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21 comments

Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

Posted June 13, 2011 11:17 AM

BMW has just announced a laser-based system to help drivers avoid being T-boned at intersections. Automatic parking functions have become more popular. Nearly every car company now fields models with adaptive cruise control. Vehicles increasingly feature assistive technology, and yet we are far from the fully automated highways that pundits of the early 1990s predicted. Do you think we will ever get there? Would you be comfortable giving up control of your car to a computer and a set of servo motors?

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#1

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/13/2011 11:34 AM

Doesn't that lot make it into an automatic guided transport system, then, rather like this?

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#2

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/13/2011 4:04 PM

Re: Do you think we will ever get there?

Yes.

Re: Would you be comfortable giving up control of your car to a computer and a set of servo motors?

Not today-- and it would take a few sensors as well.

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#3

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/14/2011 12:47 AM

Yeah, have you ever seen a microcontroller putting on mascara while driving down the freeway? Or a servo motor texting its friend the next state over? Or a lidar sensor spilling hot McD's coffee in its lap? Or a CAN bus controller reading a paperback romance novel in rush hour traffic at 75 mph? Or . . . .

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/14/2011 8:51 AM

While I do agree and I am getting a good laugh at your response, I have already proven to myself that I am a competant driver. I will let someone else prove the fully automated automobile before I ride in one. Sorry but you only get one chance to make a right decision in these.

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#7
In reply to #5

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/14/2011 10:57 AM

You are correct in ascertaining my sarcasm. But there is a nugget of truth hiding in it. In some cases, an automated car would be safer, even with its vulnerabilities and foibles, than a certain percentage of the drivers I observe on the roads today.

I'm a hands-on driver and I enjoy the experience. I like clutches and manual transmissions. I HATE the drive-by-wire throttle in my otherwise nice 2005 VW Jetta (Mark IV). When revving the car and raking the tranny, the electronic throttle control does not snap shut the butterfly shut when shifting, so what happens is the engine revs higher when you lift your foot off the gas and disengage the clutch. I HATE it.

You can sort of train yourself to let off the throttle 1/2 to 1 second in advance of the clutch but WHY do we have to be subjected to this crap??? I've been driving all manner of manual transmissions over the last 34 years from motorbikes to 10-ton dump trucks with a split rear-axle. I know that the DbW throttle was probably to get by the emissions standards but why couldn't they have a different mode when shifting at high RPM's?

I won't be happy when the car decides to stab the brakes if it thinks I'm approaching an obstacle at too high a speed. I won't be happy when it steers me back into my lane if I decide to change lanes and it over-rules me. Some will say but what about ABS brakes? This is a different animal. ABS does not overrule the driver, it limits the application when it senses excessive differential wheel speeds. I will tolerate ABS brakes, but the recall of my 2002 Suburban due to faulty wheel sensors was problematic for some people who ran into things at low speed with their foot ramming down the brake pedal. These systems are not always your best friend. I'm OK with stability control systems, PROVIDED you can turn it off if you don't like how it behaves.

There are plenty of drivers for whom an automobile is simply a transportation appliance, no different than a refrigerator, and quite frankly can use all the "help" they can get.

Cheers !

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/14/2011 11:20 AM

"There are plenty of drivers for whom an automobile is simply a transportation appliance, no different than a refrigerator, and quite frankly can use all the "help" they can get."

To be honest, I think I fit in this category. I would rather have a car that drives for me but I want someone else to put their life on the line to say it's safe before I get in.

I hate driving because I'm constantly avoiding near accidents. I probably take it more seriously than I should, but I have no luck in life so if I quit paying attention for a second, something WILL hit me. This have been proven multiple times lol.

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#19
In reply to #8

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

07/20/2011 2:02 AM

It would not be proper of me to comment, knowing that you are from a less developed country. Maybe you could learn from Texas drivers how to avoid accidents.

-A-

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#20
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Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

07/20/2011 8:35 AM

Ha. I thought about sending you this the other day.

Late last Sunday night, I'm getting on I-10. There's only one other car on the road (a Texan). It's three lanes so I don't know why he blocked me from getting on the interstate, but that's not the point. When I get on, I set my cruise to 70 mph in a 70 zone and I pass him. Wouldn't be a big deal except when the speed drops to 60, I drop my cruise down and then he flies by me (had to be going at least 75).

Maybe you can help me figure out his mentality. You know being the arrogants neighbors that you Texans are.

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#21
In reply to #20

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

07/20/2011 10:53 AM

Easy, this poor Texan is moving along at 68, in the slow lane of a posted 70, and you merge into his door panel at 75, causing him to swerve and miss the clapping part of, "Deep in the Heart of Texas." Then, as you blow past, he's just happy to not have been taken out by a Looseriana driver, you slam on the brakes. By this time he's convinced you are TRYING to kill him (and rightly so) so he flores it and gets back to civilization as fast as he can. Orange Texas never looked so good!

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/14/2011 11:38 AM

I agree with you - I want to be in control (as much as possible) of anything for which I am responsible and bear the consequences. My concern is not just the loss of that control, but the undetermined responsibility should an intermittent improper overriding command (glitch) directly or indirectly cause an accident (or God forbid a fatality). Manufacturer? Operator?

As scary as flying is (no personal control) I would more trust a computer being controlled by a trained human with a trained human back up and an observer giving direction & feedback at take off and landing, than a single computer controlling my vehicle. Hard to believe that the reliability will ever be sufficient.

Remember, one chance in a thousand is 100% if it happens to you!

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#11
In reply to #9

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/14/2011 8:00 PM

Its interesting to note here that railroad engines still have human drivers.......!

perhaps we should start there with automation.

chris

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/14/2011 10:14 PM

not by much,

why do they call it a Deadman's switch then?

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/14/2011 10:29 PM

carry over from the old days...

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/23/2011 6:51 AM

Deadman Switch. Still a much needed device in modern locomotives. Ever ridden in one for 8 hours a day? Very easy to fall into a form of "highway hypnosis".

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#15
In reply to #14

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/23/2011 7:51 AM

no doubt.. I was referring to the naming.... not the necessity of its function. good point.

chris.

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#17
In reply to #14

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/23/2011 9:37 AM

Re: Deadman Switch.

Would the automated car only move while a (particular) passenger was awake and alert? What is the function of that passenger--is he actually monitoring something? What?

Some other issues:

  • What if the only passenger in the vehicle is sick, passed out, and has directed the vehicle to take him to an emergency room?
  • Obviously, the result of releasing / de-actuating the deadman switch cannot be for the vehicle to stop quickly in the roadway--I think it would have to do something more clever, like pull over to the side of the road and stop
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#10
In reply to #3

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/14/2011 6:53 PM

Agreed. Until there is a "safe" automated car, it would be nice to try to apply all of our technical know how to have sensors that would sense when a driver is doing any of the things you mentioned. Drunk drivers are the worst and probably most dangerous. All of these activities sound harmless until someone "accidentally" through "inattention" ruins lives tragically and needlessly.

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#4

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/14/2011 8:32 AM

I recently took a trip in a "loaned" Mercedes having the latest bells and whistles. On 3 separate occasions it warned my wife of inattention when I was sure she was alert and driving conservatively and sensibly. Once as I accelerated to pass and came too close to another vehicle ahead "in it's judgment" and it decelerated as I was pulling out to pass..

We may have reliable "assistive technology" some day, just not yet today.

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#6

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/14/2011 8:51 AM

We would not be far from a magnetic strip on the major throughfairs such as I-40 where you could drive your auto to the strip and let go of the wheel and punch in OKC and the strip would put you in a stall in the designated place where you could release the old machine to your control or get out and take a bus or maybe you should punch in OKC before you let go of the wheel..

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#16

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/23/2011 8:23 AM

What's next? Lawyers suing computers for whiplash? Computers programmed with law software to sue other computers? Will the cars be controlled with Windows-based software and have a Ctrl/Alt/Del gearstick? Will NASCAR be taken over by computer nerds? Will I be able to program my mother-in-laws car to turn around if it gets within a mile of my house? Will hackers be able to send me on a cross-country trip when I just want to go to the grocery store? There's many problems to iron out.

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#18
In reply to #16

Re: Could automated cars ever be truly safe?

06/23/2011 10:04 AM

Will NASCAR be taken over by computer nerds?
Yes it already has been, every aspect is analyzed in minute detail

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