back to article Boffins teach cars to listen for the sound of a wet road

The sound a tyre makes on a wet road could become part of the road safety arsenal, if a proposal submitted to an IEEE publication becomes widespread. Pre-published at ArXiv, the idea comes from a group of German and US boffins, who reckon that deep learning techniques can help cars detect not only that the road is wet, but how …

  1. Your alien overlord - fear me

    And the sound of black ice on the road is ....?

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Black ice doesn't make a sound until after, when you hit the tree...

      1. Known Hero
        Thumb Up

        Dammit Gene, you beat me to it :(

        was going to say, Cars also to learn to listen for the sound of them hitting a tree to slow down.

      2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Or...

        End up in a ditch facing the way you came

        Thankfully said ditch was not filled with water unlike a cousin of mine who put his XR3i into a fenland drain near Ramsey. He had an early bath.

    2. Blergh

      Funny that. This morning, on the way to work, I was thinking about just the same thing, self-driving cars on icy roads. I supposed all the current testing is done in California where the weather is pretty good all year around and therefore the cars don't get practice in different conditions. It would be a bit rubbish if the car just decides it won't drive if the temperature goes below 3C. I guess the long term goal would be for a self driving cars to be better at driving than any human, including rally drivers on an ice stage. Now that would be a commute!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "[...] self-driving cars on icy roads."

        In Stockholm, Sweden they don't put salt on the roads because the temperatures drop too low for it to have any effect. The snow ploughs remove the loose snow - leaving a hard compressed ice layer that really needs studded tyres to get a grip. They do spread gravel - which in my experience can be counter-productive by acting like ball bearings under braking wheels.

        I wonder how good AI will be at recognising that an elk is about to amble across the road in front of the traffic?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I wonder how good AI will be at recognising that an elk is about to amble across the road in front of the traffic?

          As far as I recall that has only ever been a problem for Mercedes :)

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        You wouldn't say that after you've taken a run through Donner Pass. High altitude, significant grades, and frequent snow, often blowing to near-zero visibility.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > I supposed all the current testing is done in California where the weather is pretty good all year around

        You supposed wrongly. And the weather is not that good in Berlin or Bavaria, where autonomous driving technology has been under development for a number of years now.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It would be a bit rubbish if the car just decides it won't drive if the temperature goes below 3C.

        Like my Grandad,you mean?

        Maybe Google should start providing autonomous cars with flat caps for the cargo to wear?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "It would be a bit rubbish if the car just decides it won't drive if the temperature goes below 3C."

          Or when there's a hint of rain/wind/snow and the Met Office advises everyone to stay at home...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > And the sound of black ice on the road is ....?

      You get a PhD, apply for post-doc research grants, and pre-publish your results on ArXiv. If that process worked for detecting wet roads, why shouldn't it work for what you desire to know?

    4. auburnman
      Trollface

      If only there were some other way of measuring or predicting if the conditions are likely to be icy. I'm no scientist, but I'm told ice is usually quite cold. Maybe our top boffins could see if there's any pattern to how cold it has to be before ice forms and invent some form of... I don't know, thermal meter or something?

    5. PassiveSmoking

      You could measure the temperature and if it's low enough for black ice to be a possibility then adopt the required driving style. If they're connected to the internet they could even download weather reports to refine the decision.

      As for detecting it in real time, I'm pretty sure it's more reflective than a normal road surface so maybe that could be used to spot patches of the stuff?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "As for detecting it in real time, I'm pretty sure it's more reflective than a normal road surface so maybe that could be used to spot patches of the stuff?"

        That's why it's called black ice. Black ice is transmissive, not reflective, so light passes through it, making it nigh invisible. Plus as the article notes, it could be happening at night on a rural unlit road. Either way, you can't rely on light to detect a patch of black ice ahead of time. About the only way to do it properly would be some kind of active forward 3D imaging system that can detect the smooth surface of ice even in pitch black. Something like that I think is still some time off due to the processing requirements and time constraints.

        1. Teddy the Bear

          trasmissive but refractive...

          Black ice will still be refractive or at least will change the properties of light going through it - couldn't it be picked up with IR? Or couldn't the IR be used to spot it - there will be a temperature difference between it and the road, surely...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: trasmissive but refractive...

            Refraction won't help much in pitch dark conditions since the light has to come from the car, and as noted, black ice practically doesn't reflect, meaning anything coming from the car isn't likely to come back to be detected. As for surface temperature, a cold road is one of the conditions needed to make black ice (which is actually a kind of ice glaze that freezes so quickly it doesn't cloud up).

          2. Muscleguy Silver badge

            Re: trasmissive but refractive...

            A distance runner in Dundee writes: the bits of the path that are not white crunchy frost are ASSUMED to be icy until when forced to negotiate them they are found not to be. Note here in Dundee at this time of year and throughout most of the winter I frequently run on unlit paths/roads in pitch darkness relying only on a head torch (a Petzl Tikka Plus2, a very good model).

            I once ran 17.8miles almost entirely on white crunchy frost at at least -10c. The icy bit was the flooded bit of the cycle path I couldn't avoid. I was first one through that morning, probably due to the cold. Usually a cyclist had broken the ice before I got there. This time I had to do it. Thick stuff in water half way up my calves. I high stepped it so my foot was coming down perpendicular to the ice.

            Further technical note: my twin skin socks meant 200m down the path from the water my shoes were squelching, my leggings were wet but my feet were dry. Another 200m and they were warm again. Now THAT is tech.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "That's why it's called black ice. Black ice is transmissive, not reflective, so light passes through it, making it nigh invisible."

          Driving back from Scotland at night some years ago I came across a minibus sideways across the road and a couple of cars who'd managed to stop without hitting it. It was a black Tarmac road and at best one could say it looked a bit wet. You could barely walk on it, it was so slippery. Being a very narrow road, about the same width as the length of the minibus, it took about 8 of us to push the minibus around to get it straightend up. We were struggling to get traction with our feet but we pushed that damned minibus sideways, not along it's normal axis of travel. Those wheels just slid sideways relatively easily.

          I can tell you I took it very, VERY carefully past that bit of black ice and for the rest of the trip home!

      2. NotBob

        Somehow I think it would cause more problems than it solved to adopt an appropriate speed for black ice any time the ground temperature was below a given point.

        Then again, I'm no scientist. There could be more to this.

      3. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Ah, no. Black ice is called black ice for a reason. No reflectivity. Having driven mountain passes daily for many years, you just assume it's there from temperature and few other clues, like cars off the road.

        And when you hit it, it's too late do much except ride it out. The key is to assume it's there and drive accordingly.

    6. Graham Marsden
      Boffin

      @Your alien overlord - fear me

      Driving on black ice makes *less* noise than a normal road surface, so if the microphones pick up a reduction in road noise and you've got a temperature sensor that detects that the surface is below freezing, it's a pretty good indicator.

      Also the steering gets "light", ie inputs become easier (because the wheels may be slipping) and, of course, at worst, there may be understeer.

      All of these can checked by an autonomous car.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And the sound of black ice on the road is ....?

      SCRCHHHHHH "Arghhhhhhh...ooof...oh, bugger..."

    8. Fungus Bob Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: the sound of black ice on the road

      "SHIIIIIT!"

  2. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    What the what?

    74 per cent of weather-related crashes in the US are down to a wet road surface,

    As opposed to being a nice sunny day?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What the what?

      > As opposed to being a nice sunny day?

      Sun dazzle? 8-)

    2. PassiveSmoking

      Re: What the what?

      As opposed to wind, snow, ice, fog...

    3. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: What the what?

      As opposed to being due to drivers not driving to the conditions in front of them...

      Wet roads don't cause crashes - they are the same for everyone, and all the cars in front of you managed to get past it...

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: What the what?

        Not true. Every car that passed it altered the conditions of the road by driving through it. Furthermore, it's rare for two cars to be exactly alike in terms of physics when they pass over a wet road. What one car can pass safely another may not simply because they're lighter/heavier, have less downforce, balder tires, etc.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: What the what?

          "Every car that passed it altered the conditions of the road by driving through it."

          Yes - but not to the extent of making a dry road wet.

          If you are driving *that* close to the edge of the physical capabilities of your car then get the hell off the road and onto a track where 'getting it wrong' doesn't have the potential to kill bystanders (yes marshals occasionally get killed, but they're made aware of that risk when they sign up)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What the what?

            "Yes - but not to the extent of making a dry road wet."

            But YES to the extent that the parts of the road that are wetter and such differ from car to car as the previous car's tires displace the water what was there.

            "If you are driving *that* close to the edge of the physical capabilities of your car then get the hell off the road and onto a track where 'getting it wrong' doesn't have the potential to kill bystanders"

            Question: How do you KNOW you're close to the physical capabilities of your car at that given moment?

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: What the what?

              "Question: How do you KNOW you're close to the physical capabilities of your car at that given moment?"

              Because I've done various amounts of driver training, including skid pan sessions. I also have eyes and ears, and choose to drive *well within* the capability of the car and road in front of me, it's not a race.

              "I'd rather arrive 5 minutes late in this world than 50 years early in the next..."

              Most mechanical devices will give you feedback as you approach the limit - for instance tyres start squirming (and the traction available actually increases up to a certain slip angle).

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: What the what?

                "Because I've done various amounts of driver training, including skid pan sessions. I also have eyes and ears, and choose to drive *well within* the capability of the car and road in front of me, it's not a race."

                Thing is, the capability of the car changes over time, and what you THINK is the capability of the car may not be the ACTUAL capability of the car. Remember, the average person keeps a high opinion of oneself which leads to inherent overconfidence.

                "Most mechanical devices will give you feedback as you approach the limit - for instance tyres start squirming (and the traction available actually increases up to a certain slip angle)."

                And sometimes they don't warn you at all, like a sudden blowout, by which time it's already too late.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: What the what?

      "As opposed to being a nice sunny day?"

      A friend of mine is a New Orleans native. His description of what happens when they get a rare snow flurry is pretty much like what happens in the southern parts of the UK. The whole place grinds to a halt because the drivers have little to no experience at how to drive in even a light dusting of snow and the authorities don't have large numbers of gritters/ploughs on standby for a once in 10 year event.

  3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Detecting a wet road alone isn't very useful,. Water on top of good tarmac is far less dangerous than water on tarmac which regularly gets diesel and oil dripped on it. A road that is just wet after a shower can be far slippier than the same road after a downpour that has washed all the oil off. Then there's rural wet roads with tractor mud (or worse) on them, the effect of worn tyres, etc.

    Sounds like just another pointless gadget designed to lull the careless drivers into a false sense of security. How long will it be before insurance companies start increasing premiums for cars with excessive driver "aids"? They don't care about advertising and boffins, just the hard numbers.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Saw sign in north west London the other day... Mud on Road. Just as the radio started playing "That's right right, that's right, that's right, that's right... really love your tiger light."

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Agree with Phil (is it me or are there a lot of rabid downvoters on this thread?)

      How much better is it than say existing car sensors such as wheelspin/traction sensor, windscreen wiper sensor and humidity sensor?

      I suspect that for 99.9% of scenarios a simple feature map would do the job just as well.

      Seems like a total overkill solution looking for a big enough problem tbh.

      Still at least they got a grant out of it.

      1. 9Rune5

        "How much better is it than say existing car sensors such as wheelspin/traction sensor, windscreen wiper sensor and humidity sensor?"

        Traction control gives you feedback only if you push the big pedal and push it hard. An autonomous vehicle is not going to do that. Heck, very few drivers do that. I'm a somewhat aggressive driver (well, my Saab is very easy to drive, so...) and with only 260 bhp I rarely see the traction control warning light flicker on. I can hear the tires squealing often enough though, but that is not enough to trigger the traction control warning light. (nor do the tyres squeal loudly when the road is wet)

        The wiper sensor tells you if it is raining. But it tells you nothing about what is actually on the road. The road might be relatively dry still while the winshield gets splashed with water from a passing truck hitting a puddle. Or maybe it stopped raining 10 minutes ago and the road's drainage needs work and there is still plenty of water left.

        As for a humidity sensor... Does your car have one? Mine doesn't. Again, it doesn't tell you what the road is like. That the atmosphere is humid gives you a small indication that something is up, but it is hardly conclusive.

        I would also like to point out Volvo's trial project in Gothenburg. That is a summer-only project. They are not ready yet for a winter trial.

        Somebody further up pointed out successful trials in Bavaria. I'd love to see some references. Particulary their winter driving experiences.

        I don't see any solutions here, but given the number of companies dabbling in this area I guess I must be wrong. Where there is smoke there is fire, etc... It will be interesting to see what they can accomplish in ten year's time.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "A road that is just wet after a shower can be far slippier than the same road after a downpour that has washed all the oil off. "

    In Pretoria, South Africa there is a long sunny winter with no rain. During that period the roads accumulate a layer of oil and rubber that has no particular effect on driving conditions. The first few days after the spring rains there are numerous car crashes until the now slippery coating is washed away.

    1. Yugguy

      You can get that in the UK near farm or field entrances after the tractors shed the tons of muds that's on their tyres. It can make the roads quite slippy in damp conditions.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But doesn't heavy rain also raise the risk of hydroplaning?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But doesn't heavy rain also raise the risk of hydroplaning?

        Not for a good driver who is paying attention, instead of assuming the car will deal with it by itself.

  5. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Meh

    Hmmmm...

    At the risk of sounding harsh, perhaps drivers who can't detect a wet road using their senses shouldn't be driving.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmmm...

      You didn't actually read the article did you?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmmmm...

        > You didn't actually read the article did you?

        He didn't say anything about human drivers.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Hmmmm...

          Who needs to read something when you can listen to it?

      2. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge

        Re: Hmmmm...

        I read the article, but I concede that I may have read too much into it. The creeping development of certain systems in cars troubles me. Developments like ABS and traction control are excellent improvements and have saved lives, for sure, but other systems (e.g. "lane awareness") creep into an area where the driver is partially abdicated from the need to drive, but is still required to be in control of the car. In short, driving becomes more like a video game experience IMHO with an increasing disconnect from the real world where hard, sharp and rough things can injure you, your passengers, and other road and pavement users.

        I'm not advocating a return to 1920s seat-of-the-pants driving (when motor fatalities were higher, I know) but I believe driver awareness and defensive driving techniques are a better way to proceed.

        1. Yugguy

          Re: Hmmmm...

          Me too. You don't need lane awareness alerts. You don't need cameras to read the road speed signs.

          You just need to open your eyes and look further than the end of your bonnet, something which it seems many drivers are spectacularly unable to do, so events occuring a hundred yards down the road appear as a complete surprise to them until they come into the 10 foot range.

          I think it's because most people are thick as pigshit and frankly life in general is a series of completely unforeseen consequences as they lack the ability to view or plan further ahead.

      3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Hmmmm...

        You didn't actually read the article did you?

        You assume that because the research is aimed at "autonomous and semi-autonomous" cars today, it somehow won't end up as a gadget in tomorrow's luxury saloon?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Hmmmm...

          Ah, yes, of course. Like the autonomous wipers and ice detectors and adaptive controls.

          So an acoustic road surface profiler would be able to adjust the car's traction systems for wet surfaces, freshly tarred surfaces, loose chippings, toad crossings etc.

          Now if only they'd find a system that tells the effing oversensitive ABS in my Prius that it's a pot hole causing the wheel rotation variation, not lack of traction. Losing the brakes on the approach to a fast roundabout which just happens to have a very rutted, potholed bit at a critical moment scares the bejesus out of me.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the car ... won't drive if the temperature goes below 3C.

    "It would be a bit rubbish if the car just decides it won't drive if the temperature goes below 3C."

    Was it last winter when parts of the US were a bit colder than they had been in recent decades?

    A little birdy tells me that what you speculate about did actually happen. Problems with a small number of low volume high value transport (often used by high net worth people), which refused to start because the temperature was implausibly cold (not 3C, well below that) according to the engine control unit, which diagnosed a temperature sensing problem and refused to even limp home.

    1. AndyS

      Re: the car ... won't drive if the temperature goes below 3C.

      >Problems with a small number of low volume high value transport (often used by high net worth people), which refused to start because the temperature was implausibly cold (not 3C, well below that) according to the engine control unit, which diagnosed a temperature sensing problem and refused to even limp home.

      Link? Not that I don't believe you, but that seems, well, very unlikely. I'd like to see something that backs it up, before I believe that the software engineering teams behind the development of a high-value engine control system failed to anticipate that it might get cold outside.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: the car ... won't drive if the temperature goes below 3C.

        "the software engineering teams behind the development of a high-value engine control system failed to anticipate that it might get cold outside."

        Sorry, no link, people I know still work there.

        Nobody failed to anticipate it might get cold. But like many others they failed to anticipate just *how* cold it might get last year in North America [1] and yes I should have been clearer about this.

        The software team used what they thought were reasonably tight but reasonably plausible limits, as anyone might for an important parameter in a safety critical system. NB the software engineers wouldn't pick these numbers, they'd be given them by the engines/systems people.

        Last year parts of the US and Canada went down to almost -40C, which has not been experienced in recent years. If the engines/systems people had said "what's the coldest we've ever seen, go 5 degrees colder for margin", in those conditions the control unit might well have said "all temperature sensors broken, please call for service".

        I know I said "no link" but you might enjoy this one [2], not from America, not from 2014, but very related to what happens when the engine won't start because it's too cold out ('only' -35C in this case).

        [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_2014_North_American_cold_wave

        [2] http://www.kaiserair.aero/press_4_23_05.html

  7. Whitter
    Alert

    93.2 % accuracy

    Initially sounds a nice high number but just think of the error rate!

    1. AceRimmer

      Re: 93.2 % accuracy

      That would be 93.2% accuracy when only listening to the noise of the tyres on the road surface.

      Combined with the cars other sensors (e.g. vision) the accuracy should be much much closer to 100%

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: 93.2 % accuracy

      Combined with a cloud sourced (ho ho ho) data #whenwillitstopraining, slurping of regional weather records and roadside atmospheric monitoring stations, geo-fencing around Manchester where it is always raining, slurping the fault reports from regional water supply companies, humidity sensors and rain sensors in the vehicle etc. I reckon they could push it up a bit further. Still doesn't account for Trevor and his regular Sunday morning car washing ritual, but hey, it's never perfect. Of course, if you've got these vehicles feeding BACK to a regional resource centre, then your accuracy would increase even further.

    3. PassiveSmoking

      Re: 93.2 % accuracy

      That's why it's still a prototype :)

      1. Yugguy

        Re: 93.2 % accuracy

        Meh - I have a 100% accuracy rate when asked to decide if it is raining.

        I step outside. Oooh look it is/is not raining.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: 93.2 % accuracy

          Predicted using string theory.

          String is wet - it is raining.

          String is gone - hurricane.

  8. sysconfig

    So far they assumed

    that roads are always dry and straight, and the sun is shining?

    Despite all the progress being made (which is fantastic!), I think there's still a very long way to go until an autonomous car can outsmart a reasonably experienced driver. Tricky road conditions cause a lot of accidents. At least in Blighty you can encounter tricky road conditions even on dry, straight roads and excellent weather! (Some councils make sure of that by not spending any money where it's urgently needed.)

    1. AceRimmer

      Re: So far they assumed

      "Despite all the progress being made (which is fantastic!), I think there's still a very long way to go until an autonomous car can outsmart a reasonably experienced driver"

      All they have to do is to slightly outsmart the average driver then as a whole the population will be slightly safer.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      And the sun is shining...

      Obligatory link

  9. Nigel Sedgwick

    Timeliness of Information

    Why cannot the AI car do what the manually driven car does: have a look ahead at the road surface to determine whether it is wet, icy, oily, contains debris, has potholes, is flooded (especially useful this week in the UK), etc.

    Listening is so present tense: so past best usefulness!

    Best regards

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Timeliness of Information

      The trick is like with us: accurately identifying hazardous conditions ahead of time when they're not obvious. For example, black ice which is difficult to see or trying to do it at night when ambient light is low. Accurate detection of road conditions ahead of time is still much a Work In Progress.

  10. TRT Silver badge

    Would the CPU processing those audio data,

    be susceptible to cascade failure?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    solving the wrong problem

    The question should not be "are the roads wet/icy", it should be "how much grip is available". It should be possible to determine this fairly accurately by continuously monitoring the cars actual movements relative to control unit's application of steering, brake and throttle.

    The only thing that would catch it out is sudden changes in the level of grip available, which usually catches out human drivers too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: solving the wrong problem

      But monitoring the car's actual movements can be tricky, too, particularly if the car's not accelerating. It's the whole inertia thing, so it's just as hard gauging the car's actual-versus-desired movement as it is gauging the exterior conditions that could influence the car, but at least with the latter, you have plenty of options to use to figure things out.

      And detecting sudden changes in those conditions that could affect grip is something they're trying to do to make the car superior to the human in terms of catching dangers ahead of time. Thing is, it's still a work in progress.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: solving the wrong problem

      "it should be "how much grip is available"

      it should be "how much grip is available ahead"

      FTFY. The autonomous car needs to look ahead at the road conditions. It's a bit late if you're doing 70mph and don't react to the wet roads, flooding, black ice, whatever until the grip level changes.

      Despite some of the incredible work being done in the field, I suspect we are still a long, long way from the truly autonomous car that can take on all the tasks of a human driver. Pootling around towns and cities as taxis etc might arrive sooner, maybe even between towns where there are motorways or equally decent roads, but coping with country driving in bad weather might well be a "challenge" for another some other decade in the future.

  12. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Listening to the sound of the wheels on the road. Okay, good, yes.

    Or you could, like, check the wheel arches for water flow.

    What?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      "Listening to the sound of the wheels on the road."

      Wonder what they would make of spaced rumble strips? Some motorway surfaces in the UK used to have deliberately very noisy properties.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, can I now slow down a Google car..

    .. by taking a leak against it (when it's stationary, of course) ?

    :)

    1. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: So, can I now slow down a Google car..

      .. by taking a leak against it (when it's stationary, of course) ?

      It won't slow down by much though

  14. Commswonk Silver badge

    Red herring?

    I have stated before that I am firmly of the view that "autonomous cars" won't be able to work properly without real time data being transmitted to them from the roadside for a variety of purposes. (OK; then they aren't strictly autonomous </pedant>)

    If my belief is correct then "surface wet/icy/fuel spill" can be included in that data.

    Having said that don't some cars automatically switch on the wipers if they detect rain; perhaps that's special rain that wets the glass but not the road, but it's going to be bloody scarey for the contents of the car if it keeps going in wet conditions without switching the wipers on, particularly if the car decides something "doesn't compute, Captain" and requires the driver to take over.

    Brown trousers anyone?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Red herring?

      "Having said that don't some cars automatically switch on the wipers if they detect rain; perhaps that's special rain that wets the glass but not the road, but it's going to be bloody scarey for the contents of the car if it keeps going in wet conditions without switching the wipers on"

      Not forgetting the times you get to a stretch of road where it's recently been raining so you have wet conditions and no rain, so the automatic wipers don't trigger because there windscreen isn't wet.

  15. bed

    why were the cars on the pavement?

    Or were they on the sidewalk?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AI is not a substitute...

    ...for actual intelligence and proper application of it. AVs offer a lot of potential good in society but it would be incomprehensible to allow the herds of get rich quick charlatans rush half baked products into the marketplace that will get people killed. Google has already demonstrated why poor programming can get people in AVs killed. AI may have a place but all AVs must have failsafe designs and safety modes to get a disabled AV off the roadway when it is hacked or has a systems failure.

  17. Paul Woodhouse

    hmm, might be a good idea to see if they can detect diesel spilled on a damp roundabout... there's one near my office which seems to really get coated with the stuff...

  18. Emo

    Who's driving cars on the pavement?

    Surely they should be listening to cars driving on wet roads..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In America, the pavement is the road surface (thus why road layers are called pavers). Sidewalks are just called sidewalks (besides which, they're usually made of concrete).

  19. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Heh. What will the Googlecar do when it hist a stretch of "singing tar" - the sort that makes a noise that has everyone going white and screaming because it sounds like a wheel bearing is breaking up? Will there be a user configurable WTF event?

  20. MajorTom

    Great Idea

    I used to live in an apartment building on a busy street in the CA bay area. The cars were pretty noisy driving by, and yet it seemed they were particularly noisy on rainy days. It was the usual engine and tire+road noise with a high pitched "hissing" sound overlaid on it.

    Perhaps they will design a sound sensor to detect this hiss and its intensity (more hiss = more moisture)...?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019