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."
there is manual overide.
also how can you justify mass transit when self drive does it door to door and no maintainance boon doggle.
also think of self drive car valet.
car drops you off and parks somewhere and then you call it to come and get you.
"Current application will be terminated"
Unless it won't answer the phone because it's busy hanging out at the lube shop and having a few quarts of oil too many.
Put the 'autopilot' feature only on ALL ELECTRIC vehicles, and have them go find their own darn RECHARGING STATION.
Very similar to many people's conception that because 4-wheel drive gets them going faster in slick conditions, that it also means they can stop faster.
My response is always, "All cars have 4-wheel brakes".
Most people have never handled a vehicle in an adverse situation.
'Avoiding' an accident is a 'lost' skill.
It's just better that they take a nap and let the computer drive.
Only let people who can qualify in a handling test actually drive a car. Utopia is just around the corner. I see Skittles and Unicorns everywhere.
I for one look forward to the day when I can punch in an address on my autodrive then sit back and read a book for the duration. I take long trips towing my camper several times each year and it would really be nice to relax during those looooong drives.
It enables you to get really, really stuck farther from civilization.
When you finally 'break loose' on ice, you are really in trouble.
D@mned things tip over far too easily (8^D).
(Note, these are older models, with buckboard hard suspensions and manual transmissions/transfer cases, not the computerized rides of today).
Used properly, yes, they are a great tool, but they are not the invincible conquerors of the off-road many fantasize about.
Nor are the the laws of physics defiers that their driver think they are on freeways. I dread winter when monstrous 4WD vehicles driven by clueless people fly by me on icy or snowy roads since everyone thinks that 4WD prevents all skidding and makes vehicles stop just as well as they do on a dry road. Don't they notice vehicles just like theirs in ditches and wonder why they are there?
But that was last year's model without the super duper ditch repeller, or another make, another driver, with inferior tires, the wrong color of paint, a lesser trim package, etc. (any excuse for denial).
“I’m sorry, you’ve exceeded your mileage allotment for the day. Please exit the vehicle and await government transport to your domicile where you will be petted to sleep to the soothing melodious sound of Dear Leader’s speeches.”
Not to me.
Having endured a number of a$$holes tailgating, and weaving from lane as they attempted to “make up time” makes me want to see their drivers licenses taken away permanently. If that’s fascism, sign me up.
As long as there is an off switch a la cruise control, I for one welcome our new robot overlords.
Seriously, this is going to be a huge hit and will be perfect for commuting, which is hell on earth as far as I am concerned. Anyone who rejects this out of hand doesn’t have a long commute.
Using government force against people who have done you no harm, but whose behavior you disapprove of, is a slippery slope. You undoubtedly do many things that irritate the people around you. You won’t be happy when they send government goons to punish your behavior.
Proving actual damages is a requirement of civil lawsuits. No damages, no case. The bar should not be any lower in cases of government vs citizen.
I came real close to loosing control of an older 4X4 years ago. It was my old 78 Chevy K-5 full time 4X4. It wasn’t ice though nor really was I driving that fast for the vehicles I had owned and driven. I’d driven this road I was on hundreds of times with no problems. But the huge difference was the tires that came stock on the older Blazers. They would grip ice and snow great but would hydroplane in the least bit of water pooled on the road. When it rained I dropped the speed considerably but still kept a death grip on the wheel.
Sorry. That sort of driving behavior has more in common with brandishing a firearm or threatening someone (i.e. Assault). Don’t have to show damage in those cases to put them behind bars.
One more thing.
I have a daughter who is massively scarred from an @$$hole hitting my car. The gas tank exploded (guess what? that really happens sometimes!).
The person in question had a previous DUI - he was not supposed to be able to drive anywhere except to and from work (not the case). He was texting. He tried to leave the scene.
Personally, I think there ought to be a death penalty for certain types of reckless driving. You have a previous DUI or lost your license, and you kill you someone in a vehicular homicide are DUI again? The cop should put a bullet in your head right at the scene. Same thing for “wrong-way” drivers. Cop pops them right at the scene. No mercy, no pity, no second chances.
But you would not feel such animosity toward a driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel even if they had a previous instance of falling asleep at the wheel ?
The point is that society needs to punish when actual damage is done to other persons or property. It makes no difference why a driver was inattentive and caused the damage. Millions of other people are engaging in those same activities everyday without it causing injury or property damage. You seem ready to give up freedoms by overgeneralizing based on statistical correlations.
People are outraged whenever a drunk driver kills someone, but the truth is that millions of people drive beyond the 0.08% BAL every year and don’t have an accident, and thousands of people are killed in other accidents every year where there was no drunk driver.
The cause of the accident is inattention while driving. If you want to outlaw all distractions, then there must be no conversation while behind the wheel, no stereo system, and every vehicle ignition system must automatically blood test for any drug (such as antihistamines) that affects driving, and no stray thoughts can be allowed. Men think about sex every twenty seconds, so we definitely should never be allowed to drive, right ? Are you telling me your attention has never wandered while driving sober ?
Two more examples of behavior that is punished where it shouldn’t be. Brandishing a firearm and threatening somebody cause no actual harm to anybody. That is free expression in my book and should be protected under the 1st Amendment. You want somebody locked up because they hurt your feelings, I bet. Man up and be prepared to protect yourself in case threats actually turn to actions.