Self-driving cars set for test drive in Nevada (Update)

May 07, 2012
In this undated handout from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, a screen capture of what a driverless car sees is shown. Nevada drivers could soon be sharing the road with driverless cars as officials with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles say they have issued Google the nation’s first license to test self-driving cars on public streets. (AP Photo/Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles)

Nevada drivers could soon be sharing the road with vehicles that don't need them.

Department of Motor Vehicles officials said Monday they've issued Google the nation's first license to test self-driving cars on public streets, after conducting demonstrations on the Las Vegas Strip and in Carson City that show the car is as safe - or perhaps safer - than a human.

"It gets honked at more often because it's being safe," said Nevada DMV Director Bruce Breslow.

Self-driving vehicle technology works like auto-pilot to guide a car - in this case a modified Prius - with little or no intervention from a human operator. Laser radar mounted on the roof and in the grill detects pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles, creating a virtual buffer zone around the obstacles that the car then avoids.

While some envision the robotic car dropping off its operator at the front of the mall and hunting for a parking spot on its own, Breslow said not so fast.

Nevada's regulations require two people in the test cars at all times. One person is behind the wheel, while the other person monitors a computer screen that shows the car's planned route and keeps tabs on roadway hazards and traffic lights.

If there's a glitch, the human driver can override the autonomous auto with a tap on the brake or a hand on the steering wheel.

Last summer, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval took the car for a spin in and around the state's quiet capital city. But Las Vegas Boulevard, where costumed superheroes routinely take the crosswalks and massive billboards angle for the attention of starry-eyed tourists, was perhaps best suited to test the car's main purpose.

"They're designed to avoid distracted driving," Breslow said. "When you're on the Strip and there's a huge truck with a three scantily clad women on the side, the car only sees a box."

So far, Google's applied to license three test vehicles. Breslow said the cars will display red plates and an infinity symbol to represent their status as vehicles of the future.

Once they're ready for the market - something Breslow guesses could come in three to five years - the plates will be green.

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Milou
5 / 5 (1) May 07, 2012
That's what I call a "real gamble" on this working right?
eachus
3 / 5 (1) May 07, 2012
That's what I call a "real gamble" on this working right?

With two people required in each car? I call that a timid step backward. During the DARPA Grand Challenge a few years ago, totally driverless vehicles did complete a rugged course rally course over a hundred miles long. (In a rally, there are maximum speeds on every stretch of road, and the goal is to finish as close to the minimum time as possible.)
wealthychef
5 / 5 (2) May 08, 2012
Um, from fast on an off road rally to legal speeds on real roads is a step forward in my book.
Skepticus
1.7 / 5 (3) May 08, 2012
Thank heavens they didn't require a person holding a flag walking in front of the car!
Riff
5 / 5 (1) May 08, 2012
I agree with you 100% Milou. Unless Google had made a breakthrough in 'glitchless software', it's crazy. Point being, this is no such thing as glitchless code or hardware. Of course driverless cars will be the norm someday, but compilers, nor coders, nor hardware are glitchless enough to let a car loose in it's own to drive yet. Some simple oversight such as a daylight savings time bug or even a voltage spike will get someone killed. It is just not ready. Nobody even cares about security on the net because it's all about kicking something out before the next guy. This amounts to the same mentality.
Riff
5 / 5 (1) May 08, 2012
"Point being, this is no such thing as glitchless code or hardware."

was meant to be..

"Point being, there is no such thing as glitchless code or hardware."

Sorry about that. I went to edit it but the submit button was disabled. How ironic that I screw up yet make my 'glitch' point perfectly clear, both at the same time. Thanks for proving my point PhysOrg.
dschlink
5 / 5 (2) May 08, 2012
"It gets honked at more often because it's being safe," I know the feeling.

Certainly neither software or hardware are perfect, but given the number of people who drive while eating, applying makeup, texting, using their cellphones, drunk, under the influence of other drugs or too old to react to a problem, I'm fine with the limits of the technology.

trekgeek1
5 / 5 (2) May 08, 2012
"It gets honked at more often because it's being safe," I know the feeling.

Certainly neither software or hardware are perfect, but given the number of people who drive while eating, applying makeup, texting, using their cellphones, drunk, under the influence of other drugs or too old to react to a problem, I'm fine with the limits of the technology.



Yes, glad someone got the point of the article. Nobody is saying that autonomous vehicles will ever be 100% safe and perfect. You only need to show that the probability of a glitch, hardware failure or genuine programming mistake is less than the probability of a human not paying attention, having a heart attack, etc. That's the tipping point; not perfection, but improvement over humans.
Riff
not rated yet May 08, 2012
trekgeek1,dschlink ... good points. I agree that once dialed in, the car will be a better driver than a human by a longshot. One worry is, that as soon as it hits the road, what mischievous dipheads are gonna start aiming lasers, IR, RF devices at it just for fun? Any sensor can be tricked. I am sure they will figure out how to prevent that sooner or later, but till then it is not safe to be licensed to drive and it just seems a bit ambitious at this point.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) May 08, 2012
Point being, this is no such thing as glitchless code or hardware.

As long as the software glitches less often than human drivers do (truckers asleep at the wheel and whatnot) it's all good.

There are plenty of other systems that need to be fault tolerant - from automated subways to rockets. The approach is always the same: multiply redundant systems - preferrably written in ddifferent languages by different people running on different platforms checking each other.
bredmond
not rated yet May 08, 2012
..., but compilers, nor coders, nor hardware are glitchless eno...


not to be obnoxious, but it should be: "but NEITHER compilers ..."
Lex Talonis
1 / 5 (1) May 14, 2012
Oh noooo this is like my WORST fucking nightmare.......

Waking up in the back seat of a car, that has veered onto the wrong side of the road and is about to have a high speed head on with a truck.

This is a video of the first fully computerised air plane = no pilot.

http://www.youtub...Xpar4Ouw

Fuck this, I am walking everywhere.