back to article Super Cali's futuristic robo-cars in focus – even though watchdogs say they're something quite atrocious

Totally autonomous cars with no drivers, no passengers nor steering wheels are set to roll out onto California's streets under rules proposed by the US state's Department of Motor Vehicles. The regulator's suggested changes to the Golden State's red tape, published Wednesday, would grease the wheels for testing next-gen self- …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't wait until the first "endangered Tortoise" gets ran over. There will be hell to pay then...

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Terminator

      obLeon

      A tortoise? What's that?

    2. Citizens untied

      as there should be...

  2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    IT Angle

    I'm still fearful about the IT security and surveillance aspects of this

    I'm far from convinced that these cars can't be hacked, or that the state government will not soon be watching how Citizen Marketing Hack's morning commute is going.

    1. Tom Paine Silver badge

      Re: I'm still fearful about the IT security and surveillance aspects of this

      Spoiler alert: of course they can be hacked.

  3. Big John Silver badge

    Fully exposed?

    California is letting the autonomous car genie out of the bottle in the expectation that they will collect improved accident data that will bolster their position. Maybe that will happen, but first they will need to deal with accidents that kill people due to self-driving errors. It's already happened once, and will no doubt happen more as time goes on.

    Imagine you have lost a loved one because someone else's auto-drive car screwed up. Will you be willing to just accept the loss as the price of progress? Unlikely. Most people will decide their loved one would still be alive were it not for the new law allowing such cars on the road, and will go to court for damages.

    So there will be a need for a second law, blocking survivors from taking this sort of action. In short, it's gonna get messy real fast.

    1. killakrust

      Re: Fully exposed?

      Just to be clear. No one has been killed in an autonomous self-driving vehicle... yet. The only fatality on record is that Tesla driver that ignored a load of warnings and carried on watching Harry Potter instead of supervising the 'Auto-pilot'.

      1. Big John Silver badge

        Re: Fully exposed?

        A load of warnings? You mean like "Hey! there's a truck in front of me that I can't see, and it's gonna rip your head off any second!" Like that?

        I know I know, you mean the warnings from Tesla to always watch what the car is doing. But he didn't, and when millions have these cars there will be many who act the same way. Basically, what's the point having of such cars if someone needs to stay on the alert at all times and be ready to snatch back control instantly? Might as well just drive the damned things ourselves.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Fully exposed?

          He was treating it like an autonomous vehicle because Tesla didn't take any measures to prevent people from doing so, and gave it a name that implied it had more autonomous ability than it really did. So yeah, I think calling it the first autonomous vehicle fatality isn't inaccurate.

          There will obviously be more fatalities when they start operating autonomously "for real", and unfortunately many are likely to be similar to that Tesla crash - an accident that a human driver never would have had. True, they will no doubt prevent deaths that would have happened if a human driver had been present, due to the fact it will always be paying attention, follow traffic laws, etc. but that's not what people will focus on. Using statistics that say "over X miles we'd have expected Y fatalities but we had less, so autonomous vehicles are a success!" won't assuage the fears of people when self driving cars get in accidents humans wouldn't have.

          That's why I keep saying that autonomous cars need to be proven to drop fatalities by 90% over the average sober human driver before they gain wide acceptance. It needs to be 90% because most people think they're a much better driver than the average person, and needs to only count non alcohol related fatalities because most people don't drive drunk.

          1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

            Re: Fully exposed?

            "So yeah, I think calling it the first autonomous vehicle fatality isn't inaccurate."

            No more so than the myriad of deaths caused by people setting cruise control to 55mph and falling asleep ...

            1. DougS Silver badge

              Re: Fully exposed?

              Yes, much more so than people who set cruise control and fall asleep! The cause of those crashes isn't cruise control it is falling asleep! Comparing that with letting the Tesla "drive" for you, without it doing anything that forces you to pay attention or keep your hands on the wheel is utterly ridiculous!

          2. Tom Paine Silver badge

            Re: Fully exposed?

            Gedanken: supplies autonomous cars were standard, and then someone proposed letting humans control them. I suspect the scenario would be like aspirin not being able to get thru modern pharma trials (ISTR it wouldn't even make stage 2 trials because the ratio of clinical to LD50 level is far too low), or tobacco or alcohol being illegal if they'd only just been discovered.

    2. Aedile

      Re: Fully exposed?

      Will autonomous vehicles kill people? Probably. How many can they kill daily and still be preferable? 3,286. That is one less than the average number who die daily from humans driving (asirt.org/initiatives/informing-road-users/road-safety-facts/road-crash-statistics). They don't have to be perfect. Simply better.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        @Aedile - Re: Fully exposed?

        How many can they kill daily and still be preferable? 3,286.

        That's so utterly wrong I can't believe anyone would be stupid enough to post something like that! Let me give you a choice of playing two games to illustrate. In one game the average player has a 1 in 1000 chance of dying, but your skill and attention when playing the game has a strong (but not absolute) influence over your chance of dying. In the other game the average player has a 1 in 1001 chance of dying, but it is completely random and nothing you do has any influence whatsoever on the odds of dying.

        If you had to play one, which game would you choose to play? Hint: its a trick question, there is only one right answer and it isn't the one you suggested in your post.

        What you said may be correct from the perspective of society as a whole, but no rational individual would choose a self-driving vehicle in which they had only slightly less chance of dying than the statistical average. First, because most people consider themselves better than average drivers, and second and more importantly because those figures include stuff like drunk drivers, deliberate suicides, people on drugs, people who have been awake for 48 hours and can't keep their eyes open, people who are extremely stressed, people who are texting while driving, etc. Now if you're a habitual texting-while-drunk-driving-and-sleep-deprived driver, then yes you should want the autonomous car, but you'll be the only one.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Aedile

          Re: @Aedile - Fully exposed?

          I like the ad hominem attack opening. Very classy.

          I'm actually suprised you actually mention illusory superiority (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_superiority) and then prove that example.

          Your arguement is flawed since you assume that someone's skill and attention is "strong" for one of the "games". As you mentioned repeated studies have proven people suck at that judgement. Would your arguement still be valid if people were far (45%+) less skilled and more distracted then they believe they are?

          You are also making the assumption that the driver/player's skill will always improve their odds. However, ham fisted attempts could make it worse and actually decrease the odds of success.

          Finally, is the 1/1000 before or after your skill is added? If that is the odds after your skill then I'd still take random chance because it is still my best bet for success.

  4. JimC Silver badge

    never mind the content, brilliant headline!

    NM

    1. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      Re: never mind the content, brilliant headline!

      It's one of the best versions of this. Excellent work. Congratulations to everyone involved.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. AbelSoul
      Pint

      Re: never mind the content, brilliant headline!

      Yes, I haven't even read the article yet but came straight here to see if anyone had offered congratulations on such a wonderfully creative demonstration of headlinery goodness.

      I wasn't disappointed.

      Bravo folks, bravo.

      1. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

        Re: never mind the content, brilliant headline!

        My only concern is that it would flow better if it was 'the watchdogs' instead of just 'watchdogs'. I won't let this spoil my enjoyment of the aforementioned headline though.

  5. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Hm. I've never driven in California, but I'm pretty sure these cars can't be worse than the normal driving here in Florida.

    1. James O'Shea Silver badge

      Driving in Los Angeles is already worse than driving in Florida, and yes, that includes Miami. Not even LA gets to Mexico City. Things can get worse, quickly.

  6. Keven E

    Pay attention to the man behind the...

    Great, we're gonna have Uber auto /*driver supervisors that can barely navigate without a screen in front of them currently... how are they gonna be monitored to make sure they ain't, when responsible, distracted by tweeting? Certainly it's time for traffic cops to be able to give out moving violation tickets and suspend licenses to those that are supposedly paying attention.

  7. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Before anyone else at El Reg gets to do one of these Super Cali headlines they must be made to listen to the song on infinite reloop for a whole morning so they get the &*^%ing scansion right.

    It isn't hard:

    8 syllables / 6 syllable / 8 syllables / 6 syllables.

    Get it right! *headslapping noises*

    1. Keven E

      Re: Bah!

      Yeah... all it needs is a ..."The" - watchdogs. Perhaps there's something automated getting in the way...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bah!

        Missed it by "the" much.

        1. m0rt Silver badge

          Re: Bah!

          I dunno. I think the person who came up with that sub-heading isn't getting paid enough...

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      I'll let you in on a little secret: we don't really care if the scansion doesn't quite match up - worrying about a syllable here or there, life's too short for that.

      In this case, we couldn't fit the 'the' in because then the headline would not fit in its little space on the front page, break over many many lines and just look ugly. And I'd rather have a tidy looking headline than one that fits the 14 syllables perfectly.

      Sorry, not sorry. But thanks for appreciating the headline. We couldn't write one anywhere else in the enterprise IT news world.

      C.

    3. davemcwish

      Headline scansion

      Super-Cali's Robot-Autos, watchdogs say Atrocious!

      This work @Stevie ?

  8. Amorous Cowherder
    Coat

    Looking like that?

    I think I'll wait until they put some doors on the bloody car before I get in it!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Looking like that?

      "I think I'll wait until they put some doors on the bloody car before I get in it!"

      At least they only blew the bloody doors off!

  9. Mr Dogshit Silver badge
    WTF?

    Who wants this?

    I like driving. I enjoy using my skill. I enjoying navigating. I like to occasionally put my foot down.

    Who, other than two dozen nerds actually wants a self-driving car?

    1. Steve Todd

      Re: Who wants this?

      I think you’ll find you’re in the minority. Most folks just want to commute to work or get from A to B with their family and/or shopping. Just looking at the cars they buy tells you this.

    2. RockBurner

      Re: Who wants this?

      I think you'll find that we're* in the minority.

      Most people couldn't give a shit as long as they get where they want to go, in as short a time as possible, with minimal amounts of other cars getting in the way. Just look at the way most people drive now, it's a hassle. If they could be using the time for other things (FB, emails, calls, eating etc) they would.

      As long as the autonomous cars can look like status symbols as well as doing the job of getting from A-B most people will be happy.

      * petrolheads

    3. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Who wants this?

      Properly self driving car would be good. Out in the sticks with dismal public transport (that stops early in teh evening) then a night out means driving (or if the night out involves alcohol, then taxis).

      Given the car is an ongoing cost (for general use due to aforesaid dismal public transport, frequent taxis not affordable due to expense (I would have to run a big, very expensive car to make taxis a cheaper option ) - then automation so that whoever is (currently) designated driver could instead have an alcohol containing drink would be good.

      That's main selling point (IMHO) of fully automated cars, a night out, without having to soft drinks

  10. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    "Fully autonomous"

    If vehicles are truly "fully autonomous" what happens on the roads of Norfolk when the country lane narrows to effectively single track and you meet a vehicle coming the other way. You know there's a field gateway big enough to get into 50 yards back but the vehicle doesn't, and nor does the autonomous pilot of the oncoming vehicle. You could just reverse ... oops, no user controls ...

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: "Fully autonomous"

      The fun part comes when two of them meet head to head in such a scenario...

      And it's not just Norfolk, had exactly the same on a recent holiday in Cornwall, indeed more than once. And there it was quite often at least two vehicles going in each direction, just to add to the fun of synchronised reversing and manoeuvring.

  11. Yugguy

    I'd love to see one of these autonomous cars negotiating some sink-hole estate somewhere up North. It would be a flaming ball in about 5 seconds.

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