back to article Self-driving vehicles might be autonomous but insurance pay-outs probably won't be

I enjoy travel but I do not fly well – especially if the aeroplane’s wings are rusted, the tail has been attached with vinegar and brown paper, and the undercarriage is still sitting in the ditch it fell into at the end of the departure airport’s runway some 300 miles away. As you might have guessed, I am a big fan of the TV …

  1. chivo243 Silver badge

    Paint and pavement

    Wow, start calling the UK Hollywood. I've seen shoddy pavement and I've seen painted dirt, but painted pavement, that's livin' large...

  2. Tony S

    I think that the autonomous car is a "good thing"; I suspect that this will lead away from car ownership and much more towards a business model where people simply hire or lease a vehicle when they need it. It will then go on to the next job or park itself until needed.

    But there's one thing that bothers me about this scenario; how do they get cleaned?

    I take care of my car interior; it general gets cleaned at least one a week, I don't smoke, eat in the car, or have any ankle biters to leave toys, or soiling from various body fluids. But a lot of people I see simply can't be bothered and the interior of their vehicle seems to go from "immaculate" to "war zone" in the time it takes for them say "Please sit still darling".

    As for trains, I know that they get cleaned at night, but when you see the amount of crap that gets left behind (including soiled napkins containing, well... crap), after every single journey, it seems to show that most people don't give the furry crack of a rats arse about how much litter they drop.

    It's also not just the Yoof or Chavs; I've seen people in Armani suits in Business Class that seemed to leave more litter behind than the Welly Wearing Hordes of Glastonbury. True, it's a better class of rubbish; half empty bottles of Prosecco, bags that contained sliced smoked salmon, copies of the FT and Times where they tried to pretend they were filling in the crossword, but instead were making words up, or the remains of St Agur and Ritz crackers.

    At least if it's your own car, you can sit in your own feculence if you choose.

    1. Roq D. Kasba

      Cleaning the car

      I can imagine half a dozen models for this - at the moment Car Clubs face this identical problem and seem to be managing it pretty well. Autonomous vehicles would have a higher duty cycle, but could also schedule in their own quick trip to a valet point every few trips, every 50 miles, twice a day, whatever. I imagine if you summon one and it arrives filthy, you can hit a 'previous occupant was scum' button and it'll take itself offline and send you a replacement, maybe even sending the previous occupant a cleaning bill.

      They will need to refuel periodically, that would seem a smart time to give them a good wipe-down, far easier than a car club faces having to send humans to the vehicle as well. I really don't see this as an insoluble problem.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Cleaning the car

        Sorry, but this is a bigger deal than you make it out to be.

        I decided not to use a car club, because of the penalties if something went wrong.

        I don't often spill coffee in my car, or drop crumbs, or anything.

        But I want to be able to feel that I can.

        And for more frequent use, to have my buttons on the radio.

        And not need to adjust the seat, mirrors and heating.

        And be able to decide to take a detour and make a journey longer than intended, or risk getting stuck in traffic without time penalties and extra costs.

        1. Def Silver badge

          Re: Cleaning the car

          And for more frequent use, to have my buttons on the radio.

          And not need to adjust the seat, mirrors and heating.

          My guess is there will be an app for that at some point in the future. Carry your personalised settings from car to car. Or more specifically, it'll be part of the app you use to summon the car in the first place.

          Also if you're no longer driving, why do you think there would be mirrors?

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Cleaning the car

            Also if you're no longer driving, why do you think there would be mirrors?

            True, I was thinking of pool cars now, rather than eventually.

            But the other bits do hold. It's the feeling of familiarity I guess I mean.

            (Which, by the way, is one of the suggested reasons why we don't all drive safely - the car feels familiar and safe so we are not as aware of risk as we should be, like the idiots who come out of side turnings without looking.)

          2. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Cleaning the car

            "Also if you're no longer driving, why do you think there would be mirrors?"

            Who said anything about 'driving', talk to practically any woman and they'll tell what mirrors are for...

        2. IanDs

          Re: Cleaning the car

          So carry on driving your own car, and paying for it -- nobody forces you to use a car club, nobody will force you to drive an autonomous car -- at least, not for a long time. But expect it to get more expensive to insure in the short term, and maybe prohibitively so in the long term when <10% of the cars (manual) cause >90% of the "accidents".

          At the moment drivers get sued for this -- or their insurance companies do, at least in the UK -- but the general view is "well, accidents happen". When this is no longer the case, you can expect the blame (and cost) to shift much more heavily onto the driver for being stupid enough to endanger lives by driving a manual two-ton killing machine.

      2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Cleaning the car

        There are couple of ownership models. The current model where most vehicles are privately owned and one where most are owned by rental companies. The major driver will likely be insurance, particularly liability insurance. If cars are most fleet owned then it is likely the fleet owners will have refueling & cleaning stations scattered much like gas stations are today.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      it seems to show that most people don't give the furry crack of a rats arse about how much litter they drop

      Given the general shortage of rubbish bins on stations (largely due to the activities of assorted terrorist groups over the years), what do you expect people to do, carry their crud around all day? And what's more, when I leave my litter on a train, I am proudly keeping somebody in a job. And rail is no different to airlines, where the peasants disembark from an aircraft whose cabin then looks like the inside of a dustbin lorry, and a small horde of heroes climb into the be-shitted hulk, and rapidly convert it into a nearly presentable cabin. Cleaners of the world, I salute you!

      According to the Institute for Employment Research at the University of Warwick, there's 448,000 people employed in the UK cleaning industry. I'd argue that at least a third of those are employed in dealing with avoidable litter (as opposed to day to day grime and soiling), so that's about 115,000 people kept in a job by people leaving stuff on trains, planes, or round the office.

      So, Tony S, I kept 115,000 people in a job today. What did you do for society?

      1. Tony S

        @Ledswinger

        "So, Tony S, I kept 115,000 people in a job today. What did you do for society?" I suspect that's meant ironically; I don't think that you would actually be proud of littering. On top of that, you didn't keep 115,000 in a job, just made work for some poor schlep, probably on minimum wage.

        Some of the clean-up work is actually done by volunteers; the big beach clean-up for one. I've also assisted in several other major clear-up operations as a volunteer over the years. Last year, I was working 2-3 days a week, helping out with relief & recovery after a disaster, right through from January to December. I'm supporting a former colleague's charity that runs a food distribution operation in some fairly unstable parts of the world; they are currently on the Turkey / Syrian border, Haiti, Nepal, Punjab. (Sadly he was taken very ill a few months ago, although he is on the slow road to recovery).

        Currently, I'm working for a business that's providing a much needed service to society, moving people around. Waiting for yesterday's numbers, but on Friday it was 29,000 people we carried (an increase of 3% over previous Friday). (Oh and we employ a large team of 40 cleaners to wash and remove litter every night!) Of the approx. 500 staff employed by the company, about 90% of them are actually sending money home to support families in poorer countries.

        On top of that, I have a small amount of money "invested" in providing micro loans. It will never pay me a dividend, but it allows people in the third world to get a small loan that a bank would not be interested in; this helps a lot of people slowly move themselves out of the poverty trap. I have other money invested in "ethical" investment funds; of course they could be feeding me a line of BS, but they do report on activities and they seem to be focussed on doing the right thing.

        You might also like to know that I'm a blood donor; more specifically, a platelet donor. I used to be able to donate every 3 - 4 weeks, but as I'm out of the UK a lot of the time, I can only do this once every 3 months or so. It's a triple unit donation each time; one donated unit can provide enough for 3 or 4 adult recipients or 10 - 12 children, primarily those with major immune problems, mostly caused by chemo or radio therapy. Although 60% of the adult population in the UK could give blood, only 4% do. I've been a donor since 1981.

        There's nothing wrong with donating money; but I feel that I would rather give up some of my time, or provide my knowledge and skills.

      2. Marcelo Rodrigues
        Devil

        "...And what's more, when I leave my litter on a train, I am proudly keeping somebody in a job..."

        Well, the morticians eat too. Are you doing your part, by dying, to keep them employed?

    3. earl grey Silver badge
      Trollface

      "the furry crack of a rats arse"

      I'm not sure we want to know how you know about that.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I suspect that this will lead away from car ownership and much more towards a business model where people simply hire or lease a vehicle when they need it."

      The snag with this is that people generally seem to need vehicles at more or less the same time to get to & from work. A hire model is going to have one of two outcomes. There probably won't be a vehicle when and where you need it or the investment needed to provide sufficient vehicles is going to make using them about as expensive as owning your own anyway.

      1. Adam 1 Silver badge

        > The snag with this is that people generally seem to need vehicles at more or less the same time to get to & from work

        Two options for handling this.

        1. Some sort of Uber style auction model. You want a car at that time or wait 30 minutes and save 5 quid. Moves discretionary journeys out of the peak times (which in itself is a good thing).

        2. Ride sharing. Are you the only one travelling that particular route? Does someone three streets away work in the next building. Surge pricing (point 1) is less of a problem when the bill is split 2, 3 or 4 ways.

        Also note that once your car drops you it will go straight to the next job, meaning no parking hassles or fees. That job will likely be close in distance to your drop off point so it means another otherwise empty car that would have had to fight traffic into the city can be avoided.

        It may be many years before we stop thinking car ownership is quaint, but the "second car for work" use case starts to become difficult to justify.

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Road Markings

    as in the UK, the authorities simply haven’t bothered to retouch the flaking paint on its motorways for decades?

    If you think that is bad then take a trip to the USofA. There the road markings are in yellow. Our white (no matter how faded) markings are a gazillion times better than those on the other side of the pond.

    Sometimes (and even with LED headlights) it is hard to make them out.

    If we as mere slabs of meat (a.k.a. Humans) have problems then at the current level of AI I really would not want to try out a automated vehicle in the USA especially at this time of year with all that leaf fall which .... seems to be very close in colour to the road markings said leaved inveitably obscure.

    BSOD's in a flash methinks (or the ARM/whatever equivalent) as the poor computer gets horribly confused.

    It might be ok for the likes of Google to test this kit in calm benign California Cities but try it in The Applachians/Rural New England at this time of year. I'll bet that the results are anything but a success.

    Now Mr Dabs, would you care to explain about this £59 quid plug you have trouble with on Trains?

    I guess that you are talking about the whole PSU including brick? Don't they come with pretty standard leads these days. Even an Apple laptop power brick will take a standard 2 pin Figure of 8 lead.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Road Markings

      If you think that is bad then take a trip to the USofA. There the road markings are in yellow. Our white (no matter how faded) markings are a gazillion times better than those on the other side of the pond.

      Sometimes (and even with LED headlights) it is hard to make them out.

      If we as mere slabs of meat (a.k.a. Humans) have problems then at the current level of AI I really would not want to try out a automated vehicle in the USA especially at this time of year with all that leaf fall which .... seems to be very close in colour to the road markings said leaved inveitably obscure.

      I'm not sure it's that bad - cameras have a different perception to ours, and may see colour differences that are too subtle for us. By way of illustration, I have an app on my phone which can tell my heartbeat simply from scanning my face. Due to a calm temperament and a lack of alcohol abuse I lack the throbbing veins on my face that would have made that easy, so it does it on colour alone. I happen to have very good colour vision (well above average, also known as "even better than a woman"), but I can't see it - yet the app can. I extrapolate from that a possibility that this may also apply to lines on the road.

      Even if they don't throb rhythmically.

      1. Keef

        Re: Road Markings

        "Due to a calm temperament and a lack of alcohol abuse I lack the throbbing veins on my face that would have made that easy"

        Why are you here?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Road Markings

          "Due to a calm temperament and a lack of alcohol abuse I lack the throbbing veins on my face that would have made that easy"

          Why are you here?

          Well, I didn't mention drugs.. :)

          1. Sarah Balfour

            Re: Road Markings

            What's alcohol, then…? Or caffeine…? Or don't you drink coffee/tea/cocoa/energy drinks, either…?

            People seem to be of the belief that drugs = substances prohibited by law, or those which the quack scripts 'em (same thing in many cases).

            Least you're not the government, alcohol isn't a drug according to it, either. According to a clause in the heinous Psychoactive Substances Bill, alcohol only becomes psychoactive if a psychoactive substance is added to it (yes, seriously; if it ever becomes law - and, please Offler, I hope it doesn't, I'm campaigning to get the Misuse of Drugs Act pemanently repealed - it would, effectively, make DUI legal, if you consider the definition of 'psychoactive' to be 'affecting the brain and influencing behaviour'. My tolerance for stupid people is low anyway but, when stupid people are in charge of the country. What the fuck am I saying…?! These are TORIES we're talking about, it's not so much stupidity, as calculated wilful ignorance).

            G'night.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Road Markings

          Why are you here?

          QOTW.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Road Markings

      If you think that is bad then take a trip to the USofA.

      Or France, where (no doubt after years of Gallic research) they have come up with road marking paint which disappears in the rain at night. All markings then appear as black-on-black.

      This may explain why French drivers treat road and lane markings as optional, of course.

      1. Uffish

        Re: Road Markings

        May I suggest a Google satellite view of the Arc de Triomphe roundabout* for a good example of French road markings.

        *L'Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile, 75017 Paris, 48.873772, 2.295012

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Road Markings

      How about a snowstorm? One of the ones in the Midwest that go for a day or two and the plows can't keep up with it? You drive by following the tire tracks of the previous trucks and cars. There is only one color... white. Everything is white including that normally big blue semi-tractor/trailer combination coming down the road.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Road Markings

        How about a snowstorm? One of the ones in the Midwest that go for a day or two and the plows can't keep up with it?

        Yup, that needs a system that can work even when the snowplough marks have gone. Where I live they have sticks next to the road that still give you a rough idea where the road is, because the snowplough needs to have that info too to "rediscover" the road.

        Where I see real automation challenges is handling iced up hill roads. I'm a reasonable driver in those conditions, but I'm not sure I would manage without all 4 wheels driven (and by that I mean a decent system, not the excuse they seem to fit to BMW X5s). To get an AI to behave correctly in those conditions is going to take a while..

        1. IanDs

          Re: Road Markings

          Why would it take so long, it's a relatively simple problem in physics to do with grip, slip angles, coefficient of friction, spotting ruts and so on? For sure, most drivers can't behave correctly in these conditions either going by the number of 4x4s you see in ditches every time it snows...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Road Markings

            Why would it take so long, it's a relatively simple problem in physics to do with grip, slip angles, coefficient of friction, spotting ruts and so on?

            Well, a correctly configured AI would tell you to fit snowchains, full stop. There are really a LOT of variables involved, many of which you can't measure until it's too late to do anything about it. Black ice and wet, glacial surfaces are examples of them. Besides, just because you can /measure/ something doesn't mean you can do something about it - I've done enough emergency work to know that the *sane* option would be to go home and have a cup of coffee, but that doesn't help anyone.

            For sure, most drivers can't behave correctly in these conditions either going by the number of 4x4s you see in ditches every time it snows...

            Confirmation bias: the ones you see ditched are a minority to the ones that managed - or you would see those too. Driving in snow does take some training and experience, but if you have a modicum of exposure you'll pick it up. It's mostly about anticipation and retraining your immediate reactions, like hitting the brakes when things go wrong (NOT a good idea with limited grip).

            I suspect the people who ditched are the sort of idiots who think that having 4WD somehow magically alters the laaaws of Physics (sorry, channelled Scotty there), and that's where Darwin eventually tries to remove them from the gene pool.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Road Markings

          "Where I see real automation challenges is handling iced up hill roads"

          An AI only needs to be taught how to handle that _once_ - and in a lot of cases I've observed the meatsack will keep going long after it got far too dangerous to consider doing without adding chains - which invariably results in a hill near me having 5-8 crashed cars/4wds on it every time it snows (which then get trashed and burned by the local ne'er-do-wells before recovery trucks can get in)

          The AI will at least refuse to continue and find an alternate route if possible.

      2. IanDs

        Re: Road Markings

        So you think you can tell the difference between one shade of white and another better than a computer hooked to a high-res camera? Bet you can't...

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Road Markings

          I didn't say I could see better but you have a point. The catch is "high-res camera" possibly with IR, maybe. Will they actually be "high-res" and imaged processed as such, or will we see the makers saving a few coins by using cheaper equipment? When the snow get really deep and the plows have made the road into a canyon things get shall we say, less than optimal.

          1. IanDs

            Re: Road Markings

            You're still fixating on the relatively rare occasions where a *good* driver (not many of them about, in spite of what everyone thinks) might do better than an automated one.

            These are massively outnumbered by all the rest of the time when the reverse will be true, because most drivers on the road today are *not* good -- and certainly not all the time. Automated cars don't get tired, inattentive, phone or text during driving, run red lights, ignore road signs -- all the things that people do all the time which cause most "accidents".

            The statistics will be hugely in favour of automated cars, and it's this that will drive things like insurance and lawmaking, not the exceptions -- which will undoubtedly get rarer as the cars get better.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Road Markings

              You're still fixating on the relatively rare occasions where a *good* driver (not many of them about, in spite of what everyone thinks) might do better than an automated one.

              I think it has more to do with 30+ years of experience with computers and the people that program them. You may point out that computers may not tire, but the code is written by humans. Worse, in the case of Google it's written by people who have no problem running a permanent beta and who "accidentally" managed to install full WiFi intercept kit in their surveillance Streetview cars. I wouldn't trust these people to write code for an electric toothbrush, let alone for something that can kill me if it goes wrong.

  4. mr.K

    This is what regulation is for

    This is just one of these things that can't be left to the industry as it isn't today either. What a third party insurance (I think that is what you call it at least) covers is defined by the government, or rather governments, and not the insurance companies. Whether this the insurance comes from the car company itself or an insurance company should not really matter. And we can easily see that we will be required to keep the third party insurance regardless do have an insurance company cover us for any liability that the car company manages to put on us in the legally dubious EULA.

  5. John Hawkins

    Urban buses replaced first?

    I can see urban buses getting replaced by autonomous vehicles first - fairly predictable conditions and in many cases right-of-way lanes. Autonomous minibuses every 5 minutes instead of articulated monsters every half-hour.

    Pedestrians could be dealt with using small water cannons - would provide entertainment for the bus passengers also.

    Tractors might be first in rural areas - $action = "plough"; $depth = "b"; $field = "nw_wood"; $gps = true; $start_date = "2020-09-10"; run(); - would save cropping farmers a lot of time.

    1. John Arthur
      Go

      Re: Urban buses replaced first?

      You might find that the tractor idea has already been thought of:

      http://21stcenturyequipment.net/are-we-ready-for-autonomous-tractors/

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        @John Arthur -- Re: Urban buses replaced first?

        They don't even need full autonomy. Many of the farmers I've been around, start down the field, watch TV, etc. At the end of the row, they turn it, line it up and go back to their movie. They usually get the kids to drive the tractor for plowing and planting... little skill required.

        Some of the newer ones are almost ready... including the harvesters.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Urban buses replaced first?

      I can see urban buses getting replaced by autonomous vehicles first - fairly predictable conditions and in many cases right-of-way lanes. Autonomous minibuses every 5 minutes instead of articulated monsters every half-hour.

      Not a chance. You're dealing with a transport union. If they are happy to go on strike if transport is trying to sack a driver for being drunk on the job, do you really think they will go quietly if you tell them they will no longer have a unionised member driving the bus? It's not that they care for the driver, but every driver/member removed means less power and leverage.

      Which happens to be just about the best possible argument for automation.

      I do like the water cannon idea. If you mount them inside the bus you could also automate dealing with drunk idiots about to vomit during night service, people using their phones on loudspeaker (music or call, both are irritating) and idiots smoking right next to the door.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Urban buses replaced first?

        Thing is with a driverless bus you can go nuclear on the drivers' union. If you fire the whole lot for redundancy, there's little recourse left; even the courts will find it difficult to rule in favor of inefficiency.

        But will an autonomous bus be able to negotiate sabotage like caltrops and barricades?

        1. John Hawkins

          Re: Urban buses replaced first?

          Drivers, or lack of requirement for drivers, is the big improvement I see for public transport for lots of reasons. More engineers probably, but not as many.

          Sabotage stops buses today; don't think that would make a difference. Punctures and other breakdowns are dealt with by a couple of mechanics in a van already; would be the same with an urban autonomous bus.

          Biggest risk I see is buses getting hacked, but the way things are going all new vehicles - drivered or not - are likely to be at risk by then anyway.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Urban buses replaced first?

            Point is there wouldn't be reason to sabotage buses until this point. Look at what happened to Uber in France. What did the traditional taxi riders start doing? Physically attacking Uber cars and drivers. The same could happen to driverless buses. The fired drivers will likely engage in a sabotage campaign on the driverless buses. Maybe caltrops for starters to puncture hundreds of bus tires at once (so as to overwhelm the repair crews), next probably find ways to lure buses to crash into other cars, walls, etc. so as to demonstrate they're not safe.

            1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

              Re: Urban buses replaced first?

              I suspect the roll out to urban transit will lead to featherbedding. The drivers also double as the conductor so one role will not disappear for awhile.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Urban buses replaced first?

                This result would mirror what happened when lifts became automated. Originally they needed operators to handle them, and when that need ended (via automation) the operator job persisted for some time. Some of this was due to featherbedding and some was because people felt nervous without the operator. I expect the same will happen with autonomous cars.

                Actually there are still some lift operators here and there, but their job is now to control the passengers, not the lift. ;-)

  6. Herby Silver badge

    Traffic? Traffic!!

    Having passed TWO Google self driving cars in the past 24 hours (they were going in opposite directions), I wonder as well. We here in the golden state do drive a bunch, and with family in the opposite ends of the state (300+ miles away) I wonder if they can actually handle it. The mix of city highway and Parcheesi playing on I5 (with trucks lorries), it becomes exciting. Oh, and how does one re-fuel the vehicle.

    As for traffic, we have that as well. I280 southbound at 5pm is a nice moving parking lot.

    Life goes on, and how does one cross a BOFH with a self driving car. THAT would be exciting.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Traffic? Traffic!!

      Oh, and how does one re-fuel the vehicle.

      You already know.

  7. Your alien overlord - fear me

    You shouldn't be worried about falling 20,000 feet vertically. That's perfectly fine. You should be worried about the sudden stop at 0 feet. That's the painful bit.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      You shouldn't be worried about falling 20,000 feet vertically. That's perfectly fine. You should be worried about the sudden stop at 0 feet. That's the painful bit.

      Like this? :)

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: falling 20,000 feet vertically

      I'm scared of heights and scared of falling. I'm not scared of landing. In fact, when my plane lands, I'm quite happy about it.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: falling 20,000 feet vertically

        Note Terry Pratchett's view.

        It's not heights that kill. It's grounds

        .

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      You should be worried about the sudden stop at 0 feet.

      Nah, if you start at 20,000' you'll have passed out long before those last few annoying inches. No worries.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        RE:you start at 20,000' you'll have passed out long before

        30,000 maybe - I've wandered around quite happily at nearly 20,000 and not felt like passing out.

        And even if you do pass out as the air gets thicker you'll come round.

    4. Doctor_Wibble
      Angel

      Adapting old techniques

      With modern materials you can have a *fold-up* telephone box to construct around yourself on the way down and to step out of just before you reach the ground.

    5. TitterYeNot
      Coat

      "You should be worried about the sudden stop at 0 feet. That's the painful bit."

      According to the old Paras adage, it's not hitting the ground that kills you, it's the bounce you make afterwards.

      So if your 'chute doesn't open (or you're careless enough not to be wearing one), when you hit the ground, grip the grass with both hands and hold on like grim death itself...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Joke

        Reminds me of an old joke...

        What's the different betwen a bad golfer and bad skydiver?

        The bad golfer goes: Whap! "Oh crap..."

        The bad skydiver goes: "Oh crap..." Whap!

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
          FAIL

          Speaking as one who has fallen from ths sky

          and lived to tell the tale, though with a fine selection of internal and external injuries including broken ribs, broken vertebrae, punctured lungs, demolished spleen and the like, I can truthfully attest that it didn't hurt at all - I never felt a thing.

          I am told that I bounced six feet in the air after I hit the deck, but the last thing I remember is feeling the wing start to collapse and starting the correction for it; had I had another hundred feet of altitude I wouldn't have hit the ground at all.

          Hurt like buggery for months afterwards, mind.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Speaking as one who has fallen from ths sky

            Hurt like buggery for months afterwards, mind.

            Mostly when you laughed, right? (ribs) You've been lucky - congrats for still being with us.

          2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

            Re: Speaking as one who has fallen from ths sky

            Given two choices:

            (1) broken ribs, broken vertebrae, punctured lungs, demolished spleen

            (2) several months of daily buggery

            I think any sane person, of any sexual disposition, would opt for the buggery!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Speaking as one who has fallen from ths sky

              I make my own choices, and my third option would not end well for the wannabee buggeree :)

  8. Esme

    Excellent article again, Mr Dabbs! With regard to air travel, I'm wondering whether if you put some time in on a flight simulator it might help. I'm also extremely unhappy at altitude, but only when I'm in a building (possible fires starting below one, vertigo, etc). At the point where flight simulators became available on home PCs, I had a go at them, and really rather enjoyed them. I then found that my misgivings about aircraft had dwindled enormously, but if I ever had to go up a tall building, I kept feeling (along with the terror and vertigo, etc.) that it wasn't natural to be that high above ground without a pair of wings to assure a safe descent.

    Course, I haven't flown very often, nor been in one o'them huge buggers what looks like a tower block on its side with wings glued on, but materials science being what it is these days they're doubtless actually safer than the smaller older planes I have flown in (and yes, they were jets, I'm not THAT old!)

    On another topic, I gather from gentlemen friends that there is indeed a device that allows the male of the species to wee whilst in a car, albeit not whilst driving. Nor when I'm in the car, either, come to think of it,lest they expire from being ridiculed or a sharp blow to the head with a well-stuffed handbag. If roadside hedges were good enough for your grandad, then they're good enough for you, sunshine.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Flight simulators

      Have a go with the real thing. Then you get the vibration, proper sounds and visuals that can be iMax quality.

      Ok, I'm a bit biased as my first job was where the made the things in Crawley. Still involved with the Aviation industry 46 years later.

      Even so, I can understand your concerns. I know that you would not have liked being on the flight I took from Denver back in June. As we took off I counted six different tornados in the area. Rather bumpy for the first hour or so as the pilot flow around more tornados.

      1. Alistair Dabbs

        Re: Flight simulators

        Flying back to Yurp from Denver once, my plane was buffeted by tornadoes for more than an hour, the eventual flight path diversion extending the journey by 3 hours. By the time we landed, I was paralytic with "herbal remedy".

    2. TitterYeNot

      "On another topic, I gather from gentlemen friends that there is indeed a device that allows the male of the species to wee whilst in a car, albeit not whilst driving"

      In days of yore I shared a house with a medical rep, who used to drive up and down the country trying to sell fast setting plaster kits for broken limbs (why does that make me think of the Goons' Danger of Work Bell?)

      I'm still not sure if he was pulling my leg or not, but he assured me that one or two of his colleagues (both male and female), who sold their company's disposable non-invasive incontinence equipment, sometimes used said equipment themselves while driving endlessly round the country from hospital to hospital, so as to avoid toilet stops.

      Needless to say, I've never bought a second hand car from a medical rep, just in case...

    3. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Go

      On another topic, I gather from gentlemen friends that there is indeed a device that allows the male of the species to wee whilst in a car, albeit not whilst driving.

      There's this motorcycle rally in the US, called the Iron Butt Rally. You're supposed to manage four checkpoints in 11 days, with those points roughly at the four corners of the continental US, and that's just for starters. An interview with one of the participants mentioned he had fitted his Goldwing with a couple of auxiliary tanks, adding up to 45 gallons of fuel. With an (my estimate) 30MPG his range between fuel stops would be at least 1200 miles. Asked about needing to stop for reasons other than running low on fuel, he pointed to a tube running down his leg.

      The Iron Bladder Rally would be an equally apt name for the event.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The sooner self driving cars are a thing the better IMHO. The liability issue is an interesting problem. My guess is that the manufacturers will not sell self-driving cars they'll sell cars with increasingly large amounts of driver assistance features. In other words they will insist that it's you driving the car and the self driving features are little more than very clever windscreen wipers. A few pay-offs to the right politicians should see that thinking passed into law in no time.

    Thinking about it though Volvos position of accepting liability is just crazy. We have to assume that some self driving cars will have accidents and some of the time it will be the cars fault. Volvo would have effectively insure every car it makes for the lifetime of the car. If they stick with the current model of selling cars the entire cost of that insurance would have to be built into the sale price making their cars insanely expensive. The obvious alternative is to lease cars which I'm not averse to. It much rather lease a car on month by month basis getting the right car for whatever I'm currently doing.

    1. Ian 55

      Yep. I've long thought the problem isn't the technology, it's the insurance issues - I wouldn't want to be anywhere near the liability end of the very big, very sharp stick.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        I have a feeling the insurance companies wont like this.

        A self driving car is almost certainly going to have all the evidence it needs to defend itself and/or improve the software. I (optimistically perhaps) imagine that the engineering and co-operation of these vehicles will reduce accidents due to self driving cars. The end result will be far lower insurance for these vehicles followed by corresponding increases in manual vehicles and rapid uptake in self-driving cars and a much reduced market for the insurance companies.

        They probably wont be allowed though - co-operating cars optimising the use of roads might be regarded as socialism!

    2. DaveDaveDave

      "We have to assume that some self driving cars will have accidents"

      Why? There's a reason road safety experts insist on talking about collisions rather than accidents.

      The only conditions under which an autonomous car will be in a collision are that it was unavoidably hit by someone else - not its fault, no liability - or due to a previously unknown bug in the programming, in which case the manufacturer will be liable.

      1. Alistair Dabbs

        >> previously unknown bug in the programming, in which case the manufacturer will be liable

        This is precisely the topic of my column, Dave. To date, all software products demand that you agree to T&Cs that absolve the developers of consequential damages.

        1. DaveDaveDave

          "To date, all software products demand that you agree to T&Cs that absolve the developers of consequential damages."

          They also generally say that they own your firstborn, or some such. Doesn't make it true. There is absolutely no possibility that the manufacturer would not be liable, whatever spurious verbiage they've put in their T&Cs.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Joke

            You mean that I don't have to keep having children to pay for breaking the T&Cs?

      2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Road conditions, vehicle maintenance (lack of), software bugs, human stupidity, etc. will affect autonomous vehicles and cause accidents/failures. The rate is likely to be much lower but not 0. Some of these problems will be the fault of the owner others the manufacturer, etc.

        Ice on hilly roads will not be easy for autonomous vehicles. They will have problems with traction and stopping - basic physics.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Ice on hilly roads will not be easy for autonomous vehicles.

          FTFY

          1. 9Rune5

            Meanwhile, back in Sweden...

            Volvo announces the first fleet of autonomous XC90s a year (or was it two?) from now. But... They are only to be used during the summer...

            My own vehicle (a Saab) comes with "Lane Departure Warning". It warns me if I am about to cross the line so to speak, but it hardly works when there is any snow on the road (no lines to cross...). Nor is it able to read speed limits if the sign has been covered in snow.

            Driving in the winter is guesswork at best. You could be driving on black ice and the only indication would be the tyres suddenly going all quiet... So you have two choices: Drive 30 kph (safe speed for black ice in tight corners) all the time, or take calculated risks (means you can go 100 kph on most roads and not fall asleep long before you reach your destination).

            I do not see any viable solutions. At least not until we get higher resolution GPS and maps that update realtime. Plus sensors in the roads that keeps track of ice (well, an IR reading might help?).

            I view autonomous vehicles as being more of a marketing stunt than anything else.

      3. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        > The only conditions under which an autonomous car will be in a collision are that it was unavoidably hit by someone else - not its fault, no liability - or due to a previously unknown bug ...

        Or mechanical failure, or tyre blowout, or inability to differentiate between water and black ice* on the road ahead (ie before it's found itself on it), or sensor failure, or computer failure, or ...

        If, as hinted at with Volvo, the manufacturers simply refuse to allow the vehicles out in "other than perfect" conditions - or what we normally call "the real world" - then there'll be something of a backlash when we have the first good frost of autumn and no-one with a self driving car can get to work on time !

        There is the other issue that if the self driving car will not "break the rules" even in the slightest, then in many cases they'll get nowhere fast. We've already seem an example of this where a cyclist stopped a Google car, just think of the fun you can have "carving up" automated cars safe in the knowledge that they'll automatically back off. Best thing is, when you overtake one, you'll know that it's left a nice gap for you to drop into and it'll then back off to make way for the next car :-)

        * I wonder if they have a foolproof system for this yet ? Temperature alone won't do it - the road could be below freezing and the water be wet because it's salty, then you find a small bit where the salt has gone ...

        1. Swarthy Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Black Ice

          Why on earth would an autonomous car have any problems with black ice?

          Black ice is so called because it's refractive index is the same as water, and it doesn't have a layer of air between the ice and the surface, which makes it nearly invisible to the Mk1 eyeball. I would imagine that a car with IR cameras could tell the difference between ice and road; add in an IR touch-less thermometer and it can tell the difference between ice and water. which makes black ice no more difficult than regular ice.

          Actually, that would bake a good Driver Assist option: Black Ice Defender^W Notifier, to let you know where black ice is before your tires do.

    3. ciaran

      Eventually the insurance costs will go to zero..

      Eventually everyone involved - insurance companies, governments, manufacturers and users - will understand that on average there are less accidents and less costs with driverless cars. Eventually there will be a big cost incentive to buy a car without a steering wheel. At that point the insurance companies might well have a problem if the government decides to just levy a tax to cover liabilities...

  10. x 7

    so what happens to the car if the software hangs? or crashes......

    does a software crash result in a real crash? if the software has a hissy fit at 90mph on a motorway does the car stop dead in the road? if so, anyone inside could become also dead very quickly

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      so what happens to the car if the software hangs? or crashes......

      Are you suggesting it wouldn't be checked and tested to the very highest of standards, by world-class manufacturers like Volkswagen?

      1. lucki bstard

        The same way they tested diesel engines?? I can cope being injured if I screw up but not because internal company culture doesn't allow for issues to be rectified instead they are circumvented.

  11. moonrakin

    Autonomous general purpose self driving cars real soon ?

    Tesla's latest heavily hyped effort - oops

    That said 'Blighty has a leader in the field - who are recruiting tech types....

  12. Swiss Anton

    Get out and walk

    Imagine you are stuck in traffic, half a mile from your destination. One thing that you should be able to do with your self driving car is get out and walk the rest of the way. The car should then be able to complete the journey and park all by itself. However if nobody is in the car and it is involved in an accident, what then?

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Get out and walk

      IANAL but my wife worked in the "interesting claims" department of a leading motor insurance company. If you leave the keys in a car and it's running then you are responsible for it. For example if you leave the engine running and (automatic) gear engaged and your dog jumps onto the accelerator, then the last driver is responsible for what happens next.

      1. Known Hero
        Holmes

        Re: Get out and walk

        What if it's not your dog !!

        say your warming it up in the morning due to condensation, and a random dog jumps in !!!!

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Thinking about it though Volvos position of accepting liability is just crazy. We have to assume that some self driving cars will have accidents and some of the time it will be the cars fault."

    No, it will never be the car's fault. Lawyers are not only are they more effective than engineers at avoiding accidents, they can do so after the event.

  14. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    What about thinking about comparing with the liability of non-car type automatous devices? What's the liability if your central heating boiler blows up and damages next-door's house? If your freezer catches fire and damages your neighbour's house?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Those circumstances can be argued in a court. If the failure was spontaneous, then no one's at fault and insurance policies will need to foot the bill. The argument will be that the explosion or fire was the result of neglect in maintenance, at which point the homeowner can become liable, but again, that's a matter for the courts to decide on a case by case basis.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What's the liability if your central heating boiler blows up and damages next-door's house? If your freezer catches fire and damages your neighbour's house?

      I think my insurance would be absolutely delighted to sell me a collision insurance for both my boiler and my freezer. Heck, they might even throw in cover for my oven for only a little bit extra :)

  15. Dr_N Silver badge

    Snow, Rain, Slightly cloudy?

    I agree, weather conditions will be the downfall of driverless car tech/hype.

    Even now the collision avoidance systems don't work in rain.

    Driverless cars will be the "Virtual Reality"* of the 21st century:

    A much hyped tech with plenty of R&D spent on it but always to be 5 years away from that which is portrayed in film and on TV.

    *I remember when The-Man-In-The-Street thought that the Lawnmower Man would soon be a reality...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Snow, Rain, Slightly cloudy?

      Even now the Google collision avoidance systems don't work in rain.

      Fixed it for you. The systems developed by car manufacturers seem to have more depth to them than Google's idea of what automation looks like, probably because car manufacturers also already know about other things that can happen to cars like inclement weather, holes in the road and diversions, stuff that Google apparently managed to overlook despite having the largest database of roads in the world stored in Streetview and Google Earth.

      What baffles me most is the need for accurate roadmaps. That logic MUST be fuzzy because road mapping will *never* be accurate. There will be cars parked, street furniture damage, lightbulbs broken, diversions and even simply traffic jams that will require adjusting to. If they cannot see that even from day 1 I must admit to having rather severe doubts their use cases are up to much.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Snow, Rain, Slightly cloudy?

        "What baffles me most is the need for accurate roadmaps. That logic MUST be fuzzy because road mapping will *never* be accurate."

        The road's still there, though, unless you're saying road crews routinely realign roads 20 meters to either side without notice and on short order. No matter what ELSE is on the road, the map pretty much tells the Google car it's on THAT road. Now GPS as it is makes it impossible to reliably say WHICH LANE on that road you're on, but that's something for a future GPS to fix. Getting a better fix for what else is on the road is the function of the onboard sensors.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Snow, Rain, Slightly cloudy?

          "The road's still there, though, unless you're saying road crews routinely realign roads 20 meters to either side without notice and on short order."

          They're called road works. And yes, sometimes without notice and on short order if there's been damage to the carriageway.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Snow, Rain, Slightly cloudy?

          The road's still there, though, unless you're saying road crews routinely realign roads 20 meters to either side without notice and on short order.

          Really? Where I live they must have had a discount on roundabouts because the damn things are appearing everywhere, even on places where they really should not be. That's quite a change from the map because it doesn't just compel you to manoeuvre around a new obstruction, it also changes the road priority.

          As for the roundabouts, I think it's time to lob the one question to the council they will absolutely hate: are they aware they now incur the responsibility for delaying emergency vehicles?

        3. Known Hero

          Re: Snow, Rain, Slightly cloudy?

          unless you're saying road crews routinely realign roads 20 meters to either side without notice and on short order.

          Not much experience with British motorways then I guess, That is standard operating procedure.

        4. lucki bstard

          Re: Snow, Rain, Slightly cloudy?

          Around here there are people who can say quite confidently that 'Google doesn't know where my house is'. Autonomous car is a nice fantasy will be practical in carefully prescribed areas ie: factory, warm dry roads etc. The remainder will be as practical as the 'paper less office' that has still not arrived.

      2. Dr_N Silver badge

        Re: Snow, Rain, Slightly cloudy?

        "Fixed it for you. The systems developed by car manufacturers seem to have more depth to them than Google's"

        My post didn't need fixing AC.

        Also adaptive cruise control doesn't work in the rain for

        many models either. Google it.

        1. KjetilS

          Re: Snow, Rain, Slightly cloudy?

          What kind of car models would that be...?

          Mine works quite perfectly in all weather conditions so far. I haven't tried in a blizzard (yet), but I will probably not use cruise control in those conditions anyways.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scared of heights?

    Scared of heights ≠ Scared of flights

    I'm scared of heights.

    My flying instructor was scared of heights.

    We both really enjoyed flying.

    1. Stratman

      Re: Scared of heights?

      Me too. Terrified of heights, ladders, going near the edge of tall buildings and so on.

      I enjoyed my private flying, I've even opened the door of a 152 in flight to quickly cool the sun baked interior. I've also done a couple of static line parachute jumps for good measure, the first of which required me to climb out of the plane and stand on a step while holding onto the wing strut before letting go.. No fear at all.

      I'd love a psychobabbler to explain why I'm scared of some heights and not others.

      1. moiety

        Re: Scared of heights?

        One theory is that there's no direct line to the ground for your brain to fix on. As an example, most people can take the view from an elevated balcony in a mountainous area; the problems arise as you get closer to the railing and you get more visual clues as to the extent of "down" you're facing. The full-fat OH HELL NO! kicks in when you can see a direct uninterrupted route between yourself and the ground below and your brain can then estimate the precise distance and the likely effects of a plummet. That's also why you tell nervous rock-climbers not to look down because as soon as they do -and make the line to the ground- they often freeze up. Don't know if there's any science to back that up.

        Also there's the "immediate death vs. life in a wheelchair" thing.

        Being scared of ladders is pure common sense...they're bloody dangerous and kill way more people than -say- sharks every year.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Scared of heights?

          "they're bloody dangerous and kill way more people than -say- sharks every year."

          You really shouldn't swim with ladders !

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: Scared of heights?

            @moeity - I can speak from the experience of both myself and other paragliders I know: we are all perfectly happy bimbling around the sky at five or ten thousand feet with nothing but fresh air between our feet and the ground, but we still get that sinking-pit-of-the-stomach sensible cautiousness when approaching a vertical drop: say the edge of a dam or a high bridge. Curious.

          2. Esme

            Re: Scared of heights?

            Thanks for the tip! I've a flat with high ceilings, and the tube in the kitchen's gone, and I'm a tad too wobbly on ladders these days. I'll ask the local sea-life centre if they can loan me a few of their sharks to step on so's I can change the tube safely. Thank you!

  17. The H'wood Reporter

    Hmm, air travel or autonomous vehicles

    At this point most air travel is accomplished, for the most part, in autonomous vehicles. When the aircraft got to Cat 3 landings (flew down the approach path in zero - zero visual conditions) we were where cars want to be by 2025, or later (you can't trust auto manuf to give you the real scoop). Having safely flown into Heathrow, and Zurich in conditions that made me have (after over 2 million miles in the air) almost terminally sweaty palms - I can say that autonomous flight is way better than having a pilot fly you into a Provence mountain or where ever, but I digress.

    My problem is with the autonomous vehicles on the ground. Just because we have self-driving vehicles doesn't mean we've gotten rid of bad guys. As soon as they figure out that they can box in and stop an ADV (Autonomous Driving Vehicle - not advert, although with a captive audience so to speak ...) they will be all over that like flies on ... . You see, the first people to use the ADVs will be those who can afford them - just like those wonderfully GREEN Teslas, Prius, and BMW iX series, i.e. people with discretionary incomes larger than some GDPs. Perforce, their wallets will contain Onyx AMEX cards, and unlimited NetJet cards (with the chip, of course), so they will be the perfect targets for the 21st Century highway persons (no gender bias here, I've learned my lessons the hard way!).

    So what will the insurance companies do about that? Weapons on board anyone?

    1. moonrakin

      Re: Hmm, air travel or autonomous vehicles

      Cat 3 landings ?

      As winter approaches I expect to see more Cat 3 driving on the motorways - 70 mph + in dense fog with no lights in the twilight hours.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Hmm, air travel or autonomous vehicles

      "At this point most air travel is accomplished, for the most part, in autonomous vehicles."

      What's the minimum separation between aircraft in flight?

    3. DaveDaveDave

      Re: Hmm, air travel or autonomous vehicles

      " As soon as they figure out that they can box in and stop an ADV"

      As soon as anyone tries, the vehicle will recognise what's being done and call the police, spray smartwater from multiple orifices, and so-on.

      And I would also point out that scrotes could box-in any non-autonomous car, too. If they use fairly large vehicles, then even if you know what's going on you'd have no chance of getting out of that situation.

      "So what will the insurance companies do about that?"

      Since when has preventing and prosecuting violent crime been a matter for insurance companies rather than the police?

      1. moiety

        Re: Hmm, air travel or autonomous vehicles

        As winter approaches I expect to see more Cat 3 driving on the motorways - 70 mph + in dense fog with no lights in the twilight hours.

        They can be useful as a driving aid - the ones with lights on anyway. find one that's going the speed you want to go and hang back so you can see their lights and stop in the distance between you...if the lights disappear or go up in the air, hit the brakes. There is *always* a volunteer to take point.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Hmm, air travel or autonomous vehicles

          There is *always* a volunteer to take point.

          They are otherwise known as your "crumple zone".

          On a continued point: it is critical that if you drive a white, grey or silver vehicle that you must not, under any circumstances, turn your lights on when it's foggy. :-/

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hmm, air travel or autonomous vehicles

            "Crash dummy" is a better term for them.

    4. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Hmm, air travel or autonomous vehicles

      > When the aircraft got to Cat 3 landings

      There is a teensy bit of difference between that and an autonomous car. For the Cat III landing you have a big wide flat bit of tarmac/concrete with fairly known conditions (no potholes) and no other vehicles or pedestrians to get in the way. And if the inspections are being done right, there shouldn't be bits of the the previous runway occupant in the way either. It's similar to the rail system - it's so safe (in relative terms) even given the large number of passengers/vehicle and the speeds that travel at because it's (mostly) a known and segregated environment. Ie, when your Virgin Intercity service is tooling down the main line at !25mph (or whatever speed they do these days), it doesn't have to contend with some old fogey in a tweed cap pulling out in front of it, or some chav in a Saxo switching lanes without warning, or ...

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Hmm, air travel or autonomous vehicles

        ORLY?

        Another runway near-miss? Atlanta-bound plane nearly lands on occupied airport taxiway

        And there are plenty of other ways for landings to go wrong, such as storms, wind shear, and busted airport equipment.

  18. DaveDaveDave

    Forget the techies, ask professional drivers

    It's really very simple: it's possible to drive safely, without risking having a collision. It's rather terrifying to see how many people clearly don't realise that.

    Autonomous cars just won't do the stupid things that human drivers do because they're distracted, or unskilled, or tired, or impatient, or whatever. They'll drive at appropriate speed for the conditions, not try and push ten or twenty mph beyond that to save twenty seconds. When something happens, therefore, they will be able to stop.

    See, that wasn't so difficult, was it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Meh

      Re: Forget the techies, ask professional drivers

      > "Autonomous cars just won't do the stupid things that human drivers do..."

      Or any of the fun things, like slowing down when smoking hot pedestrians appear, or 'peeling out' in a cloud of burned rubber, or doing donuts in a dirt field, or revving the engine Just Because. No, they will be safe, boring transport for all, like in Woody Allen's "Sleeper," without even a beserk JohnnyCab to break the monotony. I can't wait.

      1. IanDs

        Re: Forget the techies, ask professional drivers

        Lots of accidents and fatalities -- often to other people -- are caused by drivers "having fun" on the public roads. If you want fun in a car, do it on a track or on a road with no other people to hit or kill when it all goes horribly wrong. I'm not against fun, just when it damages other people...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Forget the techies, ask professional drivers

          None of the things I described are particularly dangerous to anyone, unless you feel like nit-picking. Perhaps you are referring to things I didn't describe?

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Forget the techies, ask professional drivers

            "unless you feel like nit-picking"

            Nit-picking on ElReg? Surely not!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Forget the techies, ask professional drivers

              I stand corrected. Won't happen again.

  19. IanDs

    It's difficult to see how any decent autonomous car could be as bad at driving as the moronic meatbags behind the wheels of most of today's cars, they certainly wouldn't have as many "accidents" -- which is not what the emergency services call them nowadays because they rarely happen due to unforeseeable circumstances, "incidents" are what drivers cause by behaving like inattentive tired phoning texting looking at the girl on the pavement humans.

    Everyone who objects to them on the "what happens if they have an accident under these unusual circumstances?" grounds is ignoring the fact that they won't have most of the "accidents" that people do -- yes there will be cases where an accident happens because the software goes wrong or it can't cope with something, but probably at least 10x fewer than with people behind the wheel.

    Face it, most drivers are crap and most "accidents" are caused by drivers -- it would be pretty difficult to come up with an autonomous car as bad as this...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Face it, most drivers are crap and most "accidents" are caused by drivers -- it would be pretty difficult to come up with an autonomous car as bad as this"

      And VW wouldn't be in their present mess if end users didn't demand unnecessarily powerful cars with low fuel consumption.

      The average speed of traffic around most cities is around 12mph. Most of the vehicles stuck in that traffic can manage well over 100mph. A well designed autonomous system could deliver much shorter door to door times without anything ever going over 30mph in towns or 60mph on main roads. If the upcoming generation is more interested in the test results and pixel counts of their mobile phones than car performance, something like this might eventually happen.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "yes there will be cases where an accident happens because the software goes wrong or it can't cope with something, but probably at least 10x fewer than with people behind the wheel."

      Thing is, we don't completely know just what it takes to be a really safe driver (that is, be able to sense ahead of time that something's about to go wrong). A lot of drivers who avoid accidents attribute their evasion to a "driver's intuition," something that was sensed by the brain subconsciously and reacted to by reflex, without us knowing just what it was that set us off. So far as we know, computers don't have intuition, and since we can't figure out these warning signs ourselves (we do it without a thought), how do we pass "driver's intuition" to a computer-driven car?

      1. IanDs

        "Driver's intuition" is nothing more than careful observation and correlating this with what you know happened in the past, which is the kind of thing that autonomous cars ought to get pretty good at pretty quickly -- after all it's just extracting data and spotting trends/correlations, software can be pretty good at this.

        But you're still worrying about the wrong thing -- even if we couldn't give them "drivers intuition", for every accident caused by this they would probably avoid a hundred due to not driving like a twat, net gain 99 fewer accidents. Bad drivers driving like idiots cause way more accidents than careful observant drivers avoid with intuition...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          It's easy to say it's all a matter of observation, but to teach the computer (which tends to be lousy at nonlinear learning), you need to be able to tell the computer WHAT you observed that allowed you to dodge the crash. The thing about "driver's intuition" is that often we can't even recall WHAT we saw that made us move the way we did; it happens subconsciously and by reflex: two things that bypass our conscious brain. It's like the anti-swat reflex in a roach. Their legs don't think about it; they just go.

      2. tiggity Silver badge

        Some basic intuition algorithms would be quite easy e.g. beware tweed fabric..

        Catches both the white haired tweed flat cap wearer and the burberry draped chav, both examples of driver that are more likely than the average driver (in my experience) to do something a bit "unpredictable".

  20. Joe Montana

    Enjoy driving

    Perhaps we don't "enjoy" driving in traffic, but many of us prefer it to other forms of transport...

    Many people suffer from motion sickness, and generally (at least in my case) you don't feel sick when you're in control of the motion.

    Even if i was rich enough to afford a chauffeur to drive me everywhere, i would still choose to drive for this reason... Although i would probably pay a chauffeur to act more like a valet and take care of the car when i'm not driving it.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Enjoy driving

      I've never really understood why when driving you never(*) suffer from motion sickness. Doubtless it's something to do with concentrating.

      * There's always an exception: I've felt motion sickness when driving a Renault Twingo (not sure which year / model). The most hateful, idiotically designed vomit wagon I've ever had the mis-pleasure to drive.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Enjoy driving

        Motion sickness mostly comes from sensory deprivation. Your senses lose track of each other and send out conflicting signals to the brain, confusing it. The nausea is a reflex caused by the brain seeing the conflicting signals and wondering if part of the body is being poisoned. Vehicle sickness is often the case of the body feeling motion but not seeing it. Simulation sickness (and the cartoon trick of inducing seasickness) works the reverse: seeing motion but not feeling it.

        In your case, the driver is necessarily aware of the environment so is aware of the car's motion while passengers may not be paying attention. I know I try to avoid reading too much in an airplane because that kind of concentration can cause the sensory disconnect that triggers airsickness. How to deal with it depends on your situation. If you can look forward (especially if the horizon is visible), do that to re-orient yourself. If you can't see outside, close your eyes to make your brain stop trying to trust the eyes.

  21. Turtle

    300 Miles.

    "I enjoy travel but I do not fly well – especially if the aeroplane’s wings are rusted, the tail has been attached with vinegar and brown paper, and the undercarriage is still sitting in the ditch it fell into at the end of the departure airport’s runway some 300 miles away."

    You know, in The Air Age, 300 miles is not really all that far away, In fact, they could get it to the destination airport by truck in less than 6 hours.

    So you're really making a mountain out of a molehill.

  22. 404 Silver badge

    Things to help those cars along

    While I like driving for the most part, after living in the damn desert for 25+ years in Arizona with the damn sun beating down on you, I enjoy driving in bad weather. Increases the difficulty level you might say and I glory in it. I just turned 180k miles on my 2008 mid-size truck with a 2.9l 4cyl, bought her new from the stealership 7 years ago. I know every damn inch of that truck, tweaking her engine, transmission, electronics, and suspension to my satisfaction. She's predictable. My problem is other drivers, they are not predictable and do stupid shit all_the_time. I would resent autodriving cars but can see the benefit of getting that extra sleep in between appointments. Never enough time in the day to get everything done being self-employed so sleep suffers.

    Anyway.

    Possible solutions for the autdriving car: Reference cable embedded in the roadways, cars always knows where it's at and can cross-reference with GPS when off grid secondary roads until every_single_secondary_road 50 years from now gets one. If ambitious, inductive power charging cables embedded for vehicle use. Or mix a material in the paint that is reflective to radar so the vehicle knows it's physical location in relation to spacing within the lane and GPS world location for directions.

    Afterthought: Having seen some extraordinary traffic line painting skills displayed by some public service agencies/contractors, the possibility of spilling your beer is quite likely.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Things to help those cars along

      "Possible solutions for the autdriving car: Reference cable embedded in the roadways, cars always knows where it's at and can cross-reference with GPS when off grid secondary roads until every_single_secondary_road 50 years from now gets one."

      Another and more plausible possibility would be to improve the resolution of civilian GPS down to less than a meter. With that high a precision, a car can reliably determine not just which road it's on but which lane of that road, in which case it should be able to figure out its position even on an unmarked or covered road, as long as data on that road was given to it beforehand (and with things like OpenStreetMap, this can be arranged if necessary). Now, in sky-sparse areas like tunnels and high-rise cities, an alternative would be useful. But instead of embedding wires in roads, I was thinking along the lines of GPS augmentation beacons which can be installed above ground which transmitted their pre-calculated locations on a regular basis to provide a means to triangulate position when the satellites aren't available.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Things to help those cars along

        Trouble is, it's difficult to get things that accurate that consistently with a satellite-based system due to atmospheric interference. This is why if you try to see a map while standing still (and it doesn't correct this) your position can drift around if you stand still. Not only that, ground-based locations also drift bit by bit over time due to plate tectonics, and these movements are exaggerated after earthquakes, meaning ground-based beacons will still need periodic recalibration. Finally, the road itself may suffer a mishap: a complete blockage, landslide, washout, or collapse: none of which may be known in advance if they just happened. Lastly, what if some troll decides to monkey with people's GPS receivers by blasting out a false signal or otherwise jamming it?

  23. BobRocket

    ADV's are the future

    and I can't wait.

    ADV's will be a godsend, if you tailgate one it won't get shirty, it will slow down.

    If you start to overtake* it won't take that as a personal affront, it will maintain course and direction, possibly easing off the gas slightly to allow the overtaking vehicle to safely complete its manouvre.

    It won't randomly brake or drive in the gutter (drivers that do this make me nervous)

    ADV's will drive to the Highway Code.

    Will I have an ADV ? Absolutely not, I love driving and given clear conditions I drive faster, brake later and corner tighter than most but I'm happy to pootle along behind someone who is content doing 40 in a 60 zone as long as they are doing it predictably/smoothly and are considerate to other road users.

    *assuming a safe place to do so, if you try to overtake one in a dangerous/reckless manner then I would hope it would take avoiding action whilst reporting you (it has the video evidence)

  24. Chris G Silver badge

    GPS

    Should not be the primary navigational reference for ADVs, there are too many things to go wrong with it; sun spots, electrical storms and solar flares for instance ( plus currentlythe US military).

    Although I am in the 'Pry my cold dead hands from my steering wheel' category, I really think individually owned and autonomous cars are not that smart an idea, really they need to all be networked while in traffic areas and only have autonomous capabilities when going off network such as out in the sticks.

    Something like a travel card that you can use in any unoccupied vehicle where you can input your destination, sit down and let the network do it's thing makes more sense to me.

    Just don't expect me to like sitting in a souless piece of hive mind transport.

  25. John Tserkezis

    "Five of those and a bag of nuts usually does the trick."

    Had a friend who was unconvinced that a large chunk of metal could fly, he could only get into the plane if he was entirely completly rip snorting drunk. (back in the days when you could still do that).

    The family knew this, and would setup and prepare prior to any required flight.

    Last time he flew, all went well, staggered down the aisle, plopped down on his seat and fell asleep soon afterwards.

    He woke before they landed.

    I would like to say the shit hit the fan. But I can't. It was worse.

    On the upside for him, this was before the era where smiling at the stewardesses not only will get you shot on board, they chop up your body into small pieces and mount your head out the front of the airport to discourage other travellers from molesting staff again. When did saying "nice tits" go out of fashion?

  26. Steve Crook

    Missing the point.

    If accident rates are lower than accident rates with driven cars (which they'll have to be for the cars to be acceptable) then the insurance premiums will be lower.

    As for attribution of fault, I'm assuming that the driverless cars will have (at the very least) front and rear cameras, a full record of what the system thought it was doing around the time the crash occurred, speed, distance from other cars, air temp and very probably road conditions.

    I suspect that it's a non issue.

  27. earl grey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Can't say i share fear of flying or love of auto-bot cars

    Don't mind flying of any kind; even in bad weather (and been in plenty of it). Fear of idiots in cars - yes. No desire to now own my own vehicle so i'm not riding in some poxy mess left by other driver / passengers....thus no desire to ride on a bus (or certain trains or planes...ugh). Mayhaps this old person is spoilt.

  28. jtaylor

    Mark Twain

    This reminds me of what Mark Twain wrote about the effect of the Pilots' Benevolent Association on riverboat operations. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/245/245-h/245-h.htm#linkc15

    Basically, a small group of riverboat pilots agreed to cooperate with each other, and only each other. Once this Association grew and their service came to be in demand, their cooperation gave them a powerful edge on safe riverboat operations. When an Association pilot stopped in port, he would get the latest news of river conditions ahead; much better information than independent pilots could get. After a while, insurance companies noticed that claims were lower with Association pilots, and they set their rates accordingly. Those insurance rates compelled operators to use Association pilots rather than the independents.

    I could imagine a time when some percentage of motor vehicles are "Certified Safe-Driving Vehicles." They communicate with other such vehicles about road conditions (vehicle speeds, visibility and weather, data from anti-lock brakes, obstructions, and any avoidance maneuvers) to prepare for potential emergency situations. Manufacturers demonstrate that such vehicles are much less likely to collide with obstructions, to dent other Certified vehicles, to have single-car accidents, and such. Insurance then starts to factor this into their risk matrices and thus their pricing. Insurers agree to no-fault any collisions between such vehicles. As the percent of Certified vehicles increases, insurance rates put progressively more pressure on drivers to use these Certified vehicles.

    This depressing idea allows for automation at any level. It's all just a risk calculation, and therefore a price decision by the driver.

    1. IanDs

      Re: Mark Twain

      I might be depressing, but it's exactly what will happen. In the end it is all down to risk -- try telling someone whose relative was killed by someone having "fun" in a car that it's OK to act stupid while piloting a couple of tons of metal at high speed -- the one taking the risk not being the one who got killed.

      Nowadays people who to have major fun in a car go to track days, where they can burn rubber and crash to their heart's content without damaging anyone else. In future maybe this will be the only option unless you can afford stupidly high insurance premiums -- and even then think of the resulting outcry when (for example) a Saudi prince "having fun" runs over and kills a toddler (aww, think of the little kiddies!). Maybe anybody driving manually then becomes a social pariah, just like smoking over said toddler is seem as today...

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems easy enough...

    For riders in the autonomous car? Do what the airlines do, with the Montreal convention. By accepting a ride under autonomous control, you waive the right to sue for damages, and accept $75,000 as the maximum amount you'll ever get. Will stop those ludicrous American lawsuits for a gazillion-bajjilion dollars every accident they have.

    For an innocent third party not at fault, hit by a malfunctioning autonomous car? That's the interesting question. Logically, liability should fall purely on the car manufacturer. It should be possible to own one of these things without even needing motoring insurance. When'd you last worry about being liable if your taxi driver hit someone driving you somewhere?

  30. scrubber

    An earth pin made of plastic is not an earth pin.

    BSOD might be a little bit too literal in an autonomous car.

    Can we up the speed limit with no wetware to mess things up?

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      >> An earth pin made of plastic is not an earth pin.

      OK, describe to me the plastic pin that goes in place of the earth pin (required in order to push a UK plug into a UK socket) in TWO WORDS.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Probably "Dummy Pin". The appliance doesn't need earthing but needs the plastic pin to open the shutters on the other two.

        1. 404 Silver badge

          Shutters?

          What shutters*?

          *mind you the time I spent in Britain was limited to 4 hours chatting up two RAF women while waiting for a replacement of the C130 I was riding that broke on the way over to Germany in 1984. I don't even know what base it was...

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Shutters?

            Britain uses what's known as the "Type G" plug and socket system. The sockets are typically designed so that the live and neutral connectors are covered by a spring-loaded shutter. Think of it as a way to keep curious tots from sticking nails in them. The earth/ground pin on a G plug is (as it should be for a safe plug design) longer than the other two. When you push the plug into the socket, the earth pin pushes a lever inside the socket that raises the shutter on the other two pins. Anyway, type G plugs are bulky because they must include internal fuses, and most devices are expected to have an earth wire and a metal earth plug. Some devices, though, don't need earthing (double-insulted stuff, for example). But they still need the physical plug so as to raise the shutter. Thus, the plastic dummy pin.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Shutters?

              As for the official name for the plastic dummy pin, which I learned after the fact, it's a minimum of FOUR words: An Insulated Shutter Opening Device (ISOD).

          2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

            Re: Shutters?

            > What shutters*?

            The ones that are integral to all BS1363 (aka "13A")sockets and must be there to comply with the spec. IIRC the method of operation is not specified and there are a number of different operating modes, but no BS1363 socket should allow anything to be poked into the line or neutral receptacles without the earth pin being inserted first.

            In many designs, the earth pin simply pushes a plate down an uncovers the holes. In some better designs, the earth pin unlocks things, but it still needs both line and neutral pins to push on the shutter for it to open - the latter is to avoid the "shove the cam down with ${random small device} and stick the wires in" option that's possible with the more basic designs.

            As an aside, the dimensions for the holes are not specified. The size of the pins of the plug are specified, and the socket is required to cope with that (with a set tolerance). There is also some interesting, and frightening, information on the Fatally Flawed website.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heights

    Height is alright, the more of it the better. It's the ground (or water) at the bottom that can get a bit uncomfortable.

    (skydiver, pilot, Alpinist)

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I like driving

    This fellow's a bit of a prat, isn't he! But then it's just clickbait day.

  33. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Volvo autonomous braking failure

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNi17YLnZpg

    In fact, search YouTube for 'Volvo autonomous braking failure' and you'll be entertained for hours.

  34. x 7

    autonomous cars won't be safe for routine use until they can negotiate Wrynose and Hardknott passes at night in mid winter in a snowstorm.

    and thats on top of the need to be safe on "normal" roads like city centres and motorways.

    I'd love to see Google send their vehicles over the Lakeland passes - they'd be foxed by the first hairpins and single-track passing spaces, not to mention the 40% inclines. And as for the suicidal Herdwick sheep.....

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "suicidal Herdwick sheep"

      Other breeds of sheep are available and none of them have road sense.

  35. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Oh Mr. Dabbs, you poor deluded child...

    > I would very happily sacrifice the dubious pleasure of this driving experience by sitting in a car that did all that stuff for me while I did something else, such as read or sleep or watch a film.

    Once driverless car have replaced the taxi industry, it is only a matter of time before the windscreen is replaced with a large TV monitor showing continuous adverts throughout the journey. You'll have to pay extra extra to watch a film and double-extra to actually see the scenery go by. Even then your journey will be periodically interrupted by "status messages" informing you that there are "Only ten miles to go. Would you like to stop at McDonalds first? There's a drive-through only 2 minutes away. Place your order by phone now". C.f. the 'quiet' carriage on the train that still announces the list of stations at every stop.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Oh Mr. Dabbs, you poor deluded child...

      You'd think they'd have done that on trains and airliners by this point, though...

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Liability

    With self driving cars, what happens with regard to dangerous driving? So if the car goes out of control, speeds, whatever, and kills someone, who is responsible? At the moment if my kid gets run over by someone, then they are liable and then have to suffer the legal consequences. If a self-driving car goes out of control and kills someone, who goes to jail? The programmer? The CEO? Not likely. I appreciate I am a bit of a luddite and I know self driving cars are much safer than cars driven by most drivers today... BUT if someone dear to me is killed due to a programming error, I would expect to see someone as criminally liable? Meaning jail time if the law so decides.

    And if no one is liable - well - in that case lets not licence these cars?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Liability

      "If a self-driving car goes out of control and kills someone, who goes to jail?"

      That's assuming a self-driving car can lose control through its own fault. Otherwise, it could be chalked up to an "Act of God" much like spontaneous airliner failures for which no blame can be assigned, either (you want your answer, consider airliners).

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The stranger stops and looks at you pointedly, whereupon you realise you have been saying all this aloud."

    pppfFFFFTT!! Its an old gag, but still resulted in coffee on my keyboard. Thumbs up Alistair. Nice bit of light hearted reading to distracted me from this machiavellian piece of code someone just gave me to simply 'add my piece into' ... appreciated.

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