back to article Self-driving cars will be safe, we're testing them in a massive AI Sim

The British government this week unveiled plans for an ambitious AI simulator to be used to test self-driving cars. It's part of a stated mission to make the UK the world's leading destination for testing autonomous vehicles. The simulator, called OmniCAV, recreates a virtual version of 32km of Oxfordshire roads. "It's a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    L5

    I'm 60. In 20 years time or less I want to be in an L5 car. It would be safer for you too.

    My dad gave up driving at 86. Even with today's level of automation I would feel safer with an automated car approaching than one with him at the wheel.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: L5

      Even with today's level of automation I would feel safer with an automated car approaching than one with him at the wheel.

      Just don't try crossing the road pushing a bicycle, in front of one...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: L5

        "Just don't try crossing the road pushing a bicycle, in front of one..."

        Your chances would be better. Much better. With my dad behind the wheel he would have relied on my mum telling him that there was a person pushing a bike in the road...… and my mum is partially sighted, and my dad is deaf.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: L5

          "Your chances would be better. Much better."

          Indeed. In talking with people about autonomous vehicles, I frequently encounter the attitude that the car must drive perfectly or it's a failure not to be trusted. From a public safety point of view, this makes no sense. It doesn't have to be completely error-free, it just has to be better than people.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: L5

            "Indeed. In talking with people about autonomous vehicles, I frequently encounter the attitude that the car must drive perfectly or it's a failure not to be trusted. From a public safety point of view, this makes no sense. It doesn't have to be completely error-free, it just has to be better than people"

            Well yes but then people seem to think that human drivers are generally poor when actually they are remarkably good. A very low percentage of journeys end in an accident and a small proportion of these involves a significnat injury. This is even more the case if you eliminate young male drivers from the statistics.

            There is a vast chasm between what is required for a fully autonomous vehcile and the state of current technology unless the environment is limited and highly controlled. At the moment humans are just much much better and will be for a long time to come.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: L5

              "There is a vast chasm between what is required for a fully autonomous vehcile and the state of current technology"

              Oh, this is certainly true. We're a long way away from an autonomous vehicle that performs as well as, let alone better than, people do.

          2. Davidcrockett

            Re: L5

            True in theory but probably not in practice. People who drive dangerously and kill someone are sent to prison. If a million Google cars are on the road, drive dangerously infrequently and kill 500 people a year will we just all shrug our shoulders and say that's necessary for their development and hey at least they're better than human drivers. Nope, they'll be a clamour to ban the cars and jail Google executives.

          3. Brian 18

            Re: L5

            "From a public safety point of view, this makes no sense. It doesn't have to be completely error-free, it just has to be better than people."

            From a legal perspective, automated cars have to be significantly better than people. Otherwise the liability costs will kill these cars faster than anything else.

        2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          Re: L5

          I've been in a passenger with somebody like that, although the driver was only about 30.

          After nearly witnessing him ploughing straight through an old woman on a zebra crossing at 40mph, I said "never again".

      2. Justthefacts

        L5

        No. The Uber accident was not caused by “AI”, it was caused by Uber being an unscrupulous taxi operator, and spannering its safety system. Literally, that’s the beginning and end of it, any non-AI taxi operator acting similarly could have done this.

        1) They disabled the *standard* collision avoidance mechanism on that vehicle. Literally cut the wires.

        2) They wrote their algorithm explicitly, that if it could not classify an object it would do *nothing* and leave it to the collision avoidance. The one that they had cut the wires on. And not warn the safety driver.

        3) The sensors *did* observe the object, at a distance of over 100m, which is well beyond what a human would have managed, and with absolutely plenty of time to do something. Even alerting the driver would have been OK, they would have had about 8 seconds.

        4) Instead, they decided precisely that it was *either* a pedestrian or a bike, but couldn’t work out which. So it actively took the decision to do nothing. That is just manslaughter, pure and simple.

        5) Uber actively put in place process to ensure that their driver *couldnt* look at the road. Ther safety driver had to fill out paperwork; Uber knew this meant that they could not watch the road, and initially had a copilot, but then cut out the copilot to save costs. That is also just corporate manslaughter.

        This is not a story about how bad L5 AI is, but how evil and careless Uber specifically were.

        But it also useful to note: the AI sim in the article would have to be told the truth about whether the car itself had special systems. If the sim thinks they are there, and then the corporate bastards cut the wires in reality, we have the same problem. Will the sim simulate - the taxi firm running on MOT fail tyres? Or the wheels having a knock and the tracking being off? Or the cameras not being cleaned as per specified?

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: L5

          No. The Uber accident was not caused by “AI”, it was caused by Uber being an unscrupulous taxi operator, and spannering its safety system. Literally, that’s the beginning and end of it, any non-AI taxi operator acting similarly could have done this.

          Your description of events leaves me thinking that it could only have been a sabotage.

        2. Anonymous Cow Herder

          Re: L5

          No. The Uber accident was not caused by “AI”

          It was bad AI. Though the human contribution is not great

          Your point about Uber cutting wires is incorrect.The standard collision avoidance system is disabled in computer controlled mode as it conflicts with the more sophisticated sensors. It is enabled in human control mode.

          The NTSB write in their preliminary report:

          "The report states data obtained from the self-driving system shows the system first registered radar and LIDAR observations of the pedestrian about six seconds before impact, when the vehicle was traveling 43 mph. As the vehicle and pedestrian paths converged, the self-driving system software classified the pedestrian as an unknown object, as a vehicle, and then as a bicycle with varying expectations of future travel path. At 1.3 seconds before impact, the self-driving system determined that emergency braking was needed to mitigate a collision. According to Uber emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behaviour. The vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action. The system is not designed to alert the operator."

          The cause of the accident seems to be that despite tracking the object for 5 seconds, the AI failed to accurately predict that it would still be in a collision course until it was too late.

          The human failing is in not implementing emergency maneuvers of any kind. It is not realistic to expect the human operator to intervene in an emergency - there simply isn't enough time to assess the situation and act (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1369847814001284). Google has already tested the assumption that the human supervisor will be constantly vigilant and concluded that the assumption is false (http://uk.businessinsider.com/larry-page-google-self-driving-car-autonomous-2016-9?r=US&IR=T).

          When it comes to autonomous vehicles, there is no halfway house. The vehicle has to manage come hell or high-water.

          1. Justthefacts

            Re: L5

            You seem to conclude differently, even though we are basing on the same NTSB report.....

            “The self-driving software classified.....”

            Let’s be clear: the “AI black-box deep learning” stuff is at the lower software layers.

            Above that, a human coder at Uber wrote lines of code that said “if don’t know, do nothing until have figured out where object will be”. Do you think these things aren’t code-reviewed?

            This wasn’t a “bug”, like a classification failure, or pointer exception. It was *the designed behaviour*.

            That *is Manslaughter*. A reasonable approach, and what would be expected of a human driver: “don’t know = take action that will avoid either possibility”; in this case, emergency brake.

            Uber have explained exactly why they didn’t do that, because they *already knew* the classification failure occurred too often in the field and would cause emergency braking too often. The problem is that Uber knew, and disabled the safe behaviour, because they wanted to test.

            *There would be no reason to disable the emergency brake while computer controlled unless they knew that the computer control often put it in dangerous circumstances. You would do it the other way round: low level emergency brake should disable computer control*

            This is *not* a failure of AI, any more than “Company handbook says that Uber drivers shall prioritise speed over human life” is a failure of paper.

            It was company policy to prioritise testing of the classification algorithm over human life. They wrote that down in black and white in their company handbook, which happens to be written in ‘C’ and handed to a computer for execution.

    2. Smooth Newt Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: L5

      My dad gave up driving at 86. Even with today's level of automation I would feel safer with an automated car approaching than one with him at the wheel.

      The market for autonomous level 5 vehicles isn't octagenarians. For the first decade or two it will be taxi and lorry drivers. The incredible cost of the vehicles and their sensors, and probably the insurance policies, will be offset by chucking paid human drivers onto the scrap heap. An autonomous taxi can "save"* the cost four shifts of human taxi driver since they can be used 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

      * "save" in quotes because society as a whole will be paying for their dole and the social consequences of treating human beings as disposable commodities.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: L5

        An autonomous taxi can "save"* the cost four shifts of human taxi driver since they can be used 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

        Yep. The Robots will make 90% of us unemployed and therefore unable to afford the robo-taxi.

        Oh what a conundrum.

        Perhaps it is time for a new Ned Ludd?

    3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: L5

      Until Any level of automation can handle ALL roads in all conditions then sorry they are a big fail.

      I was thinking about this last week while negociating a narrow single tracked road on the Island of Mull.

      The road was very rough and had lots of grass growing out of the middle of it. It was also peppered with all sorts of Animal poo in various states of decomposition.

      How would the L5 system handle crossing of a Ford?

      How would it decided which passing place to stop and give way at?

      Could it stop to let vehicles behind pass?

      Driving requires multi level reasoning. Fuzzy Logic if you like. How does an AI 'expect the unexpected'?

      1. Hooda Thunkett

        Re: L5

        This is the big problem. Until you have Level 5 automation, it's all useless. It's like allowing a student driver to operate the car; you have to be paying close enough attention to take control when the AI doesn't recognize a situation is dangerous. If you're paying that close attention, then why aren't you driving the car?

        1. Davidcrockett

          Re: L5

          I disagree. If you could design an affordable vehicle that could drive itself along easy roads like motorways sales reps, the freight industry and pretty much anyone who frequently drove long distances would be queing up to buy one.

          1. Filippo

            Re: L5

            Indeed. If I could get a car that can drive itself unsupervised on a motorway, I'd buy it in a flash, even if it doesn't drive itself in a town centre or rural road. Unfortunately, I suspect that even that degree of automation is pretty far away.

            There are plenty of cars that can drive themselves on a motorway even now, but none of them can be trusted to do so without a human driver ready to take the wheel within a few seconds. That degree of autonomousness is useless to me, because I can't safely do anything else with that time anyway, so I might as well be driving.

      2. Justthefacts

        Re: L5

        Why? Most human drivers can’t.....

        For example, I haven’t forded either, and neither have most drivers. If we are wise, we would probably turn back if we saw that. Likely, that is what an L5 would do, as it would simply categorise the road as blocked.

        I’m comfortable on single track country roads and passing places.....but most London drivers will likely cause an accident if given the passing place problem.

        Unless you have a very wide range driving experience, you yourself would probably fail badly (possibly fatally) at one of - London right turns, driving on snow tyres in Scandi winters, Bangalore traffic

        1. Time Waster

          Re: L5

          Whilst no doubt this is true. Any L5 system on sale cannot simply refuse to drive down particular roads or in certain conditions. What if I buy this vehicle and live down such a road? Or jump in a taxi and it starts snowing? Or live in Bangalore?

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: L5

            "What if I buy this vehicle and live down such a road? Or jump in a taxi and it starts snowing? Or live in Bangalore?"

            1) You are a muppet. You'll have to garage the vehicle somewhere else.

            2) Tough. You'll have to get out and walk, or stay put until a different taxi comes along to rescue you. (In practice, this is no different from a break-down in a normal taxi.)

            3) You are a muppet. Not for living in Bangalore, which I'm sure is lovely, but for buying an expensive toy that you can't use. It's about as smart as living in Abu Dhabi and building a ski resort.

            I take the general point that the thing has to be 100% safe, but that doesn't mean it has to be capable of handling anything you throw at it. It just needs to be able to recognise when it is out of its comfort zone and refuse to go any further.

          2. Justthefacts

            Re: L5

            If you live down such a road, then don’t buy it....

            You will be in the 1% for whom this is the wrong car. For the other 99%, it’s great.

            For example, my friend bought a BMW (rear wheel drive) lives up a hill that is a snow hazard. She is a good driver by the way, but finds that hill lethal in the snow. She decided she bought the wrong car, and changed to a 4x4.

            Of *course* L5s can refuse to drive in dangerous circumstances. During the Beast from the East, half my friends stayed home. They *could* have made it with a lot of frayed nerves, but really would that have been a good idea.

            Yes, there are people who *must* drive in those conditions. They are in the minority.

        2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: L5

          "Why? Most human drivers can’t....."

          And every winter there are days when "Police advise drivers not to travel unless they really have to." which is a nice way of saying "Please don't add to the number of emergency call-outs that we have to deal with, you selfish muppet.".

        3. Smooth Newt Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: L5

          I’m comfortable on single track country roads and passing places.....but most London drivers will likely cause an accident if given the passing place problem.

          I don't know if you have visited London recently, but there are plenty of narrow streets with cars parked down both sides so that the space in the middle is far less than two car widths wide.

          But more to the point, human beings are very mentally adaptable. That isn't really true of AI, which can make very circumscribed judgements within tightly defined problem domains and based on previous training, but lacks any proper understanding of anything.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: L5

            If you could design an affordable vehicle that could drive itself along easy roads like motorways

            That's my car. It does it very well, but I am required to monitor it and I find concentrating on what it is doing much more tiring and boring than actually driving, so I switch off the lane system. I still have forward emergency braking enabled though I've never allowed it to kick in, and the adaptive cruise control is a absolute dream and I would not like to go back to a car without it.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: L5

          I've ridden in cars that were driven through a ford. (Shilton)

          There are things called maps and something call a "road sign" that tell you that there's a ford ahead.

          The additional challenge is determining water depth, which is something that autonomous cars will have to handle anyway for many areas that can be flooded in heavy rain.

      3. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: L5

        @Steve Davies 3 - "How would the L5 system handle crossing of a Ford?"

        I would hope it would handle it exactly the same way as crossing of a Chrysler.

        Icon - obviously.

      4. Ken 16 Silver badge
        Coat

        crossing of a Ford

        Contina, Sierra or Transit?

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: L5

        Until Any level of automation can handle ALL roads in all conditions then sorry they are a big fail.

        Well, in the USA, I would pay a bit extra for a vehicle that, once I got onto the interstate, (I think you left-pondians call them restricted access roads?) would handle speed, staying in the correct lane, and slowing/stopping for traffic as needed to maintain safety, then beeped me to say "your exit is approaching". Then, I could disengage auto, and take back the control. Would make the long USA commutes much safer. I am not asking it to go "off-road", as your example seems to be very close to, even if you call it a road.

    4. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Re: L5

      "Even with today's level of automation I would feel safer with an automated car approaching than one with him at the wheel."

      I want to die in my sleep like my Granddad - not screaming in terror like his passengers.

      1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

        Re: L5

        And I wonder if we'd be so quick to cut down trees if they screamed? I think we might if they screamed ALL. THE. TIME. FOR. NO. GOOD. REASON.

  2. Steve Medway

    Lets have a bit of honesty when it comes to discussing level 5 automation.

    Level 5 doesn't even come close to cutting it in the real world. It's not five or even ten years away but literally decades before any car can drive itself around Cairo or the arc de triomphe.

    Who really gives two hoots about a leafy Oxfordshire simulator?

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      "but literally decades before any car can drive itself around Cairo or the arc de triomphe"

      A lot of people can't actually manage to do those things in a safe manner without putting others into danger. At least AVs would not be influenced by emotions, stress or fatique, thereby creating a safer environment..

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        At least AVs would not be influenced by emotions, stress or fatique, thereby creating a safer environment.

        You're assuming that AI doesn't also bring downsides equivalent or greater to than the more obvious human failings.

        1. Khaptain Silver badge

          "You're assuming that AI doesn't also bring downsides equivalent or greater to than the more obvious human failings."

          The difference being the AI will improve and retain it's "intelligence".

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            >The difference being the AI will improve and retain it's "intelligence".

            Well given we aren't using true AI in cars, it won't improve unless it gets regularly updated like Win10. The only retained "intelligence" I suggest will be the owner specific such as routes used at particular times of day, driving style preferences, fuel/recharging stop preferences etc. which are probably covered by GDPR and are things an owner would like to transfer between vehicles.

      2. Alister Silver badge

        A lot of people can't actually manage to do those things in a safe manner without putting others into danger.

        The overwhelming majority of human drivers manage to drive safely most of the time.

        AV advocates seem to delight in painting human drivers as dangerous and unsafe, compared to their chosen deus in machina, but the evidence so far is that none of the current crop of AVs are as safe as the average human.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          AV advocates seem to delight in painting human drivers as dangerous and unsafe, compared to their chosen deus in machina, but the evidence so far is that none of the current crop of AVs are as safe as the average human.

          And won't be for some time.

          And when I hear self-driving, I want to see actual SELF-DRIVING. Like this: Terminator 2 Truck Chase Scene

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
            Joke

            @ Destroy All Monsters - "I want to see actual SELF-DRIVING. Like this: Terminator 2 Truck Chase Scene"

            1) Driving in a restricted area without authorisation

            2) 00:07 collision with a stationary obstruction (car wreck)

            3) 00:22 not giving way when crossing a road resulting in near-collision, causing other road users to sound horn

            4) 00:27 collision with stationary obstruction (shopping trolley)

            5) 00:28 collision with stationary obstruction (wall)

            6) 00:33 collision with stationary obstruction (bridge)

            7) 00:39 throwing an object (broken windscreen) from a moving vehicle

            8) 00:44 collision with a moving vehicle (motorcycle)

            9) 00:51 driving without working brakes

            10) 01:08 collision with stationary obstruction (wall)

            11) 01:11 collision with stationary obstruction (other wall)

            12) 01:14 collision with stationary obstruction (first wall, again)

            13) 01:15 loading/unloading passenger when the vehicle is not stationary

            14) 01:18 collision with vehicle (motorcycle)

            15) 01:29 collision with stationary obstruction (bridge)

            16) failure to report an accident to the police

            I probably missed a few...

            1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
              Trollface

              I probably missed a few...

              As they say:

              "Problem, Officer?"

        2. Justthefacts

          Evidence?

          “None of the current crop of AVs”

          Google cars have currently driven 120million miles with zero fatalities, zero serious injuries,and a handful of fender benders.

          That is definitely better than human average for fender benders, definitely better than human average for serious injuries (by a factor of several), and no worse than human average for fatalities.

          It is not yet as good as a *good,experienced* driver. And it will be as good, when it has sufficient miles under wheels. Which is exactly the same as we say for the 17 year olds when they pass their tests, and we all shut our eyes and wish them good luck. Remember, it takes *ten years* of development to get a 17 year old to be as safe as a 27 year old!

          I think it’s the “human driving advocates” who are cherry-picking AV incidents and pointing them as unsafe.

          1. Alister Silver badge

            Re: Evidence?

            Google cars have currently driven 120million miles with zero fatalities, zero serious injuries,and a handful of fender benders.

            Maybe collectively they've managed to accumulate that number of miles, although I doubt it, but each individual car can't possibly have accrued that much.

            That is definitely better than human average for fender benders, definitely better than human average for serious injuries (by a factor of several), and no worse than human average for fatalities.

            Again, average cumulative statistics make a nonsense of this argument.

            There are millions of drivers around the world who have each driven for years and years without ever being involved in an accident. The statistics are slewed by the small minority of drivers who are incompetent or reckless. In contrast, there are a vanishingly small number of Google AVs and yet they have managed between them to accrue an impressive collection of bumps.

            Until an individual AV can match the record of an individual, competent human, then a fair comparison cannot be made. And this will obviously take a long time.

          2. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

            Re: Evidence?

            @Justthefacts: "Google cars have currently driven 120million miles..."

            Citation needed. I got interested and checked (took me a few minutes). Waymo (Alphabet's autonomous vehicle arm that grew out of the X Lab project) reported 5M miles driven on public roads by February 2018. This is since October 2015, which on average means 2.5M miles/yr (if we assume that in the first few months there was a ramp-up from zero then we'll just count Feb 2016 through Feb 2018, OK for order of magnitude estimates?).

            As a baseline for comparison, there are more than 250M registered car in the US (mostly passenger cars) driving on average 15K miles/yr. This is 1.5 MILLION times more miles per year than the whole of "Google's fleet". There are 6.3M road-accident related claims per year involving something like 12M vehicles (the numbers are from 2015-2016 and seem to be broadly consistent with each other). So, let's take 6.3M as a proxy for the number of accidents per year, including everything from fatalities to fender-benders, regardless of whose fault it is. To claim better safety, Google/Waymo must show less than 4.2 accidents/yr.

            I found out that useful stats on Waymo accidents is not easy to unearth. E.g., Waymo's own "safety report" does not have the numbers, just the details on how hard they work on it. However, it is waaay higher than 4.2/yr. The graph here (some aspects look problematic, but it was easy to found) indicates something like 600-700 crashes per 100M miles (~30 over the 5M miles actually driven - seems correct as there certainly have been a few dozen reports) rather than ~168 (per 100M miles) that would put Waymo on a par with humans on average. The graph illustrates that the only two categories of drivers who are worse than Waymo are youngsters and very elderly (something that you point out, too, but then letting youngsters drive is the only way to make them safe drivers).

            This, by the way, does not take into account at all how many accidents have been avoided by mandatory humans taking control.

            So, for my money any claims that Waymo (in this case - and they seem to be the best in class, far ahead of competition) are already safer than humans are not confirmed at any level beyond handwaving. Statements like "94% of accidents are due to human error" are, by the way, pure handwaving: there is no one else in today's normal car who makes complex decisions, so the number is meaningless, apart from "car components don't break down and cause accidents often".

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

          3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Evidence?

            "Remember, it takes *ten years* of development to get a 17 year old to be as safe as a 27 year old!"

            Actually, no, unless the development you are talking about is a stabilisation of hormones. Try getting two insurance quotes for "just past my test", one for a 17yo and the other for a 27yo. Compare the prices. *That's* what the actuarial evidence has to say about the 10 years of development.

          4. Mike 137

            Re: Evidence?

            If you want evidence of what is required for confidence in this technology being safe, see the US Consumer Watchdog report. I quote: 'Google/Waymo claims that its computer-controlled vehicles have logged 300 years of human driving experience. But the testing that would be required in order to match the safety tolerance of commercial airplanes is estimated at over one hundred millennia. A lower level of safety – “a level of 80 percent confidence that the robotic vehicle is 90 percent safer than human drivers on the road,” would still require 11 billion miles of testing (or about 5,000 years), according to researchers at the University of Michigan'.

          5. Loud Speaker Bronze badge

            Re: Evidence?

            Google cars have currently driven 120million miles with zero fatalities,

            Obviously, none of them in Lagos.

        3. John Miles

          Re: The overwhelming majority of human drivers manage to drive safely most of the time.

          They manage to avoid having an accident - I am not sure I'd count that as being same thing as safely - Nothing is without risk, so safe is a relative term but a lot of drivers push the risks higher than they need to be for very little, if any, gain.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      >Who really gives two hoots about a leafy Oxfordshire simulator?

      My first thoughts on reading about the "32km of Oxfordshire roads." was the US vehicle emissions testing regulations and the VW test defeat code...

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge
        Joke

        32Km of oxfordshire - Would that be..

        The A34 between the junctions for Botley & Didcot?

        I'm sure it's capable of providing all possible traffic sitiuations known to mankind.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "but literally decades before any car can drive itself around Cairo or the arc de triomphe."

      Those are trivially simple places to drive around. They are not algorithmically difficult, and could be navigated successfully by surprising simple algorithms back in the 80's. The fact that they get mentioned as examples shows the deep level of misunderstanding about what is hard. Yes they are challenging for people who aren't good at keeping track of half a dozen moving objects but not for autonomous cars. In fact they are easy as only the cars in close proximity are relevant. The difficultly is not physically controlling the car in a busy environment, it's about recognizing what the static and moving objects are and what they are doing how they are responding to your motion and if they will encroach on the future path of the car. A sparse but varied environment can prove much harder.

      1. Dabbb
        Stop

        "Those are trivially simple places to drive around."

        They won't be trivial for an AV once humans understand how AV reacts to someone aggressively changing line 10 cm in front of it. If AV will have to slow down it's doomed, it'll be sitting stationary there literally forever. If it's programmed to be as aggressive as drivers around, it will eventually kill someone.

        1. Baldrickk Silver badge

          re: Evidence

          And how many incidents that the waymo vehicles have been involved in were caused by human drivers?

  3. Khaptain Silver badge

    Mundanity

    Outside of drving a sports car on a circuit, or a good 4*4 in the desert etc I can't think of anything more mundane than driving..

    Personally I wish that AVs would arrive tommorrow on a large scale. The less meatbags that are behind the wheel the better.

    I would hazard a guess that most accidents, and therefore road jams etc are caused by meatbags making bad decisions. And since driving laws are becoming more drastic, speed cams, speed bumps, radar, red light cams etc it's making less sense to actually drive ourselves..

    There was a time when owning a car gave us a sense of freedom, nowadays it's almost a constraint..

    Vive the coming of the AV..

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Mundanity

      The stupid thing is, once AVs rule the road, they will need less intelligence, because they would communicate with each other on who has priority and they wouldn't have to deal with meatheads in meatbags.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Mundanity

        Pedestrians will still exist. I imagine there will still be cyclists as well.

        1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

          Re: Mundanity

          And children. Lots and lots of uncooperative, incomprehensible, children.

          1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

            Children

            What will be even worse will be children inside the cars, changing, or at least trying to change, whatever they can and pressing whatever buttons they can. Should they finally manage to make the cars actually *do* something, they'll enjoy these moving toys even more.

        2. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

          Re: Mundanity

          Pedestrians will still exist. I imagine there will still be cyclists as well.

          Pshaw! Not for much longer!

        3. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Mundanity

          Pedestrians will still exist. I imagine there will still be cyclists as well.

          I said they need less intelligence, not that they will be dumb. Monitoring pedestrians, and cyclists and other cars, which are often not following the rules of the road all add exponetial levels of complexity into the software.

          Cutting out non-self-driving cars from the equation, where all other cars on the road are following predictable patterns and informing each other of what they are doing, requires a lot less complexity in the software, which means it should also be more reliable. Of course it will still have to take into account pedestrians and cyclists, but that is a much more minor problem to handle.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Mundanity

      I would hazard a guess that most accidents, and therefore road jams etc are caused by meatbags making bad decisions.

      You seem to be good in empty truths. Evidently someone has made a "bad decision" if there are problems on the road, unless the car self-combusts.

      And since driving laws are becoming more drastic, speed cams, speed bumps, radar, red light cams etc it's making less sense to actually drive ourselves..

      Make no mistake. Anarcho-tyranny WILL be getting worse. If you think a self-driving car will result in a reduction in your "fine budget", be ready to learn otherwise.

      1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

        Re: Mundanity

        RE: "Anarcho-tyranny "

        Oh, there you go with your paleoconservatism again, you rascal, you. Off outside with you, and play nicely with your chums. No more petards! You hear?

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "It's a synthetic digital model of the real world,"

    Oh great. That's going to be useful for really troughing it up hammering out the bugs in self-driving car code.

    Somehow, I seriously doubt that a virtual world is any use for testing such code. Unless they have included absent or faded signalisation, cluttered roads, and sunlight and weather issues ? I'm guessing not. This is going to be a simulation of everything works fine all the time.

    Any car system that gets approved with this simulator is going to have the Approved for Perfect Road Conditions award. Big deal.

    1. Nolveys Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: "It's a synthetic digital model of the real world,"

      Any car system that gets approved with this simulator is going to have the Approved for Perfect Road Conditions award. Big deal.

      Actually, it looks like the simulator will be quite extensive. Some of the mockups that have been provided by government officials look very impressive:

      Mockup 1

      Mockup 2

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: "It's a synthetic digital model of the real world,"

        Despite humanity's inability to handle a lot of simple stuff, there are some things that are done really well. One of those is aircraft safety. I can conceive a similar approach to autonomous vehicle safety wherein every significant accident involving an autonomous vehicle is analyzed, responsibility assigned, fixes implemented, and the accident simulator suites updated to include an emulation of the situation that caused the accident.

        Not that I'd bet that will actually happen.

        1. Pete4000uk

          Re: "It's a synthetic digital model of the real world,"

          I can't see Uber wanting that kind of cost.

        2. Disk0

          Re: "aircraft safety"

          It doesn't hurt that there is a wee bit more room in the airspace, than on the road. Aircraft do not have to autonomously navigate traffic with the type of density seen on motorways. Also, a minor collission between two road vehicles, or even a rollover in one, is totally survivable, however most aircraft are not built to withstand a similar impact without severe consequences for all on board.

          I do agree with using real world data in simluators to find causes of accidents and imrpove safety.

      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: mockups

        Needs to be approved by The Committee to find impressive things for the Minister to stand in front of at photo ops first, but I think we're on to a winner here.

    2. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: "It's a synthetic digital model of the real world,"

      When I'm a pedestrian or cyclist, do I get three lives then another go?

  5. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    stated mission to make the UK the world's leading destination for testing autonomous vehicles.

    As a pedestrian and road user, that sentence reads to me in the same way as saying that Easter Island was a leading destination for testing nuclear weapons.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      I think you mean either Christmas Island or Bikini Atoll.

      But I get your point. What puzzles me is who is daft enough other than Claire Perry to believe that the global CAV testing market will be worth £907bn by 2035? That's about 100 times greater than current global automotive R&D by all makers on all continents, across all aspects of production, materials, homologation, drive train, body shell, controls, sensors and the rest.

      This is the outcome of letting Geography graduates do any job other that of librarian - and we've the same problem with the Prime Minister..

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        I think you mean either Christmas Island or Bikini Atoll.

        I did indeed - I was getting my religious holidays confused. Sorry - I'm in that Friday zone between "not enough coffee" and "might as well just start on beer"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "I think you mean either Christmas Island …… "

          Yes that is a more suitable venue than Easter Island. If you were unsure you could always split the difference and go for "August Bank Holiday" island, though as it was only discovered on October 8th 1971 it wasn't know about until after the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty had been signed.

      2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        What puzzles me is who is daft enough other than Claire Perry to believe that the global CAV testing market will be worth £907bn by 2035?

        It depends. If that figure includes indirect value then it's probably about right....£7bn for direct CAV testing, and £900bn for products and services associated with crash damage repair.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          and £900bn for products and services associated with crash damage repair.

          That figure seems a little on the small side if you're including lawyers amongst the services.

        2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

          [...] £900bn for products and services associated with crash damage repair [...]

          I thought one of the big selling points of AVs was that they don't crash (as much), thereby severely reducing the market for crash damage repair.

  6. big_D Silver badge
    Coat

    Roll Out...

    But won't that mean, after testing in the UK, that all these self driving cars will be causing accidents elsewhere, because they drive on the wrong side of the road? :-D

    Mine's the one with the old fashioned keys in the pocket.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Not quite all of elsewhere, apparently...

      As shown on this map, there are several other places that do it "our" way as well:

      https://www.aceable.com/blog/countries-that-drive-on-the-left-side-of-the-road/

      1. big_D Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Not quite all of elsewhere, apparently...

        Yes, but nowhere important. ;-)

        1. Def Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Not quite all of elsewhere, apparently...

          Yes, but nowhere important.

          Is that the aim of Brexit then? To make the UK as important as everywhere else that drives on the left.

    2. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Roll Out...

      If I recall correctly, there are more countries drive on the correct side, just that they are all very very small ones in comparison.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Roll Out...

        If you mean 'driving on the left' then what about

        India

        and

        Japan

        Not really small/sparsely populated AFAIK.

  7. Alan J. Wylie Silver badge

    and crucially, road intersections

    Who would have thought, 35 years ago, that all the work that a Ph.D. student from Oxford, my colleagues and I were doing programming a Laser-Scan Fastrak in Fortran on a VAX 11/780 to recognize the junctions on Ordnance Survey 1:1250 maps would lead to this?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      "What has Science Done!"

    2. BrownishMonstr

      That's the great thing about inventions, you accomplish something for the mere joy, to prove a theory, or to solve some issue. Then someone out there realises it could be used in a totally/slightly different scenario with amazing benefits.

      The feck up is statistically speaking the person the idea belongs to probably don't have the opportunity to make the idea come into fruition.

  8. davenewman

    Tested in reality before the simulator

    Oxbotica has tested self-driving cars all around Oxfordshire already - on the roads. The simulator just lets other companies do their testing more cheaply.

  9. tiggity Silver badge

    Does it include

    Millions of potholes and no or very faded and mostly obliterated white lines / junction markings etc?

    .. many roads near me

    Road through area of fields with hedges at either side, through which 2 sheep had found a route through and scampered across the road?

    .. an "interesting" driving encounter I had this morning - lamb / mutton is not on the menu tonight as I did not hit them

    Cars on roundabouts using right indicator when they are going left (and vise versa), or not indicating at all but turning off?

    .. almost every roundabout, every day, I sometimes wonder how many people can actually tell left from right or if they just randomly flick their indicator (or always avoid it in some cases)

    Does it include kids playing "dare" games where they run in front of the car and force you to brake?

    .. a nearby housing estate to me.

    Does it simulate horses and the erratic movement they show if cars pass too close / too fast?

    .. I treat horses with care, but lots of road users are clueless and have seen horses rear up when frightened by clueless drivers (live in area with lots of horse riders)

    Does it include pubs and people hovering near pavement?

    .. yesterdays fun when 2 women on pavement outside the pub chatting and then walk across road without looking - fortunately I had slowed down as soon as I saw them so braked.

    I would love an "AI" car as driving is very stressful, but reckon it will be a long time before AI can deal with daily "unexpected" events on the roads

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Does it include

      If you can enumerate those things then I expect so can someone paid to do so. So yes, it will include them, and many more. It needs to learn principles, not situations. Principles such as "people, animals and vehicles all have the capacity to do something silly, so anticipate". And "where there is no clear line of sight, something might emerge".

      Having worked with and on simulations for UK government clients, I would see this as largely an irrelevance. It won't damage the AI, but neither will it do much to help it that the Industry hasn't been doing much better for years already. Though it might become a box to tick in the red tape.

      I guess the most positive precedents are things like the simulators used in pilot training. The pilot doesn't go straight from the simulator to being in charge of something critical: it's just one stage of training.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Does it include

        "I guess the most positive precedents are things like the simulators used in pilot training. The pilot doesn't go straight from the simulator to being in charge of something critical: it's just one stage of training."

        With aircraft, the issues have mostly to do with the plane itself or weather conditions. It's very rare that you have to worry about a couple of drunk chicks stepping out into the road without looking. You also aren't going to brake or swerve for animals (birds). In essence, flying an airplane is much simpler although the hardware is more complex.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Does it include

          It's very rare that you have to worry about a couple of drunk chicks stepping out into the road without looking.

          This has happened to me, in fact a lady stepped into the road, then woke up and stepped back, but my car was already braking before I could press the brake pedal (even though I was covering it anyway) and it stopped well short of where I could have done with reaction times. Impressive tech and already well established.

        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Does it include

          "I guess the most positive precedents are things like the simulators used in pilot training. The pilot doesn't go straight from the simulator to being in charge of something critical: it's just one stage of training."

          Simulators in pilot training are more for familiarisation with type and to practice and examination in unusual emergencies. Ab initio training is done is small real aircraft, though early instrument flying training benefits from practice with simulation.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Does it include

        "If you can enumerate those things then I expect so can someone paid to do so."

        The essence of enumerating things like those is that there's always another one to be added to the list. Another is that they have a complexity that introduces other things to be enumerated such as the possibility that pedestrian crossing the road will suddenly decides to turn back, the cyclists travelling line astern who suddenly change configuration to line abreast.

        Each item also complicates the task of the AV. It can recognise a human and allow for a set possible actions. Can it also recognise a sheep? Can it still recognise the sheep when it's not standing on the ground but on top of a wall at the side of the road? If it can recognise the sheep standing on the wall can it work out that it's about to jump and can it recognise which end is which so it can recognise whether it's going to jump into the road?

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Does it include

          "The essence of enumerating things like those is that there's always another one to be added to the list."

          Here is one more that I didn't see mentioned in the article: a sensor that is working but delivering an entirely bogus, yet sane, safe value, with enough noise that you'd reckon it was ok.

          Anyone who has attached real hardware to a computer at some point knows how common this is. Anyone who has read comp.risks (or similar) knows how commonly this isn't handled well in software.

          1. Mike 137

            Re: Does it include

            also the random interaction of ultimately dozens plus of lidars, radars and whatever pinging away independently. There's either going to be a huge bandwidth need or we're going to get interference, and that could do a lot of interesting things to the vehicle's appreciation of what's happening round it.

            So far we seem only to have run these vehicles individually one at a time among dumb vehicles. Put a hundred or so 'autonomous' cars on the six roads leading into the Plough roundabout in Hemel Hempstead UK among conventional traffic in the rush hour and let's see the outcome.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Does it include

      "2 women on pavement outside the pub chatting"

      On the pavement? You were lucky. The pub at the end of our road has a fairly narrow pavement. The drinkers just occupy the whole road. There's often a car parked at the stop line of the road junction. I've even come across a photographer in the middle of the road taking pictures of a wedding party.

      The tables to the side of the pub? Totally ignored.

    3. Anonymous Cow Herder

      Re: Does it include

      Does it include:

      Millions of potholes and no or very faded and mostly obliterated white lines / junction markings etc?

      They did say Oxfordshire, so the answer must be yes.

  10. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Why city planners love autonomous vehicles

    … it means they won't have to devote as much space to car-parking. Think-tanks and research organisations are already pushing to make car parking much more expensive, which is currently heavily subsidised. Over time this will save lots of resources and significantly change the design of cities.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Why city planners love autonomous vehicles

      … it means they won't have to devote as much space to car-parking. (etc)

      Oh dear; think of all the things that people leave in their cars because they might or will need them later. (Example: an umbrella) If the car is going to bugger off all on its own, probably to be used by someone else, everything an individual takes will have to be unloaded and reloaded later into possibly a different vehicle.

      Anyone thinking that AVs are going to be the dawn of a New Utopia hasn't really thought about it all that much, if at all.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Why city planners love autonomous vehicles

        Anyone thinking that AVs are going to be the dawn of a New Utopia hasn't really thought about it all that much, if at all.

        No Utopia, but definitely on the horizon and no need to shoot the messenger.

        Along with insurance premiums, car parking charges are one of the ways that people will be encouraged not to use their own car in towns. Not that I think that your strawman is up to much: either people learn to take everything they need with them or they pay extra for the privilege. Fewer car parking spaces means more for living, which either means higher densities and potentially lower rents.

        1. Commswonk Silver badge

          Re: Why city planners love autonomous vehicles

          Fewer car parking spaces means more for living, which either means higher densities and potentially lower rents.

          Still a flawed case, I fear. If we start with the assumption that people will still travel to work by car (now "autonomous") because - if nothing else - the rail transport system is incapable of providing sufficient additional space then if there is no local parking the cars will have to take themselves to some location that isn't local.

          Where exactly? We now have a situation whereby a vehicle has to travel empty perhaps almost as far as it travelled with its passenger(s) which is hopelessly inefficient in fuel usage (the vehicle will need more charging than it would have done if it had parked close to its daytime destination) and will actually add to congestion, not reduce it. At least at the moment commuter cars are out of the way once they are at their destination; take away the daytime parking and they will have to remain on the road, which doesn't look all that sensible.

          The solution to a problem must not involve creating an even bigger one, and IMHO your "solution" would do just that.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Why city planners love autonomous vehicles

            "At least at the moment commuter cars are out of the way once they are at their destination; take away the daytime parking and they will have to remain on the road, which doesn't look all that sensible."

            The standard answer to that is that the commuters won't own their cars, the car that brought the commuter will go off and carry someone else. That's a solution that ignores the fact that commuting takes place at restricted times of the day. If the number of AVs is restricted to the number that are going to find post-rush hour passengers there won't be enough to carry all the commuters.

          2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: Why city planners love autonomous vehicles

            At least at the moment commuter cars are out of the way once they are at their destination

            This is an oxymoron: they are just in the way somewhere else: companies spend a considerable amount providing parking spaces for their employees. The economics of higher use of vehicles, plus less space set aside for vehicles doing nothing are compelling.

            But it's not a binary solution: the economics will encourage some people to swap car ownership for mobility subscriptions (this is happening already among younger people in some places); others will pay more for the privilege (always a premium) to retain their own vehicle, which over time will be autonomous.

            On a side note, on my way to a record number of downvotes! :-D

        2. Wellyboot Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Why city planners love autonomous vehicles

          City planners - At what point in history did they ever get the long term planning correct?

          Rental AI cars: After a few weeks of use will turn up stinking of old takeaways, filled with detritus and having suspect damp patches on the seats because unlike a taxi theres nobody stopping it from happening or cleaning it afterwards.

          Having your own AI car: It disappearing off to find a parking space will only work if the car parks are cheaper than just orbiting the area. Orbiting will quickly increase traffic levels to gridlock point in any city.

          Maintenance of AI cars: How will they take themselves off for repair after a water filled pothole has rearranged the front suspension while it was looking for a parking space.

          This is a completely new transport paradigm, it just happens to have a superficial resemblance to the existing systems. Fitting it into our cities will take decades and a large body count just like adding rail and cars did.

          I'm glad I live just far enough out in the sticks to avoid all this & still get decent VDSL.

        3. James O'Shea Silver badge

          Re: Why city planners love autonomous vehicles

          If the town planners decide to discourage me from using my car in their town, the result will be that I don't go to their town. And I don't spend money in the shops, restaurants, etc., in their town. And their tax base erodes, because I won't be alone in not spending money where I'm not wanted. They'll get their desired lower congestion, alright; they just won't like the side effects. I see that kind of thing in action right now; those who live in Deepest South Florida may have heard of how the town of Jupiter has been doing this kind of thing over the last few years, with negative effects on the businesses inside the Zone of Social Progress(tm). Several of the more Progressive(tm) council members are up for re-election this year and next year. The results of the election should be quite interesting.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Why city planners love autonomous vehicles

            "If the town planners decide to discourage me from using my car in their town, the result will be that I don't go to their town."

            Those in my local town have already done this.

            As an additional feature the parking vultures who have taken charge of the out-of-town centres are also discouraging people from visiting their bait the shops there. Thank goodness for Amazon.

        4. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Why city planners love autonomous vehicles

          >Fewer car parking spaces means more for living, which either means higher densities and potentially lower rents.

          Dream on! :)

          Fewer car parking spaces means higher density development and higher rents, which leaves little room for cars. I suggest you live in Tokyo for a while to get the picture.

          Interestingly, A quick look on Google streetview of the neighbourhood I frequented back in the early 1990's, shows that even the bicycle park at the metro station has been built on, so it would seem even bicycle usage is falling or being discouraged.

        5. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Why city planners love autonomous vehicles

          "either people learn to take everything they need with them or they pay extra for the privilege. Fewer car parking spaces means more for living, which either means higher densities and potentially lower rents."

          At some point, the rational density of an area is overshot. This is exacerbated by the notion that all business has to start and end at specific times. Visit the financial district in London during the day and then at 9pm on a week night. In this day and age with so many options for communication, it's unnecessary for workers to all have to be in one big office. It can save a large company fantastic sums of money to locate business unit groups where it does make sense to have staff in one location somewhere with lower rents. I'd much rather be working in a small engineering office in the Lake District than on the 18th floor of some high rise in the middle of London or Manchester. Nearly all of my work is done on the computer except for some preliminary sketches so it's available to others anywhere in the world if the company likes. I can always call HR if I need something, but it's not really any help to have them in the same building. In fact, I could likely ring them up faster than I could hike a couple of floors to their offices so it's no big deal if they are 300m away or half across the country.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Why city planners love autonomous vehicles

      I've got a kit in the boot with water, a change of clothes, a rain jacket (ok, a big plastic bag), sunscreen lotion and the Boy Scout Ten Essentials, plus the 11th essential, toilet paper. I don't want to have to take that backpack with me everywhere I go, but I do want it moderately close by in case. I also have a small tool kit and common spare parts such as a fan belt and oil. An AV should be more reliable since it will be a BEV, but that doesn't mean that a bit of bailing wire and a roll of duct tape will never be needed.

      I've also taken people to hospital in a hurry after a workplace accident and I shudder to think what the delay might have been if we had to wait for an ambulance or for an AV car to show up.

  11. JohnFen Silver badge

    Time and place

    Using a simulator for testing is a wonderful idea. However, it is insufficient -- passing tests in a simulator would qualify the AV software as an alpha release candidate at best. It could reduce costs during the final stages of development, but you still would need to certify its operation in actual real-world environments.

  12. AS1
    Coat

    If I wanted an autonomous vehicle

    I'd buy a horse. They've worked just fine for the last 5,000 years.

    Mine's the one with a shovel in the pocket.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Horse Drawn

      There are many accounts of incidents in the 19th/18th century where horse-drawn carts and gigs had made their way home with an incapacitated (drunk or in a laudanum sleep) driver. These self driving vehicles are not new!

  13. Mystereed
    Joke

    Wile E. Coyote included?

    Will they be able to test what happens if someone paints a curving central road line up to a painted-on tunnel entrance on a brick wall?

    The correct result should be that Road Runners can pass straight through the wall, but coyotes must either be splatted against the bricks or be run over by a truck coming through the fake tunnel.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Wile E. Coyote included?

      That's serious "Tex Adversial Learning"

  14. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "...a synthetic digital model of the real world..."

    Famously, "A.I. is hard." ...especially outdoors.

    A synthetic digital model of the real world is not the same as the real world.

    This 'synthetic digital model ' approach may assist with making some progress on the merely-hard aspects of A.I., but it has nothing to do with the inherently unpredictable nature of, er..., nature.

    The utter naiveté of the A.I. boffins is startling. Is there anyone over age 50 working on it?

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: "...a synthetic digital model of the real world..."

      Yes, first you have your AI driving system, with it's algorithms and coding that bear some of the preferences and prejudices of the people and organization that created it. Then you are going to test that AI with those potential flaws and eccentricities in a simulator, which will have still more assumptions/preferences/prejudices from it's band of developers.

      Considering we are talking about AI that is going to control a 2,000 or 3,000 or maybe 10,000 pound piece of machinery that is moving down the road at speed, I foresee an unacceptably high potential for GIGO-related accidents.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Andrew Ng @Google?

    "Google AI evangelist Andrew Ng wrote in 2016"

    I think you'll find that in 2016 that was Baidu cheif scientist as it had been for a while. Being good at AI as he is, he saw how evil Google were in 2012 and pressed eject when the model couldn't find a good outcome :)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Ng#Career

  16. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Remember those TomTom's with personalised voices?

    Will the vendor of the vehicle give choices as to the personality of the AI driving it?

    Lewis Hamilton anyone? What about Jeremy Clarkson? Linus Torvalds? Steve Ballmer?

    If the learn switch is flicked to "on" what would be your reaction to hiring a car that had acquired an Elon Musk personality?

  17. BrownishMonstr

    AV will change history. People will no longer own cars but instead pods. AV cars will come to pick up the pod with the human sitting comfortably inside. The taxi will then take the pod and human occupants to the train railway station. There it will be part of an underground electromagnetic tunnel train which will potentially allow pods to travel faster and with little traffic jams, keeping overground roads free. The train will take the pod to its destination, such as an airport that will place the pod in the aeroplane. After a long and thoughtful whatchamacallit (~3s) the AV plane decides to fly into the sun, where trucks decide to kill humans and helicopters deciding to be their saviour. But at least we don't have to drive.

    p.s. Sorry to the chap whose future patent is now ruined.

  18. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Software isn't hardware

    Software simulation is a good way to weed out the most egregious bugs, but tacking on "AI" and thinking that it is perfect is a recipe for bad things.

    When I was working on rockets, we started with software sims, progressed to a "hardware in the loop" mock up and then sub-system (engines, etc), full up hardware on the ground (or held down) and then actual launches (and returns. I was working on that long before SpaceX).

    There are too many variables to rely on just one tool as gospel. Real hardware has tolerances just like an ideal op-amp used as a stand in when designing an audio circuit doesn't predict the real work performance of something out of the Analog Devices catalog.

    There should be a Potemkin village qualifying course that AV's must pass that contains lots of random real world scenarios. Is an AV going to panic stop and roll if a tumbleweed is blown across the road? How about a ball in a residential neighborhood. Will an advertising sign with a person on it cause an AV to wait thinking it's a person that is going to cross the road? What happens if a sensor is blocked by mud or hit with an errant sprinkler? Will a rough road cause too much jitter in a sensor input for the car to make any sense of the data?

    AI testing is only as good as the programmers. The real world is very good at throwing up combinations of issues that might not ever occur to a person or group.

  19. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Stileman told us that simulator needs to include real world dangers such as kids milling around an ice-cream van and plastic bags flying across the field of view, too. But there may be others."

    Cyclists. Especially cyclists travelling in groups. And even worse, cyclist in events organised by cycling clubs.

  20. Chronos Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Looking forward

    Hopefully the time will come when "Guys, I have a really good idea!" is immediately met with "How many people will it piss off, inconvenience, kill, maim, cost money, disenfranchise or dispossess?"

    Driverless jalopies, electric cars with sodding batteries, systemd, Big Data, smart metering, outsourcing, zero hours, gig economy, Brexit, every single one of these could have been examined under who-gets-fucked criteria and at least modified to limit collateral damage.

  21. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    " recreates a virtual version of 32km of Oxfordshire roads."

    Nice, M40 -- just the thing for nose-to-tail autocars.

  22. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    I think we are missing the key point of all this. In effect, they want to create a whole electronically synthesized simulation of 32km of Oxfordshire roads in one of their offices so they can go and research autonomous vehicles during the day and still go to parties in the evening. Yeah, bloody clever, of course, but it’s got nothing to do with the real Oxfordshire has it? Nothing to do with life.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Yeah, in the simulation, the AVs are green, but in the real universe they are grey...

  23. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Resurrect Red Flag Traffic Laws...

    Red Flag Traffic Laws would require all motorists piloting their "driverless carriages", upon chance encounters with cattle or livestock to (1) immediately stop the vehicle, (2) "immediately and as rapidly as possible ... disassemble the automobile", and (3) "conceal the various components out of sight, behind nearby bushes" until equestrian or livestock is sufficiently pacified.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_flag_traffic_laws

  24. Kaltern Silver badge

    Only way L5 will ever be useful is if ALL vehicles are also L5, and able to communicate with each other.

    Otherwise there is absolutely no way an AI can figure out potential hazards.

    Put an AI through a standard hazard driving test and I guarantee it'll fail.

  25. WereWoof

    Just wait for the day the AI thinks it is playing Frogger or Carmageddon.

  26. Cuddles Silver badge

    Not a great test

    "The simulator, called OmniCAV, recreates a virtual version of 32km of Oxfordshire roads."

    32km of gridlock around the Oxford ringroad is trivial for anything to drive safely on. I'll be more impressed when they can recreate a virtual version of roads on which the cars actually move.

  27. Alter Hase

    Making eye-contact

    I like the idea of autonomous vehicles on Motorways/Freeways/Turnpikes/etc, but I don't see anyone discussing human-mediated "vehicle-to-vehicle" communication. In my everyday driving on city streets here in California (Silicon Valley!), I routinely make eye-contact with pedestrians and other drivers, sometimes as simple as "I see you; you see me", or perhaps a gesture ceding the right of way.

    When AI can read human intent as well as humans can (however imperfect that is), then we will have competent L5 vehicles for city streets. Until then, I will use my (future) autonomous vehicle only on restricted access roads and be happy with that.

  28. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    Tracing who is responsible for a driverless hit and run will be like hunting who is responsible for paying tax, ending at a shell company which doesn't exist anywhere legally.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The more people learn about AVs - to paraphrase Alan Partridge on Hitler - the more they dislike AVs. A poll published this week found that 49 per cent of Americans would never buy a Level-5 AV, up from 30 per cent two years ago."

    Hahahahahahahaha.

    It doesn't make a blind bit of difference what people are saying they'd do. If we ever get (reasonably-priced, not "has military applications") AVs, people would be able to ride point to point in a taxi for less than it costs to own their own car and they'd exit the car market fast. People on low incomes with shitty loans on shitty used cars can escape from all the risk and kill the low-end business. Multi-vehicle households can ditch the commuter car and kill the middle layer. Commuters working in cities don't have to pay to park. Drink-drivers don't have to renew their licenses. Younger people don't have to get a license and pay exorbitant insurance rates.

    The main benefit left would be the ability to go anywhere on a moment's notice. Well, that's nice and everything, but how many people do you think will be willing to pay the premium for that in a world of budget airlines, junk food and (privacy-)free content.

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