back to article Robot cars to hit Blighty in 2015

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

  1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Coat

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

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

    1. Ahab Returns

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

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

  2. Daniel Hill
    Thumb Up

    Bring it on!

    I for one welcome our new robotic automobile overlords!

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

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

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

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

    1. king of foo

      Re: Bring it on!

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

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

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I want a driverless car!

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

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

    1. Nuke
      Thumb Down

      AC:- Re: I want a driverless car!

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

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

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

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

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

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

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

        Oh...

        1. Nuke
          Holmes

          Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

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

          That will be no time soon.

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

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

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

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

          1. Bill B

            Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

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

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

            1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

              Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

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

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

            2. Richard Owen

              Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

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

          2. Jan 0

            Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

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

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

        2. veti Silver badge
          Go

          Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

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

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

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

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

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

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: AC:- I want a driverless car!

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

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

    2. Ralara

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

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

    3. TitterYeNot

      Re: I want a driverless car!

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

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

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

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

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

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I want a driverless car!

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

    5. John Sturdy
      Stop

      Re: I want a driverless car!

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

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

    6. Charles Manning

      Why even park?

      Just leave the car in the middle of the road.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    7. Mr Larrington
      Devil

      Re: I want a driverless car!

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

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

    8. breakfast

      Re: I want a driverless car!

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

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

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

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

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Go

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

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

      Welcome to the brave new world of driving.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

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

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

      2. John Miles

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

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

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

  5. Tim Elphick
    Pint

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

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

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

      1. Steven Raith

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

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

    2. DropBear Silver badge
      Joke

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

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

    3. AIBailey Silver badge

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

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

      1. Steven Raith

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

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

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

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

        Steven R

      2. veti Silver badge

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

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

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unaffected by new laws

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

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

    1. HMB

      Re: Unaffected by new laws

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

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

      I realise I'm sounding like a cliché.

      1. Havin_it

        @HMB Re: Unaffected by new laws

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

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

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

  7. AMBxx Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    £10,m?

    Should just about cover the legal costs of one accident.

    1. zaax

      Re: £10,m?

      It was well over that for Selby rail crash

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

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: £10,m?

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

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: £10,m?

          And the bastard has been released!

          RIP to the rail staff and passengers

          1. Agincourt and Crecy!

            Re: £10,m?

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

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

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

            1. chr0m4t1c

              Re: £10,m?

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

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

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

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

            2. LucreLout Silver badge

              Re: £10,m?

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

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

            3. DocJames

              Re: £10,m?

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

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

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

            4. MJI Silver badge

              Re: £10,m? (agincourt)

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

              Not even working just chatting up women.

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

  8. zaax

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

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Will these night time trucking lorries

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

      1. AceRimmer

        Re: Will these night time trucking lorries

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

        If (MySpeed - OtherSpeed > 0.00000000000001)

        AllowOvertake = True

        Else

        AllowOvertake = False

        1. Owain 1

          Re: Will these night time trucking lorries

          Correction:

          ....

          Else

          AllowOvertake = Hey, why not.

          1. Sealand

            New binary state?

            > AllowOvertake = Hey, why not

            You, sir, may just have defined a new input state for CMOS electronics.

            Back to the good ol' days I was working with CMOS electronics for a living. Outputs of a logic chip can of course be true or false, and then they may be tri-stated/inactive. CMOS inputs need to be high or low and if unused, have to be tied to one or the other. If you forget, they decide for themselves. And they change their mind about it, too.

            I remember having prepared a video transmission system with a new prototype plug-in module I had designed and built using Veroboard. Everything worked and we were ready for a demonstration. 15 minutes before the customer arrived, we started getting bit errors, and it deteriorated fast until the transmission stopped completely. We didn't get the system working any more that day.

            Some days later I found the problem. A 'reset' input on a CMOS chip was left floating. It had worked for several weeks until on that particular day it entered "Hey, why not" state and started resetting the system at random, ultimately settling in the active state.

            Once that tiny bug was fixed, the system performed flawlessly for many years ...

            1. Hellcat

              Re: New binary state?

              Was that what was known as 'fuzzy logic'? I heard about that years ago, not heard the phrase since, but then my parents received a rice cooker as a gift from their Chinese student houseguests - and it has fuzzy logic.

              Last time I heard rice and fuzzy in a since sentance was about a plate I forgot to wash up before going on holiday.

        2. Nuke
          Headmaster

          @AceRimmer - Re: Will these night time trucking lorries

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

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

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

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Will these night time trucking lorries

            Aha! That aerodynamic bow-wave and tail-wave explanation now sheds some understanding on why, on a three lane motorway with two lorries seemingly joined together across lanes one and two at a seemingly identical speed, there is inevitably a Nissan Micra (other manufacturers and models are available) stuck blocking the outside lane and unable to overtake the lorries or pull back in behind them.

            Suddenly it all becomes clear... quite unlike the motorway.

          2. CCCP

            Re: @AceRimmer - Will these night time trucking lorries

            @Nuke

            "It's worse them that"? You cannot use the Pedantic icon and then spew that. That's worse than a bad thing. Please pray you have not invented a new "would of...".

            "I must triple check my posts" [repeat]

            1. Nuke
              FAIL

              @CCCP - Re: @AceRimmer - Will these night time trucking lorries

              I wrote :- "It's worse them that"

              CCCP wrote :- "You cannot use the Pedantic icon and then spew that. "I must triple check my posts" [repeat]

              Sorry. I must triple check my posts. I must triple check my posts

          3. SEDT

            Re: @AceRimmer - Will these night time trucking lorries

            The top speed of lorries is limited by a speed limiter. They are not flat out, hence no effect from slipstream or bow waves.

            The slooooow overtakings are the result of speed limiter discrepancies... and the odd c*nt of a driver;)

    2. AceRimmer

      It will be taxis

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

      Milton Keynes introducing driverless public transport pods by 2017

    3. SEDT

      Hahaha Self driving London Busses. C'mon that'l be the day. Just look at the tube. It's a simple system to automate. In fact some of it is automated, but they still have to have drivers. Thank you, trades unions

  9. Nigel Brown
    Joke

    I have had an epiphany.

    I used to shudder at the thought of these things beetling about unattended, but then I realised that at last, German car manufacturers will be able to ensure that their indicators do actually get used.

    1. EssEll
      Alert

      Re: I have had an epiphany.

      Why would one driverless car use it's lights to indicate to another driverless car? Unless it become the car's way of flirting.

      Gawd, that's a frightening thought...

      1. Havin_it
        Paris Hilton

        Re: I have had an epiphany.

        >Unless it become the car's way of flirting.

        AAAAAaaaaaand there's the Lindsey Lohan angle! /Herbie

        Icon: needs updating

  10. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Pint

    I want both

    Traffic jams are just a bore and a major annoyance (Looking at you stupid SUV owner who just barged into my lane), I wouldn't mind having a car do the boring journeys for me and when the traffic clears up I'll drive (So that will be one day per year).

    I wonder how automated cars will handle ice.

    1. Mike Smith
      Thumb Up

      Re: I want both

      "I wonder how automated cars will handle ice."

      Or Hyde Park Corner in the rush hour.

      Or the eastern side of the M60.

      Or Swindon's Magic Roundabout.

      I wonder what the rules will be on taking one abroad... watching one trying to negotiate the Place d'Etoile in central Paris at 5.30pm on a weekday would be very entertaining.

      Provided I wasn't actually inside the thing, of course.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: I want both

        "I wonder how automated cars will handle..."

        Better than most drivers, probably- certainly better than most RWD drivers in ice...

      2. phil dude
        Thumb Up

        Re: I want both @Mike Smith

        Probably pretty well (... ice etc). I imagine the cars will be extremely conservative, whereas most human drivers are not. The driving here in TN is a care in point. When it rains it dumps a UK year of rain in 5 minutes, and drivers to not adapt, even though the view is completely obscured by water!

        Once there is a critical threshold of autonomous vehicles, it is not hard to imagine the traffic patterns becoming more regular.

        Next time you are sitting at a traffic light more than 2 cars back, look at the delay as cars start, and imagine all cars started together.

        This will not be a problem in Oxford. I imagine autonomous cars driving around Cornmarket like a taxi merry-go-round as there is nowhere to park anyway...:-)

        They can't come soon enough, but my paranoia of GovCorps is they will find a away to make it crap...

        P.

      3. 's water music Silver badge

        Re: I want both

        "I wonder how automated cars will handle ice."

        THey will still have sensors (like analogue cars do already). I imagine that the since the self-drive software is designed to replicate a human driver, it will probably be designed to ignore the input and act all surprised when it crashes.

        Or Hyde Park Corner in the rush hour.

        Similarly to meat sacks but with fewer crashes and greater situational awareness?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I want both @Mike Smith

          They will be in trouble then, as Cornmarket is pedestrianised.

          (Broad Street perhaps?)

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: I want both @Mike Smith

            I stumbled upon the secret of Swindon's magic roundabout on first use.

            Pick your exit, keep an eye out to the right hand side for car-missiles and GO GO GO!

          2. phil dude
            Pint

            @AC Re: I want both @Mike Smith

            Ahh sorry, I should have explained my mental map. Cornmarket is a pedestrianised street that connects Queen St and Broad St, and is about 150m long. Only Blue lights can pass along it, and if you've ever piled out of the PT at 3am, you are sure to see them...

            To take a taxi from one side to the other is 1.3 miles via Oxpens Rd and St Aldate (passing Pembroke on the left and Christchurch on the right).

            As a result taxis can only park in two locations (ignoring the Randolph), on Queen St at one end in front of Carfax, and Magdalen St in a Taxi Rank of sorts. Hence merry-go-round as they actually circle Cornmarket...

            Oxford is fairly anti-motorist since the colleges own all of the land and they were there first.

            I actually had a car in my first year living in Jericho and I could park it one of 2 places - in front of my house or at my parents in London. So as cities go, probably not a bad place for self-driving car tests, and lots of human targets students and cyclists in the roads .

            Self driving cars would not *need* to circle all day to find a parking space, because if one existed it could reserve it in advance - the technology already exists. Only instead of a smartphone, every car would tell every other car the space is now free.

            Beer, because that's what we are all thinking...

            P.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @AC I want both @Mike Smith

              Ah, see what you mean now. Must admit I tend to ignore taxis in Oxford, we live nearby and generally go in or out by bus. But I can see how that would happen.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I want both

      "Traffic jams are just a bore and a major annoyance (Looking at you stupid SUV owner who just barged into my lane)"

      You probably left a gap while you were distracted reading and posting to El Reg on your phone...

  11. JimmyPage Silver badge
    FAIL

    How does this square with the mantra of "public transport" ?

    In the 90s, I was convinced that MS had two departments, at opposite ends of the building. One was dedicated to *fighting* piracy, and came up with all sorts of whizzy ways to stop it. Their work was then taken across the building to the other team, who made sure it never happened, since some of Microsofts market dominance is undoubtedly based on how "porous" Win 3.1/95 and Office 97 and Visual Studios 4,5 and 6 were.

    Certainly at the local level, councils up and down the country have done their damndest to deter private motoring. This is no secret. It's a stated policy. I have an email in reply to my observation that resequencing some local lights would improve the efficiency of the junction. The reply I got basically said that as a means to encourage public transport, anything which made it easier to drive was undesirable.

    There are two examples of this in concrete and tarmac in SW Brum, where the A38 passed through Selly Oak and Northfield. The bypass is 5 minutes *longer* than the previous route (a fact locals have twigged, meaning the original route is used to bypass the bypass). This was by *design* not accident.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How does this square with the mantra of "public transport" ?

      How it squares with the statist, red flag mentality of local government is that driverless cars will be most unlikely to be truly autonomous. At the very least they'll want to make them aware of traffic light sequencing that can remain deliberately messed up, but at a higher level you'll have the Stalinists of Brum rolling out their 20mph everywhere programme, and the self driving cars will dawdle along slower than a push bike. Factor in the unmissable opportunity for the state to mandate some central control logic, and remote management "to help the police and protect the public from Al Quaeda" and driverless cars are a wet dream for the control freak beards and sandals who work in local government.

      Of course, that won't make public transport any more popular, but it isn't the state's job to deliver what you want, it is your job to lap up what the state thinks you should have.

  12. Big_Boomer Bronze badge

    Stupid headline

    Are you getting your headlines from the Daily Mail now? These Driver-less cars can't possibly drive any worse than the large number of so called drivers currently using cars on our roads. With any luck all the shite drivers will buy a driver less vehicle and let a far better driver take them to work.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupid headline

      Have they worked out how to overtake cyclist nazi's yet?

      1. CCCP
        Headmaster

        Re: Stupid headline

        @AC

        Do please tell what a "yet" belonging to cyclist nazi is. Is it missing an "i", as in yeti? That would be quite a sight incidentally, an abominable snowman running after a militant bicycle rider needing to be overtaken, in the middle of a sweltering London.

        (I know the apostrophy is the curse of native English speakers. But it's still amusing.)

  13. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    Meh

    What?

    already testing driverless cars in Milton Keynes

    Driver or no driver, they'll still get lost.

    Science minister Greg Clark added: “...our strengths in cars, satellites, big data..."

    Is there any aspect of human life that isn't enhanced by "big data"? My impression is that 90% of IT job ads now require "big data" skills, and I wonder how many of the advertisers have a clue what they are.

    The Transport Catapult, a government-funded organisation dedicated to devising new ways of getting us moving

    Who chose that name? It sounds like they plan to get us moving by firing us into the air with strong elastic.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Am looking forward to the first viruses to appear, with names such as 'the joyride' and 'reverse driver'.

    1. Mike Smith
      Coat

      " 'the joyride' and 'reverse driver'."

      Err... things like that are how you tend to catch viruses...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Err... things like that are how you tend to catch viruses..."

        Haha! Thumbs up.

  15. ForthIsNotDead
    Meh

    Bastards

    Cable said: “Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society, and, much more importantly, allowing the government to fully monitor, and, at our option, control the movements of every member of the public that is a registered owner of an automatic car! Owe some child maintenance payments? We'll just turn your car off until you pay. Going to McDonalds? Hmmm.... Seems like you've been there rather a lot recently... We'll just use that fact to refuse you health care on the soon-to-be-privatised NHS. Driving slowly in a known red-light district? Wait one moment while we turn the car off, lock the doors, and notify plod of your current location.

    Not that I'm paranoid or anything.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Bastards

      :)

      Seriously though, it actually got me wondering at the level of routing abd control that will be offered. In a human controlled car, it's very easy to slow down to a crawl for whatever reason - whether it's "shopping in a red light district", enjoying the landscape / scenery (hopefully with nobody behind you) or just trying to arrive at the in-laws as late as possible, how easy will it be to control and specify this?

      1. LazyLazyman

        Re: Bastards

        As someone who lives in the cotswolds, hopefully not at all. It's bloody annoying being stuck behind some numpty looking at a hill or something. You may look for someone behind you, but too many people just dawdle along in a world of their own, with no idea that whilst they may be on holiday the line of people behind them are just trying to get on with their lives. Same thing with tourists in Oxford when you are trying to go shopping.

  16. John Robson Silver badge

    Minister for silliness?

    "Science minister Greg Clark added: “Britain is brilliantly placed to lead the world in driverless technology. It combines our strengths in cars, satellites, big data and urban design; with huge potential benefits for future jobs and for the consumer.”"

    Strength in cars - erm where are all our manufacturers? Even JLR is now indian

    Strengths in urban design - really? Because our cities are so much nice places than Copenhagen etc.

    We didn't even make the top ten cities from the torygraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/propertypicturegalleries/9477990/The-worlds-10-best-cities-to-live-in.html?frame=2311083

    We do have strengths, but urban design and cars aren't really them...

    Having said that - bring on the driverless car - where can I trade my car in for one?

    1. Nuke
      Meh

      @John Robson - Re: Minister for silliness?

      Wrote : - "Strength in cars - erm where are all our manufacturers? Even JLR is now indian ... Strengths in urban design - really?"

      Yes, that brought me up short too. I understand that Aston Martin and one or two other niche makers are the only British cars still made. Don't try and tell me that foreign designed cars assembled here are British or you will sound like a politician; such cars have the clever stuff (like design) done abroad, and from the context the Science minister is meant to be referring to the clever stuff.

      Ditto urban design. Town and country planning is now a free-for-all ("free market" you see) so how can we have any urban design expertise? Only individual buildings are now designed in the UK, the rest just happens.

  17. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge
    Boffin

    the real risk

    I think that it's likely that more accidents will be caused by human drivers of regular cars getting distracted when they see a driverless car ("Oooh...look at that...."...<drift>....<crash>...) than by the actual driverless cars directly.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People who want a car to drive itself are presumably people that don't enjoy driving.

    Perhaps their car is not enjoyable to drive.

    Maybe it's one of those seoul-sucking korean driving appliances.

    They should just get a proper car and discover how enjoyable driving can be.

    Or just take a minicab instead.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      I like driving, I'd happily trade that for safer roads though.

      For 'fun' driving please refer to your nearest track

    2. Sealand
      Big Brother

      > People who want a car to drive itself are presumably people that don't enjoy driving

      No, people who want a car to drive itself are people who want you to look at their ads instead of watching the road !

  19. jmkni

    You might say they are

    ...cable cars?

    I'll get my coat

  20. Spoonsinger
    Windows

    F**king crappy terrestrial self drive cars!

    Where are the jet packs we were all promised???

  21. future research

    A few Things that will happen

    1) Greatly reduce accidents, as computers don't get bored/lose concentration/fall asleep.

    2) I know several people, me included, that if I could spot a google car would just cross the road in front of it expecting it to stop. Can't see them progressing very well in cities.

    3) More traffic as could do other things while commuting, and don't need to care about parking.

    4) Private cabs/ taxi reduce in numbers. Car club operators would take over.

    5) People start buying motor homes to go to sleep in the back while travelling.

    6) Police get IR cameras to find people above.

    1. genghis_uk

      Re: A few Things that will happen

      7) More accidents involving head on crashes of meat driven vehicles overtaking the driver less cars that will all be obeying the speed limit everywhere, at all times…

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A few Things that will happen

        Plenty of candidates for the Darwin award then!

    2. Nuke
      Holmes

      @future research - Re: A few Things that will happen

      Wrote :- "if I could spot a google car would just cross the road in front of it expecting it to stop. Can't see them progressing very well in cities"

      I thought of that too, not so much me doing it, but more likely kids playing chicken. Especially if there is no-one in the car because there is no irate driver to deal with afterwards (but never mind the cars behind it). It will be great sport in certain urban areas - I'm looking at Southmead in Bristol, once called the joy-ride capital of Britain..

  22. A Twig

    I can't wait for driverless cars.

    I love driving and restore the occasional old car for fun. On the weekends I enjoy a drive out in the countryside, and equally enjoy a jaunty cross continent driving holiday.

    But the majority of my driving (roughly 80% per year) is my commute. Which I hate. I'm invariably tired while doing it. On the way in I'm un-interested because I'm going somewhere I don't want to go. On the way home I'm probably not driving as safely as I should because I'm in a hurry to get home. All of which means that my commute is when I'm most likely to have an accident thus the risks are at their highest for the majority of my driving time.

    Multiply that by the however many million people in a similar boat across the country, and the possibility for safer roads and less congestion must be huge - which in my opinion can only be a good thing?

  23. tony2heads
    Unhappy

    @Anonymous Coward

    SOME driving is enjoyable.

    Creeping along in rush hour traffic is not. What I would prefer is a switch (driverless or with) so that during the rush hour crap I can read a paper, check the internet for news, eat some toast, have some tea etc.

    However I have seen people doing that already while 'driving' in traffic

  24. Amorous Cowherder

    Science minister Greg Clark added: “Britain is brilliantly placed to lead the world in driverless technology. It combines our strengths in cars, satellites, big data and urban design; with huge potential benefits for future jobs and for the consumer.”

    -- Yep, we have lots of CCTV to keep track of the cars and spot those trying to nick or destroy them!

  25. Rob 44

    Here's a thought.

    Now, I'm going to assume that these driver less cars will have safety measures. So let's say for example someone comes flying head on into one or up the arse of one in a regular car, it will make evasive maneuvers.

    So let's fast forward a few years when (if they succeed) to when the majority of cars will be driverless. Say I'm a getaway driver for a bank job. This is going to make my life loads easier. Because I could just floor it and watch all the surrounding traffic part like the red sea as I make a flying escape. Handy!

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: Here's a thought.

      Right up to the point where the central control system re-directs all the cars ahead to form a road-block

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Rob 44

        Re: Here's a thought.

        That's true. But any good criminal will realise this countries terrible record for security and will have already backdoored the system or paid someone off for a Ahem mistake to happen at just then right time.

        1. Rob 44

          Re: Here's a thought.

          I can feel a movie plot coming.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Here's a thought.

        "Right up to the point where the central control system re-directs all the cars ahead to form a road-block"

        Benny Hill sneaking into the computer room with a tape reel perhaps. Or, Michael Caine in a marvel style post credits scene 'I've got a great idea lads.....lets use a self driving bus next time'.

    2. SEDT

      Re: Here's a thought.

      Strewth. It'll know your a bank robber when it sees your bag of swag and stripy pullover, and then simply lock you out. Give the tech some credit will you

  26. shinanygnz
    Terminator

    Will your car kill you to save another?

    Have a read of this, quite thought provoking.

    http://www.popsci.com/blog-network/zero-moment/mathematics-murder-should-robot-sacrifice-your-life-save-two

    Now do you still fancy the idea?

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: Will your car kill you to save another?

      That makes really interesting reading, thanks.

      However, humans can actually make those kind of decisions too. I was once in a car accident (stupid overtake in the rain) and started fishtailing. Ahead of me a car came round the bend and rather than involve someone else in my folly I decided to drive the car off the road into a ditch.

      In retrospect this probably saved my life as well as theirs, but it wasn't part of my thought processes at the time since I pretty much thought I was dead anyway and just didn't want to take anyone with me.

      However, to program such behavior (or similar) in autonomous vehicles is going to be fraught with perils.

      1. SEDT

        Re: Will your car kill you to save another?

        You are, of course, blessed with great reflexes, and saintliness. Oh and a lack of understanding of technology.

        The oncoming car will be aware of your situation long before seeing your watery ballet, and have taken appropriate action

    2. auburnman

      Re: Will your car kill you to save another?

      I struggle to see a realistic scenario where the auto-car has to 'choose' someone's life to endanger. Any time it is travelling at lethal speeds it should have safe stopping distance in the road in front of it (if programmed correctly) and any obstacle suddenly appearing within that space, such as another out of control car weaving into that lane, takes the 'choice' element out of the equation. The robo-driver can have absolutely perfect reflexes, but momentum will decide whether there is a collision or not.

    3. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Will your car kill you to save another?

      "http://www.popsci.com/blog-network/zero-moment/mathematics-murder-should-robot-sacrifice-your-life-save-two

      Now do you still fancy the idea?"

      Possibly, yes.

      Take the scenario given where you can go over a cliff and definately die, or crash into a car containing more people and possibly die or kill them.

      However much I might like to think I'd go over the cliff were I on my own, if my children are in the car, I'm not going over the cliff even if I have to knock a bus full of other peoples children over it instead. No parent is going to choose to kill their child.

      So effectively you already have pretty close to the exact reversal of the situation described in that people will do whatever gives them the best chance to survive, even if that means killing you & yours. It's just human nature.

    4. CCCP

      Re: Will your car kill you to save another?

      It's funny how we get obsessed, "I Robot" style, with edge cases of car scenarios where morality enters the picture.

      In reality, meanwhile, meatsacks kill each other on the roads at a very steady rate through stupidity/tiredness/distraction, none of which driverless cars suffer from.

      Planes land themselves all the time, at least some times, and we seem to be fine with that. I think the difference is pretty much everyone drives, and couldn't possibly imagine a robot doing it better. Pilots, OTOH, are a bit smarter than that.

  27. Fuzz

    can't wait

    So many benefits to a driverless car. Driverless cars waiting at traffic lights can communicate with each other and the lights so that they all set off as soon as the light turns green rather than having to wait for the car in front to get away. Cars on motorways can drive closer together all communicating with one another. Cars can drive with maximum fuel efficiency all the time. Cars can drive places overnight when the roads are less busy whilst their passengers sleep. Cars can drop you off then go and find a parking space which they looked up online. The car park can pack cars in because entry and exit times can be booked so cars can be placed into spaces according to when they need to leave or move themselves around in the car park as required, nobody needs to open doors so cars can be parked very close together. All this and the car can take you home from the pub. The potential of driverless cars is huge.

    1. Zack Mollusc

      Re: can't wait

      A huge beneficial side-effect of all this car-to-car communication is that the problem of different software and hardware and firmware versions from different vendors, all talking to each other swiftly and faultlessly will be solved.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BSOD

    If they've got blue windscreens I'm staying indoors.

  29. synonymous cowherd
    Pint

    Can't wait

    Kit take me to the f@ing pub now, first I'm going to get arse holed then puke on the mats, and finally piss in the glove box; all the while you drive me there, and back. We may also need a detour for some top quality finest body doner with extra special sauce. Faan bloody taastic !!

    1. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Can't wait

      "Kit take me to the f@ing pub now, first I'm going to get arse holed then puke on the mats, and finally piss in the glove box; all the while you drive me there, and back. We may also need a detour for some top quality finest body doner with extra special sauce. Faan bloody taastic !!"

      Kitt: Screw you Michael. I'm not getting covered in puke while you bang some kebab shop supermodel on my bonnet.

      MK: Kitt, Kitt. Where the feckin' hell are you going!

      Kitt: I could have been Kate Moss' run around.

  30. Chris G Silver badge

    No change there then!

    For many years when driving in the UK and other parts of the world, I have noticed cars negotiating roads and traffic apparently without the presence of an actual driver so I thought it had always been permitted.

    I wonder will there be a requirement for the car to have an occupant with a licence or will the car have to pass a test?

  31. Yemil

    I'm looking forward to the riderless bicycle.When that is introduced I won't have to bother with those infuriating bicycle clips and riding through puddles that send mud and water splashing up one's backside. I won't have to bother with being run off the road by lorry drivers that seem to do it for sport either as I can let the bike go off wherever it pleases and just concentrate on walking the dog.Maybe one day there will even be robotic dog leashes and I will be able to just stay in bed while it takes the dog for a walk.The future looks more exiting by the minute.

  32. snakey

    I hope the on-board software will be a tad more reliable than Win8, else picture all the gravestones engraved with variations on 'Passed away whilst trying to reboot...

  33. Securitymoose

    Driverless vehicles for towns? Aren't they called buses?

    Save all the costs - a DC is not going to be cheap - by banning cars completely from the cities and boost public transport so that people really don't need them.

    That will never happen of course - the government would lose the revenue streams from road tax, speed cameras, congestion charges, fuel tax as well as all the other pointless fines levied on the easy targets of car drivers. Safety? Bullshit - only 0.5% of all deaths in the UK in 2009 were caused by road traffic accidents (http://www.racfoundation.org/assets/rac_foundation/content/downloadables/road%20accident%20casualty%20comparisons%20-%20box%20-%20110511.pdf). No, it's definitely the revenue they are protecting, not the driver.

    Supposing they did follow my suggestion, hell, they might have to start concentrating on the real issues of cancer, heart disease, drugs and crime instead, but those are too much like hard work.

  34. NomNomNom

    Am I the only one who does not believe this hype about driverless cars?

    This happened a few weeks ago. I was driving along a 60mph road. Ahead of me was a lorry parked in the opposite lane. Of course I see this ahead and start slowing down. Presumably an AI could do that too, I'll give it that much.

    I notice a workman is standing in front of the lorry holding a pole that says "STOP". So of course I stop, and knowing the implications of this I leave enough space for traffic coming the other direction to pass. My human brain has learned this pattern of "workmen managing traffic" and I know on the other-side of the lorry is a workman holding a "GO" pole.

    What would a driverless car do though? Would it stop and leave enough room for other cars to pass? Or would it ignore the pole and continue going through at 40mph only to break sharply when a car from the other direction pulled into it's lane? Then what? The driverless car presumably isn't going to reverse. So it's blocking the traffic. So the meat in the driver seat has just shit themselves and is fumbling to regain control.

    I've said it before. If modern AI were really capable of driving a car then WHERE IS THE FRICKIN AI in simpler settings?

    The dearth of decent AI in video games speaks volumes about the true capability of AI today.

  35. ContractorBikerScum

    Did they try that test where...

    a motorcycle filters in between two of the buggers at 60mph when they are doing 30?

    I will.

    I'll also try the 'kicking-the-wing-mirror-off' critical appraisal technique I use sometimes too.

    Wonder what it will do.

    1. SEDT

      Re: Did they try that test where...

      Hopefully, crush you to a pancake

      1. ContractorBikerScum

        Re: Did they try that test where...

        I reckon the collision avoidance software will either make them stop dead in the lane or vear off and stop dead (presumably before hitting the bus stop full of kids playing on their tablets)

        Either way it is possible that some biology will rear end them as they have panicked and reacted in a way that your average London driver will not anticipate.

        I've got sticky out bits on my bikes so there'd be no crushing, just a lot of mangled Google metal.

  36. cyfahead

    ...Robotic cars are set to prowl THE STREETS of Britain...

    The Gods must smiling on me!!!! There's no chance then of them invading South Shropshire! How's it going to stay in its lane when there IS only one? ... and that combine headed towards you is not going to back up! How will it identify and locate a 'hedge nudge' to snuck into while the darnn thing goes past? ... if it gets out of that unscathed ... just watch out for the caravan of novice horse riders mincing down the lane around the next corner! Hey! Who are they going to wave at and thank as you drive carefully by... taking due regard for the VERY soft shoulder and the puddle YOU know doesn't hide a pothole and is very shallow.... have these things got side scan radar fitted? Perhaps there will be a market for guided tours of the urban areas by us country bumpkins to see these wonders of modern technology that can't tell a quagmire from a horse doo! Good luck guys..

  37. soniam1254

    Disabled Access and Robotic Cars

    Hello

    This is great news esp for elderly people of members of the disabled community :)

    I hope that the project will also consider designing wheel chair accessible robotic cars in the future?

    Sonia

  38. gildedtumbril

    The name Austen now belongs to a Chinese car maker. It could soon reappear on Britain's roads.

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