Driverless cars of the future

According to an article on Mashable, driverless cars of the future are here! Now!
Well, in 2018 they will be.

I’ll believe it when I see it. They’ve been promising driverless cars for years, and apart from the Lexus that can park itself, that BMW that can memorise a route around an (otherwise-empty) test track, and cars that drive along a set distance from each other in a straight line, it’s never happened.

I’m glad, because I like driving. Some of the people commenting on that story don’t seem to, though…

“I REALLY want an autonomous vehicle….I hate driving. Can’t wait for this to become a reality. If any companies need test drivers, sign me up. 🙂 I’m more than happy to read or take a nap on the way to work…okay, I live like 5 minutes from work, but still…” – David Mackey.

You live 5 minutes from work and you drive? Hands up which nation has the highest rate of obesity!

“It’ll be cool to see NASCAR drivers Racing agains Computer Drivers, like Chess Players play against Computers today, now thats the Future!” – Carson Gallo

How boring would that be though? Surely the excitement of motorsport comes from the danger of crashing/dying in a fireball, and the skill in not doing so? If you take that away, it’s just a load of people you don’t know playing Gran Turismo. Televised.

I also don’t think computers are clever enough for this. How does a car know the difference between a carrier bag blowing around, and a cat?
Computers are great for some things. If this happens, do this. If thing A occurs, carry out instruction B.
But roads are odd. There is some stuff that happens every day, like a traffic light going red just as you get to it. And then there are things that don’t – like fire engines causing all other traffic to move, potholes that weren’t there last week, or things falling off of trucks and blocking the road. How will an automated car cope when there’s a swan on the motorway? (Yes, the humans crashed. But nobody was injured.)

As soon as you add unpredictable things like non-driverless cars (there are millions of these at the moment), pedestrians, cyclists, motorbikes, animals, etc. into the equation, expect major catastrophic failure.
Or are these automated-things going to need whole swathes of road to themselves? Because I don’t know about the US (where this story originates), but the UK certainly doesn’t have the road space for that. Just adding a cycle lane is impossible in some parts of Bristol. A whole automated-car lane? Forget it.

You might think that you can just override the automation when you need to. But that’s even worse, surely?
Now you’ve got someone who potentially hasn’t driven properly in ages (because their car has been doing it for them) trying to do so while packing away their lunch and turning off the film that they were watching, all while the car is still moving.
At what point in the ‘turning off the automation’ process would it go from “passenger trying to avoid an accident” and into “passenger caused an accident while in control of their car”? If you still have to watch what it does and concentrate just in case you need to take over, then you might as well just drive yourself to begin with.

When you need car insurance, will there be options:
Accidents in the last 5 years? Yes.
Whose fault was it? Nissan’s.

Have you been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault OR the fault of the person in the car that hit you? Good luck with that.

“And now the defendant – the Audi Ventraila 76xfb-a vers. 3.”

Even trains still have human drivers. They go only forward and backward, have no obstacles to hit (theoretically), just stop/start at various points without injuring anyone, and a computer can’t be trusted to do that right. What hope does an automated car have, of navigating safely through The Magic Roundabout in Swindon?

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