back to article So when can you get in the first self-driving car? GM says 2019. Mobileye says 2021. Waymo says 2018 – yes, this year

After several years of hype about autonomous vehicles – cars that can truly independently drive themselves – the big question has become: when will people other than beta testers get in them? And the answer, according to General Motors' chief technology officer Jon Lauckner is, incredibly, next year: 2019. That's when the …

  1. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

    Bollocks

    1. FuzzyWuzzys

      Don't be so sure. This potential market is not just big, it's f**king huge. This is basically the automotive industry version of what "the cloud" has done for IT infrastructure and everyone wants to be the new AWS.

      Of course, there's no way I'm getting in one for a few years, especially the minute one goes wrong and locks on the accelerator at full pelt on the M5 and there's nothing to do but wait until it hits something or runs out of fuel. Or worse it drives full pelt down Regents St into Piccadilly Circus at 50mph.

      1. Oflife
        Thumb Up

        I have a 2018 Nissan Leaf with ProPilot...

        ...and it's pretty impressive when it works. The intelligent cruise control (not to be confused with ProPilot) that keeps your car at a fixed safe distance from the vehicle in front is 100% reliable because it uses radar. But the lane following tech that is based on cameras, can fail, and the car will start to drift to the side before it self corrects when the cameras detect the edge of the road or kerb or other object. I think it gets confused when the solid or dotted white line at the edge of the lane (on the left here in the UK) vanish, perhaps at a junction. It is all very Beta.

        One has the advantage of being able to grab the steering wheel and take control, but like you, i will not be comfortable on a motorway or other fast road with no manual override.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: I have a 2018 Nissan Leaf with ProPilot...

          ...and it's pretty impressive when it works.

          And this is the crux of the matter, self-driving cars have to work 100% of the time, with no human supervision not 1% with human supervision...

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: I have a 2018 Nissan Leaf with ProPilot...

            Self driving cars will have to work safely 100% of the time even though human driven cars don't.

          2. Wilco

            Re: I have a 2018 Nissan Leaf with ProPilot...

            No, they just have to work significantly more safely than human driven vehicles, which is actually a pretty low target. In the UK there were 1716 road fatalities in the UK, and 24,101 serious injuries. No automated technology that caused that level of injuries would be acceptable, and it's actually quite hard to see how we could make self driving cars as bad as that. 26000 serious injuries and deaths is 70 every single day.

            If we had most cars being self driving I suspect that we could reduce that by 90% or more. For a start 13% of those fatalities involved drivers over the limit.

            Data here:

            https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/648082/rrcgb2016-02.pdf

            https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/680051/illegal-alcohol-levels-provisional-2016.pdf

            1. really_adf

              Re: I have a 2018 Nissan Leaf with ProPilot...

              No, they just have to work significantly more safely than human driven vehicles, which is actually a pretty low target.

              Agreed that AVs don't need to be 100% safe, and that being significantly more safe than humans is a low target. By this measure, AVs may look good even today.

              But I wonder if a more important measure is injuries/deaths involving an AV that either would not have occurred were a competent human in control, or are avoided by a human (taking control or in/on another vehicle). I think that needs to be very low indeed, and I suspect is a far greater challenge.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: I have a 2018 Nissan Leaf with ProPilot...

          "i will not be comfortable on a motorway or other fast road with no manual override."

          Not just on a motorway, what happens when you come to blocked road with a police office work traffic director signally to take a detour or circle around? There could be a sign or transmitter that tells autonomous cars the way forward is blocked, but if an incident just happened, it may be some time before a signalling device can be put in place. Ok, so you just get out that point and cancel your trip but what if you have just done your weekly shop and are in a hurry to get home and get your perishables into the fridge.

          How about "bad" neighborhoods? There are sections of the city I don't go even if it's the shortest/fastest route. Will an autonomous car service "redline" areas? I expect they will until they get caught doing it and laws are passed.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        This is basically the automotive industry version of what "the cloud" has done for IT infrastructure and everyone wants to be the new AWS.

        Lets not forget that one of the features of "the cloud" seems to be massive breaches of personal data left swinging in the breeze in ill-secured cloud backups and the like.

        With vehicles it will be unacceptable to leave safe operation* to the customers as the risks to life and limb dwarf the severity of the risks from cloud. There won't be a "new AWS". AWS can shuffle all the responsibility for third party damage onto its customers; vehicle manufacturers won't. It's not just a huge potential market for manufacturers, it's also a hugel risk.

        * The opportunities for gathering, mining and subsequently leaking personal data are the same or worse than the cloud but now only a side-issue.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe maybe not. Optimistic definitely. I'm old enough to remember when lifts (elevators) had human operators and people were worried about riding in one without an operator. Things change.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "lifts (elevators) had human operators and people were worried about riding in one without an operator. Things change."

        Lifts just go up and down a fixed route which they don't share with any other lifts, cyclists, pedestrians or stray animals.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Lifts just go up and down a fixed route which they don't share with any other lifts, cyclists, pedestrians or stray animals.

          Same applies to the driverless transports at airports, like Stansted for example. These are nothing more than horizontal lifts. But it's fun when the thing speeds up just before the up ramp.

  2. DNTP
    Joke

    Remember that old doctor joke

    "Hello! You're my first patient- Ever!"

    And that's why I'm flat out not riding in the "first" self-driving car.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Remember that old doctor joke

      Fortunately you don't have to ride in the first self-driving car because someone else has already been doing it for years.

    2. Oflife

      Re: Remember that old doctor joke

      Indeed...

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZxax-LKpW8

      (Priceless!)

  3. redpawn Silver badge

    Taxis

    A great place to start. So do you choose the mob owned medallion driver or the mob owned self driving cab next time you land in a city? I'd seriously consider leaving the airport on foot.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Taxis

      Even if you destination is on the other side of the city and it's a deluge out there? Now it's between the mob and pneumonia...

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Taxis

        I'd seriously consider leaving the airport on foot.

        You would probably have to get through the Diversity Zone. Good luck. Take this Armored Waymo, it has twin Belgian-Made SAW mounted on the roof for added safety.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You won't get into the first...

    ...safe, secure, reliable autonomous vehicle before 2025. We've already seen the fatalities from Tesla and Uber in not ready for prime time tech. Is there a list of people who have volunteered to be human crash test dummies for Av companies?

    1. Brangdon

      Re: You won't get into the first...

      Don't just the best by the performance of the worst.

  5. JustWondering
    Thumb Down

    Sorry ...

    ... but until I can safely pour myself into a vehicle when the bar closes and catch a piece of ass on my home, it isn't autonomous as far as I'm concerned.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sorry ...

      How do you get onto the roof of your house if you're drunk?

      1. JustWondering

        Re: Sorry ...

        First thing I need is an autonomous keyboard.

  6. The Average Joe

    wrong direction...

    you guys need to be thinking about going up. Self driving cars... No we should be asking for flying cars. No roads to repair. no pot holes, no gas tax, no speed limits, no traffic jams, no more zig-zag routes to work, less time in transportation, wont rust, won't get stuck.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: wrong direction...

      And then we can pave the unused roads with solar cells!

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: wrong direction...

      Sounds great. How can I get one?

      And more importantly, how can I stop all those other people I have to share the road with from getting one? Because I sure as heck don't want to see those idiots in charge of big chunks of metal that are actually flying.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: wrong direction...

        Flying cars would HAVE to be autonomous with no ability for the passenger(s) to have any control whatsoever over the car other than its destination.

        While autonomous driving on the ground still has a ways to go (despite some irrational exuberance on Waymo's and GM's part) before it can go everywhere it needs to go, autonomous flying at low altitude (say 100-200 ft) is much easier so today's technology is already there.

        That takes care of the biggest objection to flying cars, but does nothing about the biggest roadblock to them - technology to make a car fly without being very inefficient and noisy. Still, it would certainly tempt people who commute in slowly moving parking lots in many big cities...

    3. Craigie

      Re: wrong direction...

      No roads to repair - ok

      no pot holes - ok

      no gas tax - only if they are solar

      no speed limits - you think so? I'm doubting it

      no traffic jams - until you try to land that is

      no more zig-zag routes to work - have you seen flight paths?

      less time in transportation - until everyone is doing it

      wont rust - I doubt they'd be in the air permanently. Less rust, sure.

      won't get stuck - flight levels and paths are a thing.

  7. Mark 85 Silver badge

    The system will only work on freeways in the United States and Canada – and will be specifically geo-fenced to make sure it won't work outside of them\

    So, driver hits the highway, turns on autopilot, takes nap. Car gets to exit with snoozing driver... and then turns it self off because of the geo-fencing. Or does it ignore the exit, pull over and shut down? I'd hope that it just doesn't keep going.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Presumably the car will slow to a stop when it's job is done, or, if it's required to check that the driver is awake, shortly after they fall asleep. Guess we won't have long to wait to find out. Likely to open a whole new business sector catering to drivers who've just had a bit of nap…

    2. 7-zark-7

      And if you read the article, sleep is not an option. Take your eyes off the road for 5 seconds and you start getting warnings.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can't do hanky-panky with the driver in a driverless car

    It's no fun.

    1. FuzzyWuzzys

      Re: I can't do hanky-panky with the driver in a driverless car

      You can see the The Sun headline can't you, "Driverless Bonk-a-long! - Today a couple were arrested for climbing into the back of a driverless car for quickie while it sped down the M4 at 60mph."

  9. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Meanwhile

    "Ordinary" BMW cars can fail unpredictability and dangerously.

    Someone really wants to get us all into those pods, don't they?

  10. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    Two features of the same system...

    1. The [GM] system will only work on freeways...

    2. Glance away any longer that five seconds and [... the car] will start slowing to a stop.

    On a freeway? What can possibly go wrong?

    Slowing to a stop may well be the right solution if the assumption is that the driver - er... occupant - is dead or incapacitated. Chances are though that, just like the Uber beta-tester, he/she is simply not paying attention.

    I don't believe the LEDs and the buzzes will help avoid the slowing down. Lots of cars around me have MobilEye. In my experience, with a decent driver behind the wheel the alarms are close to a 100% false positives[*]. For certain there are hordes of dimwits around who should be jolted into some semblance of attention quite often, but people who have MobilEye tell me that the low S/N makes the mind learn to thoroughly ignore the alarms very quickly indeed. [Frankly, I have general doubts about a gadget that says, effectively, that it's OK to drive when you are tired or distracted because it'll warn you, but that's a separate issue.]

    So, a car carefully slows down on a freeway every now and then. The dimwit notices and starts looking straight ahead and assume the car starts and accelerates to the allowed speed again. That particular dimwit stays alert and away from the funny cat movie on his phone for a while. All is well...

    Assume the best case scenario. Nothing goes really wrong in any of these cases, ever. Say, because every other car will have ACC and ADAS and everything else and will also slow down and stop without any chance of a prang whatsoever. But can you imagine what those slowing down and stopping cars - and that will happen - will do to congestion on freeways?

    [*] One of our cars is equipped with MobilEye (the car I usually drive, mercifully, isn't - it does have a fatigue detection system though which has never been activated, to my knowledge) that was thrown in for free. Sometimes I am a passenger, sometimes I drive it. The bloody thing beeps most often when there is already a tense situation and you move a bit sideways without indicating - no time, but normally everyone around sees/senses that something is amiss - and then the system that looks for lane separators beeps and distracts and alarms and disorients you when you need your concentration the most ("What else has just happened?!?! Ah, nothing..."). It also knows nothing about what the driver is actually doing so it beeps, early, when the distance to the car in front of you decreases, even if you are already braking (again, you are already tense since you've noticed the danger, the alarm only makes you think that something else is going wrong). It always gets confused if there is more than one set of lane markings (roadworks), etc.

  11. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Fortunately

    By the time I am old enough to need a self driving car, they probably still won't be available, at least with the ability to do everything I can do now and would therefore need it to do.

    Taxi!

    1. fandom

      Re: Fortunately

      Why 'fortunately'?

      By the time I can no longer safely drive, in about twenty years I guess, I hope to be able to get a real self-driving car.

  12. vistisen

    My Madza 6 with 'lane assist' beeps at me constantly, telling me to hold the steering wheel, when it is firmly gripped with two hands. Apparently if I drive precisely as it thinks I should , it thinks that it is it the one doing the driving and gets worried. You get into the the habit of wiggling the wheel every now and them to let it know your only human!

  13. N2 Silver badge

    Live crash test dummies

    Here is your opportunity!

  14. Herring`

    Supercruise?

    I didn't know they had this on cars now. I can't see that being able to sustain Mach 2 without afterburners is going to be very useful round here though

  15. Pete 2

    Asking the wrong question

    > the big question has become: when will people other than beta testers get in them?

    I want to know when they will be affordable for an average guy, like me?

    If the first-generation AVs - ones that aren't death-traps: either for occupants or third parties, are going to be in the £ 6-figures, then they may as well not exist. But when they are at a price that is comparable to standard new models now then they become a viable option.

    However, I still reckon that the financial model for domestic AVs is one of on-demand hailing. What is the point of buying such an expensive object, that depreciates faster than you can burn £50 notes and that is only used for a small percentage of time. Just so long as the previous user of an AV I call up hasn't puked in it.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Asking the wrong question

      "I want to know when they will be affordable for an average guy, like me?"

      I doubt they'll ever be affordable to buy.

      The legislative basis for their use, at least in the UK, seems, quite rightly, to put the legal responsibility for safe driving on the manufacturer. That means that the manufacturer rather than the owner will have to insure themselves. The manufacturer will, of course, pass this on to the customer. In the event of a straight sale, however, the manufacturer will only be able to have one opportunity to do that so would need to charge the customer for the vehicle's life-time insurance as part of the purchase price. That would substantially increase the price of a new car. The likelihood is that these vehicles will only ever be available for lease.

      "What is the point of buying such an expensive object, that depreciates faster than you can burn £50"

      To have one available when you need it. If your prime use is in the rush hour when everyone else wants a ride you'll be in competition with everyone else. If the numbers of available vehicles are such that peak demand is adequately covered they'll be mostly idle during the day and the costs per mile will go up to allow for that. If you have your own car now you'll still need your own AV. If you can manage by taxi now you'll use and AV taxi.

    2. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

      Re: Asking the wrong question

      "What is the point of buying such an expensive object, that depreciates faster than you can burn £50 notes and that is only used for a small percentage of time."

      Replace the £50 notes with £20 ones, and that's pretty much what you already have.

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Asking the wrong question

      I want to know when they will be affordable for an average guy, like me?

      Why would you want to buy one, when you can call one up at the snap of your fingers? Or even better get one to take little Timmy swimming and bring him back.

      The economics for manufacturers of higher yields are compelling. The vast majority of cars are stationary for over 90% of the day and this is a huge drag on the economy because it means providing huge areas of concrete for the tin cans to wait on. I suspect we're likely to see charges for parking spaces to start rising in anticipation of this and this will favour cars that don't spend all day in the same place and/or have additional sources of revenue.

      1. fandom

        Re: Asking the wrong question

        Sure, you can call a taxi nowadays with a snap of your fingers, that doesn't mean it will arrive in seconds, specially during rush hours.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Asking the wrong question

        The vast majority of cars are stationary for over 90% of the day and this is a huge drag on the economy because it means providing huge areas of concrete for the tin cans to wait on.

        Yeah, and the vast majority of cars are also moving during the same period of the day. So when you take into account those shared vehicles shuttling around all over the place unoccupied to their next customer, the amount of tarmac & concrete required is likely to be greater, not less.

  16. cloth

    European drivers

    I'd love to see this in Britain or perhaps italy - we don't have such niceties as the Yanks do when it comes to driving. It's a dog eat dog attitude on the roads here. Poor little auto car wouldn't which way was up !

    BTW: Whatever happened to the fun of just driving ?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: European drivers

      BTW: Whatever happened to the fun of just driving ?

      The roads got full.

  17. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "when will people other than beta testers get in them?"

    When they do the correct term will be "guinea pigs". The unfortunate aspect of this is that while the guinea pigs who get into the cars will be volunteers those in the surrounding traffic or on foot will be innocent bystanders.

    I've made the point before but it still needs reiterating: compensation for death, injury or damage to innocent bystanders and their property should not rely on them having to take on manufacturer or insurance funded lawyers in court.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    maybe in certain environments but not down in my part of the World (sunny Cornwall).

    My mainly country road commute of 25 miles negotiating very narrow village streets only just wide enough for a car (sets the bloody warning sensors off lots of the time as the car thinks your going to hit something) full of gormless emmets stepping out in front of you. Then country roads with badgers, pheasants the occasional peacock and the odd sheep in the road, pot holes, flooding, mud from tractors, emmets driving at 25mph, caravan, etc all need to be safely negotiated. Then in to Plymouth via the Torpoint ferry that'll tax any autonomous system getting on\off that fecking thing!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      @A/C

      You're not alone. Here in the Pennines we have much the same issues as Cornwall, less the peacocks but add in snow drifts and cyclists who wish to take no responsibility whatsoever for their own safety.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        oh yeah I forgot cyclists!

        My street oh the fun it'll be!

        https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@50.3310741,-4.5195837,3a,66.8y,242.45h,71.31t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sdnD_nTrnDuLwRKOWqyAcTg!2e0

        and the Torpoint ferry just for shits and giggles

        https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@50.3754889,-4.1932015,3a,66.8y,124.88h,83.16t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1srBu9QJFzE0JhYS1IZFsOdg!2e0

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          .>oh yeah I forgot cyclists!

          and the tourists!

          I note both pictures are either out-of-season or very early morning.

          Bet ferries are an oversight in the current generation of navigation systems and self-driving cars. from your picture of the Torpoint ferry, expect self-driving car to hanger left but not check that the ferry is docked before it parks on the deck...

          However, I do note that your roads (and roads in Cornwall in general), whilst narrow, are well maintained. My area the roads, are wider but not so well maintained. The main road to my village, last year allowed two cars to pass each other at speed, as a result of this winter the road is now effectively single track with passing places, unless you want to risk your suspension in all the pot holes. As a (bloody) cyclist, I have to ride 3~4 feet out into the road as the edges are that badly degraded. I doubt any of the current generation self-driving systems take any real account of road surface and thus will be guided by the white line...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I can assure you that Cornish roads are just as shite as others in the country at present! Every trip is a minefield of pot holes.

            And yes the streets do get pretty packed with tourists (emmets as they're called down here) and cars that should be in the village (its access only) so if you're not delivering or living there you shouldn't be there! Its bad enough with sat navs sending cars and vans in to the village and then they get stuck

      2. tiggity Silver badge

        and the horse riders

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          yep horses to

  19. 0laf Silver badge
    Pint

    When I can be in the car drunk then maybe

    As I've said before. When I can legally get in the back seat very drunk, slur "home James", fall asleep AND not be responsible for the driving of the car on the way THEN I'll be interested.

    If 'autonomous driving' means the same as Tesla's autopilot in that I need to have my hands on the wheel and be ready to take over at a moment notice then no, I might as well drive the damn thing myself.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: When I can be in the car drunk then maybe

      Why can't this be all planned out ahead of time while sober? It's not like most benders are impromptu without access to a phone...

      1. 0laf Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: When I can be in the car drunk then maybe

        Well I live in the country quite a long way from the major cities. If I want to meet someone for a drink there it would involve a hotel stay or quite a considerable chain of public transport options ending in a large taxi fare. So I stay sober and drive usually.

        If I had a self driving car I could get ratted, fall asleep and wake up home. I like that idea.

    2. Craigie

      Re: When I can be in the car drunk then maybe

      I just want to be able to get in and take a nap and wake up with a polite 'ding' when we get there.

  20. MrKrotos

    A load of rubbish

    Lets see how far this goes after the first people get knocked over by these cars and the makers get sued.

  21. Craigie

    Too soon

    In an *extremely* well signed and lane-marked environment, sure, okay, I can see a car working next year. In the real world, we are nowhere near. Sadly this is going to kill people, and end up with many sueballs which could end up impeding real progress.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Too soon

      >"In an *extremely* well signed and lane-marked environment, sure, okay, I can see a car working next year. In the real world, we are nowhere near. "

      Which effectively says that given the lead time on making roads up to that standard, we won't be seeing self-driving cars on UK roads within the next few decades, unless those who wish to sell self-driving cars make the investment and take on the upgrade. However, we can be sure that this will cause problems as some operators will want to use their own corporate branded road markings eg. RAL 4010 magenta lines (tm) instead of white lines...

    2. intrigid

      Re: Too soon

      Can we please stop pretending that there are any world-charging technologies that _didn't_ accidentally kill a bunch of people in their early stages?

  22. tiggity Silver badge

    not real world enough

    GPS and accurate maps are IMHO the wrong way to do it.

    GPS can fail.

    Maps get outdated

    Not sure about US / Canada but in UK Motorway / Dual carriageway / restructure you can end up in extreme cases (lots of cones to separate things) using a lane of the "opposite direction" road. A car that throws a wobbly over roadwork induced changed topography is useless.

    The only (IMHO) viable solution is car that can create its own internal image of the road layout (taking account of signs, cones, lights etc) - just like people do

    .. and if they have to deal with some of the dubious lane markings / instructions on some UK roundabouts, give the AI the ability to cry / scream in frustration.

    Their use of maps / GPS is because (as article states) the real time processing to build an internal model is too intensive currently - so wait until the tech is better then!

    Still, all a long way off in UK as most of the work going on with US road systems.

    A vehicle AI will only be any good when it seamless deals with moving from country a where they drive on left, signs in miles, to country B where they drive on the right, signs in km, lots of signage different e.g. UK person taking car on Eurostar / ferry to France

  23. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Shared Vehicles waste energy and clog roads...

    Taxi cabs and Uber drivers typically drive about twice their paid distance. The between-fares relocation moves don't happen with individually owned vehicles.

    Everyone assumes the opposite.

    Some future hand-wavy magic may compensate, but this obvious initial factor is a poor first step.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Shared Vehicles waste energy and clog roads...

      Allow me to explain:

      A-to-B plus C-to-D is less than A-to-B plus B-to-C plus C-to-D.

      B-to-C is the Taxi or Uber or Autonomous vehicle relocating to pick up the next passenger.

      The counterargument is typically some hand-wavy future something or other to provide the doubling of energy and road spatial efficiency required just to get us back to naught.

      Amazingly, this is a new thought for many.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Shared Vehicles waste energy and clog roads...

        Down-Vote calls for explanation.

        Is there a counterargument?

        Is there some magic to bring the Road Distance Efficiency Factor (RDEF) of such shared vehicles back up from its inherent starting point near 50%?

        Anticipating one possible answer, put several passengers into one shared vehicle. Yeah, that's called a "bus".

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Shared Vehicles waste energy and clog roads...

          >Is there some magic to bring the Road Distance Efficiency Factor (RDEF) of such shared vehicles back up from its inherent starting point near 50%?

          Anticipating one possible answer, put several passengers into one shared vehicle. Yeah, that's called a "bus".

          Well, although I did not down vote, I suspect if we assume a significantly large switchover and usage patterns not too dissimilar to today ie. morning evening rush hours, theatre/pub closing etc. then we will get to a point where at times there are too many vehicles touting for non-existent business...

          Currently one of the bus companies serving a local school, after dropping off kids in the morning, simply parks their buses around the corner in a convenient layby, the drivers share a car back to wherever, returning in the evening to collect the kids. So I anticipate we will see a similar level of logistical planning with shared self-drive cars: having dropped serval thousand people off in the morning at a business park, most of the cars will remain on the business park until the evening exodus, likewise overnight why go to a parking lot only to return the following morning, why not simply park outside in readiness for the morning's rush hour trade...So whilst ownership and financials change, very little will change with respect to vehicle movement and utilisation...

          Although, we could see some branching out and vehicles having 'beds' installed to encourage greater occupancy...

          So basically, can't see any real cost savings if you are going to improve the RDEF.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Shared Vehicles waste energy and clog roads...

        If the Uber driver is getting a bunch of fares, your example works. If it's not such a busy time, the route is A-to-B, B-to-C for a place to park or a coffee, C-to-D and then again, D-to-E for a place to wait for the next fare. It would be creepy if the Uber taxi that just dropped you off at home sat parked in front of your house.

        Your brining up repositioning is very valid. Depending on the time of day, the bulk of rides will originate from a few discreet areas. Some people may ride a bus or take other transportation to the shops and want more direct transportation home with their shopping. At the end of an evening, many people will be wanting to get back from an evening out. This means that taxis are running twice the distance without a fare half of the time since it highly unlikely that somebody needs a ride from a residential area to where the pubs are at closing time. This is also notable with busses. In the morning the busses are packed going one way and nearly empty going the other. In the evening it reverses.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Shared Vehicles waste energy and clog roads...

          So basically, moving X people throughout a city with N different destinations is not something that can be readily solved by technology, simply because physics gets in the way. There's just no easy way to deal with surges, full stop, but a lot of human traffic these days happens in surges. You're caught between Scylla and Charybdis: between picking losers (people get left behind) or having a lot of idle capacity, and the medium is UNhappy in this case (BOTH losers AND idle resources).

  24. Marcus000

    Sel-driving vehicles

    Has anyone explored the crime potential? You only need a few people to stand in front of vehicle in order to stop it and rob the passengers. Works for self-driving lorries too!

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Sel-driving vehicles

      They do it ALREADY with human-driven vehicles, so what difference will it make?

  25. sjsmoto

    "The race really is on."

    Yes! That brings to mind having all of the companies' driverless cars racing together on a circular track for 500 miles to see what happens.

    1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

      Re: "The race really is on."

      --- with, to show how confident they are with the tech, the CEO of each company in the passenger seats.

  26. intrigid

    Phony autonomy

    "GM is saying it's OK to take your hands off while using its system – although it will still require you to look where the car is going. Glance away any longer that five seconds and LEDs will flash green, then red, then your seat will buzz, and if you still haven't responded, it will start slowing to a stop."

    Can we please stop pretending that there's anything remotely desirable about this useless garbage technology in any way?

  27. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    Mini roundabouts,....

    ... so my short commute to work sees me negotiate several mini roundabouts (The city planner couldn't get enough in this postcode, elsewhere in the City, we have regular junctions) So quite often, folk don't indicate at mini roundabouts, pain the *rse when they are to my right, turning left, and I want to go straight on, I have to wait just in case. Will AVs be able to see the indicators on a vehicle anyway. to make such a decision, or will they just give way, and err on the side of caution?

    1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

      Re: Mini roundabouts,....

      I was taught not to trust a flashing indicator unless I actually saw it come on. Even then, there's the situation where someone indicates to turn in a different place to where you think they are heading (just past a junction for example).

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Champagne taste on a Beer budget

    Not sure how things are trending elsewhere, but in the U.S. people are getting so far underwater with car loans that they will not be able to buy one of these if it were the only option available. Just the other day I read an article that said 96 (yes, nine six) month auto loans have entered the market, and 84 month and longer loans now account for 1% (I believe that was roughly 17k) of new loans in the last year. I simply cannot imagine that if you need a loan with those terms that you are not way underwater for years thus making a 2021 autonomous vehicle a pipe dream. Furthermore, with the way people take care of things, some of these people will not have anything to show for their payment by the time year 7 rolls around, and this is with the car and insurance pricing of today! What will it be like when they are driving that much tech - way more expensive for the car, plus insurance that will be as much as the car payment because of the risk.

    Having said the above, I think for the market to shift, manufactures will need to draw people away from car ownership. Easy in some metros, yet not an option for others. Those that do not want/need a car can afford the autonomous taxi/hourly rental thing and be happy. The rest need the cheaper low tech meat bag controlled alternative, or will go without. The result of which would be death for vehicle manufactures as they will only be selling a limited number of vehicles. And since corporate suicide is not a desirable marketing tools, my guess is these same companies have partner lobbyist that are trying to make it the governments fault as to why they cannot roll these things our in masses.

    Sure the technology is great, but I believe this one will largely sit on the shelf for a while as manufactures have already enticed millions into massive loan debt on the current products than cannot simple be willed away, and they have not shown any indication that they know how to create a market that is equal to, or even slightly resembling, what they have today.

  29. Curly4
    Happy

    Yes more accurate maps will be needed and Google with its navigation and trip mapping app is currently doing that very thing. As a car with the app drives Google gets updates on the position of the car. Then Google can use that data to map the roads very accurately. Incidentally it is used to reroute the driver if there are traffic blocks or slowdown on the selected route all to get to your destination in the least time.

  30. Bob Dole (tm)
    Thumb Up

    Not surprised at all.

    I've been telling people two things about self-driving cars.

    First - they are coming far faster than people realize.

    Second - the entire automotive industry is going to be disrupted by it. Specifically vehicle ownership. The only way this works is if the manufacturer takes over financial responsibility in case of an accident. For that to happen - they are going to retain ownership of the vehicle and just rent them out. You'll order a car up on your phone for those ad hoc trips or have it scheduled like the daily drive to / from work.

    Anyone thinking otherwise isn't paying attention.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Not surprised at all.

      Sorry Bob, but that just doesn't work for a lot of people. Like, anyone with children, or people like myself, who have dogs.

      People with kids have kids stuff in their car, child seats for a start, sun visors, toys, books, wet wipes etc. Folks don't want to be dragging all that into an autonomous car each time. if the kids throw up as they sometimes do a parent is going to have to sort that out before the car picks up its next customer, and that's not always going to be possible, as it could happen on the outward leg, so you have vomit on the upholstery when you arrive at the supermarket,... you'd have to accept some soiling charge.

      Meanwhile I have dogs, so I have water, a dog bowl, towels, wet wipes, a dog grate, the seats are flat, I boarded out the back, there's a throw over that to make it comfy for the mutts. I wouldn't want to set that up each time. If the dogs shook as they do from time to time I'd have to clean that up, and I presume that would incur extra costs in waiting time. Oh wait, the seats are flat, there's a throw in the car, I arrive at the park,..... I have to remove and secure this stuff somehow, so the autonomous car can go pick up it's next customer?

      Plus, I nip home at lunchtime to check on those mutts. I live close to work, but waiting time for an autonomous vehicle showing up wouldn't really work, I would have to keep an eye out to see my ride show up, same for the return, looking out of the window is hardly a restful experience.

      Plus Bob, people like cars. There's a freedom angle, and not owning your own slice of freedom is going to be a hard sell.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Not surprised at all.

        >Sorry Bob, but that just doesn't work for a lot of people. Like, anyone with children, or people like myself, who have dogs.

        I expect these new rental cars will simply pick up the same T&Cs as in current usage. Which will introduce several limitations. I've not found a UK car rental company that doesn't prohibit dogs due to valeting problems. You will also find that no rental car has a towbar or roof rack due to insurance liabilities; if you need either of these (eg. to take a couple bikes with you) then you need to rent a van...

        [Aside: interesting how quickly we've accepted that no smoking in shared vehicles is a given - it's been years since I've seen a recently built car with ash trays.]

        As to interior condition, I suspect like you that there will be some surcharge if the vehicle can't be immediately sent to the next client. However, the one good thing [slight sarcasm here], is that there will be thousands of people, previously employed as taxi drivers who will be able to man valeting services on many street corners...

        > There's a freedom angle, and not owning your own slice of freedom is going to be a hard sell.

        This is the big challenge we are going to have to face up to in the coming years. TPTB (ie. government & police) seem to believe that self-driving cars will mean that the increasing numbers of older drivers can be encouraged to switch vehicles rather than be compelled to surrender their license and change their way of life. From conversations with TPTB, I suspect their expectations are as usual over-optimistic of when the technology will be "good enough"; so I expect Bob Dole (tm) to be partialy right, just that part of the change will be decades of transport problems and - by modern standards - high levels of accidents, congestion etc. plus unforeseen (well couldn't be bothered to do the research) social problems.

        1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          Re: Not surprised at all.

          @Roland6

          'interior condition' ....Back in the noughties, I worked for an ISP (ntl:) and that company grew by aquisition, and me and my tecchie chums who were assimilated from a smaller ISP travelled the country assimilating other offices, so we had a lot of rentals. So we found a few things in cars, a 'Big Country' CD, 'The Crossing', so we sang along to that, another time we piled into the car, and there was a funny smell, and we found a half eaten kebab in the glove box,.. but the funniest was the day after we'd been out, I got a phone call from reception asking for my colleague who had booked the car, "he's not in yet", 'Oh, she said, it's just the guy from Hertz has come to pick up the car you had yesterday, and there's a dog in it'. So I called my colleague's mobile "Where's Bruno?!" I opened, ... 'Oh shit!' he replied, he'd put the dog in the car, and driven it back to work for the pick up, intending to walk the dog home, .. dog had fallen asleep on the back seat, colleague walked home alone......

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I guess the taxpayer will end up footing a large part of the bill when local councils start getting sued by the car manufacturers for costs incurred due to imperfect (not 100% smooth) road surfaces, unclear (e.g. slightly faded) road markings, inadequate (for the sensors) street lighting, and so on.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019