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Self-Driving Cars: Good News, Bad News


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Theres a good writeup in motor trend about the self driving Audi, it can lap a racetrack better than most professional drivers. Perfect lines, no fatigue, no mistakes. Looks to make auto racing about as exciting as watching golf in the next few years.

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I think the idea of self driving cars is going to look much different once the realities show up. Right now all we are seeing is perfect world scenarios. Can't help but to think about the Marlboro man and the realities of smoking. Anyone who has been in this business for a while learns very quickly that electronics and software do not always act as expected. Some manufacturers are still struggling with unintended acceleration and ignition switches. Then there is the maintenance side of it. How many customers have you seen that ignore the check engine light or many of the other warning lights? What are they going to do when the "self-driving" failure light comes on for the third time after spending $2000 - $3000? What about the second and third owners of a car that don't fix anything unless it is broken? I won't even get into computer viruses or malware. I'm sure fail safes would be the argument, so does that mean these cars would shut down or drive themselves at 5 mph to the closest dealer every time an issue is detected? There are just too many unknowns to deal with. What does the car do when you are sleeping and your 3 y.o. gets out of her car seat and starts to climb out the window?

 

Flying an airplane from point a to point b is a much easier task than driving a car from point a to point b yet there is still no commercial system to do this. There are auto pilots which can maintain heading, speed, and altitude all of which must be set by the pilot and cannot be engaged till a certain altitude is reached. There are automated landing systems that most pilots will not use unless they have to. Even those only get them on the runway where they must take over.

 

Just wait till there are a few unexplained fatal accidents with self-driving cars. Here is a great experiment that I have been doing for some time. I continually ask people, would you ride in a self-driving car? Would you really get in the back seat of a car with no steering wheel and let it drive you to work? I have not even gotten a maybe. Do a quick search on Google, and you see some of the following headlines.

 

Most Consumers Say They'll Steer Clear Of Self-Driving Cars, Survey Says

 

People ‘horrified’ by self-driving cars, says survey, as trials begin
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I think the idea of self driving cars is going to look much different once the realities show up. Right now all we are seeing is perfect world scenarios. Can't help but to think about the Marlboro man and the realities of smoking. Anyone who has been in this business for a while learns very quickly that electronics and software do not always act as expected. Some manufacturers are still struggling with unintended acceleration and ignition switches. Then there is the maintenance side of it. How many customers have you seen that ignore the check engine light or many of the other warning lights? What are they going to do when the "self-driving" failure light comes on for the third time after spending $2000 - $3000? What about the second and third owners of a car that don't fix anything unless it is broken? I won't even get into computer viruses or malware. I'm sure fail safes would be the argument, so does that mean these cars would shut down or drive themselves at 5 mph to the closest dealer every time an issue is detected? There are just too many unknowns to deal with. What does the car do when you are sleeping and your 3 y.o. gets out of her car seat and starts to climb out the window?

 

Flying an airplane from point a to point b is a much easier task than driving a car from point a to point b yet there is still no commercial system to do this. There are auto pilots which can maintain heading, speed, and altitude all of which must be set by the pilot and cannot be engaged till a certain altitude is reached. There are automated landing systems that most pilots will not use unless they have to. Even those only get them on the runway where they must take over.

 

Just wait till there are a few unexplained fatal accidents with self-driving cars. Here is a great experiment that I have been doing for some time. I continually ask people, would you ride in a self-driving car? Would you really get in the back seat of a car with no steering wheel and let it drive you to work? I have not even gotten a maybe. Do a quick search on Google, and you see some of the following headlines.

 

Most Consumers Say They'll Steer Clear Of Self-Driving Cars, Survey Says

 

People ‘horrified’ by self-driving cars, says survey, as trials begin

 

I believe it about the current generation but as new technology comes in to play the newer generations will succumb to it.

 

My great grandma didn't understand the purpose of a cell phone.

Grandma has a flip phone but doesn't understand texting.

mom has a smart phone and texts but doesn't navigate it that well and doesn't use many of the features.

I use all of the features of my smart phone, and text, email, and app things to death.

 

My kids (if and when I have any) will most likely have an implant and think that there is nothing wrong with it.

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I believe it about the current generation but as new technology comes in to play the newer generations will succumb to it.

 

My great grandma didn't understand the purpose of a cell phone.

Grandma has a flip phone but doesn't understand texting.

mom has a smart phone and texts but doesn't navigate it that well and doesn't use many of the features.

I use all of the features of my smart phone, and text, email, and app things to death.

 

My kids (if and when I have any) will most likely have an implant and think that there is nothing wrong with it.

I get your point about the adaptation of technology. I'm not sure the progression of the acceptance of the cell phone is the best analogy, but I'll go with it. Right now you are in complete control of your cell phone. Cell phones give everyone freedom and empowerment. If you had a choice between your current cell phone and one that decides who and when to call, what apps you could use, or how fast they can operate, which would you choose? Even as great as cell phone technology is today, calls are frequently dropped, you have to walk around a room to get a signal or maybe outside. How often do you still here "let me call you back on a landline". I have to reboot my phone every so often. Unintended calls are so popular that they have their own term "butt dial". And the number one cause of distracted driving accidents of course, is cell phones. If my cell phone fails in an unpredictable way, it is not going to cause me to veer off the road into a tree. I don't even trust the GPS on my phone to get me to the right place every time. We accept all the shortcomings of cell phone technology because there is no other choice and no one gets hurt if their cell phone malfunctions. Unless of course the text we intended to go to our girlfriend actually goes to our wife.

 

A few other questions I just wondered about self driving cars. Will they be able to detect a failing master cylinder? What about the vibration of a wheel whose lug nuts are coming loose after someone forgot to tighten them? Or, the flap, flap, flap of a failing tire before it flies apart. How will they deal with the snow, and what about the patch of ice in the road up ahead. How will they detect that? What about an obstruction in the road, will it come to a stop and sit there until the obstruction is moved? How does it interpret the police officer tell it to turn around or continue on the opposite side of the road because there is an accident ahead? The list goes on and on and it changes everyday.

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I will never put trust in a computer. Day in and day out we all deal with some type of technology that has a glitch. They can't make the tough decisions that a human brain can. Once they can, we are all in big trouble!

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  • 2 years later...

Self-driving cars have been getting a lot of buzz recently. Self-driving cars if they become the dominant kind of automobile will have an impact that goes far beyond disruption to changing the whole way life is organized, just like regular automobiles, air travel and steam engines changed everything.

So saying that self-driving cars will hurt the cabdriver profession is like saying the steam engine affected buggy whip makers. True, but not really an important consequence.

Here's a list of inescapable facts for anyone who thinks self driving cars will replace vehicle ownership:

1. A lot of people like to drive.
2. A lot of people live in areas where car sharing will not be practical or economic.
3. A lot of people have kids, pets, a big family, other unique needs, etc. and they can't rely on taxis.

Driverless cars will have to prove their merits in use over a reasonable period of time to win public approval.  So the notion that driverless cars will be "disruptive" in the sense of transforming industries in fundamental ways within a decade is dubious.

Car body dent Repair

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Read an article about fully autonomous vehicles yesterday. It basically says that for them to work, Lidar technology will be necessary. The current cost per unit is $75k. They say that the price of these will drop 90% to $7500 per unit. However the vehicle manufacturers need the price to be at $100 per unit. That's a ways off. Other articles have stated that for fully autonomous vehicle to work, ALL vehicles need to be full autonomous so they are all talking to each other. Now, semi autonomous vehicles for freeway driving is probably doable in the near future. Fully autonomous no steering wheel and pedals, not so much. BTW, on the bright side, I'll bet you the more autonomous they become, the more they will build safety features into the system that won't let a poorly maintained vehicle operate. Your vehicle will tell you brakes are needed and at some point, it won't operate until those are fixed.

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My Mario-driving-style self is looking forward to these things.   They should be easy to pass.   If I want to get in front of one, I simply start pulling into it's lane.    The computer will want to avoid my impending crash and will likely take evasive braking action, leaving me room to advance my position.   Instead of hollering "Get out of the way!" to regular slow drivers, I'll be hollering, "Get a self driving car!".    

Of course, if I owned one, I would want to have a go-fast turbo mode, but then would need to hack the computer.   It will be interesting to see if the software drives safely with the flow of traffic, or puts around doing the speed limit in areas where this is not the prevailing speed.   Will it drive in the right, left or middle lane?   Will it use its blinkers in Boston and thus never be allowed to merge over?    Driving in Dallas, letting someone in your lane due to a blinker is not a miracle parting of the sea, but rather a gradual back off allowing just enough room to complete the maneuver.   Or would the computer wait for a more inviting response and thus be making a correctional U-turn 10 miles later when an accidental gap appeared?

If you are interested in some of the decisions that need to be programmed into the car, consider crash scenarios where there is no right or safe answer.   Here's a scenario generator, "Moral Machine", that is interesting:  http://moralmachine.mit.edu/

 

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