back to article Robo-car wars: Delphi's near crash, prang, wallop with Google DENIED!

Delphi Automotive has contradicted a senior exec at the company by denying that one of its robo-cars had come close to being pranged by a Google self-driving vehicle. The firm told Reuters on Friday that the news wire's earlier report – which earlier this week had quoted John Absmeier, Delphi's Silicon Valley lab director, …

  1. et tu, brute?
    Megaphone

    Fact...

    Fact is, they didn't crash, thus worked as designed! The fact that the Delphi car "aborted" a lane change as a result, is simply "working as designed"...

    Now please stop the bickering!

    1. petur

      Re: Fact...

      Fact indeed... how many times have you not planned or started a lane change only to see another driver changing at the same time?

      Which does make me wonder if the robo cars use their signalling correctly and if they spot the signalling of other cars correctly. I'd hope so.

      1. pro-logic

        Re: Fact...

        "if they spot the signalling of other cars correctly"

        I hope that the robo cars actually put a minor weighting on the signalling lights of other cars.

        On the road I regularly see idiots change lanes without indicating, or indicating once they're 3/4 across, and on the flip side see idiots with their indicator on for several kilometres with no intention to change lanes.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Fact...

          Nothing that front-mounted 0.5 Brownings couldn't actually solve.

          1. chivo243 Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: Fact...

            Go the Robin Williams route:

            Twin 50 cal machine guns mounted on the hood of your Chevy

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXHmNaEHgKU

            Watch from the 23 minute mark!

        2. gnarlymarley Bronze badge

          Re: Fact...

          "I hope that the robo cars actually put a minor weighting on the signalling lights of other cars."

          The robo car would need to tell the difference between an immediate signal and a I have been signalling for twenty miles.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obviously.

    Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?

  3. Any mouse Cow turd

    slightly sexed up...

    If you are writing an article for a media outlet then the last thing you're going to write is "the car was going to change lanes but since another car was coming up on the inside it decided not to."

  4. chris swain

    Yep, that's my understanding of events

    Car in lane 1 and car in lane 3 both decide to go for lane 2. Car in lane 3 travelling faster than car in lane 1 so car in lane 1 aborts maneuver.

    Probably a little scary if you're the passenger and likely being hyper-aware if the robot is your toy. Also, quick but errored corporate thinking leads you to then dis' the competition's robot for cutting you up.

    Journo's gonna jump on that angle and sell more copy. I doubt we'd see quite so many repeats across the interwebs if they'd gone with the headline 'two robot cars face everyday driving hazard and successfully negotiate it'.

    Can we just be informed of any crashes that do occur rather than non-events in future?

    1. The Axe

      Re: Yep, that's my understanding of events

      A bit of human feeling thrown in too. The Delphi exec was probably thinking it was his lane and he was getting a bit of road rage at being "cut up".

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Yep, that's my understanding of events

      You also have to wonder a bit if they're fudging a bit on "what it's supposed to do". By definition the car should be following all the rules of the road including following other vehicles at an appropriate distance, watching for turn signals, signalling, checking lanes before you switch, etc.

      Now while I'd like to follow all those rules all the time, the simple fact of the matter is that given where I live and drive, I can't. Everybody else on the road here seems to define "safe following distance" as aligning your front bumper at about the midpoint of the rear quarter panel of the car next to you. Give them any more distance than that and they will cut you off with an unsignalled lane change. Speaking of which, turn signals were obviously meant to be optional equipment not mandatory. If you can't tell by the positioning of the car that he's about to change lanes, too bad sucker. One of my favorite moves is the Maryland Double. In this maneuver you turn from the second lane on a multilane highway through the right lane before executing your actual turn onto the exit ramp. All within about 50 yards of the hard separation of the exit lane. The other day I had the pleasure of watching someone execute the Quadruple Maryland. (And people wonder why our car insurance rates are so high here.)

      So if they've had to adapt their programming to take care of real world problems yeah, I can see a near miss on a lane change. And in a certain sense, it still is "doing what it's supposed to do."

  5. Martin Summers Silver badge

    Well he got the publicity he wanted by spouting rubbish at the expense of Google. Job done for him and then his firm quietly correct it afterwards.

  6. Camilla Smythe

    Probably...

    FUD FOLLOWS,

    Copied each others API's from Elon Musk. Next you know Oracle will be suing them.

    Bloke is driving down the road in his <insert car here>Car</insert car here> and the API notices 'Flash Flash Flash' via its rear view thing and decides to speed up.

    55-60-70 mph.

    'Flash Flash Flash'

    70-80-90 mph

    'Flash Flash Flash'

    100-110-120 mph

    The flashing stops..

    'Tap Tap Tap'

    Passenger clicks the override window button. Whirr Thunk.

    'Excuse me mate. Have you got a light?'

    'Are you trying to kill yourself?!1!'

    'I only smoke two a day.'

    ETC

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: Probably...

      I think that's the tweeked algorithm for Audis, yes?

  7. AndrueC Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Meanwhile on the opposite end of the technological spectrum I had to stand on my brakes to avoid a traction engine this afternoon. He pulled out of the rally about fifty metres in front of me then proceeded along the road (60mph zone) at 10mph.

    I didn't have any choice but to slam on the anchors. A Honda Jazz ain't gonna survive hitting a lump of iron like that at 60mph.

    1. Carl W

      I don't personally agree but...

      ...IAM would say you should have anticipated his manoeuvre and adjusted your speed/positioning accordingly.

      Even in a Honda Jazz it might have been better to have floored it for the overtake :)

      1. Graham Marsden

        @Carl W - Re: I don't personally agree but...

        IAM use "The System" or IPSGA which stands for Information, Position, Speed, Gear and Acceleration which is based on the Police's Roadcraft book.

        So:

        Information: There's a Rally. There may have been signs pointing to it. Presumably there's a side turning, possibly also with signs, bunting, or other clues that something's happening up ahead, so vehicles may be entering or leaving it. More information: Perhaps you can see over hedges, so you may well be able to see the Traction Engine as it's about to pull out. Yet more information: Check mirrors for traffic coming up behind you (possibly even intending to overtake). Look for vehicles coming the other way.

        Position: If possible, move towards the centre of the road, provided that there's nothing intending to overtake and you won't cause any on-coming vehicle to have to adjust their speed or position, giving yourself more room to manoeuvre and moving yourself away from the hazard.

        Speed: You're approaching a potential hazard, so SLOW DOWN! That gives you more time to respond or brake as necessary.

        Gear: Select a lower gear to give better power response if needed.

        Acceleration: As you clear the hazard, accelerate back to the limit or, if you need to decelerate, do so.

        Note also, of course, that that "60 zone" is a 60 speed *limit*. That's a limit, not a target. It's not obligatory.

        (PS there's more than the above, before someone start's saying "but what about...", however that's a quick run-down of the guidelines).

        There are a lot of road users out there on four wheels or two, who would benefit from Advanced Training, whether it's IAM, Rospa, Bikesafe or whatever. Too many drivers think their skills are better than those of others on the roads. Oddly, those other road users also think the same.

        They should try it, they might even find that they learn something new...!

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: @Carl W - I don't personally agree but...

          Information: There's a Rally. There may have been signs pointing to it. Presumably there's a side turning, possibly also with signs, bunting, or other clues that something's happening up ahead, so vehicles may be entering or leaving it. More information: Perhaps you can see over hedges, so you may well be able to see the Traction Engine as it's about to pull out.

          Information: The rally was over for the day. I knew it was there because I'd driven past it at 1pm on my way to my golf club and now I was driving back. This was going on for seven o'clock and I could see into the car parks and they were mostly empty. The previous 'please slow down' signs had been removed. There is good visibility of the entrance as the hedge is well back from the road. The road kinks right ahead so I could see there was no oncoming traffic.

          The traction engine came to a halt as I approached.

          The IAM does not teach you to slow down for every side turning. It doesn't teach you to slow down for vehicles waiting to join the road. Ultimately there's not much it can teach you about vehicles who - despite having great visibility of you - choose to pull out at the last possible minute.

          I didn't skid. I didn't crash. I moved out a bit to get a better view of the road in front just in case I needed to pass but eventually didn't need to.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Carl W - I don't personally agree but...

            The IAM does not teach you to slow down for every side turning

            No, but riding a motorcycle does.

            1. websey

              Re: @Carl W - I don't personally agree but...

              I have taken to pointing out to people the part of the highway code they have broken when I am out on my bike,

              This normally reduces the effectiveness of having a bike in traffic etc but I feel it is my public duty....

              But my feeling is everyone should have at least a year on a motorbike before they are allowed in a car.

              On topic I wonder what a RoboBike would be like ....

          2. Graham Marsden

            @AndrueC - Re: @Carl W - I don't personally agree but...

            > Ultimately there's not much it can teach you about vehicles who - despite having great visibility of you - choose to pull out at the last possible minute.

            Perhaps you should try joining your local IAM group, you might learn differently.

            It teaches you to make Driving or Riding Plans which start with three simple questions:

            1) What can be seen?

            2) What cannot be seen?

            3) What might reasonably be expected to happen?

            The answer to Question 3 in this case is "that vehicle might pull out".

            As Pete65 points out, try riding a motorbike. You soon learn to assume that *every* vehicle in a side-turning is going to pull out in front of you because "Sorry, Mate, I Didn't See You".

            1. AndrueC Silver badge

              Re: @AndrueC - @Carl W - I don't personally agree but...

              Perhaps you should try joining your local IAM group, you might learn differently.

              The answer to Question 3 in this case is "that vehicle might pull out".

              And..so what? What exactly are you expecting me to have done differently?

              That's a wide open country road with good visibility. Here it is from the start of the derestricted zone with the entrance in question just visible in the distance (not easy to see with Street View but it's past the first of the rightward kinks in the distance. That's over 400 metres of wide open road. If I'd been driving at anything over 40mph I'd still have had to brake quite heavily. Are you suggesting that I should drive along wide open country roads at 30mph on the off-chance that some bell-end pulls out in front of me?

              'cos I can tell you now all that will do is cause dozens of vehicles to jam up behind me or attempt dangerous overtakes out of sheer frustration.

              Are you expecting me to slow exponentially as a I approach the junction so that I'm always able to stop in time? 'cos that's going to make me look like I'm turning off and people behind will either overtake or the vehicle waiting will pull out.

              Sooner or later there comes a time when there is nothing you can do to avoid a collision. In this case I was lucky and didn't even skid. But to suggest that there is always a way to avoid a vehicle pulling out of a side junction in front of you is silly.

              And FYI I've been a member of the IAM and I know how they drive along country roads. You would get a roasting from your observer for dribbling along at anything less than 50mph on that road and probably dinged for not hitting the speed limit.

              1. Graham Marsden

                Re: @AndrueC - @Carl W - I don't personally agree but...

                > Are you suggesting that I should drive along wide open country roads at 30mph on the off-chance that some bell-end pulls out in front of me?

                No, I'm not. And (since you're a long-time Commenter on El Reg's Forums) you should be familiar with the fact that I am not impressed by Straw Man arguments.

                > to suggest that there is always a way to avoid a vehicle pulling out of a side junction in front of you is silly.

                I agree, that is why I did *NOT* suggest that. But you can make a Driving Plan which takes such possibilities into consideration to reduce the chances of you needing to "slam on the anchors".

                Did you consider using your horn as an "audible warning of approach"?

                1. AndrueC Silver badge

                  Re: @AndrueC - @Carl W - I don't personally agree but...

                  Did you consider using your horn as an "audible warning of approach"?

                  No. If you've looked at the Street View links you'll see that the traction engine should have been able to see me approaching for several hundred metres or several seconds. Then there's the fact that they slowed and stopped, to all intents and purposes waiting for me to go past. When they actually started moving it was too late to sound the horn and anyway more important that I kept both hands on the steering wheel.

                  But you can make a Driving Plan which takes such possibilities into consideration to reduce the chances of you needing to "slam on the anchors".

                  Well you've suggested sounding the horn but I can hardly do that every time I approach a junction when a vehicle is waiting or I might end up being fined for excessive use. I'm not sure you understand that everything was tickety boo until the traction engine started moving when I was barely a hundred metres from it.

                  You've ruled out the straw man of driving everywhere at 30mph so what else is there? In fact why don't we use Street View to pose the question. Here's one of the views of that section of road (give or take a hundred yards). What speed would you be driving at this point? And following on from that - what are you going to do here if the Range Rover starts reversing out of the drive?

                  Now one answer is 'overtake' and indeed I was prepared to do that but I hope you'll concede that overtaking in that situation is a risky manoeuvre. It could make a bad situation even worse and if the vehicle (the Range Rover here) is going in the opposite direction it will block both lanes so you're screwed.

                  1. Graham Marsden

                    Re: @AndrueC - @Carl W - I don't personally agree but...

                    As has already been stated, it's clear that you don't ride a motorcycle...

                    > the traction engine should have been able to see me

                    And then, when you're lying on the ground, someone would no doubt have uttered the phrase "Sorry, Mate, I Didn't See You".

                    > to all intents and purposes waiting for me to go past

                    You assumed this. Doesn't make it a fact. If you ride a bike, you soon learn never to assume anything like that, because it doesn't make the ground hurt any less thinking "I was in the right" as you're flying through the air.

                    > you've suggested sounding the horn but I can hardly do that every time I approach a junction when a vehicle is waiting or I might end up being fined for excessive use

                    Really? "Sound your horn whenever you think another road user could hear and benefit from it" - Motorcycle Roadcraft - The Police RIder's handbook to better motorcycling.

                    And the Highway Code now just says not to use your horn "in an aggressive manner".

                    > what are you going to do here if the Range Rover starts reversing out of the drive?

                    Let's go back to IPSGA:

                    Information: There's a vehicle on the left which may reverse out. I don't know whether it's coming or going, so treat it as a potential hazard and plan accordingly. There are no on-coming vehicles. It's a National Limit, so I'll probably be doing around that limit. Check the mirrors for traffic coming up behind.

                    Position: As there are no oncoming vehicles, I'm most likely already positioned in "track two" (ie the line of four wheeled vehicle tyres closest to the centre line), but, absent any other vehicles, I may well consider moving across the centre line to give myself as much clearance as possible.

                    Speed: If that vehicle decides to start reversing out, I want to give myself as much time as possible to react and sufficient braking room, so start to slow down.

                    Gear: As I'm slowing down, I'd drop down the gears so I'm in one that will give good power response if needed.

                    Acceleration: When I get to the point that I'd have to reduce my speed much further, I'd consider accelerating and using the opposite lane in an "overtake" style manoeuvre to get past the vehicle as quickly as possible. Or, if I'm still unsure, slow right down.

                    All the time, I'd be updating my Information (which, of course, runs throughout the entire IPSGA system) and using the principle of TUG (Take, Use, Give) to Take information (look around, watch for the vehicles wheels starting to move, look for people getting into or out of the vehicle etc), Use (plan what I'm going to do) and finally Give: Consider sounding my horn to make them aware of my presence (and giving a friendly wave as I pass to let them know that I wasn't being aggressive).

                    1. AndrueC Silver badge
                      Meh

                      Re: @AndrueC - @Carl W - I don't personally agree but...

                      So after all that what you think I should have done is, by and large, what I did do. I did chose braking heavily rather than bleeding off some speed earlier but then I was on my own and knew what my vehicle could do on that road so no harm done. I also thought that if I slowed on approach it might encourage them to pull out especially after they'd apparently seen me and come to a stop.

                      The only major difference is that you seem to think that overtaking is the preferred option to get out of trouble whereas I preferred to keep that in reserve in the event of my vehicle or the road catching me out. I would always far rather use my brakes that move out onto the opposite carriageway. For one thing there might have been people about and one of them might have thought the traction engine slow enough to let them dash out and cross the road in front of it. At the point of starting the overtake I'd have been relying on my memory telling me it was clear and that's far from ideal.

                      For another I so very rarely use my brakes in the first place. My idea of standing on the anchors is probably just standard fair for most drivers. I know my ABS didn't activate and I don't even think my seat belt locked.

                      1. Graham Marsden

                        Re: @AndrueC - @Carl W - I don't personally agree but...

                        > I did chose braking heavily

                        You described what you did as "slamming on the anchors" which sounds to me like an Emergency Stop or something close to it. If you'd done that with an Observer in the car, he'd probably have had a few words to say about it.

                        > The only major difference is that you seem to think that overtaking is the preferred option to get out of trouble

                        a) that was related to the situation you describe and

                        b) on a motorbike, often it is the best option to get yourself away from a dangerous situation as you've got a lot more acceleration available.

                        YMMV.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Smith and Jones Sketch

      "a traction engine"

      Farmer looking through his binoculars waiting for a car along the empty road before pulling out with his tractor

  8. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Umm...

    Well, if they were a lane width apart there was no near-miss. But, if the Google car caused the Delphi car to abort a lane change, then yes, the Google car cut the Delphi car off, or the Delphi car did not "look" before it started to make a lane change, or it was excessively cautious. Does this happen to me? No.... I look before I signal and make lane changes, so I don't have to abort lane changes. And, if I'm signalling and performing a lane change and someone else is veering around from lane to lane without signalling, that is what my horn is for; they (the one who is not signalling) can damn well wait until they learn to signal their lane changes.

    Of course, I doubt they were REALLY lane width apart at the closest -- why would either car abort doing anything if they were not (at some point) at least in adjacent lanes (which is NOT a lane width apart....)?

    Are they going to start having robot wars? "If you buy a GM car, better not go to Mountain View, those Google and Delphi car computers are having a feud again." 8-)

    1. davtom

      Re: Umm...

      You really think indicating first gives you leave to complete your manoeuvre by moving from lane 3 to lane 2 and you would not abort it because somebody else decides to move from lane 1 to lane 2?

      See you on the news someday when your use of the horn isn't heard by a deaf driver who wanders into your lane by mistake.

      Meanwhile, the robot driver that is performing DEFENSIVE driving will be happily cruising on its way.

  9. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Slow News

    Day Week?

  10. MondoMan

    Hidden trans agenda?

    I find it amusing that the original typo rendering San Antonio Road as "San Atonio Road" has now undergone a transition to "San Atonia Road" in the followup article.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, basically ..

    This whole debate is about the meaning of the word "near" in "near miss".

    Excuse me while I yawn..

  12. ilmari

    It would be interesting to know if the Delphi car did anything except signal lane change before aborting, or if it had already started moving.

  13. Filippo

    It was a poor idea for the Delphi exec to diss Google about the non-crash. At the current point, both Google and Delphi and anyone else who's into self-driving cars should prioritize making the public feel safe about the whole concept.

  14. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Both automated vehicles did exactly what they were supposed to do.

    The Audi was tailgating?

  15. EJ

    I'd tend to believe the exec who was actually in the car rather than Delphi, who has something to lose if the story is true. Then again, if Brian WIlliams, formerly of NBC, was in either car, then I'm probably back to believing Delphi.

  16. Fungus Bob Silver badge
    Coat

    Perhaps the robocars were a bit horny

    And wanted to engage in a bit of auto eroticism...

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