back to article Back seat drivers fear lead-footed autonomous cars, say boffins

If you're the kind of person who reaches for a phantom brake-pedal when forced to be a passenger in a car, you're not alone. Research from psychologists in the US and UK suggests everybody's like that and that this tendency is going to be a problem for autonomous car-makers. In short: whether they say so or not, most …

  1. PleebSmash
    Devil

    cough

    The best thing about hypothetical autonomous car congestion is that the passengers could be productive throughout, while meat drivers waste more of their time.

    1. MrDamage

      Re: cough

      And exactly how many bosses would pay the overtime relating to said increased productivity?

      They don't pay for your travel time now, and will not be likely to do so in the future.

      Lets face it, people will end up using autonomous cars as an excuse to stay up a bit later, so they can have a snooze on the way in to work the next day.

      1. Duffy Moon

        Re: cough

        If it enables people to stay up a bit longer, then that's still a positive

        1. Robin

          Re: cough

          > If it enables people to stay up a bit longer, then that's still a positive

          They're going to have Viagra dispensers in them too? Will wonders never cease?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: cough

            > If it enables people to stay up a bit longer, then that's still a positive

            They're going to have Viagra dispensers in them too? Will wonders never cease?

            Well, it'll make for a more entertaining version of Streetview.. Let's not forget that it's Google, so it'll be stuffed to the gills with sensors to grab more personal information of you. Anyone working for government or doing something confidential ought to be banned from coming even near them.

      2. DougS Silver badge

        Re: cough

        Who says your productivity has to be work related? Do your taxes, do some online shopping for your wife's birthday, watch that program you recorded last night...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          WTF?

          Re: cough

          ...work out WTF its going to do when a road is closed due to an accident and it just ploughs on regardless of the person on the left frantically waving at you to slow down.

      3. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: cough

        Erm... 'productive' does not necessarily mean "productive to your employer", you could use the time for your own projects. For self-employed people, that's definitely productive time won.

        And if an employee who suddenly has more time on their hands out of office hours decides to use that time for work-related tasks, that's their loss/folly

      4. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        Re: cough

        "Lets face it, people will end up using autonomous cars as an excuse to stay up a bit later, so they can have a snooze on the way in to work the next day."

        Yes I will and its the only reason I would want one, I always end up snoozing on trains and buses (Sorry for anyone I have slobbered over) so why not in a self driving car.

      5. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: cough

        And exactly how many bosses would pay the overtime relating to said increased productivity?

        None. But who says you have to be productive for your boss? My weekly commute is about 17 hours, if the RMT don't hash it up, so I could use that time to get quite a lot of my own projects done rather than being focussed on keeping my face out of some giants armpit (I'm 6'1" and seem to be what now passes for 'short' on the tube).

        people will end up using autonomous cars as an excuse to stay up a bit later, so they can have a snooze on the way in to work the next day

        Yes, absolutely. More leisure time for zero cost.

        So even if I just work the return trip for myself I'm doing about 8.5 hours a week, or just under 400 hours a year. Lets say I lease an electric self driver for £5000 a year including charging costs (free most places), I only need to make my own efforts pay out a rate of £12.50 per hour to cover the cost of the car. I could work both directions if I was stuggling to earn enough per hour, though I don't forsee that being an issue.

        So I get a free commute, saving me just over £5k per year, and I also get an extra hour and a halfish free time a night, a guaranteed seat, my own music not a tinny rendition of some chart rubbish or the minutae of someones boyfriend issues, air conditioning, no strikes.... I get quite a lot really.

    2. stucs201

      Re: cough

      Productive as a passenger? Not for everyone. I don't get travel sick except under one condition: if I try to read or do other things that mostly involve not being able to spend most of the journey looking out of the window.

      1. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: cough @stucs

        I don't get travel sick except under one condition: if I try to read or do other things that mostly involve not being able to spend most of the journey looking out of the window

        I wonder what would happen if you had a HUD through which to read?

        I can see why it might alleviate car sickness, and why it might not. Anyone know?

        1. Vic

          Re: cough @stucs

          I can see why it might alleviate car sickness, and why it might not. Anyone know?

          It depends on whether or not you can see a true horizon.

          Travel sickness occurs when the inner ear describes one sort of motion, and the visual system another - such as when you're inside a vehicle, or when you're reading whilst moving. In evolutionary timescales, such a condition only occurred when you'd been poisoned - and the solution to that is obvious. Travel sickness is a mechanism evolved to protect you from poisoning.

          So with a HUD, if you can see the outside, you'd probably get away without sickness, But I can't imagine reading would be much fun...

          Vic.

  2. DougS Silver badge

    Congestion will still be better than it is with human drivers

    The biggest cause of congestion isn't slow drivers, it is unexpected braking. That causes a wave of braking that can extend back for miles and result in that unique effect where you'll be driving along at 75 mph and then suddenly traffic slows to a crawl for a few miles where you may even have to stop completely, then once clear it is back to full speed. That is usually because of some accident or near accident that occurred earlier, sometimes hours ago since at a certain density that traffic can never clear. In LA a near miss accident at 7am might cause congestion that doesn't clear until after sunset.

    Autocars could help a lot there, if you had a few groups of them line up across the road in all lanes at intervals and slowly drop speed as the congestion approached, they could allow time for the traffic ahead to start moving normally and fix the congestion problem well before it would have cleared with only human drivers on the road. If that happened today those driving behind would be mightily pissed off, but people would quickly learn what is going on when the autocars do this and follow meekly behind until they broke formation and let normal traffic flow resume.

    I'm sure they could take similar action to block out lanes that are closed ahead due to accidents or whatever so you don't get that pinch when multiple lanes try to merge in a hurry. And avoid the inevitable dickwad who speeds down the closed lane to try to squeeze back in to an open lane at the last second (always love it when semis straddle the lanes to foil those idiots, autocars could drive abreast to effect the same thing)

    Obviously sometimes congestion is simply too many cars... Autocars take up the same amount of space on the road as humans, so they can't help there, but ride sharing with "autotaxis" would be much easier as they could automatically figure out who should ride together to minimize wasted time so they might result in fewer cars on the road.

    In short, I think these boffins are worried about something that won't matter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Congestion isn't the only problem

      Congestion isn't the only problem at present, anyway. People drive much too fast almost as a rule. Slower-moving cars on city streets should mean fewer traffic fatalities and fewer collisions with pedestrians. That's a net positive, in my book. The increase in overall fuel economy would be a plus, as well. The US saw enormous efficiency gains when the mandatory limit was set at 55 mph.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Congestion isn't the only problem

        Congestion isn't the only problem at present, anyway. People drive much too fast almost as a rule

        If you define "too fast" as inappropriately for the circumstances, yes, but on motorways the problem is more people with bad lane discipline which doesn't just cause congestion, it causes emotion as well - both are bad news in traffic. City traffic could in my opinion indeed improve with automation due to faster reaction times.

        As for economy - yup. An older car I had took more than 5x as much fuel at 170 mph than it did at 70 mph. I've talked with some taxi drivers, the ones that look at fuel consumption properly as an operating cost (not all of them do, it's usually owner-drivers) tend to drive around the 60..65mph - apparently it shaves up to 10% off their fuel consumption.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Congestion will still be better than it is with human drivers

      I'm sure they could take similar action to block out lanes that are closed ahead due to accidents or whatever so you don't get that pinch when multiple lanes try to merge in a hurry. And avoid the inevitable dickwad who speeds down the closed lane to try to squeeze back in to an open lane at the last second

      That is called zip filtering and is required over here. In heavy traffic, you are supposed to stay in lane until you reach the filter point and then join the open lane, where the cars in the open lane let one car from the closing lane in front of them. This keeps the tailback shorter and the traffic flowing better, generally it works well...

      Well, apart from human nature, where some idiot in the closing lane tries to jump ahead one space and instead of 1-1-1-1 filtering tries 1-2-1 filtering. That causes the car in the open lane to have to brake sharply, causing more of a tailback. Once that idiot joins the queue, you are back to square 1.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Congestion will still be better than it is with human drivers

      I'd say they unintelligent traffic management and bad road design is the biggest cause.

    4. earl grey Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Congestion will still be better than it is with human drivers

      "block out lanes"

      Oh hell no. Last thing we need is some do-gooder deciding to blindly block the whole road to foul up the general flow. The "selfies" will be getting there in their own good time and hosing everyone else on the road as they hog all the lanes. It'll be bumper cars for them.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Congestion will still be better than it is with human drivers

        I was talking about having the autocars automatically block the lanes to smooth out congestion in front of them. Clearly you didn't read past the words "block" and saw red, or are not smart enough to understand what I was talking about.

        The passengers in the autocar wouldn't have any ability to tell it to block out lanes, and really shouldn't have to ability to tell it how fast to go. If you have a self driving car, you should have no more say over how it is driven than a baby in the child seat in the back.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Driverless cars

    Why not?

    We've had brainless politicians for years.

  4. herman Silver badge

    Roller coasters

    This is why roller coaster rides are scary - the loss of control.

    Now imagine getting into an autonomous taxi with a Fitipaldi driver profile and the passengers screaming all the way to/from the airport...

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Roller coasters

      I don't know, I think I'd rather be in an autonomous car that keeps a safe distance and obeys the speed limit, rather than be a passenger in a car where the driver is accelerating and braking hard all the time, riding the bumper of the car in front etc.

      1. stucs201

        Re: Roller coasters

        Of course the safe distance should get a lot lower for groups of autonomous cars. At motorway speeds recommended distances are more to do with reaction time than actual stopping distance. Since computers react faster than people that distance should come down, especially if the cars were in communication with each other and in a dedicated lane.

        It sounds like human nervousness could limit this benefit though.

        1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

          Safe distance

          The definition of "safe" distance is an issue here. Is that safe to stop for the computer, taking into account grip, speed and calculated vehicle mass, or is that safe for the passengers, for whom this may feel like the computerised equivalent of throwing out an anchor?

          It very much depends if smoothness is part of the programming. I know enough "digital drivers" to know that safe does not equal comfortable. Personally, I tend to plan ahead so my driving is reasonably smooth - it's a bit of a hangover from the fact that I'm also licensed to drive HGVs where smooth speed changes are important for fuel consumption and risk management.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Safe distance

            Exactly Fred, I did a few advanced driving / riding courses and they teach you to look ahead and anticipate what is coming up ahead. You get off the gas early and roll into the situation, if you time it right (legal speed change) then you hit the sign doing the required speed.

            If there is a red light, you roll into it, and if you are lucky, you don't have to brake, you can just roll out again, if you do need to brake, it is from a lower speed etc. The same for traffic jam(s), you see it coming, you get off the gas early and don't then need to react suddenly.

            Of course, you can't anticipate everything, like the car in front losing its oil-sump in the middle of a corner! Not a nice experience, especially on a motorbike! I managed to stay upright and stop safely, but the witnesses said I was as white as a sheet when I took my helmet off!

        2. auburnman

          Re: Roller coasters

          I can't see any autocar maker programming in safe distances that are less than the human ones. Even if it's demonstrably true that the autocars can handle it, this would likely mean fights with insurance companies, the Highway code authority (or regional equivalent) and ambulance chasers all at the same time. and regardless of the safety factor, good distances between cars is just good for overall traffic flow.

          1. stucs201

            Re: good distances between cars is just good for overall traffic flow

            With human driver who have to respond to each other then yes it is. With robot cars that can accelerate as one, brake as one and negotiate upcomming manouvers in advance then the best traffic flow comes from not wasting road space and only opening up a gap when it is needed to let another car join the group or let another group through at a junction. Saying robot cars should leave the same gaps as humans need for traffic flow reasons is like claiming a train would be better with more space between the carriages.

            1. big_D Silver badge

              Re: good distances between cars is just good for overall traffic flow

              @stucs201 And when a car suddenly "breaks" and no longer has contact? Or something goes catastrophically wrong (wheels seizing, for example)? If they are too close, they can't avoid a collission.

              1. stucs201

                Re: @big_D

                Yes that does need addressing. Probably sensible to ensure that robot cars are tested to higher standards if we're going to ask more of them (and if we're not then why bother with them?). Perhaps program this into the controlling software: no recent safety check and it refuses to join the high speed road train.

            2. auburnman

              Re: good distances between cars is just good for overall traffic flow

              Can't see them 'not wasting road space' except if we ever get round to dedicated convoys/special lanes. Most of the safety gap is braking distance anyway, so why would the manufacturers take on the struggle of pushing for exceptions to the rules when they're already embroiled in getting them on the road at all? Driverless cars may negotiate routes and share information with each other, but I can't see them basing real-time (non-emergency) driving decisions on that just from a liability standpoint.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: good distances between cars is just good for overall traffic flow

                "Most of the safety gap is braking distance anyway"

                At 70mph more than half of it is reaction time. As you slow down that percentage increases.

                My car can stop in its own length at 30mph, but it'll travel around 2 lengths in the time it takes to get off the throttle and onto the brake.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: good distances between cars is just good for overall traffic flow

                  At 70mph more than half of it is reaction time. As you slow down that percentage increases.

                  My car can stop in its own length at 30mph, but it'll travel around 2 lengths in the time it takes to get off the throttle and onto the brake.

                  With automation you could not just lose the reaction time - you could also do a proximity scan and discover the car before the one you're following braking, giving you more margin to do it smoothly.

                  However, I would like to remind you of the problems when ABS was introduced. From personal experience, I know that if YOU manage to stop in time it doesn't mean the car behind you can as well. A human following an automatic vehicle ought to leave quite a bit of distance.

                  There is another problem here - those who suggest that we should drive vehicles in the sort of short-distance "trains" that, for instance, VW was demonstrating forget two things:

                  - the fuel savings because of reduced wind drag don't really apply to city speeds;

                  - you are creating the equivalent of the bendy bus that made a complete mess of London's traffic until the next mayor finally got rid of them (unless you find some algorithm that breaks up these trains when required).

                  There is possibly a violation of traffic laws at play: normally, you are required to leave enough space between vehicles for another one to move in (at least on a motorway). Granted, few do that (which is why you get a queue a mile long when there is somewhere an overtaking HGV in sight), but that is the actual law, designed to ensure there is an escape hatch for idiots screwing up an overtaking manoeuvre (at least that's what I think it's for). In a city, traffic flows best too if you are occasionally polite and let someone come out of a difficult spot. I'm not confident a vehicle train can be programmed to do the same.

            3. Meerkatjie

              Re: good distances between cars is just good for overall traffic flow

              The assumption being that all the auto cars are running the same software. I can see Apple* car keeping certain features/information hidden from Android car in order to make Android car look stupid or Apple car look better.

              * Randomly picked names - use Linux and Windows if that pleases

              1. big_D Silver badge

                Re: good distances between cars is just good for overall traffic flow

                Just look at the Commonwealth Saga, there the taxis had been reprogrammed with "aggresive" subroutines to get through traffic quicker...

          2. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Roller coasters

            VW have been using a gap of few of metres since they started testing self-driving cars back in the 80s. The front car was "driven", all of the other were slaved onto it.

            But I guess for the public road, as Auburrnman says, they will probably make it bigger to safe fights with insurance companies etc.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Roller coasters

          "It sounds like human nervousness could limit this benefit though."

          Human nervousness is a direct result of knowing more-or-less what following distances should be.

          Passengers who don't drive are generally less nervous than ones who do.

        4. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: Roller coasters@stucs

          It sounds like human nervousness could limit this benefit though.

          In version 1 or 2, sure. By version 10 the windows will have been replaced with a giant telly.

        5. Vic

          Re: Roller coasters

          At motorway speeds recommended distances are more to do with reaction time than actual stopping distance.

          Errr - no.

          Reaction times are fairly constant, so reaction distance rises linearly with speed.

          Braking distance is essentially[1] proportional to energy, so rises with the square of speed.

          On motorways, of course, most people are driving very much closer than their actual stopping distances, so you're relying on unusual events not occurring. That's a big part of the reason for huge pile-ups...

          Vic.

          [1] I'm ignoring oddness like brake fade, etc.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Roller coasters

      "Now imagine getting into an autonomous taxi with a Fitipaldi driver profile and the passengers screaming all the way to/from the airport..."

      Or hire "Taxi" - the french version - and wonder about that peugeot.

    3. LucreLout Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Roller coasters

      This is why roller coaster rides are scary - the loss of control

      As a 40 something man, I would love to commute by rollercoaster. It'd be so much more fun than the train/tube.

    4. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Roller coasters

      Now imagine getting into an autonomous taxi with a Fitipaldi driver profile and the passengers screaming all the way to/from the airport...

      And suddenly, hacking cars becomes interesting .. :)

  5. Captain DaFt

    Pshaw

    No matter the mode of transport, autonomous or not, there's always going to be Nervous Nellies assaulting everyone within earshot of their "harrowing tale" of near misses and how they nearly died on every routine trip they take.

    Google cars will be just another thing for them to be boorish about.

    1. RISC OS

      Re: Pshaw

      yeah...

      "Your going to wales??? Rather you than me, last year our google car tried make a 90 turn whilst crossing the river severn bridge."

      lol.

      That will put you off.

  6. Confuciousmobil

    Oh dear

    Oh god, we're going to get cars driving even slower? Round towns that's a good idea, I just hope these things are allowed nowhere near our motorways.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh dear

      I look forward to the driverless cars causing a pile up when something falls off the back of lorry and it slams the brakes on and stops in the middle of the M6.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Oh dear

      "Oh god, we're going to get cars driving even slower? "

      To be honest, if the cars are going slower but not stop-starting in urban conditions, the journeys would be quicker.

      On suburban roads I'd hope for higher speeds.

      On motorways there's a balance between speed and efficiency, but bored drivers like to go faster so there may not be as much pressure for speed.

      1. nijam

        Re: Oh dear

        You can absolutely guarantee that no matter what the technology is capable of, these vehicles will not make any journey faster than a human driver would make the same journey. They will not be permitted to, because our government is obsessed with public transport, and will continue to make roads less usable for other vehicles. In that context, they will be seen as a way of slowing down all traffic (except buses, in places where they get their own lanes). In fact, I predict we'll start seeing local government introducing regulations making it illegal to overtake self-driving vehicles.

  7. stucs201

    Well this could kill some of the major advantages.

    I'd really been hoping that self-driving cars could improve motorway congestion and travel times by having closely packed (determined by computer, not human, reaction times) groups of cars travelling at high speed (perhaps about 90mph?). Sounds like nervous passengers might break that idea :(

    Similarly for the idea of getting more cars through green lights at junctions by having the entire queue start moving at the same time when the lights change, instead of the delay between each car that you get with human drivers.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Driverless Mobile Homes

    Getting there really IS half the fun.

    Put the kettle on luv.

    1. Martin Budden
      Childcatcher

      Re: Driverless Mobile Homes

      Rocking'n'rolling ;-)

  9. Medical Cynic

    Sunday drivers

    I think they will cause more frustration to drivers in cars around them, as early reports seem to indicate they are very cautious and slow/stop at junctions even though they can be seen to be clear. Anyone attempting to make good but safe progress will soon be shouting at them.

    Perhaps they should have grey-haired dummies wearing trilbies and smoking a pipe [e-pipe, of course] to warn following drivers?

  10. kryptonaut
    Facepalm

    Impact in t-minus one...

    “The impacts were found to be larger when constraining the autonomous cars’ dynamics to the more-restrictive acceleration/deceleration profile of high-speed rail,” the study notes.

    That could have been worded better.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love the idea of driverless cars - I get to turn my road private - just drop a cone at the top of the road when I come home, and no annoying delivery trucks, taxis etc. Or perhaps a nice solar powered red LED to trick their little android brains into thinking there's a temporary traffic light!

    An as for the ease congestion/faster motorway fantasits - perhaps for about a week, then they will roll out a patch or two and your car will inexplicably slow down, going slower and slower until your only option is a factory reset, at which point it will decide that you are in Palo Alto not Hull, and drive off into the North Sea.

    It won't matter anyway, because we won't have any jobs or income, our own jobs having been replaced by a computer, so we won't afford to ride in them, even if we had anywhere useful to go to.

    1. Stuart 18
      Devil

      The selfish rule all??

      The person above fits the bill for the ENTIRE problem with motoring worldwide,,,selfish, my journey/strreet/vehicle/penis is more important than yours, drivers. It is they that cause ALL the problems from: aforementioned dead stop braking harmonics to failed zippering.

      This is why it's ESSENTIAL for driverless cars to be introduced. The only question is when the number of driverless cars will reach a ratio to exceed the 'threshold of auto-stupidiy' (© Stu 2015:-) below which the selfish people exploit driverless car's programmed safety protocols under the illusion of their own faster progress, causing additional delays - for all.

      -it will be interesting to see the inevitable data for this ratio broken down by country! We could then produce a league table for national twatishness:-)

      It is apparent to everyone that the efficiency of any transport system is heavily affected by CO-OPERATION. Whether that be with actual laws, lane protocols. speed limits or general courtesy, etc(road maintenance is also a co-operative issue). It is also clear that driverless cars will enable an increase in this co-operation apart from the aforementioned willful disruption by jealous selfish drivers,

      As an aside: is the previous respondent aware that:

      a) What they propose is possible now. It's just the aforementioned selfish attitude diminishes the success rate. Plus another extension of selfishness - into anger will earn him a broken nose.

      b) This behaviour is illegal - now and for the foreseen future. The IoT will enable instant reporting of unplanned roadworks to local authorities.

      ??

      What a dick.

      (both of us)

  12. M7S

    Pressing the brake pedal

    If the cruise control is activated in my car, and I subsequently press the brake pedal, cruise is de-activated. Will the same apply in respect of driverless cars (which as I understand things have to have manual controls as backup)? Will the system interpret this as "fleshie wants to play" and switch off completely whilst perhaps ensuring that the data is ready to transmit to the resurrection ship?

    If so, then a passenger "phantom braking" could find themselves unexpectedly in an uncontrolled missile until they realise they should be doing more. If they braked on the approach to a tight bend with busy traffic each way, and this stopped the car taking the bend correctly, that could be unfortunate.

    Side question to elicit witty and/or informed responses: Why do some people refer to "depressing" the clutch, brake, etc?

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Pressing the brake pedal

      'Depressing' when referring to buttons or leavers etc usually just means 'pushing downwards', I'd never really thought about the potential confusion before.

  13. Vinyl-Junkie
    Meh

    Nothing to see here....

    All of this reminds me of nothing so much as the scaremongering which accompanied the introduction of rail travel, the early automobile, and jet travel, all of which we take for granted these days. I predict that in 50 years time our roads will be full of driverless cars and the driven ones will mostly be historic curiosities, and our great-grandchildren will wonder what all the fuss was about!

    1. Jan 0

      Re: Nothing to see here....

      Hear, hear!

      Besides, I hope that I'll be able to face backwards in my driverless car, just as I do in trains. Also I'm not sure that I want any permanently clear windows in my driverless car. I may want to watch a film or pleasure my passenger(s) without distractions.

  14. Karaken12

    Not news to Google

    I'm always supportive of new research, but I'm pretty sure that Google already knew this. From the great Oatmeal (http://theoatmeal.com/blog/google_self_driving_car):

    "The car we rode in did not strike me as dangerous. It struck me as cautious. It drove slowly and deliberately, and I got the impression that it’s more likely to annoy other drivers than to harm them. Google can adjust the level of aggression in the software, and the self-driving prototypes currently tooling around Mountain View are throttled to act like nervous student drivers."

    and also

    "They're intended as moderate-distance couriers, not open-road warriors, so their max speed is 25 miles per hour."

    It sounds like Google's done a ton of UAT, and they've found what this study confirms: that passengers in their cars want it to go slower and be more cautious than they themselves would. So that's what they do!

  15. phil dude
    WTF?

    so much FUD...must be midweek....

    There is so much obvious misinformation here.

    Autonomous cars are no subject to human reactions, and will be in contact with cars in the vicinity.

    Even if local telemetry was not available being able to measure the distance to the next car 100 times/sec will make a regular stop imperceptible. With the bonus that the distance between cars will always be the same.

    If a human grabs the wheel 2 things will happen:

    1) All other cars in the immediate area will make space around this vehicle

    2) The insurance associated with the driver will kick in, and they will pay for taking the wheel.

    Oh and if the driver is unable/unwilling to drive, I will wager it will "limp" home or to the hospital, possibly slowly in the layby lane.

    Everyone seems to be working on the assumption that human drivers are any good. We are not. We just haven't had anything better to compare ourselves too... (And no, watching Top Gear does NOT make you any better).

    My only concern is the Govt will screw this up by using it as a form of social control.

    P.

    1. JP19

      Re: so much FUD...must be midweek....

      "Everyone seems to be working on the assumption that human drivers are any good."

      Even poor human drivers absolutely piss all over all autonomous cars we have seen so far and IMO will continue to do for decades at least.

      Autonomous cars are simply not going to happen any time soon without the problem of driving being simplified by making roads or some roads more like railways for example.

      1. phil dude
        Boffin

        Re: so much FUD...must be midweek....

        They already have dedicated lanes in places, and you appear to greatly underestimate the sophistication of the google-car driving around California right now.

        The issue is not "when will an autonomous car be better than a human", this issue is when will they be good enough to replace MOST humans.

        Cars here in the US are already be sold with "highway" control which can keep a car in lane and at a safe distance. The US market is starting to get radar proximity warning and intervention.

        It isn't a converged technology yet, but it already better than the "low end" of human ability.

        P.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not to worry

    In many places typical drivers exceed the speed limits. It will be a long time before autonomous vehicles are actually 100% autonomous and not driven part of the time by a driver.

  17. earl grey Silver badge
    Go

    can i say "step on it"

    Yes, go faster car. I'm running late and this traffic is a bother. Get humping!

  18. md56

    You'll all stop for me!

    As a part-time pedestrian, if the AVs are properly programmed, I'll be able to cross the road or motorway whenever I want! Yay!

    As a part-time motorist, I'll hate this...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You'll all stop for me!

      Become a full-time cyclist. They believe EVERYONE has to make way for them.

  19. Steve Mann

    Bah!

    Well, Google can take a cue from The Marching Morons and glaze the vehicle with OLED screens so the passengers can be shown a slowed version of their hurtling progress down the street.

    Or we could do the sensible thing and Ban This Filth Now.

    Googlecars are low speed cruise missiles waiting to be purposed by the unscrupulous.

  20. RISC OS

    The biggest menace on the roads are trucks

    ... if it'S not obese drivers having heart attacks, it's falling a sleep...

    google cars will just be death traps until everything is automatic

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