The Self-Driving Car Thread

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by Nullus Reverentia, Mar 19, 2018.

  1. Nullus Reverentia

    Nullus Reverentia Hic Sunt Dracones

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    Thought we should have a thread, especially after news came out today that an Uber Self-Driving Volvo struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona, and it appears that it was the cars fault.

    In general, I'm skeptical of autonomous vehicles. A Mazda survey of their customers in December showed the majority aren't interested. Which I would agree, highway autonomy is one thing, but taking any semblance of control is ridiculous. Earlier this month, watchdog groups have urged Congress to actually take regulation seriously instead of just following manufacturer insistence that technology is safe and that it should be expanded. Auto executives have admitted their two year timeline (most manufacturers have targeted 2019 or 2020 as dates for release of fully autonomous vehicles that have and require no input from the driver). And there are plenty of skeptics who don't think it'll happen anytime soon if at all.

    On top of the technological issues, there is a myriad of ethical and legal issues (especially regarding liability).
     
  2. Winger98

    Winger98 powers combined

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    If the tech is there, I'm all for it. I'm not convinced the tech is going to be there. Thing with folks being interested is that I'm not sure the majority of people are ever really interested in something until they have it. I don't remember the majority of folks really being behind the switch from SD to HD, having to buy converter boxes, etc., and that there wasn't a majority of US households that had native HD televisions for several years after the switch. But once the majority went out and got new televisions, they got bluray players, etc., suddenly folks couldn't live without the things.

    Folks will hate self-driving cars until they have them. The moment they have a week of getting in their car in the morning that had turned itself on and preheated for ten minutes, and then sat there and quietly read the paper, played some stupid game on their phone, texted, whatever for their entire commute to work and home, didn't have any of the hassles of dealing with other drivers doing stupid, erratic things... opinions on self-driving cars would change pretty quick.
     
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  3. Nullus Reverentia

    Nullus Reverentia Hic Sunt Dracones

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    The thing is with things like HD TVs, people just weren't sure they were going to like them more than SD. My dad still argues he can't tell the difference between SD and HD (but I'd chalk that up to him being in his late 60s). With self-driving cars, surveys show people don't want to have their ability to drive taken away from them. I'm personally all for autonomy to help with highway driving, I usually put adaptive cruise on to manage the monotony, but I don't want it for city driving or country driving.

    What I think especially worries people is that cars are going to be taken away from them, probably not legally by costs. Google and Uber's self driving cars currently testing for example cost far in excess of $100,000, and LIDAR technology isn't getting significantly cheaper yet. As well, Google and Uber aren't interested in making the technology available to a mass audience on a private level. They're interesting in making cars a service that you use on demand. Some of the biggest proponents of self-driving cars say they see a future where private vehicles are few and far between, and that everyone takes either public transport or an Uber-like service.

    Of course, in a scenario like this, people in rural locations or small cities be damned because it won't be fiscally viable to sustain a large-scale car-as-service enterprise. The issue here is that for autonomous cars to really reap benefits in terms of congestion and safety, they need to be virtually the only cars on the road, with advanced and sophisticated V2V systems. That's why I don't anticipate they'll ever get to that level.
     
  4. Winger98

    Winger98 powers combined

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    Google and Uber might not care about bringing it to the masses, but Mazda, Nissan, GM, etc. will. If everyone was really on the ball with it, they'd plan ahead and incorporate the growth of self-driving car with infrastructure improvements. If we have to replace the road anyway, is there something we can embed in the road bed or in the roadway itself that would help self-driving vehicles? If so, do it. Work towards a future of driverless vehicles instead of hodge podging it.

    For Americans to adopt public transport, we're going to have to see a dedication to funding it, and a fundementally different approach to how we define freedom and mobility. I'm not sure that's going to happen any time in the near future (though I wouldn't mind if it did). If my metro area had a better mass transit system that actually worked, and didn't leave you stranded at random bus stops for two hours and better, I know my wife and I would be more likely to use it.

    I wouldn't be surprised if, in ten years, the ability to put your car in an autonomous mode is as ubiquitous in new cars as air bags are now. Unless the government steps in and forces everyone to switch there will still be a combo of "dumb" and "smart" vehicles on the road for another ten years or so after that, but the switch will happen eventually. Even if cars fall out of popularity for public transit in various forms, I'm betting that whatever car you go to the dealer to buy will have that feature. As you can tell, though, I'm talking 10-20 years down the line. I can't imagine we're going to see some sort of rapid conversion before that.
     
  5. rynryn

    rynryn Reluctant Optimist

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    It's going to be a massively complicated problem to suss out. Liability, infrastructure (who pays for it), accessibility (who uses it, are their priority tiers--like specific faster routes--you can pay for like express lanes, etc).

    Humans are clever. I'm sure there are right now people working on ways to wreak havoc with driverless systems so everything that comes with that will have to be insured or continuously hardened against abuse. (fear mongering: russian hacker gets control of your car, drives it into a crowd).

    eventually we might live in a Minority Report kind of commuting world but it's going to take more than a couple decades IMO.
     
  6. Nullus Reverentia

    Nullus Reverentia Hic Sunt Dracones

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    Those two business models directly compete. Cars as service rivals cars as private transport business models, and the former will eat significantly into the latter. Just as attachment to the latter will stymy growth of the former. It gets all the more complicated because different manufacturers (and we have to add suppliers into that) have different goals. Hyundai and Madza have been conservative, while GM and Tesla are examples of manufacturers going all out. I honestly don't think GM has a long term strategy with autonomous vehicles, they're simply trying to be the first to mass market the technology and change the image of their brand. The same recklessness is true of Tesla, who can't even figure out how to mass produce the Model 3 let alone put to market a super-car, a semi-truck, and autonomous vehicles all at the same time. Unlike GM, Tesla's recklessness comes from Elon Musk's ego. And that's just the manufacturers. Outside them, the tech firms and the suppliers have so many other ideas. Uber wants to dominate the taxi industry, and supplant private ownership of vehicles for their hybrid of private-public transport. Google is out to make a ton of money by selling their technology to manufacturers and helping them turn their sales business into a service business (along with offering their own products, ala Android's business strategy).

    Infrastructure to me is honestly irrelevant for the autonomous car context. We are so far away from having the will or way to develop infrastructure to take allow autonomous vehicles the ability to take advantage. Globally, infrastructure is so stratified. In China, a huge market for autonomous vehicles, the road and highway network is atrocious and would take trillions to get up to par to a Western country (the explosion of the middle class in China to include hundreds of millions of people who previously lived on less than a $1 a day was not planned for in the sense of road infrastructure). In the US, you have states who won't have good roads 100 years from now. And even in states that do well, you have parts of them that will do equally as bad. Building infrastructure to take advantage of autonomous vehicles runs the risk of turning roads into de facto toll highways, exacerbating poverty and significantly damaging the economy. The costs of infrastructure improvements for a single city are astronomical. To transform a whole country is impossible.

    Americans won't adopt public transport unless it's force on them. For as many people that say they would take it if it's better, an even smaller number would actually take it.

    10-20 years is far too soon. 10-20 years for replacement of ICE engines with electric is a fast turnaround. Replacement of cars that are fully autonomous, with no driver inputs, I don't think will ever happen. The same way planes have had auto-pilot for decades and there being no significant push for them to become fully autonomous. There are too many issues.
     
  7. firewagonHOCKEY

    firewagonHOCKEY Registered User

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    I for one look forward to autonomous cars replacing Taxis in cities. I hate the way Taxi drivers drive.
     
  8. rynryn

    rynryn Reluctant Optimist

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    i'm not at all looking forward to five autonomous cars driving side by side down the freeway at the speed limit.
     
  9. Nullus Reverentia

    Nullus Reverentia Hic Sunt Dracones

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    Waymo (a division of Google) CEO rejects belief that human control of cars will eventually be outlawed, and says his company would fight against any attempt to legislative this so.

    It's not all that surprising to be honest. As I eluded to in my OP, people really aren't as keen on self-driving cars as the media would make you believe. You would have even less people support it if it meant they weren't allowed to drive themselves. Now, I'm not sure Krafcik actually believes this, it's possible it's just PR. But it highlights an important dynamic in the self-driving car "revolution.

    In other news, that I won't link because it's all over, Uber was ordered to stop testing in Arizona indefinitely, and anticipating a similar move in California, has announced they won't renew their permit. It's more or less a death knell for Uber's autonomous vehicle initative, at least if they don't merge with another effort.
     
  10. NyQuil

    NyQuil Unleashed

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    My father still doesn't like automatic transmissions. He's a product of his time, just like you are, and just like I am.

    I suspect that emerging generations will be very happy at the prospect of having a car drive itself, leaving them to do any number of other things, particularly in urban environments where traffic is a consistent problem.

    My younger relatives have a shockingly low amount of interest in getting a license and are content to Uber around for the most part.

    Ultimately, I think cars will be safer if they are self-driving.

    They raise all kinds of issues with respect to liability and decision-making but the sheer number of potential alcohol, texting and drug related deaths that would likely be alleviated makes it a no-brainer.

    Sure, there may be some fine print functionality allowing people to "take control" of their cars, if only to abscond with certain legal issues, but much like the paddle shifters in my Outback, it will remain largely unused.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
  11. Nullus Reverentia

    Nullus Reverentia Hic Sunt Dracones

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    The thing is, you can't legislate an activity to be entirely illegal because of a small number of people who do illegal things during that activity. Vehicle related deaths are high because of the sheer number of vehicles on the road. Attempts to make cars only self-driving will die in the court system, especially if there are still an abundance of cars with human controls still on the road/available.

    I also don't believe that apathy towards driving is any different. In the mid-2000s when I was in high school, I knew lots of people who didn't want a drivers license, but that didn't last. Yes, in urban environments people are generally more likely to not like driving/not drive at all, but that is certainly not new, and outside of New York City, it's not really that many people. Most people in cities like Toronto, Boston, Chicago, still have a car, and the biggest determinating factor for them not to have one is not traffic an apathy towards driving, but wealth and ability to pay for a vehicle.

    There is something that appeals about driving that transcends generational lines. You can find someone just about any age that is old enough and coherent enough to understand what a car is, that views cars in a special way.
     
  12. NyQuil

    NyQuil Unleashed

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    I’m sure people said the same thing about automobiles when they were perfectly happy with horses and buggies.

    Things can change pretty quickly when the critical mass suddenly hits the appropriate level.

    People still ride horses but it’s mainly a hobby.
     
  13. Nullus Reverentia

    Nullus Reverentia Hic Sunt Dracones

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    I still think it's a fundamentally different thing. The difference between horse and buggies and automobiles is a massive increase in speed of transport. A horse and buggy which would move at 5-8 KPH is suddenly replaced by something that has 60+ KPH top speed. What we're getting with autonomous vehicles is the ability to look at your phone for your 15 minute commute. That's a simplification, but the advanced benefits of autonomous cars are decades if not generations away (elimination of accidents, safe travel at extremely high speeds). For autonomous vehicles to convince the population at large that they are a replacement for current travel, they need to represent a fundamental leap forward. And that's very difficult to get to, as even with planes, jets have not completely replaced propeller planes. Nuclear power did not replace fossil fuels. You need a mode of travel that is literally better in every single way than the previous ones, and we are so far away from having autonomous vehicles do that.
     

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