Leaving the driving to a computer has big benefits

Oct 22, 2013 by Joan Lowy
,FILE -This Sept. 3, 2013, file photo shows a videographer photographing the Google self-driving car during a news conference at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute's Smart Road in Blacksburg Va. A new study that attempts to quantify the benefits of self-driving cars and trucks says they hold the potential to transform driving by eliminating the majority of traffic deaths, significantly reducing congestion and providing tens of billions of dollars in economic benefits. (AP Photo / The Roanoke Times, Matt Gentry, File)

In some ways, computers make ideal drivers: They don't drink, do drugs, get distracted, fall asleep, run red lights or tailgate. And their reaction times are quicker.

They do such a good job, in fact, that a new study by the Eno Center for Transportation says and trucks hold the potential to transform driving by eliminating the majority of , significantly reducing congestion and providing billions of dollars in .

Former drivers may be able to safely work on laptops, eat meals, read books, watch movies and call friends as they travel. The elderly and disabled may gain critical mobility.

But the study says considerable hurdles to widespread use of self-driving cars remain, the most important of which is likely to be cost.

Explore further: Toyota unveils cars with auto pilot

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axemaster
1 / 5 (2) Oct 22, 2013
Of course, there's also the massive risk of computer viruses getting in their onboard computers, either accidentally or through a deliberate act. If someone really tried, they could probably kill thousands, if not tens of thousands of people all at once.

But Google and the other companies stand to make billions of dollars off of this, so why talk about the risks?
freethinking
1 / 5 (12) Oct 22, 2013
How about this, let Obama and the government be in charge of programming the car..... they have experience with launching Obamacare website. What could go wrong.
Squirrel
1.3 / 5 (7) Oct 23, 2013
More serious comments, please--US government may regulate this but it will be run purely by capitalists for profit. As a closed system, viruses are unlikely to get in.

The real talking point of such cars is that they kill stone dead the economic grounds for massive state funded transport projects such the UK's H2S train link and California High-Speed Rail project.
Eikka
1 / 5 (8) Oct 23, 2013
In some ways, computers make ideal drivers: They don't drink, do drugs, get distracted, fall asleep, run red lights or tailgate. And their reaction times are quicker.


They're also dumb as doorknobs and blind as bats given the best AIs and visual recognition systems we have.

However vigilant and quick, I wouldn't feel safe in a car that's being driven around by an insect brain that can't tell a lane if the road markings are worn out.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (1) Oct 23, 2013
However vigilant and quick, I wouldn't feel safe in a car that's being driven around by an insect brain that can't tell a lane if the road markings are worn out.

Would you feel more safe driving on a high speed two-lane country highway with opposing drivers busy steering with their knees while texting? Would you feel safe driving anywhere late in the evening surrounded by intoxicated drivers?

Speaking of insects, I'd bet you bees, flies, even the most minuscule gnats don't run into each other as often as automobile drivers do.
Eikka
1.4 / 5 (10) Oct 23, 2013
Would you feel more safe driving on a high speed two-lane country highway with opposing drivers busy steering with their knees while texting? Would you feel safe driving anywhere late in the evening surrounded by intoxicated drivers?


Yes, because chances of running into one are small compared to having your robotic car spaz out or fail to recognize some dangerous situation because its visual recognition system can't tell a plastic bag from a pothole. Or slamming the brakes because it got a leaf stuck in the LIDAR.

And if you have a problem of everybody driving drunk, you have issues elsewhere.

I'd bet you bees, flies, even the most minuscule gnats don't run into each other as often as automobile drivers do.


They don't because they're so tiny that they would actually have to aim to hit one another.

But observe a bluebottle trying to find the way out of a room with an open window... it's just as likely to turn around at the last possible moment and hit the glass.
Eikka
1 / 5 (9) Oct 23, 2013
The thing is, I'd rather let a chimp chaffeur me around than a computer because the chimp is objectively more intelligent and has fully working eyes and ears. The only problem with chimps is that they're a bit unpredictable.

italba
not rated yet Oct 26, 2013
@Eikka: I suppose you can't ever think of boarding on a plane if you knew that 95% of the time is is fly by an automatic pilot...
Eikka
1 / 5 (6) Oct 26, 2013
@Eikka: I suppose you can't ever think of boarding on a plane if you knew that 95% of the time is is fly by an automatic pilot...


But the pilots are still there for the other 5%, aren't they?

There's an ironic tendency of people to point out that most airplane crashes are caused by human error, but in most of those cases the human was put in the loop ony because the computer was clueless to what to do, or couldn't be trusted to do it properly in the first place.

So I'm willing to bet you too wouldn't board a plane that was 100% computer controlled.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Oct 27, 2013
They don't drink, do drugs, get distracted, fall asleep, run red lights or tailgate.

Well, mostly true.

Though computers are susceptible to SOME kinds of distractions (e.g. computers that follow the roadside lines could be distracted by some prankster painting lines that lead off the road. Or just the muddle of white/yellow/whathaveyou lines you sometimes get at construction sites))

Computers are susceptible to software freezes, power outages or - worst case - widespread virus infections. Not to mention backdoors inserted in the software by the makers (or intelligence services).

Self driving vehicles ARE the future. But we shouldn't act as if replacing humans with computers only solves problems - it creates a few new ones along the way.

The elderly and disabled may gain critical mobility

Which is a huge thing if you think about it. (Also means mobility for kids, BTW. No more need for that soccer-mom SUV)
italba
not rated yet Oct 27, 2013
@Eikka:

But the pilots are still there for the other 5%, aren't they?
...
So I'm willing to bet you too wouldn't board a plane that was 100% computer controlled.

I'm happy if there are two well-trained pilot flying the plane, I'll be less happy if those pilots where drunk, asleep, unconscious due to a fault of the pressurization system, or substituted by suicide terrorists. All those things really happened! Anyway, in automated cars also there will be a driver able to took control just in case, and redundant driving systems can be used to control each other.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (7) Oct 27, 2013
Yeah, this doesn't sound good, not good at all.