Skip to comments.Engineers, lawmakers prepare for driverless cars
Posted on 05/06/2012 11:56:29 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
It may be years before you can take your hands off the wheel and have your car go where you tell it. But driverless cars are on their way and Florida is already embracing the vehicles, whose technology promises to save lives, create jobs and free minds from the grind of the road.
Last month Florida became the second state to pass a bill allowing tests of self-driving cars.
Lawmakers in places such as Florida and Nevada - the first state to legalize self-driving cars for testing - have realized that embracing the technology could be fruitful during tough economic times, said Lindsay Voss, senior program development manager for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
"Right now we associate Michigan with the heart of the automotive industry, but I think there is a sense that driverless cars open up a whole new opportunity for companies who are in technology but not necessarily automotive technology," said Voss, whose Washington-based group counts Fortune 500 companies and business consultants among its members . "It's an opportunity that has the states really opening their eyes and wanting to be a part of it."
Driverless-car advocates say programming and manufacturing companies may consider Florida an ideal place to work in the field, since state legislators have begun addressing the issue .
Lawmaker drives effort
Rep. Jeffrey Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, a co-sponsor of Florida's automated-vehicle law, said preparing for unmanned cars to cruise public roads could require additional signage or highway lanes to accommodate them - projects that could create jobs for Floridians.
Advocates add that local and state governments may have to invest in technology so the cars can communicate with each other and with traffic signals on the road via sensors or GPS technology.
Brandes said he foresaw the economic opportunities of bringing this technology to the state after seeing a TV documentary on the topic. He also realized self-driving vehicles could help reduce motor-vehicle fatalities .
He contacted executives at Google, which in 2010 launched a driverless vehicle project that has completed more than 200,000 miles of computer-led driving.
"This legislation is about vision and leadership for the 21st-century world and forges a path for future innovative economic opportunities for Floridians," Brandes said in January, when he sat in a Google-created automated car as he was promoting the bill in Tallahassee.
"I pressed the button and took my hands off the wheel and the feet off the pedals, and cruised at 70 mph on the interstate," Brandes said. "It felt a little bit like I was kicking into cruise control, but it was fascinating to watch the car make decisions."
"I think you are going to see many states recognizing this technology, begin to write rules and regulations to accommodate it and hopefully do a lot of research in this type of technology," Brandes added.
Florida's bill, HB 1207, calls for the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to submit a report to legislators by February 2014 detailing additional legislative action needed.
There are least six driverless-car projects under way worldwide.
Volvo, for example, has its Road Train project, in which several driverless cars travel behind a semi-trailer packed with electronics. The driver, by ceding control to the train, gets better fuel efficiency because of drafting and constant speeds and is freed to do other things without having to watch the road.
Audi's driverless car drove up Colorado's curvy mountain roads to Pike's Peak in 2010. Taking part in that year's Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, the car completed the 156-turn course in 27 minutes, compared with race officials' estimates of a 17-minute finish for an expert human driver in a similar car.
Audi officials said the computer's time set a benchmark as to how close driverless vehicles are to expert drivers. The car company also said the computer's timing is probably similar to the time an average driver would take to complete the course.
Many issues to resolve
It's a matter of when - not if - driverless cars are used for daily commuting and travel, experts say. And that creates many questions: how to insure them, how to integrate them with 20- and 30-year-old cars that still require the human touch, and how to make them affordable. These are issues that will likely take years, if not decades, to square away.
"Driverless cars are not going to be something that everyone immediately has, and even once this has been accepted to the point when 25 percent of vehicles on the road are driverless, you still have people in regular cars dealing with regular issues," said Voss, who in June will participate in a driverless-car summit in Detroit to address public concerns.
Some safety features available in many cars - Volvo's Blind Spot Information System or Toyota's Intelligent Parking Assist on some Prius models - are laying groundwork for hands-free driving.
"Your cruise control, your automatic parking technology that will help you parallel park, all of these things are little bits and pieces of this bigger movement of the automated car," Voss said.
"But it's not about smart cars that help you park or flash a warning when you are about to hit somebody. It's about getting in the car where you do not have to focus on driving to get to where you are going."
Steve Dellenback, director of the Intelligent Systems Department at Southwest Research Institute in Texas, said cost is the key to when driverless cars will become a reality for the average consumer.
"The cost of unmanned ground vehicles is a minimum of six figures for just the hardware, excluding the cost of the vehicle," Dellenback said. "We are a long way from having deployed unmanned systems on public streets."
Liability a question mark
Liability is also a potential issue with driverless vehicles. Whom do you sue when a computer runs over you?
Florida's new law says the manufacturer of a vehicle converted by a third party into a driverless car for testing purposes is not liable, but it does not address liability issues with driverless cars once they are used by the general population.
"Insurance companies will absolutely embrace them and I think you'll have discounts for having these types of cars," Brandes said.
"These cars will drive better than you or I drive," Brandes said. "They won't drive in someone's blind spot. They won't drive past the speed limit. They won't get angry. The benefits of this technology are just incredible."
You are right. There are a myriad of unique situations which a human can [usually] handle, but a computer will not be able to. Eventually, they might get the software right for 99.9% of those, but that pesky 0.1% will be enough to generate tons of horror stories. That and the inevitable lawsuits will ruin a lot of these companies early on. Software products typically have NO warranty. They will not be able to get away with that for software that controls driverless cars.
Lawyers are looking forward to this. There will be much money to be made sorting out the accidents and deaths the driverless cars will cause.
BMW rejects this technology.
Otherwise, they’ll have to change there slogan to ‘The ultimate riding-around-in machine.’
On a system designed for driverless cars, is a human driver illegal due to the unpredictability?
Delete competitors from the map and no one can go there?
Deny access of vehicles to locations and refuse to take them due to the current passengers?
Politically incorrect venues blocked or simply errored out by automated systems so that no one goes?
There is a lot of potential horror in this technology.
I think this is about the stupidist thing they could have ever thought of!!!
Just EXACTLY what entity is the auto insurance company supposed to be underwriting?
If there is an accident-—you cannot sue the DRIVER of the car-—he wasn’t driving!!!
Sueing the driverless car won’t work, wither, since under American laws, you are allowed to cross examine your opponent, and how do you cross examine a CAR!!!!
This has lots of legal loopholes.
I won’t EVER haul my horses with a vehicle that ‘drives itself’!!!
It won’t drive above the speed limit!!!
How does one pass when necessary? Sometimes you are above the speed limit for a good reason!! Even if only temporary!
Icy roads? Icy bridges (Common where I live). Black ice is a bugger! Patchy snow? Heavy splash from the truck going the opposite direction? How fast will it decellerate when I am hauling a trailer? If too fast, a very good way to wrap the trailer around yourself!!!
If the designers are halfway intelligent, they'll go anwhere their onboard sensors say there's a road. If they're depending on GPS, they're nuts.
I could get behind this technology. Less accidents, DWIs start disappearing, alot less traffic violations for towns to pad their coffers with, etc.
Nothing can go wrong ..... go wrong ..... go wrong
"Hope you enjoyed the ride!"
Its already here. Just get a license plate for your tractor: http://www.trimble.com/agriculture/autopilot.aspx?dtID=overview& and head on down the road.
Or at that critical time you get Windows Update or a real BSOD.
Sadly, I wonder how many under 30 have even had any exposure to even high school physics, not that those numbers would translate in their minds to traumatic amputations and tissue destroying and bone crushing blunt force trauma.
Far too many have been sold on widget safety: Anti-lock brakes (there are times I want to be able to lock up my brakes!), traction control, airbags, seat belts, crumple zones, and all the features which make cars "safe", all allow people to ignore that the most important safety device in the car is between the driver's ears.
I think somewhere in there the cell phone (immediate one sided blinder), not to mention dinking with 'smart' phones (total loss of focus), music devices, and navigational aids, combined with a general sense of unreality make some oblivious to the consequences of a moment's inattention.
When I drove those old, noisy, drafty vehicles with brakes which worked better when you pumped them, balky manual gearboxes, and no power steering, I had to focus on what I was doing, the road, and drive well ahead to be ready for what was up there by the time I got there. Even in the heyday of the CB radio, we were aware of where we were, and what was going on around us.
Now, it seems the insular environment of a modern vehicle deprives the driver of the real sense of how fast they are going, and what the road conditions really are.
Which will cause people to have to walk to get to their drug dealer or strip club, making people more 'fit' and reducing usage of 'gas'.
How could anything go wrong?
Gives new meaning to the term, BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH.