back to article Seriously, friends. You suck at driving. Get a computer behind the wheel to save your life

Much of the hype surrounding self-driving cars arises from the fact that people are terrible drivers. Automated systems, we're told, can help save lives. Ignoring for a moment all the technical problems that still need to be solved before people can expect to be chauffeured by machine – dealing with adverse weather or …

  1. werdsmith Silver badge

    When somebody stepped into the road in front of my car, the brakes were already on before I could get my foot to the brake pedal. That sold it right there.

    But my lane departure warning is audio only and doesn't really compete so well with loud music. A vibration through the steering would work much better.

    The car also has a system to monitor driving and tell you to stop if it thinks you are unwell, tired, drunk or otherwise incapable of being safe. Happily I've never seen it work.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Free idea for Musk...

      Vibration/haptic feedback across the car etc.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Vibration/haptic has already been done

        And without tech. Around here many of the highways have rumble strips on both shoulders, as well as the middle for two lane divided highways. Whenever they resurface/repave one of them they're adding this. I assume it is pretty cheap to do, just use a roller that isn't smooth in the appropriate places.

        It is readily apparent if you leave your lane - you can tell with your ears, with your hands on the steering wheel, and with the seat of your pants.

        1. Milton Silver badge

          The rumble strip

          There should be a Nobel-equivalent prize for inventions which are a perfect combination of simplicity, cheapness, reliability and effectiveness.

          I'm all in favour of lane-departure warning systems and the eventual automation of driving, but we all know those will be necessarily highly complex and technical solutions. That's fine: they have to be.

          But designers, whoever and wherever you are, spare a moment always to think about the Humble Rumble, and how something almost pathetically simple saves lives every single day.

      2. BillG Silver badge

        Re: Free idea for Musk...

        The vehicles considered for the study all had a forward collision warning system in addition to a lane departure warning system. The systems communicated via audible alerts or vibration; they did not intervene to steer.

        Hello, fellow Reg readers.

        Last month I was slowing for stopped freeway traffic when two cars behind, a driver that was texting and driving swerved to the right (center) lane and sideswiped a truck. She then continued forward and rear-ended a pickup, which rammed my car, pushing it between the concrete guardrail and the stopped car in front of me.

        My car is totaled and I'm pretty banged up. She had no insurance (people with no insurance are not financially well-off so going after her is useless).

        If you ask me, lane departure systems and collision avoidance warning systems should be mandatory.

        1. robin maddison

          Re: Free idea for Musk...

          Oooof, time for a law change, insurance should be compulsory as it is here, not that it ensures that every driver in the UK is insured, there are plenty of scrotes who don't bother! If there is a crash involving one of these retards then I believe there is a an Insurance companies trunk that doles out compensation(some)

    2. jake Silver badge

      Another way of looking at automatic braking.

      Why are we doing everything possible to stop culling the stupid from the human herd? We're de-evolving as a species ... spending entirely too much money trying to save 0.0000001% of the population who MIGHT chlorinate their own gene-pool because they are stupid.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Mushroom

        Re: Another way of looking at automatic braking.

        "Why are we doing everything possible to stop culling the stupid from the human herd?"

        Clearly Jake we're not doing very well, you're still about.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Stuart 18
        Joke

        Re: Another way of looking at automatic braking.

        @jake

        Hmm... Are we proposing Eugenics using automobiles??

        Will there ever be a Godwin's law corollay referencing Henry Ford??

        Sure, I'd love to see a bunch of t**ts bumped off(1), but there is WAY too much collateral with motor vehicles:-)

        1. I'm only joking: death is too extreme - sterilizing is the transport method of the future:-)

        1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Re: Another way of looking at automatic braking.

          While I think self-driving cars are the way to go if I am forced to be on the roadways, I prefer to partake as little as possible. I know it is not always possible to avoid getting in a car to go somewhere, but I have managed to replace more than 90% of time spent behind the wheel from my life with rail transport and walking. It looks as though I will be able to pare that down even more.

          Cars are more and more a lifestyle choice and not a necessity. Doesn't that imply that those who use them most are, at least to a certain extent, choosing to risk life and limb simply by doing so? Will insurers start asking if you drive and inquiring about self-driving tech if you do in much the same way they currently do concerning smoking, drinking and drug use?

          1. fruitoftheloon
            Stop

            @Robert Helpmann: Re: Another way of looking at automatic braking.

            Robert,

            would I be correct in assuming that you reside in a built-up metropolis somewhere??

            Just wondered...

            Jay

            1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
              Childcatcher

              Re: @Robert Helpmann: Another way of looking at automatic braking.

              More or less, Jay. I live in the burbs about 25 miles out of the city. I moved to this area from another US state where there was less in the way of rail or bus service. There, I carpooled and used light rail as much as I could, but it was limited. I will probably move farther out from the metro center as the rail line is expanding beyond its current 60+ mile range. I appreciate the advantages of country life, but am more than happy to enjoy those of the city, too. I have no complaints about being able to have it both ways.

              1. fruitoftheloon
                Thumb Up

                Re: @Robert Helpmann: Another way of looking at automatic braking.

                Robert,

                likewise Sir!, I used to live in a pleasant green-ish bit on the outskirts of London.

                Having it both ways is a most admirable ambition!

                Cheers,

                Jay

          2. Dan McIntyre

            Re: Another way of looking at automatic braking.

            Cars are more and more a lifestyle choice and not a necessity.

            You tell that to the thousands of disabled people out there for whom public transport is completely inaccessible...

          3. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Another way of looking at automatic braking.

            Cars are more and more a lifestyle choice and not a necessity. Doesn't that imply that those who use them most are, at least to a certain extent, choosing to risk life and limb simply by doing so?

            I think you're making a universal assumption. Here in the States, some areas have excellent publc transportation (local). Other areas, none at all.

      4. Milton Silver badge

        Re: Another way of looking at automatic braking.

        Unfortunately Jake, as someone has already pointed out, the proportion of road-using imbeciles is about 50% (something easily confirmed by empirical observation of Britain's motorways for an hour or so); worse, they are not confined to killing only themselves and will victimise other, more worthy specimens; and—worst of all!—their age means that in many cases they will already have spawned cretinous offspring. Your suggestion of a Darwinian solution won't hold water in this case.

        There may be an argument for a cognitive function test before a driver is allowed to take control of a vehicle, but (a) it's easier just to make sure that once the tech has reached maturity, no one is allowed to drive a car unless in most exceptional circumstances, and (b) frankly, if you were to administer IQ tests before allowing folks to perform certain tasks, the Number One priority for intelligence filtering would surely be for those standing as MPs—which would pretty much empty Westminster and cause a constitutional crisis making the question of lane discipline look like small beer by comparison.

        In short, I fear that this is a policy issue with far-ranging ramifications.

      5. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Another way of looking at automatic braking.

        Why are we doing everything possible to stop culling the stupid from the human herd? We're de-evolving as a species ...

        Probably because the stupid take out the nonstupid also?

    3. Andy Non
      Coat

      A vibrating steering wheel could be confused as driving too slowly and approaching stall speed.

      1. fandom Silver badge

        I have a the vibrating steering wheel and, no, you don't confuse it.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Graham Dawson

          Pretty sure that was the joke.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "But my lane departure warning is audio only and doesn't really compete so well with loud music. A vibration through the steering would work much better."

      Sorry, but it seems to me that if someone isn't aware that they've departed their lane then they shouldn't be in charge of a car.

      As much as I, and many other people, enjoy driving, the sad fact is that most of us have an exaggerated evaluation of our driving skills so once autonomous vehicle technology is consistently reliable and predictable I think that all routes with a speed limit > 30 mph should be restricted to autonomously controlled vehicles only.

      Of course, whilst I'd personally miss the enjoyment of controlling the vehicle myself, the trade-off is essentially between entertainment vs. the risk of killing someone, and only a fool would think that's reasonable.

      1. fruitoftheloon
        Happy

        @LeeE

        LeeE,

        are you having a larf?

        I live in the middle of Devon, when going through Dartmoor, how the feck is an auto car going to cope reversing up a hill on a road that is wide enough for one vehicle when an arctic [semi] is coming the other way??

        Devon, like most of England, has many roads that are literally as wide as a footpath, how is your whizzy car going to navigate through that then???

        I would love an auto car for the 1k mile round trip to see my folks and the mother-in-law, but on proper roads in the country? yeah right...

        Cheers,

        Jay

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @LeeE

          "...how the feck is an auto car going to cope reversing up a hill on a road that is wide enough for one vehicle when an arctic [semi] is coming the other way??"

          Probably the same way that they reverse themselves in to parking spaces. Not a problem.

          "...roads that are literally as wide as a footpath..."

          Hmm... literally, really? You're getting it up on to just two wheels then, I assume. There's not a chance that you actually are driving on footpaths, is there? Perhaps the world might be a bit safer if you had an autonomous vehicle, which would know the difference.

          Like it or not, this is going to happen: manual control will be forbidden on all medium and major routes and restricted to low-speed/stop-start areas where obstructions are transient, varied, frequent and unpredictable, such as housing estates, car parks and high-streets/shopping areas etc.

          1. fruitoftheloon
            Stop

            Re: @LeeE

            LeeE,

            I will type this bit SLOWLY.

            There are many roads [for a legal definition of a road] that are not much wider than a car around here.

            I don't get the sarcy cheekiness my friend.

            It will be 'forbidden' on all medium and major routes - what are you on? [more to the point which country are you living in?] - how is that going to work for new/ancient tractors and commercial vehicles?

            Also those big green things called plants/trees have a friggin annoying habit of not obeying rules about how they grow/fall/snap/get hit, an interesting edge case don't ya think????

            How do you think the wheat/maize/milk/cheese/ham/steak/mutton is going to get from a field to your table???

            I don't think you have really thought this through, 'cos what you are advocating is called A RAILWAY....

            Thanks for your input anyway!.

            Cheers,

            Jay

        2. DougS Silver badge

          @fruitoftheloon

          Your definition of "proper roads" is one with which I'm not familiar. I've driven on those one lane roads where you have to back up if there's an oncoming car, so I recognize their existence and the inherent difficulty (and negative cost/benefit ratio) in widening them to actually have two lanes. So they are something autonomous driving software will have to handle.

          However, I don't see any reason an autonomous car should have difficulty with it. It could go in reverse at the same speed it goes forward equally safely, unlike a person. An autonomous car should also have a much easier time of navigating very narrow roads compared to a person. You damn sure wouldn't see cars driving around with their driver's side mirror gone if they were all autonomous, and I've seen an awful lot of those around country roads in England and Ireland!

          I think there are harder problems for them, like negotiating roads covered in fresh snowfall without tire tracks of previous cars to guide you. Sometimes I'm not sure where exactly the road is in such a situation, so I don't see how the car could tell unless/until it has GPS accurate to within a foot or so. Road construction where there are detours that confuse even people would surely confuse cars. Those the problems I'm worried about. Following a narrow road or driving in reverse are very simple things for software. They won't be one of the corner cases that will give the cars fits to get that last 2-3% of driving situations covered.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: @fruitoftheloon

            "Sometimes I'm not sure where exactly the road is in such a situation, so I don't see how the car could tell unless/until it has GPS accurate to within a foot or so"

            Or the ability to see "through" the snow. It's not opaque at all wavelengths.

          2. fruitoftheloon
            Happy

            @DougS: Re: @fruitoftheloon

            Doug,

            yup, agree with you almost completely.

            Whizzy tech is great [it pays my bills], but 9X% of the population hereabouts aren't going to be spending £30-70k on a new whizzy autodoodical vehicle at any point in the future are they now???

            Cheers,

            Jay

        3. Jan 0
          Boffin

          Re: @LeeE

          > I live in the middle of Devon, when going through Dartmoor, how the feck is an auto car going to cope reversing up a hill on a road that is wide enough for one vehicle when an arctic [semi] is coming the other way??

          I'd expect my autonomous vehicle to a). be much better than me at reversing and b). to have wirelessly negotiated with the artic before it was visible.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Sorry, but it seems to me that if someone isn't aware that they've departed their lane then they shouldn't be in charge of a car.

        Well at least you started that comment with an apology for the rest of it. I assume because you knew it was too simplistic to apply to real life humans.

    5. nijam

      > A vibration through the steering would work much better.

      Wrong! My car has that - but on British roads, you can't tell whether you've drifted out of lane, or just over more potholes. There are other problems with it too, but the pothole thing alone makes it useless.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Wrong! My car has that - but on British roads, you can't tell whether you've drifted out of lane, or just over more potholes. There are other problems with it too, but the pothole thing alone makes it useless.

        Then the vibration frequency or characteristics are wrong and need to be changed so you can tell the difference.

    6. Fan of Mr. Obvious

      My lane departure gives feedback and makes corrections. Sadly, it frequently corrects in the wrong direction when taking freeway transitions e.g., I am turning vehicle into left curve and vehicle things I am wandering so it corrects to the right. This has caused me to keep it off unless I am on an extended drive.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        It shouldn't correct you if you are actively making steering inputs.

    7. Roland6 Silver badge

      >When somebody stepped into the road in front of my car, the brakes were already on before I could get my foot to the brake pedal. That sold it right there.

      Volvo S60?

      When Volvo first launched this car in the UK, to demonstrate all the safety features they organised a series of track days because you needed to drive like a madman (in a controlled environment) - at times overriding your normal reactions and fully trusting the technology... Impressive, shame about the price even after the substantial discount offered to those invited to the track days.

    8. Roland6 Silver badge

      But my lane departure warning is audio only and doesn't really compete so well with loud music. A vibration through the steering would work much better.

      Not sure, the Qashqai's system beeps when you wander too far without indicating - interestingly entering or leaving a contraflow (lanes narrow) can trigger it, so it seems to not only check the white lines but also the drift of the car on the road.

      The system in a Vauxhall Corsa didn't beep instead it increases steering resistance which requires a little extra effort to over come.

      Of the two I preferred the Qashqai's because it didn't interfere with the steering, because with both systems there were times they had come to the wrong decision. For example overtaking a cyclist (wild animal, pot hole etc.) on a clear road, normally, I would simply anticipate and 'drift' out and in the couple of feet needed, with the Qashqai I simply got beeped, with the Corsa I find myself 'fighting' with the steering wheel - obviously, if I bothered to indicate no problems...

    9. Jtom Bronze badge

      If the lane departure alarm doesn't compete well with the music, then I think the solution is to reduce the volume of your music. Hearing is one of the senses that helps improve the safety of driving. Hearing horns, emergency vehicles, and police cars - as well as your lane departure alarm - should not be compromised by the volume of your entertainment.

  2. jake Silver badge

    People aren't terrible drivers.

    Terrible drivers are terrible drivers.

    Simply take them off the roads, thus freeing up all the money spent on automating cars for idiots for use on projects that will benefit humanity.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

      On the whole: people are terrible drivers. Driving requires people to maintain high concentration while doing lots of repetitive tasks, which is something human are simply not very good at.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

        Driving requires people to maintain high concentration while doing lots of repetitive tasks

        Too true. Many years ago I did a 2hr weekly commute by car. Roads at 7am on a Monday in mid-Wales are pretty quiet (and incredibly beautiful, seeing the sunrise over frost-covered hills). One day I realised I was in Rhaeadr, but couldn't remember a single thing about the last 15 miles of the journey. Obviously I had managed it safely (it's quite a windy road) but I'd done the journey hundreds of times and nothing of sufficient interest had happened that day to be worth remembering. The following week I signed up for the Institute of Advanced Motorists scheme!

        1. nevstah

          Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

          One day I realised I was in Rhaeadr, but couldn't remember a single thing about the last 15 miles of the journey. Obviously I had managed it safely...

          I recall reading (dont remember where) these periods of driving are your safest

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

            Interesting if it is true that these periods are your safest. I've had this kind of memory-lapse on a few occasions and while I'm pretty sure that if something happened I'd have dealt with it appropriately it's still a bit disconcerting.

            1. theModge

              Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

              Another I read but can't remember the source sadly, but apparently if do do something regularly, such as the drive for your commute, your brain realises you're not learning anything new after a long time doing it and as I understand it stops bothering to store memories.

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  @symon Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

                  The overwhelmingly vast majority of the people who suffer the consequences of those actions are also male. Males also account for the vast majority of suicides (and suicide attempts) and are disproportionately more likely to die in war, in industrial accidents and in a whole variety of other ways.

                  Statistically speaking, if you have a Y chromosome, you're very likely to be dead.

                  1. This post has been deleted by its author

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

                I think that's where my last decade must have gone .....

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

            "I recall reading (dont remember where) these periods of driving are your safest"

            It seems plausible. Memorising what you've already passed doesn't help you drive the road that's still ahead.

          3. nijam

            Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

            > I recall reading ... these periods of driving are your safest

            Because in retrospect they are - you would have been memorising "nothing" - specifically, nothing interesting, a normal journey that you've done many times before.

          4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

            I recall reading (dont remember where) these periods of driving are your safest

            Sounds almost tautological, doesn't it: drove for an hour and can't remember if anything happened. Says a lot about the brain failing to remain alert during a repetitive activity.

            Research has been done into this in the Netherlands dealing with the problem of "polder blindness": drivers unable to recognise corners after driving too long on straight roads. For more information there is a report "Attention problems behind the wheel": https://www.swov.nl/sites/default/files/.../fs_concentration_problems_archived.pdf

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

              "polder blindness"

              Yep, and in this country, some of the most dangerous roads are in the Holland facsimile that is Lincolnshire. Long, straight roads, with ditches either side. Not sure about the Netherlands, but the local gene pool doesn't help in cabbage county.....

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

              "Sounds almost tautological, doesn't it: drove for an hour and can't remember if anything happened. Says a lot about the brain failing to remain alert during a repetitive activity."

              It doesn't mean you weren't alert at the time, just that you didn't commit it to memory afterwards.

            3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

              Research has been done into this in the Netherlands dealing with the problem of "polder blindness": drivers unable to recognise corners after driving too long on straight roads. For more information there is a report "Attention problems behind the wheel": https://www.swov.nl/sites/default/files/.../fs_concentration_problems_archived.pdf

              That sounds different to arriving somewhere, which may have involved quite a few lane changes, gear changes, corners and other navigations to just plain being bored senseless of miles upon miles of straight roads. I remember hearing that curves are put into motorways to ensure that drivers remain alert rather than just driving up a monotonous straight road.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

                "I remember hearing that curves are put into motorways to ensure that drivers remain alert rather than just driving up a monotonous straight road."

                True story. The problem cropped up when the Interstate a highway System was first going up. We have a term for the problem: Highway Hypnosis.

        2. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

          I've had such blank-out episodes before and they scared me, to be quite frank, shitless.

          These days I am very particular and stop frequently to avoid that from happening, because as much as they might possibly (allegedly) be your safest driving, I don't know, there's no proof of that, and quite frankly, I would prefer not to know.

          If I'm not compos mentis behind the wheel, I shouldn't *be* behind the wheel.

      2. nijam

        Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

        > ... while doing lots of repetitive tasks

        Actually, with a little experience, those repetitive tasks are mapped into "muscle memory" (i.e. our own internal automation system) - you can complete a long journey without recollecting ever having changed gear, for example. So the "repetitive task" part of your assertion (at least) is largely irrelevant.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

        "On the whole: people are terrible drivers"

        Some are more consistently terrible than others and the flipside of this is that even Lewis Hamilton has his off days.

        Insurance companies are going to drive the stampede to greater autonomous system implementation in cars. That 40% reduction in Tesla crash rates hasn't gone unnoticed.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Tesla crash rates

          That 40% reduction in Tesla crash rates hasn't gone unnoticed.

          That 40% reduction in Tesla crash rates is statistically meaningless, TFIFY.

          If people self select when to use "autopilot" during the most boring but also easiest driving (i.e. like on an expressway) having fewer accidents per mile when it is enabled versus when it is not would hardly be surprising.

          Unless the typing of driving being compared between 'on' and 'off' autopilot is exactly the same, a lower accident rate doesn't prove anything. Statistically some of the most dangerous driving is on two lane roads late at night - people are tired, roads are curvy, and the risk of head on collision or collision with animals is high. That's probably not when people are turning it on.

          I do agree with your sentiment that insurance companies are who will push autonomous cars, when they arrive. But they'll demand proper statistical research proving how much better it is, not anecdotal self-selected evidence from a facility that isn't intended as autonomous and should never have been named in a way that implied it was.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

      Jake, I presume your driving is 100% perfect?

      I think I've finally sussed out who Carly Simon was singing about.

    3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: People aren't terrible drivers.

      Simply take them off the roads

      But we don't, even when proven to be terrible drivers.

      Case in the local paper this week. Car was on windy version of local A-road, technically 60 but not a great idea, driver (18 years old) was doing nearly 100mph "so his friends could film him for snapchat". Left the road on a bend, hit and half-demolished a house, one of the friends killed (but not the driver). Driver gets 4 years in chokey, plus a FIVE YEAR ban.

      Methinks the world would be safer if he had a 25 year ban. Then he might be older and wise-enough to take another test (or we'll all be driving robot cars anyway)

      If the deceased was encouraging the driver (by doing the filming) then I assume this qualifies for a Darwin, if not for the driver.

  3. Warm Braw Silver badge

    My lane departure warning is audio only

    That's the advantage of rails: you get some haptic feedback too.

  4. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    US drivers often disable lane departure warning systems

    I can say from experience that 2017 model cars are better off without driver assistance. In test drives (I was the passenger), they all delivered frequent false alarms on busy freeways. It was not only distracting, but it caused risky corrections that didn't need to happen.

    Much like early anti-lock brake systems, this I don't want to be a early adopter.

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: US drivers often disable lane departure warning systems

      "In test drives (I was the passenger), they all delivered frequent false alarms on busy freeways. It was not only distracting, but it caused risky corrections that didn't need to happen."

      A similar thing can happen with some modern speed sensor signage - the type that detect the speed of an oncoming vehicle, then flash up the speed limit as a warning.

      There's one near where I live, on a 30mph stretch of road. It's a couple of hundred metres after where the speed drops to that, so on that basis probably a good thing to have there.

      The problem is that it flashes up 30 even if you're going at about 27mph (measured using GPS a few years ago). People immediately think they're going too fast - even if they are within the limit - and react accordingly. You can plonk yourself a little way up from it and see brake light after brake light when people approach that sign.

      And in the car you're likely to instinctively glance at the speedometer - and because you're doing so as a reaction to something external, it means you're *unexpectedly* taking your attention off the road.

    2. Nifty

      Re: US drivers often disable lane departure warning systems

      Thsi may be an apocryphal story but was it Mercedes that did a detailed study when antilock brakes were first introduced. They found that Turkish city taxi drivers had the same collision rate once they'd got used to antilock brakes. And that their average gap-to-next car has much shortened. The human had adjusted to the system.

      How's the equivalent gong to happen with driverless?

  5. John Lilburne Silver badge

    A large chunk of accidents ...

    ... could be avoided by warning system whenever one nears an ASDA/WALMART store. In my experience the standard of driving from those exiting those locations is utterly abysmal.

    Something like a "WATCH OUT!!! TWATS IN VICINITY!!!" heads up alert.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: A large chunk of accidents ...

      Also a day of week cautionary alert, as in "Are you really sure you want to be driving on a Sunday? The Sunday drivers are out in force today..."

      1. John Lilburne Silver badge

        Re: A large chunk of accidents ...

        The Sunday drivers aren't nearly as big a problem as the lycra-clad dickheads that use twisty country b roads as a velodrome. Those arseholes can be found every evening.

        1. Fursty Ferret

          Re: A large chunk of accidents ...

          The Sunday drivers aren't nearly as big a problem as the lycra-clad dickheads that use twisty country b roads as a velodrome. Those arseholes can be found every evening.

          Would you prefer that they ride on A-roads? You do realise that roads weren't built for your express enjoyment? Come to think of it, why are you using B-roads when an A-road is probably the fastest route?

          Also, what's lycra got to do with it? Seems to be a bit of an obsession amongst the anti-cycling brigade.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My only concern with this is that a partially autonomous car could lead to more crashes if drivers do the inevitable human thing which is get lazy and switch off. Maybe a check every couple of minutes would be useful?

    1. EnviableOne Bronze badge

      thats where gaze and alertness monitoring come in and shock you if your not paying attention.

  7. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Lane departure?

    You have lanes? You lucky, lucky bastards! All the roads round here are single carriageway (nearest M-way is 2-hr drive away. There's half a mile of dual carriageway 50 miles away!), and half of them don't even have white lines down the middle. I defy a computer to sort THAT out!

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Re: Lane departure?

      I can picture it now, Elon Musk sitting at his desk with a map open in front of him, looking glum.

      An engineer is across the desk from him.

      "This will be our greatest challenge yet, sir - Wales."

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Lane departure?

        "This will be our greatest challenge yet, sir - Wales."

        Actually I suspect those pretty, little, incredibly narrow, windy lanes with high hedges and high banks in Cornwall and Devon would be worse! Particularly when two robot car+caravan combinations meet each other...

        +1 anyway

        1. Screwed

          Re: Lane departure?

          The cloddiau along many of the roads round Pembrokeshire can make some of the roads very much the equal of Devon and Cornwall.

          I have been trying to imagine the protocol for human driven vehicles facing robotic when the only thing that works is friendly, polite mutual co-operation and signing.

        2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Lane departure?

          The things that catch you out in Cornwall and Devon are when you're innocently driving down the said narrow, windy road when you typically come across a 90 degree blind corner where some muppet (usually a local, I tend to not be down these areas at peak times) has parked, or more accurately abandoned, their vehicle. You then have to perform an emergency stop, which even if you're being careful is usually fro 30mph, attempt to negotiate around the abandoned vehicle and then wonder "why did they park there, and where the hell are they?"

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Lane departure?

      "half of them don't even have white lines down the middle."

      Amongst other road rules, no matter what the "posted" speed limit is, you are required to be able to stop in the visible distance of road ahead or half of that if there's no centreline, which often sets a lower effective speed limit.

      Humans are notorious for failing to observe and react to adverse conditions. Automated vehicles will handle this case just fine and slow down to a safe speed. They also have faster reaction times.

  8. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    I wonder how many lives have been saved due to anti-lock brakes, stability control, etc. Things almost all card now have but we never think about

    Better driver augmentation rather than driver automation makes sense

    1. Andy Non
      Happy

      "I wonder how many lives have been saved due to anti-lock brakes"

      I was spared a head on collision on Sunday, when an impatient driver pulled out from behind a tractor straight into my path. With only a split second and nowhere to swerve to to avoid them, I had to do an emergency stop and was amazed at the short stopping distance of the brakes in my newish car. My old car would have ploughed straight into them instead of stopping a couple of feet short. Those two feet made a huge difference to my Sunday.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        How old was your old car? My 1999 vintage car has ABS and if it's got modern high quality brake pads from a company like Pagid then braking performance shouldn't be too different from an old car to a new one.

        Heck, Mintex make modern pads for cars dating back to the 1930's. The age of the car shouldn't matter significantly if it's well maintained and the discs & pads aren't rusted to the point of ineffectiveness. (and if they are, then they should fail the MOT and require replacement!)

        1. Andy Non

          @Peter2. It was an 18 year old Peugeot. I'd had it for 12 years. It had passed it's MOT but it was well ready for the scrap yard, being too expensive to keep repairing. I'd estimate that it would have taken another 5 feet or so before it would have stopped. Enough to have collided with the other vehicle. I doubt all cars with ABS have a stopping distance exactly the same. Age and condition of the vehicle, brakes and tires etc will all have a bearing and change the stopping distance by a few feet.

      2. hammarbtyp Silver badge

        Not sure Anti Lock has a big effect on stopping distance, however it does ensure you can steer away from danger as well as brake.

        Still, glad it worked

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "Not sure Anti Lock has a big effect on stopping distance"

          As soon as your wheels lock, your braking distance is substantially increased (around 20%)

          Most drivers won't react quickly by lifting off the brake to regain control and ABS is far better at finessing the wheels than any human could ever be.

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      "Better driver augmentation rather than driver automation makes sense"

      What confuses me is why people insist on thinking there's a difference. It reminds me rather sadly of creationists who insist on distinguishing between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. Even creationists can't deny the many changes we can see actively happening in organisms on a human timescale, so they came up with the rather odd idea that small changes are incapable of adding up to big changes - even if we can see some changes as they happen, they can never amount to a whole new species.

      Cars are really no different. Augmentation is simply a step along the way to full automation. If you keep automating more and more parts of the driving process, it's pretty much inevitable that you will eventually find the driver is no longer actually necessary, or is even actively detrimental. It's not easy to say how quickly it will happen, and personally I think most proponents of automatic cars are far too optimistic on that front, but it truly baffles me how people can see a constant stream of automation being added - ABS, cruise control, active cruise control and automatic braking, lane warnings, automatic lane steering, automatic parking, etc., etc. - and yet still insist that there must be some vital spark that can never be reproduced artificially.

      Focusing on incrementally adding more augmentation until we can take the drivers away rather than trying to jump directly to full automation may well make sense, but saying we should go with augmentation instead of automation really doesn't.

      1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

        @cuddles

        Creationists deny all evolution, that's the point and comparing augmentation and automation with that debate is stretching the metaphore

        Many of the things that allow augmentation facilitate the move to full automation, but that was not there motive for them being developed. Their purpose is to make driving safer.

        Whether it is achievable or even desirable to remove the human from the loop is a different question.

        We can look at other examples where more automation has been achieved. Trains have to various levels achieved full automation, but many trains still require a human driver. Most passenger aircraft pretty well fly themselves, but still we have pilots and I would argue not many passengers would get on one unless they new their was wetware at least in token charge.

        To achieve full automation in cars you would need a high level of AI to allow decision making to cover unexpected situations.

        This I think is the problem. If you make a car with the decision making ability close or above a human driver, it is no longer a car, it is in fact human competitor. As such I think we will find it hard to cross that last step because in doing so we will be accepting we are in fact obsolete, but most will accept a high level of augmentation as long as someone has a hand on the kill switch

        * See Asimov I robot books for more reference

  9. Redstone
    Childcatcher

    This does throw up some questions that need answering

    While I don't think many people have credible issues with ADAS in vehicles, I'm less happy with the removal of human autonomy from driving.

    To take self-driving vehicle tech to its logical conclusion, will you be happy when the government mandates where you can and can't drive? What about when you can drive? Are you happy with your exact whereabouts being logged on government servers as you drive (without possibility of being turned off) as this data will be necessary to allow auto-navigation?

    Maybe you are cool with all of this, but autonomous vehicles throw up a lot of civil liberty questions that society ought to answer beforehand, rather than blindly handing our rights to free movement over to the government.

    1. jMcPhee

      Re: This does throw up some questions that need answering

      There's also questions about spending money wisely. If we can get 80% of the autonomous benefits at 20% of the cost, that leaves a lot of money for trolley, train, sidewalks, and public transport. Not to mention the reduction in health care from people doing more walking and biking.

      This whole thing is smelling more and more like the kind of 1950's sharketing which killed off so much public transport in the US.

      1. Glen 1 Bronze badge

        Re: This does throw up some questions that need answering

        " If we can get 80% of the autonomous benefits at 20% of the cost, that leaves a lot of money for trolley, train, sidewalks, and public transport."

        Depends on who is spending the money.

        If the autonomous features are included in cars as options, then its Joe public deciding to pay for them.

        The other stuff is politicians deciding to spend Joe public's money.

        The worst of both worlds would be mandating they be included in cars. Anything that reduces the drivers control and therefore culpability i feel is a bad thing.

        See Also: Plane crashes caused by pilots not having sufficient training/understanding of the autopilot.

  10. Herby Silver badge

    We're all in a hurry...

    And the nice autonomous driving vehicles we all want rarely take this into account. Having just driven around 600 miles two days ago (coming back from the eclipse watching), I saw lots of people just doing bad things. Yes, there were all types and then you mix up trucks (aka lorries) on the road that desire to pass one another at speeds about 10 mph below passenger cars, you get frustrated. Compound that with cranky passengers that demand food/drink/rest stops NOW, and you get an interesting mix of conditions.

    Autonomous driving hasn't come here yet, so we must drive ourselves around and go long distances. I challenge Elon and Company to get his nice electric vehicle from here in Sillycon Valley to greater LA all by itself. The distance is around 300 miles, and (thankfully) I can get that on a single tank of gas (petrol) in my big ugly SUV that I drive. It takes around 5 - 6 hours (traffic on I-5) but it can be done.

    Yes, warning systems are nice, but educating drivers is a good start. Remember:

    "Ban low performance drivers, not high performance cars"!

  11. TheElder

    Seriously, friends. You suck at driving.

    I have been driving for over 50 years. I have never hit anything accidentally. No tickets since the 70's and only two then. I have hit another vehicle intentionally but that is a different story... Crash bars are handy when somebody is about to run you off the road.

    Auto cars should require at least one hand on the wheel every 30 seconds. An open eyes detector would be a good idea. Even then it will not work with many of the vehicles currently on the road. There is some pretty crazy shit on the roads, especially in back country roads. I wonder how they will fare with logging trucks? Every load they look different and are frequently covered in mud. The driver nails a ribbon on the longest end log at the back but that is not always visible in a short while. I have just barely missed being killed a few times. That was because I anticipated the possible mistakes like a shifting load.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seriously, friends. You suck at driving.

      And I suppose you keep to the two-second rule even when every drivers and his or her mother sees the gap and cuts in fronthe of you.

  12. Maty

    For the record

    According to a survey I read a whiles back, over 90% of people reckon they are above-average drivers. That should tell you all you need to know about the ability of humans to assess risk.

  13. Chemical Bob
    FAIL

    How expensive will all this automation be?

    I'm no expert but I'd guess that the kind of automation needed to handle every conceivable driving situation would cost a bit more than the eCall system that cost €5 million for every life saved.

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/07/05/ecall/

    1. TheElder
      Flame

      Driving through HELL

      The real cost should be calculated as lives taken. How many times did the auto discourage driver/rider awareness?

      There WILL be times when the person in the seat MUST take control.

      Driving through HELL

      I also do not expect to see them around here anytime soon. This town is extremely complicated. Just check out Victoria on Goggle Earth (not Google maps but the full Google Earth). There are many things such as sudden hills and curves with big and small traffic circles and many changes in speed limits with some very low.

      Then there is the issue of bike riders all over the town and they have priority over autos in most places. They also do not have to full stop at a stop sign. Some places the are full stops for the cyclist but they are commonly ignored. Some places the cyclists have their own divided lanes that suddenly become just a line on the road. Some of the bike lanes have their own traffic lights, some don't. Then there is the drawbridge as well as military vehicle traffic.

      In winter the roads can suddenly have frost or black ice for just a few metres at the tops of the many small hills. Then there are areas that have five times more precipitation than downtown Victoria, mostly in the winter now. I also very much wonder how they could drive through this:

      1. TheElder

        Re: Driving through HELL

        I totally forgot to mention all the auto ferries. The lineups can be very long. One is verbally instructed as to what lane to drive into before boarding the ferry. There isn't the slightest chance that an auto auto could handle that. I also wonder how it would handle the Autobahn? If in the left lane a motorcycle may be approaching from behind at 300 to 400 kilometres per hour. I have been there.

  14. Nifty

    I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't let you drive like that

    Shirley?

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