back to article British Level 4 driverless pods are whizzing along ... er, a London path

What’s it like to ride in a Level 4 driverless car? About the same as sitting on the bus, really – until you think closely about what a driverless pod whizzing down a riverside cycle path is actually achieving. The Register went for a drive in one of the driverless pods being trialled in Greenwich by the Gateway consortium. …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "the surface of Olympian Way is not maintained to the same standard as a proper road"

    Do you mean it's better? It would be hard for it to be maintained worse than some of the roads round here.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Thank you Dr. Syntax. Has the article writer actually been on/near a British road recently. Never mind "some of the roads". My part of North London (not even in the worst three according to today's news) is a network of holes connected by patches of tarmac.

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        RE: Terry

        Have you tried cycling on them? Some of my journeys feel like they're over constant speedbumps. I can see why so many cycle on the pavements. And then there's the cars that act like you don't have the right to dodge a pothole while they're trying to illegally overtake too close.

        Some of these potholes are so deep there's probably Morlocks living in them.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: RE: Terry

          How much more cost-effective would it be just to lay light rail along the path? No potholes, and a clear indicator that it wasn't for pedestrians.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: RE: Terry

          i walk/run along that path fairly regularly, and have "met" these vehicles and also in the past Starship's smaller but more "path user"-friendly vehicles. Biggest issue frequently isnt the vehicle but how others respond? People who cycle around them, onto the pedestrian-marked section, but looking at the vehicle rather than in front at where they're going? Groups of people who stop to take pics, blocking rest of path for both cyclists and other pedestrians, creating hazards for everyone?

          For most of the peninsular, the cycle paths are excellent compared with the pedestrian paths by the way, clearly marked, even if the markings are ignored. Shame council doesn't bother enforcing the (very few) marked "no cycling" paths, they could use the fines to improve safety for everyone, Including for cyclists who do follow markings.

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      "Do you mean it's better? It would be hard for it to be maintained worse than some of the roads round here."

      Indeed. Conveniently, the BBC had an article on this just today. Count yourself lucky if you live in England though, Scotland barely has anything left that still counts as a road:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-43407167

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > Scotland barely has anything left that still counts as a road:

        Sounds like Irish roads, at least up until the late 90's when finally there was a national road plan put in place along with a lot of European money.

        Road quality has been on the decline for a while, can't really blame brexit though.

        Scotland can always rejoin Europe when it finally decides to extricate itself.

  2. Craig 2 Silver badge

    I think the article touches on one very big problem with autonomous vehicles in public places: Human traffic is going to be MUCH more aggressive to robots than they would to other people because "oh it's programmed to give way". Just like self-important people tend to hog roads, pavements etc etc. Of course everyone feels much more important than machines so they will need to maneuver with extreme caution whilst trying to second-guess people's intentions.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      re: give way,...

      ... this is a problem I see as well. I work near a school, the kids don't pay attention, and when AVs are ubiquitous, and the kids know they'll stop, the pedestrian crossing is going to be the whole road, not just the stripey part.

      But this raises another issue, shouldn't empty autonomous vehicles give way to full ones, or manually driven ones? That would change the rules at roundabouts and junctions.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "governed max speed of 9mph"

    Combined with the absence of anything other than cyclists going faster it should keep down the injuries to the public collateral damage.

    1. Flywheel Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      There'll naturally be several iterations of system mods during which there'll be some inevitable collateral damage, but this will have been factored in at the start of the project. Lessons will be learned. Yours, and others' safety is our major concern.

      I think they should try it out down Oxford Street, or for a real test, Brick Lane.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Yay, way to go. Brick Lane - not merely bearded hipster millennials, but tourists in narrow lanes. All thinking the road is a kind of fringe at the side of the pavement.

    2. EnviableOne Bronze badge

      When the TfL controll room's stated aim is to keep traffic moving at 10mph, it wont make any difference in rush hour (well 6-10am, 4pm-7pm) and lunchtime (10am-4pm)

  4. Not also known as SC

    Pedestrians Getting in the Way

    "In theory, the big white line painted down the middle of the tarmac on Olympian Way separates pedestrians and cyclists. In reality, as everyone knows, people and cyclists alike go wherever they please."

    Assuming that this is a segregated cycle path then pedestrians are allowed to use both sides https://www.cyclinguk.org/article/whats-legal-and-whats-not-your-bike

    "And finally on pavements, remember that on segregated cycle tracks the pedestrian side remains a footway, so if you cycle into the pedestrian side to pass a pedestrian in the cycle lane you technically commit a pavement cycling offence. There's an anomaly because cyclists have to ride on their side, but pedestrians are only advised to use theirs"

    From the article: "When we asked what the biggest problem the trial had encountered so far was, Frost was quick to reply: "People on mobile phones with headphones! One young lady with 'safety first' on her jacket in particular," he recalled, describing how she slowly walked down the cycle half of the path, not realising that the pod was following her "like a dog", complete with flashing yellow beacon and bleeping audio alarm"

    Why should a pedestrian, walking along a pedestrian path which cyclists are also allowed to use, be expected to move for one of these pods?

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Pedestrians Getting in the Way

      Pedestrians might be allowed to walk down the cycle lane, but they risk cyclists hitting them, shouting at them, or just pushing them out of the way.

      1. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: Pedestrians Getting in the Way

        Pedestrians might be allowed to walk down the cycle lane, but they risk cyclists hitting them, shouting at them, or just pushing them out of the way.

        Cyclists assuming they would emerge from all such conforntations victorious might be in for a nasty suprise. I try to avoid confrontation because whatever visual observations you've made in the run up to it may be entirely incorrect - for all you know the geeky looking overweight nerd you just tried to push past might in fact be a former soldier, or boxer, or trained in any number of combat arts. Or they could just be utterly nuts and like fighting.

        The local travellers where I live don't look like much, but by all accounts you'd have to be something special to get through a fight with one of them - the local doormen won't willingly do it, so Nigel from accounts just won't have what it takes.

        And then, assuming things went your way, what would you have gained, over say, just giving way and getting on with your day?

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Pedestrians Getting in the Way

        "but they risk cyclists hitting them, shouting at them, or just pushing them out of the way."

        Which is what happens on the pavement where I live!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pedestrians Getting in the Way

      The pedestrian doesn't *have* to move, legally speaking, but I think that deliberately blocking a cycle lane and refusing to let cycles/pods pass sounds like an asshat behavior. I'm not sure whether doing the same because your headphones impair you to the point of being utterly unaware of your surroundings is better or worse.

    3. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Pedestrians Getting in the Way

      Pedestrians are also allowed to walk down the road in most circumstances (motorways being the main exception). And for exactly the same good reasons: sometimes there's no choice: no pavement, or pavement occupied by shopping crowds, parked cars, snow&ice, etc.

      And before you blame the pedestrian (or anyone else) who can't see or hear you, bear in mind they might be blind or deaf.

    4. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Pedestrians Getting in the Way

      "Why should a pedestrian, walking along a pedestrian path which cyclists are also allowed to use, be expected to move for one of these pods?"

      Because it's the polite thing to do? Just because you're legally allowed to be massive cockbadger doesn't mean it's actually a good idea. Normal people generally make the tiny effort required to let other people go about their lives instead of deliberately getting in the way at every opportunity. If there's plenty of space on the marked pedestrian side, why would you not use it instead of going out of your way to block the cycle lane? It shouldn't need the threat of jail time to get people to show the bare minimum of human decency.

    5. Mike Richards

      Re: Pedestrians Getting in the Way

      Just wait until the podules invade Milton Keynes!

      The plan is for them to run a shuttle between Central Station and the city centre itself about 1km away. Rather than put them on roads, the geniuses behind the pods have persuaded the Council that they should be allowed on the pavements either side of Midsummer Boulevard. I assume they think pedestrians (already a minority species in MK) should step aside so the pods can whisk people to the delights of John Lewis and the Apple Store.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Pedestrians Getting in the Way

        >The plan is for them to run a shuttle between Central Station and the city centre itself about 1km away.

        From my first encounter with Milton Keynes in the 80's, I have always thought the one thing missing was a San Francisco style streetcar service between John Lewis and the Station.

        My neighbour of the time, part of development corporation, did say that they had considered constructing a monorail metro round Milton Keynes..

        1. PeterM42
          Facepalm

          Re: Milton Keynes

          Actually the problem there is - they put the shopping centre in the wrong place. It should have been 1Km west of the current location.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Milton Keynes

            >It should have been 1Km west of the current location.

            Well to be exact the 'business district' that now exists (and was on the original plan) between the station and shopping centre, should of swapped places with the shopping centre, so that workers arriving at the station would have to walk pass the shops.

            However, you can see (well you used to be able to), something had to be done with the hill top... When the Point first went up (1985), it's Red neon pyramid acted as a beacon, being easily visible from Dunstable Downs (15.4 miles as the crow flies) and other surrounding vantage points.

            1. FlossyThePig
              Headmaster

              Re: Milton Keynes

              @Roland6

              should of swapped places

              "should've" or "should have" but NEVER "should of"

              Go and stand in the corner wearing a conical hat with "D" on it. Whack-O!

              1. Roland6 Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: Milton Keynes

                @FlossyThePig

                Well if we are going to be pedantic, might as well correct all the mistakes :)

                Well to be exact the 'business district' that now exists (and was on the original plan) between the station and shopping centre should have swapped places with the shopping centre so that workers arriving at the station would have to walk past the shops.

  5. tiggity Silver badge

    Did not run them in the snow

    The one time a passenger might want to use them!

  6. SiFly

    White line followers

    notice those two apparently well maintained white lines on either side of the vehicle, wonder what would happen if someone had a bit of fun with some black and then white paint

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: White line followers

      Art? https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/17/laying-a-trap-for-self-driving-cars/

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: White line followers

        Or, God forbid, a layer of snow!

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: White line followers

          Better still the post salted road slush and spray!

          Last week when the roads were wet with the usual UK winter mix of salt, water and muck, of the consistency that gets thrown up as spray and coats everything with a film of quick-drying muck, and so requiring the frequent use of screen wash and wipers. I discovered a limitation in the driver-assist systems: the cameras had no screen washing cleaning! So they very quickly became blind causing the on-board computer to simply shut the driver-assist functions down (lane detection, 'moose'/proximity detector...) and regularly flash a warning on instrument display to remind me of this state of affairs.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: White line followers

          admittedly they are smaller, but Starship coped fine

          https://goo.gl/images/KERCAV

          Then again, they are from somewhere that doesn't act like end of the world if it's below 5'. During recent bout of snow in London, overheard people saying they wouldn't come in to work if below 2 as "too cold to travel": around same time, was talking to friends where it was -17', a full 10' warmer than expected, without a thought of them even being late.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: White line followers

      wonder what would happen if someone had a bit of fun with some black and then white paint

      Pah! No imagination!

      Get a skilled street artist to paint a group of pedestrians as a projected image (in the manner of on-pitch adverts in football) so that the cameras persuade the vehicle there's somebody standing in front of it. Then we could see if there's an over-ride, either automatically or manually that says "Fuckers aren't moving, mow them down".

      Or do an image search for 3D painting on road and see what AVs should be trained on. Like this link - I say run the kid over:

      http://www.verabugatti.it/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Vera-Bugatti-3D-art-533x400.jpg

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: White line followers

        The one with the cliff edge?

  7. bl0ke

    Please tell me there’s footage of the ‘safety first’ woman walking along completely oblivious.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      The deployment of self-driving car technology is being held back by a lack of progress in the development of a robot able to walk in front of the autonomous vehicle carrying a red flag.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One issue....

    ...this may come as a surprise, but pavements are not BUILT, to carry heavy loads.i.e. cars, pods or whatever you want to call them.

    They only have a thin base layer below the tarmac. These things driving up and down them all day will soon knacker the pavement.

    But of course, they have thought of that as well.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: One issue....

      Having seen the state of some of the roads around here of late, I think they've mixed up the spec and laid us a long wide pavement to drive on...

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: One issue....

      "Heavy loads" is relative.

      Pavements will take pressures of up to 200kg or so. Cars are generally ok, 4wds and heavier vehicles are not - but a more compelling reason not to park on the bloody footpath is that it obstructs disabled users who frequently aren't able to move onto the road due to the curb.

      weight damage is one of the reasons parking a HGV on a footpath is a higher level parking offence (3 points on licence) anywhere in the UK, not just in London.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One issue....

        *kerb

    3. myithingwontcharge

      Re: One issue....

      Given that in many places (such as parts of London) you're actually supposed to park your car on the pavement not the road (and these are the same pavements that were around long before they painted parking bays on them) I suspect this is a non-issue.

  9. Spoonsinger

    So those kids with back to front hats...

    You know the ones. Hang around in groups with their rap music. Talking loudly and obstructing the pavement with a certain menace. How does this future of automated transport on the pavement or cycle path take into account the actions or potential actions of those lovable ragamuffins?

    1. IneptAdept

      Re: So those kids with back to front hats...

      50 thousand watt tasers

      1. MonkeyJuice

        Re: So those kids with back to front hats...

        It should be fairly trivial to train a convolutional neural network to detect those chimps to use in some sort of IFF system, since they work so desperately hard to be noticed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So those kids with back to front hats...

          to use in some sort of IFF system

          Or a set of air horns off an intercity locomotive, turned up to 11.

    2. FlossyThePig

      Re: So those kids with back to front hats...

      Just use high frequency noise generator on the pod. Ability to hear higher frequencies drops with age.

      There's probably no fun in that though.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: So those kids with back to front hats...

        A couple of well aimed super soakers?

        1. Justicesays
          Devil

          Re: So those kids with back to front hats...

          It just runs them over.

          Turns out the software thought they were going the other way....due to the hats.

  10. Steve Knox

    "Everything in the States is on a grid layout."

    Was that said by the Google rep?

    'cause it's completely untrue. Most of the west coast cities are on a grid layout, but many of the older east coast cities are not. And even the cities which are primarily grid-based have some major, non-orthogonal, non-straight thoroughfares, or significant non-grid sections in their city centers.

    Outside of major cities, most of the US is on a "converted trails" layout.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: "Everything in the States is on a grid layout."

      Ha! Inside many cities as well it's nothing but converted trail.

    2. Dr Scrum Master
      Headmaster

      Re: "Everything in the States is on a grid layout."

      "They were like, 'are you mad?' [...]"

      I don't know whether to shudder, groan, or generally despair whenever I read or hear that...

  11. hatti

    Rebrand

    Poddy mcPodule face

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Rebrand

      Patty Podule?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "What we're doing here is putting it in a complex area."

    If that is what they believe is a complex area, then we should a very long way from allowing these retards to bimble along real roads - as was shown by Uber yesterday.

    They really have no clue!

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      The pod or the safety first lady?

  13. Korev Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Cyclists

    In reality, as everyone knows, people and cyclists alike go wherever they please.

    You're implying that cyclists aren't people!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Cyclists

      "You're implying that cyclists aren't people!"

      To mis-quote "Soylent Green is cyclists!"

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Has to be said...

    Can't wait to see the results of these wonderful devices engaging with new Britains...

    The enrichment will be spectacular no?

  15. Alan Brown Silver badge

    > On the topic of interacting with pedestrians and cyclists, he continued: "There are rules. Well, there should be but not everyone pays attention to that. Unpredictable things can happen and we need to be ready for that."

    This is one of the things that Uber clearly has not taken on board.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    After more deaths governments will finally act

    Uber has the distinction of being the first AV to kill a person. Unfortunately there will be many more in the rush-to-market mentality that currently exists. With no safety, security, redundant systems or other necessary requirements, it's like the wild west where anything goes. When government fails to protect the populace they have abdicated their responsibilities, IMNHO.

    1. BoldMan

      Re: After more deaths governments will finally act

      The first to kill a person not in the vehicle... remember that Tesla accident last year?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why did the algorithm break the law?

    The latest on the Uber death seems to be that the woman suddenly came out of the shadows which may be a stupid thing to do at any time. The car was speeding while travelling at 38 instead of 35 mph* and appears to have made no attempt to stop before killing her.

    The human monitor is guilty for failing to monitor the car on two counts, by allowing the car to speed and making no effort to prevent harm to other road users. ** Was the monitor even watching the road or a screen? In flying there is a well known concept that the cockpit is for looking out of.

    * I know 3 mph is not much but the driver was breaking the law.

    ** In the UK this is called driving without due care and attention.

  18. SquidEmperor

    You can kill a couple of people every billion miles

    Of course what many don't consider is that to be the safest form of transport autonomous vehicles don't have to be perfect, they just need to kill less people than people driven cars, motorcycles, bikes etc.

    For example Fatalities per billion passenger kilometres by mode: 2005 to 2014 average in the UK was 86 for motor bikes, 2 for cars and 28 for pedestrians. So in a billion km of travel if they only kill a couple of people they're still the safest mode of transport (source: "Transport Statistics Great Britain 2015" Dept. of Transport)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You can kill a couple of people every billion miles

      Safest mode of transport? That’s rail, followed by air, then bus: increasingly less safe then have waterborne, then other road/pedestrian. What isn’t broken out here, and be interesting to see, is any link between pedestrian & other modes, by mode (ie are motorbikes more dangerous for pedestrians than, say, vans?)

      https://www.statista.com/statistics/300601/average-number-of-fatalities-according-to-transport-in-the-united-kingdom/

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    bring back victorian public lavs or else

    Just as the phone box became a warm place that replaced the victorian public lavs maybe these will serve the same function.

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