back to article UK.gov: We want Britannia's mobe-enabled cars to rule the roads

Whatever Apple and Google might be doing with smart cars, the UK government wants Britain to be involved in the industry and so announced its support for the emerging industry at a conference last week. Yet the government – and more importantly, the car industry – has a huge amount to learn before their shared vision of the UK …

  1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Autonomous?

    Really, is it wise to depend on communications for an "autonomous" car?

    I thought the whole point is they can deal with current real-life traffic and the millions of human-driven vehicles that will still be in use for decades after the first self-driving cars are able to be deployed.

    So while data links are nice and helpful to coordinate avoiding traffic jams and to warn about up and coming road conditions, accidents, etc, you still have to be be able to deal with that if you are the first car there thus operation without radio links should be a starting point in certifying a design.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Autonomous?

        We could easily improve cars to provide more information to other drivers. Many cars already automatically switch on the hazard lights in the event of heavy braking.

    2. Andy france

      Re: Autonomous?

      Communications help enormously. Cars can signal their intentions to each other so that they can anticipate what is going to happen before having to deduce it by observation. Imagine the situation where a human driven car not communicating pulls out of a junction directly into the path of an autonomous car. The autonomous car needs to avoid an accident by breaking and possibly changing lane. The instant it decides on this course of action it can signal its neighbours so they can react to the danger at exactly the same time and simultaneously brake or change lane to give the human driver space to be human.

      Also consider a line of autonomous cars stopped at a traffic light. When it turns green they could all have agreed to start moving forward together, leaving the human driver at the back of the queue way behind.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Autonomous?

        Cars can already signal their intentions to change lane, overtake and go through red lights.

        They do this with remarkably little bandwidth. It just takes 3bytes printed on the back of the car 66,77,87

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Autonomous?

      You are correct but you have missed one thing: investment in autonomous vehicles.

      51 billion quid means there is a vast tonnage of gravy on that train and the comms lads want a slice of it too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Autonomous?

        "51 billion quid means there is a vast tonnage of gravy on that train"

        More gravy odour than real liquid gravy. As with the mythical benefits of HS2, most of these benefits are due to people being assumed to do something more useful in the vehicle and other spurious "benefits" like labour market flexibility (for which read "zero hours contracts, lower wage rates, part time working").

        If this benefit were real, then a combination of banning self drive cars, and mandating the use of taxis would deliver even more benefits: The same "productivity" benefits are all delivered, an additional waged driver is actively employed for every journey, and transport efficiency of cars will magically increase from the circa 1.6 occupants per car to around 2.6 (in government terms a professional driver still counts as part of the beneficial load). And in fact the biggest benefit would be getting strap hanging commuters off of packed commuter trains and into their own taxi. Obviously the roads would be more congested, but the great thing would be that would allow even more time for personal productivity and greater working hours for the taxi driver. And the roads would be so grid-locked that serious collisions would be all but impossible, adding great financial benefits from the "savings" against the DfT costs of serious road accidents.

        Obviously there's some minor practical difficulties, but when you're spouting ***t about the "benefits" of anything in the future, the important thing is to come up with a humungous number, justified by a 300 page economic analysis full of more holes than Swiss cheese, but that is so long and dull that nobody in their right mind can be bothered to read it.

        I might add that if anybody wants to make driverless cars take off, then they need to make it look a llloooooonnnngggggg way more desirable than the Little Tykes Cosy Coupe pictured with the article - what were the designers thinking?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Autonomous?

      The problem is there are so many technical and operational issues yet to be resolved that properly functioning autonomous vehicles won't be available for decades. Then there are the ethical issues to deal with, which are in discussions right now but are very difficult choices to make when someone is going to die as a result of that decision.

      Depending on communication links is an unfortunate necessity just for the vehicle to know where it is and where it wants to go. That means autonomous vehicles will be wide open to hackers.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've an Audi and it's enough of a PIA with the electronic handbrake, boo hoo no more handbrake turns.

    Add to that a start stop system with a mind of it's own plus a whole host of other wretched and unwanted features.

    Never mind an self driving car, I want a super 7 with no tech; now that's driving.

    What would Clarkson say ?

    1. Fink-Nottle

      Thing is, an electronic handbrake enables hill-start tech; which could stop the old lady in front rolling back into your car. As an Audi driver you obviously don't need electronic aids, but think how much safer it'd be if all other idiots on the road had them.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        OP: Stop doing handbrake turns on public roads.

        NP: If the little old lady rolls back on a hillstart, she's not fit to drive, whatever she claims. If she rolls back enough to hit your car, certainly not. And the driving test confirms so.

        We shouldn't be using electronic gadgets to cater for people's inadequacies. They should be there to assist in situations that are entirely under the driver's control (ABS fits this definition, lane deviation warnings do not).

        1. Owain 1
          Unhappy

          Old lady rolling backward

          You've slightly missquoted, and missed the point.

          "an electronic handbrake enables hill-start tech - which stops the old lady in front rolling back into your Audi."

          "NP: If the little old lady rolls back on a hillstart, she's not fit to drive, whatever she claims."

          And you can keep repeating that to yourself as you admire the lovely dent she's made in your nice radiator, while she drives off having not noticed the impact. Personally I'd prefer she (and everybody else) has the electronic handbrake.

          1. JamesPond
            Joke

            Re: Old lady rolling backward

            If it's an Audi behind, surely the little old lady won't be able to roll backward as the Audi, driven as most Audi's are about 2cm from the car in front and closer when not at motorway speeds, will act as her handbrake!

          2. Lee D Silver badge

            Re: Old lady rolling backward

            "And you can keep repeating that to yourself as you admire the lovely dent she's made in your nice radiator, while she drives off having not noticed the impact. Personally I'd prefer she (and everybody else) has the electronic handbrake."

            1) I don't drive any car that I would care about a dent in.

            2) I have a £30 dash-cam that operates even when the car is off.

            3) Personally, I'd prefer that we got those users off the roads rather than give them gadgets they're reliant on to do something as basic and in-your-driving-test as a hill start. A good way to do this is to show the police footage of them hitting your car, not noticing a collision involving damage / injury, and driving off without exchanging insurance details - because that's basically their licence gone in one fell swoop and a massive wake-up-call if not.

            Let's stop compensating for idiots, and get them off the road. (And, yes, despite not caring about my car, if you hit it and drove off without so much as putting a note on my windscreen, I'd prosecute).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I'd say that drivers with ABS are more dangerous than those without. They know full well that they have all these safety features and come to rely upon them more.

          Just fit the spike in the centre of the steering wheel and be done with it.

          1. PNGuinn
            Mushroom

            Or under the seat....

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Stop

        You don't need an electronic handbrake for hill start assistance.

        My car has hill start assist without it.

      3. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

        A better idiot?

        The more nannying, and idiot-proofing you try to add to anything, the more the idiots of this world try to break these features.

        Look on the front forks of modern mountain bikes; the drop-outs have little lugs on them. This was added when some utter moron put his bike wheel back on and forgot to tighten the quick release, then rode off and pulled a wheelie. The front wheel dropped off, and said moron crashed and hurt himself quite badly. He then sued the bike manufacturer for not having included a feature on the bike to protect idiots like himself from being, well, idiots.

        As long as a product isn't actively dangerous or unpredictably dangerous, then it is OK. Cars do not need automated handbrakes; bog standard manual handbrakes will do the job perfectly reasonably and in my experience, they do not go wrong, whereas an automated servo system takes control away from the driver and tends to cause abnormal levels of clutch wear.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Thing is, an electronic handbrake enables hill-start tech; which could stop the old lady in front rolling back into your car."

        If the old lady has been driving for the last 50 years she should have got the hang of hill starts by now.

      5. PNGuinn
        Trollface

        AS an Audi river you probably need a red flag ....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      "I want a super 7 with no tech"

      I dunno, some 7's (and their relatives) can be quite high tech. Carbon Fibre bodies, dual engines, even leccy ones if you want.

      Still having a cheapo 7 style car destroy a Porsche or Ferrari around the track is always fun.

      1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

        I haven't seen an an electric, but my fibre glass 7 happily outru s most porsces to 60 - and it feels like it -:) to go back to another thread, I'm driving an Auris Hybrid for most miles

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I've an Audi and it's enough of a PIA with the electronic handbrake,... plus a whole host of other wretched and unwanted features."

      Why did you buy it if you don't like its features? When I bought my current car I made a deliberate choice to avoid an electronic handbrake.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      Encouraging British industry? Oh no Minister, we're just encouraging a conference for you to attend.

    2. MrWibble

      Anyone would think there's an election coming up, so they'll promise anything, then quietly sweep it away afterwards...

  4. John Latham

    A report by KPMG claims....

    This is great. I take all my technology advice from accountants.

    After all, they're KPMG - as strong as can be, a team of power and energy!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCvKXgp-Awo

  5. John G Imrie Silver badge

    "largely by better use of time in the vehicle, increasing productivity, labour market flexibility and much greater opportunity for trade”.

    So now you will be able to work for free for your boss on the way too and from the station as well as on the train :-(

  6. maffski

    Isn't this a political will kind of thing - motorways have plenty of gantries and signs to which base stations could be attached, and wide verges that are suitable for fibre.

    In fact if I was in power I'd be looking at giving them free access roadside in return for a back haul for ANPR based road charging on the motorway network.

  7. Howard Hanek Bronze badge
    Black Helicopters

    Matchbox Toys?

    Looking at the design it should certainly boost the sewing machine industry for the engines to power those oversize matchbox toys.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The nations of the world are all competing and offering makers the roads at the cost of pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

    Personally I'd let other countries experiment with their lives of their citizens and introduce these things when the technology has been perfected.

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "we could require them to be programmed to overtake cyclists and equestrians correctly and to give way to pedestrians."

      And how do we program the cyclists to do exhibit road sense? Equestrians, by contrast are much less of a problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > And how do we program the cyclists to do exhibit road sense?

        Let natural selection run it's course.

    2. Madge

      No problem when cyclists and horse riders start paying road tax and have compulsory insurance. I think 99% of car drivers give way to pedestrians automatically.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. IsJustabloke Silver badge
    Coat

    The price?

    why Sir! you can have this lovely car for £3.50... the disguise to stop you being recognized will cost you £34,996.50

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My opinion

    This started as a large rant, i'm now condensing it to a smaller one, apologies for inconsitencies

    Even with smart cars on the road, drivers are still idiots, and until we have a certain saturation of smart cars, none of the economical, environmental, or safety features will mean jack

    I think it would be better if they started implementing more forced economical features into cars anyway.

    If the legal speed limit is up to 80mph, then why are we selling cars that go 130mph?

    If it's unsafe to accelerate from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds, then why are we selling cars capable of that?

    Heck, the number of cars with built in GPS and cruise control, why haven't they hooked the two together? You're on road X, speed limit is 30mph, cruise control sets a limit of 30mph while you're on that stretch, move to a 20mph zone, cruise control slows you down, or 40 it lets you speed up. Suddenly having an automatic gearbox becomes even more useful.

    That's not too large a stretch, and suddenly all new cars are now incapable of breaking the speed limit.

    And that's just one feature smart cars are likely to have, just start implementing smart features in new cars gradually, by force if need be.

    combine the above with front and rear proximity sensors, you're stuck in a traffic jam? Just keep your foot on the go button, car in front starts to inch forward, you match it almost instantly, and they already have these sensors for parking in most new cars anyway.

    If we gradually drip feed in more smart features to cars, the more useful ones at least, it'll become easier to legislate for a driverless car in the future, The above points, to me, are the features that are already available, already workable, and frankly I'm confused as to why they aren't in already.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: My opinion

      "cars with built in GPS and cruise control, why haven't they hooked the two together?"

      Given the number of times when GPS guides unthinking drivers onto unsuitable routes it's probably a good thing they aren't hooked together.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My opinion - link GPS to cruise control

      I believe the new electric tour cars in Central Park, NY have exactly this; within the park as determined by GPS, the maximum speed is held to 5mph, but outside the park they can speed up to return to their garages.

      However, my GPS despite its recent update still thinks the speed limit on the Bristol section of the M5 is 50, and good luck with it coping with managed motorways.

      This isn't an argument for not doing it, it's an argument for better joining up of disparate systems. £150 million is simply too small potatoes. Scrap HS2, spend significant money on improving vehicle automation, in the long term eliminate any need for HS2.

    3. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

      Re: "You're on road X, speed limit is 30mph, cruise control sets a limit of 30mph..."

      Two words for you - Black ice.

      You let the car do the thinking for the driver and there is a large number of drivers won't think.

  12. DougS Silver badge

    Use of cellular

    How much does coverage matter, so long as it covers all the important roads and enough of the less important ones? In the US at least, if you look at coverage maps in areas with very sparse coverage you'll see full coverage along all the major interstates and highways. That is probably the case world wide - right of way to lay cable and put up towers is easier in such areas.

    The information relayed by cars is going to be about what is going on where your car is going. Accident ahead, black ice ahead, deer seen hanging around the edge of the road ahead, etc. There's no reason to have images from cameras of other cars relayed so bandwidth should not be a concern. The information relayed is post image recognition. This information is useful, but an autonomous car should be driven in a manner where it doesn't REQUIRE this information.

    Just like humans are able to drive successfully most of the time without knowing what is ahead beyond that which they can see. Sure there are some accidents that could be prevented if they knew there was a five car pileup just around the fog shrouded bend, so you could avoid becoming the sixth. The system tries to tell your car about it, but maybe it doesn't succeed 100% of the time, and there's an accident. If you spec a bullet proof SEVEN NINES system, think of how many lives will be lost while humans continue to drive as you wait and wait for the 'perfect' solution that targets reducing deaths all the way to zero for Version 1.0?

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith

      Re: Use of cellular

      The only issue is that in a lot of the UK even the motorway network isn't covered fully with mobile coverage - it drops out, drops calls and so on.

      I agree with the 5 nines comment though. In reality the UK accepts (from memory) something around one fatality every 8 million miles driven. Beating that even slightly means lives are saved, & it is useful.

      I just want auto-drive for the motorway - the long boring stretches where there is nothing to do but dodge cameras and get hypnotic effects from the cones.

  13. Trainee grumpy old ****

    "Their numbers allowed for the fact that jobs such as delivery drivers would disappear."

    Thinking of your about town courier/delivery: OK self driving delivery vehicles = no driver. But you will still need someone to get (usually) the right boxes out of the back and hand them over at the appropriate addresses.

    1. Boothy

      Re: "Their numbers allowed for the fact that jobs such as delivery drivers would disappear."

      Quote: "But you will still need someone to get (usually) the right boxes out of the back and hand them over at the appropriate addresses."

      I suspect they'll do the same as they do now for these automated drop-off/pick-up locations you get next to supermarkets etc.

      i.e....

      The van would basically consist of set of mobile electronically secured lockers. Swipe/tap the card you paid for the items with, or us a an app etc. And the locker with your stuff in it unlocks. Take your items, close the door, and the van heads off to the next delivery.

      The issue being things like access, or the size, weight, number of items

      i.e. Having to leave the house/office to do the collection from the van yourself. Having to limit the weight/size, to make sure it's something you can actually pickup your self.

      No good of course if your housebound etc.

      Perhaps these new White 'Auto' Vans, could include a delivery drone in the back?

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