# Fully autonomous cars just 2 years away

Discussion in 'Intelligence & Machines' started by Plazma Inferno!, Dec 22, 2015.

1. ### Plazma Inferno!Ding Ding Ding DingAdministrator

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Elon Musk said in October that fully autonomous cars are about 3 years away, a prediction he made several times in the past year or so. But now he's updated his prediction to just 2 years.
Musk was talking about a “level 4 autonomous vehicle”, which The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) describes as a “vehicle designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip”, whether occupied or not.
http://electrek.co/2015/12/21/tesla...on-full-autonomous-driving-from-3-years-to-2/
Is this possible or just wishful thinking?

In the same time Google pairs with Ford to build self-driving cars: https://www.yahoo.com/autos/google-pairs-with-ford-to-1326344237400118.html

3. ### Edont KnoffRegistered Senior Member

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At the moment it seems legal problems are the real obstacle (at least in many countries) since the old trafficl laws were made with drivers in mind, and driverless cars don't fit.

The most basic example of the problem is this:

Old version: Man driven car kills pedestrian. The prime suspect is the driver, he must defend or will be found guilty.

Newversion : Autonomous car kills pedestrian.

Problem: Who is guilty?

- The person in the car? Which one if there are several? If they all were on the back seat?
- The maker of the car?
- The maker of the software?
- Someone else?

... and the "only bad choices" cases:

Autonomous car gets into a surprising situation, the AI must decide to kill either one of a group of pedestrians, since it can't avoid them all or break soon enough. Should it kill the old man, because his remaining life span is the shortest? A random one? Spare women and children at the cost of male deaths?

And if the AI decides for a route, who is guilty for the choice it made to kill specfific pedestrians and avoid the rest of the group?

Very tricky questions. In countries where car holders need to have an insurance (e.g. Germany) in order to be allowed to drive a car, insurances will not offer contracts for autonomous cars until these legal questions are solved. And without insurance, the car must not be on the road.

5. ### JeevesValued Senior Member

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1,696
I very much doubt AI would get into those crazy situations in the first place, since they are usually the result of poor driver performance. AI is never drunk or sleepy, talking on the phone, fighting with his wife or distracted by a billboard. AI doesn't speed, run traffic lights or careen into bus-stops where large groups of pedestrians are standing. (Come to think of it, that choice of which pedestrian to hit doesn't happen all that often to live drivers - it's more a problem encountered by philosophy students.)
The roads will have to be adapted to AI traffic, but the autonomous cars will certainly be safer.
The biggest problem they present is what to do with all the extra people who don't die in car accidents.

7. ### sideshowbobSorry, wrong number.Valued Senior Member

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The question is: During the transition phase between all human drivers and all AI drivers, how does AI react to the human drives who are drunk, sleepy, talking, fighting, distracted, speeding, running traffic lights, careening, etc.

8. ### billvonValued Senior Member

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Manufacturer, perhaps, or the guy who was supposed to maintain it and did not. Or no one; it could have been an act of God (sheet of ice that no one could have stopped on.) We do this today. Elevator kills someone? Same issue.
This never happens. Drivers do not make such decisions today, and courts do not decide such cases today with human drivers. Autonomous cars would be no different.

9. ### billvonValued Senior Member

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Pretty well. A friend of mine regularly messes with autonomous cars to see how they react, and they seem to react pretty rationally; they generally err on the side of slowing down or stopping when such things happen.

10. ### JeevesValued Senior Member

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1,696
There will be more of a problem with the reaction of other drivers to the automatic cars. Probably shouldn't mark them in any way, to prevent gawking accidents.
Actually, the transition shouldn't be all that hard, since we've already started it with computer assisted parking, cameras, warnings, etc. As we became accustomed to automatic gear-shifts, we'll get used to this - as we always do, when something becomes easier.

11. ### billvonValued Senior Member

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I got used to them in about 2 days; wasn't a big deal. Any new car has a similar issue.
Yeah, the gradual nature of the transition will help.

(Hidden annoyance of driverless cars - when two are next to each other they both drive at EXACTLY the speed limit. I was stuck behind two of them in Palo Alto for 10 minutes a few weeks ago.)

12. ### JeevesValued Senior Member

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They may have saved your life. I'm one of those annoying law-abiding drivers. Of course, being aware of other people's annoyance, I take every opportunity to let them pass (Any reason that capability can't be programmed into an autonomous car?) When no passing opportunity presents for a long time and I accumulate a wagon-train, I console them (via ESP*) that they'll be late for the cement truck or oil slick with their name on it.

*When I was younger and meaner and worked at the city morgue, I used to "tell" speeders, "See you on Monday!"
(No, I don't believe in ESP. But doesn't everyone "talk" to people who can't her them?)

13. ### sideshowbobSorry, wrong number.Valued Senior Member

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On the bright side, the driverless cars behind them won't care.

14. ### JeevesValued Senior Member

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That's another issue I hadn't thought of. Some people hate not to be in control. AI won't be bothered or distracted by back-seat drivers, but some passengers will go all twitchy if they can neither drive nor nag. Maybe they'll require acclimatizing in buses and taxis before they buy an autonomous car.

Ah, but what a boon for the hearing- and sight-impaired elderly who can no longer drive themselves!

15. ### YazataValued Senior Member

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I was going to say that, but you beat me to it.

Ravenous lawyers are circling autonomous cars like a school of sharks, salivating at the thought of class-action lawsuits against deep-pocket defendants. (What do law firms typically get in class action suits, 30% of the award?) Imagine if that award is multiple billions... It could fuel a whole new legal industry, like we saw with asbestos litigation.

I believe that's one reason why the rumors have it that Ford and Alphabet (Google) are planning to spin their new joint venture off as a legally separate company, in hopes of reducing their legal vulnerability.

The California (where I live) Department of Motor Vehicles just recently unveiled draft autonomous car vehicle regulations. They seem to me to have been written by the lawyers. The proposed new regs are getting lots of push-back from autonomous car developers because the car developers perceive that they are designed to quash the industry.

In a nutshell: If the proposed regulations are approved, in order to be street legal in California, an autonomous car must have a steering wheel and conventional controls, and a licensed driver at that wheel during autonomous operation ready to take over if anything goes wrong. (That's basically the same rule as currently applies to experimental autonomous cars currently.) What's more, manufacturers won't be allowed to sell fully autonomous cars directly to the public, but must lease them to customers instead.

https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/wcm/c...64eaa1ff/AVRegulationsSummary.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

That's how it is in the United States too. I'm sure that the insurance companies are very concerned about precisely the problems you referred to. My impression is that evolving policy in California is being strongly influenced by insurance company representatives.

I've heard rumors that Alphabet(Google) has been thinking about starting its own auto-insurance subsidiary to insure its own autonomous cars if the existing auto insurance companies are reluctant to do it.

I believe that Alphabet's plan is not to sell their cars direct to the public anyway (thus conforming to that part of the California regs), but instead to use them in an Uber-like service, where people summon an autonomous car with a cell-phone app, tell it where they want to go, after which the car becomes available for new calls. (I expect that taxi companies are fighting that like the fought Uber in France.) Requiring licensed drivers behind the wheel kind of defeats that vision.

Perhaps the almost-inevitable future of self-driving vehicles isn't destined to happen here in highly paternalistic California. After taking the forefront in developing them, Silicon Valley may be a laggard in allowing their use. Nevada has already tried to make itself appealing to the industry with favorable vehicle testing regulations and I can foresee self-driving cars enjoying their initial public adoption somewhere outside California, whether in other American states or internationally.

But yes, I feel that we may be entering a period where the biggest remaining hurdles aren't engineering challenges so much as they are legal and regulatory problems.

Last edited: Dec 25, 2015
16. ### NittanyJRegistered Member

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Sounds very interesting... but on a personal note , self driving is something very fun, often people go out on drive for mental relaxation with friends or just an outing with some closed one. A self driven car is definitely a unique innovation but we shouldn't always rely upon machines.

17. ### Waiter_2001Registered Senior Member

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I imagine the roads will be quieter then.

18. ### billvonValued Senior Member

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Of course.

I had my van broken into about ten years ago and the CD player was stolen. That thief may have saved my life as well, since I didn't drive the van for a few days after that. (Broken window.) But that would be a poor reason to encourage breaking into cars.

Well, let's hope you let them pass you - you might just save their life. From the South Florida Injury Accident blog:

==============
3. Driving Too Slow
Many may be surprised to learn how many accidents are caused by someone driving too slow. . . .In fact, driving even 10 MPH slower that the surrounding traffic greatly increases your chance of being in an accident. So if you are driving on the Florida interstate at 60 MPH and cars are whizzing past you at 70 MPH, the set speed limit, or even faster, then you’re in real danger of being in a serious accident.
==============

You are generally safest when you are going the same speed as traffic. That phenomenon is called the Solomon Curve, and is due to the fact that it is RELATIVE speed that is the risk for drivers. So if you really feel you must drive 55mph when cars around you are doing 70 - perhaps you would be better off in a bus. The life you save may be your own.

19. ### sideshowbobSorry, wrong number.Valued Senior Member

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We already rely on machines for transportation. Why not improve the least reliable part?

20. ### JeevesValued Senior Member

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As I stated, I drive at the speed limit, or as close to it as road conditions permit. And I am very much aware of other drivers' impatience and do take every opportunity to let them pass safely.

What I refuse to do is let some aggressive fool goad or bully me into reckless driving, or risk a $200 ticket just to accommodate them. 21. ### billvonValued Senior Member Messages: 13,443 Good for you. Let's hope you manage to keep up with traffic, then. 22. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member Messages: 23,198 Safe from accidents, but not fines. I was holding steady position in a long line of cars on a super highway in PA, and suprized to suddenly find a cop next to me (driver's side), motioning for me to pull to side of road. - The other cars had a PA license plates, but mine was - not. If I wanted a court date, I would need to return from Md graduate school in about three weeks, but as we were going only 10mph over the limit (cop said, but it was 15mph) I could pay him 5 times that speed excess as that was the judge's normal charge for small violations. I could then be on my way and he would plead me guilty and pay the 50 dollars. I managed not to laugh and to keep my face straight - but I knew where my$50 was going.

Last edited: Jan 4, 2016
23. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

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In some countries there is consideral danger when stopped at a traffic light - Armed robbers. I was thinking: if self driving cars go to GPS designation and have fewer accidents, they would be safer in Brazil if there were no windows.