of empty trips, and therefore increase congestion and decrease fuel efficiency. A self-driving taxi would be good, except that it also falls foul of the "my car, my identity" syndrome.

      2. Thorne

        "Too many people are under served by the current transport system. They are blind, or too young to drive, or too old, or intoxicated as well as stoned and/or retarded."

        FIFY

    2. hairydog

      Not just from getting home from the pub

      It's way more useful than that. About 50% of people are too young, old or infirm to drive - they need to travel too.

      A huge amount of today's traffic is children going to school and then their parent going home again. No need for that any more.

      Cars that drive themselves won't need to park as much. They can go and take someone else on a journey instead of just sitting there all day.

      Self-driving cars will replace most taxis (taxi drivers are the expensive part of taxis) .

      A huge number of people would no longer need to own a car at all: they can just click their smartphone to call a car when they need to go somewhere.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        Re: Not just from getting home from the pub

        A huge amount of today's traffic is children going to school and then their parent going home again. No need for that any more

        I suspect there's not really much need for most of it now either. In the early 80s I was walking over a mile to school and back every day. Probably did me a world of good and the habit is still with me. I do 4 miles or so almost every lunchtime.

        1. usbac

          Re: Not just from getting home from the pub

          @ AndrueC

          On our commute to work every morning, we pass a number of school bus stops. At each stop, there are between 3 and 8 cars, sitting idling, with the children inside waiting for the bus. The moms are standing around bullshitting. None of these bus stops are farther than a mile from the school!

          In the meantime, we have to follow the bus as it stops about every 100 yards. To make matters worse, sometimes the woman driving the bus gets out and chats with the waiting moms! I see my tax money is put to good use.

        2. ian 22

          Re: Not just from getting home from the pub

          When I were a lad we walked through snowdrifts higher than our heads and the headmaster beat us for being covered in ice. Then we had gravel for lunch. Cold gravel.

          1. Random Yayhoo
            Pint

            Re: Not just from getting home from the pub

            @ ian 22

            "Then we had gravel for lunch. HOT gravel."

            FIFY

            Luxury! We lived in a matchbox in the road and were constantly run over. We woke before going to bed, and...

  4. Buzzword

    Congestion

    On the down side, congestion will get far worse once self-driving cars go mainstream. I wouldn't put up with a 90-minute stressful commute by car; but I would be much happier with 90 minutes sitting in the back seat, doing some work, writing emails, etc. If everyone else has the same reasoning, traffic volumes will increase dramatically.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Congestion

      You would like to think a self drive car would have the whit to check the route first.

      This would give the car the opportunity to tell the passenger that the person he wishes to visit is two blocks over and perhaps they should meet in the middle somewhere?

      Also, once there are enough self drive cars simple traffic smoothing algorithms (like get that madly overtaking BMW into a storm drain before he pulls in just before his junction and causes everyone to brake) will increase the traffic capability of the roads. Indicators will be replaced by telling the cars around you and asking the cars in front etc.

      The same techniques could be used to increase rail flow by several times too - but its about the money there.

    2. Graham Marsden

      @Buzzword - Re: Congestion

      If only someone could come up with some sort of vehicle which you hire or get access to for a fee for a short period during the day which would have someone else doing the driving and which would transport you to your place of work and then go off and provide the same service to another person so it didn't need to be parked in the city all day doing nothing useful...

      1. Alfred

        Re: @Buzzword - Congestion

        Taxis are very expensive because you're paying for the drivers time, and that time also needs to be covered when there is no fare. At the point that the taxis no longer need drivers, what you suggest will suddenly become viable.

    3. TopOnePercent Silver badge

      Re: Congestion

      congestion will get far worse

      Completely agree. My commute is just shy of 2 hours on public transport, or the same to drive because of traffic. Once I can work remotely from a wifi equipped self driving car, then my last day on the train has arrived.

      2 hours extra sleep on the way in, and if I leave the office 1 hour early, I can do a net additional 1 hour of work, and gain 1 extra hour at home.

      Congestion will be horrendous, so the government should start thinking less about high speed rail, and more about high speed self driving car only autobahns into and out of London.

      1. Vociferous

        Re: Congestion

        > Congestion will be horrendous,

        Not necessarily. The self-driving cars will "play nice" in traffic, and will likely be networked, which means that A) cars can be driven safely at higher speeds with less space between them, 2) a lot of the behavior which causes gridlock will disappear (like weaving between lanes), and III) the cars will always know where there's obstructions/congestion, and choose alternative roads if possible.

        Of course, toss in a significant percentage of human-driven cars and most of those advantages disappear. Which is part of the reason why robotic cars will quickly become not just a good idea, but the law.

        1. Charles Manning

          Re: Congestion

          "The self-driving cars will "play nice" in traffic"

          Until the first empty crisp bag blows across the street and they all shut down for safety reasons.

          The automated stuff handles controlled environments easily, but struggles on the judgement calls people make every day when dealing with the chaos of real life.

          What is that thing in the road?

          A) An empty can or a small branch blown from a tree: just drive over it.

          B) A handbag: perhaps drive around it.

          Is that shape in the road:

          A) An open manhole cover?

          B) A puddle?

          It is no wonder at all that automation ihas been around a long time in factories (controlled) and in the air (where there are few obstacles).

          1. AceRimmer

            Re: Congestion

            Did you read the article or have you just woken up from a 5 year coma?

  5. Sander van der Wal
    Angel

    Would love to see that car trying to handle Dutch cyclists. Like in Amsterdam.

    If it is going to wait for all cyclist to pass, it won't go anywhere. And not that anybody is going to signal a left turn.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      And other things like the Magic Roundabout in Swindon, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, or indeed any half busy roundabout or T junction in the UK / anywhere in Europe, and indeed driving anywhere in any Italian city. I don't think it's going to deal with those things very well at all (except by stay perfectly stationary).

      1. Benchops

        True, but any human encountering those things for the first time don't handle them well either!

        Once it's been taught what you do there it would be okay.

      2. Vociferous

        I have never been to Swindon (my loss, I'm sure) but the Arc de Triomphe roundabout is a crime against humanity.

        Excluding South-East Asia, which has the worst traffic on the entire planet by such a wide margin that it's in a league all its own, I think the worst traffic I've ever experienced was Eraklion, Crete, during rush hour. Heavy traffic, narrow medieval streets, cars parked and double-parked on both sides, and apoplectic greek drivers with only the vaguest notion of concepts such as "lanes". Lovely.

    2. Andy Gates

      A cyclist taking the lane in front of it will be handled fine. It knows where the cyclists are and roughly what they're doing, and has sharp reflexes. It just needs to edge forward when clear.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Um, yes.

    "we’ve built software models of what to expect, from the likely (a car stopping at a red light) to the unlikely (blowing through it)." So did the Airbus desingers, then the software few one into the ground at the Paris airshow. As usual with software, the aeroplane wasn't doing the likely or unlikely things in a scenario the designers imagined an Airbus might be in. If you drive one around here, I'll drop a dirty big loom on it.

    1. AManCalledBob

      Re: Um, yes.

      In the Airbus crash, they had disabled some of the flight safety systems and the pilot flew the aircraft manually to show what it could do. Ultimately, as with most plane crashes, it came down to human error.

      With the Google cars it looks like they are getting close to having a workable solution, if we can factor the driver out of equation completely then I am very interested.

      1. Charles Manning

        Re: Um, yes.

        Just reducing system failure to "human error" is an oversimplification.

        In many cases, the "backup plan" for when a system goes wrong is to disengage and hand over to the human operator to then take control. This really means the system has been designed to hand over control to the operator at the worst possible time. Since the computer has been flying the plane, and the meatsack is largely out of the loop, the hand off seldom provides the pilot with the information needed to take effective command.

        There are some functions where a computer performs vastly better than a pilot can (hence the use of computers for stability and thrust control in fighter jets etc). If a computer can no longer effectively keep the plane in the air due to thrust/sbability issues, then a pilot can't either and handing control of a broken system to a pilot is unlikely to save the day.

        A further huge issue is the confusion of responsibility between the pilot and the computer. The pilot assumes the computer is doing something, the computer assumes the pilot is. Nobody does anything and the plane crashes.

        That is what caused the AF447 crash. Three pilots in the cockpit flew a plane from 30-odd thousand ft into the sea in a deep stall because they believed the computer would prevent a stall. This took minutes to unfold, during which the plane displayed all the symptoms of being in a stall (mushy control etc) and the stall warning was sounding.

        Both automatic and human control can operate well when flying straight and level. Problems happen during the transitions from one control to another, the blurring of responsibility and the confusion of the control surface.

        1. Hans 1 Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Um, yes.

          The guyz are dead and I hate having to write this ... the flight was stalled, not once did they push the joystick down to gain speed and lift ... they were pulling it like mad because they wanted to "go up, not fall" and that was a rookie mistake which killed too many. Apparently the pilots originally thought it was yet another computer error. The flight computer has since been equipped with yet another algorithm to handle idiots in control.

          The problem is, computers make our lives easier and we rely on them to do the hard stuff, then, the critical moment we are asked to do it alone, we are useless.

          The other day in a DIY store, the bloke could not calculate the number of boxes (!!!) and total price of tiles I needed ... I wanted 15m2, the boxes contained 1.4m2 of tiles. The m2 was 6 euro on special offer ... the bloke wanted me to pay 140 euro in total (over 9euro the m2, the original non-discounted price was 12/m2) and refused to believe me when I said more like 90 (!)... I insisted, along came the manager asking about his calculator - he had lent it to a mate in need, I ended up paying 80 iso 92.40 because he could not be asked to perform simple multiplication - had a couple of pints with the change ;-). Yes, sadly, pints are expensive round here.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Um, yes.

      "to the unlikely (blowing through it)"

      If that's unlikely in their neck of the woods, they definitely have higher driving standards than we do where I live...

    3. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Um, yes.

      If you drive one around here, I'll drop a dirty big loom on it.

      No, no, no...

      The recognised method is to use a grand piano - a far more satisfying outcome.

      1. Message From A Self-Destructing Turnip
        Trollface

        Re: Um, yes.

        But where are the Ludites going to find a grand piano? Clearly to you Alister, ACs comment was like some of the other comments here ... aeroplane talk.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Um, yes.

        <i>The recognised method is to use a grand piano - a far more satisfying outcome.</i>

        No, a safe is preferable. In the event of autoautos wearing Susquehanna hats.

        (also, arse to 'no html')

  7. The Axe

    700,000 miles

    I would prefer it to have travelled 700,000,000 miles in 700,000 different situations before I call the software anywhere near complete. Real life has many many many unusual situations. It's how the sw can cope with the very unusual situations which is a clear signal as to it being complete.

    1. Cubical Drone

      Re: 700,000 miles

      I think that is setting the bar a bit high seeing that most people driving cars seem to have a difficult time dealing with barely unusual situations. Give me something that is as competent as half the morons behind the wheel and I'm in.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 700,000 miles

      the more autonomous cars on the road (and less morons) the fewer "very unusual situations"

    3. John Sager

      Re: 700,000 miles

      No, it just has to be 2 or 3 times better than the average competent driver. And the more self-driving cars there are, which will presumably behave more predictably than the average punter, the easier self-driving cars will find it to drive amongst them. Us hangout meatbag controllers will also find the predictability something of a bonus.

      Now Sergei, come and test it in the West End during rush-morning or rush-evening.

    4. DropBear Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: 700,000 miles

      Can I please see the reaction of the car to another SUV approaching at 0.5 Mach head-on in the single lane "I WILL OVERTAKE THIS TRUCK IF IT'S THE LAST THING I DO! oh wait..." style? Hint: if you think this falls under the "unlikely" category... think again.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: 700,000 miles

        Deploy missiles...

      2. Andy Gates

        Re: 700,000 miles

        Oncoming vehicle in your lane? Come on, that's not even exotic.

        The loom was at least novel.

    5. hairydog

      Re: 700,000 miles

      How many miles and how many situations did you drive before getting your licence to drive unsupervised? A lot less than that, I suspect!

      How many people have driven 700,000 miles in traffic without having an accident (not counting being hit by incompetent human drivers)

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: 700,000 miles

        With an average car in the UK doing about 10k miles, and assuming ~1 car per driver, the average person will accumulate 700,000 miles at about their 87th birthday...

        As I've said elsewhere I much prefer the failure modes of these cars to those with a nut behind the wheel...

  8. Don Jefe

    Litigation on Horizon

    I'm not big on lawsuits, but I'm going to sue the shit out of Google. Cyclists, construction, children, animals, police cars and more are called impediments in my system and distractions are bars, roller coasters and large construction cranes. I'll not have Google screwing up my Trademarks.

  9. fishman

    Great!

    As someone in their late fifties, I look forward to self driving cars when I no longer can safely drive.

    I also could see sending my car out to pick things up at the store - order on line, the car gets there, a store employee puts it in the car, and sends it back home.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great!

      I agree. But how long before the <agency of choice> employ a small one with facial recognition and a large butterfly net to capture "known criminals" I wonder?

    2. hairydog

      Re: Great!

      Better than that: you won't need a car at all. Just hire a self-driving car for a half hour for a one-way trip. Right now taxis are expensive because of the driver* and hire cars are expensive becasue of the insurance. But with plentiful self-driving cars, that will change!

      *And the insurance. Taxi drivers are often incompetent, aggressive and accident-prone drivers, and their insurance premiums reflect that!

  10. DougS Silver badge

    But I wonder

    How well can it tell the difference between a plastic bag blowing between some parked cars into the path of your car, and a soccer ball? In the latter situation you need to slam on your brakes in case it is followed by a child, but you don't even slow down for the bag. Slamming on your brakes when you're driving isn't a big deal, because you know it is coming, but if you're sitting in your car enjoying a beverage while the car is driving you want to minimize unexpected emergency stops!

    1. Zot

      Re: But I wonder

      Good point, but I bet it sticks to residential speed limits, so you may just need a lid on your martini to stop it spilling on your Armani. And as it knows what's around it in all directions at the same time so it'll see if it has room for swerving potential danger.

      Unlike the cunts that live near me who appear to be driving as fast as possible along narrow streets with parked cars either side, and only see through a narrow tunnel of angry self hate! Allegedly.

    2. Jim84

      Re: But I wonder

      "But I wonder

      How well can it tell the difference between a plastic bag blowing between some parked cars into the path of your car, and a soccer ball? In the latter situation you need to slam on your brakes in case it is followed by a child, but you don't even slow down for the bag. Slamming on your brakes when you're driving isn't a big deal, because you know it is coming, but if you're sitting in your car enjoying a beverage while the car is driving you want to minimize unexpected emergency stops!"

      In the future pedestrans' and cyclists' cellphones will broadcast their position to cars. The federal transport authority already has a proposal for this over the next few years. If I was a parent with kids playing in the street I'd make sure their cellphone/smartwatch/smartchip in their clothing was working. To protect them from regular drivers as well as robocars.

      Also how often do you actually drive through blowing plastic bags and soccer balls? Not really frequently enough to make slowing down for both a problem. And I already slow down when driving on residential streets where kids could be present anyway.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: But I wonder

        Do you really want a future where your kids are chipped like dogs and cats, even if it makes them "safer"? Since when did safety become the most important concern of Americans above liberty and freedom?

        I never thought Big Brother would win through people willingly giving up their freedoms, but 9/11 and posts like yours sadly make me think I was wrong to believe that.

        1. Andy Gates

          Re: But I wonder

          Don't worry, little brother, that won't happen. It puts an unreasonable burden on the squishy, and you'd have to have some heavy upheavals in law to make it even halfway permissible.

          Save your paranoia for the eyes, the always-on unblinking remorseless REPORTING TO GOOGLE EYES!

    3. El Andy
      Joke

      Re: But I wonder

      Where I grew up we couldn't afford soccer balls and had to run out into the road to fetch our plastic bags instead. Casualties were high....

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't think I could trust a self-driving car

    If all cars were self-driving, perhaps it's possible. As long as there's people driving also, there's too many uncontrolled factors.

    1. AndyS

      Re: I don't think I could trust a self-driving car

      Yup, it'll never happen.

      Oh, wait, wasn't that a video of it happening?

  12. toxicdragon

    Hang on.

    "...from the likely (a car stopping at a red light) to the unlikely (blowing through it)." He has never seen the traffic round here then.

    1. Andrew Jones 2

      Re: Hang on.

      Having never been to America - I don't know - but I'd assume they are less likely to run a red light due to the rather more strict legal system. We would just get points on the license which eventually expire - but the US appears to be a bit more strict than that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hang on.

        If you're from around here, running a red is no big deal.

        If you're from out of town, big fine and jail time.

        Welcome to smalltown USA, where traffic offenses are a profit center. In one case, the lights were actually fixed to make it hard not to go through a red, by shortening the yellow period, at the instruction of the company who installed the traffic cameras on a "self-funded" basis.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can't believe you guys are so gullible

    Honestly - you're idiots, the lot of you. It's just a big con trick to get free publicity!

    They're in league with Amazon, outsourcing "drone driving" to developing countries via Amazons Mechanical Turk. Every time the car makes a "decision" it's just a "Real Time Human Interface Task" or RT-HIT.

    These developing countries now have HIT academies where "drone pilots" are trained to pick up a task - basically a picture of an obstacle and a desired compass heading and distance to destination - and they have to hit the keys on their customised gaming keyboards - faster, slower, steer left or right. As long as they can do this once every 2-3 seconds then everything sails along nicely and no-one gets hurt (or dead).

    Latency could be a killer - literally - but I hear if you pay more money then you'll get people manning your RT-HIT in your own country - a bit like if you pay an account fee on your bank account then you get through to a call centre in Glasgow instead of Calcutta.

    Mark my words, this is going to create a bigger gold-rush for the third world than crypto-currency mining.

    1. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: I can't believe you guys are so gullible

      That's an interesting idea… Rather than creating self-driving cars, let's create remote controlled cars, which is considerably easier, and outsource the driving to India.

      There's already way more Indians than Americans and Europeans combined, so no problem there.

      I'll insert here patent-busting keywords to make prior art discovery easier: remote controlled car long distance driving teledriving outsourcing automated bullshit.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge
        Joke

        I for one ...

        ... would welcome Indian driving in the UK. They already drive on the left, don't they?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I for one ...

          Yes, left, middle, right, sideways. Indians in India have a truly creative approach to road use.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. steogede

          Re: I for one ...

          > ... would welcom Indian driving in the UK.

          You obviously haven't spent much time in India, or Southall for that matter.

      2. Vega

        Re: I can't believe you guys are so gullible

        Yes, let's have Indian drivers piloting cars in the US, with even less of a sense of danger than they seem to possess on Indian roads. What could possibly go wrong?

      3. Richard Altmann
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: I can't believe you guys are so gullible

        You Sir owe me a keyboard.

  14. John Robson Silver badge

    The failure mode can be "slow down amd work out what to do" rather then "Oh, I didn't bother looking"

    That's a big plus right there...

  15. Daniel B.
    Terminator

    Motorcycle blues

    Ok it can see cyclists doing turn signals. But the real question is: how do they handle motorcycles? Lane sharing is legal in many jurisdictions, but has some restrictions in others. For example, here in Mexico City you can't lane-split unless traffic is stopped or moving veery slow according to the Greater Mexico City traffic rulebook. So a self-driving car should know that it should yield to a lane-splitting motorcycle if traffic starts rolling. It should also detect motorcycles quickly as to not swerve into/against a bike running on the adjacent lane; humans do that every now and then, I'd be scared shitless by robo-driver failing to detect me! Some automated toll booths already ban motorcycles because their sensors don't detect us; I've also read about "smart" street lights in the US that detect cars to pre-empt green lights but fail to detect motorcycles. Sorry, but I'm very skeptical on self-driving cars unless they're given dedicated lanes to run on.

    1. Alan_Peery

      Re: Motorcycle blues

      Try watching the video again -- the car has the equivalent of eyes in the back of its head as it sees the bicycle moving up from behind. The same will work for motorcycles. What I am hoping they start working on soon is the detection of gaze direction, as that is a more powerful indicator of intent than hand signals.

      The laws passed in California, Arizona, and elsewhere are not requiring separate lanes, just driver supervision of the vehicle. This seems to be working well so far.

      1. TopOnePercent Silver badge

        Re: Motorcycle blues

        The laws passed in California, Arizona, and elsewhere are not requiring separate lanes, just driver supervision of the vehicle.

        And there goes my reason to want one. If I have to supervise the car I may as well control it.

        You'll not be allowed to supervise the car while asleep, or drunk (though people will), and you won't be allowed to have it return to base without you, which for me eliminates all of its potential uses.

        1. AndyS

          Re: Motorcycle blues

          "If I have to supervise the car I may as well control it.

          You'll not be allowed to supervise the car while asleep, or drunk (though people will), and you won't be allowed to have it return to base without you, which for me eliminates all of its potential uses."

          Yup, because technology never improves and laws never evolve.

          1. TopOnePercent Silver badge

            Re: Motorcycle blues

            ...because technology never improves and laws never evolve.

            Technology improves, yes. But laws rarely evolve for the better in a motoring context.

            Speed limits were set based on safe stopping distances of a 1970 Ford Anglia. A 2014 Ford Focus stops in about 1/10th the distance, yet speed limits continue to fall rather than being increased inline with the improving technology.

            So no, the law will not be evolved to allow unsupervised use of the self driving car, whether that be unsupervised due to it being empty, or the occupant being drunk, sleeping, or working.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Motorcycle blues

              A Focus stops in 1/10th of the distance? Assuming equal maintenance standards, not in my reality it doesn't.

              A 1970 Anglia could easily manage 1/3g (about 3ms-2, imagine the superscript). 3g would be an interesting achievement. Hint - the limiting factor is the road surface, and that really hasn't changed very much.

              Also, there is far more traffic on the road than in 1970. I often find myself wishing things were like they were then, except that you were about three times as likely to die on the road per mile travelled.

              Today's speed limits may annoy knuckleheads, but the evidence gathered over the years is that they work.

            2. Commenter
              Linux

              Re: Motorcycle blues

              "Technology improves, yes. But laws rarely evolve for the better in a motoring context."

              But laws rarely evolve, period, in a technology context. Especially in the scientifically illiterate United States, which equates everything inexplicable by the common folk to miracles and magic (and brands anyone who mentions science as a godless communist). Don't quote me on this, but I wouldn't doubt if a good chunk of our surveillance laws govern whether or not the Pinkerton Agency has the authority to ride behind equestrian letter-carriers of the Pony Express. Pretty sure the copyright laws must cover 8-track tapes, Betamax, and transistor radios too. The last major update to the wire-tapping laws occurred under Reagan, talking about the "burgeoning portable telephone technology" or something to that effect. (The "brick," remember those?)

              New York just now is moving to get rid of horse-drawn carriages -- not on the grounds that they're outdated, but on grounds of animal cruelty. (Shades of a certain Seinfeld episode about force-feeding the poor creature.) A reason I can nevertheless support, but I still believe the point about American Luddism is well-taken. No doubt the laws will take years to catch up with Google cars. They're written for rickshaws, Hannibal's war elephants, and chariots with literal "horse power."

              Congress, after all, takes millennia to get things passed that don't serve their own (or their lobby friends') interests. The healthcare act, for example, wasn't about helping sick people pay for health insurance. It was, at its core, about expanding the customer base of private insurance companies. Self-serving crony capitalism is why we in the States will never have an NHS. (But I digress.)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Any word on what it does in freezing rain, or a snowstorm, or on a dirt road? Or when the road is partially flooded?

    Serious questions all; it occurred to me that the people working on autonomous vehicles are all doing it in southern California. That's great as far as that goes, but in upstate New York, for half the year, you're lucky to be able to see the road at all; there've been situations where I've had a hard time figuring out where to point the car even in broad daylight.

    Granted, that's not necessarily an issue as such; as long as the car knows when to say, "You know what? I'm not going out in this shit!" it's not a safety issue per se - but if the idea is to make driverless cars a standard, that points to a situation where nobody drives except when there are dangerously difficult road conditions.

    That doesn't seem like a recipe for success to me.

    1. D@v3

      environmental conditions

      Good question.

      I would imagine (hope / expect) that due to the fact it isn't relying on 'eyes' to see the road in first place, but a bank of sensors and data sources. So, in a bad weather situation, heavy rain / snow etc, I would like to think these auto-cars should be ok, because while one type of sensor might go snow blind, there should be others to pick up the slack, just with the car driving 'more carefully'.

      It's the things that will affect the road condition that bother me, things like black ice and flooding. Again, the sensors might (at least by the time these things hit mass production) be able to deal with those sorts of things. I would hope it is something that is at least being considered.

      However, thinking about it, have you seen Black Dog (boston dynamics now owned by google) correct itself after being kicked while walking on ice? Maybe those sort of movement correction techniques will find their way into driver-less cars.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: environmental conditions

        It's not so much the issue of literally controlling the vehicle on bad surfaces - this they already can do much better than the vast majority of humans - as it is the ability to figure out whether the surface is bad before the car gets squirrely. As good as stability control systems are, I'd prefer my car to not haul along at full tilt until it starts to slide and then says, "Oh, hey, some snow!" and calms down...

        I doubt the problems are intractable, long-term, but the transition point where you have people who don't drive much and then drive under extraordinary circumstances seems to be a problem.

        You also have issues for extremely rare events, like, say, when there are evacuations and traffic goes contra-flow. In theory you could have the cars query a network to find out about prevailing conditions, but that just adds another really critical link in an already quite complex system.

        Some other commenters have pointed out that some of these situations are fairly rare, which is true - but the problem with driving is that the rare situations, while rare, have extremely severe consequences if handled incorrectly. Sure, it doesn't happen often that your wife is in labor and a massive snow squall pops up half way through your drive to the hospital, but when it does, it's really important that there's a good option.

        It'll be interesting to see how it shakes out, at any rate.

        1. monkeyfish

          Re: environmental conditions

          Snow? I think you''l find the ones being worked on by Volvo in Sweden will probably have to handle snow at some point. As these are mostly research vehicles, no doubt they'll talk to each other at some point.

          Besides, THIS IS A NEW TECHNOLOGY. Seriously, they've done very very well to get to this point. They are not proposing letting these things out on their own for many years, by which time I'm sure all this crap will be sorted out.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its Morality algorithm...

    ..will be fascinating.

    What will it do if, by swerving, it could save the lives of two pedestrians but in the process kill the driver by going off a cliff ?

    1. monkeyfish

      Re: Its Morality algorithm...

      I very much suspect that if it was driving near a cliff, its' algorithms would tell it to drive veeerrrry sloooowly indeed. No chance of killing either, no risks, no street racing. In all this will be a good thing. Hopefully the authorities will be open to the idea of closing certain roads and letting humans loose occasionally, like the IoM TT.

    2. NomNomNom

      Re: Its Morality algorithm...

      "What will it do if, by swerving, it could save the lives of two pedestrians but in the process kill the driver by going off a cliff?"

      It'll decide to kill everyone because that way there are no witnesses.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looking good

    I'm very interested in this, but have they tried it out with a tyre going flat whilst driving?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Looking good

      ASR already does a better job than most human drivers. When it comes to things like flat tyres, I'd rely on a properly designed automatic stability system over the average driver any day. Look at all the people who drive on flat tyres without even noticing.

  19. BrownishMonstr

    Looking forward to these selfie-cars.

  20. Matthew 3

    Us Brits use a cooler car

    When we make a self-driving car we go for a Bowler Wildcat. Just sayin'.

    Link

  21. Nifty

    Quaint already

    Visual interpretation of the environment will look quaint once all cars, road signage and probably cycles & people become part of the Internet of Things. The auto car will then be able to see through vehicles and round corners, as well as being able to regeneratively brake because it knows in advance when the lights are going to go red.

    Purely visual processing is like the landline step before everything goes wireless and mobile, so some countries may skip it and go straight to the grid computing model of auto car control.

    1. AndyS

      Re: Quaint already

      Landlines have been leapfrogged in many developing countries because the cost of infrastructure is too high, so it never got put in. From your suggestions, automated road systems are actually the equivalent of landlines and visual processing is the equivalent of wireless.

      Since initially in every location in the world, automated vehicles will need to operate along side conventional ones, there will be no immediate need to upgrade the road system once the automated ones can cope with the existing systems.

      1. monkeyfish

        Re: Quaint already

        If all the vehicles are automated, why bother with traffic lights at all? The cars can all speed up to the junction and adjust to narrowly miss each other with inches to spare*. Just like the (future) movies.

        * Clearly wont happen, but still.

        1. Andy Gates

          Re: Quaint already

          There are videos of simulations like that. From overhead they are absolutely beautiful algorithmic shoaling. From inside... I'd want blacked out windows. Yoy!

  22. Collideronline

    Social factors affecting traffic

    Aircraft fly on autopilot everyday. And it works really well, but translating the ability to navigate a vehicle along a path while driving is much more of an interactive socio-navigational task rather than a single goal task of avoiding obstacles and proceeding along a path to the destination.

    In situations that require social skills, how would these drones algorithmically calculate letting me out of a side street or lot, because in traffic they'd seen me sadly starring down, beat from a long day of work, and decided to give me the illogical break of letting me out, knowing that some asshole behind me wouldn't even wait to see if the guy would let them out too, but just barrels on. And depending on lunar phases, letting me go would mean they'd have to calculate that deed would cost them 4 slots time in their journey.

    I believe there's an added benefit to being "nice" letting someone in your lane etc. I think it works to prevent malignant rage from growing in socially connected event. The great migrations of commuters everyday to and from their feeding grounds.

    Do they always yield? Drivers also communicate by nods, If there is a situation where the drone end up stopped waiting for the other one to go, how will it wave "you go ahead." Or will we be like the two disney vultures, saying "what do you want to do, I don't know what do you want to do."

    There's also some very strange legal implications. Driverless cars are malice and intent free.

    When there is an accident, liability in punitive damages are often based on how "unconscionable" or "wanton" someones actions causing it were. A driverless car has no conscience and has no regard for human life making it "wanton" by it's very nature.

    The only way I could see this becoming common on the streets is if each vehicle were required to have some kind of standardized transponder so each car could calculate each others position.

    There would be rogue vehicles evolve from criminal activity, but we deal with that problem now with faked license plates. That would place it in the aircraft safe range, and eliminate almost all need for human socio-auto relationships and communication required for travelling on the roads.

    1. monkeyfish

      Re: Social factors affecting traffic

      On the other hand, the automated car could know you've been waiting at a busy junction 10 mins already, and let you out. In the UK, we also flash our lights once or twice to mean 'you can go', and 'thank-you'. Though on the continent some countries toot their horn to mean the same thing (over here it means 'get out of my way, you prick', or alternatively 'sod off, you prick'). So some localisation may be needed, or an entirely different signal, say, a green light on the centre of the grill or dashboard? All solvable problems.

  23. NomNomNom

    Sorry I don't buy it and won't until these cars are proven to work live in hands independent of Google.

    I am no expert on AI, but a lot of the claims seem to defy what can be currently done with AI....unless they've made some staggering breakthrough in machine intelligence...but I haven't heard that claimed.

    The system seems so advanced in terms of AI that it doesn't make sense why something so critical and difficult (driving cars) would be the first application of such an AI. Where's it in games?

    1. monkeyfish

      1) There is a video of it happening in reality.

      2) Devoting all of a processor to driving one car is different to splitting it between driving several cars (all your in-game opponents) and graphically displaying all of it on your TV.

      3) It is not AI. It would not pass a Turing test. It follows a bunch of algorithms to tell it what to do under certain circumstances. If it is in a new circumstance it will slow down and work out what to do, or simply stop altogether. If it is so difficult to drive a car, why are 17 year olds allowed to do it? Or for that matter, every moron you've ever met. In fact, driving is so easy that after a few years you stop thinking about it and just do it. What is so hard to believe about a computer learning to do it instead?

      1. TopOnePercent Silver badge
        Stop

        In fact, driving is so easy that after a few years you stop thinking about it and just do it.

        ...And people wonder why we still have road accidents.

        If you're not actively thinking about driving while engaged in the act of doing it, then you're doing it wrong and need to stop.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @TopOnePercent

          No.

          When you learn a skill it moves from being a fully conscious process, during the learning period, to an unconscious process. The thinking is still going on but the awareness of thinking isn't. It's a principle of Zen Buddhism, and it applies to many things we do - from walking to programming (being "in the groove").

          I am a great believer in automatic cars because changing gear and using the clutch are not in any way intrinsic to driving - the manual gearbox and clutch is a design fault, a potential distraction from watching the road and behaving accordingly. For some people even this process becomes fully unconscious, which is better for safety.

          Our brains are designed to run on autopilot until an event occurs - a noise or something unexpected in our visual field. Provided we switch from unconscious driving to conscious driving the moment something happens, we're fine. The problem arises if we are doing something else which distracts us, like making phone calls, because the abnormal circumstance then isn't the only thing trying to get the attention of our conscious brain.

        2. Steven Roper

          If you're not actively thinking about driving while engaged in the act of doing it, then you're doing it wrong and need to stop.

          Use the Force, Luke.

          Once you're familiar with driving it becomes like walking. Do you consciously think about putting one leg in front of the other while strolling down the street, or manually measure the height of a step before going up a flight of stairs? Your subconscious manages your reflexes a lot faster than the conscious mind because there's no processing overhead. If you develop the right reflexes early on, you're a much safer driver than the white-knuckled panicker who's frantically evaluating everything that's happening and trying to consciously decide a dozen things at once.

        3. Hans 1 Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          >If you're not actively thinking about diving while engaged in the act of doing it, then you're doing it wrong and need to stop.

  24. psychonaut

    4 way stop sign

    what happens if 4 driverless cars meet at a 4 way stop sign?

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: 4 way stop sign

      They would know who arrived first and proceed appropriately.

      They would *know* who arrived first to tiny fractions of a second.

  25. Tim Elphick

    Taxis

    A cheaper taxi sounds wonderful but who will glare at the queasy people on a Saturday night, and do the dirty work when it comes to it?

    1. monkeyfish

      Re: Taxis

      Make the inside of late-night taxi's waterproof. Upon such an 'incident' the automatic sprinkler/foam jet/massive hair-dryer system would switch on. Would clean your clothes too. Thinking about it, just get in after a boozy work-night at 6am, vomit, and let the car drop you off at work fully showered, fully awake, and vowing to never do it again.

  26. Pirate Dave
    Pirate

    Am I really the first...

    to ask if Google's robot-car CPU is built on a foundation of the Three Laws of Robotics? I mean, I don't imagine it has a real Positronic brain, since that might be too high-tech even for Google, but still, the Three Laws would be a good starting point for any self-driving car, no?

    1. Vociferous

      Re: Am I really the first...

      Well, yes, they are implied in the instructions. With the exception of "through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm" -- as yet, the car wont take pre-emptive action to head off an accident it's not involved in.

  27. Vociferous

    In five years, self-driving cars will be common in traffic everywhere.

    Especially in commercial vehicles (24/7 operation is pure gold). In 10 years, they'll be the norm. In 20, it'll be the law.

    It'll be much quicker than people think, because self driving cars offer: lower insurance, lower fuel consumption, you don't need a license, fewer killed or injured, no need for "designated driver", you can read or watch movies while commuting... Pure win/win.

    1. Steven Roper

      Re: In five years, self-driving cars will be common in traffic everywhere.

      You're not looking at it the right way. You're thinking in terms of improving the lot of the common people, which is not how the ruling classes think. Their objective is to reduce freedom and enjoyment of life so they can have more power and control. Read Orwell's 1984 some time, it's the textbook instruction manual for how those in power run things.

      -

      -Lower insurance? Less profit for the shareholders. No chance of that happening.

      -Lower fuel consumption? Less taxes and excise for the government. No chance of that either.

      -Don't need a license? Less fees and reduced ability to identify travellers. Nope.

      -Fewer killed or injured? That reduces excuses for passing more freedom-limiting laws. Uh-uh.

      -No need for designated driver? Then there's nobody to blame if something fucks up. Sorry.

      -Read/watch movies while commuting? Somebody's enjoying themselves on the road and we can't have that.

      -

      If you want to promote driverless cars, you have to make them appeal to those in power. For example, extol their virtues like this:

      -

      -Driverless cars can be taken over by police, the doors locked so the occupant can't escape, and directed to the nearest police station for easy arrest.

      -They can be tracked and monitored wherever they go so the location of every citizen can be recorded continuously.

      -They don't need a driver so you don't have to pay a chauffeur.

      -You can bill people per mile AND per minute so you can compensate for the lower insurance and fuel usage.

      -Instead of a driver's license people have to insert a credit card for identification and billing. This way it's easy to 'pip' a credit card to prevent "undesirable persons" from travelling.

      -

      Get the picture? If you word it like that you'll be much more likely to get the lawmakers on side with it, and then we can enjoy at least some of the benefits you describe as well.

  28. Bartholomew

    sub optimal conditions AKA real life outside of America.

    I wonder how well it can handle pot holes and cars parked on both sides of a road narrow enough for one car but traffic is allowed to drive both ways.

  29. Commenter

    Automation is killing human jobs

    It sounds trite and cliché, but it's true. I see by the URL that this website is located in the UK. I, however, am in the U.S. where we have practically zero social safety net to provide for people who will undoubtedly end up as displaced workers because of this. Google, of course, is run by sociopaths who couldn't care less. So is Congress; in fact. I would venture 99.9999% of the government is run by self-serving narcissists who continue to perpetuate the bulldung Horatio Alger myth of the self-made man who succeeds or fails on his own merits, and ONLY his own merits.

    The question I have is how will we provide for the people who end up unemployed due to this. One poster wrote that people's identity is tied inextricably to their cars. It is to their jobs even more so, their salaries or portfolios most of all. Not sure of how it is across the pond, but here in 'Murka you're a fraction of a human being if you can't come up with an honest answer to "so, what do you do?" or "how much does that rake in?" Cab drivers, delivery drivers, school bus and public transportation drivers, will all be "made redundant" (I believe is the UK term) by these Google cars. Possibly even airline pilots and ship captains someday. Sure, we might avoid disasters like what happened to the South Korean ferry and the Malaysian Airlines flight, but to paraphrase Ben Franklin, are we willing to sacrifice economic security for safety, and possibly end up with neither? America (and by America, I mean Paul Ryan) would rather these people just die because they're "worthless moochers" who didn't "adapt to change" and "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps"; certainly the people on this blog must be more forward-thinking and compassionate than that?

    What's the contingency, Kenneth?

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge

      Re: Automation is killing human jobs

      We have heard this for centuries! When automation first started, weavers found other jobs in factories. These guyz will find other jobs elsewhere.

      It will be the electric car revolution which will be more challenging: no more brake pads or clutches to change, much less oil to be refined etc etc etc.

      Workers will work in the renewable energy sector which in the US will eventually employ several 10's of millions. The sooner you shift the better as other countries will pay your expertise dearly, however, the clowns at the top don't get it, yet. Nature has billions of years of experience and we always find that nature is much better than we are, especially when you take the total costs in account.

      I do automation in the IT sector and believe me, I have yet to witness a redundancy because of our solution. Less stress, because everything is repeatable at will, and more time to improve or optimize other parts of your workflows. Companies tend to try to be more productive with the expertise they have, not make forces redundant and let a competitor get the upper hand because innovation-wise or information-wise they stagnated.

      Fear not, young padawan, the solutions are infinite.

      The only reason we have unemployed is because the wealthy are greedier than ever before, and impatient, because they could earn even more if they thought for 5 seconds - more people in work => more potential customers; more potential customers => more sales, more sales => even higher wages.

      1. monkeyfish

        Re: Automation is killing human jobs

        ...and what happened to the horse and cart industry when narrow boats came along? ...and what happened to the narrow boat industry when trains came? ... and what happened to the train industry when trucks became commonplace? ... and so what do you think will happen to the truck industry with this? Hint: People moved on, some lost, some won, and within a couple of generations all was forgotten.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    still has problems with motorcycles and motor scooters

    same narrow visual footprint, much faster speeds (except for the smaller displacement vespas and actual mopeds)

    Sadly, only slightly worse than many Bay Area zombie commuters. But at least the technology could improve.

    I'm still waiting for Google to dare test their self drive technology during a Critical Mass event. I suspect we'd witness the first instance of Machine Road Rage.

  31. Speltier

    Kobayashi Maru

    So what will the do no evil autonomous googlewheels do when there are only 3 options:

    run over the child at 100 Km/hr

    run over the mom at 100 Km/hr

    drive off a 40 metre cliff to avoid both child and mom?

    Sorry, monkeying with the software isn't an option for you maybe command track Kapitain. You are just the meatsack screaming in the front seat (or, more likely, sexting and finding out later what happened-- at least if the third option is taken you'll die thinking happy thoughts).

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can it handle SF road situations?

    That's a beggar knocking on the window.

    That's not a cyclist arm-waving, that's an anti-Google demonstrator with an ax .

    We're in a tunnel.. no signal ..

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