Breaking News
News & Analysis

Straight Talk on Self-Driving Cars

7/22/2013 07:55 PM EDT
45 comments
NO RATINGS
1 saves
Page 1 / 2 Next >
More Related Links
View Comments: Oldest First | Newest First | Threaded View
<<   <   Page 4 / 5   >   >>
DMcCunney
User Rank
CEO
It will take more than just the car
DMcCunney   7/24/2013 11:32:39 AM
NO RATINGS
I'm a long time science fiction fan, and the notion is an old one in the genre.  The usual expression is that you get in the car, tell it where you want to go, and the car takes over from there.  You sit back and watch a movie or something.  In general, you aren't driving,  The car is,  You're simply a passenger.

Achieving that state will not only require sophistication in the car, but a network infrastructure the car connects to.  It will be the network's job to decide how to get to the location I want to get to, picking the best route, and managing the traffic in the process.  The process would be analogous to TCP-IP packet routing, where the exact path a packet will take to a destination is not specified, and may vary from packet to packet depending on conditions in the network

While manual control fallback would likely be an option, all concerned would want to make it as unlikely as possible that it would ever need to be used.

junko.yoshida
User Rank
Blogger
Re: I have to doubt the premise
junko.yoshida   7/24/2013 11:35:53 AM
NO RATINGS
Good points. This needs further investigation. Will do.

Tom Murphy
User Rank
Blogger
Re: I have to doubt the premise
Tom Murphy   7/24/2013 11:52:04 AM
NO RATINGS
Bert:  I think the reason folks are worried about giving up control to the machines is because there's no assurance they will be better drivers than the humans -- and you bring up an interesting example with the thought about a human who needs to urgently exit the car.

Let's say there's a fire inside the passenger compartment -- we've had some horrid fatal incidents of that recently in the SF Bay Area.   A human would draw on all mental capability to stop and get out of traffic very, very fast. But giving a command to a computer to stop the car might not bring the same sort of panic stop.  I'm guessing the car would follow normal protocol of signally surrounding vehicles and reducing speed gradually.  I suppose you could build a panic button into the dash, but that raises all sorts of other questions....

Thoughts on that?

Bert22306
User Rank
CEO
Re: I have to doubt the premise
Bert22306   7/24/2013 3:09:42 PM
NO RATINGS
Sure. For one thing, a self driving car will be infused with sensors, because it is imperative that the car know its own health at all times. I'm talking about these cars using the roadways efficiently, not just a half-a**ed approach to self driving. So this car will sense the fire starting faster than a human would, and either put it out, or take action to stop the car immediately.

But also, why assume that a human driver can stop a car faster than this algorithm-driven car? Humans do all sorts of irrational thing when they panic. We already know that automatic controls do many many jobs much faster and more accurately than humans can, so why wouldn't that also apply to emergency stops?

Technology seems to evolve this way all the time. During a transitional phase, that comfortable well-known alternative is kept as backup (like sails were retained on steam ships, and hand cranks were retained on cars with electric starters). Pretty soon, though, those old standbys have to go. You can't even use a hand crank when the compression ratio is higher than 5:1 or so. Imagine having to live with that restriction. So the old standby becomes liability. That's what will eventually happen with human drivers.

Tom Murphy
User Rank
Blogger
Re: I have to doubt the premise
Tom Murphy   7/24/2013 3:22:02 PM
NO RATINGS
Bert: Well said, my friend. I'm sure that someday it may be possible to have self-driving cars, although right now most cities can't seem to fill the potholes much less build new roads. I wonder how long this transition will take...?

I recall hearing serious talk of self-driving cars for the first time at the NY Worlds' Fair in 1964 -- almost half a century ago -- at the GM exhibit there. They gave us the impression we'd all have them by the turn of the century. I'm guessing I may never see them in common operation. 

How long do you think it will be before we see millions of self-driving cars in operation?  And how long will it take to switch from them being mixed with human-piloted cars to the day they own the road themselves?

makaveli_0000
User Rank
Rookie
Re: I have to doubt the premise
makaveli_0000   7/24/2013 7:09:33 PM
NO RATINGS
I think we are overly simplifying the dynamics associated with our central nervous system.  The human brain with its association of sensors spanning our entire body is one mechanical system that is very hard to model and control.  There are just too many degrees of freedom.  If we confine the control problem to a restricted, well defined or well-known domain with a small finite number of unknowns, then it becomes increasingly realistic to design a control system to work within the boundaries.

This is what most control systems are about today.  They have several output variables which they attempt to keep within a control limit.  This is possible with combat aircraft, submarines and many other advanced control solutions we have developed.  However, in all of these cases, you still need that human factor to account for the unknown.

Self-driving cars will be operating in a uncontrolled environment with a lot of unknowns.  This alone makes it a very difficult proposition.  Like someone mentioned, we are barely doing a good job in maintaining our relatively primitive transportation infrastructure.  How will we fare with such a highly intelligent and advanced traffic infrastructure?  We are   automating certain tasks in cars today but at the end of the day, we still need that human factor to cater for the unknown.  

A similar argument can be applied to robots.  There has been significant progress made in this field but there is still a long way to go before a robot can undertake a sample portion of the tasks we are capable of.  It must also be said that some emotional or irrational human decisions could sometimes end up being the appropriate ones based on the context, something which is impossible to automate.

 

DK8PP/M
User Rank
Rookie
Autonomous driving
DK8PP/M   7/25/2013 5:53:49 AM
NO RATINGS
Self driving cars will come in the not so distant future, no doubt. We have already seen prototypes, which find a parking lot by themselves. We have adaptive cruise control, which is based on radar and we have lane departure warning and blind spot detection based on cameras and image processing already since a few years. The step towards (semi-) autonomous driving in stop and go traffic up to a certain speed is not a big one. Gradual improvements will finally bring the autonomous car, which drives at higher speeds and passes slower traffic. No need for changes in the infrastructure, all done by optics, radar and processing power. After all, who would fund such an infrastructure? Maybe Asia, but the western countries are on a decline, all of them. They don't even have the money to maintain the current infrastructure (e.g. bridges).
Who needs (semi) autonomous cars? Well, we all may need them when we get older and become handicapped in one way or another. Remember that, also in the western world, many people live in rural areas without much public transportation. My father suffered from a stroke earlier this year and he had to give up driving. With his children living far away, it is difficult for him to get to the doctor, who is a mere 5 miles away. When I'm in his age, I will enter the car and tell it to bring me to the doctor. It doesn't have to be fast and driving needs not be fun, but it will eventually get me there. And regarding the fun side of driving, there are enough situations, in which driving is no fun. A six hours ride leaves enough opportunities to lay back a while for a break or to drive manually with enthusiasm. Just like on a cross-country flight in a small aircraft, where even the passionate pilot leaves flying to the autopilot.

junko.yoshida
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Autonomous driving
junko.yoshida   7/25/2013 7:21:38 AM
NO RATINGS
DK8PP/M, thanks for your thoughtful comments. 

Some of the scenarios you described in your post perfectly capture the real-word's needs for autonomous driving. I feel for your father. And yes, we all need someday a car that can get us to where we need to be.

Meanwhile, if not a complete self driving, we do understand the need for semi-autonomous driving. For safety, it's indeed a great help.

And yet, what is not so clear to me is to get a handle on when and where my judgement is required while driving vs when and where I can totally trust my car to do the job.  

junko.yoshida
User Rank
Blogger
Re: I have to doubt the premise
junko.yoshida   7/25/2013 7:27:13 AM
NO RATINGS
The human brain with its association of sensors spanning our entire body is one mechanical system that is very hard to model and control. 


makaveli_0000, well put. Without knowing what is "unknown" to self-driving cars or robots, it's hard to really understand what a driverless car (or even semi-autonomous driving car) can or can't do. 

 

goafrit
User Rank
Manager
Re: I have to doubt the premise
goafrit   7/25/2013 1:21:15 PM
NO RATINGS
Good point indeed Olaf. I think this technology is coming at the wrong time in history when nations are broke to do any major project financing. Pot holes and bad bridges, I wish Google and the likes good luck if they expect govt to help make this mainstream.

<<   <   Page 4 / 5   >   >>
Flash Poll
Like Us on Facebook

Datasheets.com Parts Search

185 million searchable parts
(please enter a part number or hit search to begin)
EE Times on Twitter
EE Times Twitter Feed
Top Comments of the Week