back to article Brit transport pundit Christian Wolmar on why the driverless car is on a 'road to nowhere'

Dive beneath the hype and the dry ice of CES, and it becomes apparent. The connected cars and electric cars being shown off in Las Vegas this week are not self-driving cars; and it has proved a lot harder to make an autonomous car than to sell the idea to an AI-obsessed think tank. Of the many obvious-in-retrospect reasons for …

  1. muddysteve

    They will never work in an urban environment.

    How is an automated car ever going to get through a housing estate, with kids jumping out in front of them, playing chicken and just being annoying?

    If you ever bought a BMW driverless car, you would be lucky to get off your own drive.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

      How is an automated car ever going to get through a housing estate, with kids jumping out in front of them, playing chicken and just being annoying?

      How does a human driver cope with this situation? Does he just run over the kids?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

        Only if no one is looking.

        1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

          @AC

          Only if no one is looking.

          Bloody CCTV everywhere - spoiling all our fun!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

        The kids would play 'Chicken' with the car. If it stops in time then they just do it again and again.

        If it didn't then the lawyer standing in the background would make sure that no one including the company that made the seat covers escapes being hauled into court.

        I have a lot of time for Mr Wolmar or rather 'had'. Since his pal Jeremy C became leader of the Labour Party, he's gone a bit off the rails. Some of his more recent rants in 'Rail' magazine seem to show that.

        He appears to have reverted to seeing the old days of 'British Rail' through rose tinted glasses.

        Well Mr W in BR days, my last train from London left at 23:06. now I can continue to enjoy myself and still get the 01:05 which was nearly full a few weeks before christmas. The old 23:06 was invariably empty because some of the other stations it called at were locked up tight after 22:00 when the Union man went home. The more athletic of us could scramble over the fence.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

          In fact the passenger in the car would yell at the kids and the on-board video cameras would record their activity as evidence.

          A kid can stop any car right now by standing in front of it. The sensors at the driver's retina would detect photons reflected from the surface of the kids. These detected photons would be sent back to the driver's brain where they would be interpreted as a human form in the path of the vehicle. A decision processing system within the driver's brain would result in signals being sent down nerve pathways to the limbs which would operate the vehicle interface to stop the car and/or steer it so as to avoid contact with the detected human whilst giving a long blast on the horn and swearing at the kid.

          If you wanted to stop my car today by standing in front of it then you could do so, it has forward emergency braking and stops if there is an obstruction of any kind.

          This process is vaguely similar to how a self driving vehicle would behave. I don't know if the self-driving car will also be programmed to give a long blast on the horn etc but it could instantly send pictures of the activity to any owner or law enforcement.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

            "pictures of the activity to any owner or law enforcement."

            The police don't investigate any minor crimes now !

          2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

            Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

            People are in general a lot more reluctant to interact negatively with other humans than with robots. Holding up a human-driven car for fun invites an awkward interpersonal interaction whereas holding up a robot car would be like swearing at the self-service till in Tescos; everyone does it, nobody feels bad about it.

            1. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

              Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

              The only place a system that gets upset by people being in its way would work is on a motorway, and that is also the one road network that would greatly benefit in terms of congestion reduction from lots of automation of vehicles. Apart from that, about all you can do is improve vehicle safety and try to iron out some of the more moronic driver behaviours in software.

              1. Wells

                Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

                Self-driving cars - will never be fully safe, will not reduce traffic congestion, will not reduce travel related costs, will not reduce fuel/energy consumption nor emissions sufficiently to prevent global catastrophic climate change nor take full advantage of the benefits that plug-in hybrid and all-battery EVs offer. Why are we being misled to believe this high-tech nonsense makes sense? Follow the money.

            2. veti Silver badge

              Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

              Holding up a human-driven car for fun invites an awkward interpersonal interaction whereas holding up a robot car would be like swearing at the self-service till in Tescos;

              You're assuming there's no human in the car. Seems to me that's not a safe assumption.

              Honestly, the whole "Holborn problem" as expounded here is fraught with unstated assumptions. Technology can't do everything perfectly, therefore it's doomed. The technology isn't fully developed yet, therefore it's doomed. The technology must act the way I imagine it acting, therefore it's doomed. Traffic happens, therefore it's doomed.

              I shall just thank car manufacturers for not putting Christian Wolmar in charge of their R&D departments, and continue watching progress with interest.

              1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

                Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

                You're assuming there's no human in the car. Seems to me that's not a safe assumption.

                There may well be a human in the car, but if the human is not driving the car there is no scope for the delicate non-verbal negotiation which goes on when, say, we want to cross a road and a car slows (or doesn't) to let us do so.

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

                "Honestly, the whole "Holborn problem" as expounded here is fraught with unstated assumptions. "

                Exactly. It's an extremely simplistic, rigidly thought scenario.

                By the way, don't try arguing with a donkey and cart. After obstructing it for a while the donkey _will_ push you out of the way.

                Cars only hurt if they nudge you at more than 2mph or they run over your feet.

            3. HelpfulJohn

              Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

              "..... whereas holding up a robot car would be like swearing at the self-service till in Tescos; everyone does it, nobody feels bad about it."

              I don't, ever, and I would were I to.

              I know machines are far, far less sentient that fleas, sheep or politicians but I always say "thank you" to ATM's and other robots doing me a service.

              I've even been known to thank the washy machine and my microwave.

              Being nice to a robot car would only be an extension of my normal politeness.

              I'm polite to cats, moths, dogs and many humans, too.

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

            "In fact the passenger in the car would yell at the kids and the on-board video cameras would record their activity as evidence."

            This is an easily solved problem in any case. The car would simply need to push ahead at 1-2mph and stop if it detected a bump, the same as humans do.

            Anyone who's ever driven through a flock of sheep or mob of cattle knows this one.

        2. mpentler

          Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

          And I bet you're paying for the privilege and it costs the taxpayer more

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

            "And I bet you're paying for the privilege and it costs the taxpayer more"

            Who's "you" and what's the privilege?

    2. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

      Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

      ..or a very rural environment either. In our area, where there are many single track roads, the car would need to understand the concept of give and take, fairness, light gestures to invite one to continue past a passing place, etc. Mapping passing places won't work, as the passing places may be closed, iced-over, or full of tourists with caravans.

      What a relief that someone has finally said that, if the emperor is wearing any clothes at all, at best its an itsy bitsy yellow polka dot bikini

      1. Aitor 1

        Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

        they will do that in a fraction of a second over radio.

        Now, if you mix seldriven and normal cars.. I guess you need to signal somehow to the flesh driver..

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

        "Mapping passing places won't work, as the passing places may be closed, iced-over, or full of tourists with caravans."

        Passing places often consist of mounting the verge, scraping along the hedge before coming down with a thump. This excludes 4x4 drivers as seem to be defeated by a puddle*, mud and grass verges are a definite no drive zone.

        *I kid you not, just yesterday, a Audi twat mobile (you know the things, similar in size to a double decker bus) actually stopped when faced with a large puddle and waited for me to pass, so they could go round it

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

          " just yesterday, a Audi twat mobile... actually stopped when faced with a large puddle and waited for me to pass, so they could go round it"

          Well it's a big lump, it would take ages to wash if it got splashed with a bit of mud.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

            In both London and Essex, most Audi Q's and BMW X's only off road moments are over the speed humps outside the schools

          2. Putters

            Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

            Tho not an Audi driver, I've also recently stopped for oncoming traffic rather than drive thru a large puddle.

            If I hadn't a couple of pedestrians in Reeth would have been drenched in muddy water and the copper coming the other way would probably have nicked me ...

            Anyhow, round here (Dales) a large puddle can be of very uncertain depth and hiding a seriously degraded road surface. If you're slowing enough to take account of those you might as well take a little more time and wait and go round.

        2. MJI Silver badge

          Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

          Audi twat mobile

          Proper 4x4s (from Solihull) are happy to get on verges, the muddier the better.

        3. Shadow Systems Silver badge

          At Lost All Faith, re: puddles.

          Don't complain too hard about drivers that don't want to d

          rive through "puddles"...

          Sometimes those "puddles" are hiding Cthulhu who is just waiting for his next meal to fall in where he can eat them in peace. Not that he's adverse to lashing out a tentacle, ensnaring a passing vehicle, & dragging the whole thing into the void in a fit of pique, but once he's done that it kinda ruins the whole "SURPRISE!" factor.

          So cut the drivers some slack for not driving blindly into puddles, they may be reacting to that tiny voice of intuition that's warning them an Elder God lies waiting for a snack... =-)p

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

          This excludes 4x4 drivers as seem to be defeated by a puddle*, mud and grass verges are a definite no drive zone.

          *I kid you not, just yesterday, a Audi twat mobile (you know the things, similar in size to a double decker bus)

          That's an All Wheel Drive, not a 4 Wheel Drive. There's a difference, not only in the possible capability of the driver but also of the vehicle. For instance an X5 is drives through all 4 wheels but I wouldn't try using it across farmland or on a sandy beach. Gravel driveway at best.

        5. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

          I kid you not, just yesterday, a Audi twat mobile (you know the things, similar in size to a double decker bus) actually stopped when faced with a large puddle and waited for me to pass, so they could go round it

          A couple of years ago I encountered one of these things on a single track rural road near my house. The driver clearly would not contemplate the possibility of putting a wheel on the verge (which on her side was grassy and clear) and instead expected me to drive off the road on my side ... which, thanks to a ditch, was not going to happen. So I just waited. And waited. Finally, when I switched my engine off, opened a paper and started doing the crossword she got the hint and drove the two feet to the side which made passing possible.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

            I've never got this. There are some people who won't ever wait or give way even when it is clearly their responsibility to do so. People who will drive into a congested road when they needed to wait for a vehicle coming down to clear the section first. The worst example was when I was driving down the "neck" of a bottle shaped road. A car came into the wide section when I was on the way down. He then continued up into the narrow neck section instead of waiting for me to emerge And made it clear that he wanted me to reverse back up the narrow road with cars parked either side and into the main road above, so that he could continue. The abuse he shouted when I didn't!!

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

            "The driver clearly would not contemplate the possibility of putting a wheel on the verge"

            Most of them won't contemplate being closer than 3 feet from the verge, or having less than 3 feet clearance - which is a problem on a road less than 15 feet wide.

        6. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

          "a Audi twat mobile... actually stopped when faced with a large puddle and waited for me to pass, so they could go round it"

          Around these parts, some of those puddles conceal 6-8 inch deep potholes. It was rather funny seeing white van man beach himself in one recently.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

      just redefine them as mobile speed bumps in the software and let Darwin manage the rest.

    4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

      Concur.

      The other example which comes to mind is Netherlands. All city centre and a lot of housing estates are "pedestrianized the dutch way". What does that mean? In those areas there is one overlord - the pedestrian. The next one in the pecking order is the cyclist which is NOT prohibited from cycling there. They have to give the pedestrians right of way (which they sometimes do, depends on their Dutch grit abrasiveness value). The last in line is the car. It is also allowed (again - none of the restrictive idiocies UK enforces, there is simply not enough space for that). But it has to give EVERYONE a right of way.

      I do not see ANY automated system driving in that environment. Ever. At the same time this is exactly the environment I would like to see on my street and in my city. #

      So IMHO, we should cut this stupid AI crap and start investing into motorway and A road instrumentation so that you can join the road and leave it to the road management computer until the junction where you are supposed to leave. The problem here is not technological either - it is simply total lack of political will to do so.

      1. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

        Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

        steam gives way to sail a good principle.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

        So IMHO, we should cut this stupid AI crap and start investing into motorway and A road instrumentation so that you can join the road and leave it to the road management computer until the junction where you are supposed to leave."

        You'll need a good alarm system in the car, possibly involving supercharged cattle prods, otherwise you'll end up with queues of cars in the hard shoulder at junction exits with sleeping drivers in them (or arriving at the end of the motorway) because the car/road system has to safely "manage" cars where the driver can't or won't take back control. That will less of a problem on roads like the M25 or M60 since they can just keep going until they run out of juice.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

        " In those areas there is one overlord - the pedestrian. "

        Legally on UK roads (other than motorway regulated ones), the same priorities apply.

    5. batfink

      Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

      The same way we do now. The occupants shout at the kids.

      1. Mark 65 Silver badge

        Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

        The same way we do now. The occupants shout at the kids.

        You're neglecting the fact that there is also ambiguity over whether the human driver will stop - elderly or Audi/BMW driver and you're taking a bit of a risk.

    6. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

      The fun game is to toss a Frisbee or ball in the path of the car and get it to brake suddenly and then run away.

    7. HKmk23

      Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

      The Darwin effect will eliminate that problem!

    8. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

      How is an automated car ever going to get through a housing estate, with kids jumping out in front of them, playing chicken and just being annoying?

      Machine guns behind the headlights.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'clickbait-chasing journalists recycling press releases'

    Ain't that the truth. Compare these 2 articles about CES from the beeb:

    .....Tech preview of the show's coolest new products:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-42574569

    .....Left wondering whether AI is a triumph of marketing:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-42619807

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: clickbait-chasing journalists ....

      "Whatever happened to interplanetary travel, hover cars...."

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-30513670

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: 'clickbait-chasing journalists recycling press releases'

      I've stopped reading the BBC news site, mostly.

      They seem to recycle old stories, print stuff from Twitter and Press Releases. Journalism? Spending too much on secret salaries of "Contract" "top" people. Hence worthlessness of their pay review.

      Too obsessed with "Balanced views" and promoting their own agendas than honest reporting.

  3. Terry 6 Silver badge

    My stuff

    Of all the arguments there the one about my stuff is the most telling. Never mind someone living just outside Woking or wherever it was he said. Even in North London we keep in the car boot; supermarket bags, gym mats, work materials, spare leads, migraine tablets and lord knows what else. So the "pod" type of driverless vehicle would be a no no. That being said, if it were possible to own a driverless vehicle in the same way as an ordinary car, a sort of AI chauffeur I could go with that. But is it likely? I doubt it, for the arguments given.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My stuff

      Clearly the solution is to take the pod car to its logical conclusion an incorporate a system of interchangeable storage pods etc so when you summon a car it comes via the local pod storage facility where it automatically gets loaded with the your pod (or even one of several pods you have that you have selected) and then comes to you .... and to avoid unnecessary waits I'm sure an AI system could be trained to learn what configs where likely to be need at any time so they are likely to be already ready (ok, could just use an advance booking system but that's old-tech so clearly not appropriate).

      Anyway, nothing novel here ... Thunderbird 2 used this pod system years ago!

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: My stuff

        Poor assumptions here. The stuff in the car isn't systematically filed away for future use. It's been thrown/left in there the last time it was needed ready for when it might be needed again. And sometimes is retrieved to take elsewhere, or for whatever other reason. Because it's outside my door. Who's going to do the preplanning that says that they should order up a pod with supermarket bags and their gym kit when the car comes to take them to the library, just in case they have time for a swim or to pop in to Tesco on the way home? And who would want to pay rent for that storage when they could stick in in their own car for free? Car boot space as a service (BSaaS) anyone?

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: My stuff

          " It's been thrown/left in there the last time it was needed ready for when it might be needed again."

          What you need is a thing your aunt gave you which you don't have any idea what it does but you can't get rid of it.

    2. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: My stuff

      Terry, if you're suggesting that makes driverless cars useless, I recommend a quick refresher in ancient Greek logic. The fact (or supposition) that it wouldn't suit you (in your current lifestyle) doesn't detract from its usefulness to other people, and plenty enough to make a market. Like those of us who never intend to own a car again, but might have a use for one on occasion.

      Though I'd never dream of taking a car anywhere near Holborn. I wasn't that dumb when I owned a car, nor when I lived in London.

  4. Bangem

    It's too Black and White

    Has he even considered a Hybrid approach? I fully take on board that, busy pedestrian environments, broken traffic lights and road works could all cause a fully automated car to sit there for hours. Heck! even some human drivers do that too.

    But has he not watched the Tom Cruise snoozefest "Minority Report"? Lets have roadways (motorways) that are fully automated (pedestrian free) and then when on normal roads the car should switch back to being human driver controlled. We're half way there already with cruise control and lane assist anyway

    All or nothing is never going to work, so Mr Captain obvious is just stating the ....well obvious

    1. muddysteve

      Re: It's too Black and White

      I can see two problems with that. The first is that most people would want a truly driverless car (not the kind where you have to pay attention to take over) so that they can drink, which they couldn't if they had to drive at both ends of the journey. The other is that the most stressful parts of a journey tend to be the town bits at the end - the motorways are relatively stress-free.

      1. ijustwantaneasylife

        Re: It's too Black and White

        Sorry, have to disagree with that. I find the worst part of motorway driving - and the most potentially lethal - is getting bored driving long straight roads with little or no interest to stop you from nodding off. Driving around town, though perhaps a little more stressful, is more interesting and thus more likely to keep you alert and focussed. You can also fairly easily pull off the road for a rest - something you can only do on motorways every 10-15 miles (ball park).

        Now if you could get the car to do the boring bit, that would be really useful, even if you don't have the option to drink (who really cares?) or fall asleep (at least you could relax).

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: It's too Black and White

          "I find the worst part of motorway driving - and the most potentially lethal - is getting bored driving long straight roads with little or no interest to stop you from nodding off"

          This is a solved problem. All those "smart" motorways with their close spaced speed cameras and changeable, arbitrary speed limits are guaranteed to impose sufficient stress to keep you awake.

        2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: It's too Black and White

          . I find the worst part of motorway driving - and the most potentially lethal - is getting bored driving long straight roads with little or no interest to stop you from nodding off.

          Try driving faster and closer to the vehicle in front, that'll keep you perky.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's too Black and White

          If you are worried about boredom/falling asleep during motorway driving, just play the "braking" game – see how far you can go without touching your brakes.

          You will suddenly become super-alert to what is going to happen in front and behind in 20 seconds time, you may become a considerably better driver in doing so, and the miles will fly by crazy-fast with no loss of alertness.

          And then suddenly, you find you are in Bridgwater! (I know, that's the downside.)

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: It's too Black and White

            "If you are worried about boredom/falling asleep during motorway driving, just play the "braking" game – see how far you can go without touching your brakes."

            That's how I was taught to drive. Anticipation is your friend.

            I remember taking the company car in for a 10k service. Was told the brake pads would need changing before the next service. At the next service I was told the same thing. Next service after that, the pads finally needed replacing.

            1. Nick Kew Silver badge

              Re: It's too Black and White

              I've owned two cars in my lifetime (and will never have a third). Also two motorbikes (and ditto).

              Never once changed brake pads. Like John Brown, I regarded it as normal to anticipate, and to make very, very little use of brakes. So they don't wear out.

              Also very good for the fuel consumption.

              (Cycling is different. Particularly when it's commuting in city traffic).

        4. MJI Silver badge

          Re: It's too Black and White

          I find a way of dealing with motorway boredom but comes with licence risks.

          It is see how fast I can go.

      2. jmch Silver badge

        Re: It's too Black and White

        "the motorways are relatively stress-free."

        But for long journeys, they are the longest and most tiring part. If you could drive 15 minutes to get on the motorway and relax for a couple of hours before having to take over for 15 minutes that would be great.

        1. Warm Braw Silver badge

          Re: It's too Black and White

          get on the motorway and relax for a couple of hours

          That is in principle achievable using existing technology because you have a segragated, pedestrian-free environment, limited exits and plenty of space to install roadside equipment, the downside being that you'd only be able to permit suitably equipped vehicles on the road.

          Perhaps you could wall off the outside lane of the motorway, stick a cable down the middle and reserve it for cable-following vehicles that were aware of the position and speed of the vehicle ahead of them. That would solve the problem of road signs being obscured and other drivers breaking into the middle of convoys. It might also introduce Audi drivers to lanes of the motorway they have not hitherto explored.

          The thing about truly autonomous vehicles is that a lot of the technology (the ability to recognise road markings, traffic signs, stop lights, etc) is only of any value while there are still human drivers around. Once you get rid of those, you'd likely go back to more traditional and reliable forms of vehicle control.

        2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          Re: It's too Black and White

          @jmch

          If you could drive 15 minutes to get on the motorway

          ROFL! Nearest M-way is about 2 hours drive away!

          (Which is actually a good thing, as it discourages visitors)

      3. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: It's too Black and White

        most people would want a truly driverless car (not the kind where you have to pay attention to take over) so that they can drink, which they couldn't if they had to drive at both ends of the journey. The other is that the most stressful parts of a journey tend to be the town bits at the end - the motorways are relatively stress-free.

        Most people want a flying car and a jetpack too, but they can only have what technology can reliably offer them.

      4. Dewin Cymraeg

        Re: It's too Black and White

        I disagree with what you say about motorway driving. It's not stressful, but it's tiring and boring. But there can be no real halfway house - either you're in control and concentrating, or you're not. A car that could do the motorway driving for me would be one I'd consider buying.

    2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: It's too Black and White

      The killer app for driverless cars is being able to drive to the pub and legally have the car drive you home.

      Anything less than that isn't particularly useful.

      1. aks Bronze badge

        Re: It's too Black and White

        Surely that's called a taxi (black, mini or uber flavoured) or one of the gang doesn't drink.

        Luckily, where I live the nearest pub is 100 yards away and the furthest about a mile (I live on a small island).

        1. Brenda McViking

          Re: It's too Black and White

          Well no it isn't - a taxi suffers the golf bats problem. A fat lot of good it is if my car is in the pub car-park and not my drive, once I've sobered up and want to go for a match of golf on Saturday afternoon.

          (I don't actually perform golf but I don't think it detracts from my point.)

        2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          Re: It's too Black and White

          Taxi's are inconvenient and expensive.

          If you want to visit a few pubs of an evening, or travel more than a short distance, the cost quickly adds up. The cab fare to where I spend many Saturday evenings is about £12 each way. Turn that into a proper night out and you're quickly spending more on transport than you are on booze.

          Also there's no possibility of going for a few pints if you're spending a (fixed) fortune on cab fare. Autonomous cars open up more flexibility.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Zebra crossings

            Talking of black and white, have a think about zebra crossings. I spent sometime over christmas with a relative who was enthusing about self driving cars, so I asked him about zebra crossings.

            When you drive towards a crossing the driver normally (I do, and I assume others do) scan both sides for approaching pedestrians. Sometimes a pedestrian may be walking towards the corssing, but planning to walk by and not cross. Sometimes a pedestrian may be standing at the crossing but not inetnding to cross (ie. yapping on the phone, or even to another human being). It's pretty much all to do with momentary eye contact. If the pedstrian makes eye contact with the driver and looks both ways along the road when approaching the crosssing there is a good chance he is intending to cross and the car will slow/stop. If he makes no eye contact and doesn't look around him, chances are he is not going to cross. Can an automated vehicle detect this behaviour/eye contact/body language from a pedestrian 20 -100 metres way?

            And that is just one of the many questions in need of answering - The Holborn effect indeed.

            1. Not also known as SC

              Re: Zebra crossings

              Along the same lines how would driverless cars cope with a mixed environment containing cars still driven by people? What happens, as happened to me the other day, a motorist indicates wrongly on a roundabout (indicated one junction too early). From looking at the car's road positioning, the way the driver was looking etc it was obvious that they weren't going to leave where they were indicating towards so I waited. How would driverless cars deal with this? Ignore al indicators and only move when the roundabout is clear?

              1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

                Re: Zebra crossings

                @Not also etc

                'Indicators' - are just that, an indication, not a statement of fact. I remember a case some years ago, driver was waiting to pull out onto main road, another car approaching from right on the main road, indicating to turn left (i.e. into the road of the waiting driver). Waiting driver assumes he can safely pull out, does so, and oncoming vehicle drives straight into his side. Verdict: blame entirely on the person who pulled out. Right of way goes to the vehicle on the main road, indicators just suggest.

            2. Nick Kew Silver badge

              Re: Zebra crossings

              Human drivers are hopeless at that.

              We have a bus station where I occasionally wait for a bus. Sometimes - typically if needing to get upwind of a smoker, though perhaps also to watch for the bus - I'll wander out to the pavement in front. As soon as I do that, I'm near a zebra. I can be leaning on the railings and obviously going nowhere, but still most of the cars slow right down as if to let me cross. I find myself walking away from my preferred spot simply to get away from the crossing and stop them doing that!

              I rather suspect an AI driver might do rather better than the average human at detecting a human who is not interested in crossing the road.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: It's too Black and White

            "Taxi's are inconvenient and expensive."

            The most expensive part is the driver. As soon as self-driving cars can eliminate them the cost of taking a taxi will probably be less than that of maintaining your own car.

        3. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

          Re: It's too Black and White

          Taxis are really expensive. A taxi home from the nearest large city to me would be the thick end of fifty quid. The cheapest a friend has ever managed is thirty something.

          No night buses (used to be possible to take a bus, and then a 12-15 quid taxi, a tad more reasonable). Trains stop a bit after eleven - so that's what I take, unless I'm willing not to drink, and drive in.

        4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: It's too Black and White

          "Surely that's called a taxi (black, mini or uber flavoured) or one of the gang doesn't drink."

          The one time we resorted to booking a cab for that purpose after a company do I had the experience of being fully alert and watching our driver T-bone a car that had slowly pulled out of a side road, initially some hundreds ahead, most of which we travelled before said driver though it might be an idea to brake.

          To give the driver his due he was very efficient after the crash. He got on the blower and got a colleague to come and remove all witnesses his passengers from the scene of the accident PDQ.

      2. herman Silver badge

        Re: It's too Black and White

        Err... you mean the non-killer app.

      3. inmypjs Silver badge

        Re: It's too Black and White

        "drive to the pub"

        By the time we have autonomous cars I doubt there will be any pubs left.

        1. DropBear Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: It's too Black and White

          "I doubt there will be any pubs left"

          Don't be silly - I can't remember seeing any dystopia / post-apocalyptic whatever where the booze shack wasn't the last building remaining...

      4. NXM

        Re: It's too Black and White

        The driverless car that takes you home from the pub was invented by a bloke with a horse & cart years ago. The horse knew the way home so all the milkman had to do was lie on the cart and say 'giddy up, dobbin'.

        Sadly he was banned from using this system (as far as I remember) by the court which deemed milkyman to be in charge and not dobbin. Killjoys.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It's too Black and White

      " Lets have roadways (motorways) that are fully automated"

      And when the automation goes TITSUP?

    4. Rolf Howarth

      Re: It's too Black and White

      Bangem is absolutely correct. Don't you ever have to do boring long motorway and dual carriageway journeys when you wish you could just switch off and doze, or do some work on your laptop, or something? I don't mind taking over and doing a bit of driving round town at the beginning and end of my journey. It would be like travelling by train, and I love going by train if I can because the time isn't wasted and I can get on with some work, but there isn't always a good connection to where I'm going, or I might need my car at the other end or have a lot of stuff to take. Hybrid self driving cars like the Tesla are here already and will soon be licensed for self driving operation. In a few years we'll all wonder what the fuss was about and how we ever did without them.

    5. inmypjs Silver badge

      Re: It's too Black and White

      "All or nothing is never going to work, "

      Yes but All is the only thing of real value.

      Some just means you can dick around on farcebook or twatter during the simple parts of the drive, which just isn't worth much. The best I can see is lorry drivers being able to work longer shifts if they can spend some of it asleep or resting.

  5. Spiracle

    Coaching

    A modest proposal: One way to solve the golf clubs problem is to, like the very early days of motoring, split the body work from the drive train - in the early parts of the twentieth century you used to buy a chassis and get a coachbuilder to put something on top. Leave your bodywork up on bricks in your drive with your clubs in it and whistle up an autonomous drivetrain to slot itself underneath when you need it. The drives can do robot things when there's nobody aboard, when the coachworks's on top a driver's in control. On long journey's instead of waiting for charge you could just change the horses like on old coaching inn.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: Coaching

      My word, that's brilliant. We could have some that contain a bed and call them a Caravan. Others could be open backed, they'd be called trailers.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Coaching

        Another way to solve the golf club problem: leave the clubs locked up at the golf course.

        Another way to solve the problem: have the clubs delivered to a course of your choice. This would be an extension of the delivery infrastructure that Amazon et al are developing - your stuff following you around like Rincewind's Luggage.

        1. Duffy Moon

          Re: Coaching

          Yet another way to solve the golf problem: don't play that ridiculous, landscape-ruining game at all and take the things you need with you when you actually need them.

    2. Norman Nescio Silver badge

      Re: Coaching

      It's such an obviously good idea, I wonder what the major flaw is?

      Containerisation transformed freight operations: doing the same for people with standardised car passenger cabin-and-boot (trunk) modules with even semi-autonomous drivetrains would transform driving. You could buy a cabin and keep the golf-clubs in it permanently, and rent drivetrains as you needed them. There's a weight and engineering cost in making the cabin and boot removable, but it sounds great.

      1. Chloe Cresswell

        Re: Coaching

        I'd have the same issue as with charging EVs.. I'd need somewhere for the body to sit waiting for it's drive train. Or is it going to stand on legs in the road?

        1. AMBxx Silver badge
          FAIL

          >> have the clubs delivered to a course of your choice

          Presumably by a driverless vehicle?

  6. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

    ...so, in the words of Ms. Rice-Davis, he would say that wouldn't he.

    My observation is that, even with massive subsidies from the tax payer, the train service isn't what you might wish.

    Time will tell of course, but my money, if I had any, would be on the autonomous cars. Imagine this, you go to work in your car. When you get there you go into work, then your car goes to work as an autonomous taxi, returning later to take you home. After dropping you at home the car works the taxi night shift. I don't think The Holborn Effect will stand in the way of that.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

      "Time will tell of course, but my money, if I had any, would be on the autonomous cars. Imagine this, you go to work in your car. When you get there you go into work, then your car goes to work as an autonomous taxi, returning later to take you home. After dropping you at home the car works the taxi night shift. I don't think The Holborn Effect will stand in the way of that."

      1) Not with your golf clubs in the back and child seat in it it won't.

      2) How much taxi work do you think you can pick up if everyone's car is doing that?

      3) He's saying you won't get an autonomous urban car any time soon, so what it does while you're at work isn't the problem. Mixed-mode car (autonomous on motorways/major trunk roads, manual off them) is much easier, but of course few taxis operate like this, and most journeys are urban.

    2. Captain TickTock
      Thumb Down

      Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

      "your car goes to work as an autonomous taxi"

      Not my car, with my stuff in it, that I pay the insurance on, that I clean...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fixed that for you

      You go to work in your car, but arrive late because those pesky kids were playing around by sticking a red led on a lamppost again, and the car thought it was a traffic light. Your boss calls you in and says you are fired. You end up standing on the street, but your car is nowhere to be seen, as it is busy couriering drugs over to the estate. When it finally does turn up you trundle home at 5 miles an hour, because the batteries are a bit flat. After dropping you home the car works a taxi night shift. Too bad that you left the keys and your phone on the passenger seat, so you spend the night shivering in your garden shed. When it arrives home at 5 am, its arguable which is worse, the puke on the floor or those suspicious stains. After cleaning it up you head out to the Jobs Centre, but halfway along the journey the car pulls in to the local police station...'would you like to explain your role in this drug's gang we just busted....'

    4. aks Bronze badge

      Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

      If that arrangement came to pass, the car is a money-earning investment. Many fewer people would own one.

      One thing I have never seen mentioned is that the car drops you at the office then autonomously takes itself to the car park. When you need it, you simply summon it and it rolls up to the door. I'd then take over control to fight my way through the traffic, running down anybody who set their foot on the road. You've got to get your kicks somewhere. ;)

      1. Naselus

        Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

        "Many fewer people would own one."

        This.

        Wolmar's problem is, he's imagining that autonomous cars will be owned like current cars are - everyone buys one and it sits doing bugger all for 90% of the day. Why in God's name would I want to spend £20,000+ on something I'm not going to use much?

        About 60% of the cost of a taxi is the driver's pay. if we eliminate that from the equation, then an autonomous taxi service suddenly becomes dirt cheap. Like, public transport cheap. Only you can take it to a precise destination.

        Autonomous vehicles will basically abolish mass vehicle ownership. You'll sign up to a subscription with some company, who will send you a vehicle on demand, drive you where you're going, and then it'll sod off and pick up the next guy. 'But I like to keep my golf clubs in the car!' is not a sensible argument against the hard laws of economics; it will be cheaper and easier to not own a car while still achieving the same results owning a car did, so people will stop owning cars. There'll be some exceptions - prestige cars, people who live in remote areas not serviced by a company etc - but in most large conurbations it'll be economically viable to simply not own a car at all.

        As for the 'Holborn Problem'... scraping the barrel a bit, isn't it? I mean, seriously, you might as well say the same thing for human drivers. And where was pedestrianizing these areas from his comprehensive list of two possible solutions?

        1. Not also known as SC

          Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

          "Many fewer people would own one."

          Disagree. Cars are for a lot of people a status symbol. It might not be to you, but why do so many people spend £20,000+ on a vehicle when they can get one which does the same functionality for a lot less? Why does Tesla make very expensive electric cars instead of very cheap ones? Status.

          I think we'll just end up with the same situation we have now except the cars will be electric and self driving. The numbers won't go down unless the cars are priced or legislated out of ordinary peoples' reach.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

            "The numbers won't go down unless the cars are priced or legislated out of ordinary peoples' reach."

            Nail. Head.

        2. FrancisKing
          Meh

          Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

          The taxi fare is £8 from the railway station to my home. Knock 60% off, and it's still £3.20 for 1 1/2 miles. That's still way more than the 50p per mile that a private car costs.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

          "Why in God's name would I want to spend £20,000+ on something I'm not going to use much?"

          Is that the best you can manage? You'd spend it for exactly the same reason as you do with a non-autonomous car: it's there when you need it. If you're expecting to use an automated cab then you should also expect to spend a long time waiting for it because everyone else who thought the same way as you would be wanting to use the limited pool of cars at the same time. One in N times you'd be the lucky one to get prompt service and block out N others, otherwise, just stand there and wait.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

            "If you're expecting to use an automated cab then you should also expect to spend a long time waiting for it because everyone else who thought the same way as you would be wanting to use the limited pool of cars at the same time."

            It's funny how the proponents don't see autonomous taxis as being just like broadband. Contention issues at peak times. There is never going to be a Utopia when an autonomous taxi will be available on demand, on time, any time of the day or night. The operating companies will own just enough to service the most people, most of the time, and no more. Anyone remember ringing around an ISPs PoPs trying to find one that wasn't already fully utilised and just giving an engaged tone?

        4. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

          I live in Edinburgh, where there is a well established City Car Club. And yet, only a tiny fraction of inhabitants are members and many of those who are use it as cheap access to a second car.

          There is absolutely no need to pay £20k for a car. Those who do so will not be satisfied with something shared.

        5. Snow Hill Island

          Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

          "Why in God's name would I want to spend £20,000+ on something I'm not going to use much?"

          Because otherwise you'll have to leave for work at 6 am and come home at 8 pm, because you'll find that the fleet of pods is mysteriously difficult to book during the rush hour.

          The company buying the pods doesn't want to spend £20,000+ on something you're not going to use either...

        6. Buttons
          Unhappy

          Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

          I tend to agree with this in principle. People I know in London don't have a car because of good public transport and restictions on the motor vehicle. In Brum the transport system is rubbish but a subcription service to Amazon or whoever, "Alexa take me to the Bull Ring" seems viable to me. If the big tech companies provide these vehicles on demand you could just hire one at will. I imagine it would bring all sorts of problems if it took off like, who pays the road tax if no-one owns cars? who is responsible for the insurance? How do we stop someone like Amazon monopolising the transport system and make them pay their taxes? What do we do with all those drives laid to concrete on our front lawn? Will we still have a street parking problem? If people cannot get a driving job, what else will they do? How do we avoid the AV that was used in last nights home from the pub run? I'm pretty certain that AI and all that stuff is not designed to be useful to anyone but a few profitable organisations in the long run. I still wonder who it will serve when everything is entirely AI and no-one is earning any money for lack of job prospects. Universal credit isn't doing so well.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

            "who pays the road tax if no-one owns cars?"

            For the most part, "who cares?"

            Road tax (as in car registration VED) nets about £5 billion per year.

            FUEL taxes (excise duty, various taxes and VAT) net something around £75-80 billion per year.

            Maintaining the roading system costs £25-£35 billion/year depending who you listen to.

            All that bluster about ringfencing VED for roads was misdirection. If that had been done the government could have kept its promise and _still_ reduced what it paid out in maintenance.

            It also brings up another important point: Fuel taxes are a significant income for the exchequer. As soon as alternative fuels start harming that income the taxation will be transferred onto those alternatives somehow (either milage charges or mandatory fees per kWh used for transportation purpose).

            Many years ago people who had CNG cars would invest in compression rigs that could "charge up" their car from the gas supply at home for about 1/4 the price of CNG on the forecourt. That was eventually curtailed. In a similar manner, if you're making your own biofuel there's a 2000 litre/year limit after which you must pay excise duty of 45p/litre on EVERY litre produced (not just the amount over 2000 litres).

            e-fuels excise will likely be rated in the same way (2000 litre-equivalent exemption per household, then a large bill arrives)

        7. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

          "If we eliminate that from the equation, then an autonomous taxi service suddenly becomes dirt cheap. Like, public transport cheap. "

          And, given that a 10 ton bus carrying 40 passengers does 1000+ times as much road damage as 40 cars carrying 1 passenger you're likely to see a blending of services happening very quickly.

      2. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

        > One thing I have never seen mentioned is that the car drops you at the office then autonomously takes itself to the car park.

        It has been mentioned but is usually quickly discounted as it simply magnifies the rush-hour: you'd never actually get to work because everybody else would be trying to do the same.

        Which is a good thing, because if it were possible for everyone to be chauffeured to work in an autonomous car, literally everywhere within an hour or two of London would be clogged by autonomous cars parking up for the day, waiting for the evening return journey to start.

    5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

      "After dropping you at home the car works the taxi night shift"

      And your next day starts with cleaning out the various organic remains last night's passengers left in it. Or do you wait up to do that as soon as it returns from its night shift?

      "I don't think The Holborn Effect will stand in the way of that."

      Why not? If the Holborn Effect is operational it might be waiting miles away when you want to pick you up from work.

    6. manchesterj

      Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

      Would the "autonomous taxi" be self cleaning - I certainly hope so....

    7. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      At Caps Lock, re: working cars.

      So you send your car off to go ply the streets looking to pick up strangers? Gives new meaning to "pimp your ride". =-)p

    8. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It appears from the article that Mr. Wolmar is a railway enthusiast...

      "When you get there you go into work, then your car goes to work as an autonomous taxi, returning later to take you home."

      ...full of all the crap and vomit that the "paying passengers" left behind?

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I bet

    you could easily automate a canal barge with a couple of containers on it...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I bet

      I'll take that bet and raise you a recalcitrant duck.

    2. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Re: I bet

      I bet you'd have to spend a lot on lock infrastructure.

    3. Snapper

      Re: I bet

      One word: Tunnels

    4. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: I bet

      You could, providing you really do mean barge rather than narrowboat. Narrowboats are limited to 7 feet wide, less than the 8 feet of a standard container. The 8.5ft container height might be an issue too..

      Given that locks aren't automated, and cruising speed is very low, it's probably a lot faster to go via road.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I bet

        "Given that locks aren't automated"

        A far more easily solvable problem than automating driving.

  8. aks Bronze badge

    I tend to agree with the diagnosis given in the article.

    In cities and towns the trend would be towards gridlock as people knew the vehicle would do anything to avoid hitting them.

    What I don't agree with is the idea of engineered 70mph cars. We've seen what happens with trucks engineered to run at 60mph. They then pass each other at 0.5mph. The idea of 20mph limits in towns has already been shown to *increase* the accident rate presumably because pedestrians become less wary.

    1. Andy E

      One of the benefits of the 20mph limits is the increase in survivability. Your chances of surviving are lot higher than being hit by something traveling at 30mph.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The odds of survival are better still, if you don't get hit in the first place.

        Politically-driven, artificially- and arbitrarily-low speed limits lead to inattentive drivers and blasé pedestrians.

        They have no place in a considered, objective road-safety policy.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Ever since I got caught doing thirty-odd in late at night in a deserted, non-residential but thirty mph zone ( camera) and done a speed training session I've driven very carefully. As in very carefully looking at the speedometer. I do try to look at the road too,

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Joke

            "...I've driven very carefully. As in very carefully looking at the speedometer. I do try to look at the road too,"

            I just make sure the SatNav displays the vehicle speed and then stick it right in the middle of the windscreen where I can't avoid seeing it.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            "As in very carefully looking at the speedometer. I do try to look at the road too"

            Funny. I just set the cruise control to 29mph and let the adaptive functions take care of vehicles ahead whilst right foot hovers over the brake.

            Some cars (eg, Mercedes C class) have settable speed limit restrictors so you _can't_ exceed the desired limit even if you do misconcentrate and put foot to the boards.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              "Some cars (eg, Mercedes C class) have settable speed limit restrictors so you _can't_ exceed the desired limit even if you do misconcentrate and put foot to the boards."

              Shit, even my Kia Ceed has that. As has every hire car with cruise control I've had in recent years. I just assumed the speed limiter was part of a standard cruise control system.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "One of the benefits of the 20mph limits is the increase in survivability. Your chances of surviving are lot higher than being hit by something traveling at 30mph."

        Your chances of surviving are much worse than being missed by someone travelling at 30mph concentrating on the road rather than on staying within a 20mph speed limit. A driver's concentration is finite; don't misuse it.

        1. strum Silver badge

          >Your chances of surviving are much worse than being missed by someone travelling at 30mph concentrating on the road rather than on staying within a 20mph speed limit. A driver's concentration is finite; don't misuse it.

          If you can't pay attention when driving at 20mph, perhaps it would be safer to take your license away.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            "If you can't pay attention when driving at 20mph, perhaps it would be safer to take your license away."

            the vast majority of human drivers can't pay attention at any speed.

            Our bar for getting a license _and keeping it_ is quite low. It's even lower in many parts of the world.

            One of the more interesting consequences of viable automated driving will be insurance companies requiring that drivers pass more stringent tests and regularly retake them to keep their premiums down. At some point that will become licensing policy - and it wouldn't be at all difficult to see 20-30% of the current driving population not even bothering to learn to drive. The vast majority of drivers do it because they have to, not because they want to.

      3. Dan 55 Silver badge
    2. Not also known as SC

      "We've seen what happens with trucks engineered to run at 60mph. They then pass each other at 0.5mph"

      This - a few months ago I was on a two lane motorway when a breakdown truck towing a van decided to overtake a lorry. It took about ten miles to pass the lorry (from one junction to the next). Extremely frustrating to be behind.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "was on a two lane motorway when a breakdown truck towing a van decided to overtake a lorrry"

        It's _illegal_ for a heavy vehicle to be in the right-most lane of a motorway - which means in a two-lane situation they're not allowed to pass.

        Dashcam footage can and has resulted in convictions for the drivers.

        The Dutch have cameras on all the twolane sections of their motorways. HGvs which pass on them are spotted and sent $LARGE_FINE by post.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This made me smile:-

      "What I don't agree with is the idea of engineered 70mph cars. We've seen what happens with trucks engineered to run at 60mph. They then pass each other at 0.5mph."

      The point you're missing is that autonomous vehicles won't pass each other, they'll drive in convoy.

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Devil

        Yeah, and economic agents are perfectly logic-driven and always willing to cooperate if mutual advantage would result. Suuuuuuuuure.

        1. Buttons

          Isn't that a bit of Adam Smith mumbo jumbo?

    4. Nick Kew Silver badge

      The idea of 20mph limits in towns has already been shown to *increase* the accident rate presumably because pedestrians become less wary.

      Citation needed.

      Because that looks like seeing what you want to see in some study that might have involved special circumstances and other things being unequal.

      The link posted a little later is to a source known to have many axes to grind and to spin shamelessly, and refers to one particular instance where a measure may (or may not) have been ill-considered in real life.

  9. 0laf Silver badge
    Holmes

    I think, that the problem with driverless cars will always be liability.

    If I as the driver will always have to be liable for the actions the car takes, and therefore will always have to be alert, sober and able to take control then really what's the point. As it's been demonstrated if I'm observing the car drive and not driving I'll quickly lose concentration to the point of not being able to take over at short notice even if I'm not asleep.

    Until I can pass liability to the manufacturer and at that point climb into the back of the car blind drunk and go to sleep after slurring "home James" then I struggle to see how this can be used practically.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Liability could be one of the easier problems to solve: at the end of the day it's just about the money.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "at the end of the day it's just about the money."

        The money aspect is indeed easily dealt with. It's passed onto the manufacturer who in turn will distribute it back to the owners just as insurance does. But liability isn't just about money, it's about responsibility which, at present, can result in criminal prosecution. How does that aspect of liability get dealt with? If a manufacturer has a choice of spending money or cutting a corner how do you bring that responsibility home to the individual(s) who made that choice?

    2. Naselus

      The manufacturers already have liability with driverless cars.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I think, that the problem with driverless cars will always be liability.

      If I as the driver will always have to be liable for the actions the car takes"

      If it's driverless then you won't be the driver.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "If it's driverless then you won't be the driver."

        Depends what it's actually called as opposed to what people in general call it. A bit like the Tesla Autopilot not actually being called "autopilot" in the manuals. It's commonly called "autopilot", even by some Tesla people, but that's not what it is in legal terms.

    4. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      At 0Laf, re: liability.

      Exactly. I'm totally blind. I can not legally operate a vehicle at all. So if I climb into an autonomous car & tell it to take me home, I *can not* take responsability for anything the car does.

      I can't take over in an emergency situation, I won't even know it IS an emergency situation until after the impact deploys the airbags & makes me need to change trousers.

      Whom gets the points deducted from a license I don't have & can't own? Whose insurance pays for the damages given I no longer qualify for auto insurance? Certainly not me since I wasn't driving at the time.

      Jokes about "driving by braille" (the bump dots) & having a seeing eye dog drive for me aside, I can't see (metaphoricly speaking) how the legal system would resolve such issues prior to making autonomous vehicles into an ubiquitous fact of daily life.

      "Sorry officer. I heard the thump but since I wasn't driving I didn't know what it might be. You say the car hit a pedestrian, ran him down, backed over his twitching body, then ran over him a third time to finish the kill? Man, that sucks. So glad I wasn't driving!"

      =-/

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        Re: At 0Laf, re: liability.

        Exactly. I'm totally blind. I can not legally operate a vehicle at all.

        So you're a prime market for true self-driving vehicles. None of those "but ..." objections from existing drivers who see all the pros of existing tech and the cons of any proposed alternative.

        Along with other people having disabilities that disqualify them from driving (but many of whom nevertheless drive).

  10. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Boffin

    Well, yeah...

    One of the reasons I like to hang out on El Reg is the quality of commentary (despite my tugging the average down). PR speeches, publicity releases, Government statements are quickly perused and incisively judged. Essentially, we can call "Yeah, that's bollocks" with great accuracy (see also, wisdom of crowds).

    Self-driving cars may be with us one day, but they are not imminent. So, despite the gushing accounts from organisations that should know better, I'm calling "Bollocks" on a near-tern self-driving Nirvana.

  11. Peter 26

    He's right about all the issues, but sometimes you need to disengage your brain to succeed

    Although he gives a good reality check, I think there is a lot of innovation that come come out of this, so it is a worthwhile exercise. The tech companies have money to burn like he says, so they might as well put it into something like this.

    Some of my greatest successes have been when I started something that I had no idea how complicated it would actually be thankfully, otherwise I never would have started.

  12. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Missing the point

    The advantage of autonomous vehicles is that computers can become better drivers than people, especially in urban setting.

    I'm a huge fan of public transport and don't own a car because where I live I don't need one and couldn't find somewhere to park it if I could. So my perspective on the "me" side of car ownership is a bit different to golfers who live in Woking. OTOH I've got a better appreciation of mobility: I have my bike, a season ticket for local transport and am happy to use a taxi if the the trip requires it. Although I have a valid driving licence I find driving in modern cities extremely testing and nerve-wracking and our cognitive abilities are never as good as we think they are: we find it very, very difficult to concentrate on things for a sustained period but this is something that computers excel at.

    I won't claim to be at the vanguard of a revolution but the statistics indicate that many younger people are much less keen on car ownership than their parents. This has as much to do with moving from the suburbs into the cities to live, work and play as anything else because this means this highlights the problems car ownership in areas of high population densities: traffic and no parking spaces.

    I also don't buy the inflexion point argument that until all cars are automated autonomous cars will be at a disadvantage. I think people will see the advantages of using and or owning them and decide for themselves.

    Still, I've been badly off with predictions in the past and could be again. I guess only time will tell.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Missing the point

      I think you're overlooking that for the car to be able to overtake the human in all aspects, including "chicken" cases, you need to overcome the inherent advantage humans have of highly-evolved senses. We've developed an ability (through evolution) of being able to assess lots of things (often UNconsciously) with just a glance or a simple sound (part of why we can't teach it to cars--we often don't consciously know the clues). Thus humans can more accurately discern the trolls than any machine. As for kids playing chicken, kids don't do it with human drivers because they realize that a human driver might not see them--or go "Screw this" and run anyway. I read a recent article that notes that computers have a much easier time with higher-level functions (things that requires techniques like logic) than with lower-level functions (things that depend on "body" functions like manual motion and the senses).

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Missing the point

        Thus humans can more accurately discern the trolls than any machine.

        False comparison: we're optimised for dealing with natural language; driving cars isn't a comparable skill.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Missing the point

      "our cognitive abilities are never as good as we think they are: we find it very, very difficult to concentrate on things for a sustained period but this is something that computers excel at."

      OTOH our cognitive abilities are driven by massively parallel processing. In a non-routine situation (and accidents are not routine) they might be able to out-perform a computer which don't necessarily cope well with edge cases. The trade-off isn't necessarily as clear-cut as you might think.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Missing the point

        In a non-routine situation (and accidents are not routine) they might be able to out-perform a computer which don't necessarily cope well with edge cases.

        It's interesting to see you use the subjunctive here. The original computer driven vehicles (mainly trains) did indeed have all kinds of problems associated with unexpected situations which would be trivial for a driver to overcome.

        However, modern systems are no longer rule-based and essentially mimic human learning. They are also massively scalable and have the advantage of being able to learn from each other – this does, of course, carry its own risks. But, for example the trucks in use in Australian surface mines seem to be doing pretty well.

        The problem with thought-experiment based approach "what if…" is that it is just as rule-based as the initial vehicles were. But this simply isn't modern practice where the vehicles are always dealing with the unexpected and learning from it.

        Apart from asking the passengers what to do in a particular situation, which might or might not be such a good idea, there is always the possiblity of being controlled remotely like a drone or how planes are effectively already flown. Again, this carries its own risks with it.

        FWIW I think there's lots of stuff that I wouldn't trust computers to do unsupervised but I do think will soon be able to drive cars better than people can.

      2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        At Doctor Syntax...

        "In a non-routine situation (and accidents are not routine)"? You've obviously never seen my ex wife's driving! *Cough* =-)p

  13. wheelbearing

    Traffic Merging

    I can see making workable rules for this this being a big problem both in town and on the motorway, though it might alleviate some angst around application of the "let-one-out" rule.

    Which would also highlight the fact that all the autonomous vehicles ought to be using the same ruleset otherwise even more chaos and inefficiency will reign on the roads than with just the human bean drivers.

    Just think of the all the scenarios that would need to be catered for.

    Maybe one benefit might be that everyone would / would have to use their indicators in all situations unlike now where most people won't/can't be arsed.

  14. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    Trains..

    In general it looks like the problem of driver-less cars is on the brink of being cracked, but if it really were why haven't they put the kit into trains and replaced the driver with a huge cost benefit and a much simpler environment?

    My hunch is that this is much further away than it appears.

    1. Peter Ford

      Re: Trains..

      That is down to the unions, largely: look at the fuss in the UK when train companies tried to remove the guards from the trains, let alone the drivers.

      The London Docklands Light Railway (and other similar systems elsewhere) runs pretty well without drivers, and that's not new technology.

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Trains..

        The London Docklands Light Railway (and other similar systems elsewhere) runs pretty well without drivers, and that's not new technology.

        It works, but it has a completely segregated track, a centralised signalling system and on-board staff who have to take over on a small but significant number of journeys.

    2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Re: Trains..

      Because there's no "huge cost benefit". When you're moving 500 or so people at a go, the real costs are in the infrastructure that makes that possible, not in the one driver per train.

    3. Lord Schwindratzheim

      Re: Trains..

      They have to an extent, in the Paris Metro, which is a step up from low speed lines like the DLR - 1 line (14) was designed to be autonomous from birth and line 1 has been converted, with line 4 in progress.

      Obviously it's not like converting a main line (no deviation from the route) but it's a start.

    4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Trains..

      why haven't they put the kit into trains and replaced the driver

      It increasingly is, especially on new commuter lines. Apart, as Francis points out, from the cost savings not being that signficant for mainline services, I suspect the signalling is the main problem. I think the main railway companies have now finally committed to using fast and safe European standard and we're starting to see it in use such as on the new Berlin - Munich line.

  15. SteveK

    “I don’t see the great advantage of these road trains above ordinary trains.”

    How about "being able to go where the railway does not"?

  16. MGL

    Driverless trucks though....

    I like the idea of convoys of driverless trucks, where perhaps the lead truck is in charge

    Perhaps you could build some sort of system where you only need the trailers with the goods on, with a really powerful truck at the front pulling several trailers? You could even get an electric one!

    And then you could put them on a special road to reduce traffic on the normal roads. You could make the special road out of two strips of metal which the truck wheels sort of 'slot' into

    I think i have invented the future.....

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Driverless trucks though....

      "And then you could put them on a special road to reduce traffic on the normal roads. You could make the special road out of two strips of metal which the truck wheels sort of 'slot' into"

      Thing is, what if each of the trailers has to go to a different destination. Isn't that why trucks have their own tractors in the first place: to be able to do the crucial last mile themselves?

      1. Putters

        Re: Driverless trucks though....

        In the past the local station usually had a last mile delivery vehicle ... usually in the form of a little three wheeled Scammell Scarab.

      2. Nick Kew Silver badge

        Re: Driverless trucks though....

        Thing is, what if each of the trailers has to go to a different destination.

        That's a long-solved problem.

        I first learned the solution something over 40 years ago, when (from memory) the subject of roll-on-roll-off ferries came up in a school geography class.

    2. Pedigree-Pete
      Thumb Up

      Re: Driverless trucks though....

      Blimey MGL, you've got something there. May I add you wouldn't even need to charge the batteries in them as you could run wires over the top of the two metal strips! PP

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Driverless trucks though....

      Modern trains increasingly favour motors in each carriage over a main engine.

      But anyway, there's just not enough track to move everything by rail and not the political and popular will to pay for it.

      Of course, driverless trucks would work much better with multimodal systems than the current set up because I agree with you competely: there are too many heavy trucks on the road.

  17. Known Hero

    Road trains

    This is such a simple issue to solve :/

    Just make the inside lane a speed controlled train lane.

    This is now a patented idea and you may buy this off me for £100Million GBP

  18. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    And of course the moral issue...

    ... Your driverless car is driving down the motorway, currently in the middle lane, driving in it's stopping distance behind a lorry.

    Suddenly, the lorries doors burst open, and loads of falling logs come rolling out (ala "Final Destination 2")

    Your car realises it won't stop in time. It can take the impact, possibly risking your life. It could swerve to the right, hitting the motorcyclist alongside you - most likely saving you, and killing the motorcyclist, or it can swerve to the left, hitting the family car with 3 kids in the back. This may kill you all, yet you may all survive.

    What should the car do? And more relevant, what will the car programmers want it to do? No doubt the people who designed it want to minimise legal costs and bad PR.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: And of course the moral issue...

      "What should the car do? And more relevant, what will the car programmers want it to do? No doubt the people who designed it want to minimise legal costs and bad PR."

      Then tell me. What would YOU do?

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: And of course the moral issue...

        I have no idea until I'm in the situation.

        However, as the decision won't be based on precise mathematical algorithms, I won't be blamed for whatever the outcome is, as long as I haven't been negligent.

        This is why people who have been in accidents which they didn't cause have never been blamed for the eventual outcome.

        I'm puzzled to why it seems you don't see the difference.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: And of course the moral issue...

          So you roll dice, basically. Why can't a computer do that? "Oh well, chips fell the wrong way" and so on?

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: And of course the moral issue...

          However, as the decision won't be based on precise mathematical algorithms

          Got news for you: neither will the car's. But it will most probably be able to take legal precedent into account.

    2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: And of course the moral issue...

      Kill the motorcyclist. He's at least seventy years old.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: And of course the moral issue...

        "the motorcyclist. He's at least seventy years old."

        Is this an evidence-based generalisation?

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: And of course the moral issue...

          Is this an evidence-based generalisation?

          Yes. Look at any group of bikers by a pub or cafe and you'll see that most of them, are wrinklies. The days when motorbikes offered cheap transport to the young are long gone - now they are overwhelmingly hobbies for retired accountants.

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: And of course the moral issue...

      @Jamie Jones: Provided the vehicle to the left is also intelligent and can coordinate with my vehicle, I would expect my vehicle to hit the brakes and then swerve left.

      If the car to the left is *not* intelligent, I'd expect my vehicle to come to an emergency stop whilst reevaluating whether another space to slip into can be located (such as *behind* the car on the left or the motorcyclist on the right because either will either brake or swerve themselves) that reduces the risk of passenger death.

      But you do have a point that all these cases have to be covered, evaluated, resolved, and catered for before a car can be autonomous.

      1. batfink

        Re: And of course the moral issue...

        "But you do have a point that all these cases have to be covered, evaluated, resolved, and catered for before a car can be autonomous"

        I see this kind of statement quite a lot in the discussions of autonomous cars.

        No you don't need to solve every possible case before implementing this. We don't do this for any other form of engineering. All you need to do is to solve enough of them that the autonomous systems are better than the (quite fallible) meatbags that are currently in charge of driving.

        The most recent stats I can find (2016) on the current state of play in the UK show ~1800 fatalities and ~180,000 injuries on the roads. US is ~37,000 (impressive as it's only around 5X the UK population, but no doubt greater distances for emergency response, maybe more miles travelled pp etc etc of course). Oz ~1300 likewise. So, there's your target - autonomous vehicles just need to kill/injure fewer people than that.

        So, all the autonomous systems need to do is to show that they're safer than these current figures. At that point, the insurance companies are going to step in and start pricing us meatbags out of our cars, to keep their own costs down.

        Our friends in the Gummint may also take a hand, to cut down the overall health costs. There are already rumours of them introducing a road tax per mile travelled, in preparation for losing all that petrol tax now that they've mandated that we're all going electric Real Soon Now (another rant, don't get me started...). It would be simple to extend that as another way of pushing autonomous cars.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: And of course the moral issue...

          It would be simple to extend that as another way of pushing autonomous cars.

          Have another upvote for that! Electric cars really are getting slush funds from governments.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: And of course the moral issue...

          "So, all the autonomous systems need to do is to show that they're safer than these current figures. "

          The critical factor is injury severity as this drives the vast majority of premiums. Deaths are cheap (which is why in a lot of countries if someone runs you over and you're injured, they'll back the car over you to make sure you're dead)

          FWIW the single largest category of insurance claim is summarised as "reversed into another car in supermarket car park" - but these are cheap. The most expensive type are "medium-speed collision" as this is where long-term injuries come in.

          I agree that the insurance industry will drive mass adoption of vehicle automation - and I believe it will happen remarkably quickly when it happens.

    4. small and stupid

      Re: And of course the moral issue...

      Kill the motorcyclist, obviously. They are only worth 2/3 of a regular person.

    5. MJI Silver badge

      Re: And of course the moral issue...

      Slam the brakes on as the logs will be travelling at speed and I can stop first.

    6. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: And of course the moral issue...

      "Your car realises it won't stop in time."

      Your first mistake is assuming the car will be following too closely.

      Your second is assuming the car will take more distance tan the logs will (It won't)

      Your third is equating the human "Oh shit" 1-2 second reaction response to such events to something similar in automated vehicles.

      Your fourth is an admission that you don't pay attention. the doors would have been insecure and flapping before they flew open AND THEN something started falling out AND THEN something landed on the road. An observant driver will have seen problem long before logs hit the road and fallen well back.

      Crashes are seldom "accidents" - the vast majority of people who trigger crashes can be predicted to be involved in one long before it actually happens, thanks to their driving style and abilities. Getting those people off the road would go a long way towards reducing crash rates, but many of them are under the delusion that they're great drivers (Dunning-Kruger writ large) and that everyone else is an idiot.

      If you met an asshole today then you met an asshole. If all you ever seem to meet is assholes, the chances are the asshole is YOU.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: And of course the moral issue...

        Damn, there are some arseholes here.

        I was raising a question about *who* should responsible for accidents .

        My example was not meant as a detailed physics experiment or some sort of commentary on anyones driving ability.

        Maybe I should have said "A car on the wrong side of the road, in your lane approaches you at 120mph." or something similarly preposterous, though of course, then some of you smart-arses would have still avoided the question and described how such a situation was implausible in the first place.

        It's no wonder people who work in our industry are stereotyped as being socially-inept nerds.

        Now go ahead: downvote and criticise my spelling/grammar.

        HAND.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: And of course the moral issue...

          There's a name for your scenario: Trolley Problem. It's a form of No-Win Situation. Most see the problem as intractable.

  19. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    Daft

    Pedestralians spill onto the road en masse and the car stops? Of course it stops, is he serious?

    And the Tesla fatality, the guy had been "driving" the car for over half an hour without touching the controls. And that proves a car can't drive itself?

    Wolmar is apparently an "author and broadcaster" - I think he should stick to authoring and broadcasting and leave AI car design to those who actually know something about it.

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Daft

      (1) Human drivers can negotiate their way through crowded spaces using a wide range of subtle social cues. There is no sign of AI being able to do that.

      (2) No, it shows that you either need constant human input or no human input ever. In this case the car couldn't drive itself, asked for help which wasn't forthcoming ... and then, rather than simply slow to a halt at the side of the road, chose instead to continue trying to drive.

      (3) Since it is clear that nobody knows enough about it actually to make it happen, the field is open.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Daft

        So why can't we teach the cues to the computer? Is it because we don't consciously know these cues ourselves?

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Daft

        Human drivers can negotiate their way through crowded spaces using a wide range of subtle social cues.

        What? Anytime I'm in a traffic jam I'm reminded of just how stupid we all are. Drivers will do lots of very dangerous things just to get one car ahead.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: Daft

          What? Anytime I'm in a traffic jam I'm reminded of just how stupid we all are. Drivers will do lots of very dangerous things just to get one car ahead.

          The fact that some drivers do silly things does not change the fact that most drivers can deal with tricky situations safely if not optimally. See Exhibition Road for an example, or any crossroads.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Daft

      "And the Tesla fatality, the guy had been "driving" the car for over half an hour without touching the controls."

      Two things come into play here

      First of all, Joshua Brown was known to have a dashcam and record all his trips. It's never been found.

      Secondly, this kind of crash is relatively common in the USA (several hundred to several thousand each year). thanks to poorly engineered intersections like the one where the crash occurred. On that basis Teslas are already doing better than humans in not driving under semitrailers and getting clotheslined.

      Thirdly, at the speeds and conditions in question, it's entirely possible that even if in full manual control, Joshua Brown may not have been able to stop.

      Finally: The NHTSA investigation pointed out that statistically Teslas are _already 40% less likely to be involved in a crash than other cars in the same market position. A lot of the naysaying is on par with people making a big fuss about aircraft being unsafe, whilst disocunting the probability that they're more likely to be killed in one ride to the airport than an entire lifetime of flying. Humans are bloody hopeless at risk assessment.

  20. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Three trucks are almost the length of a football field"

    Comparisons such as this would be useful if my curiosity extended to wanting to know how long a football field is. It doesn't.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Put it this way. Can you clearly see the other end of the convoy from the one end? The comparison is basically saying, "It would be a stretch."

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        The comparison is basically saying, "It would be a stretch."

        I've driven on motorways. I know what a convoy of 3 trucks looks like: short*

        Football fields, however, are something I've successfully avoided for the whole of my adult life and as much as possible of my schooldays. Therefore the only thing such a stupid comparison tells me is something I don't want to know and isn't germane to the discussion in terms of something that I do know and is. It seems to be a reflex of journalists - or possibly something they've been taught as essential in journalist school.

        Actually the more germane distance isn't the length of the line of trucks but the distance needed to pass it in terms of the distance to the junction at which I need to leave the motorway.

        * In relation to the length of actual convoys!

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          @Doctor Syntax

          Ever been on the A34 between the M40 and the M3? If not, try driving on it when the big lorries are out... they convoy often and then end up taking the better part of 200-250m of road that you either have to try to get past before the next junction, or be stuck behind at 50 (realistically more like 45) miles per hour until they're past where you want to get off.

          Add to that very impatient drivers of sedans and vans of various sizes and you can quickly see it turn into a clusterf*** of epic proportions. Which is why us Oxfordshirefolk made the 'finger tapping against the temple' motion when our local county council passed a motion to force all lorries to stay on the inside lane through the county, as much as we agree with the sentiment that lorries shouldn't be doing the 'I'll pass you at 50.5mph on a steep uphill southbound of Ilsley because I have more important freight than you' thing...

    2. Tikimon Silver badge

      Speaking in averages...

      You don't care, someone might. Let's work it out! An American football field is 300 feet long. Truck and trailer size can vary, but the AVERAGE size of a truck-trailer combo in the US is 70 feet. Three of these end to end will total 210 feet, leaving 90 feet extra of the 300.

      However, they won't drive nuts-to-butts in the Real World. Divide that 90 feet of leftover by two gaps and you get a mere 45 feet of following space between trucks. That's not far enough for tractor-trailers, even empty.

      So three tractor-trailers traveling in a line will take up MORE than 300 yards/meters of road. In this case, it's not a journalistic exaggeration.

  21. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Urban vs Motorway

    Cruise control is no good in the city, but it's bloody good on the motorway and I don't regret paying for the upgrade. Unless all your miles are in the city then as long as the autonomous vehicle still has manual controls then it's no different. I'll drive the car from my house to the motorway then engage autonomous mode, set the alarm for the end of the M7 and get my head down.

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Urban vs Motorway

      Cruise control on the motorway is fantastic, if everyone plays nice. The best drives I've had have been on cruise control where either the road was empty, or everyone was going roughly the same speed and no-one played silly buggers (like weaving in and out of traffic like a tosser).

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Urban vs Motorway

      "Cruise control is no good in the city"

      That is entirely dependent on the kind of cruise control you have. :)

      My 15-year old one works quite well (it can get on the brake faster than I can) and the newer stop-start models work even better.

  22. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    I'm looking forward to playing with platoons of HGVs. They'll obviously have to let cars driven with enough determination into the gaps, and once I'm there I can just slow down and leave the lorries behind me stranded without a driver,

  23. Seanmon

    Full autonomy won't happen until we get proper Turing-level AI, but...

    Use case 1) All-day all-night tireless taxis in an urban environment. Limited range from a central point. Probably needs a bit of investment in the local infrastructure to keep the thing informed where it is, which junction this is etc. Could be made electric and return to a base station/car park when running low. A big sign on the front says "AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE - WILL NOT STOP." It's basically a big roomba.

    2) Long range overnight transport on predefined routes. In my case, it needs to know the M40, M42 and M6/M74. I have an after work pint in the Winchester, have dinner and a glass of wine with the Mrs in my own home and pick one of these up at the local hub at midnight. 8am next morning I'm at the hub in Glasgow. I don't care if it goes 50mph the entire way, because I'll be asleep in the back. Then I climb into a No. 1 (above) and get to my Mum's house just in time for the bacon sandwiches.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "A big sign on the front says "AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE - WILL NOT STOP.""

      And then the manufacturer gets sued because it ran over a BLIND person wearing black and so on...

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      For (2), you would think trains would provide better utility until you realize the most important part of the trip is also the toughest to automate: the first and last miles.

    3. thenitz

      This. The scenario that everyone talks about, where your car can drive you to work, then come back by itself, picks the kids from school, and maybe moonlights as a taxi afterwards - that's the famous Level 5 - is not going to happen soon.

      What is going to happen is twofold. You'll get better and better driving aids to the point where the car can essentially let you check Facebook on the phone during most of your commute on motorways and main roads, with plenty of time for warnings when it needs a handover. That's Level 3. Of course we'll hear stories of people asleep at the wheel, their cars stopped in the middle of the road with warning lights on and horn blaring - but it will work for most of us.

      This will be sold the same way cars are sold now, just another option package when you buy the car. The thing is there's only so much people are willing to pay for such a feature so you can't afford expensive hardware like lidars, and at least initially it will be limited to easy tasks like motorway driving and maybe fully automated valet parking in selected, participating parking lots.

      The second scenario that will happen is the revolution - where you make money and create new kinds of services by getting read of the human driver. The famous Level 4. It will first only be used by businesses and fleets - because it is very expensive and you need a clear ROI to break even over that big initial investment.

      Think taxi fleets on big streets in well mapped areas, big trucks going motorway-only between warehouses, smarter buses and shuttles restricted to well-known routes but with a more flexible schedule. These will be soon feasible with the current tech. It won't replace all cases where a driver is needed, and services may shut down in heavy snow, but sometimes trains get canceled too in bad weather, if you think about it. The company that owns the cars will still hire a handful of people to service the cars, wash and refuel (recharge?) and operate them, perhaps remotely, if something goes bad. But not as many as before.

      Even a very restricted Level 4 has the potential to change whole industries. The fact that the book says "it's not possible to make 100% perfect self driving cars" doesn't mean that people won't make lots of money using lesser vehicles that are good enough.

    4. Pedigree-Pete
      Thumb Up

      UK Motorail.

      @Seanmon. I've did it many times back in the 80s-90s. Great way to travel and you get you, your car and all your kit in the heart of another city just in time for tea and bickies in bed. Shame they canned it. (you can blame Two-Jags for that) PP

  24. Max420

    Would much rather see developments in stopping drivers from exceeding the speed limits or vehicles being able to travel safely in convoy on motorways to reduce duel costs.

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Would much rather see developments in stopping drivers from exceeding the speed limits or vehicles being able to travel safely in convoy on motorways to reduce duel costs.

      Yes. A good second who knows how to properly prime a pistol is becoming ever harder to find these days.

  25. ratfox Silver badge

    I feel most of the criticism is short-sighted. People playing chicken with self-driving cars, for instance, could already do that. For some reason, they don't though. And self-driving cars could very well eventually learn how to go forward very slowly in gridlock situations in a way that solves the Holborn problem.

    It seems to me all of these criticisms could have been said in the 1920s to explain how cars could never be used for transportation at scale.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Facepalm

      People playing chicken with self-driving cars, for instance, could already do that. For some reason, they don't though.

      They do, just not that often. Also, don't you think that if they *knew* the car would stop that idiots would do it just for shitz and giggles? The reason most idiots don't do this already is that they are still capable of realising that they would probably die as a result, which isn't so much fun as it sounds.

  26. peterm3
    FAIL

    Public transport is already self-driving

    Good public transport would probably be more efficient and cheaper. Safer too. The UK doesn't seem to invest anything in public transport, just subsidises* a few private companies who don't invest much. Ironically some state-owned transport companies like RATP and Arriva Deutsche Bahn operate here. Thatcher must be rolling in her grave! Privatisation only to be bought up by foreign State-owned companies!

    * Train companies get subsidies, local buses certainly, and I think bus companies even get a Diesel tax rebate

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Public transport is already self-driving

      "Good public transport would probably be more efficient and cheaper."

      My last gig before I retired was about 40 - 45 minutes commuting by car door-to-door. I had to go in a few weeks later to sign some documents. This prompted me to work out what the the journey would be by public transport. As far as I can remember it went something like this.

      5 minutes to walk to the bus stop. The bus only runs at hourly intervals, it used to be 4 an hour and more in rush hour.

      40 minutes to town. It used to be 30 but the the bus now makes a diversion to try to cover two old routes instead of one and does neither satisfactorily.

      20 minutes wait for the next bus which is also on an hourly schedule.

      60 minutes journey. Along one of the country's many overcrowded and unpredictable stretches of motorway.

      4 minutes to change to the next bus. Not long in terms of the unpredictable nature of the previous leg.

      12 minutes journey by bus arriving about 10 minutes after the target arrival time.

      2 minutes walk to the gig. Say 2 1/2 hours if all went well

      Anyone who thinks public transport is more efficient is someone who lives on a route where a single journey takes them directly between home and work and back with a frequent service.

      1. strum Silver badge

        Re: Public transport is already self-driving

        >Anyone who thinks public transport is more efficient is someone who lives on a route where a single journey takes them directly between home and work and back with a frequent service.

        Anyone who uses that calculation hasn't considered their location in terms of public transport.

        If public transport was all you had - you wouldn't live there, would you? You lived there because you could drive.

    2. Tikimon Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Public transport is already self-driving

      "Good public transport would probably be more efficient and cheaper." I assume from your doubt that you've never done it. I have, in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. In both cases, it was twice as fast and a third of the cost to drive myself. Public transport is for those with no car, no cargo, and no errands to run.

      In certain places public transit is the bomb! The Paris Metro is awesome, cheap and gets you there quick. But it's not a guarantee, and not always a practical replacement for a car.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Public transport is already self-driving

        " In both cases, it was twice as fast and a third of the cost to drive myself."

        On the other hand during the day it will take me betwen 2 and 3 hours to get from my home to Central London and the cost of _parking_ for the day is higher than the travelcard which can get me there in 45 mins (plus 15 mins walk to the station, or 5 mins drive and park there for £3/day) and alow unlimited public transport use whilst I'm there.

        Buses are large and cumbersome because that's the most efficient way to carry lots of passengers at peak period. Bus ROUTES are a pain in the arse because that's the most economic way of routing large and cumbersome busses in off-peak periods whilst passing the greatest number of people (ie, cheaper than running multiple busses on separate routes), but the general effect is that most bus routes are only slightly faster than walking.

        A 42 passenger bus does 1000-10000 times the road damage (even when empty) as 42 single passenger cars and a bus that's less than about half full is not covering the operating costs with the fares normally charged.

        With automated transport you're likely to see busses AND taxis replaced by 6-8 seater PRTs - cheap to run, cheap on the road damage front, about the right size for the largest of groups (not counting excursions) and without a driver, able to park themselves in offpeak periods and reactivate when needed. Most tested PRT systems have worked on a set route in peaks and direct routing offpeak basis - and worked pretty well.

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Public transport is already self-driving

      All public transport is subsidised, even overseas. Especially overseas, actually, for precisely that reason... that it is affordable for everyone.

      I've enjoyed seeing people in posh frocks going to the opera on the Hamburg Hochbahn and the Berlin metro, because it was convenient and affordable, rather than having to find parking near the Elphi or the Berlin Opera, and having to remain sober to be able to drive afterwards. It's only in the UK where there seems to be this 'Oh god no, what? I should use public transport? Isn't that for the great unwashed and not us, Mr and Mrs Überimportant?' attitude towards public transport.

      In larger conurbations, public transport makes sense. See Manchester, Newcastle, London, New York, Paris, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Milan, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Athens... Once you try to make public transport in more rural areas (or minor conurbations like Oxford with large rural areas) work, it becomes exactly what Doctor Syntax describes... a royal PITA with bad connections, which leads to negative feedback loops (bad connections = less people using it = more expensive = reduction in services = more bad connections = less people using it...).

      1. really_adf

        Re: Public transport is already self-driving

        Once you try to make public transport in more rural areas (or minor conurbations like Oxford with large rural areas) work, it becomes exactly what Doctor Syntax describes... a royal PITA with bad connections, which leads to negative feedback loops (bad connections = less people using it = more expensive = reduction in services = more bad connections = less people using it...).

        Bad feedback loops can exist within an urban area too, eg where I live I've seen Doctor Syntax's diversionary bus route to (badly) cover where there used to be two routes, and more cars on the road -> "I know, let's scrap this bus lane so there's more room for cars" -> worse bus service -> fewer people using it -> more cars on the road...

        Seems to me it gets worse for everyone. How do you break the cycle(s)?

  27. fishman

    Bull

    I guess Christian Wolmar has never driven a car in an urban environment. Pedestrians dart out into the road. Even if the driver isn't too busy on their smartphone, or listening to the radio, or talking to the passengers, it still takes 3/4 of a second at best to go from recognizing a danger to pressing the brake pedal. At 25mph that's almost 30 feet. An autonomous system would be able to respond much faster.

    We've spent 100 years getting the roads to work for human drivers, and that is leveraging centuries of knowledge of horse drawn vehicle traffic. Just like we have signage for humans, roads will need signage for autonomous vehicles.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Bull

      "At 25mph that's almost 30 feet"

      If you hit a pedestrian

      At 25mph the chances of death are under 1%

      at 30mph it's 5%

      at 35mph it's 50%

      at 40mph it's 90+%

      The 30mph speed was arbitrarily chosen in the 1930s. 20mph is arguably a safer urban speed.

  28. Lee D Silver badge

    Problems with automated cars:

    1) Denial of service attacks. Though possible with traditional cars, they can call for help. Imagine being asleep for the journey to Scotland only to find the car stuck 100 yards down the road because it couldn't progress? Everything from painting extra white lines on the road (there's a guy who puts salt-lines on roads as an art-project to mess with the car's heads), to playing games with the sensors (stick some clear tape on the LIDAR, watch as your neighbour's self-driving car won't move because it thinks it's touching an object).

    2) Technology immaturity. We just don't have cars that don't plough into the side of trucks - the stated Tesla case is proof in point... the car still hit the truck. An ENORMOUS truck. HUGE. At speed. Killing the driver. Whether or not the driver was dead in the passenger seat, it shouldn't have mattered. It shouldn't have been possible.

    3) Liability. Because of the above, nobody has yet agreed whose fault they are if they go wrong. It's a bit I-Robot-esque to me. Either we have control AND responsibility, or neither. And that means ceding control to the car company. This could impact on everything from finance agreements (sorry, your payment is late, we won't take your wife to hospital) to social enforcement (sorry, you're all under 21, I detect three people in the car and it's past 10pm... you're not going anywhere pal). Also... who has liability for the loading of the car? If someone doesn't put their kid in the child-seat properly, how is the car going to know? But you'll still sue them to oblivion if it crashes. Presumably child-seats would still be legally required, or are we claiming they're so safe we never need to use them?

    4) Mixing of autonomous and manual traffic - it's stupid, liable to danger, the biggest programming hazard, the cause of the Tesla accident, and easily solved by just... well, having a special lane, almost like a straight line between destinations, that only authorised cars can drive on, where the hazards are lessened and decisions and marking are clear-cut rather than negotiating the rush hour traffic at the Hangar Lane Gyratory. (P.S. we have that, it's called a railway).

    I'd be quite happy with a special segregated lane, just for autonomous traffic, that is the only part they're allowed to drive on, and has all the special gear in the road to signal junctions, other traffic, etc. Put the safety in the infrastructure, not the vehicle. Literally, a personal train. And then roll that out bit by bit until all roads are like that and we can get rid of humans (50 years +). The suggestion to just have these things co-exist is a nonsense.

    5) Over-trust in humans. If you don't need a driving licence to drive, then you will see them abused by people who aren't subject to bans etc. People will overload their autonomous car, let it pile through tiny backstreets late at night, leave them in the middle of nowhere like an abandoned shopping trolley, etc. And if the people who drove them can't be traced / stopped / banned, what can you do about it? It needs a kind of registration system at minimum. You'll see them used as drug-runners, porn-peddlers, even automated motorway adverts, getaway vehicles, whatever they can be misused to do. People will be loading drunk friends into them and programming it for Glasgow, etc. Wanna have a laugh? Summon 1000 automated Uber's to your mate's house and block the road. Who's responsible, the companies involved who made cars that block up the roads for hours for everyone else, or the guy who paid them them to do it?

    But the biggest deal... we just don't have automated cars. They don't exist. We have software junk in a normal car with a couple of sensors. They aren't fit for purpose. Test them as people-less cargo deliverers for 5 years before you licence them to carry humans (thereby halving potential casualties). But we seem to be skipping that bit.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "stick some clear tape on the LIDAR, watch as your neighbour's self-driving car won't move because it thinks it's touching an object"

      Watch as you get arrested and chucked in the dock for interfering with vehicle safety systems, clearly visible in the car's parked-mode camera system.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Like any sensible prankster would walk in front of a camera in a clearly identifiable state. Dressing in black complete with mask in the dead of night would be a simple countermeasure. More technically-minded one would try dazzling the cameras with infrared or the like to make their footage useless in court.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Pranksters seldom bother hiding themselves.

          Wearing all black at night and masking up too is a criminal offence in large parts of the world for obvious reasons, and I don't mean at political protests.

          Doing it and attacking a safety system moves from prank to "With malice aforethought" as far as prosecutors are concerned. They'll treat it in the same way they treat interfering with a car's brake lines.

          Dazzlers exist, but you're doing to light up like a christmas tree on every CCTV in the vicinity, meaning that tracking where you came from and where you went is easy - either after the event or by live operators if you're in Europe, Urban USA, China and most cities around the world - you're likely to find yourself treated as a terrorist when apprehended too.

          A lot of CCTV systems have specific alarm settings for dazzlers or something masking the camera, so doing either will likely get you noticed even faster than if you just wore a mask. (hint: if you try walking into a bank with a dazzler active, you can expect the shutters to come down almost instantly)

          On top of that, some cameras (usually the LPR types) are designed to suppress dazzlers (or headlight glare) in order to pick out faces and license plates. They're only slightly more expensive than HD cameras and are standard for local authority systems.

          The ones I'm familiar with don't just beep and set relays when these alarms go off, but also have settings to send SMS alerts, Email alerts and upload footage to a remote point in case the recorder is smashed/stolen. They do the same if the upstream network connection is broken too, usually via an internal or USB 3G/4G device.

          In other words, anyone who pulls this kind of stunt is likely to find themselves being skewered in the courts as a warning to others.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            "Wearing all black at night and masking up too is a criminal offence in large parts of the world for obvious reasons, and I don't mean at political protests."

            Depends on where you live, but I would think just dressing in black wouldn't in itself be a crime. After all, it could be Halloween or you could be an actor. Unless you can cite the law?

            As for being seen, they just need to nip off around a corner somewhere with lots of egress points. Any good prankster (or burglar) is sure to have carefully planned out the escape routes, particularly in regards to getting out from Big Brother's eye (and unless you're a place like China, there WILL be blind spots to prevent privacy suits). Trying to cover ALL of them's going to result in asymettric warfare. Plus there's always impersonation. SWAT a car AND pin the blame onto someone else.

            "A lot of CCTV systems have specific alarm settings for dazzlers or something masking the camera, so doing either will likely get you noticed even faster than if you just wore a mask. (hint: if you try walking into a bank with a dazzler active, you can expect the shutters to come down almost instantly)"

            You're inviting a Cry Wolf incident, then, by launching such a device from out of sight.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    POLITICS is driving the driverless car

    Don't blame tech journalists. Blame political activists.

    The self-driving car is the perceived first step to the Communally Owned Car. Cars are despised as private property, symbols of wealth and success and individual greed. Good, socially-conscious people take public transport, driving yourself is exploitation yadda yadda. They love the idea of cars that nobody owns, that anyone can use anytime they want. They're the Great Equalizer in the small minds of many such activists. And like wind power and other Green Dreams, they must be forced on everyone in the name of ideological progress. Whether they work as promised or not, make our lives better or not. The ideology is NEVER wrong, the shining progressive goals MUST be reached!

    Problem is this. People never take care of things they do not own, have not worked for, have not paid for. The public cars will end up like public pay phones - filthy, vandalized, and inoperative. But the activists don't care, because Mr. Evil Rich Man will be kicked out of his BMW and into a Public Pod and that's the goal they really want to see.

    1. Mike Moyle Silver badge

      Re: POLITICS is driving the driverless car

      Or, some of us who are disabled and physically CAN'T drive hate having to impose on friends/family or wait for sometimes-overbooked taxi services to get out to places WHERE or at times WHEN the buses don't run and fully self-driving cars would be a godsend.

      So please take your "Lib'ruls are coming to take our g̶u̶n̶s̶ cars!" paranoia and shove it!

      (Yeah... Everything hurts, I'm going to be standing outside waiting on the buses to and from a doctor's appointment today, and I'm cranky. Deal with it.)

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: POLITICS is driving the driverless car

      The self-driving car is the perceived first step to the Communally Owned Car.

      Nope, it's a very capitalistic "Mobility as a Service" step which is why there is so much private money being invested in it. For manufacturers cars are really revenue when they're sold, rentals on the other hand just keep the cash rolling in.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: POLITICS is driving the driverless car

      "The public cars will end up like public pay phones - filthy, vandalized, and inoperative"

      Public pay phones with clearly visible surveillance cameras seldom get treated this way and installing the same things into elevators has had a remarkable effect on vandalism levels. What makes you think that a public car isn't going to have an array of cameras along with things like glass-break/scratch sensors and moisture/damage sensors in the seats plus the facility to upload on the fly when most taxis and busses already have this stuff?

      My pick is that when damage is detected the car will alert an operator to check the cams and from there call Mr Plod & trundle itself along to the nearest station/patrol car and that wee scrotes who think it's funny to carve their initials in shop/train/bus/parked car windows or tear up the seats will suffer a rude shock. Some operators in some areas may simply trundle the car to meet Fat Tony and the Boys, which is likely to result in an even more drastic reduction in damage to property as scrotes are likely to discover that a second offense is hazardous to their health.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: POLITICS is driving the driverless car

        "Public pay phones with clearly visible surveillance cameras seldom get treated this way and installing the same things into elevators has had a remarkable effect on vandalism levels."

        I don't know about you, but the phone booths in places I go are STILL filthy. And they're SUPPOSED to have cameras in them, but guess what happens? The cameras get targeted FIRST, and if they can't steal it or break it, they'll paint it, tape it, or otherwise cover it, THEN tear up the rest of the booth. I think an episode of Adam-12 put it best. Police respond to a burglary at a place that had a security camera installed. Operative word 'HAD'. The burglars stole the camera first.

  30. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    Is it just me...?

    When I see something like "A multi-billion dollar hype built on gullibility, says railway man" my first thought is often "Trains that travel at 40 miles an hour...? Ridiculous! You won't be able to breathe, traveling at that speed!"

    Judging the usefulness of future technology solely by the state of today's technology and assuming that "good enough" solutions won't be found if enough people want a particular new capability is just being a mug (or an opportunist with a book to sell), IMO.

  31. Simplet0n

    however, such as London's Holborn Underground station at rush hour, pedestrians are typically spilling over into the road en masse.

    To be fair large parts of London should be car free, with the odd electric taxi for disabled people.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "To be fair large parts of London should be car free, with the odd electric taxi for disabled people."

      The infamous "London Ringways" plan with its notorious elevated central section was intended to be just that inside ring 1 (and that was envisioned back in the 1950s)

  32. DougS Silver badge

    Why can't you program a bit of aggressiveness?

    Humans manage to drive through busy areas with a lot of foot traffic by just easing forward bit by bit and essentially create their own gap by blocking pedestrians. Why can't autonomous cars do the same?

    Not saying it will be EASY, this is yet another reason why I think they'll be practical to take over freeway driving (by that I mean you can sleep while it is driving) years before they can drive you from door to door in busy urban environments like London or NYC.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Why can't you program a bit of aggressiveness?

      Because humans know liability laws favor them over the car because pedestrians are more fragile. If a malicious driver strikes and hurts someone, the court tends to favor the pedestrian unless the circumstances are extreme. Car visual systems just can't match the skills of the heavily-evolved eyeball and brain. How does an automated car respond when one or more pedestrians simply blockade the road and respond to horns with fingers (or worse, paint, so the car can't see them anymore)?

    2. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Why can't you program a bit of aggressiveness?

      Humans manage to drive through busy areas with a lot of foot traffic by just easing forward bit by bit and essentially create their own gap by blocking pedestrians.

      With a bit of luck, the rise of cameras (such as dashcams) will start to see sh*ts who use cars as weapons to bully pedestrians getting a message from Plod, and maybe even getting their collars felt in persistent cases.

      Unless you're just referring to normal human give-and-take?

  33. bep

    Car share option

    I read the first couple of pages only so apologies if anyone has already mentioned this, but around these parts car share schemes are quite popular and not just for second cars. The fact that you get the kind of vehicle you need for a purpose is a big plus; sedan, ute, van, whatever, and all pretty close by.

    The major drawback of car share schemes is the fact that you have to return the vehicle to its designated pod, so one-way trips are off the agenda, or else you book the car for the return journey as well with the result it is sitting in a parking spot for several hours costing you money. If, on the other hand, you could drive the car to wherever you want to go, get out, and then dispatch the empty vehicle to return itself, slowly and carefully, to its dedicated location? When you want to go home you book a vehicle in the vicinity, which also returns itself after you get home. I can see that changing the economics of car share quite a bit.

  34. Brian Allan 1

    Safe self-driving vehicles will only be viable when the AI operating them is equivalent or better than a human driver.

  35. Roger Mew

    Really, I think sheep just following!

    Autonomous cars, oh yes marvellous in the country, sheep crossing road on unfenced road, stay there all day! How about going around corner and pedestrians just walking over road, does the car peer around the corner, still look straight ahead, so if the corner is a narrow road with pedestrians opposite does car just stay there. The system may be good on a motorway but stupid in many locations.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Really, I think sheep just following!

      "How about going around corner and pedestrians just walking over road,"

      How does a human cope with that? (hint: as a rule, the answer is "badly" and tends to rely on those pedestrians getting out of the way if they know what's healthy.)

      One of the things that humans tend to forget that as well as the posted speed limits, the law in most countries specifies that the vehicle must be able to stop in the _clear_ distance of road lane ahead. (or half that if there's no centreline as it's a shared lane). Rule 105 of the uk highway code, restated in a number of other places with specific warnings about fog, snow and icy conditions.

      Why do you think that a machine with a vision/radar system will be sailing around a blind bend at an unsafe speed? Just because the locals do it, doesn't make it safe and I see 3-4 crashes per year on the country lanes I commute to work on which can be clearly blamed on drivers ignoring this basic road rule.

  36. This Side Up

    Autonomous vehicles

    http://www.tvgam.org.uk/articles/auto.html

    Something I wrote last year along similar lines.

  37. terrythetech
    Alert

    I've often wondered

    Who wants these things anyway. Seems like a solution without a problem to me.

    Hands up all those who want a fully autonomous car.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: I've often wondered

      No fair! What about those without hands? They'll want an autonomous car yet can't raise a nonexistent hand to say so.

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