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  #1  
Old Posted May 28, 2014, 8:08 PM
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The Autonomous Cars News, Development, and Discussion Thread

It's high time we had a thread dedicated to autonomous cars on this page.
If this works out, autonomous cars will be the biggest transportation innovation to occur in our lifetimes. No one knows what kind of change self-driving and self-parking cars will have on current transportation trends - but most analysts agree the disruption will be huge.

Will people need to own cars anymore, or will large public fleets of autonomous taxis be enough?
What will the role of buses and public transportation be?
When cars can park themselves, will there be a need for parking requirements anymore?

As for news items:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/0...n_5401375.html

"Google's New Driverless Car Has No Brake Pedal Or Steering Wheel"

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  #2  
Old Posted May 29, 2014, 7:26 AM
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Finding a Better Word for 'Autonomous Car'

http://www.citylab.com/tech/2014/05/...us-car/371718/

Quote:
Google has shown off a new driverless vehicle prototype, a cute little thing with no wheel or other control mechanisms. Previously, the company had installed its software and hardware on stock Lexus SUVs and Toyota Priuses.

The new prototype is the embodiment of something that Google, its affiliates, and other self-driving car thinkers have been talking about for a while: if the driver doesn't need controls, the whole car can be redesigned.

"For over a century, the assumption in car design is that you will have a driver. The whole proportion of the vehicle, where we put powertrains, and where other things have been laid out rests on the assumption that you'll have a driver and the human factors associated with that," Larry Burns, former head of R&D at GM and a consultant to Google, told me at a Google event. "I think this is not evolutionary but a major shift in how we think about personal mobility."

Another Google consultant Brad Templeton has been talking up this kind of transformation for years, too. He's got an entire page dedicated to the design changes that can come from as Burns put it, "tak[ing] the driver out of the loop."

> Range is much less important
> Battery problems are considerably reduced
> Refueling is not usually done while humans travel
> Single passenger vehicles will be much more common
> Reverse and face to face seating
> The steering wheel vanishes
> Windshield requirements are different
> Cargo space is not necessary in all vehicles
> Acceleration is not a big requirement
> Cars may be much lighter
> Suspensions can be super-soft

If all these people—along with the host of other car manufacturers—are right about this stuff and driverless cars become ubiquitous, a friend of mine pointed out that a fascinating thing could happen.

A driver could come to mean the machine that drives just as a computer is a machine that computes.

If that seems implausible, consider that the meaning of "a computer" as a person (usually a woman) who computed was entirely established for a long time before ENIAC.

There are books about this time, like When Computers Were Human. And pocket histories. Papers detailing human computers' efforts during the war. Webster's dictionary from 1828 (and 1913) defines computer as "one who computes," though the latter edition allows it could be a machine that computes, too.

Still, the point is, weird as it feels: a computer was a human for more than two hundred years. And in the span of some decades, that meaning has been completely and totally drained from the word.

Just think about it: how awkward are the phrases, "driverless car" or "autonomous vehicle" or "automated vehicle"? These are the "horseless carriage" of our day.

How much easier would it be to simply apply the logic of computer and call a car like Google's a driver? Take it for a test drive. For example: "I took a driver to the store." Or, "A driver picked me up." Or: "It's like Uber but for drivers."

This linguistic change won't happen overnight. It won't happen in a decade. But give it thirty years and I'd bet some sort of linguistic compromise is made. Our language lives and adapts. If autonomous vehicles succeed, they will eat the previous meanings of words.
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  #3  
Old Posted May 29, 2014, 7:37 AM
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I found this article to be interesting, but I disagree with GM's estimated time line. I think change will come much quicker than these people think. There can and will be a sudden acceptance of autonomy in society, and it will catch many of the 'established' players off-guard (IMO).

GM Executive Says Google Could Be ‘Competitive Threat’

http://www.businessweek.com/news/201...etitive-threat

Quote:
Google Inc. (GOOG:US) could become a “serious competitive threat” to the auto industry if it continues to push its self-driving cars, said Mark Reuss, product-development chief at General Motors Co. (GM:US)

GM, which is developing its own autonomous vehicle technology, isn’t in a race with Google to create driverless cars, he told reporters yesterday in Detroit.

Google announced May 27 that it plans to deploy at least 100 fully autonomous vehicles that it designed in tests starting this year. The two-seat cars will have a top speed of 25 miles (40 kilometers) per hour and no steering wheel. The Mountain View, California-based company previously had been testing its technology in other vehicles, such as Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius.

“Anybody can do anything with enough time and money,” Reuss said. “If they set their mind to it, I have no doubt” that they could become “a very serious competitive threat.”

GM demonstrated last year what it calls Super Cruise technology, which will support semi-automated driving features including hands-off lane following, braking and speed control under certain conditions. GM also has an autonomous vehicle project called EN-V that it’s been developing in China. The soda machine-sized pods don’t look like normal cars.

Creeping Change

The industry will phase in autonomous vehicles over years, Reuss said.

“It’s going to be a creep, it’s not going to be a mind-bending thing,” Reuss said. “I don’t think you’re going to see an autonomous vehicle take over the city anytime soon.”

Reuss, saying he’s only seen Google’s little car in a photograph, described it as “kind of cool” adding that it looked similar to an old Volkswagen Beetle.

Over the next two decades, self-driving cars are going to get a bigger share of the market. Such vehicles will reach 11.8 million in 2035, according to Egil Juliussen, an analyst at IHS Automotive. And by 2050, he expects almost all cars to become self-driving. They are estimated to fetch premiums that will start at $7,000 to $10,000 in 2025, he said.
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  #4  
Old Posted May 29, 2014, 5:04 PM
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What I would like to know is how insurance would work.

Seriously, if you're vehicle all of a sudden goes berserk and you ending hitting another vehicle or even person, who is the guilty party? if the responsibility was the autonomous vehicle then does that mean the Google has to pay as technically it was Google computers completely running the car. How could you sue or make someone criminally liable for something they didn't do. they may have been in the vehicle but were not in control of it.
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  #5  
Old Posted May 30, 2014, 6:33 AM
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Originally Posted by ssiguy View Post
If the responsibility was the autonomous vehicle then does that mean the Google has to pay as technically it was Google computers completely running the car.
Amazingly enough, that is exactly what Google is saying:

Quote:
“What we’ve been saying to the folks in the DMV, even in public session, for unmanned vehicles, we think the ticket should go to the company. Because the decisions are not being made by the individual,” Medford told The Atlantic.
If a Driverless Car Gets a Ticket, Who Pays?
http://www.allgov.com/usa/ca/news/un...28?news=853257
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  #6  
Old Posted May 30, 2014, 6:38 AM
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An interesting thought exercise:

What Will Happen to Public Transit in a World Full of Autonomous Cars?

http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/...ous-cars/8131/

Quote:
The great promise of autonomous cars is not that we could each own one in our own driveway – the 21st century's version of owning your own Model T, or your own color TV, or your own bulky Macintosh – but that no one would need to own one at all.

That's because when cars can drive themselves, they can drive off when we're done with them. They can pick up other people instead of sitting parked outside. We'll request them on-demand. They'll pull up out front, take us right where we want to go, then do the same thing for a hundred other passengers, a hundred times over. They'll behave, in other words, like sophisticated ride-share services – or like personalized mass transit.

I've daydreamed about this possibility a number of times with transportation geeks, and invariably we always wind up in the same, more sober place: If the autonomous cars of the future will come to look an awful lot like transit, then what will become of the transit we know now?

This isn't an entirely silly question in 2014. We make billion-dollar investments in new transit infrastructure because we expect to use it for decades. Metropolitan planning organizations are in the very business of planning 30 and 40 years into the future. The Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority recently released its dream map of subway service in the city for the year 2040. By then, autonomous cars – in some form – will surely be commonplace.

The question of what they'll mean for transit was actually on the program this year at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington, where several thousand transportation officials and researchers met to talk about state-of-the-art asphalts, biker behavior, and the infrastructure of the future. In one packed session, I heard Jerome Lutin, a retired longtime New Jersey Transit planner, say something that sounded almost like blasphemy.

"We’re just wringing our hands, and we’re going to object to this," he warned the room. "But the transit industry needs to promote shared-use autonomous cars as a replacement for transit on many bus routes and for service to persons with disabilities."

Someone in the back of the room did object that many paratransit passengers need human assistance along the way that an autonomous vehicle alone couldn't give them. But Lutin's broader point is a fascinating one: If autonomous cars can one day better perform some of the functions of transit, shouldn't we let them? Shouldn't we take the opportunity to focus instead on whatever traditional transit does best in an autonomous-car world?

"If you can’t get more than 10 people on a bus, or five people on a bus, then why bother running it?" Lutin asked me after his session. "You’re wasting diesel fuel."

The implication in this raises (at least) two more questions: Exactly where (and when) will it make sense for people to use buses or rail instead of autonomous cars? And if autonomous cars come to supplement these services, should transit agencies get into the business of operating them? In my initial daydream – where shared self-driving cars are whisking us all about – it's unclear exactly who owns and manages them.

Lutin sounds skeptical that transit agencies will be able to move into this space. "They don't adapt well to change," he says. They're also governed by rigid mandates that limit what they can do. A mass transit agency can't overnight start operating something that looks like a taxi service. Public agencies also must contend with labor unions, and labor unions likely won't like the idea of replacing bus routes with autonomous cars.

There's also another consideration.

"There's an opportunity for autonomous taxi services to make money," Lutin says. "And nobody wants the government to compete with private industry and make money. We barely tolerate toll road authorities. If it looks like we can trade in our buses for a fleet of autonomous vehicles, and we can drop fares and at the same time we can make money, somebody in the private sector is going to want that."

And if public transit agencies exist in part to subsidize a service the private sector won't provide, what if that service no longer needs a subsidy?

"It no longer needs to be a governmental function."

That would leave us then with the more traditional forms that transit already takes: buses, subways, light rail, street cars. Lutin is certain that we'll still need transit, particularly in dense cities. An autonomous car, after all, takes up as much physical space as a car with a human at the wheel. We'll be able to fit more autonomous cars on a given roadway, because they'll be smart enough to drive practically bumper-to-bumper without colliding into each other. But there's still a finite capacity on the road. And in densely populated areas, buses and subway cars will still be able to carry more people.

"Theoretically, a highway [lane] can carry 2,200 vehicles per hour," Lutin says. "Even if you go to 4,400 or 6,600 vehicles per hour, there’s still that limit."

So we'll still need transit to get people into the Loop in Chicago, or across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, or onto the island of Manhattan. These are the things that transit already does best, and that it will still do best in the age of the autonomous car. What's more, the same technology that will bring us autonomous cars will make traditional transit better, too. When buses have the same autonomous, communicating power that cars will have, they'll be able to drive safely within inches of each other, too. Picture a dedicated Bus Rapid Transit lane with moving buses queued up end-to-end.

In this world, cars may start to function like transit, but buses could come to work like trains. And they're a lot cheaper to deploy.
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  #7  
Old Posted May 30, 2014, 6:59 AM
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It would be nice if there are security personnel in driverless buses in 2075. Just so the riders could feel safe

Last edited by Perklol; May 30, 2014 at 9:59 AM.
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Old Posted May 30, 2014, 9:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatman View Post
An interesting thought exercise:

What Will Happen to Public Transit in a World Full of Autonomous Cars?

http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/...ous-cars/8131/
This article mirrors a lot of my thinking on this topic. Less used bus lines will be dropped in favour of the self-driving cars. Heavily used bus lines will still be needed since they use far less space per passenger than cars.
One point he doesn't touch one is the greatly reduced need for car parking will lead to denser cities (no parking requirement when building will change things quite a bit in most places).
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  #9  
Old Posted May 30, 2014, 11:40 PM
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This video made the rounds a few years back:
Short Version:
Video Link


Full Version:
Video Link



It was a good start at visualizing how a fully autonomous intersection might work, but there are several criticisms:

1) What road is 12 lanes wide? - Autonomous roadways can be much narrower than current roads due to the decreased following distances of autonomous cars.

2) Autonomous roadways won't need lanes - Autonomous cars also won't need to keep to the right (or left) if traffic conditions require it. (Such as, if there are lots of left turning vehicles, traffic might reconfigure to left-hand running so that the left turns are handled more efficiently)

3) Autonomous cars will not operate as spread out as in this visualization - Autonomous cars will operate in tightly-packed platoons in order to reduce drag.

But even with these considerations, it was a start.

Yesterday I found this simulation of a hybrid intersection system, which can handle both human-driven and computer-driven vehicles.
(Red = "legacy" vehicles and White = autonomous vehicles)

Video Link


I like how the traffic light is smart enough to detect when a human-driven car shows up so that the rest of the time the intersection can operate with full autonomy. It also shows just how many cars that can be handled autonomously vs. manually, as when there is a huge backup of autonomous cars after a 'legacy' car waiting for a red light.

Most of all, this simulation shows what benefits can come during the transition years, even before roadways go fully autonomous.
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Old Posted Jun 3, 2014, 7:36 AM
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Mercedes-Benz Completes First Fully Autonomous 100 km Drive

Quote:
Mercedes-Benz has claimed a world-first this week, completing a 100 kilometre journey with a fully autonomous version of its new S-Class sedan.

The specialised ‘Intelligent Drive’ car, based on the top-shelf S 500, represents Merc’s entry in the auto industry’s latest obsession: self-driving vehicles.

Underscoring the importance of the event, the S 500 Intelligent Drive’s journey traced the route of the world’s first powered long-distance road trip, undertaken 125 years ago by Karl Benz’s wife Bertha.
http://www.themotorreport.com.au/590...km-drive-video
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Also, from another article, comes an estimated cost savings compared to human-driven taxis:

Quote:
The report suggested that a fleet of 9,000 automated vehicles hailed by smartphone could carry as many people with a wait time of less than one minute. It would be cheaper, too, an estimated 50 cents per mile compared to a current cost of $4 per mile, a calculation that assumes a 15 percent profit.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/m...eel/?tid=hp_mm

From $4 to $0.50 per mile will make a huge impact on mode split (people choosing between taxi or transit etc). For comparison, according to AAA, the cost of owning an average sedan costs 59.2 cents per mile:

http://newsroom.aaa.com/tag/driving-cost-per-mile/

This is further proof in my theory that simple economics (insurance rates, cost of ownership, fuel costs etc) will move people towards autonomy much faster than laws and regulations and incentives ever will.

Last edited by Hatman; Jun 3, 2014 at 7:51 AM.
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  #11  
Old Posted Jun 4, 2014, 6:45 AM
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Elon Musk reaffirms his goal of having Tesla Motors be the first to offer an 'autopilot' feature:

Quote:
Tesla is also readying software upgrades for the Model S to increase owner customization, Musk said. Additionally, the carmaker is advancing plans to add self-driving, or “auto-pilot” features, to its electric cars, he said.

By next year, “I’m confident that you’ll be able to go from highway on-ramp to highway exit without touching any controls,” he said.
http://www.businessweek.com/news/201...ntil-late-2014
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  #12  
Old Posted Jun 4, 2014, 9:01 AM
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Why trucks will drive themselves before cars do

http://www.vox.com/2014/6/3/5775482/...before-cars-do

Quote:
Last week, when Google debuted its prototype driverless car, there was lots of talk about how the product would someday change your life, while simultaneously putting hundreds of thousands of cab drivers out of work.

But this technology seems likely to deeply alter a bigger industry that's much more fundamental to the American economy than taxis.

That's the long-distance trucking industry, which carries about 68.5 percent of all goods shipped in this country — and employs about 1.7 million who drive vehicles.

Driverless technology holds a number of advantages over human drivers in all sorts of areas. But it's particularly well-suited to take over trucking very soon for several different reasons.

Driverless truck experiments are already underway in Japan and Europe, and now testing of semi-autonomous trucks has begun in Nevada. Here are the reasons why they're destined to succeed — and why you'll probably pass a driverless semi before you ever see a self-driving car.

Computers are cheaper and more flexible than humans

The most immediate reason why driverless technology will doom truckers is the same reason it'll be the end for cab drivers: the cost of a machine operating a vehicle will be dramatically cheaper than the cost of a human.

It varies widely, but on average, paying drivers accounts for 30 percent of the cost of shipping something by truck in the US. And there are reasons to think eliminating drivers will save trucking companies even more money than they'll save Uber — eventually reducing the cost of trucked goods.

One of the things that drive up the cost of drivers is the simple fact that long-haul trucking is a much more unpleasant lifestyle than driving a cab. Many drivers spend five or six days a week on the road, which is why trucking has such an extraordinarily high turnover rate (about 98 percent annually) and why the industry constantly struggles to find enough drivers, even when unemployment is high.

Obviously, machines won't care about these lifestyle difficulties. In fact, the Australian mining company Rio Tinto has already begun implementing autonomous trucks made by Caterpillar at its remote iron ore mines, partly because it's so expensive to get drivers to come live in those places.

Another factor is that unlike for taxis, limits on the number of hours a person can drive also drive up the cost of transport. A trucker can legally only drive for 11 out of every 24 hours, so shipping something cross-country requires delays for sleeping, or paying two drivers who trade off. That won't be the case with driverless trucks, which will also be able to more easily take advantage of traffic-free interstates at night.

Driverless technology will be ready for highways first

Engineering a vehicle that can drive at a constant speed on a predictable highway is a much simpler problem than designing one that can drive on city streets, which are filled with traffic lights, pedestrians, and other sudden obstacles.

That's the reason why Google began is self-driving car program with experiments on highways. And the vast majority of long-haul truck miles are logged on the interstate system, making it a convenient industry to begin implementing driverless technologies — including some that are already used.

Though Google's new flashy car is getting the most press, you've probably already experienced semi-autonomous driving capabilities that have been rolled out in human-operated cars: things like adaptive cruise control (which can slow you down if there's a car in front of you) and systems that alert you if you begin drifting out of your lane.

Several different projects in Europe, Japan, and the US have recently begun adapting these technologies for trucks. They generally involve trains of vehicles made up of a lead truck (driven by a human) and several trucks and cars that follow it (each with a human inside, but guided by computers).

This sort of semi-autonomous driving tech could be useful in all vehicles, but it'd be especially valuable for companies with fleets of long-haul trucks.

One reason is how easy it would be to eventually eliminate the idle drivers in the rear vehicles. Early on, before driverless trucks are ready for city streets, you could have drivers waiting and ready to take the trucks over after they exit the Interstate. Eventually, you could do away with the humans altogether and save that 30 percent spent on pay.

But equally important is the fact that packing trucks together in trains saves costs in a different way:

Trains of driverless trucks are way more fuel efficient

Between 20 and 40 percent of the cost of shipping something by truck goes to fuel. A large amount of this fuel is simply burned as the engine fights air resistance, because trailers are so boxy and unaerodynamic. One way of cutting down on it is driving trucks in tight packs, so one can draft behind another.

Of course, it's not safe for human drivers to draft off each other in this way, because it doesn't allow for enough reaction time if the truck in front stops suddenly. But computers can do it, and recent tests in Nevada showed just how much fuel they can save.

The experiments by Peloton, a company that's developing truck caravan technology in partnership with the Department of Transportation, showed that while traveling at 65 miles per hour 36 feet apart, two trucks packed together saved seven percent on fuel. This was the average for just two trucks (the lead saved 4.5 percent, and the rear saved 10 percent), so it should increase as trains get longer.

Last summer, the EPA introduced new fuel standards for heavy-duty vehicles that call for tractor-trailers to reduce their fuel consumption by 20 percent by 2018. It's doubtful driverless technology will be ready that fast, but the new standards highlight the priority of cutting down on carbon emissions from long-haul trucks, which account for about 6 percent of total US emissions.

What obstacles need to be overcome for driverless trucks

The factors that block a broad rollout of self-driving trucks fall mainly into two categories.

One is safety. People are understandably concerned about the idea of computers driving cars around on the roads, and those worries are amplified for tractor-trailers that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded.

But experts actually predict that automated systems will make trucking safer, by eliminating distracted driving and human error. And Google's driverless cars, at least, have now gone more than 700,000 miles without an accident.

Obviously, their safety needs to be proven before these trucks are filling the interstates. But this may be a surmountable concern, especially since the technologies can be implemented piecemeal, initially as part of convoys with drivers still in lead vehicles. In a sense, a single driver leading two trucks linked digitally isn't all that different from the drivers that already pull two trailers linked physically, and these convoys may gradually get people used to the idea of autonomous trucks.

The other problem is legal. Right now, just a few states (including California, Nevada, and Florida) have laws on the books regarding driverless cars, and their legal status as a whole is murky. For driverless trucking on Interstates to be practical, all states would need to explicitly allow these vehicles on public roads.

Advocates are hopeful that national legislation will solve this problem. It's all very uncertain, but in 2012, Google's Sergey Brin predicted the Department of Transportation would begin regulating autonomous vehicles nationally as early as 2017.

And it seems likely that if self-driving cars were legalized, driverless trucks — which, though heavier, would mostly operate in a simpler, more controlled environment and would be exclusively owned and maintained by professional companies — would be allowed too.
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Old Posted Jun 5, 2014, 7:04 AM
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The Environmental Implications of Driverless Cars

Quote:
Proponents argue that driverless cars - also called "autonomous cars" - are inherently more sustainable than their manned counterparts. For one, they say, once they are widely available many of us will forgo owning our own cars in favor of car-sharing, whereby the autonomous vehicle comes to you, charged and ready to go, as needed. Thus the result could be far fewer cars on the road than today. According to Steve Gutmann of the Seattle-based sustainability think tank Sightline Institute, such a car-sharing scenario would also obviate the need for many parking spaces. Today the typical private car spends upward of 90 percent of its time parked. Once we have more driverless cars, we'll need far fewer parking spaces, leading to less land being paved and reducing storm water runoff and heat island effects accordingly.

The networked brains of these vehicles will also reduce inefficient routes and decrease overall driving time, leading to better air quality and lower carbon emissions. Also, the increased safety of driverless vehicles - they obey speed limits, can sense people, bikes and other cars coming toward them, and accelerate and brake much more gradually than human drivers - will mean that the cars can be lighter and require far fewer resources in manufacturing, reducing their overall environmental impact even further.

On the flip side, the advent of driverless cars means that many of us now not able to drive because of age or physical handicaps will be able to use these cars to get around, potentially leading to an increase in the number of cars on the road. And Chandra Bhat of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas points out that just because a car is driverless doesn't mean we'll want it to be smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient. He fears that driverless cars will engender a return to larger vehicles because people will want "more comfortable space" when they are free to stretch out, relax, read, videochat, text or even nap during their trips. He adds that driverless cars could lead to more urban sprawl as car commuting becomes more tolerable without the hassle of actually driving.

Bhat also wonders what will become of the public transit systems we've invested so heavily in if driverless cars offer the same advantages - using the time en route to do whatever one pleases - with the added benefit of privacy and route/timing flexibility.
http://www.sacbee.com/2014/06/03/645...lications.html
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Old Posted Jun 5, 2014, 7:10 AM
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A City Built to Test Self-Driving Cars Will Open Up Its Streets This Fall



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The heart of America's beleaguered auto industry will soon be home a 32-acre, multimillion-dollar high-tech transportation experiment. The University of Michigan, along with the local government and major automakers, is building a model town to test a system of self-driving "connected" cars.

The mock city’s robocars will navigate the urban environment’s twisty concrete and asphalt roads, and confront all the normal obstacles of a bustling city: traffic signs, roundabouts, stoplights, merge lanes, construction work, streetlights, sidewalks and even "mechanical pedestrians" that dart out into the street in front of traffic. The "Mobility Transformation Facility" will open this fall, the university announced yesterday.

“Today reminds me of when I was a young boy and used to watch The Jetsons,” said David Munson, the university’s dean of engineering, in the announcement. “We’re not doing flying cars here, but I think we’re doing something more important ... and almost as impressive.”

The simulation is run by a proprietary software, and programmers will code in dangerous situations—traffic jams and potential collisions—so engineers can anticipate problems and, ideally, solve for them before the automated autos hit the streets. It's laying the groundwork for the real-world system planned for 2021 in Ann Arbor.

There will surely be some technical barriers to work out, but the biggest hurdles self-driving cars will have to clear are likely regulatory, legal, and political. Will driverless cars be subsidized like public transit? If autonomous cars eliminate crashes, will insurance companies start tanking? Will the data-driven technology be a privacy invasion?

"It's not just the car manufacturers that'll be interested, it's also the people who handle the data," David Lampe, a university communications rep told me: telecommunications, freight companies, big data management, traffic control, suppliers, insurance, smart parking. "There's huge opportunities for a wide range of industries here."

So far, the car companies on board are Ford, General Motors, and Toyota. They will be supplying the automated connected cars for the test city.

Note: that's "automated," not "autonomous." The vehicles in development aren't 100 percent self-driving like Google's now-famous robocars; rather, a human still sits in the driver's seat, but much of the process is automated, giving the vehicle enhanced capabilities. Google hasn't signed on to participate in the experiment, but Lampe told me they're in the process of finding partners, and "Google might well be one of those."

Instead, the researchers, policymakers, and municipal authorities will focus on the safety promise of network-linked vehicles that communicate wirelessly. As the narrative goes, driverless cars could cut down on traffic, pollution, and collisions. But before cars can drive themselves and take human error out of the equation, they need to talk to each other. This has attracted the interest of the federal government, which is helping fund the development of vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology.

"In the future, your car will talk to other cars, to traffic lights, and to other roadside devices. And the roadway will talk back, too," explains the university’s website. "Your Connected Vehicle will find out about such things as traffic tie-ups, icy roads, disabled vehicles, and lane closures."

Automobiles that can communicate with their environment have even more capabilities than driverless vehicles, Lampe said. "If you can manage entire regions of traffic you can reduce accidents by as much as 80 percent; you can reduce emissions by at least 80 percent."

The mock town can be used test this networked system with either automated or totally human-free cars. "A Google car could also be a connected vehicle and then it would achieve the extra benefits of what's happening around the corner or two miles down the street or across town," Lampe said.

It’s cool stuff, but complicated. The only-marginally-smart cars on the market now can already be hacked, and the security implications of an entire city of internet-connected, automated driving machines are glaring. The internet of things is notoriously vulnerable, and the internet of cars will be too.

Presumably, those are the kind of kinks the puppeteers controlling the University of Michigan's model future city will be trying to tease out—with robotic pedestrians and simulated chaos on the road, before things get really real.
http://motherboard.vice.com/read/mic...f-driving-cars
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  #15  
Old Posted Jun 7, 2014, 2:18 AM
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llamaorama llamaorama is offline
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What happens when people intentionally, maliciously blocks the path of a self driving car designed to never, ever, hit a pedestrian? I can see a car driving down the street in south Chicago and some kids run out into the road on purpose to make it stop and then harass the driver. For better or worse, I guess cameras and facial recognition technology would fix this. A car detects someone doing this, films it, sends it to police. Cops would ride around in cars and then bust people.

I would hate for this to be a motivation to ration and restrict streets to only cars. That's one of my biggest fears actually; all roadways can instantly be turned into gated streets or toll roads because unlike human driven cars, automated ones can be denied access to space without physical barriers and will possess more mature tracking technology.

Also just in general these things will lead to the development of road optimization, really they will have to because otherwise people will circulate cars on surface streets instead of parking them in city centers until it becomes a major problem. This will in turn lead to privatization of some roads and by extension the elimination of free public uses. Imagine if a privately built subdivision forbade children from playing outdoors because they got in the way of moving vehicles? If you want to ride a bike you will have to register so they can charge you the market price of a moving road space envelope of 4 square meters at a certain time based on certain demand. I guess anyone who is poor would be effectively under house arrest.

What if a run-down municipality decided it would lease all of it's unused street parking to a logistics company; and cross-country trucks that are not in service decide to camp out in front of your house because hey technically that's a public parking spot and it's free, right?

Really robot cars have the most massively long and insane list of indirect implications ever.
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  #16  
Old Posted Jun 8, 2014, 2:56 AM
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^^^^
Some very interesting thoughts. I like your solution to malicious traffic-blockers.

I've heard many people worry about autonomous cars circling endlessly while they wait to pick up their owners. I've also heard many people worry about what will happen to all the public parking, especially street parking.

If I were in charge, I would do several things when autonomous cars go public:

1) Change all street-parking to Pick-up/Drop-off zones, at least in commercial zones. In medium traffic areas, set a time limit that a car can be stationary in the P/d zone. In heavy traffic zones (downtown) put a price on how long a car is stationary in the P/d zone after, say, 30 seconds. Your car has been stationary for a minute? Pay the city a dollar (two cents a second). Or whatever other price gets people in and out of cars quickly.

In residential zones, there would need to be local ordinances about street parking - such as having the residents come up with a list of cars approved to park in their neighborhood. Each person would submit the licence numbers of their friends and relatives and etc, and they would be allowed to park within X distance of that person's home. Anyone not on the list would not be able to park there - only P/d.

In a fully autonomous world, I see parking as a separate business, not as an amenity offered by private businesses or by cities. A large parking garage built somewhere out of the way will charge per use, or by monthly memberships. There will be no such thing as 'free parking' anymore.

2) Implement charge-per-distance road pricing. Keep the gas tax because gas produces air pollution, but don't use it to pay for roads. Instead, let roads be paid for entirely by the cars that actually use them. Autonomous cars will have to record exactly where they went, when they went there, and how heavy they were. This will all be added into a pricing matrix and then the bill will be sent to the owner.
Hopefully, this should solve the circling problem.
Obviously some roads, such as residential roads in small neighborhoods and the like will not ever be self-sufficient, so they will always need some sort of subsidy. Hopefully that will come from the local area.
Remember, roads designed for autonomous cars will be narrower and calibrated specifically for certain weight groups. Neighborhood roads won't need to be thick enough to carry a semi truck because a truck will be programmed never to go there.
3) Because autonomous roads are narrower, use the left-over space for bike lanes and wider sidewalks.

Just some thoughts. I'm very optimistic that a future of autonomous cars will be much better than the status quo. Imagine a world without surface parking lots, and with a bike lane running down the side of every street! That's the kind of city I want, and if enough people want that, and are willing to stand up for it, autonomous cars cannot possibly destroy the world.
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  #17  
Old Posted Jun 10, 2014, 7:56 AM
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What is limiting the roll-out of Autonomous cars? Why not see them on sale tomorrow?

Two recent blurbs about how the obstacles are more legislative than technological or economic:

Government looks to reform UK Highway Code for autonomous vehicles
http://news.techworld.com/personal-t...mous-vehicles/

Nissan may introduce self-driving car by 2018
http://www.steelguru.com/internation...sn/341175.html

I hope that Mr. Willets from the first blurb is correct in that California's laws will now require someone to be in the driver's seat. Or anyone in it at all, for that matter - that is a key point of an autonomous utopia.
However, to my knowledge, no such law is even being contemplated at present.
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  #18  
Old Posted Jun 10, 2014, 6:24 PM
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One of the primary reasons why transit will remain competitive with rented autonomous vehicles for some time is rush-hour demand. It will never be profitable for companies like Uber to provide enough cars for rush-hour commuters, because a large portion of said cars would then sit idle for the remainder of the day. Auto-car rental companies will have the highest profit margins if they can keep their car continually generating revenue. Obviously in most cities there will be very few people driving in the early morning hours, and some parking on the street will need to happen, but the less hours per day a car is parked somewhere the better. Indeed, I would expect the companies eventually engage in "market pricing" - downgrading their cost during times when there is low usage, and marking it up during high demand, in an effort to get maximum dollar value out.

Self-driving cars could actually help transit along main corridors to some degree, because they solve the "last mile" issue with suburban transit stations.

Concerns about self-driving cars choking up residential parking spaces are unfounded, IMHO, because as I said, a well-run logistics or auto-cab company should virtually never have its cars parked, and within ten years we'll start having a surfeit of parking in most locations regardless.
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  #19  
Old Posted Jun 11, 2014, 9:23 AM
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^^^^

I like your thoughts.

I am a big believer that autonomous cars will be hugely beneficial to mass transit. Reasoning:
1) As you mentioned, the first/last mile conundrum will be completely solved. My question is who will own the autonomous cars in this scenario? Will transit agencies be allowed to own fleets of personal autonomous cars to accommodate its passengers, or will that duty be assigned to private taxi firms, requiring passengers to pay transit fares and taxi fares as well?
What will be the dividing line between a taxi and mass transit?
2) Supposing people continue to own their own cars... which I think is likely, as people will still consider the car their 'personal space,' and want it to be always ready in their garage, rather than ready to pick them up via app... So, supposing people own these cars, they will only need to own one car. Autonomous cars will be more expensive to purchase than non-autonomous ones (not counting insurance), but one autonomous car will be cheaper than two non-autonomous. So, instead of the family provider driving to work and letting the car sit in a parking lot all day, instead he goes to work and then sends the car back home for the rest of the family to use. But what if his/her work is really far away? Then the car takes him to the transit stop, drops him/her off, then goes back for the family (taking kids to school and running errands and the like).

3) - and this one is the biggest of all: No more Parking lots in dense urban areas! None! We won't need them, as cars will drop off their passengers and then go find parking away from the urban core, or go back home altogether (with distance-based pricing, I wouldn't bet so much on returning home). This means urban cores can get very dense, which translates almost directly to very walkable, which is exactly the conditions in which transit operates the best.

Autonomous cars are still cars, after all, and all cars, no matter what they are, come with capacity issues. Make them smaller, make them able to travel in platoons, make them able to operate without lanes, ect - they are still cars. They will increase the capacity of freeways and roads dramatically, but in urban areas they will still eventually reach their limit and have traffic jams.
Transit isn't going anywhere - in fact, I believe it's about to get a huge boost in ridership and utility.

As far as news goes...
More squabbling over legal regulation of autonomous cars in California:
http://www.latimes.com/business/auto...610-story.html

This is actually extremely important; the rules that California adopts will likely be the basis for regulation in all other states - and potentially the basis for other countries to adopt as well. Delays and fighting here mean delays for the whole future of autonomous cars.
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  #20  
Old Posted Jun 11, 2014, 3:15 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatman View Post
My question is who will own the autonomous cars in this scenario? Will transit agencies be allowed to own fleets of personal autonomous cars to accommodate its passengers, or will that duty be assigned to private taxi firms, requiring passengers to pay transit fares and taxi fares as well?

What will be the dividing line between a taxi and mass transit?
Within the U.S. context, I'm expecting auto-cabs to be private, because it will be damn easy to make money off them. Transit systems, in contrast, will likely retrench towards a core of service on things like rail and BRT. Low-usage neighborhood bus lines will be replaced by auto-cabs, which in some sense will be a win-win for the transit agencies, as it means only the high volume lines with the most farebox recovery will continue operation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatman View Post
Supposing people continue to own their own cars... which I think is likely, as people will still consider the car their 'personal space,' and want it to be always ready in their garage, rather than ready to pick them up via app... So, supposing people own these cars, they will only need to own one car. Autonomous cars will be more expensive to purchase than non-autonomous ones (not counting insurance), but one autonomous car will be cheaper than two non-autonomous. So, instead of the family provider driving to work and letting the car sit in a parking lot all day, instead he goes to work and then sends the car back home for the rest of the family to use. But what if his/her work is really far away? Then the car takes him to the transit stop, drops him/her off, then goes back for the family (taking kids to school and running errands and the like).
I think car ownership will depend greatly upon where you live in the future. In cities I think it's going to fall through the floor, as the economics of keeping a car when you already use mass transit to get to work cease making sense. Uber can right now, with human drivers, get cars to you within five minutes in most cities too, so it's not like waiting for an auto-drive should be that inconvenient. In terms of basic economics, one will probably have to drive quite a bit before owning an autonomous vehicle is cheaper than renting one. Still, I do presume car ownership will remain the norm in suburban areas for some time to come.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatman View Post
and this one is the biggest of all: No more Parking lots in dense urban areas! None! We won't need them, as cars will drop off their passengers and then go find parking away from the urban core, or go back home altogether (with distance-based pricing, I wouldn't bet so much on returning home). This means urban cores can get very dense, which translates almost directly to very walkable, which is exactly the conditions in which transit operates the best.
Sadly, the first things which will likely go under are parking garages, not lots, since they have the most overhead and highest cost, and the cars can presumably calculate if the gas is worth being expended to go x miles further for free parking. While parking garages could then be redeveloped to better use, it would be better if the surface lots (which will probably hold on a bit longer) died out first.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatman View Post
Autonomous cars are still cars, after all, and all cars, no matter what they are, come with capacity issues. Make them smaller, make them able to travel in platoons, make them able to operate without lanes, ect - they are still cars. They will increase the capacity of freeways and roads dramatically, but in urban areas they will still eventually reach their limit and have traffic jams.
Transit isn't going anywhere - in fact, I believe it's about to get a huge boost in ridership and utility.
Imagine the huge queues of auto-drive cars trying to line up outside of a commercial skyscraper at 5PM and you can see why they can realistically never become a replacement for mass transit. They will change cities tremendously, but they are only part of the story.
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