back to article Google's first stab at control-free ROBOT car rolls off the line

The engineering wizards in Google's workshops have unveiled the Chocolate Factory's first attempt at a completely control-free robot car, where passengers entrust themselves entirely to the machine. In May, Google announced it was going to start building cars without pedals or a steering wheel to test out the practicalities of …

  1. Camilla Smythe

    "We have arrived Sir."

    "What's this? I wanted to go to work.."

    "Your recent browsing experience suggests you want to buy Tampax for your baby."

    "This is StarBucks."

    "It was on the way to the Tampax shop. Your Kettle informs me you did not imbibe this morning."

    "Just take me to work."

    -

    -

    "We have arrived Sir."

    "This is 'Joe's Burger Bar'. I do not work for 'Joe's Burger Bar'."

    "Your fridge informed me you had not partaken of breakfast. 'Joe's Burger Bar' does a nice all day breakfast according to their brochures."

    "Just take me to work!"

    -

    -

    "What The Fuck IS THAT!?

    "Slade Sir. 'tis the season.. Apparently very popular at this time of year."

    "Switch it off!!"

    "Rick Astley then?"

    "No! Let me Out. Let me Out.......

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Someone Else Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: "We have arrived Sir."

      Dear Car-

      Don't help. You're not smart enough to help (in spite of what your makers might have you think...).

    3. Bleu

      Re: "We have arrived Sir."

      Come on, Slade had their moments, although the compulsory Christmas number wasn't among them.

    4. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: "We have arrived Sir."

      Why does this sound like James May from Top Gear?

      1. fearnothing

        Re: "We have arrived Sir."

        Actually, I'm hearing the voice of Jarvis/Paul Bettany with this one.

  2. WildW

    But does it have Robert Picardo's voice?

    While I don't imagine it will take you someplace other than where you wanted to go, I can imagine the occasional detour down the street coming soon to every town where Google bought all those billboards.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      But does it have Robert Picardo's voice

      Surely William Daniels?

      1. fearnothing

        Douglas Rain's.

    2. Vulch

      Voiced by...

      Suranne Jones? "I may not have always taken you where you wanted to go, but I always took you where you needed to be"

      1. Graham 24

        Re: Voiced by...

        Originally said by Mr Gently to the lovely Ms Schechter, or course.

        Some consider the whole approach to be "Piffle".

      2. GitMeMyShootinIrons

        Re: Voiced by...

        Mr T.

        "Where you goin' to, fool?!"

        "This ain't no plane, fool!"

        "Hey, fool, you've reached where you goin'...fool!"

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: Voiced by...

          I think Vincent Price would be apt.

          It's a good thing this is only a test bed, the design looks as though Borgle has bought Enid Blyghton's Copyrights.

          And no surprise that the UK is keen, that would be the Department of Nannyism and Ubercontrol putting it's oar in, with a little input from Elfin Safety your life will be much more comfortable, safer and not your own.

    3. Sampler

      Majel Barrett surely?

      (well, some very good imitation, though I'm sure there's enough recordings for the system to churn through a derive it a close enough approximation)

    4. Ben Bonsall

      But good god, please not Justin Beiber.

    5. chivo243 Silver badge

      @WildW

      No, something this flaky will have Dwight Schultz' voice... Yes, holodeck software programmed by Barclay, the One, the Only.

  3. Herbert Meyer

    a choice

    Driverless cars or brainless drivers ? We now have the second, with 30,000+ road fatalities per year in the US. The first cannot be any worse.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: a choice

      I rather think that's Mr. Brin's point.

      Driverless cars are the solution to so many problems, from bad drivers to congestion via drivers on drugs, that once the technical problems are cracked the incentives are very strong. During my career I have had the misfortune to travel with so many people who should not even be allowed out in control of a skateboard - all of whom considered themselves to be excellent drivers - that I'm cheering on Mr. Brin every millimetre of the way.

      1. GettinSadda

        Re: a choice

        Oh yes this definitely!

        This triggered an unpleasant flashback to a lunchtime lift I accepted from a work colleague that would have been fine except that a level crossing closed as we were approaching and he swerved across and back to go through the as-yet unclosed "exit side" gates. Until that day I had always thought that public information films showing the dangers of people doing this were just silly.

      2. Graham Marsden
        Unhappy

        Re: a choice

        Yes, but those who *shouldn't* be allowed out in control of a skateboard are most likely to be those who would *not* avail themselves of this technology, because they're most likely part of that 80%+ of drivers who think that their skills are "above average".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: a choice

          The insurance companies will have something to say about that.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. JustWondering

      Re: a choice

      But odds are that it will be brainless drivers writing the software. I'm not seeing much room for improvement.

  4. Roger Kynaston
    Pint

    @ We have arrived Sir

    Tampax for your baby. Something a bit screwy with that search algorithm methinks.

    Beer because it is that time of year. No Slade though if you don't mind.

    1. Camilla Smythe

      Re: @ We have arrived Sir

      "Tampax for your baby. Something a bit screwy with that search algorithm methinks."

      There is an historical advertising precedence. Apparently they missed the contraception angle by nine months but offered vouchers for baby milk to the hosts parents.... Something like that anyway

  5. Anonymous John

    As today's Glasgow tragedy has shown

    What is really needed are vehicles that can take over if the driver is incapacitated.

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: As today's Glasgow tragedy has shown

      Not to mention those who are permanently incapacitated, for example by insufficient eyesight to drive, problems with hands and/or legs, or conditions such as epilepsy.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: As today's Glasgow tragedy has shown

        Or owning a Rover/Volvo

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As today's Glasgow tragedy has shown

      Blimey, someone that gets it. A sensible comment on El-Reg.

      I was just about the close the browser window, after reading idiotic drivel about self drive cars and search (because it's Google, and in their heads, everything has to be search and money driven).

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BMW , AUDI

    With extra ass hole mode.

  7. Someone Else Silver badge
    FAIL

    No. Fuckin'. Way.

    And anybody who works (or claims to work) in IT, software engineering, firmware engineering, or any even remotely related field knows why, too!

    1. Graham 24

      You don't fly on a modern aircraft, then? The days of bits of steel cable from the yoke to the ailerons and the pedals to the rudder have long since gone. The pilot tells the computer what he wants the plane to do and the computer tells the flight control surfaces how to move. When you're at 30,000ft over the Arctic, you'd better hope that computer doesn't go wrong.

      My car (and probably yours too) has no direct link from the throttle to the engine. The computer reads a voltage from a potentiometer attached to the accelerator pedal and feeds that to the ECU, which then controls the fuel to the engine.

      Although a mechanical link is still present, all modern cars have ABS, or to put it another way, have a computer running that can disengage the brakes on all four wheels if it so chooses, regardless of how much the brake pedal is pressed.

      If you don't want to travel using a machine that is ultimately controlled by a computer these days, buy a bicycle or walk.

      1. Message From A Self-Destructing Turnip

        But

        'The pilot tells the computer what he wants the plane to do'

        I once owned a car where the ECU decided its own throttle position, fortunately I still had control of the clutch and the brake.

      2. DougS Silver badge

        There's a big difference between fly-by-wire and automated flying, and an even bigger difference flying where you have three dimensions to avoid stuff instead of two, and airspace is tightly controlled, versus driving in very narrow corridors of a 2D surface that changes its coefficient of friction, has construction and detours everywhere, and drunk or distracted drivers and pedestrians alike.

        Autopilot would be a lot harder to make work in airplanes if there were pedestrians at 35,000 feet, the air corridor between O'Hare and JFK had construction detours that made it hard to understand exactly where you should be driving, flying through rain made it more difficult to turn and change speeds, etc.

        1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

          Yesterday's impossible happens every day.

        2. herman Silver badge

          Most big planes do auto landing. That is the only way to land in fog.

        3. boltar Silver badge

          "There's a big difference between fly-by-wire and automated flying,"

          Quite. Its something a lot of people forget. Hell, even automatic train operation is more complex than an aircraft autopilot. And if you don't believe me you try writing a system that can control dozens, (maybe even hundreds in a large metro system) of 200 tonne vehicles at the same time and make sure they don't collide.

          I might not be perfect as a driver but I can see potential hazards that this idiotic looking buggy - which looks like it has had its exterior designed by a class of preteen schoolgirls - won't see until the last minute such as a kid disappearing behind a parked car or someone going so fast coming up to a junction you just know they're going to bowl through the red. I'm sure google will say "Oh, but our car will stop immediately it sees the obsctruction" Oh really? Sometimes immediately something becomes an obstruction its already too late! You need to stop before.

          1. Dale 3

            Pop-up kid

            If the self-driving car can't stop in the time it takes to detect a kid popping out from behind a parked car and apply the brakes, neither can a human driver even with lightning reflexes.

            Possible caveats:

            1) Humans might be able to see the kid through the windows of the parked car. So could the G-car sensors.

            2) Humans might anticipate the kid before he was a threat and slow down. G-car could do the same in software.

            1. boltar Silver badge

              Re: Pop-up kid

              "If the self-driving car can't stop in the time it takes to detect a kid popping out from behind a parked car and apply the brakes, neither can a human driver even with lightning reflexes."

              My point - which you obviously missed - is that the human driver might well see the kid BEFORE he went behind the car and slow accordingly. The google car meanwhile doesn't care because the kid is on the pavement and takes no notice of its behaviour.

              "1) Humans might be able to see the kid through the windows of the parked car. So could the G-car sensors."

              Unless the google car has sophisticated AI vision then thats unlikely. Glass throws lasers out of whack and can stop infrared dead.

          2. IDoNotThinkSo
            Stop

            Who jumped the red?

            Ah, but if all the cars are automatic, there won't be anyone jumping the red light.

            In fact, there probably won't be a need for a red light either, but that's level 2.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The days of bits of steel cable

        Since Bowden cables started to vanish from aircraft, they have got much safer. In The Right Stuff, I think, is the account of the aircraft assembler who killed a number of pilots simply by assembling cable joints with the screws upside down.

      4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        But the Engine Management Unit doesn't decide which of the people in identical hi-vis jackets and white hard hats is the one waving you on through the roadworks or telling you to stop.

      5. TheUglyAmerican

        I was recently talking with a check pilot for a national airline and he said the control stick in the Airbus models is really a "voting" stick. With it the pilot gets to vote on what he wants the airplane to do. If the computers agree then the plane does it.

      6. Someone Else Silver badge
        FAIL

        @Graham 24

        The key phrase here is: "The pilot tells the computer what he wants the plane to do and the computer tells the flight control surfaces how to move." (emphasis added).

        And, BTW, one of my cars do not have ABS. But for all those that do, I (the "pilot", if you will...or even if you won't) have the option to disable it at my choice, for whatever reason I choose, whenever I choose.

        Computer assists are all well and good. However, please notice the key word here is assist. All the "examples" you presented are examples of computer assists. And guess who the computer is assisting? Anyone...Buehler....?

        (And as for taking a bike or walking...no, I'd rather drive myself, thanks....)

  8. Vociferous

    The beginning of the end of driver as an occupation.

    Going the way of gaslighters and typists.

    And if this isn't a broadside against Uber's business idea, I don't know what is.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: The beginning of the end of driver as an occupation.

      And the end of rail travel too. If a carriage can cost a million then then - with enough driverless cars on the road smoothing the traffic flow - the 'advantages' of shaving twenty minutes off a 200 mile journey only to take a twenty minute taxi ride back to where 50% of passengers would need to get - is long gone.

      Once decent herding algorithms are debugged the cars should be able to drive bumper to bumper and reduce fuel consumption considerably.

      1. Vociferous

        Re: The beginning of the end of driver as an occupation.

        > And the end of rail travel too.

        Possibly. Depends on how the economics works out, and what side of the equation heavy cargo ends up, but it's possible driverless, networked cars could obsolete rail travel as well.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: The beginning of the end of driver as an occupation.

          "but it's possible driverless, networked cars could obsolete rail travel as well."

          Fat chance. At the end of the day, driverless or not, they're still cars and they still take up X amount of roadspace and there will still be traffic jams and rubber tyres on roads are still far less energy efficient than steel wheel on rail.

          Plus I don't see a 200mph train of google cars coming along anytime soon and even if it did - I for one would not be getting on it.

          1. Grikath

            Re: The beginning of the end of driver as an occupation.

            I doubt trains will disappear, as will human-operated vehicles. At least not this century. An integrated solution between railway transport and driverless cars may well be a solution in heavily urbanised/metropolitan areas though. I gues we'll see in the next 10 years or so.

          2. ZanzibarRastapopulous

            Re: The beginning of the end of driver as an occupation.

            >...they still take up X amount of roadspace...

            Trains take up X amount of track space so I don't quite get that argument. Indeed you can sit in places where a road and a railway are side by side and there will be nowt on the track for hours whilst the road is jammed. Who's wasting the space there?

            >...rubber tyres on roads are still far less energy efficient than steel wheel on rail.

            Only if the rails are actually going where you want to go - almost never the case with rail.

            >Plus I don't see a 200mph train of google cars...

            Also trains might top 200mph but they don't take you from A to B at 200 mph, you have to get from A to C walking or waiting for a bus then wait for the train to take you to D at far less than 200 mph because it has also had to stop at X, Y and Z along the way then you have to get from D to B perhaps waiting half an hour for another train or bus or maybe walking.

            1. boltar Silver badge

              Re: The beginning of the end of driver as an occupation.

              "Trains take up X amount of track space so I don't quite get that argument."

              And how many people can you get on the average train compared to a car or even a bus?

              1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

                Re: The beginning of the end of driver as an occupation.

                >And how many people can you get on the average train compared to a car or even a bus?

                Track space, not each train, trains use up far more space than the vehicle and the track is mostly unused.

                1. boltar Silver badge

                  Re: The beginning of the end of driver as an occupation.

                  "Track space, not each train, trains use up far more space than the vehicle and the track is mostly unused."

                  Maybe in whatever hick town you live in. Where I live the local metro system has a 1 minute headway with trains that can take 1000 people each. You think you'd be able to push 1000 cars along a given stretch of road in 1 minute?

    2. xio

      Re: The beginning of the end of driver as an occupation.

      On the contrary - I'd expect Uber to be first in the door to use driverless cars

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: The beginning of the end of driver as an occupation.

      >And if this isn't a broadside against Uber's business idea, I don't know what is.

      Except Google owns a large chunk of Uber.

      So in a few years you get the option of clicking on Uber and having a car with a perfect driver who won't beat you up or rape you. You pay the same, Google doesn't pay a driver, Profit.

  9. Matt Brigden
    Mushroom

    No just no

    Your not driving so at some point your going to fall asleep . Then the 4g signal dies and it fallsback to the onboard maps which are two years out of date because you didnt bother hooking the car up to your home wifi . You wake up

    A - In a field

    B - In a field in France

    C - In a field although the car swears its at your local tesco .

    You know I am not wrong lol

    1. sanbikinoraion

      Re: No just no

      I don't understand why people persist in thinking that they are going to own their own vehicle in an era of driverless cars. What would be the point? A car service that can improve on the 4% usage of the current motor vehicle even by a factor of two will be significantly cheaper to use. We'll all have a car contract like we have a phone contract and an app to summon a vehicle of a specific grade at the touch of a button. No more finding a parking space, the car will just drop you at the door, wherever you go. No more cleaning or maintenance or insurance or road tax to worry about, just a monthly fee that costs less than you pay now to run your car.

      1. Graham 24

        Re: No just no

        A lot of people now run cars at a higher financial cost than simply getting a taxi everywhere.

        It's easy to assess the total cost of running a private vehicle against the cost of getting taxis at a purely financial level. It's harder on a more personal level. The two clear advantages of having a private vehicle are:

        1) It's always there when you need it - no waiting around. The idea that you can just summon a car to take you home from the pub at 11pm is appealing, but neglects the fact that everyone else has too, and if the "car hire" business has enough capacity to fulfil this peak demand immediately, they must have excess capacity, which needs to be paid for in higher charges.

        2) It's clean, or if it's messy, it's your mess. Don't underestimate the appeal of not having to clear out someone else's take-away from a late night trip home when you want to go to work in the morning.

        Most purchasing decisions are not just about money.

        1. Boothy

          Re: No just no

          @ Graham 24

          But peak times would change with automated cars, at least once they got ubiquitous.

          Yes at the moment for taxis they have a rush period at pub closing times.

          But if these automated on-demand type cars start to become common, then people will start using them to go to work and back, so the peak will shift to the current rush hours, and when people go to the supermarket etc.

          If you have enough automated vehicles to cope with those peaks, then coping with the pub closing peak would be a doddle.

      2. Yugguy

        Re: No just no

        I dunno. Do you really think thrusty salesman wanker is going to give up his Audi? Do you really think chav boy is going to give up his utterly ruined, er, I mean customised Halfords special? Do you really think grandma in the wilds of north scotland will give up her old faithful Landy?

        Personal transport ownership has been entrenched in our psyche since we first jumped on horses. It's not going to disappear. Our cars are our caves, personalised for us, where we escape and feel safe.

        1. Boothy

          Re: No just no

          Quote: "Do you really think thrusty salesman wanker is going to give up his Audi"

          Do you think they will be given a choice?

          As soon as the company that employs theses sales persons, realises that having a fleet of automated cars reduces costs, i.e. fuel usage, insurance, accident repairs, etc etc. Then they will jump on them.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No just no

          By "our" I assume you mean the one percent or so of the population who had horses, back in the days when we were reliant on manual labour for all food growing? Widespread vehicle ownership started in the US and gradually spread in Europe, but I grew up in the 50s in a relatively well to do London suburb and at that time few people owned cars. In fact, a bank manager might run to a motorcycle and sidecar.

          Democratisation of ownership of transport started with the bicycle, and it may end with the bicycle. The last 60 years have been a major aberration.

        3. strum Silver badge

          Re: No just no

          >Personal transport ownership has been entrenched in our psyche since we first jumped on horses.

          For the few, not the many. In medieval times, a knight's horse cost the equivalent of a Lambo. The notion that 'everyman' could own his own transport is relatively recent and, probably, short-lived.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: No just no

            >Personal transport ownership has been entrenched in our psyche since we first jumped on horses.

            Car2Go is taking it out for a lot of people here, especially those that live in downtown.

            Car lease $500/month, parking in the city $300/month, Insurance $200/month - car2go 44c/min and can park anywhere.

      3. boltar Silver badge

        Re: No just no

        "I don't understand why people persist in thinking that they are going to own their own vehicle in an era of driverless cars. What would be the point?"

        You could ask the same question about home ownership vs renting. Some of us like owning our own stuff with our own stuff in to do what we like with it - not using what is essentially a taxi minus the driver but probably still including a pile of dried vomit in the footwell from the night before. Stop thinking technology and start thinking people. Technology is a means to certain ends , it is not an end in itself.

        1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

          Re: No just no

          >You could ask the same question about home ownership vs renting.

          Not really, home ownership and renting both provide exclusive possession, your rented place isn't used by someone else when you aren't using it.

          When you rent a taxi, the taxi isn't idle all day while you aren't using it, it carries on working making a return on the capital required to manufacture it. So the cost of the investment required to purchase it is spread across more people.

          You can do the maths and a taxi with two drivers working shifts has a cost equivalent to a capital investment of almost a million. Yet you are right, some people do have their own drivers, but not so many.

          1. boltar Silver badge

            Re: No just no

            "Not really, home ownership and renting both provide exclusive possession,"

            Obviously you've never lived in a shared property when you get a room and share the rest of the house.

            Anyway , I don't give a damn. I want to travel in MY car, not a fecking taxi whether its driven by Roger Racist or a google computer. I'm an adult, I can drive myself, not a child who needs to be driven around by someone else.

            1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

              Re: No just no

              >Obviously you've never lived in a shared property when you get a room and share the rest of the house.

              You still get exclusive possession of the room.

              I'm sure you won't be alone in wanting to drive yourself - at great expense - just as there are still people who travel on horseback.

      4. Citizens untied

        Re: No just no

        No more worrying about deciding where you are going or what you are doing.

  10. Sampler

    As a cyclist

    This is very welcome news, a car that will give you safe distance when overtaking and not try to merge lanes through you.

    Safe, predictable movements, driver's not intoxicated.

    My only concern though is how long will it be before we're not allowed to drive? I guess it'll take a while, subsidized Jonny Cabs (via ad revenue played over the transparent OLED windscreen) will be cheaper than car ownership, making those where cost is an issue voluntarily exit vehicle ownership, this will have an effect on insurance premiums increasing and new car value as demand and volumes reduce.

    Then they'll price out the young ones from being able to learn (insurance costs pushed up, prices go up, fewer customers, costs go up further, driving tutors exit the market, competition goes down, prices maintain or rise further).

    They'll roll out the stats on how much safer Johnny Cabs are and now so few are able to afford to drive themselves that it's no longer political suicide to ban driving (or simply use the financial burden of ownership to keep it a reserve for the rich to dabble, much like days of old).

    Thus the populations freedom is reduced, monitored, tracked, controllable..

    1. herman Silver badge

      Re: As a cyclist

      Bicycle, walk, skate board, horse and buggy - you will still have plenty of freedom,

      1. boltar Silver badge

        Re: As a cyclist

        "Bicycle, walk, skate board, horse and buggy - you will still have plenty of freedom,"

        Oh yeah, they'll allow horses and carts on the automated highways. Suuuurre.....

        Whats the weather like up there on your cloud?

    2. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: As a cyclist

      The argument that people will eventually be priced out of the market, and personal driving might eventually become only for the rich is quite persuasive. Or maybe it won't, it's difficult to foresee how these things pan out.

      Howver it seems very strange of you to assert "Thus the populations freedom is reduced, monitored, tracked, controllable"

      It's surely a LOT easier to identify individuals from their vehicles when there is a close to 1-to-1 relationship. On the other hand, if you can 'hail' a robocab from a secured internet connection, it will be more difficult for anyone to know who was in which cab when and went where.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: As a cyclist

        On the other hand, if you can 'hail' a robocab from a secured internet connection, it will be more difficult for anyone to know who was in which cab when and went where.

        No shit... did you intend to pay with cash or bitcoin...?

    3. strum Silver badge

      Re: As a cyclist

      >My only concern though is how long will it be before we're not allowed to drive?

      Driverless cars will only be acceptable when they are actuarally safer than human-driven cars. When that happens, what insurance company will want to insure you?

  11. JustWondering

    Nope!

    Not a freaking chance! Ix-nay!

    If it has software, it will require human assistance;

    1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Re: Nope!

      Perhaps not in the car though.

  12. Amorphous

    Car Insurance is a scam that can die with this device

    The 'driver' is Google, so they can cover themselves. No need for monthly insurance payments, excess changes, no-claims bonuses, etc.

    1. Gomez Adams

      Re: Car Insurance is a scam that can die with this device

      Not really. They will be scammer magnets as people driver their POS vehicles into these things to claim on Google's insurance.

      1. mathew42
        Facepalm

        Re: Car Insurance is a scam that can die with this device

        How well do you think the scammer's word will be regarded against 360 degree camera vision from the Google car? Verification of what actually occurred is the main reason that every car in Russia has a dash cam. A side-effect is that we can have a good chuckle every month.

    2. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: Car Insurance is a scam that can die with this device

      I've said this before and will say it again. Initially insurance for robocars will cost a bomb, although Google (and all the other manufacturers who are already jumping on this particular bandwagon) will be more than happy to pay it, or subsidise anyone who buys their cars.

      While some robocars may (in fact, WILL) crash, I am sure that on aggregate they will be safer than human-driven cars. If not immediately, within a very short timespan (couple of years). Because insurance works on aggregates, within a few years of proper robocar launch, it will be more expensive to insure a self-drive car than a robocar.

      Because accidents do genuinely happen, insurance will never die out completely but yes, it WILL be definitely much more reasonable and less of a scam

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Car Insurance is a scam that can die with this device

        So insurance on cars with ABS or power steering was exorbitant until those technologies proved themselves?

        The biggest risk with self-driving cars is that it is going to be impossible to get insurance for regular cars within a few years because only people who like to drive "entertainingly" are going to drive manual cars

  13. FunkyEric
    Thumb Up

    I for one.....

    Welcome our self-driving autonomous-johnny-cab overlords.

    Imagine being driven back from the pub / that party intoxicated in the middle of the night without having to wait 2 hours for a taxi or risk being arrested or killing yourself driving home drunk.

    Want to go on holiday but it's a 7 hour drive (yes I do this). Set the destination, go to sleep, be driven through the night when the roads are nice and empty arriving there in time for breakfast. Bliss.

    1. mathew42
      Coat

      Re: I for one.....

      Now this takes me back to a story told about my great-grandfather who would stumble out of the pub, climb onto his horse and let it walk him home.

    2. NotWorkAdmin

      Re: I for one.....

      I'm glad to hear it's not just me who wants one. I spend a lot of time picking up my "children" from pubs & parties. The idea of simply sending the car to get them...freaking awesome.

      The parking at my property is atrocious. The idea I can disembark at my front door and let the damn car go and park itself...more freaking awesome.

      I like driving, but not all driving.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: I for one.....

        And goes to find somewhere to plug itself in and charge.

        A car2go style rental fleet of self-driving cars is the answer to the plug in electric vehicle.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: I for one.....

      Imagine being driven back from the pub / that party intoxicated in the middle of the night without having to wait 2 hours for a taxi or risk being arrested or killing yourself driving home drunk.

      I don't drink alcohol, so that's tough to imagine. No doubt it's a compelling argument for some, but not for everyone.

      Want to go on holiday but it's a 7 hour drive (yes I do this). Set the destination, go to sleep, be driven through the night when the roads are nice and empty arriving there in time for breakfast. Bliss.

      My annual vacation spot is a 24-hour drive, and we make that drive every year. If we wanted to get there in seven hours, we'd fly. (And here in the US, the Interstates are by no means empty at night, though that's a minor point.)

      I understand (though I'm dubious until we have significant evidence) the safety and economic arguments. I've yet to hear one of the user-experience arguments in favor of driverless cars that I find at all convincing, though. That may be a minority opinion; time will tell.

  14. RyokuMas Silver badge
    Devil

    Add one pissy Google employee and...

    Simon's words are almost prophetic...

    Evil. Because El Reg removed the BOFH icon a looooong time ago.

  15. sandman

    The technology doesn't matter

    Look, it could be run by HAL, powered by a tiny fusion engine and have unicorn leather seats. All this is irrelevant, it looks like it was designed by a three year old with a broken crayon. Even British Leyland never managed anything quite as ugly. Ask yourself, "Would I be seen, even as a week old mouldering corpse, in the non-drivers seat in THAT?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The technology doesn't matter

      It isn't designed for you.

      My guess is, it is designed to look small and vulnerable to discourage the assholes that, for instance, deliberately attack Prius drivers. There are a lot of people out there driving who have very worrying psychological disturbances - look up coal rollers as an example - and they are likely to pick on anything that might in any way threaten their perceived right to drive big V8 trucks to the public nuisance. Making the self-driving cars look harmless could well be a self defence mechanism.

      In any case, the grandmother of the design looks like the Isetta bubble car. People will pay very silly money for one of those in good working order. Tot, as Terentius remarked, homines tot sententiae; as many opinions as men.

      1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

        Re: The technology doesn't matter

        I doubt any individuals would own one of these, I doubt anyone will own a car after these things come out, it just won't be worth it. Well, maybe as a toy.

        I've never cared what a taxi looks like, I want a low price and a short wait which is what these will deliver.

      2. Vociferous

        Re: The technology doesn't matter

        > My guess is, it is designed to look small and vulnerable to discourage the assholes that, for instance, deliberately attack Prius drivers

        Yeah, pretty much. I saw an interview a while back where they talked about the techno-fear Google Glass had caused, and how the design of the Google car was intentionally toy-like and cute to avoid it suffering the same fate. It's really hard to imagine that car as the Skynet out to exterminate humanity.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: The technology doesn't matter

      So? Buying a good looking car has always been a dumb thing to do - you sit inside it so you're paying for other people to enjoy your car.

      It looks better than the first computer mouse and they seem to catch on all right.

    3. Someone Else Silver badge

      @sandman

      All this is irrelevant, it looks like it was designed by a three year old with a broken crayon.

      They must be using Microsoft's UX "developers" then?

      Sorry...company just "updated" to Orifice 2013, and I've been wrestling with that unusable pile of ADHD-designed shit for the last couple of days now, and it has really soured my mood. Note to company's IS staff: When going to replace perfectly good line-of-business software with the latest pile "shiny" from Micros~1's brain-dead developers, please wait until after the nearest holiday, so that we don't all go into said holiday all pissed off.

  16. Sirius Lee

    Only in the US

    would make this comment be made about such a vehicle:

    "The ground clearance looks low enough to make speedbumps an issue and the entire vehicle looks a tad flimsy for freeway use."

    The vehicle looks like a Fiat or a Smart car seen on any road in London. It does look a bit utilitarian. The Google home page of car design?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only in the US

      And it's a first go - got to start somewhere - guess you expect it to be a huge SUV or Mercedes?

      Black cabs are pretty utilitarian as well.

  17. Bleu

    Is the control on-board

    or from a massive and energy-voracious off-board server farm?

    The earlier ones ran under remote control, at least for guidance, IIRC.

  18. ukgnome

    I was talking to my six year old about robot cars. He had a very modern outlook.

    Me - do you think they are a good idea?

    Him - Yes, some people can't drive or are far to old to be driving.

    Me - some people are scared that they aren't in control though.

    Him - then we just teach them that it's OK

    Me - who will own the car and maintain it, refuel it?

    Him - they will have robot garages that will take care of all that, they will own themselves.

    Me - some people might not like it.

    Him - some people don't like cabbage but we still grow it.

    This technology is for his generation, but has to start with ours

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Taxi drivers need to be worries about more than Uber! This is almost certainly the future - press a button on your phone / watch - a car arrives a short time later - takes you where you want to go and goes off to serve the next person / recharge etc.. Take the kids to school while you go to work - win.

    Most of the problems on the road (congestion etc.) are caused by poor human drivers - isn't it amazing how almost everyone would describe themselves as a better than average driver. Most humans drivers are poor - not noticing hazards.

    The problem is I seem to recall a survey where when they asked people what would be an acceptable accidents per x miles for a self driving car it turned out to be something like 10x higher than the actual rates for humans and humans thought that was ok. Clearly 10 accidents caused by humans is more acceptable than 1 by a machine?

    1. Roger Kynaston

      @ Worried cabby

      Many years ago I spent the best part of two years (I was only 25 then and two years felt a lot longer than it does now) driving taxis in Taunton. It was OK at the time but the pay was abysmal, the hours unspeakable and there was a lot of abuse from passengers. Now I work in IT for less abysmal pay and (slightly) shorter hours but still get grief from customers though it is of a slightly different kind. At least it is not my problem if the punter does a runner now.

      In conclusion, were I a cabby, I would be happy to retrain and provide the extensive second line support these new toys are going to need.

  20. James Delaney
    Facepalm

    Flimsy looking doesn't mean it's flimsy

    Just look at the Smart ForTwo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnI-LiKCtuE The little, flimsy looking car that can take a serious beating.

    Wouldn't want to be in any car going from 70 to 0 mph in just 1 second and I don't think Google's car is really designed for that sort of role but it could make an excellent taxi/cab in towns and cities.

  21. James Delaney

    Hands on…

    To follow up, The Oatmeal has had a hands on with these and summarises them in his inimitable style: http://theoatmeal.com/blog/google_self_driving_car (long story short, you probably don't want one if you drive fast).

    1. Boothy

      Re: Hands on…

      Last time I looked, it was stated it had a limited top speed of 25 MPH, so I don't think driving fast is going to be an issue (or even achievable!).

    2. Vociferous

      Re: Hands on…

      Couldn't agree more. Also...

      "when I looked to my right there was a pedestrian standing very close to the curb, giving the awkward body language that he was planning on jaywalking"

      God, I hate people who do that. Or the tits who stand at a zebra crossing, talking on their phone. Do they intend to cross? Are they aware of the traffic? Are they going to suddenly take a big step out right in front of my car when they finally agree on what to buy for dinner?

  22. Dale 3

    Why the mirrors?

    Why does the car with no controls have wing mirrors?

    Yes, I suppose to go with the backup controls in case of manual intervention, but I would have expected little cameras or something rather than the big old sticking out cycle-slappers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why the mirrors?

      Probably used to give a view right down the side of the car - help avoid kerbs, small animals etc. Also expect indicator lights are on the mirrors like a lot of other cars ... i.e. they are where other drivers expect them to be.

    2. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Why the mirrors?

      Oh, those are the door-savers. Assuming you do take the time to check whether something is about the shear them clean off before you attempt to get out of the car.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Why the mirrors?

      Why does the car with no controls have wing mirrors?

      They're required by law in every US jurisdiction I've owned a car in, so they may just be there to satisfy a legal requirement.

      (When I bought my first car, in Massachusetts some decades back, the law required windshield wipers. It did not require a windshield, mind, but there had to be wipers.)

  23. RobA

    Although we can do it, will it happen?

    I have a single word that has the potential to stop this technology from taking off (... wait for it....)

    Whatever you might think, humans are good at making life and death decisions, particularly when preserving one's own life. There are circumstances where this ability can set social behaviour.

    Thank you for being patient. Here's my word. "Carjacking".

    If a criminal knows he can step in front of a driverless car and it will _always_ stop, there will be little stopping armed assaults against the occupance.

    At least when you have a steering wheel and an accelerator, you have the option to make things a bit less predictable.

    Just a thought. Hopefully someone at Google has a good solution. Video evidence after the fact isn't enough in my view. Perhaps electrification of the car body? Driverless firearms? We just need something to stop carjacking preventing the technology from taking off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Although we can do it, will it happen?

      Are you writing from South Africa or parts of Latin America? Because everything you write about driverless cars applies to pedestrians and people on bicycles, only more so.

      Why would a criminal want to steal a driverless car? Presumably a minute or so after the theft it will simply take itself to the nearest police station or equivalent. The thief threatens the occupant; so what? The occupant isn't controlling the car. The occupant doesn't own it.

      "Your heart rate monitor suggests you are in a stressful situation. You are now being connected to customer service and the in-car camera is recording."

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FAILURE WILL COME

    Dear google,

    Did you take history class ? Of course not, IT Guys should not learn history ...

    Did you know why Napoleon failed in route to Russia and why Hitler also failed ?

    TOO MUCH FREAKING EXPANSION !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FAILURE WILL COME

      But if Napoleon's army was conveyed in self-driving cars, they would have been able to wage cyber warfare against the Tsar even while they were en route to Moscow.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: FAILURE WILL COME

      Do you know why the vast majority of arguments in Internet posts fail?

      TOO MUCH FREAKING OVERSIMPLIFICATION!

  25. pip25
    Meh

    This goes a tiny bit too far

    A car that can drive itself should the situation call for it (because I fall asleep) or because I let it - that's great. Awesome even.

    However, a car that includes manual controls only for emergencies, if at all, is not for me. I want to be able to override the car's decisions - one of the reasons why is that I don't trust the software that much, at least not yet. Considering how new the technology itself is, I'm not sure why Google does either. One step at a time, for goodness' sake.

  26. sanbikinoraion

    People may be slow to "give up" what they've got, sure, but the advantages of driverless cars are so enormous that uptake will still be huge. Who wants to actually have to concentrate on the road on their commute to work, when they could be reading a book or watching TV instead? Who wants to struggle to find a parking space at the office, the supermarket, the event? Who wants to slog several hours down the motorway on Christmas Eve with two whining children in the back? All of these experiences will be radically better with driverless vehicles. New experiences will be possible: you can book a car for your kids to go to a friend's, or to a childminder, or to do the school run. Those who struggle with mobility, typically older people, will be able to get door-to-door car service at the click of a button, allowing them much more freedom to get around and enjoy life. You'll be able to book an overnight car to the south of France, and it'll have airline-style reclining or pull-out beds in it so that you can wake up practically anywhere in Europe for your holidays. Who cares if a few dinosaurs want to hold on to their own vehicles? We're looking at the most impressive revolution in personal transport since the invention of the bicycle.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Who wants to actually have to concentrate on the road on their commute to work, when they could be reading a book or watching TV instead?

      ME. I enjoy driving. Considering how little there actually is to enjoy in one's life in general, I treasure that dearly.

      Who wants to slog several hours down the motorway on Christmas Eve with two whining children in the back?

      Imagine the following shouted in a steadily rising shrill tone: "You did WHAT? You SENT the car for the kids in rush hour in this snow? Are you INSANE?!?"

      Who cares if a few dinosaurs want to hold on to their own vehicles?

      Perhaps you should commission a real-life poll out there (no, not here on El Reg) then we can talk about what "few" means - and I'm pretty sure it'll have surprisingly little to do with the perceived ability of said vehicles to drive themselves safely.

  27. Winkypop Silver badge
    Pint

    Yes please

    Will they come with a drinks cabinet?

    Every Australian male's dream car: A self-driving Esky*

    * Esky is a brand name of a drinks cooler. Also a slang term for an Inuit person.

  28. This post has been deleted by its author

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