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Self-Driving Cars

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I’ve been a computer aficionado since the mid-seventies. I took classes in computer and programming in high school, although I never followed it as a career path. My first computer was an Atari 800. I spent hours programming and playing games on it. My next computer was an IBM compatible x386. Bye-bye programming, hello computer configuration.


I/O conflicts with every configuration change. Want a modem? Do you have an open I/O channel? No? Can the sound card or graphics card be reconfigured to a different I/O channel? Yes.


The graphics were slow. Well, it seemed fast at the time. 15 seconds to display a moderate sized .gif, bmp, or .tif file. Firing up a word processing program or a game for entertainment went seamlessly for the most part. Occasionally you would find a program that would cause the system to lock up and require a reboot. Sometimes it was a setting inside one of the files that needed to be modified.


From Windows 3.1 until Windows 2000, the joke from the Mac users to the Windows users was, IBM users worked for the OS, while the Mac OS worked for them. Since Windows 2000, rooting around the operating system for what was creating a headache became more of a headache due primarily to lack of practice.


I’ve had many cars. When I hear someone say they don’t build cars like they used to, I usually sigh with relief. I don’t have to tinker under the hood every weekend any more. Oil changes have gone from 3000 to 6000 mile intervals. Tune-ups were done every 15,000 miles with tweaks under the distributor cap at about half that to reset the points. Vehicles today recommend either 50k or 100k miles.


I took a 65 Mustang for a spin around the block back in the early 90’s. I was considering it for a trade on a motorcycle I was looking to sell. The individual wanted the bike and several thousand cash in trade for the car. He wasn’t looking to buy a bike – he was looking to sell a car. One ride around the block and memories started flooding in about the weekends spent underneath the hood. I passed.


My parents are snowbirds. They own a home up north for the summer months, and a home down south for the winter. After some issues with the sump pump, a back-up system was applied that ran on the city water system. When the power went out and the back-up system failed, two monitoring systems were put in place. One of the monitoring systems is a computer that connects to a camera pointed at the sump hole allowing remote access to view the camera.


The drivers for the camera periodically fail. A scheduled event was added to reboot the computer every night at midnight, which would restart the drivers and remote access program. Periodically, the reboot process will not complete, and a trip over to manually restart the computer is in order.


Self-driving automobiles. Are we ready for them? Home Depot, Target and other systems have been compromised on their financial fronts. Recently a story regarding automobile computerized systems being capable of being compromised by hackers ran across my screen. My GPS system more often than not requires 30 seconds to access the address menu. Occasionally the USB system locks up when instantiating the audio file I was listening to.


Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy having a pot of coffee ready to pour a cup when I get out of bed in the morning. I enjoy having an electronic drafting board that makes modifying geometric assemblies and updating drawings within days what used to take months to do manually. When my coffee maker fails, or a change requires a couple of extra days because it required rethinking an assembly approach, or redeveloping some sections – it is just the inconvenience of replacing the coffee maker, or modifying the file structure.


I don’t think I’m ready to put my car on autopilot just yet. After driving for nearly eight hours in one day, I’m leery about simply engaging the cruise control.


Impetus article: CES Preview: Self-Driving Cars, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Integration to Debut

Edited by dream_weaver
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"Red Barchetta" - RUSH


My uncle has a country place
That no one knows about
He says it used to be a farm
Before the Motor Law
And on Sundays I elude the eyes
And hop the Turbine Freight
To far outside the Wire
Where my white-haired uncle waits

Jump to the ground
As the Turbo slows to cross the borderline
Run like the wind
As excitement shivers up and down my spine
Down in his barn
My uncle preserved for me an old machine
For fifty odd years
To keep it as new has been his dearest dream

I strip away the old debris
That hides a shining car
A brilliant red Barchetta
From a better vanished time
I fire up the willing engine
Responding with a roar
Tires spitting gravel
I commit my weekly crime

In my hair
Shifting and drifting
Mechanical music
Adrenaline surge...

Well-weathered leather
Hot metal and oil
The scented country air
Sunlight on chrome
The blur of the landscape
Every nerve aware

Suddenly ahead of me
Across the mountainside
A gleaming alloy air car*
Shoots towards me, two lanes wide
I spin around with shrieking tires
To run the deadly race
Go screaming through the valley
As another joins the chase

Drive like the wind
Straining the limits of machine and man
Laughing out loud with fear and hope
I've got a desperate plan
At the one-lane bridge
I leave the giants stranded at the riverside
Race back to the farm
To dream with my uncle at the fireside
*How much money do you want to bet that the "gleaming alloy air car" is a self-driving car?
Edited by New Buddha
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Cars are done. Nobody cars about performance anymore.


I'm personally sad about this.


When I was younger I always loved cars and performance and lusted after every extra bit of horsepower and road holding G-force, Then I hit the zenith and was able to get anything I wanted and drove around the highest-performing exotic car you could buy. My eventual emotions could be summed up in the song, "Is That All There Is?". Performance cars are so ridiculously fast and ridiculously perfect these days. I can fly into a corner at whatever speed and the computers will keep me from killing myself every time. And a stick-shift? Ancient history. Now there's no clutch pedal--but my "F1-inspired" transmission shifts in gears a hundred times faster than my legs could ever manage it. Way faster, way more efficient, way more... boring?


So I'm sadly ready for the day I don't drive at all. I suppose cowboys, witnessing the end of horses, felt similar emotions.


It's progress, my friends. It's all good in aggregate, but that doesn't mean it might not just suck in a more narrow context.  Human-driven cars are dangerous and slow compared to the computer-controlled future we're heading toward. Is that better?


I'm reminded of the line:


"As you fall asleep, the air is pure above the roof of your house, pure as arctic snow—only you wonder how much longer you will care to breathe it." -- Ayn Rand / The Anti-Industrial Revolution


Or maybe I'll just get on my Xbox and simulate thrills I never could in a real car? Yes, I guess progress is good, in the widest context...

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I think what set of qualities in a car turns an individual on boils to personal association. I'm a huge fan of formula one. I also love drifting. Can I drift in the modern day 'performance car'? No. But will enjoy the seamless gear shifts? Most certainly, because it'll be close to what I've always want to do - race in a F1 grand prix.


But as far as the question of automation goes, nope, it's not a good idea. Self driving cars are practical for long distance drives and that too for people who wouldn't mind taking public transport. 


For relatively short trips and the sense of freedom, nothing beats the rush of driving your own car. 


I share your concern about the vulnerability/reliability of the technology, no matter how advanced it maybe. But, that's insufficient reason to draw conclusions.

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I sure as hell would not get in a self-driving car on today's highways. At minimum, I want separate lanes with thick barriers from human drivers, and then extensive crash protection from other malfunctioning computer-driven cars.

I don't think there's a computer out there that could stand a chance at navigating any city's rush hour if you take into account just the ability to change lanes. Variable speed would be hard enough, though probably possible. But laterally, I doubt it. I could probably figure out how to avoid five lunatics intersecting my car's projectile all going different speeds, but I don't think a computer could. Also, snap judgments on a driver's personality and driving style are useful predictors of roadway disasters. Maybe I'm ignorant, and that kind of thing can be predicted by a computer, but I'd believe it only when I saw it.

As to the future of driving, I don't think human-controlled vehicles will ever be eradicated. There are too many people who have fun driving!

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I suspect we'll see "robot-only zones" where cars don't have to predict what humans will do. That will allow the technology to adopt gradually. Then these zones will get more common, until practically all roads are this way, etc. etc.


And yes, self-driven cars won't go away entirely, just like horses haven't. I just hope there's still good places to ride in the future...

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I've never driven on a track. I can imagine that it would be fun in its own way, and some of the things I like about driving would cross over. But honestly, half the fun for me is figuring out what the other drivers are going to do. If the roadways are to become mostly automated, I can imagine tracks becoming a mainstay, with maybe even their numbers increasing.

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In general, autopilot for automobiles is coming. Automation is one of the key components of the industrial revolution. While not a car-buff and aficionado, I still felt a sense of accomplishment when I mastered shifting a manual transmission vehicle - both up and down - without having to resort to using the clutch, save for first gear. It was a 1985 Plymouth Turismo, the first brand new car I ever purchased. I traded it in just shy of 100,000 miles, and it still had the factory clutch plates in her.

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  • 4 weeks later...
"In his book, The New Killer Apps, Mui imagines the economic implications of a world where driverless cars are common: 
Auto insurers, which collect more than $200 billion in premiums each year in the United States, would initially see profits rise as accidents declined and payments to customers dropped but would eventually see something like 90 percent of premiums disappear. Health insurers would also have to give up revenue as car-related injuries plummeted. Governments would lose fines, because cars would obey all traffic laws, but police forces would need fewer officers on the road, and prisons would need less capacity as drunk drivers kept their freedom. Utilities would lose revenue because traffic lights would no longer be needed, and highways and streets wouldn’t need to be lit—after all, the cars can see in the dark. Parking lots, which cover a third of the ground in some cities, would pretty much disappear, while freeing land and reducing property values. And so on."
Edited by Anuj
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Good unseen ramifications.


Still, there are trends that I notice that give a general sense of dis-ease when it comes to reliance on technology to this degree. It may be that I'm projecting a trend in programming for desktop computers with business that would have the customer safety at the top of their list. The CAD software I used for a decade or so about a decade ago was rock solid. It did what it was supposed to do with a relative handful of undocumented user features (bugs) there-in. The upgrade was packed with many more features, but have many more issues which are much more difficult to isolate, and reproduce, if you can do it at all.

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Something that is untried and untested shall always give a sense of 'dis-ease'. Reminds me of Rearden metal from the AS. 
Self-Driving cars may not be a distant future; wiki says that numerous companies : Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Continental Automotive Systems, Autoliv Inc., Bosch, Nissan, Renault, Toyota, Audi, Volvo, Peugeot, Google  have developed working prototype autonomous vehicles. As of 2013, four U.S. states have passed laws permitting autonomous cars: Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan. Check out some of the test drive videos on Youtube.
This report says that there could be as many as 12 million driver-less cars on road by 2035. I don't know on what basis they cook number but  If predictions are 20 years for U.S. I guess it should sadly be 30 for India. 
I like to drive car myself. But it becomes a pain if your office is a hour and a half from your home. 3 hours is just too much to lose in a day. I would rather watch a movie on my laptop, read a novel,blog or just sleep while my car drops me to office and heads back home on its own.  
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The part that raises my eyebrow is not with the untried, untested automobile aspect.


Automobiles have been improving over the last 100 years. Computers have made their debut, and work pretty good.It is every time I encounter a bug, or read about a successful bypass of security measures that leaves the apprehension in place yet.


I'm not trying to blow anything out of proportion here. I think I'm asking do these benefits outweigh this concern. I'm reading the affirmatives, I'm just not satisfied with it yet personally.

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Cloud computing also had and still has security concerns. Yet organizations are embracing it. So much so that even a companies' finance applications are being hosted on cloud ( SaaS).

Yet your concerns are valid. There are reliability( on snow and during rain ) and privacy (misuse of location details) concerns apart from security. There would be numerous legal issues also.

It would be interesting to see how the car actually comes out when it does.

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  • 1 month later...

Autonomous Car Completes 3,400-Mile US Road Trip


Given my concerns at present, the list of interventions was slight:

The person sitting in the car's driver seat intervened once when traffic was weaving around in a construction zone, and again when the car didn't want to move into a busy left lane to avoid police stopped on the right shoulder. The car also got a little skittish when it was next to semi-trailer trucks, edging over to avoid them. But for the most part, it easily navigated bridges, traffic circles and open highways, even in heavy rain, Owens said.


The three terrabyte of data collected from the trip will be used to further enhance autonomous driving systems.

Delphi will use the lessons it learned to improve the systems that will eventually be used in autonomous and even driverless cars. Earlier this week, Audi AG announced that Delphi will produce a new central computer system that will process the data from various cameras and sensors and tell a car how to respond. The system will appear in Audis in about two years. Delphi is also supplying Volvo with the radar- and camera-based system that enables automatic braking, lane departure warning and other safety features on the upcoming XC90.


"This technology has come so far. It's going to make such a difference in the accident statistics," Owens said.

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Crash-Testing Driverless Cars in a Robot City


A Michigan mini-metropolis will put driverless cars through their paces



Welcome to M City, a soon-to-open 23-acre mini-metropolis at the University of Michigan, where automakers can test autonomous cars to prepare for the driverless future expected within a decade. Seeking to replicate a modern city’s chaos—traffic jams, unpredictable pedestrians, weaving cyclists—M City starts running on July 20 and has carmakers and tech companies queuing up to conduct research on its roads.


M City sits amid towering pines in the Detroit suburb of Ann Arbor, a short hop from the technology labs of multiple carmakers. Once completed this summer, the $6.5 million facility will be outfitted with 40 building facades, angled intersections, a traffic circle, a bridge, a tunnel, gravel roads, and plenty of obstructed views. There’s even a four-lane highway with entrance and exit ramps to test how cars without a driver would merge.


Concerns over and above just the technological reliability will be taken into consideration as well. Considerations such as snow, rain, and power outages as well as intersections to assess performance among other vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles.

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  • 1 month later...

An article from someone who says he encounters the Google cars regularly.


Google cars drive like your grandma...



...Honestly, I don't think it will take long for other drivers to realize that self-driving cars are "easy targets" in traffic.
Overall, I would say that I'm impressed with how these things operate. I actually do feel safer around a self-driving car than most other California drivers.



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Legal issues and public apprehension are still significant. I have little doubt that the technological issues could be overcome, but question that under today's philosophical framework.


To the degree the autonomous aspect is held legally liable, will help shape the reliability, which in turn should thwart public apprehension. Another article I did not re-locate mentioned that while opposed to driverless vehicles, many still welcomed parking assist and cruise control that reduced speed to maintain a safe distance.


Granted, this bug, where a text message shuts down and reboots the I-phone or I-watch, is more of an annoyance than concern, but imagine a similar one being discovered for autonomous vehicles which could cause it to shut down at a crucial moment.

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Granted, this bug, where a text message shuts down and reboots the I-phone or I-watch, is more of an annoyance than concern, but imagine a similar one being discovered for autonomous vehicles which could cause it to shut down at a crucial moment.

In this video with a non-software malfunction, I bet a computer wouldn't have rolled the car. :D

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  • 3 weeks later...

Self-driving cars may have to be programmed to kill you


For anyone who thinks philosophy has little to do with practical real-life decisions this article opens with:


The self-driving cars that could soon dominate our roads, perhaps even making human-driven ones illegal some day, could end up being programmed to kill you if it means saving a larger number of lives.


This is routed in a classic philosophical thought experiment, the Trolley Problem.


Link added. The article closes with:


As technology and AI advances these unsolved philosophical and ethical problems are only going to become more urgent and political, and as it stands, future tech appears to be advancing a lot faster than useful debate about how best to implement it.


While looking for this:

Every code of morality is based on and derived from a metaphysics, that is: from a certain view of the nature of the universe in which man has to live and act. Observe that the altruist morality is based on a "malevolent universe" premise, on the view that man's life is, by nature, a calamity, that emergencies, disasters, scourges, catastrophies, are the norm of his existence. Are they? Observe also that the advocates of altruism always offer "lifeboat" situations as examples from which to derive the rules of moral conduct ("What should you do if you are caught with another man in a lifeboat that can carry only one?" etc.) The fact is that men do not live in lifeboats—and that a lifeboat is not the place on which to base one's metaphysics.


I found this:

Ethics is not a mystic fantasy—nor a social convention—nor a dispensable, subjective luxury, to be switched or discarded in any emergency. Ethics is an objective, metaphysical necessity of man's survival—not by the grace of the supernatural nor of your neighbors nor of your whims, but by the grace of reality and the nature of life.

So, as the automation of vehicular movement is being programmed into the software, are the considerations and evaluations being coded into the algorithms guided by a malevolent or benevolent universe premise? This could quite literally be the difference between life and death.

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  • 4 months later...

Study: Self-driving cars have higher accident rate

The bottom line: Even though self-driving vehicles were not at fault in any crashes they were involved in and that injuries have of lower severity than for conventional cars, it appears they are getting in more accidents given their numbers.

So next, do the statisticians point out that self-driving vehicles have not been involved in an incident with another self-driving vehicle?


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That's still a grand total of 11 accidents all together, not a very solid sample size yet. It doesn't give any obvious reasons for people to make mistakes driving that result in accidents with those self-driving cars, so combined with the small accident sample size, this still looks like it could easily be a fluke. More data needed to draw any conclusions. I really would be interested though in accident rates with a large number of self-driving cars doing lots of driving together for many miles over a long time.

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