back to article Autonomous driving in a city? We're '95% of the way there'

Universities, carmakers, local authorities and tech and insurance firms are involved in an array of part-government-sponsored self-driving vehicle pilots across the UK. More than £20m is being funnelled into projects to build and refine autonomous technology, understand human-vehicle interaction, and assess risk. It’s an era …

  1. Alan Johnson

    95% done or 95% of the work remaining?

    95% of the way there.....

    The saying when I started work developing systems was that the last 5% took 95% of the effort I suspect that it is an underestimate in this case.

    1. Roger Greenwood

      Re: 95% done or 95% of the work remaining?

      . . . and you'll never get to 100% - mission creep will see to that.

      1. Blank Reg

        Re: 95% done or 95% of the work remaining?

        The saying as I first heard it went

        "The First 90% Of A Project Takes 90% Of The Time, The Last 10% Takes The Other 90% Of The Time."

        So we're still a long way off. If we suddenly went 100% autonomous then it could work fairly well, you'd only have to deal with those pesky cyclists, pedestrians, animals etc.as all the other vehicles would be able to coordinate with each other. But anything much less than that is just going to be a mess.

        One of the issues is that autonomous vehicles don't have a face.

        Driving in heavy city traffic often involves a fair amount of negotiation, people look at each other to determine who's going to give way and who is just going to barge in regardless. If I see an autonomous vehicle then I know I can just cut them off since they will back off. Essentially autonomous vehicles behave like nervous new drivers, and we know how they can mess up traffic and cause tempers to rise when they hold up rush hour traffic.

        1. Infernoz Bronze badge
          Terminator

          Re: 95% done or 95% of the work remaining?

          I suspect that there will be situations where the machine "intelligence" (really a hyped-up and limited state machine) will not cope because it can't adapt and will cause avoidable accidents which would get a human driver mocked, insulted, attacked, or prosecuted for!

          I also expect a rising number of vandalized/rammed vehicles after "driver-less" vehicles start to make serious inroads into commercial and transport driving, because they'll put loads of people out of work. What are all those people going to do, given most work will become more skilled? They'll eventually rebel/riot! Also, demand for the vehicles will ironically decline, because there will be less people with sufficient income to afford to use them or the goods they deliver, compared to earlier human driven vehicles!!!

          Blindly adding more technology for (fake) "progress" (a common communist-like misuse of the word), which mostly benefits rich people, is a very bad idea, and only will speed-up the on-going decline of developed countries, warned about by "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski's Manifesto, and others referenced by the "Return of Kings" web site. We should have learnt the dangers of fake "progress" from the rise, stagnation, and collapse of Rome, and earlier civilizations!

          Making everything thing easier (e.g. by automation) is dangerous, because it gradually encourages parasitic rentier corpocracy, encourages parasitic socialism, encourages r-type degenerate humans, rots the spirit of Man, and eventually leads to nation and/or civilization collapse!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Trollface

            Re: 95% done or 95% of the work remaining?

            100 years to do the first 95%.

            Should only take about 2 millenia to complete the remaining 5%.

      2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: 95% done or 95% of the work remaining?

        . . . and you'll never get to 100% - the lawyers will see to that.

        There fixed it for you.

        1. JamesPond

          Re: 95% done or 95% of the work remaining?

          It's always been an 80/20 rule as far as I'm aware, 80% of the work takes 20% of the time, and vice-versa. The ideas people do 80% of the work, but the difficult last 20% needs the finishers of this world.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: 95% done or 95% of the work remaining?

      @Alan Johnson,

      This was going to be my point. It sounds like they are 95% of the way there, in that they have A) the car, B) the concept of driverless operation and C) the basic software principles involved. That took the last 100 years, and the final 5% to true driverless operation is going to take at least the next 5 years.

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    Caesium Microsoft-Azure-based shuttle management system

    Ohh, err .... building anything that people's lives depend on top of a Microsoft system is ... foolish to say the least. Look at the recent Wannacrypt debacle, or lots of unexpected shutdowns, ...

    No way!

  3. wolfetone Silver badge
    Coat

    "Goal is 'Level 5', where vehicle reacts like human-driven one"

    Level 6 is to get it to drive a BMW and actually use it's indicators.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      BMW

      Audi drivers took the Wanker Behind The Wheel award from BMW drivers around 5 years ago and have kept it ever since.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: BMW

        "Audi drivers took the Wanker Behind The Wheel award from BMW drivers around 5 years ago and have kept it ever since."

        Never underestimate the capabilities of a driver who expected a company BMW or Audi and got a Mondeo instead.

        1. Lotaresco Silver badge

          Re: BMW

          "Never underestimate the capabilities of a driver who expected a company BMW or Audi and got a Mondeo instead."

          Of all the drivers on the road, it seems that it's those saddled with a Vauxhall Insignia that are most filled with loathing of their fellow man. I'm guessing that the Insignia is the punishment car. You can guarantee that the car that swoops onto a motorway and into lane 3 without looking or use of indicators will be an Insignia. Once there the driver will never leave that lane. Not even if he has an ambulance 3 inches off his rear bumper with all the blues on. The drivers also seem to think that their asthmatic diseasel engine makes their car the equivalent of a Ferrari 430 and they will force a queue of traffic to build up behind them as they try to wrestle the car up to the 90mph that they prefer to drive at, taking a glacial epoch to do so. But they get there eventually so they can feel proud that they are going faster than anyone else.

          1. Lotaresco Silver badge

            Re: BMW

            "Of all the drivers on the road, it seems that it's those saddled with a Vauxhall Insignia that are most filled with loathing of their fellow man."

            Oh look, that flushed an embittered Insignia driver out of the woodwork.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BMW

        I think it's a good joke, but not certainly not in accord with my experience -- BMW drives are still pushier. I see this both when cycling and driving my Audi (fair disclosure).

      3. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: BMW

        When the indicator on a BMW is flashing, what may you infer?

        The bulb is working.

        1. JamesPond

          Re: BMW

          When the indicator on a BMW is flashing, what may you infer?

          A The bulb is working.

          B The bulb is not working.

          C The bulb is working.

          D. The bulb is not working.

          E The bulb is working.

          F All of the above

          FTFY

      4. earl grey Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: BMW

        And here I thought it was Lexus drivers were the worst arseholes. My bad.

    2. a pressbutton

      Re 'Level 5'

      ... and Level 42 is when you can also play the bass guitar quite well.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      to be a true BMW / Audio driver you missed>

      Sit in the right hand lane, even when the other lane is empty.

      Tailgate, especially if there are 500 other cars in front of the one you are behind.

      Do 120 mph everywhere until you come to a bend, where upon you shit yourself and slow down 20mph, UNLESS it is a blind bend at which point you MUST traverse the white lines.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        This stuff about Audi/BMW indicators not working, not true. Of course they work - in hazard mode. This is what gives their drivers the right to park anywhere.

      2. RPF

        It's a Mercedes_benz driver's God-given right to hog the outside lane forever. See how often that is true.

  4. Filippo

    Thoughts

    1) I like the "rate my driving" sticker. Can we get something similar for human drivers?

    2) If you claim that you're "95% of the way there, but the remaining 5% is difficult", then you are using the wrong definition of at least one of those words.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Rate my driving

      A lot of trucks (here in the US at least) have a toll free number listed with "how's my driving?" You can call it "rate my driving" but it is obviously a complaint line. How can one see another driver and determine they are driving well? You can only determine when they are driving badly (and even then it may be a matter of opinion in some cases)

      OK, maybe they stay in the appropriate lane and signal when they change lanes so for the few minutes you are near them they have done everything right, but calling that "driving well" is like giving an employee a good rating because he shows up on time and doesn't surf porn sites - they are basic expectations. Unless you follow a truck for a couple hours I don't see how you judge the driver to be good, and even then if it is a long lonely stretch of road where everyone is operating on cruise control it is hard to do anything but drive well. It is when something unexpected happens that separates the really good drivers from the average.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Rate my driving

        A lot of trucks (here in the US at least) have a toll free number listed with "how's my driving?"

        Also in the UK. Presumably the recorded response is "You're a fine one to complain. You drove close enough to read the number and either you're either phoning or you wrote the number down whilst driving.

  5. Gomez Adams

    Even if and when Ocado get to 100% they still need to tackle the much more complex problem of getting the shopping the last nine yards from the vehicle to the customer's kitchen over possibly rough broken ground, squeezing past badly parked cars, past overgrown hedges, up and down steps etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Go

      air cannon

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        slave labour

    2. Tom 38 Silver badge

      "Your shopping is outside, come collect it in the next 10 minutes or your order will be cancelled and we'll charge you a 10% restock charge"

      Doesn't seem that tricky.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Nor does taking any firm trying that to a small claims court for violations of your rights under the Consumer Rights Act of 2015, Part 1, Chapter 2, section 28 (delivery of goods).

        http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/15/section/28

        "(2) Unless the trader and the consumer have agreed otherwise, the contract is to be treated as including a term that the trader must deliver the goods to the consumer."

        So saying "we drove up outside and sent a text saying "PICK THEM UP FROM THE CAR PARKED OUTSIDE WITHIN TEN MINUTES OR WE CANCEL YOUR ORDER AND CHARGE YOU 10%" won't fly because they weren't delivered and the trader is therefore in breach of contract.

        You don't be able to get around statutury rights by including a line saying "by using our service you waive your statutory rights" as the courts of England and Wales are of the opinion that they decide points of law like this, and not companies trying it on and so have a habit of simply declaring the entire contract null and void, hence lawyers inserting lines like "if one provision is declared unlawful then whatever remains shall stand" in the hope that the judge will be a bit more restrained and not strike out literially the entire thing.

        Additionally, even if this was changed, you'd have to overcome :-

        "(10b)the trader must without undue delay reimburse all payments made under the contract in respect of any goods for which the consumer cancels the order or which the consumer rejects.

        All you've got to do is say that you had a bad back and didn't accept the delivery, and by exclusion it becomes a rejected delivery and a full refund is due.

        And i'm not even a Solicitor! Think how many holes an expert could blow through something as fundementally illegal as this.

        1. Brangdon

          @Peter2

          The very section you quoted says, "Unless the trader and the consumer have agreed otherwise...". By using the delivery service you will be agreeing otherwise.

    3. DougS Silver badge

      @Gomez Adams

      Drones. The answer to everything in 2017 is drones, AI or deep learning!

    4. JamesPond

      What they need is a Renault Kwid with built in drone to do the delivery

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckR6sK1bN4M

  6. Just Enough

    Not nearly there

    Anyone who has ever done a IT project will tell you the last 5% always takes the longest.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not nearly there

      Anyone who has ever done a Government IT project will tell you the last 5% is where you give up, take the cash and bid for a new one.

  7. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Interesting, but...

    So the Ocado vehicle drives autonomously to the nearest bit of road to the 5th floor flat. How does the parcel get up the stairs? Will a small delivery bot be carried as well? And will it be able to read the scrawled note "If out, please leave in coal bunker"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting, but...

      .... if I recall from Dr Who the Ocado bots will reach the bottom of the stairs and start screaming "elevate" at which point we'll realize that AI hasn't turned out the way we'd hoped. (Though the ability for level 5 autonomous cars to exterminate other drivers who get in their way will be a clear demonstartion of their ability to mimic human drivers thought processes)

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: Interesting, but...

        Wasn't there an episode where non-self-driving cars started to exterminate their own drivers?

        1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          Re: Interesting, but...

          Sally

          Isaac Asimov (1919-1992)

        2. toxicdragon

          Re: Interesting, but...

          There was a Dr Who episode with david tennant where ATMOS devices designed to reduce CO2 emissions to near zero were infact designed to terraform earth for the sontarans.

    2. Lotaresco Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Interesting, but...

      'So the Ocado vehicle drives autonomously to the nearest bit of road to the 5th floor flat. How does the parcel get up the stairs? Will a small delivery bot be carried as well? And will it be able to read the scrawled note "If out, please leave in coal bunker"'

      A coal bunker? For a fifth floor flat?

  8. getHandle

    They're designing autonomous vehicles?

    Yet they still deliver stuff with carrier bags containing a single item and eggs and the like packed underneath heavier stuff...

    1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

      Re: They're designing autonomous vehicles?

      ...and does brilliant things like: You ordered beer. Beer is out. So we brought two pounds of lard. Would that be OK with you?

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: They're designing autonomous vehicles?

        "and does brilliant things like: You ordered beer. Beer is out. So we brought two pounds of lard. Would that be OK with you?"

        AI logic. Beer--->Beer gut---->Lard--->therefore lard=beer.

  9. Ogi
    Black Helicopters

    Strong push?

    > A detailed TRL whitepaper (here: PDF) in July expressed concern over what it called a “strong technology push for autonomous vehicles rather than a societal pull”.

    So, people are getting always-on, connected autonomous cars shoved down their throats, rather than it being something the people want.

    Really makes me wonder why government and megacorps are willing to throw so much money, time and effort at something unwanted by the masses, unless there is an ulterior motive they have not told us about, but will benefit them immensely at our expense.

    1. Ogi

      Re: Strong push?

      I do wonder, if they finally release autonomous cars, and find out that barring a small minority, nobody wants to use them. Would they restrict or ban driving? Make it really expensive to drive yourself? Somehow force people into using them (after all, all that time, money and effort was used, and they need to get some return on that investment).

      1. DougS Silver badge

        @Ogi - "what if nobody wants to use them?"

        That's a ridiculous question. Almost everyone will want to use self driving cars, at least once the cost to own/operate/insure is not much more than that of a regular car. Sure, many will be reluctant because they won't trust them at first so they'll let others "work out the bugs", but once they come around it will be left to a small minority (the same group who refuses to fly) who will absolutely refuse due to fear and another small minority who will resist because they "enjoy driving".

        The vast majority would love being able to do their own thing instead of having to pay attention. Look at the millennials who walk about like zombies with their face in their phone everywhere they go? Do you think they will resist? Do you think the older folks who know they aren't as sharp as they once were and drive 5 mph under the speed limit are going to have a problem with it? For the rest of us who are older than the young and younger than the old, there are so many advantages I won't even bother to list them. Will I miss a bit of driving myself? Sure, and I'll bet people missed running their horse at full gallop when they traded him in on a Model T, but it didn't stop them from doing it.

        Basically it will be the people who are afraid of technology / lack of control like those who won't fly, and people who think about driving in terms of power slides on the PCH and ignore the fact that 99% of their driving is stuck in traffic on the 101. There are no more concerns about the market failing to materialize than there are for the market for fusion power to fail to materialize should we ever get it working.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Strong push?

      Its a revenue stream - if you buy your own autonomous car then you only pay once. There will come a tipping point when autonomous cars take over the roads - you will be able to take your porche on the road but you will be part of the smooth laminar flow generated by the autonomous cars and any attempt to disrupt that will get you nowhere.

      Ocado can go and get fucked though - the only way this is going to work properly is with open designs and no patents on the bleeding obvious.

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: Strong push?

        Its a revenue stream - if you buy your own autonomous car then you only pay once.

        I suspect that history should give us a clue that that may not be the case. You'll buy the car and then pay a subscription for the cloud-based processing. We used to have this idea that you buy software once and then only pay if you want a newer version, but thats gone out of the window with subs being preferred, why would a brand new market start with the less profitable option?

        I suspect, at most, you'll see the first n years of that sub being rolled into the purchase price.

        Autonomous driving is definitely progressing fantastically well, but for my part I'm still far from convinced that where we're heading will actually be better.

      2. Ogi

        Re: Strong push?

        > Its a revenue stream - if you buy your own autonomous car then you only pay once.

        I don't know, I suspect they are more likely to be rented out, a-la uber. They already said the cars will have internal cameras and microphones "for your safety", and I guess it is an opportunity to push adverts onto people. You are limited to how much you can advertise to someone who is driving without distracting them.

        Plus the outside of the cars can be covered in adverts too, like mobile billboards. There is a big push to convince people that renting rather than owning is a good idea. I guess they try to generate "ongoing revenue", and make sure people can't improve their lot in life.

        >There will come a tipping point when autonomous cars take over the roads - you will be able to take your porche on the road but you will be part of the smooth laminar flow generated by the autonomous cars and any attempt to disrupt that will get you nowhere.

        Well, I am ok with sharing the roads with autonomous cars. Just how I like driving, there are those who despise it, and see it as a chore to get rid of asap (and these are the ones most likely not to give driving the attention and concentration it deserves, most accidents seem to be idiots reading/texting on their phone while driving). Each to their own, as they say. We will have to see how to make them co-exist.

        To be fair though, few people enjoy motorway driving. Even today, people are more likely to take their Porsche on the winding country/coastal roads, away from traffic. While those in future autonomous cars will want to get from A-B as fast/efficiently as possible, so whey would pretty much always be on motorways (unless they explicitly want to be driven on the scenic route, which will probably be an occasional thing)

        > Ocado can go and get fucked though - the only way this is going to work properly is with open designs and no patents on the bleeding obvious.

        Hmm, would be nice if the hardware/software for autonomous cars would be open source, then at least we can look ourselves at the logic that will be in charge of human lives. Doesn't seem likely to occur though.

    3. Smooth Newt Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Strong push?

      Really makes me wonder why government and megacorps are willing to throw so much money, time and effort at something unwanted by the masses, unless there is an ulterior motive they have not told us about, but will benefit them immensely at our expense.

      Fashion is a strong driver. Corporations and governments invest in these things because other ones are doing so, so they feel they will be left behind if they don't. Anyone want to buy a supersonic airliner or an advanced gas cooled reactor? On the other hand personal computers and mobile phones were technology pushes that worked out.

      1. Ogi

        Re: Strong push?

        > On the other hand personal computers and mobile phones were technology pushes that worked out.

        I wouldn't consider those pushes really. People already had phones, many times I am sure, when people were desperately looking for a free phone box, or were in a train/car/etc... would have loved a mobile phone. Especially if they had to call the emergency services.

        Hell, they created Walkie-talkies precisely to fit that missing segment, and it isn't surprising that with the proliferation of mobile phones, walkie-talkies fell out of use by the general public, and now are only in niche areas such as military/police/emergency units.

        Personal computers were not a push either. Which is why in the beginning so few people had them. They were expensive, and didn't seem all that useful to the general public. As more and more things came to be represented digitally, the information computers could store/process/manipulate grew to the point where they became useful to a wider segment of the population. That was a massive pull, not a push.

        As for the main reason for the push being "fashion". If it is true, it gives me a warm feeling inside to know that some of the most powerful corps, and governments (with their monopoly of coercion and violence) are basically lemmings.

        1. jeffdyer

          Re: Strong push?

          "walkie-talkies fell out of use by the general public"

          I'm unconvinced that they were ever much in use by the general public. I did by a cheap pair from Argos or maybe Maplin so that my young kids could play with them on the beach, but I have never noticed anyone using them apart from specific tasks like sports coaches.

          Saying that, there were many times pre 200 odd that I wished I had had a mobile phone, and now couldn't live without it.

        2. earl grey Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Strong push?

          Personal computers ... didn't seem all that useful to the general public

          So, nothing much has changed then.

    4. Mark 110 Silver badge

      Re: Strong push?

      I will want to use them - driving is such a waste of time. Would much rather put my feet up and read a book / the paper instead of having my eyes glued to the road waiting for the next nutter to do something completely unpredictable.

      Driving down the M62 yesterday I overtook a car with poor lane discipline (that I had to hang back while he straightened up) and the driver was looking at something his daughter was showing him rather than the road. She didn't even look like she was strapped in.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Strong push?

        She didn't even look like she was strapped in.

        Well of course not. If she was strapped in she wouldn't be able to jump free before the car hit the oncoming lorry.

    5. JohnMurray

      Re: Strong push?

      Because it is a small step from your personal vehicle driving itself, to all vehicles being fleet-owned and being called on-demand.

      The end of private personal transport, the start of a new public transport system..

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Strong push?

        "Because it is a small step from your personal vehicle driving itself, to all vehicles being fleet-owned and being called on-demand."

        Old Will got there before us:

        GLENDOWER: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

        HOTSPUR: Why, so can I, or so can any man;/ But will they come when you do call for them?

        That's the point. Try calling in rush hour and see if you get your fleet-owned automomous car.

      2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: Strong push?

        The end of private personal transport, the start of a new public transport system..

        Maybe in cities, but even that's a stretch. Out in the sticks? Not a chance. If I fancy a kebab, or any other take away, it's a drive. With my car sat in the garage I can hop in and go, with book-a-ride I've got a lead time because the car's got to get to me first. Not much use when I've realised it's 10 til closing.

        Even in cities, I'm not sure that'll take hold. You've already got taxis and buses etc, yet there's still plenty of car ownership. Autonomous cars may mean not paying a driver, but you really think a journey in them is going to be much cheaper than a taxi (particularly in the long term)? The company still has to recoup maintenance costs as well as the capital costs of buying the fleet.

        I'm not saying it couldn't be the end of privately owned personal transport, just that I don't think it will be

      3. kiwimuso

        might: Strong push?

        @JohnMurray

        "The end of private personal transport, the start of a new public transport system.."

        I can't see it happening. What about farmers and other people who live outside of town and the types of vehicles they use. Are you going to have driver-less tractors? They certainly won't be hiring one as they are needed, I suspect. Too useful NOT to own one. BTW I wonder how good autonomous cars would be on gravel back roads, with random potholes and/or loose gravel lying around.

        Not to mention tradesmen who keep their tools in them, might use a driver-less vehicle, but probably not rent them as needed, unless someone comes up with a "pod" system that contains the relevant tools, which can be attached and detached very quickly.

        I am currently doing copious landscaping on our land, and that involves going to the timber yard, attaching one of their free trailers to transport 1 or more pieces (depending on what I need at that moment) to home. It would be impractical and expensive to have someone deliver a single length of timber. As the project is being designed as a I go to suit the land form (steep) there isn't much possibility of advance planning and buying all the timber in one go.

        Having said that, although I like driving, I would still use a driver-less car for certain journeys. E.g. instead of taxis,, but they would have to be available when I want them, and a hell of a lot cheaper than our current taxi prices.

    6. kiwimuso
      Joke

      Re: Strong push?

      @Ogi

      "Really makes me wonder why government and megacorps are willing to throw so much money, time and effort at something unwanted by the masses, unless there is an ulterior motive they have not told us about, but will benefit them immensely at our expense."

      Because, in the current government mantra language, "If it saves one life it will be worth it!"

      Soooo, you're prepared to spend sqillions of [insert currency of choice] of OUR money in order to save one life, OK, I'll be generous and give you a few lives, only for the undeserving bastards to dies anyway! Besides, you're saving having to pay them pensions. Some people are so ungrateful!!!

      See icon, although I suspect there's more than a grain of truth in there.

  10. Sixtysix
    Flame

    "Like a human"

    Drives like a human - some of the humans I know I'll not get in a car with!

    Hopefully they'll drive like we'd say we want a human to drive... if we were being questioned by the police under caution

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: "Like a human"

      I'm hoping they wont drive like humans most of the time - the thing is if the cars talk to each other and cooperate then they can drive bumper to bumper and reduce fuel consumption enormously and massively increase traffic capacity. They should also be able to break blocks apart smoothly so cars can get in and out for junctions etc - even manage these things well in advance. I'd like to think I can head down the motorway and not find a wave of slow traffic several hours after whatever cause it has been cleaned up.

      1. xeroks

        Re: "Like a human"

        Bumper-to bumper autonomous vehicles on the motorway.

        All driving at 67mph.

        Being slowly overtaken by a lorry, who has to get to the front before pulling in.

        Highly efficient, but just kill me now.

        1. Alan_Peery

          Re: "Like a human"

          Lorry puts on turn signal, road train parts to let him in.

          Simples.

        2. DougS Silver badge

          @xeroks - 67 mph

          Who says they'll be driving at 67mph? If human driven cars aren't in the area, the speed limits might be loosened significantly. At first they'll diligently follow the speed limit, but I expect eventually as autonomous cars outnumber human driven ones on places like expressways, they will begin to operate under a different set of laws from human drivers. They'll have to for things like road trains to exist, since obviously that's illegal for human drivers...

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: "Like a human"

      I think they will drive like a human - like a human who is paying 100% of their attention to the road, is diligent about following traffic rules, etc. Kind of like how you'd drive if you got a letter saying you had to come in for a driver's test to renew your license.

  11. Cuddles Silver badge

    Good choice of test location

    "a fleet of six Oxbotica vehicles will be released on the M40 motorway"

    If the absolute worst case scenario happens and the cars all go berserk and start deliberately ramming other cars bringing the entire road to a standstill for hours, at least no-one will notice any difference from a normal day on the M40.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: Good choice of test location

      So the top speed of 5mph will be fine then!

    2. DougS Silver badge

      "released on the M40"

      That's a funny choice of wording. I have this image of a truck driving down the road where the back opens, a ramp drops down, and six cars back out of the truck and go foraging for petrol in the outskirts of London.

  12. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    Quick thought

    Insurance companies are involved in this. So I'm thinking...

    Still drive yourself, no assistance? Higher premiums, because that's not safe any more with all the self driving cars on the road.

    Drive a car that can drive itself and has accident avoidance systems? Higher premiums, because these systems aren't proven.

    Self driving car? Higher premiums because that's not safe either with all the human drivers about.

    Oh and no claims discount? Sorry we don't do that any more because everything has changed. Oh and we've raised everyone's premium by an extra 10% to cover... erm... increased costs?

    1. xeroks

      Re: Quick thought

      I understand the current proposal is that when in autonomous mode, the car is insured by the manufacturer.

      http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/self-driving-cars-insurance-rules-uk-government-autonomous-mode-vehicle-aviation-bill-a7595581.html

      However, I agree that manual drive cars are likely to get higher premiums. But that will be down to stats: I expect that - until we get used to the new rules of driving - humans will be at fault more often than robocars.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Quick thought

        Why do you say "until we get used to the new rules of driving"? Humans will always be at fault more often than robocars. Because there's no way we'll allow those cars on the roads (other than for testing) until they can demonstrate far lower accident & fatality rates than human drivers, and they will only get better.

        Once robocars proliferate, humans should have lower rates than they do today simply because there will be fewer unpredictable meatbags on the road mucking things up, and more vehicles with eyes in the back of their head and lightning fast reflexes that will be able to avoid meatbag driven vehicles when they do something stupid. So even the rates for human drivers should drop - not necessarily from today since rates obviously increase over the years for various reasons, but drop from where they would have been at that time if we still had 100% human drivers.

        I think the financial decision will be something like "autonomous driving package costs $5000, insurance for human driving is $1000/yr, so after five years the autonomous car is cheaper". Once you get to that point, all cars sold will be autonomous, and 10 years later you'll start seeing the first bans of human driven vehicles in certain areas.

  13. SkippyBing Silver badge

    Goal is 'Level 5', where vehicle reacts like human-driven one

    I'd have hoped they'd be aiming higher than that, humans are terrible drivers.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Goal is 'Level 5', where vehicle reacts like human-driven one

      " Goal is 'Level 5', where vehicle reacts like human-driven one

      I'd have hoped they'd be aiming higher than that, humans are terrible drivers."

      Brick on the accelerator pedal is probably level 5.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can the AI get road rage?

    Can the AI get out a baseball bat and start smashing up your car?

    If not, then it's not ready yet.

  15. RedCardinal

    >>As good as human driving

    Or as bad?

  16. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    "It’s an era described as the "Kitty Hawk" moment for robot cars – a reference to the moment in 1903 when the Wright Brothers made their first powered flight in North Carolina. What followed was a blossoming of ideas in aircraft design, technology and new companies."

    What followed at first was a decade of - well, not that much, really. Planes were a novelty with little practical use. A carnival attraction. Only visionaries and crazy peole believed in a future for planes, and it's not easy to tell both groups apart. This changed drastically with WW1, when the military saw applications. As this proved to be true, planes got funding and kept getting funding. Those pesky between-wars periods prompted manufacturers to look into civil/commercial applications.

    But between "the first powered flight" and "planes as a form of relieable mass transport" lie untold billions of R&D money and roughly six decades.

    So yes, I do think the "nearly finished" claims regarding autonomous cars may be a bit on the optimustic side of things.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      "the first powered flight"

      ...was in a field in Somerset, in 1848. Unfortunately the aircraft was steam-powered, so Stringfellow's desire to achieve manned, powered flight was never really going to, er, get off the ground.

    2. Steve Button

      But between "the first powered flight" and "planes as a form of relieable mass transport" lie untold billions of R&D money and roughly six decades.

      ... however, technology changes MUCH faster than it did 100 years ago. So something which took 60 years, could nowadays be done in 15 years. Or even faster if the military feel the need.

      I think these will be commonplace sooner than a lot of people (here) think. And a bit later than a lot of investors seem to hope.

      1. handleoclast Silver badge

        Re: Or even faster if the military feel the need.

        So, level 5 autonomous tanks in a few years, right?

        Gotta be easier than autonomous cars. Tanks don't have to worry about minor obstacles like walls, bushes, street signs, people...

    3. Mike Richards Silver badge

      'But between "the first powered flight" and "planes as a form of relieable mass transport" lie untold billions of R&D money and roughly six decades.'

      Good point to which I can only add - 'and a couple of world wars'

      1. JamesPond

        and a couple of world wars

        "But between "the first powered flight" and "planes as a form of relieable mass transport" lie untold billions of R&D money and roughly six decades.'

        Good point to which I can only add - 'and a couple of world wars' "

        RobotWars, that's what we need, WWI+II drove aircraft innovation, now we need a robot war to drive er driverless cars.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: and a couple of world wars

          The US is already well on its way to pursuing robot wars. Then the Pentagon will have its dream of American soldiers not dying in battle, which in their mind is the only thing that mucks up their plans for endless war.

          Voters eventually get tired of the body count, and demand we bring our troops home. But voters seem to have an endless appetite for throwing money at wars, so if anything will bankrupt the US, having robots to fight our wars is probably it!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Load of old Bollocks(tm)

  18. Arctic fox
    Thumb Up

    I think it should be said:

    Thank you Gavin for a most informative, interesting and well written article. See icon.

  19. c1ue

    If they're testing "passing" at 5 mph, methinks the machine learning is going with the wrong training set.

    Then they're the whole "ride sharing" myth of greater efficiency.

    Ride sharing is more efficient of the capital cost (and cost of creation pollution) of a car, but operating "ride share" means each passenger ride costs 50%-100% more in terms of distance travelled.

    Removing the human labor part doesn't help with traffic issues nor operating pollution issues.

    Then there's the "future" BMW driver: pulls out a lidar jammer so that the hoi polloi driverless all slow down so that he can act as normal.

    Or the punk kids with the reflectors/foil confetti.

    I'm also interested to see how driverless cars handle mud/paint splashed on. Graffiti, anyone?

    1. BoldMan

      Splinter camo?

    2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      "Then there's the "future" BMW driver: pulls out a lidar jammer so that the hoi polloi driverless all slow down so that he can act as normal."

      And is surrounded by cars all recording video which, after someone snitches, will be used by the police to secure a conviction.

  20. BoldMan

    So Occado's goal is to eliminate all the jobs that aren't managerial or executive...

    Uber's aim is to get rid of those pesky employees who aren't employees...

    Um what will all these unemployed people do? Work in fucking call centres that get offshored to India?

    Autonomous vehicles will work ONLY when all vehicles are autonomous and even then the BMW and Audi ones will have driving rules that are different to everyone else...

    Mr Ludd was an optimist!

  21. Alan W. Rateliff, II

    Will we ever reach the real level of human-like driving?

    Robotic road rage would be awesome.

    1. Lotaresco Silver badge

      Re: Will we ever reach the real level of human-like driving?

      "Robotic road rage would be awesome."

      This robot is working on it.

      Pepper the robot, with an attitude problem

  22. Howard Hanek Bronze badge
    Childcatcher

    Right

    Like the worldwide communications net is 95% there. It's that last mile that's always a 'problem'.

  23. JamesPond

    LIDAR vs Snow

    The majority of the testing seems to be undertaken in sunny California or certainly where it doesn't snow for 51 weeks of the year. When the LIDAR sensors are covered in snow, then what? My car has some form of radar linked to the cruise so that it will speed up and slow down based on the speed of the car in front. But 5 minutes in the snow and it stops working when the sensor in the grill gets covered.

    And as for the statement "a fleet of six Oxbotica vehicles will be released on the M40 motorway"....i hope that's at more than 5mph.

    1. Alan W. Rateliff, II

      Re: LIDAR vs Snow

      Right! Reminds me of the rant from some car maker working on autonomous driving, complaining about the lack of uniformity in traffic lights and signs around various locales. Once the autonomous vehicles left the sterile testing environments or the familiar local area they suddenly failed to recognize important traffic control cues.

      Seems to me if the computer cannot adjust to disparate environments it is not a very good replacement for the human system.

      Unless, of course, we change everything to suit the machines. At which point they will have won.

  24. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Small steps. Fixed routes. Large payloads and use internally in warehouses

    Although I'd thought AGV became a thing in large warehouses in large companies in the 90's.

    Once you get into taking individual customers (and will this be a "Johnnycab" taxi?) or do you want people to buy a whole vehicle to do this?

    The question is do you really want fully autonomous vehicles? Or vehicles that can radically reduce the number of drivers a business needs to employ?

    The latter could give significant business benefits and start ratcheting up the competence of these systems toward full autonomy.

    The former is very much harder.

  25. TheElder

    Interesting

    I guess I must adjust my Xenon laser...

  26. newspuppy

    I already have written software that drives like a human...

    And that is the problem... a drunk human stumbling out of a bar, and falling into the seat..... incapable of knowing where they are..... crashing before navigating out of the parking spot....

    The saying ... "for s/he is only human" is to imply inherent imperfection.

    We need level X... Driving better then the average human. NO humans.... much safer (till it gets hacked, as MOST everyone focuses on solving the problem.. and bolting security as an add on at the end... instead of building in from start, yet that is a rant for another story...).

    As to the commenter that said he needs a car.. as he may realize that 10 minutes before closing he is in need of transport to the local shop.... That is what AI is for.. and Event Driven Commerce... The system should know you have no food, you are always last minute... and ... you have not eaten today.. so.. PRESTO.. the goods you just realized you want at your door 10 seconds after you realize that you need to get some grub....

    1. TheElder

      Re: Depends on the Human

      I have driven well over a million kilometres with a perfect driving record. Not even a speeding ticket in the last 40 years. Not even a parking ticket. I have never touched another vehicle on the road except once. When I was quite young I was turning right in the city . A guy tried to sneak past me in the parking lane. He would have just barely cleared but I allowed my vehicle to drift a few centimetres ahead. It made this beautiful deep scratch along the entire length of his new car. No damage on my 88" Series II Land Rover.

      1. Arrgh. It wasn't me!

        Re: Depends on the Human

        No surprise you've not managed to get a speeding ticket if you're still driving a SII :)

        My SIII's 0-60 time was one lunar month.

    2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: I already have written software that drives like a human...

      As to the commenter that said he needs a car.. as he may realize that 10 minutes before closing he is in need of transport to the local shop.... That is what AI is for.. and Event Driven Commerce... The system should know you have no food, you are always last minute... and ... you have not eaten today.. so.. PRESTO.. the goods you just realized you want at your door 10 seconds after you realize that you need to get some grub....

      Twas me, but you've missed an important detail.

      I never said the cupboards were bare, I said I (strongly) fancied a kebab. So the AI would believe I've got plenty of grub, and its the human whim thats generated my need. Thats not a good fit for AI (assuming it is whim rather than an every friday night thing).

      So I'd still need to have a car sat on the driveway, ruling out dial-a-ride type solutions. Saying I'll just have to go without that kebab also isn't an appropriate answer - autonomous cars are supposed to be an improvement and that's a regression against the status quo.

      I could, of course, buy a self driving car, but in the early stages of the market the price is likely to be high, and I actually enjoy driving (even in traffic), so why would I?

      Even if the above weren't the case, your solution of AI only patches over the issues with the dial-a-ride model by introducing a seperate component. Even then it doesn't get all of them, my trip to the kebab shop will cost me a few pence in petrol, whats the dial-a-ride trip going to cost me?

      Like I said earlier, I'm not saying that it couldn't mean the end of private car ownership, just that that model really doesn't look at all compelling to me.

  27. teknopaul Bronze badge

    who's saftey

    can someone living in the UK please explain why the pointless wetware inside autonomous vehicles need to wear hi viz jackets?

  28. TheElder

    Should wear a helmet when in any automobile

    See why. Note the comparison to bicycles. That includes the US. Victoria is ten times safer for bicycles.

    Auto brain damage

  29. Alister Silver badge

    History of flight?

    Timber company executive William Boeing, meanwhile, was so captivated by the sight of a flying machine in 1909 that he founded the Boeing Company in 1916, which proceeded to dominate civilian and military aircraft manufacturing.

    It took 50 years for Boeing to become a major player in the aviation world, and that was driven mostly by the second World War. Prior to that they were very much a bit-part player, with little real innovation compared to their competitors.

    I would question if even now they could be said to dominate military aicraft manufacturing, the vast majority of current US military aircraft are not Boeing designs.

  30. Gordon Pryra

    More than £20m is being funnelled into projects

    In an industry with a yearly turnover of £70 odd billion?

    Taking it seriously then.....

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Won't catch on....

    ...unless we have more ambulances, hospitals and doctors due to the thousands of people tripping over all the cables around the place.

  32. earl grey Silver badge
    Devil

    i still haven't seen the answer

    What happens to ME, the passenger, when some wanker causes a kerfluffle and the car has to save me or a dozen kiddies on the sidewalk. I expect it to save me. No ifs, ands, or buts. And i really don't expect the manufacturers to insure these vehicles. they don't want the responsibility for what they sell now; they're sure as sin not going to want it when the cars are level 4 or 5 out on the byways.

  33. TheElder

    Testing location

    They need to do some realistic testing. Never mind driving someplace like the streets in Snafu Francisco or the back roads of Heidelberg.

    Someplace like this would be a good test.

    Yanking on the Peak

  34. itzman

    Of only we could get the average city driver

    ..up to level 5.

    Or I suppose 'to get an AI to drive as well as a human does is

    (a) no great shakes

    (b) bloody useless.

  35. TheElder

    ..up to level 5.

    In the past I have done driver education. It isn't the approved method but it works very well.

    I have driven very large 4x4s with front and rear crash bars very long distances on very low traffic hiways. I always drive the speed limit or very close to it. Frequently those in some sort of hurry will tailgate. When they are so close I cannot see their headlights I have been known to tap the brakes, pedal to the metal for a moment. I try to imagine the tiny sports car wrapped around the crash bar but I let off the brake just in time.

    Then when they finally are able to pass and they give me the middle digit I make sure they can see me laughing. Also, when I know there is a Constable On Patrol behind me I drive the precise speed limit. They will often fall far back and use me as a speed calibration for anyone that pulls onto the road right behind me and then passes me. They wave as they go by to thank me. I worked with them that way for many years.

    Also, another way to avoid a speeding ticket is quick and easy. I studied psychology in school. When you see an enforcer slowing down to turn around to follow you just wave to them and smile as they go by. This confuses them, perhaps they know you.

    When a big logging truck is tailgating I will very very gradually slow down, bit by little bit. Then when we get to a place with no passing lanes and going up a long hill they are already in the proper gear and hill climbing velocity. I think I am doing them a favour... Then I accelerate. They will never catch me again. One did try one time (he was empty). He insisted on following me. I led him to a place that would spray a lot of gravel against his headlights and windows, then really hit the gasoline.

    Vehicles with very big engines and crash bars are fun to drive in many different ways. I will NEVER want a self driving idiot that is easy to damage. I am a teacher.

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