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Straight Talk on Self-Driving Cars

7/22/2013 07:55 PM EDT
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Bert22306
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I have to doubt the premise
Bert22306   7/22/2013 9:23:31 PM
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It seems to me that a self-driving car would be next to useless, if the best it can do is emulate the driving style of each user. The main purpose for self-driving is to improve the efficiency of the roadways, and to do so with more safety than you would expect out of mere human drivers.

For example, there are plenty of drivers out there who become catatonic at red lights. They waste valuable seconds waking up to the fact the the traffic light turned green. This sort of waste creates traffic congestion (because fewer cars get through the intersection during that cycle), and requires wider and more roads to be built. Ideally, with self-driving cars, this sort of inefficiency would be eliminated, to make existing roads more capable of handling increasing demands. Ditto with freeway driving. Human reaction times require huge spacing between cars, at typical freeway speeds. A real waste of road capacity.

My thinking is, instead, that self-driving cars will be tailgating each other, at speeds way beyond what a human could manage safely. And jamming through intersections with way much tighter tolerances than mere humans can master.

I think that internal sensors in the car will be used to check the health of all critical systems, and that any sign of impending critical problem will automatically shuttle the car off to an emergency lane. Less urgent matters will create a warning for the driver, to take care of whatever problem soon. Of course, the latter is already true today, so no big vision there. There will also be road sensors, of course, to warn of obstacles or other road conditions, to adjust the flow of traffic.

goafrit
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Re: I have to doubt the premise
goafrit   7/22/2013 9:48:47 PM
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>> "Why shouldn't my car speak with an Italian accent?

The problem with many technologies is that public infrastructure will limit the progress or the speed of innovation. If you live in Pittsburgh with all the potholes, you will know that govt will be unable to provide the ecosystem to enable some of these ideas to flourish. And this is American-wide.

junko.yoshida
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Re: I have to doubt the premise
junko.yoshida   7/22/2013 10:10:58 PM
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You aren't alone in being skeptical about the premise of self-driving car.

The success of driverless cars, in my opinion, actually depends on a critical decisioneach carmaker makes -- in terms of how they design a car that can interfere with a driver's freedom. Hence this discussion of "personalizaion."

As I wrote before, it has less to do with engineerig problems, but much to do with if auto engineering can understand human psychology.

prabhakar_deosthali
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Don't make self driven cars follow personal behavior
prabhakar_deosthali   7/23/2013 1:27:40 AM
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"The car must emulate the behavior of the individual driver" This is actually to be avoided in the self driven cars. The majority of accidents happen because of this individual behavior of the drivers especially when the action of a driver mismatches with the reaction of the other driver ( coming opposite, tailing, or in the adjoining lane) If the self driven cars decide themselves how to drive in a given situation ( traffic jam, sudden braking by the car in front, road block, slippery road, snow etc) then actions and reactions of the two cars adjacent or opposite to each other will match and the accidents could be avoided.

Olaf Barheine
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Re: I have to doubt the premise
Olaf Barheine   7/23/2013 2:16:40 AM
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These are also my concerns. Here in Germany many towns and cities haven't got enough money in order to remove the street damages of last winter. How should they then ever finance the needed car-to-x infrastructure? 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Don't make self driven cars follow personal behavior
junko.yoshida   7/23/2013 7:08:45 AM
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Don't make a self-driving car that follows personal behavior...was also what my instinct said initially. But the chat with Freescale's Mr. Santo opened my eyes. Think about it. Self-driving cars, in many ways, will interfere with the freedom of your own driving. Of course, if self-driving cars are designed strictly for those who loathe driving, it's a different story. But many drivers today have their own instincts, sense of freedom, which they enjoy and cherish while driving. If self-driving cars turn out to be a big turn-off for those drivers, they won't go anywhere...

rich.pell
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Re: I have to doubt the premise
rich.pell   7/23/2013 8:32:54 AM
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This gets into an interesting area of engineering/technology implementation versus the marketplace and consumer psychology.  On the one hand, as Bert22306 suggests, personalizing self-driving cars to emulate their owners would seem to defeat their purpose - or at least completely undercut most of the potential advantages.  On the other hand, how many consumers are likely to buy into the concept of essentially purchasing a taxi or bus for their personal use, where the driving itself is completely automated and out of their control?  

Perhaps these self-driving cars will come equipped with robotic or virtual chauffeurs?  Then the perception wouldn't be a case of buying a "self-driving car" but instead a car equipped with a "personal driver." 

mcgrathdylan
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Too much technology
mcgrathdylan   7/23/2013 11:55:03 AM
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I think there are a number of interesting issues here. I think we can all agree (or most of us anyway) that ADAS has already improved vehicle safety and has the potential to do a lot more as it proliferates. But it's one thing to have this technology as an enhancement, and quite enough to take the driver out of the picture altogether.

First off, we are many many years away from this being a reality. And even when/if it becomes a reality, the driver is still going to need to be involved. One danger I see (among many) is if there comes an emergeny and a person needs to take control of the car in a split second, that driver had better be paying attention. You can see the potential for the "driver's" attention to wander if he or she is not actually driving the car most of the time. I think that is a huge issue.

LarryM99
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Driver variability
LarryM99   7/23/2013 12:49:27 PM
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Several people in this thread have made the point that drivers vary in their responses to situations, but that also applies to driving itself. The car manufacturers like to think that drivers enjoy the act of driving so much that they would not want to give it up, but I would say that varies significantly from driver to driver and from time to time. I'm a big fan of automatic climate control, because I can just set it to a temperature and forget about it. My wife, on the other hand, constantly fiddles with the temperature and fan settings because the automatic system just never gets it right in her opinion.

Any long-time commuter is also aware of the difference in traffic patterns between rush hour and random times on the weekend. Rush hour is the closest that we currently have to automated driving. People tend to fall into very predictable patterns during this time, and even bad ideas tend to be standardized. I will tend to pull over and let BMW drivers pass, since in my experience they are more likely to tailgate, and people will tend to be more aggressive about getting around me in my Honda Insight, since they know that I tend to accelerate more slowly. Weekend traffic, on the other hand, gets much more random.

My expectation is that many commuters would gladly hand over the controls during their commute, but some might be less interested in doing so over the weekend. Eventually behavior will change, but that usually changes much slower than the technology.

wilber_xbox
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Re: I have to doubt the premise
wilber_xbox   7/23/2013 1:20:57 PM
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Will the self driving cars take all the fun of self-satisfaction of control? Today also people who can afford have chauffeurs, which actually is synonymus to the self-driving cars. As far as technology is concerned, i think we have it in pieces but the biggest missing piece is the infrastructure.

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