back to article Car insurers recoil in horror from paying auto autos' speeding fines

Red Dwarf's Kryten has told Parliament that electric cars of the future could be charged from LED lampposts – while insurers have flinched at the idea that they might have to pay speeding fines on behalf of naughty self-driving vehicles. British insurance companies don't mind paying out for driverless car traffic accidents, as …

  1. Chemist

    Surely the manufacturer is at fault if its 'perfect' creation fails to spot a speed sign.

    1. BillG Silver badge
      Stop

      Surely the manufacturer is at fault if its 'perfect' creation fails to spot a speed sign.

      To me this isn't about a speed sign, it's about a speed trap.

      Once certain people learn how autonomous vehicles operate there will be ways to game them, like dropping the speed limit so fast that the vehicle can't safely slow in time. Sure, dramatic speed drops are illegal, but if the fine for an autonomous vehicle is autonomously paid, it unfortunately opens up a whole new revenue stream for shady law enforcement.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        This needs a 1000 upvotes but alas, I'm only allowed one. This part of "speeding tickets" does smell like certain cities (I'm the States, btw, but it does apply here also) will loose a, in some cases, significant source of income. Some small towns depend on that income. Ideally, if the cars are smart enough to recognize speed limits, there shouldn't be a problem. Will local law enforcement find some other way to keep the income flowing to the city? Who knows. Will driver's licenses still be required such that you could be issued a ticket for not having one? This is a bit of a sticky wicket for all drivers, countries.

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge

          In a small city here in Florida (Waldo) they suspend 2 police chiefs and disband the police force, then you depend on the surrounding county for your essential services.

          There was a nearby town (Hampton) that was nearly disincorporated (dissolved) for being a speed trap.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "There was a nearby town (Hampton) that was nearly disincorporated (dissolved) for being a speed trap."

            Many years ago there was a scandal involving traffic police in one UK metropolitan area and another force loaned some officers who didn't know the area to take over. The husband of a colleague told us that he'd just been stopped for speeding.

            "What speed do you think you were doing, sir?"

            "Forty."

            "And what is the speed limit on this road?"

            "Forty"

            <gulp?

            "Oh!"

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "In a small city here in Florida (Waldo) "

            ... where's Waldo? (Florida is, after all, a fairly big state)

        2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          @Mark85, There is a notorious sleaze operation called Pine Mountain in metro Atlanta. At one point the county made sure the local media noted that Pine Mountain PD 'tickets' can be moved to county courts. This did two things, the county is not a greedy to shakier cases got dismissed and other traffic cases got more lenient fines, etc. with Pine Mountain getting nada.

        3. Swarthy Silver badge
          Pirate

          Speed Traps

          The bit about "Smart Roads" changing the speed and the Autoauto not being aware/adjusting in time reminds me of a bit of shadiness I heard about in the South-East US; wherein small towns had speed limit signs set in concrete filled buckets and move them around to where they wouldn't normally be - sometimes a bit behind the car they had just pulled over for "speeding".

        4. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "Some small towns depend on that income"

          In the UK, police are county-based rather than towns.

          Because of past abuse, speeding fines from cameras and roadside ticketing are paid into central government coffers. Unfortunately those who run the very lucrative speed camera scam(*) realised that by diverting motorists to "speed awareness courses", they could get kickbacks^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H referral fees paid by course providers to the camera partnership charities and thus maintain their 6-figure salaries.

          (*) The scam is that speed limits are being set on the statistical mean of all traffic speeds, rather than the "statistical mean of free running traffic speeds(**), plus 1 standard deviation" (aka the 85th percentile) - traffic engineering textbooks and various standards define this as the maximum speed a reasonable driver will travel at when the road is clear(***). If this is higher than the defined speed limit then it's an engineering failure, not a motorist one, requiring design rework, not traffic enforcement. By including congested traffic and platoons behind slower drivers, the reported "average" is forced down and in some cases can end up more than 10mph below the 85th percentile - and this in turn is used to justify lower speed limits than the design speed on roads - which sets up the speed trap.

          (**) Free running is usually taken as vehicles with at least 4 seconds headway, so that they're not influenced by the vehicle in front. A number of countries have legal standards for this, but the UK doesn't. The only mention of measuring speeds is a reference to using free running speed in the apendicies of a DFT management document. (Because of "speed trap towns", there have been moves in the USA to make it illegal to set the speed limit below the 85th percentile but this hasn't happened yet)

          (***) 60 years of traffic management, measurement and statistical analysis in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and various EU countries has shown that motorists tend to travel at the design speed of a road and will _ignore_ speed limit signs which deviate more than about 10mph from this. Even worse, once they do start ignoring it peak speeds and "speed spreads"(****) increase - especially if the speed limit is set too low. If you want to slow traffic you have to increase the perceived road hazards - things like chicanes and speed humps don't work, whilst adding parking restrictions and pedestrian fencing actually speed traffic up considerably.

          (****) This is the difference between the fastest and slowest traffic. Slow drivers frustrate followers, frequently resulting in dangerous overtaking manouveres and drivers "flooring it" to make up for perceived lost time.

          The worst part is that _most_ things that councils attempt to do to "slow down traffic" or "make things safer" usually have the opposite effect, resulting in more changes, and more positive feedback because they can't be seen to admit they made a mistake. It's a bit like the old lady who swallowed a fly. In a lot of cases the best thing to do when congestion starts being a problem is "nothing at all", as that way it becomes self-solving. Attempting to make the traffic flow more smoothly frequently just moves the congestion a few blocks or results in a marked increase in off-peak traffic speeds.

      2. BillG Silver badge
        WTF?

        Hacking the Law

        Quoting myself, Once certain people learn how autonomous vehicles operate there will be ways to game them

        I was just thinking, how are autonomous vehicles programmed to handle tailgating?

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: Hacking the Law

          hopefully by taking pictures and automatically uploading them to tailgatingwankers.com

          1. Captain Boing

            Re: Hacking the Law

            "hopefully by taking pictures and automatically uploading them to tailgatingwankers.com"

            which of course is a mirror of getafuckingmoveonyoulanehoggingpri.ck

        2. boltar Silver badge

          Re: Hacking the Law

          "I was just thinking, how are autonomous vehicles programmed to handle tailgating?"

          Hopefully they'll move over because they won't have been programmed with an Awkward Old Fart Playing Policeman mode making them do 69.9mph in the outside lane of a motorway when the inside is clear. If Rover was still around I imagine its autonomous vehicles would have this very functionality available, probably at the press of a simple easily accessable red button in the middle of the dash.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Hacking the Law

            "they won't have been programmed with an Awkward Old Fart Playing Policeman mode making them do 69.9mph in the outside lane of a motorway when the inside is clear. "

            That's a particular annoyance you won't see with automated cars.

            It really is a pity that "Failure to Keep Left" (aka lane hogging) and "Disrupting Traffic Flow" (aka holding up traffic by travelling below the limit with more than 4 cars behind you(*)) are both offences which require the police to observe personally. Make it easy to report and there would be so many dashcam reports that the egrarious offenders would be off the road in 2 weeks.

            (*) In the UK (and many other countries) you're legally _required_ to pull over and let the traffic pass if you've become a mobile roadblock. Some countries take it seriously enough that a phoned in report will result in police being sent to wait ahead of the old fart (it's always an old fart) and pull them over. One memorable report counted 600 vehicles behind the dawdler.

          2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

            Re: Hacking the Law

            "Hopefully they'll move over because they won't have been programmed with an Awkward Old Fart Playing Policeman mode making them do 69.9mph"

            Would take you quite some time to overtake though!

        3. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Hacking the Law

          how are autonomous vehicles programmed to handle tailgating?

          By activating the smoke canisters and the minelayer.

          If it's good enough for James Bond, it's good enough for me.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hacking the Law

          "I was just thinking, how are autonomous vehicles programmed to handle tailgating?"

          Tailgating is the plan ... remember ~20 years ago someone doing research funded by California Highways Dept giving a talk about work they were doing on "self-driving" cars on highways where the intention was to have automated tailgating as given the increased numbers of cars you either had to build more roads or get cars to drive closer together. (This was "self-driving" in that you would drive onto the highway and then switch over to self-driving mode which would attach you onto the end of a train of cars until you neared your exit where it would move you out and tell you to take over again)

          From recent experience of visitis to SF area then they are clearly implementing the "cars closer together" scheme on the 101 ... unfortunately they haven't solved the "but without everyone slowing to a crawl" bit of the concept!

      3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Devil

        "Once certain people learn how autonomous vehicles operate there will be ways to game them"

        I had been wondering what will happen when ne'er-do-wells draw a speed limit sign on a bit of paper for the car's camera to pick up. Either '10' and everything starts crawling (or going quicker if in London) or '50' just before a speed camera in a 30 limit.

      4. dave 81

        Write your MP about policy for profit.

        bLair started this when he allowed the police to keep money from fines, and now with talk of privatized company's being given the power of arrest, we are not far behind the gangs in uniforms that are ruining the US. Policing should never be done for profit.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: Write your MP about policy for profit.

          "bLair started this when he allowed the police to keep money from fines,"

          As the years go by it becomes more and more obvious what an utterly clueless narcisstistic liar this man was, and I feel embarrassed to have been taken in by his lies and shallow showmanship back in 97. The gullibility and naivity of youth I suppose.

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Write your MP about policy for profit.

            As the years go by it becomes more and more obvious what an utterly clueless narcisstistic liar this man was, and I feel embarrassed to have been taken in by his lies and shallow showmanship back in 97. The gullibility and naivity of youth I suppose.

            I'm embarrassed by once having voted for Margaret Thatcher. Fortunately the resultant experience of 1980s unemployment pushed my politics far enough to the left that I could never even contemplate voting for that twat Blair.

          2. Wilseus
            Holmes

            Re: Write your MP about policy for profit.

            "As the years go by it becomes more and more obvious what an utterly clueless narcisstistic liar this man was, and I feel embarrassed to have been taken in by his lies and shallow showmanship back in 97. The gullibility and naivity of youth I suppose."

            Really? Long before the '97 election it was manifestly clear to me exactly what sort of a person he was.

      5. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "Once certain people learn how autonomous vehicles operate there will be ways to game them"

        Setting up a speed trap should become a criminal offence with liability on whoever signed off on it. At the moment it's merely unlawful and there's effectively no penalty.

  2. The Nazz Silver badge

    Terrorism

    Has anyone thought of terrorism?

    Millions(?) of driverless cars reprogrammed, by hack or specifically by design or ideology, to start mowing people down?

    And what is gonna be the UK population by 2040? 90-100m? Will cars be able to move at all?

    Anyone got a reasonable island going cheap?

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Terrorism

      (raises hand).

      That. And drones. Stopping a person in a car is one thing, stopping the car itself is quite another. Especially if it would just keep going with blown-out tyres, and there was no driver to capture.

      They would also make a marvellous auto-delivery device for... well... whatever you want.

      The thing that invokes terror in me is not "terrorists"... it's our response to them, though. Banning or controlling self-driving cars because they could be misused seems cutting off the nose to spite the face. But, it has to be said, if I were in charge of some counter-terrorist think-tank, those two things would be at the top of my list nowadays.

      1. griogarach

        Re: Terrorism

        Stopping a self driving car will be simple.

        Toyota Safety Sense uses a system now where the on-board cameras look for, and display, info from roads signs it has passed. It would reasonable to assume self driving cars would use a similar system alongside GPS and various other data sets. Because roadworks are temporary in nature, the cameras would need to be real time, and have priority over any other information streams.

        It is by no means a stretch of the imagination that those cameras could be programmed to look for a sign which would issue a "pull over" command, perhaps with GPS integration and some sort of unique identifier to allow authentication of authorized users versus car jacking yoofs.

        Stop commands could then be issued from a rear facing screen on a police vehicle, or even a roadside sign or overhead gantry.

        As for continuing to drive after being "stingered" - Every new vehicle after 2012 will have either a direct or indirect tyre pressure monitoring system. It wouldn't be unrealistic to assume that a self driving vehicle would be programmed to pull over in the event of pressure loss over a few PSI.

        1. FlippingGerman

          Re: Terrorism

          Simple, yes. If we're both thinking some kind of QR-like sign, then it would be fairly easy for some pranker to stick one up on the motorway, and suddenly everyone is pulling over on their way to work.

          Of course, it would be possibly to have something designed for a particular vehicle, and with a digital signature, but history makes me think that it would not be particularly secure.

        2. Robert Heffernan

          Re: Terrorism

          In a fully self-driving world speed signs wouldn't be needed even for roadworks.. Instead of placing a speed sign up the road, a mat gets rolled out with an RFID coil system that when the car drives over it, the RFID mat tells the car the speed limit is decreasing for roadworks, then past the roadworks another mat tells the car to go back to the normal speed.

          It's a completely digital system that doesn't rely on computationally expensive and sometimes inaccurate image analysis

    2. Noram

      Re: Terrorism

      Richard Morden covers it quite well in the Metrozone series where London is basically full of driverless cars.

      1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

        Re: Terrorism

        @Noram

        I happen to be reading that series at the moment, just starting book 3 and it's the first thing which jumped to my mind when reading this article.

      2. Dan 10

        Re: Terrorism

        Not familiar with Daniel Morden, I'll check him out - Daemon by Daniel Suarez provides a fairly apocalyptic view as well.

    3. Robert Heffernan

      Re: Terrorism

      It's not hard to include certain isolated hardware and software that disables the vehicle in the event it stops responding as expected.

      For example, a secondary computer with supervisory software (written by a 3rd party) isolated from the primary driving computer who's sole function is to determine if the response of the primary is in keeping with the input provided.

      So if the primary decides to suddenly point at pedestrians and accelerate rapidly, the supervisor sees this as an unexpected action, disables the primary computer's CPU and dumps it's RAM to a dump file, applies the brakes until stopped, then locks the vehicle out so it's unable to be driven until the manufacturer performs a reset sequence.

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: Terrorism

        Yeah... 'Cause that kind of thinking has kept the like of S0NY (PSP, PS3, PSV, and PS4), safe from any, and all whoever had an interest in hacking such a Device. Perhaps our good friends at John Deer, will find a way to criminalize the act of simply trying to attempt a cheaper DIY Job, instead of opting for the more expensive Dealership Garage to do it for you.

    4. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Terrorism

      And what is gonna be the UK population by 2040? 90-100m?

      The current forecast is for 75 million.

      Don't guess numbers when you can quickly look them up. It makes you look like a Daily Mail reader.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Terrorism

        "The current forecast is for 75 million."

        In the mid 1960s it was forecast to be 75 million by the end of the century.

        Stuff happened. Birthrates in developed countries have been well below "replacement" levels for the last 4 decades and are showing no sign of changing.

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did they get to who is actually liable for speeding tickets?

    If I'm not driving the car then I can't commit the offence, I don't see how this could be viewed any other way.

    I'm also curious why insurance companies appear to be dictating the law, I had this daft idea that parliament and not companies were supposed to draft legislation.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      What device is in charge of control of the speed?

      Whoever is liable for that is liable for the speeding ticket, whether they like it or not.

      Unless the "driver" is in control of the speed, there's no way they can be held liable for it.

      Whether they "would support it" or not, the insurers will have to suck it up.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Surely the owner of the device would be liable? Insurance isn't the first line of defence, even today, it's there as a protection for the driver or owner; the driver/owner is responsible, and the insurance policy indemnifies them. If the small print in the policy says "no indemnity for speeding" then the owner pays.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Surely the owner of the device would be liable?

          So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?

          1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

            So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?

            You can be if you mess with the pollution control systems. Will you be liable if you refuse the VW correction patch?

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              Re: So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?

              Wouldn't it be more sensible to just not charge a speeding ticket - if the car's logs and videos show that its speed was not dangerous?

              Conversely, even a car doing less than the speed limit can be going too fast for some circumstances - and any sign of such car behaviour should result in a software review pronto.

              Here's the thing: equating speed with risk is primarily done because it is easy to enforce (and fine). Poor human driver behaviour (Lane discipline, for example) is dangerous but not enforced.

              1. Jonathan Richards 1

                Re: So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?

                > equating speed with risk is primarily done because it is easy to enforce (and fine).

                You didn't get any downvotes from me, but I'll just observe that the kinetic energy of you and the vehicle you're in goes up as the square of your speed (velocity, really).

                If you have E joules of k.e. at thirty m.p.h., you'll have 1.77E joules at forty.

                Since higher energy collisions do damage proportional to the energy involved, a small increase in speed can result in much more damage, so that does lead to increased risk.

            2. Dave 126 Silver badge

              Re: So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?

              Speed limits are very crude. The speed you travel at should depend on the shape of the road, weather, density of traffic, children's bed times, wildlife activity through the day and year, the vehicle you are driving... Better (safer and at times faster) speed limit data can be provided to automated cars.

            3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?

              You can be if you mess with the pollution control systems.

              But that was the point of the article - the insurer is on the hook for safety, so long as you install upgrades.

              But you are responsible if the automated car breaks the law.

              i suppose you are currently legally responsible if your phone doesn't meet CE/FCC regs - but I can't imagine a regular owner being prosecuted because the manufacturer had a bug in the modem

            4. Chris 125

              Re: So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?

              "Will you be liable if you refuse the VW correction patch?"

              A couple of friends are about to find out.

              First few letters arrived with DVLA headings on them (spuriously - this has nothing to do with them apart from tracing drivers), all officially worded, "you need to take your car" blah blah blah.

              Eventually, a folded leaflet arrives which basically asks them to tick a box to say they're not going to have it done. This has no DVLA logos, they've dropped that plan of attack by now.

              This leaflet has followed the others into the recycling box (think Green, kids. Always recycle!). I don't believe VAG, DVSA or anyone else can force the update to be done, which is why they word it as an "upgrade" rather than the more truthful "downgrade". The software change appears to ruin fuel economy if you see before/after tales from drivers that have had it done, by virtue of it triggering DPF regenerations far more often (which just injects more fuel in to raise temperatures). Previously these weren't needed, as the shite just fell out the back.

              1. Spanker

                Re: So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?

                Yeah so fuck everyone else for your 10% extra bhp, right?!

              2. Chemist

                Re: So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?

                "The software change appears to ruin fuel economy if you see before/after tales from drivers that have had it done,"

                Well I had my Touran 'fixed' in April. Traveling to Switzerland ( a 3 times a year 1700 mile trip) returns 54-55mpg exactly the same as the previous 12 trips.

                1. d3vy Silver badge

                  Re: So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?

                  "Well I had my Touran 'fixed' in April. Traveling to Switzerland ( a 3 times a year 1700 mile trip) returns 54-55mpg exactly the same as the previous 12 trips."

                  We have noticed no difference in the wife's Audi since it was done either, she spends maybe 70% of her working day driving so if there was anything more than a negligible difference we would have noticed by now.

              3. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?

                "A couple of friends are about to find out."

                For this kind of case it's trivial. Type Approval is withdrawn for non-"upgraded" cars and the DVSA sends someone around to impound it unless you have proof the fix has been done and is still installed. They'll also tell your insurance company, who will send you a nice letter withdrawing cover.

                The rumour mill says that there's about to be a major crackdown on diesels with removed DPFs and ones with the guts of the DPF box hacked out (it's a thing apparently: cut open, dump the contents, weld closed again, modify your engine manglement to disable DPF burns.) as well as "decatted" petrol vehicles and the ever popular engine management hacks to "restore power" (all the above void the Type Approval). With any luck this will extend to the "loud exhaust" brigade (an exhaust louder than factor voids type approval too)

                Voiding your Type Approval means you're driving without insurance, so getting caught is a lot more serious than you might think at first.

                It'll be "interesting" as the worst offenders tend to be commercial drivers. Imagine half London's mincabs being impounded, etc

                1. Chris 125

                  Re: So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?

                  Putting a sports exhaust on a car doesn't invalidate insurance. Type Approval is the process to get a car on sale, it doesn't have to meet TA afterwards. Are you thinking of Construction and Use Regs? In which case they're much more lax - in fact there is no dB limit for exhausts, by virtue of it being almost impossible to reliably measure outside of a lab (there is however a dB limit for Type Approval).

                  C&U is effectively what the MOT Test and/or a roadside stop checks - does the car meet basic safety standards AFTER sale (sharp edges, faulty lights, floor made of cardboard etc). You can modify a car away from its TA specs and as long as it's still "roadworthy" to C&U regs - checked at MOT time after three years - then it's legal.

                  They sold the car in a Type Approved state, you're under no obligation to update it further. It's your car. It's roadworthy. It meets the regulations that are relevant (C&U).

                  Some of the people refusing to have it done have an upgraded ECU already so there's no point, others don't want the increased load on the DPF which causes huge repair bills when it inevitably clogs.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            If it's at an MOT check which it should pass, then yes.

            1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

              So, if the software written by the manufacturer is in control of the vehicle and exceeds the speed limit, is found to be unmodified, patched correctly and in a timely manner and otherwise operating correctly, surely the vehicle manufacturer is responsible?

              1. The First Dave

                Another question no-one has asked, that is routinely found to be an issue with 'regular' speeding tickets is the actual signage - if the signage is defective, how does the car challange it (regardless of who would pay)?

            2. /dev/null

              The only emissions tests in an MoT test are for CO and hydrocarbons, there's nothing about CO2 or NOx.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                "there's nothing about CO2 or NOx."

                YET.

          3. ZanzibarRastapopulous

            > "So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?"

            Yes, you are, you are responsible for ensuring your vehicle is fit to operate on the road.

            Similarly if I have an escalator in my shop that goes so fast it launches grannies two foot in the air off the top, that's my problem too.

            People are starting to get very strange ideas of who is responsible for their machines.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              > People are starting to get very strange ideas of who is responsible for their machines.

              Whilst I'm all for people taking responsibility for their actions, it is morally unconscionable to hold someone responsible for something for which they cannot reasonably be aware of. In the UK it is essentially impossible for a private citizen to know what emissions their car is producing, because no-one provides the service to the public (I believe there are 3 companies offering PEMS rental, and only 1 will deal with the public). You might as well put police/VOSA at every Nissan garage and pull everyone driving a brand nee Qashqai off the forecourt (or in fact, almost any diesel on the road - I'm sure it actually applies to a lot of petrol's too).

              What you're saying (effectively), is that if I (hypothetically) buy rat poison which is marketed as safe for human consumption*, it's tested by the Food Standards Agency an acredited as such**, but the manufacturer had incorporated an undetected fatal-to-humans component in it***, then I'd be liable for my neighbour's child eating it and dying. Which is patently absurd.

              * analogous to car manufacturer's marketing blurb

              ** analogous to EURO certification

              *** analogous to defeat device

          4. Michael Habel Silver badge

            So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?~

            Actually yes you probably are. But, since your Car is still likely under some Warranty or other. You could try, and take it up with VW. Though I doubt they would care much.

          5. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions?

            The VW scandal concerned NOx, not CO2, which is important because NOx has a legal maximum limit (analagous to a speed limit) whereas CO2 is just used as a tax lever by governments.

            Whether you're liable will probably depend on how the law is written. It it says that you can't drive a car with emissions above a certain level then yes, you're liable (but will have a very good claim against VW for selling unfit goods). If the law simply says that it's not legal to sell cars that exceed the limits then you're probably not liable.

            It's not really the same issue as speeding. Consider the current situation with a hire car. If you get stopped for speeding, you'll get fined. If you're caught by a camera the notice goes to the owner (the rental car agency) and there's always small print in the contract which says that they will pass your name as driver to the authorities, and if you don't pay they will bill the fine plus an "administrative charge" to your credit card. I think it likely that the same approach will be applied to autonomous vehicles, the "registered keeper" will be the end of the line for the ticket.

        2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          The owner would be liable?

          So, you mean the leasing companies then?

          If you change 'owner' to 'registered keeper' then you might have a case but I'd be rightly miffed if I got three points on my license for my speeding car if I was on the other side of the world...

          The idea of self-driving/autonomous cars is that the car will go where it is told so it could be sent to pick up little Jimmy and Jockasta from school with no adult in the car.

          Future cars probably won't even have a steering wheel.

          Then there is the whole 'car sharing' thing.

          Who is liable then eh?

    2. David 132 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Because it's Britain, and the joyless shitpails who run the country (of which MPs are just a sub-set.. see also councils, quangos, pressure groups and the perpetually offended) decide everything on the basis of: how miserable, coerced, and fleeced can we make the populace? What remnants of light and joy and self-determination and freedom can we stamp out next?

      1. Andrew Lobban

        @david132

        Best comment I've read anywhere for ages. Funny and sadly true..

    3. BrownishMonstr

      Who is liable for dictating the speed limit? Will some human make the decision based on how they're feeling that day? Based on some stuff they learned from someone else, who observed it from a flawed survey. Will it be static or will it be vary by day/time/traffic /school holidays/etc.

      Before we answer who is liable to pay the speed limit we should ask what the speed limit is and whether it's different for human drivers, and autonomous cars. Human drivers are usually great at doing many things but bad at each specific thing, especially concentrating on more than one thing at a single time. Autonomous cars can't do many things human drivers can, but they could potentially be great at a core set of tasks and could be Observing all around the car.

      Observing the speed limit is one thing. Setting the speed limit is another.

    4. Chemical Bob

      "I had this daft idea that parliament and not companies were supposed to draft legislation."

      Yes, that is daft.

    5. GrumpyKiwi Silver badge

      Reply to: I'm also curious why insurance companies appear to be dictating the law, I had this daft idea that parliament and not companies were supposed to draft legislation.

      Gosh yes. Next thing you know other people with subject expertise will be telling parliamentarians that the laws of mathematics won't change just because they stomp their foot. Or that the internet is not a series of tubes. Can't have that sort of carry on.

    6. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Daft idea

      Have you looked at our government this century? Not just the party/coalition with the majority - I mean the whole lot of them. Do you really want these people drafting legislation?

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Daft idea

        "So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions"

        unfortunately yes. if vosa pull you over, test your car, find it non compliant then the driver is fined and handed a defect notice. as wrong as this is (as the car was bought new and serviced in good faith).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Daft idea

          > "So I'm liable for my Volkswagon exceeding CO2 emissions"

          > unfortunately yes. if vosa pull you over, test your car, find it non compliant then the driver is fined and > handed a defect notice.

          MOT & roadside emissions testing for diesels is on smoke density, though (or it was when mine was spot-checked ... on the way back from an MOT ...) ...

          > as wrong as this is (as the car was bought new and serviced in good faith).

          Agreed.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Daft idea

            "spot-checked ... on the way back from an MOT"

            One of the more paradoxical things in the UK is that you can pass the MOT with a car that isn't in roadworthy condition. Yes, really.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If your not driving it then you are just a passenger, and the car could have many passengers in it so there would be no way, by law, for the police to determine which passenger was at fault.

      The car and it's autonomous AI would be at fault and therefore the insurance firm would need to pay and would have telemetry to prove it was driving, what speed and GPS history.

    8. j.bourne
      Black Helicopters

      I suspect that you've confused what should happen with what does happen...

  4. frank ly Silver badge

    Try a sensible design?

    "Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin asked what would happen if a self-driving car was "slow in responding to a change in signage", using the example of a smart motorway with editable speed limits."

    Surely there's a 'grace period' of about a thirty seconds (or whatever) before any new speed limit violations will trigger a recorded offence? If not, why not?

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Try a sensible design?

      The trick is to use an example to prove the point.

      The insurers want to take no responsibility for the car's speed.

      So when the system fails, the GPS is out, the road map is inaccurate, a new road is put in, a speed limit on an existing road is changed, or there are roadworks - they want no part of it.

      Asking the question shows that. They'll be overruled anyway. But it shows them that they'll have to take account of things like that, and insure it, whether they like it or not. Ask any insurer if they want to cover you using candles responsibly at home, they'll say no. The fact is they don't get to specify things down to that level of detail and need to take into account that people will do that anyway.

      1. Chemist

        Re: Try a sensible design?

        "they want no part of it"

        Do you know an insurer who would insure a human driver for speeding fines ?

        1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          Re: Try a sensible design?

          Not an insurer but NewsThump reported that Audi would pay fines for their owners of new cars. Up to £20k a year apparently.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Try a sensible design?

            Maybe it would be better if they spent the money on fixing all those defective indicators instead...

          2. Chris 125

            Re: Try a sensible design?

            I really hope I'm too slow to spot the irony here, but just in case - NewsThump is a satirical site.

        2. Adam 1 Silver badge

          Re: Try a sensible design?

          > Do you know an insurer who would insure a human driver for speeding fines ?

          I think this is why I'm having such trouble following the line of reasoning. Insurers have never covered you for breaking the law. If you are driving an unregistered vehicle and have an accident, your insurer won't pay out. Same if you are driving at an unsafe speed for the conditions or under the influence of a substance (prescribed or otherwise). They are not about to start now.

          They will insure you against fire, theft, damage caused by another party etc. At most, they may accept to charge back to Ford/Toyota/BMW/whoever. The manufacturers themselves may have public liability insurance specifically to handle Takata scale recalls but carrying the can for this isn't something that retail insurance would want a bar of.

      2. PNGuinn
        Mushroom

        Insurance liability

        This really is a load of old bx.

        So the insurers have to pay the fine when "my" driverless car breaks the speed limit - or commits any other offence "on my behalf"?

        And my premiums will not be affected at all? So I wont in the end have to pay?

        See icon >>

    2. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: Try a sensible design?

      What, and miss out on all that lovely revenue?

      Don't worry, they'll follow the fine principles of ex-North Wales Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom (he of the infamous "that guy we caught doing 31mph in a 30 zone* is no better than a teenage vandal and should shut up and admit his guilt") when designing this. Just be grateful that the speed limit signs aren't in a locked filing cabinet in a disused lavatory behind a sign saying "beware of the leopard", etc.

      *-because the guy in question was overtaking a slow-moving tractor, as I recall.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Try a sensible design?

        Just be grateful that the speed limit signs aren't in a locked filing cabinet...

        It's an interesting point whether the displayed speed limit sign is the definitive legal limit, or that is the speed limit assigned by the local authority ?

        If somebody puts up a fake speed limit sign or a variable one malfunctions are you currently responsible ?

    3. Dave Pickles

      Re: Try a sensible design?

      "Surely there's a 'grace period' of about a thirty seconds (or whatever) before any new speed limit violations will trigger a recorded offence? If not, why not?"

      According to a friend* who was invited to a 'naughty step' course in lieu of a speeding ticket the cameras are armed 12 seconds after the signs are changed.

      * honest...

      1. Andy Mac

        Re: Try a sensible design?

        You’ve hit on the perfect solution: Send your car to the naughty step class and thus no fine for anyone.

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Try a sensible design?

          You’ve hit on the perfect solution: Send your car to the naughty step

          In the case of Spanish VW-group cars, it's a naughty Seat.

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: Try a sensible design?

            the insurer will end up paying the fine. your premium will include a fee to do so. no different from the legal fee coverage part of some policies.

            cant see the hoohaa insurers are making. any extras they are mandated to do will simply cost us more on our premiums :(

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Try a sensible design?

              I'm torn between saying that it should be obvious that the driver should pay the fine, and should the "driver" be the computer then liability sits with the legal entity who wrote and supplied the software.

              However, it then occoured that should you say that the insurers should pay then insurance premiums for autonomous cars would go up to pay for all of the autonomous speeding tickets, which would make them cost ineffective to own.

            2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: Try a sensible design?

              It'll go this way in the end - with either our insurance, the manufacturer's insurance or the bot-developer's insurance covering it.

              Insurance is little more than gambling. However for those who noticed that the insurance groups are setting the rules in parliament this is because they have a lot of money... a very large amount of money indeed (they are usually effectively owned by the banks). These groups do not like to lose their bets. Ever. Therefore the bets they take are considerably hedged in their favour and the law of the land has been amended to support this.

          2. Korev Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Try a sensible design?

            I'm afraid I'm going to have to Escort you off the premises, Leon...

            1. Morris-man1948

              Re: Try a sensible design?

              ... and it just Getz worse..

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Try a sensible design?

      Presumably once there are a number of autonomous vehicles on the road, any variable signage would be updated to unambiguously communicate with them - e.g. bluetoth / wifi / short range beacons with an ID for that gps position, published to all satnav makers, so that the car could receive the speed data, and know it came from a legit sign.

    5. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Try a sensible design?

      Perhaps the idea of changing speed limits on the fly is just stupid ?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Try a sensible design?

        "Perhaps the idea of changing speed limits on the fly is just stupid ?"

        For human drivers? No. Slowing down the traffic a few miles before an incident or just heavy and slow traffic works because you don'y get so many people arriving at the back of the queue quite so quickly. With mainly autonomous cars, speed limits per se may not even be necessary since they hopefully will all be online and communicating.

      2. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: Try a sensible design?

        "Perhaps the idea of changing speed limits on the fly is just stupid ?"

        No variable speed limits are not stupid... Forget motorways for a minute... There are three primary schools near my home, each of these has a 20mph limit outside it. Two of these schools are on busy roads so it makes sense to reduce the speed when the kids are out and about, but between 9.30am and 3pm there are no kids out of school so the limit goes back up to a 30 on one road and a 40 on the other... Similarly after 5pm the kids have all gone home so there is no need for the limit to be lower.

        All that is needed is CLEAR SIGNAGE for drivers (Though to be honest if you can get above 10mph at pick up and drop off time near a school I'd be amazed!)

        Going back to motorways the idea is that if you follow the posted limits it makes your journey faster as you dont end up getting caught up in miles and miles of traffic as you slow down slightly and the blockage is (theoretically) clear before you get there.. In my experience following the posted limit on the Mway does indeed lead to a much less stressful driving experience.. if we could all follow the posted limits and kill off the middle lane hoggers doing 65 and taking 10 minutes to overtake a lorry driving on the motorway would be much less stressful.

    6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Try a sensible design?

      "Surely there's a 'grace period' of about a thirty seconds (or whatever) before any new speed limit violations will trigger a recorded offence? If not, why not?"

      Yes, there is a delay before the speed cameras react to the new lower limit. If you just passed a variable speed limit sign which sets a lower limit, you won't know until you see the next sign and as far as you are concerned the new lower limit doesn't apply until you reach that sign.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speed Limit Signs

    How long before pranksters start posting fake speed limit signs? Bonus points to them if they make them only visible in infrared light (e.g., They might be a sale ad, or some other kind of advertisement in visible light, with the speed limit appearing in infrared.).

    Hmm, if such a fake speed limit sign indicates that the speed limit is 1,080,000,000 km/hour (e.g., 3E8 m/s), will the car try to break the speed of light? Might be just as entertaining to make the speed limit 1 km/hour.

    Anon Y. Mous

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Speed Limit Signs

      Seen pasted onto a roadside sign in the near future, in infrared-visible ink:

      ( 30 '); DROP TABLE autopilot-rules;-- )

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Speed Limit Signs

        Make sone wonder about car jacking then. Invisible stop sign. Car starts slowing. Stops. Doors ripped open and "Give us your wallet". Bang!

        1. d3vy Silver badge

          Re: Speed Limit Signs

          "Doors ripped open"

          I dont for a minute think that would happen... for a start car doors can be locked - every car Ive had since my shitty austin metro got nicked have automatically locked them selves when the car starts driving.

          Secondly... would it be sensible to steal an autonomous car? What would the purpose be? Joy riding? Resale? You'd have to be pretty confident in your technical abilities to *quickly* disable any "return to home"/"Drive to the nearest police station with the doors deadlocked" functionality!

      2. Dwarf Silver badge

        Re: Speed Limit Signs

        Surely no programmer would make such a simple mistake.

        Didn't someone do the same on a registration plate too - seem to recall a pic on the Internet in distant memory

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Speed Limit Signs

          Was this the pic on the internet?

          https://xkcd.com/327/

  6. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Stop

    If I am not driving, then I am not responsible for failure to follow road rules.

    Its as simple as that. Car manufacturers or insurers will need to be responsible for this. I for one won't buy an autonomous vehicle if I can get ticketed because it gets pranked/hacked/just responds incorrectly to changed road conditions.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: If I am not driving, then I am not responsible for failure to follow road rules.

      Ah, but who is responsible for a broken taillight ticket?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If I am not driving, then I am not responsible for failure to follow road rules.

        "broken taillight ticket"

        The manufacturer, I'm not the driver so I shouldn't have to inspect the car it should do it itself then warn me it's needs a repair and go off to the garage and get itself fixed.

        The whole idea of self driving cars is that you don't have to be a driver.

        That does raise another question though and that is if it needs a repair no matter how insignificant would that invalidate the insurance and if it did how would you get it to the garage?

        1. d3vy Silver badge

          Re: If I am not driving, then I am not responsible for failure to follow road rules.

          "The manufacturer, I'm not the driver so I shouldn't have to inspect the car it should do it itself then warn me it's needs a repair and go off to the garage and get itself fixed."

          Ummm... I can see where youre coming from but common sense says thats not so.

          If I order a taxi and it rolls up with bald tyres and a bumper hanging off Im not getting in it... Similarly if I rent a car and they try to pass off a shed that wouldnt make it to a test station never mond pass and MOT its my responsibility if I choose to get in it and drive it on the road.

          For autonomous cars the only thing that changes is that it would be the responsibility of the person planning/requesting the journey to check the car out for defects first (as the driver should do currently)

          Modern cars are capable of telling you when things are wrong - mine notifies me of broken bulbs it would be trivial for this data to be logged and accessed if you are pulled for having a defective light :

          LOG FILE :

          31/01/2019 19:00 - Power ON

          31/01/2019 19:00 - User "JOHN" logged in

          31/01/2019 20:00 - Destination selected "Home"

          31/01/2019 20:00 - Journey Started

          31/01/2019 20:00 - ! NS/BL Failure

          31/01/2019 20:00 - ! NS/BL Failure - User notification displayed

          31/01/2019 20:01 - ! NS/BL Failure - User notification dismissed

          31/01/2019 22:00 - Journey complete

          31/01/2019 22:00 - Power Off

          31/01/2019 22:01 - Charging

          01/02/2019 03:00 - Charge complete

          01/02/2019 08:30 - Power On

          01/02/2019 08:30 - User "JANE" logged in

          01/02/2019 08:30 - Destination selected "Work"

          01/02/2019 08:30 - ! NS/BL Failure - User notification displayed

          01/02/2019 08:30 - ! NS/BL Failure - User notification dismissed

          01/02/2019 08:31 - Journey Started

          ...

          ...

          ...

          You get the idea, now if Jane was pulled over on her way to work she would be liable as she was notified BEFORE the journey commenced that there was a problem.

          If john had been pulled over on his way home the night before he would not have been liable as he was en-route when the issue came up (Though really spare bulbs take up almost no space... buy some)

          If anything in future this will be better as if you genuinely did not have a fault before you set off you would be able to prove it - probably wouldn't absolve you, but would be the difference between getting a fine and points and a producer...

      2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: If I am not driving, then I am not responsible for failure to follow road rules.

        The owner will be responsible for maintenance. What is likely to happen is different types of tickets are the responsibility of different parties. Software issues which would be likely cause of speeding would be the manufacturer's responsibility, maintenance the owners, accidents will be split depending on fault between the manufacturer and owner.

    2. Tim Seventh

      Re: If I am not driving, then I am not responsible for failure to follow road rules.

      While I agree that if it's self-driven then it is not the "passenger's" responsible (because you're not the driver anymore), I do feel that both the Parliament and the manufacturers are responsible for these road rules.

      Even today, speed signs and roadway are changed with little to no informer. It's like " It was on display at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying beware of the leopard." The parliament should be fully responsible for informing this. The manufacturers, on the other hand, should be fully responsible for updating their cars up to whatever new road rules they were informed. This means no more 'reading' speed limit, especially for self-drive car.

      With the car insurers, the whole event really isn't up to them to decide. Asking them to pay for speed tickets was kind of pointless where there should be no speed tickets for self-drive car. In fact, we might not have the same owner car insurance anymore with self-drive car. Instead, there will be new extended manufactures warranty for the manufacturers, and smaller damage insurance for self-made car damage.

      It will be kind of like buying an iPhone. If there's a problem due to manufacture, apple pays for and gives you a new one. If you dropped the iPhone and broke the screen however, you then have to use apple care to repair the damage.

    3. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: If I am not driving, then I am not responsible for failure to follow road rules.

      I wish I could give you a billion more up votes.

      I'm totally blind & *can not* drive. If I climb into the passenger/back seat of an autonomous vehicle & have it take me somewhere, *I* am not the driver & therefore not responsable for the operation of the vehicle. It's no different than had I called a cab - I'm merely a passenger, some(one|thing) else is doing the driving & assumes responsability for its operation.

      I can't see to make emergency maneuvers, to snake a foot over & slam on the brakes, or even do a half decent job of changing the radio stations, so why should I accept a speeding ticket if I'm not behind the wheel?

      If I'm not the driver then I'm not liable, end of discussion.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: If I am not driving, then I am not responsible for failure to follow road rules.

        it will be the registered owners responsibility to keep the vehicle roadworthy. defect notices will be sent and fined to the owner.

      2. Captain Boing

        Re: If I am not driving, then I am not responsible for failure to follow road rules.

        It all depends on the vehicle - if it is a driver-less, autonomous vehicle then yes I agree with you.

        If it is a Tesla running in auto-pilot (i.e with driving controls and a driving position) then no I don't.

        In the latter, you have to be able to take control of the vehicle. Simple as that.

        You are blind and cannot drive a "normal" car, therefore the same rules apply. You can jump in a little autonomous pod, but as you could not be expected to take control of the vehicle, a Tesla is out of the question.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I thought my opinion of MPs could go no lower

    ...and now you tell me that actors from ancient sci-fi comedies are advising our policy making members of parliament.

    So the know nothings of Westminster are being helped along by comedians. That could certainly explain most government policies.

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: I thought my opinion of MPs could go no lower

      "Put the country on Red Alert!"

      "Are you sure, Prime Minister? It will mean changing the bulb...."

    2. IcyBee

      Re: I thought my opinion of MPs could go no lower

      He's been making programmes about electric cars and renewable energy for years.

      Do yourself a favour and check some of them out: https://www.youtube.com/user/fullychargedshow

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I thought my opinion of MPs could go no lower

        He's been making programmes about electric cars and renewable energy for years.

        I've been working in the energy sector and involved with EV developments for years. He's fronted up a fucking TV programme, produced, directed, scripted, researched by other people. If his is an adequate qualification to advise parliament, then presumably Jimmy Saville's many decades of making programmes with children would make him an expert able to advise parliament on children's issues and concerns (other than being dead, and a known paedophile). And if anybody wanted policy advice on internal combustion engine transport, would you be recommending Jeremy Clarkson as the most qualified individual?

        Do yourself a favour....

        How about you do me a favour, and don't patronise me, when I've actually worked in this field, alongside many very, very clever colleagues, not merely stood in front of camera spouting other people's words about something I just happen to be enthusiastic about?

        1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          Re: I thought my opinion of MPs could go no lower

          I don't often want to upvote ledswinger, but today's different.

          TV presenters don't know a thing.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: I thought my opinion of MPs could go no lower

            "TV presenters don't know a thing."

            Not always. Don't know in this specific case since I've just enjoyed his shows and not looked into his qualifications, but all that aside, sometimes a "face" brings things to the attention of a wider public.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: I thought my opinion of MPs could go no lower

            "TV presenters don't know a thing."

            Generalise much. Let's start with a certain David Attenborough. And then let's follow up with a certain Brian Cox. Now I've pointed you in the right direction I'm sure you can think of more exceptions to your rule.

            1. David 132 Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: I thought my opinion of MPs could go no lower

              Now I've pointed you in the right direction I'm sure you can think of more exceptions to your rule.

              Dr Jacob Bronowski.

              Carl Sagan.

              Heinz Wolff (I nearly wrote "Heinz Kiosk", oops, WE ARE ALL GUILTY)

              Aleksandr Orlov

              One of those, I'd even trust with choosing my insurance.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I thought my opinion of MPs could go no lower

              Attenborough had a degree from Cambridge having studied zoology before becoming a presenter, and Controller of BBC2

              Cox is an astrophysicist (professor of particle physics) who presents some programmes between his other work.

              Now about that TV presenter who asked Tim Peake about collecting a piece of the moon.

          3. tiggity Silver badge

            Re: I thought my opinion of MPs could go no lower

            Depends, Chris Packham knows his stuff, Sky at Night team are all good etc.

            I would agree many TV presenters know nothing about their subject matter as they are just a talking head reading someone elses words, but that's not always the case.

            .. and you can get scenarios where someone who knows a lot about one subject is then waffling on about something they know nothing about (glares at Brian Cox with his crocodile comment when seeing a large reptile in teh water on a continent where the only crocs are in zoos)

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: I thought my opinion of MPs could go no lower

              "Sky at Night team are all good"

              That's because they're all astronomers or astrophysicists. Being on the program is a lark for them.

        2. IcyBee

          Re: I thought my opinion of MPs could go no lower

          He's fronted up a f***ing TV programme, produced, directed, scripted, researched by other people

          Not quite right - he pretty much does it all himself (with a cameraman, and more recently with another on-screen contributor) as a hobby, paid for by Patreon subscribers and puts it up on YouTube for free. He's an enthusiast, an advocate and is good at dispelling myths and spreading news about the field. He doesn't claim to be an expert, but spends lots of his time interviewing them.

          My point was that he does know something about the subject and is a good communicator, which makes him a good choice for explaining stuff to MPs. You seem to think that being a comedian disqualifies him from that.

    3. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: I thought my opinion of MPs could go no lower

      "ancient sci-fi comedies"

      Has everyone including El Reg completely missed the fact there's a brand new series of Red Dwarf currently airing on Dave?

  8. abedarts

    Why should the car be 'slow to respond'

    This is hypothetical nonsense; its us poor humans who may occasionally be 'slow to respond' because our attention was distracted, visibility is poor or a host of other reasons. The car will see the sign and respond the same way every time, it won't occasionally be slow.

    In fact If the car has up to date mapping (an OTA download for sure) then it will know where all the speed limit changes are without signs. Signs (other than temporary ones like road works) will not be necessary for self driving cars to perform, but if they are useful / interesting for the humans in the vehicle they will surely be an option on the car's information display system; physical signs will go the way of hitching rails and blacksmiths.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why should the car be 'slow to respond'

      Compared with the complexity of interpreting the visual scene with sufficient accuracy to allow safe driving, recognizing and reading speed limit signs with the same or better performance than human drivers is a trivial challenge. There are millions of cars on the roads that already have a simple version of this technology onboard. Physical signs will be around for a long time.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why should the car be 'slow to respond'

      The car will see the sign and respond the same way every time, it won't occasionally be slow.

      Great. But given that road signage is sporadic and inconsistent, often damaged or obscured, resolute adherence to those signs doesn't help that much. A human driver will probably be able to identify a speed limit sign largely obscured by vegetation, for example, I'm less confident that AVs will be so clever.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Why should the car be 'slow to respond'

        "A human driver will probably be able to identify a speed limit sign largely obscured by vegetation, for example, I'm less confident that AVs will be so clever."

        AI bot rips off human eyes, easily cracks web CAPTCHA codes

        1. Swarthy Silver badge
          Angel

          Re: Why should the car be 'slow to respond'

          "A human driver will probably be able to identify a speed limit sign largely obscured by vegetation, for example, I'm less confident that AVs will be so clever."

          In that case, the sign-posting authority should be liable for the speeding ticket. If I can be held liable for not maintaining my self-driving car, than they should be liable for not maintaining the signage.

          Hmm, we may need a "Foolish Optimism" Icon.

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Why should the car be 'slow to respond'

        The issue with signage is that sometimes it's a total arse trying to work out, at speed, whether the sign applies to you or not.

        For example, a speed limit sign on a slip road (decelleration lane after it peels of the main carriageway) is often fully in view and angled towards the main carriageway. If you're driving along in a 70 zone I wouldn't want the auto-car to suddenly feel the need to reduce its speed to 30 just because it saw a sign attached to a slip road coming off the main road and thought that this applied to the main carriageway.

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: Why should the car be 'slow to respond'

          @Nick Ryan The issue with signage is that sometimes it's a total arse trying to work out, at speed, whether the sign applies to you or not.

          Good catch. Similarly, in my area (Northern Oregon) I've noticed many instances where a side-road joins a main highway at a narrow angle - and hence the STOP sign at the end of the side-road is practically face-on to drivers on the highway. It's caused me & my (theoretically) adaptable, flexible, carefully-trained-over-years human brain confusion in the past... I wonder how a computer vision algorithm would cope?

          One moment your level 4 self-driving car is doing 55... then it suddenly screeches to a halt because of a confusing side-street...?

          I have speed-sign recognition hardware on my (2013) car, which theoretically "reads" roadside speed limit signs and represents them on the dashboard. Simple camera, not LIDAR or anything fancy. I'd say it correctly spots them maybe 85% of the time - good, but not good enough for an autonomous vehicle.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Why should the car be 'slow to respond'

            Another aspect of this is in the UK, the speed limit isn't the speed you should be driving at, it is simply the maximum speed you may drive at, because at all times you should drive at a speed appropriate to the conditions. If the police decide that your speed was inappropriate then they can charge you...

            Thus a big issue is going to be driving in poor weather: the systems in a autonomous vehicle might work in fog and thus permit a vehicle to travel at 60mph when visibility is sub 10 metres, however, this may not be safe because other road users (eg. pedestrians, horse riders etc.) are relying on the human eye.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Why should the car be 'slow to respond'

              "it is simply the maximum speed you may drive at, because at all times you should drive at a speed appropriate to the conditions."

              The usual metric in most countries is that the maximum speed allowed is the lower of "the speed at which you can stop in the distance of visible road ahead (half this distance if there is no centreline)" or "the posted speed limit"

              Humans are very good at vastly overestimating their abilities and vastly underestimating stopping distances.

        2. abedarts

          Re: Why should the car be 'slow to respond'

          My Nissan Qashqai does exactly what you describe, BUT it 'looks at' the signs and doesn't use mapping data to decide what the speed limit is. If it did both it would be obvious what the speed limit is.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Why should the car be 'slow to respond'

      "Signs (other than temporary ones like road works) will not be necessary for self driving cars to perform,"

      Yep, my 5 year old Garmin SatNav, with current maps, "knows" about speed limits within a few metres of the sign post, ie it displays the current speed limit on the screen. It's not perfect, some roads it has incorrect information, others it shows a + sign, ie it doesn't "know" the current speed limit. B ut its right far, far more often than it's wrong and I drive 60,000+ miles per years on all types of roads, all over the UK. I'd expect the data for an autonomous car to be much more accurate and be updated frequently along with regular feedback.

      But, as I said in another post further up, if most cars are autonomous, not only may we not need speed limit signs, we not even need speed limits as we currently understand them. There's no reason why an autonomous car can't "floor it" down the motorway with it's live communications with other vehicles and full situational awareness other than fuel/energy consumption taking a hit.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Why should the car be 'slow to respond'

      "Signs (other than temporary ones like road works) will not be necessary for self driving cars to perform"

      If you have the technology to do OTA updates to the cars, you have the technology to do OTA updates to the database when roadworks go live.

  9. Bartlett

    Look! Fun games ahead!

    So the vehicle should immobilise itself every time it believes a critical patch is available until the vehicle believes it has had the patch installed? I certainly see no way THAT could go wrong.

    1. tfewster Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Look! Fun games ahead!

      "If there's a fatal flaw in the software likely to make it veer off the road,..."

      ...Then that flaw was already there, (we) just didn't know about it.

      So the vehicle should permanently immobilise itself, just in case a flaw may be discovered in the future.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1
        Alert

        Re: Look! Fun games ahead!

        > the vehicle should permanently immobilise itself

        It seems I am the first to say

        I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Look! Fun games ahead!

      Relax... the "immobilise the vehicle" rule will last just until it's a minister's car that won't get him to the pub.

  10. unwarranted triumphalism

    Responsibility

    Not a word found in the motorists' dictionary.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From the department of stupid ideas

    Charging from LED streetlights? Two points:

    1) LED or gas discharge, the power demand is for all practical purposes the same, so why does Kryten think that LED streetlights have some mystical quality especially suitable for charging EVs? Could it be that the man knows nothing about streetlighting?

    2) The basic arithmetic doesn't work. If you've got low density housing (ie few cars per streetlight) then you have in general got housing with off road parking, so there's no point in putting chargers on streetlights. If you've got high density housing (think flats, urban terraced housing) then you'll typically have heavily utilised on-road parking, and a ratio of about thirty cars to each streetlight, which means you can charge a tiny fraction of the fleet. And you can't even fast charge because streetlighting is a low current application, and the power distribution wouldn't support the fast charging.

    Even the idea of forcing petrol stations to have EV chargers is typical civil servant dumb-think, because the dwell time isn't convenient. The best place would be supermarket car parks, where a fast charger could load up a week's worth of driving in the typical dwell time of a weekly shopping visit. We did try and tell government, but they didn't listen, and now they're taking advice from actors on the matter.

    1. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: From the department of stupid ideas

      I'd also like to point out in high density areas (like mine, terrace housing), the street lights are on the house side of the pavement a lot of the time. So you'd still have lovely trailing cables running from the house side to the road over the pavement.

      No one will have an issue with that, right?

      1. abedarts

        Re: From the department of stupid ideas

        It works like that in China, just look where you are going and you'll be alright.

    2. Arisia

      Re: From the department of stupid ideas

      1. Yes LED is irrelevant. Has this statement been mangled after multiple hops... probably.

      2. Streetlights aren't a silver bullet but they definitely helps as it avoid installing lots of additional posts in the road and so is much cheaper. Yes, there are several cases it doesn't cover and it doesn't work for everything. Flats typically have dedicated parking, so that's solvable though recalcitrant landlords will probably need "encouraging".

      Of course the wiring needs in to the streetlights needs upgrading but it helps to avoid the posts for initial take up unless you think everyone will be in an EV in 2 years. The channels are there already. This reduces the costs considerably.

      As for wrong side of the street Chloe, you could just park on the other side to avoid trailing cables.

      ok yes, I know for high density terrace housing where there's no room for the cars anyway, it's not the whole solution but there are other (more expensive) options like kerb side chargers.

      Other solutions like wireless charging are proven to work but are not (yet) cheap.

      You start with the easy stuff, expand to the more awkward stuff later.

      At this moment in time, it's hard to recommend an EV unless you have off-road parking.

      Now they're looking at the next step to get _some_ people who don't have that onboard.

      Blimey people, it's just electricity. It's not exactly a new problem.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: From the department of stupid ideas

        "As for wrong side of the street Chloe, you could just park on the other side to avoid trailing cables."

        Streetlights on one side of the street- or alternating - only are a thing. So that would mean trailing cables across the whole street.

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: From the department of stupid ideas

          Streetlights on one side of the street- or alternating - only are a thing. So that would mean trailing cables across the whole street.

          Solar panels on the roof of the cars. Park under the streetlights, or within the cast of their light, and get a charge. Simple. And LED bulbs are efficient, typically for a 5W bulb you get 60W worth of light.

          Sheesh, so much for these so-called "experts"....

          (please note: Trollface icon. With logic like this, I should be giving evidence to Parliamentary committees)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: From the department of stupid ideas

        "Flats typically have dedicated parking, so that's solvable though recalcitrant landlords will probably need "encouraging"

        Most new build flats I see going up don't have dedicated parking at all. From what I've heard about a block that went up in Guildford, the council wouldn't grant planning permission if it included a car park as they wanted to decrease the amount of cars in the area. The result was predictable - when the owners of the new flats moved in their cars overflowed the available parking in the neighborhood and the area for streets around got clogged up with parked vehicles. The council don't care - if anything it just improved their parking fine revenues for the area.

        I'm really not sure what you think landlords - recalcitrant or otherwise - could do about this situation. Or was that just a way to imply that you think this should be made to be somebody else's problem?

      3. Swarthy Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: From the department of stupid ideas

        "As for wrong side of the street Chloe, you could just park on the other side to avoid trailing cables."

        Chloe actually mentioned the wrong side of the pavement. Unless you are going to drive the car up on to the kerb, that would require leads to lay across the walking path and pose a tripping hazard.

      4. /dev/null

        Re: Blimey people, it's just electricity. It's not exactly a new problem.

        Yes, but it's how much electricity that's the problem. If you want to fully charge an electric car with a a range comparable to an ICE-powered car in, say, half an hour, (so, a power requirement on the order of 200kW) then that's equivalent to about 8 substantial houses all on the point of popping the master fuse on their mains supply. For one car.

      5. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: From the department of stupid ideas

        "Of course the wiring needs in to the streetlights needs upgrading "

        Bringing up the problem of what happens to the national grid when all those EVs are charging simultaneously.

        We're going to need batteries at every wind/solar farm to smooth output (Elon will be happy and they should be mandatory to be allowed to grid connect) as well as batteries in every charge point so the substations don't melt (street chargers are unlikely to have cars attached more than 1/3 of the time)

  12. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Flame

    The issue

    with the speed limits is not that the car will get a speeding ticket or who will pay for it, but the car will get a ticket as a result of being unable to read the f**king sign because the council allowed greenery to grow out and cover it.

    I'm looking at you west sussex council.....(also theres plenty of thoers out there...)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: broken by design...

      ... but designed to put money in the right pockets?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Petrolk Station Operators

    The plans in the bill to force petrol station operators to install electric car charging points are lunacy. The vast bulk of our petrol stations are relatively small sites geared up to cars driving in, filling up, paying and driving out again with perhaps a slight irritating delay while people pick up shopping. With the exception of motorway and major highway service stations they do not have the physical space and support facilities to allow a meaningful number of cars to be moored there for 30 minutes at a time.

    Let the petrol station operators choose to provide them if they have both space and a business case.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Over my dead body

    Williams was forthright on this, saying: "Our view was that when you're talking about a ton of metal that's travelling at high speed on the roads, you should potentially lose that right to take risks with other people's lives. Our input would be that we think the updates should be implemented right away."

    What if you were "rushing out of the house?" asked Conservative MP Iain Stewart. Should that count in your favour? Nope, said Williams: "If there's a fatal flaw in the software likely to make it veer off the road, my view is that the vehicle should be immobile" until the patch is installed.

    This is appalling. There are times in life when your car must be available. Obviously no car is guaranteed to be 100% reliable, but then as an owner you normally have a choice of when maintenance is done, etc.

    No one books their car in for a service when their Mrs is near the end of a pregnancy.

    So if Tesla, or anyone else, chose that exact critical moment to apply a large patch and you had zero control over its application and the car won't move, you could be looking at a still born child as a result.

    Who is responsible for that?

    Call an ambulance? Great; the ambulance service would have to have enough vehicles and crews on standby to do the job instead, just in case some manufacturer pushes out an update and suddenly all the pregnant mothers, all the sick elderly relatives, etc, have to be collected instead of taken in by family.

    Who's going to pay for that?

    They have got to make it so that an autonomous vehicle can be driven. That means that the driver actually has to be a qualified driver.

    Better off as we are.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Over my dead body

      "If there's a fatal flaw in the software likely to make it veer off the road, my view is that the vehicle should be immobile" until the patch is installed.

      This question really begs the question: and how was it possible for a vehicle (with the fatal flaw) to be passed as being fit to be driven on the public highway, because yes a car with sort of fatal flaw should be immobilised - or more practically restricted to travelling at sub 20mph.

      However, I suspect what is more likely, given the level of integration of car systems, is a flaw which only manifests when accelerating away from a standing start when the chorus from say Bat out of Hell is playing at volume 11? Where the Joe Public workaround is don't play Meatloaf in the car with the volume up.

      1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

        Re: Over my dead body

        > "Where the Joe Public workaround is don't play Meatloaf in the car with the volume up."

        A sound rule I feel, one that all should try to live by.

    2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: Over my dead body

      If it's truly life critical to have your car immediately available you should be calling an ambulance first, not using your car. A pregnancy is not that critical in most cases, but you had to run the 'think of the childrenzzzz' line didn't you?

      The emergency services are there for emergencies. For something important you do exactly the same thing as if an non automated vehicle fails. Call a taxi, ask a neighbour, grab a bus, or wait..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Over my dead body

        The update process has no contextual awareness of the fallout it might be causing by insisting on an update being done right now. What that fallout entails is besides the point.

        People get upset enough about windows update doing this to them on their PCs, let alone their cars.

  15. Roland6 Silver badge

    referring to outdated government advice that diesels were less polluting than petrol cars – a policy rapidly U-turned upon when it was realised the precise opposite is true.

    Seems this might be another piece of misinformation:

    Old banger v diesel: Which is more toxic?

    Basically, it would seem that in order to pass the new Euro emissions tests, the engine is being tuned such that in normal usage it can emit significantly more emissions than an older engine not tuned to pass the test...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not exactly misinformation, but it's certainly not the whole truth.

      Diesels fare very well for CO2 emissions, but can be a nightmare for NOx and particulates. Current emissions regulations try to make diesels no more polluting than their petrol brethren, but the compromises (DPF and urea) mean that their CO2 generation versus petrol isn't as impressive as it used to be. VW got caught cheating on these emissions tests to avoid adding urea systems, but that doesn't necessarily mean that all diesels are bad.

      A fair comparison of petrol, diesel and coal powered* vehicles to see which is really the greenest would be incredibly complicated. Of course, this would need to include the contribution of the manufacture of the vehicle, averaged over the lifetime milage. Current battery technology probably won't look so good if you do that.

      *We still generate a lot of our electricity from coal, so sulphur and mercury (and others) need to be taken into account as well. On the plus side these emissions tend to be far from population centres and a lot of this pollution can be captured.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "*We still generate a lot of our electricity from coal, so sulphur and mercury (and others) need to be taken into account as well. On the plus side these emissions tend to be far from population centres and a lot of this pollution can be captured."

        Petrol and diesel cars are coal powered too. It takes a bunch of electricity, 7.5kWh for a US gallon of petrol, to refine crude into transportation fuel. An even bigger plus for the coal plant is that it is far more efficient in producing power than an equivalent amount of power being generated by thousands of auto ICE engines. EVs are also generator agnostic, so if you do play an android on the telly and have solar panels on your roof, your car is then solar powered part of the time.

  16. davidp231

    Divadroid Inc.

    "...today was Robert Llewellyn, the actor who played endearingly awkward android Kryten..."

    Don't you mean "plays"? It only becomes past tense when they turn around and say "no more Red Dwarf".

    1. Matthew Taylor

      Re: Divadroid Inc.

      >It only becomes past tense when they turn around and say "no more Red Dwarf".

      A man can dream, can't he?

  17. Lorribot

    The controller of the vehicle is responsible for the speeding ticket, in case of an autonomous car it is the software which was written by the car manufacturer so they would have to be responsible as they are the only ones who can change behavior of the car and would be keen to not exceed speed limits..this is the point of fines.

    If they could prove the council had made the signage difficult to read then they could pass the fine to the council.

    As for patching i would hope that any software was designed to be patched on the fly and not requiring excessive downtime.

    My main concern is that so far car companies have shown complete ineptitude of a magnitude that is bordering on criminal when it comes to security, so hacking, both for performance and malicious intent, is highly likely and could be by a simple drive by hack OTA of hundreds of vehicles.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "The controller of the vehicle is responsible for the speeding ticket, in case of an autonomous car it is the software which was written by the car manufacturer so they would have to be responsible as they are the only ones who can change behavior of the car and would be keen to not exceed speed limits..this is the point of fines."

      And the insurers are insisting that all updates must be applied immediately and the user must not under any circumstances change the cars programming on penalty of voiding the insurance cover. So the passenger not only has no control over the cars choice of speed but will void their insurance if they do anything to change its behaviour.

  18. Martin Summers Silver badge

    Pretty simple really. Manufacturers of autonomous vehicles should set up and pay into a shared ownership company responsible for the tickets their cars get.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Pretty simple really

      not really.

      Lets say that tesla botch an update and their cars all drive over the speed limit for a day or two, racking up fines.

      Should Nissan or Aldi or Volvo etc really have to pay the fines for someone else's car?

      Cars are registered. This includes model and make. The manufacturer is known, and could be charged directly - thats a lot simpler.

  19. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I get the impression that Williams hadn't thought about the possibility of this question in advance and wasn't very good at thinking on his feet. It's a pity he didn't get the obvious follow-up questions. "The vehicle is doing 70mph in the overtaking lane when a software update becomes available. What happens then? Does this mean that the vehicle veers off the road to apply the update? Isn't that the scenario you were trying to avoid and now you've caused it? And what happens when there are several adjacent vehicles of the same model in close proximity, all trying to get off the road to apply their updates?"

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or they could just make speed limits advisory...

    Fines should be for dangerous driving, regardless of arbitrarily imposed numbers that falsely imply driving below them is safe or above them is unsafe.

    But since their real purpose is revenue generation, that probably won't happen any time soon.

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Or they could just make speed limits advisory...

      That's exactly why the whole thing is almost funny - you get two entities, the council / police and the insurers, both accustomed to leech their pound of flesh that they feel entitled to off the general populace no matter what, being suddenly short-circuited against each other by the removal of their victims from the equation. Obviously both insisting they're not about to pick up the tab. I'm not worried though, I have great faith in their joined abilities finding some legitimate-sounding way to hang the whole issue right back on the backs of hoi polloi who had to carry it in the first place...

  21. Robert Heffernan

    Why does the car need to be fined at all?

    Why does a self-driving car need to be fined at all? Fines are a human construct designed to punitively punish a human for breaking the law. A vehicle cannot learn the lesson from paying a fine, and having the insurer pay it is also dumb because they aren't breaking the law.

    The vehicles will have enough on-board smarts to deal with the different speed zone appropriately and safely, and even when enough cars become self-driving speed zones can be seriously increased or even eliminated.

    In the case of what-to-do about the car missing the sign, the manufacturer can be made aware so the situation can be investigated and patches applied.

    Then there is intra-vehicle and vehicle-roadway communications systems so that the cars don't even need to see a sign to be notified of a speed zone change, for example, an RF system embedded in the road and the car passing over it is notified the speed limit is changing in X meters and can deal appropriately, or as cars pass into a new speed zone they broadcast the zone limit change to all vehicles within range along with GPS coordinates of where the zone is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why does the car need to be fined at all?

      Punish via market. If a car by manufacturer X goes over the speed limit, we assume that X 's programming is poor. So we reduce the allowable speed and acceleration across all cars by that manufacturer by 0.1 mph per infraction. Only reset after the manufacture demonstrates safety in a nice form- filly bureaucratic manner. Market Darwinism should soon sort it all out.

  22. Blofeld's Cat
    Devil

    Hmm ...

    In my experience insurers of all kinds will do their utmost not to pay out, no matter what the circumstances are.

    I once had a car demolished when the driver of a delivery van failed to notice it was parked (in a marked parking bay at the side of the road), and ploughed into the back of it. The whole incident was caught on CCTV and showed the van driver was shuffling his phone and a bundle of delivery notes at the time.

    The starting point for the insurance company was that I was responsible for the damage and that they therefore didn't need to pay out anything. Further "discussions" moved them to offer a few quid on a fifty-fifty shared-blame position.

    Six months later, following the van driver being convicted of "driving without due care and attention", they did somewhat grudgingly admit I might have been the innocent party after all, and paid out most of what they deemed to be the value of my car.

    They then cancelled my no-claims bonus, doubled my "voluntary" excess and upped my premium at the next renewal date.

    Not that I'm bitter or anything...

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Hmm ...

      I once got a speeding ticket that I had to contest due to the absurdity of the claimed speed I had been doing at the time. The cop said I had been doing 90MPH. I took a photograph of my *Ford Pinto* (the car I was driving & listed on the ticket) & showed it to the judge.

      "Sir, this is my car. It rattles like it's shaking itself apart if I exceed 65. Anything faster & you can't steer at all due to the intense vibrations. The only way I can get this car-" *touch the photo of a dirty salmon pink car with a "bruised blue" right front quarterpanel, the hood tied down with rope, & bumpers held up with DuctTape* "-to exceed 70 is if I pushed it out the back of an airplane & let it reach terminal velocity."

      The judge took one look at the photo, verified it was the same on the ticket, dismissed my ticket, & then raked the officer over the coals for being a complete shit-for-brains.

      I don't know what prompted the cop to write me up for supposedly doing 90+ in a 65 zone, but the fact that the old car couldn't reliably do anything even remotely near that speed without a rocket strapped to the roof... It made me disgusted with the cop in specific & the local police department in general.

      If I were in an autonomous vehicle that got pulled over for similar charges, what will the judge think when I show up with a Guide Dog to lead me to the bench?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmm ...

        I don't know what prompted the cop to write me up for supposedly doing 90+ in a 65 zone probably because a speeding ticket was simpler than a ticket for driving an unsafe scrap heap held together by string and duct tape. Sounds like he perfectly sensibly gave you a ticket for driving more than 30 mph over a safe limit for your car.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmm ...

        "Anything faster & you can't steer at all due to the intense vibrations"

        Sounds like you've got an unsafe vehicle there. Which made me look at US requirements for vehicle checks. And see that several states have no requirements and some have emissions only checks.

  23. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    Critical updates

    Suppose a safety-related update becomes available while my autonomous car is on level -4 in an underground parking under a high-rise building. The car will not know there is an update until it actually sees the light of day. At what point is it supposed to become immobile to apply the patch? When it is blocking the exit from the parking? When it is out in a busy city street with no empty parking space in sight? When it is doing 70mph on a carriageway?

    A critical mechanical failure would immobilize a non-autonomous car, but that's a failure, not a software update, importance as the latter may be.

    I'd think of warning the owner/custodian/occupant (and maybe insurer) that there is an essential update and give the responsible party a reasonable grace period to install it. Beyond that grace period, however, rules change.

    It is essential that the grace period should start after the car becomes aware of the update, i.e., the car is started and there is an indicator of the dashboard, etc. Otherwise, the car may be out of range - e.g., in an underground parking garage - while the owner is on a month-long vacation abroad.

    1. Jess--

      Re: Critical updates

      logic should dictate that if the vehicle is in use when it is aware an update is available (critical or not) it should delay installing the update until the current journey is complete.

      by all means download the update while in use but don't try and apply it until the vehicle is not in use.

      so after leaving the car underground for a month it pulls out and gets notified of an update

      this displays an icon to the user and a time (the approx time it will take to install)

      the user then know that the next time the vehicle stops (and they get out) the vehicle will be unusable for that time and can plan accordingly (they may decide to go straight to work rather than stop at a coffee shop on the way)

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Critical updates

        "(they may decide to go straight to work rather than stop at a coffee shop on the way)"

        I wonder if Reginald Perrin will be the first to use that as the daily excuse for being late for work?

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Critical updates

        I don't like getting updates when I'm in the middle of a trip on the computer since I might not have time to find out if a critical piece of software I am using gets borked. It would suck to have the drivers for the projector you are using not be compatible with the new OS update that was forced down your throat minutes before an important presentation.

        The same applies to a car. If I'm on the road and stop off at a small town for a meal and come out to find that my car software has a forced update, I'd be very nervous that something would break. If I'm at home, I can probably deal with it even if the car was down for a day.

    2. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Critical updates

      Personally, I think the reasonable way of handling it on startup would be to display a warning that autonomous functions are disabled pending completing an update, and that you can drive manually instead.

      Because the manual functions are carefully seperated from the autonomous ones so that you can drive the vehicle manually in an override mode should the car decide to do something dangerous, right?

  24. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    At this point...

    I am seriously considering alternatives. Boat, plane or anything to get me off the roads. It is going to be dangerous.

    Oh, the software or hardware? It's possible to get working... but people will find a way to break it!

  25. Captain Boing

    It is simple - you still gotta be a driver

    If you own a vehicle with auto-pilot capability, you still have to have a driver in control - the idea being you should be able and ready to take control If you notice anything wrong - and I think that includes exceeding the speed limit. I know the idea is that you can relax a bit but is that really realistic?

    If you don't when you should, this is still driving without due care in my book. No need to muddy the waters with "iffs" and "whens"

    It should only be an insurance thing if the vehicle is driver-less , like the little pods they are trialing at various cities around the world. So you couldn't allow a little old lady to buy a tesla as a personal taxi if she can't drive.

    1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Re: It is simple - you still gotta be a driver

      > "...the idea being you should be able and ready to take control If you notice anything wrong..."

      When vehicles mostly require no intervention at all. To expect a human driver to have the situational awareness to take over at the drop of a hat is ludicrous.

  26. iancom

    Change is needed in the approach to enforcement

    The system of fines and points for drivers is intended as an incentive to drive responsibly, a disincentive to dangerous driving and a method to identify and remove from the road those who are likely to ignore safe driving practices and cause accidents.

    In this post, I am ignoring the clear fact that most authorities end up abusing this system and operate it as a revenue stream. Clearly, the intention must be that if our enforcement were perfectly successful there would be no fines or points issued because the rules would never be broken.

    With driverless vehicles, this becomes very possible. If the system of sensors and software that make up the vehicle are properly designed, it should be possible to make a vehicle that never intentionally breaks any of the rules laid down. The first thing that must be determined in the case of a potential infraction is whether the vehicle was operating in full autonomous mode at the time, and that no software or sensor modifications had been made by the operator.

    If there's any deviation from the vendor's system/software or the vehicle was being used manually then the normal points/fine process applies. To whom is problematic, but I won't get into that...

    Otherwise, the vendor is effectively the driver. It is their responsibility to ensure that their system and software drives correctly in all circumstances. Per-incident fines and points are not the answer though. Each incident of a driverless car exceeding the speed limit must be identified and the cause fixed, not just arbitrarily fined to anyone (insurance/vendor/owner/operator).

    There are several things that must be in place for this to happen.

    The rules of the road system must be unambiguous and clear to the automated system. This means a separate GPS-based authority-certified map of speed limits that is available to all vendors at all times. The GPS-map must be authoritative for driverless vehicles such that in the case where the GPS map erroneously holds a 40 limit for a road, but the actual posted limit is 30, there was no infraction by the car/vendor and the responsibility lies with the local authority to go through the necessary steps to correct the GPS map (or correct the posted limits if they were incorrect).

    Where the car had access to correct limits and still exceeded them, that must be submitted to the vendor for analysis with a requirement for an explanation and commitment to resolving the fault.

    No fine is necessary per-incident, because the intention here is to get all vendors' vehicles to drive correctly, not to punish them for errors.

    If, however, a vendor routinely fails to explain of fix incidents of its system breaking traffic laws, then escalating fines will start to be applied to that vendor. Ultimately, a vendor might prove itself incapable of managing its own systems/software and rack up so many fines that it cannot stay in business.

    Hopefully, that vendor's existing fleet of vehicles can be taken on and fixed by another vendor, but realistically it probably would leave owners with a vehicle that the cannot use (or can only use in manual mode).

    Even in that worst-case scenario, I think I'd still prefer to be left with a vehicle that I cannot drive, rather than left with a licence that's revoked due to the vendor's incompetence -- and no longer able to drive or insure any other vehicle.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Change is needed in the approach to enforcement

      " I am ignoring the clear fact that most authorities end up abusing this system and operate it as a revenue stream. "

      Between this and the projected plunge in vehicle ownership numbers, some parking companies which happen to have councils attached (eg: Westminster) are going to find that they're scrambling for income they've become used to. The amusing this is that if it's cheaper to let your automated car circulate in traffic than pay £12/hour parking fees, people will let them do it.

  27. sandbelt

    Driver? what driver? Owner? who?

    These things can break speed limits with nobody sitting in them, or nobody but children, so then what?

    They can be part of some Dial-A-Car fleet, maybe headquartered in Ireland, and probably many will.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quiet Roads

    Just think how quiet the roads will be on the mornings after the self driving zero-days start to hit.

  29. Big_Boomer

    UnCommon Sense?

    Insurers/Manufacturers are responsible for accidents. Up to them to decide if the vehicle was at fault or not. Vehicle "operator" is responsible for driving offences, in this case the vehicle/software manufacturer.

    If malicious changes to speed limits are identified then criminal proceedings are warranted against those who are making the changes. Likewise for anyone who hacks their/other cars systems.

    An autonomous vehicle should be capable of being a better driver than 99% of the population w.r.t. observing and obeying the laws of the road. GPS information should be enough if ALL roadworks have to be added to the database BEFORE any works commence. Variable speed limits can be set to communicate with the vehicle so it knows what the speed limits ahead are and can respond appropriately.

    Everyone keeps on about the what-ifs. I'd be amazed if even the current systems weren't 1,000,000% better drivers than most of the feckwits currently supposed to be in control of their 1+ Ton lethal weapons, and that probably does include me and you! :-)

  30. jms222

    VW liability

    Now you know your VW is over the limit with regard to emissions yes you are liable and should take it off the road and sue VW and/or the dealer to get it fixed.

    If people did this we'd all breathe more easily.

  31. Cuddles Silver badge

    It's not a new situation

    ""Surely the passenger is not then liable," Letwin persisted, referring to the human in the self-driving car."

    Why not? I own a house. I've never seen the water and sewerage pipes, I didn't own the house when they were installed, I don't even know where they are, I've never done any work that could have affected or damaged them. But if a pipe leaks somewhere under my garden, it's my problem and my responsibility to fix it. It doesn't matter that I didn't make it myself, have essentially zero knowledge of where it is or how it works, and isn't my fault that something went wrong, simply owning the thing carries the responsibility of dealing with any problems caused by it.

    Why should a car be any different? I may not be the driver, but I certainly am the owner/operator, and that makes me responsible for dealing with any issues regardless of whether they're ultimately my fault or not. And of course, the fact that I may not be able to prevent issues occurring or have the financial means to fix them is exactly why insurance exists. If a pipe bursts under my garden, my home insurance will pay for repairs. If my autonomous car does something wrong, my car insurance will pay for it.

    As for the various hypothetical malicious actions people suggest might be targeted at autonomous cars, that won't fundamentally change anything. If someone maliciously digs a hole in my garden and trashes my water pipe, my insurance will still pay for it. The only difference is that if they're able to figure out who did they'll get the money back from them, as well as asking the police to have a little word with them. And while that particular example may be somewhat unlikely, there's plenty of petty crime and vandalism that is just as anonymous as putting up fake speed limit signs that is currently dealt with exactly this way (although councils may often be effectively self-insured rather than requiring a third party); including, interestingly enough, quite a few instances of people actually putting up fake speed limit signs.

    Best of all, insurance gives us a great way to see how well autonomous cars actually work. Insurance is based on risk, and the companies who deal with it are really rather good at figuring out how much they need to charge in order to make their profit. Given that insurance companies have to pay out for all the problems autonomous cars have and/or cause, we know they'll be working as intended when it becomes cheaper to insure an autonomous car than a manual one.

  32. Peter Clarke 1

    Farmer Giles

    Living out in the sticks there is one problem I wonder how autonomous cars deal with- MUD ON THE ROAD. Normal practice is to put an A4 sized notice 10ft in front of the mud. Will the car camera pick this up in time? Will the farmer finally be forced to clear the mess up as he makes it, as the Road Traffic Act states? Will the 'Have you had an accident...' ambulance chasers make a fortune??

    1. Jess--

      Re: Farmer Giles

      round here (lincolnshire coast) it would be easier to signpost where there isn't mud on the road.

      even on A roads we get stretches that are miles long where the road marking are obscured by a layer of mud

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Farmer Giles

        "even on A roads we get stretches that are miles long where the road marking are obscured by a layer of mud"

        You still have road markings? Must be the mud protecting them from wear. 'Round here, even on major junctions, the markings are so worn you can barely see them in daylight on a clear day. They're all but invisible at night in the rain. Cutbacks!

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sign Recognition Doesn’t Work

    I have it fitted to my 8 month old European made car that cost £34k.

    On an unmapped new road the signs are 40MPH and the speed shown is 25 MPH (I guess it defaults to assuming 40 is KPH?).

    On the motorway, where the limit is 70, it sometimes shows 90MPH where it picks up a 90 from the back of a continental lorry. If this was connected to the speed of the car then there could be the potential for a fine or an accident.

    Worse still, the thing read 10MPH on a fast stretch of motorway. Imagine the chaos and danger if it went in to emergency braking mode from 70MPH to 10MPH with a queue of traffic behind it!

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Sign Recognition Doesn’t Work

      Slight correction - Sign Recognition Doesn’t Work Yet. That is, after all, the reason automated cars are still in development and haven't already entirely replaced manual cars. There are plenty of things that need to work much better before cars will be ready to take over all driving themselves, but I really wish people would stop presenting them as some kind of gotcha that proves automated cars are an obviously terrible idea that can never work.

      This is a particularly good example here, since all the problems noted would be utterly trivial to solve. Mixing up metric and imperial units is only a problem because some people insist on clinging to stupid and obsolete imperial units instead of joining the modern world. Changing that would require a little bit of effort, but it would hardly be the first time similar changes have been made, even just in this country, and it would be a good idea even if automated cars weren't a thing at all. As for confusing a 7 for a 1, that can be fixed by a simple font change; the current sign font is designed for humans, other fonts, such as those on number plates, are designed to be machine read and don't have the same problem.

  34. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    Where there's blame

    Simple the owner is responsible for the maintainance and the software drives the car so the manufacturer/programmer is liable for its operation.

    In a fully autonomous world where the car is controlled by the software and owned by a car share company, why would the passenger need insurance?

    if the programming is robust and rigourously tested, why would an autonomous car break the speed limit in the first place, and for that point with no humans on the road, why would there neeed to be a speed limit anyway?

  35. d3vy Silver badge

    Surely the way to manage this would be to make the local authority responsibe for providing real time speed limit data to autonomous cars... Some kind of transmitter in lamp posts or on existing speed signs.or even an API that can be called send your route and it returns current limits for the roads that your traveling on and near taking into account temp road works etc...

    Having the cars recognise and read actual speed signs seems a bit stupid.

  36. Parax
    Holmes

    The Man In The Rubber Mask.

    Today if a driver cannot be identified the owner (registered keeper) is ultimately liable. Why would you want to change this legislation if it would still work perfectly?

    Today it is up to the owner to maintain the vehicle and to keep it in correct working condition. If a camera is muddy such that it misses a sign that is the responsibility of the vehicles keeper to clean it not the manufacturer (or insurer). If a camera is damaged or has failed it is the responsibility of the owner to fix or replace it as is the regulation today with tires.

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: The Man In The Rubber Mask.

      "Today if a driver cannot be identified the owner (registered keeper) is ultimately liable. Why would you want to change this legislation if it would still work perfectly?"

      Because it wouldnt work perfectly. That current legislation exists because it can be assumed that the cars owner would know who is driving it at a given time, if they dot know (or wont say) then they are given the penalty as it is assumed that they are either lying or it was them driving.

      However that process is an exception for when the actual DRIVER cannot be identified not the default route that is taken. Besides, we WILL know who the driver was.. it will be Alexa, Cortana or Clippy... So why should we take the blame for something done by a piece of software?

      Lets look at a scenario using your idea:

      You own an autonomous car.

      You maintain that car as per the manufacturers recommendations.

      You go on a night out with some friends and end up miles from where you parked so you call the car to come and pick you up.

      On the way to collecting you the (Driver-less, Passenger-less) car fails to detect a speed limit change and goes through a camera.

      Remember, you maintained the car EXACTLY as you should have, installed all of the updates and ensured that all sensors were perfectly working and it still triggers a camera... Are you saying that YOU as the owner should be liable for those points?

      I suspect that as autonomous cars become more ubiquitous we will see fewer and fewer speed cameras anyway as there will be less of a need for them so this probably wont be an issue in 15-20 years anyway.

  37. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Stop

    What about driverless police cars?

    Excuse me sir, do you know why my vehicle pulled your vehicle over?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about driverless police cars?

      No... errr... well, as you were then, I have no idea either.

  38. Libertarian Voice

    Why would we have speed limits for autonamous cars?

    Surely we don't need speed limits once autonomous cars have proliferated, certainly not the heavily retarded speed limits that we have at present.

    There definitely should be no need for the rather laughingly named "Smart" motorways. The whole idea of autonomous cars is that they can communicate with each other and will no longer require the stopping distances that human drivers require. They should also be able to go much faster, much safer.

    There will of course need to be an offence of Jaywalking, but that is inevitable anyway otherwise kids and the car hating hippy greens would wreak havoc.

  39. This Side Up
    Flame

    2040

    Once again we read this nonsense about the government banning the sale of diesel and petrol engined vehicles after 2040. This is not what has been said. They are only proposing to bena the sale of NEW diesel and petrol vehicles (excluding hybrids) after 2040. It will still be possible to buy and sell existing vehicles at that time, barring further restrictions.

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: 2040

      "Once again we read this nonsense about the government banning the sale of diesel and petrol engined vehicles after 2040."

      You might be the only person that read it that way... With context and common sense its clear that it means new vehicles.

  40. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Natural disaster

    The US mainland just had two big hurricanes hit and tornados menace the center of the country each year. In the aftermath, roads are strewn with debris that has to be driven around until it can be cleaned up sometimes by driving in the opposite traffic lane. What do you do when your autonomous car, assuming it's yours since a sharing service that relies on the internet won't be working, isn't capable of being driven manually?

    Speed limit signs will have to be electronic in some fashion to signal to autonomous cars. Installing a simple paper sign shouldn't be enough to affect traffic. For temp work zone, there may need to be an electronic override that broadcasts and new and slower speed along with the distance it is in affect with no more than a 10mph change per XXX feet so anybody sending out a pirate signal would have to set up several transmitters to change the speed drastically.

    Full autonomy is still a way off in the future. Road markings aren't consistent everywhere and some minor roads have no markings at all. GPS has too big of an inherent error to use by itself for autonomy so some additional technologies will have to be deployed. We already have many areas that don't get cell service, dead zones in coverage won't be allowable for self-driving cars. Not only will road markings need to be consistent from town to town, they'll have to be the same worldwide or automakers will have to develop a system for each country (or State in the US). That will take a few meetings (decades) and then another long length of time to actually happen.

  41. This Side Up
    FAIL

    "Our view was that when you're talking about a ton of metal that's travelling at high speed on the roads, you should potentially lose that right to take risks with other people's lives. Our input would be that we think the updates should be implemented right away."

    What if the car is parked in a location where there is no data signal? Do you set out on a journey only to come to an abrupt halt as soon as the vehicle picks up a signal and discovers that an update is available - possibly when you're doing 70 in lane 3 of a motorway?

    What if the update contains a bug? Can the vehicle revert to the previous version or does it have to stay where it is until the manufacturer fixes the bug?

    This obviously hasn't been thought through.

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      "What if the car is parked in a location where there is no data signal? Do you set out on a journey only to come to an abrupt halt as soon as the vehicle picks up a signal and discovers that an update is available - possibly when you're doing 70 in lane 3 of a motorway?"

      No, of course it wont.

      In the same way that modern cars wont come to an abrupt stop when they detect something wrong they will flash up a warning and in the event that its a bad enough fault the car will either enter limp mode allowing you to continue at a reduced speed, or advise you to pull over immediately.

      I cannot fathom the twisted logic that would cause you to ask such a question..

      As for your question about the updates containing a bug... Again common sense tells you that this would be discretionary.. if the bug was that in 90% of the cars updated the brakes failed to work then yes.. I would hope that the cars would be immobilised until the issue was rectified..

      For serious issues I'd think that the car pulling over and advising you to call recovery would be the best bet.

      For less serious issues I'd expect the car to be able to continue until a suitable time to do the update (Probably when its charging).

      In the event of a failed update then yes the car should revert to the last good configuration but subject to the above whereby it could remain immobilised depending on the nature of the issue,

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