back to article Self-driving cars may not have steering wheels in future, dev preview for PyTorch 1.0 is here, etc

How about we kickstart the week with artificial intelligence goodies? PyTorch 1.0 is (almost) out: Details about PyTorch 1.0, the latest version of the popular AI framework developed by Facebook, were teased out at the inaugural PyTorch Developer Conference this week in San Francisco. PyTorch 1.0 comes with new updates that …

  1. Waseem Alkurdi

    No wheel is one thing

    It might look like when Airbus ditched the traditional yoke for the sidestick. I think Tesla might seize this moment.

    But "no human intervention allowed" is a totally different beast. Shouldn't be at all possible.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No wheel is one thing

      But "no human intervention allowed" is a totally different beast. Shouldn't be at all possible.

      Indeed. It's just yet another aspect of the deluded nature of the self driving car industry. Whilst they're worrying about whether there should or should not be a steering wheel (and I include some bits of government in this), they are very far away from actually being able to make a machine that can reliably drive itself. It's just another part of the hype cycle, and when everyone's projects turn into miserable failures there's going to be a lot of investors wondering where their money has gone.

      My concern is that the hype cycle will progress so far as to influence government policy and alter road infrastructure projects to facilitate the adoption of less than perfect self driving technology. This would be madness, as it's highly likely to exclude all other road users (motorcycles, bikes, horses, pedestrians, non-self driving cars, etc). If that happens, roads will have become nothing but glorified railways.

      There is already a lot of talk about this kind of thing coming out of the industry, up to and including lobbying for laws making it illegal for pedestrians to "bully" self driving cars. Madness.This kind of approach stands a good chance of succeeding, because they're also dressing up self driving cars as being an essential component of making road transport cleaner / greener. That's a very powerful argument, even if it a load of old tripe. We might end up with "self driving tech" that's actually rubbish, plus a load of expensive infrastructure projects to support it at the expense of everyone else.

      Plus, if the tech still does require a competent driver to monitor it, and the tech then also requires monitoring of the driver to make sure they're actually paying attention, any safety improvement is most likely to arise from the car monitoring the alertness of the driver, not the self driving.

      At the end of the hype cycle is a system where the insurance companies can see video, data, GPS, etc to test whether or not you're paying proper attention, and we have compulsory "self driving car tech" that isn't actually any good for taking the kids to school, driving one home from the pub, etc.

      No thank you.

      1. boltar Silver badge

        Re: No wheel is one thing

        "they are very far away from actually being able to make a machine that can reliably drive itself."

        Even if its actually able to drive itself in all road conditions its still far less flexible than a human driver. How many times have we moved our car a few feet in the drive or garage or street to make room for something? How exactly are you going to get a self driving car to do that without explicitely telling it or having some way to direct it to a location with accuracy in inches and the orientation required?

        As you say, this is more delusional BS from this industry and even worse, its a completely cynical attempt at 3rd party control. No steering wheel = car is unmovable without a tow truck if they decide to disable it, you can't even push it.

        No one wants this - yes, a car that can drive itself on the motorway might be nice on occasion, but no option of manual control? No thanks. This is being pushed by naive engineers and vested business interests, not the consumer. The only people it might appeal to are non drivers who don't want to pass the test, but in that there's already something equivalent - its called a taxi.

        1. Waseem Alkurdi

          Re: No wheel is one thing

          naive engineers

          Delusional, wishful engineers, or ones with vested interests.

          Fixed.

        2. JimC Silver badge

          Re: No option of manual control might be

          The saviour of the pub trade in the UK. With no option of manual control there ought to be no objection to driving while impaired, so you could go out for a few drinks and take the automatacar home without risking your license.

          1. Waseem Alkurdi

            Re: No option of manual control might be

            Provided that automatacars need not be monitored by a human.

            Which is the issue at hand here.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No wheel is one thing

          I didn't even realise there was a manual control option for taxis, buses and trains.

          1. Waseem Alkurdi

            Re: No wheel is one thing

            Yeah, there isn't one, because the control is already manual (as in: man not machine)

    2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: No wheel is one thing

      It might look like when Airbus ditched the traditional yoke for the sidestick. I think Tesla might seize this moment.

      Ford, Mercedes, Saab and Honda have all experimented with joystick-controlled cars. All gave up: you simply cannot achieve the precision required, or the haptic feedback needed, with a stick. Although yokes were traditional on modern airliners, sticks work fine on light aircraft - and remember that an Airbus is flying itself for perhaps 95% of the time.

      1. Credas Silver badge

        Re: No wheel is one thing

        you simply cannot achieve the precision required, or the haptic feedback needed, with a stick.

        Works fine on combat aircraft, and large airliners, so I'm not sure where you got that idea.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: No wheel is one thing

          "Works fine on combat aircraft, and large airliners, so I'm not sure where you got that idea."

          So aircraft regularly fly within a few feet of each other going in opposite directions do they or are in situations where literally being a few inches out could cause a crash?

          No, I think not. Even fighter aircraft have a whole sky to play, they're not surrounded by other 2 ton boxes of metal going at high speed. And formation display pilots have to train the same routines over and over again for years and have to know exactly where the other aircraft are at all times. Good luck trying that out with cars on the M25.

          1. ratfox Silver badge

            Re: No wheel is one thing

            This would be madness, as it's highly likely to exclude all other road users (motorcycles, bikes, horses, pedestrians, non-self driving cars, etc)

            A lot of those are already forbidden on highways, so I'm not sure that's a great argument.

            So aircraft regularly fly within a few feet of each other going in opposite directions do they or are in situations where literally being a few inches out could cause a crash?

            You have to take into account the fact that aircrafts go ten times faster and can be fifty times larger.

            1. boltar Silver badge

              Re: No wheel is one thing

              "A lot of those are already forbidden on highways, so I'm not sure that's a great argument."

              Motorbikes can go anywhere cars can go so for fully automated driving they'd have to be banned. Good luck getting that through parliament. And horses and bicycles are allowed on non motorway roads in the UK.

              "You have to take into account the fact that aircrafts go ten times faster and can be fifty times larger."

              An HGV is about the size and weight of a medium sized airliner and while it goes slower it also passes within feet of traffic going in the opposite direction. Any control system - ie a stick - that is less accurate than a steering wheel would pretty quickly cause a serious accident. Its a stupid idea plus the ergonomics don't work either - which side of the driver do you put it on? And what if some partially disabled drivers can only use 1 arm? Oh, you'd put it in the middle like an aircraft just so it can impale you in an accident and tire out the arm holding it? Nice one.

            2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

              Re: No wheel is one thing

              This would be madness, as it's highly likely to exclude all other road users (motorcycles, bikes, horses, pedestrians, non-self driving cars, etc)

              A lot of those are already forbidden on highways, so I'm not sure that's a great argument.

              That depends very much on where you are. In India for example, if it moves (or you can imagine it moving,) sooner or later you'll see it on a highway.

      2. Waseem Alkurdi

        Re: No wheel is one thing

        Airbus is flying itself for perhaps 95% of the time.

        In addition to what my fellow commentator said, what about the 5% of time when a human pilot is required?

        Landings, takeoffs, taxiing, etc?

        All these need high precision.

        And let's not forget Air France 447: https://www.fastcompany.com/1669720/how-lousy-cockpit-design-crashed-an-airbus-killing-228-people (Not really directly because of the stick, but the stick *was* involved, in that it didn't provide enough feedback)

    3. Loud Speaker Bronze badge

      Re: No wheel is one thing

      I can just imagine...

      Left a bit, right a bit, down a bit....

      left hand down a bit, Mr Pertwee ...

      <loud crashing sound, stage left>

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No wheel is one thing

      I'd be happy if self-driving cars had no wheels at all.

  2. davemcwish

    Johnny Cab

    Is this like they have on Mars using a yoke and if I'm suitable enraged, and physically endowed, have a manual override by removing the robot figure, which is only there for psychological reasons, from the vehicle ?

    1. Daedalus Silver badge

      Re: Johnny Cab

      The Phildickian cab in question was in fact on Earth. Mars used traditional wetware-driven cabs.

  3. werdsmith Silver badge

    I can see cars with no human input coming, but only when streets and road layout have been altered to make it work.

    I asked my car to self park this morning, but it failed to spot the available parking space, I took over and did it myself.

  4. Baldrickk Silver badge

    Cars have to have steering wheels

    I guess if we stop calling stage 4 autonomous vehicles cars we could avoid the steering wheel requirement? The lack of a driving position is a considerable difference to every car on the market today...

  5. Locky Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Turn left here please

    I don't want to insist on it, Dave, but I am incapable of making an error. That road does not exist

    1. ITS Retired
      Joke

      Re: Turn left here please

      Must be using Apple iMaps.

  6. PapaD

    It will happen eventually

    It's pretty much a given that we will eventually have vehicles capable of driving themselves in all situations better than a human.

    I suspect the real problem is a misunderstanding of the likely timetable, rather than a misunderstanding of what is actually achievable. It will happen, possibly not in my lifetime (i reckon i've got another good 40years in me - well, possibly 20 good years, 20 grumpy years, but we'll see :)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no happening anytime soon. Might work ok on a test track, motorway or wide streets in the US but here in the UK, not a fecking chance.

    Could it do what I have to do everyday?! Reverse up hill out of a VERY tight drive, do a 3 point turn in a VERY narrow road. Drive the VERY narrow streets of my village (just the width of the car with a few inches to spare) Avoid all the emmets (tourists) Drive 20 miles along country lanes, board a chain ferry staffed by total morons, drive through a city and then repeat again on the way home!

  8. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    What about towing trailers?

    Quite a number of drivers still need to tow stuff, ranging from using kiddie-size trailers to take the hedge trimmings to the Civic Amenity (as our local dump is officially named), through boat trailers, caravans and mobile chippies to balloon and glider trailers. All of these need to be taken off road and parked with some precision on grass or hardstanding, usually without any markings for guidance.

    How, precisely are these going to be used if the tow vehicle has no manual controls? Are they really expecting the driver to get out and use a box on a cable like many cranes have? Or maybe to yell instructions at the tow vehicle?

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: What about towing trailers?

      Are they really expecting the driver to get out and use a box on a cable like many cranes have? Or maybe to yell instructions at the tow vehicle?

      No, they expect you not to tow trailers or caravans, be a pedestrian, or a horse rider or a cyclist. For truly autonomous cars to work, they must be the only item allowed on the roads, and will only take you from clearly defined point "A" to clearly defined point "B".

      It appears that with all these "innovations" what is considered normal behaviour now will be curtailed to meet the limitations of the new technology.

      To me, this seems the wrong way to go about things, the new technology should be designed to work within the constraints of current behaviour, but that's not how it seems to be at the moment.

      1. Daedalus Silver badge

        Re: What about towing trailers?

        the constraints of current behaviour

        There speaks someone who has no idea how unconstrained current behaviour can be.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What about towing trailers?

          WTF are you on about?

  9. Daedalus Silver badge

    Steering wheels are the least of our concerns

    Considering what people tend to get up to when not being watched, I'd say self-driving cars should come with self-cleaning interiors. In fact, self-sterilizing interiors would be a good idea (passenger presence optional).

    Early predictor of such things : Roger Zelazny, "The Dream Master"

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    PyTorch 1.0

    Countdown until the very useful comments in ATen/core/TensorOptions.h get removed because some of them are a bit silly?

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