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Hooniverse Asks- Do You Welcome our new Driverless Car Overlords?

Robert Emslie January 21, 2013 Hooniverse Asks

 

HARobot Cars

 

The idea of the chauffeured carriage goes back centuries, after all there was a time that a gentleman of means simply didn’t drive himself. Today, the ability to drive is an alfa male demonstration that lets women know which of us are the most active and engaged lovers and which are. . . well just along for the ride. And yes I’m aware that women drive too, but don’t ask me to explain the psychology behind that, I don’t understand girls, and they scare me. Especially my wife.

Thing of it is, both Audi and – strangely enough, Google – are trying to level the playing field with the introduction of automated cars that can drive themselves. Nevada – bastion of gambling, prostitution, and nuclear waste storage – has even added legalization of such vehicles to its litany of things you can get away with there that makes other states shrink back in horror.  There are of course benefits to driverless cars – they can do a much better job at picking the right lanes and may ride more closely together improving the carrying capacity of existing roadways – but there’s just something odd about giving up a skill so central to our personas.

If you had a driverless car you could catch a few more winks before getting to work, or kick that work off while on the commute and impress your boss with your go-getter attitude – you’re really going places kid, you just won’t be driving yourself there. There’s also the sense of panache that being driven engenders, as well as the fact that in addition to driving itself, your car could also find its own place to park allowing you more time in the bar or cinema establishment. And speaking of bars, well, you’d always have a designated driver so you could live out that life-long dream of being a big happy inebriate. 

What do you think about the idea of automated driverless cars? Do you think the benefits outweigh the emasculation and disempowerment? Would you be cool with it if you could turn the autopilot off when you wanted? What is your take on the matter, are driverless cars going to be a good thing, or society’s downfall?

Image: [©2013 Juan Barnett, All Rights Reserved]

Currently there are "50 comments" on this Article:

  1. $kaycog says:

    No thanks. I might as well ride the bus.

  2. Vavon says:

    HELLO!!! This is Hooniverse… not (fill in your favourite crappy carsite here)!!!

    <img src="http://www.metallos.be/sites/default/files/imagecache/full640x480/images/100non.jpg&quot; width="450/">

  3. Hopman says:

    I'm begiining yo see an automotive future similar to the anime called ex-Driver. It's about a crew who's job is to stop driverless cars when they run amok.

  4. DemonXanth says:

    If said cars are these driven like this, yes.
    [youtube 0kDKycNbopM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kDKycNbopM youtube]

    …otherwise… f' that.

  5. Sjalabais says:

    Intuitively, I'd say "no!". But every morning when my spinal cord drives the sad Japanese station wagon I call my ride and my brain gets bored, I see the point of it. I'd never seice control myself, but I can understand that some people would.

    A device to hack into the cars in front of me, making it easier for me to pass ("No, granny, DON'T accelerate when you're being passed!"), would also be very welcome.

  6. Kogashiwa says:

    Anyone that doesn't get the idea of a self-driving car has never endured the "drive" (cruise control on, hold the wheel in one position for hours) across Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Absolutely yes automate that annoyance. I'll take the wheel as soon as the roads are worth it.

    • Devin says:

      Highway 16 was scientifically engineered to be the dullest road in the history of man, I'm sure of it.

    • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat says:

      I have driven that…with CC and the steering wheel tied.

      Made it about halfway across Saskatchewan before bolting south, on a dirt road, in a 40' diesel-pusher motorcoach pulling a Suzuki Grand Vitara, 'cause the 'scenery' finally got to my wife and I.

      Anyone who thinks Nebraska and Kansas are flat and boring…that's rookie flat & boring.

  7. Next thing to come up is having sex like in the Demolition Man, NOOO PLZ…… You car developers stop seeing movies.

  8. CABEZAGRANDE says:

    I just don't think I could ever trust the car's judgement enough to be comfortable with it. I'd never be able to effectively do anything else, because I'd constantly be looking up, thinking the car was going to encounter a situation it didn't know how to deal with and was briskly driving me into a wall. Although, as Kogashiwa said, on those interminable interstate drives where your brain is on autopilot anyway, it would be very nice if it were automated.

    • I agree. It would take me a long time to trust it. I can't even drive cross country with my wife without staying awake with her at the wheel. Not that I don't trust her, she's actually a safer driver than I am, it's just a matter of having another set of eyes on the road. It would be even worse with a car driving itself.

  9. JayP2112 says:

    Watching the video of the Audi parking itself and coming to when beckoned was a bit creepy. I guess that makes me a geezer. I'm sure my son wouldn't have a problem with allowing an autopilot in a car. But I can also see my son as a teen blocking that automation-Audi in the parking garage playing some game of dare.

    In my years driving "longer than than most" commutes and seeing some numbnuts driving- their "computing power" is about as strong as a Commodore Vic.

  10. At first I was very much against driverless cars because I imagined it being something that is forced onto me. But then I realized that technology doesn't typically work that way. Florida is a scary place to drive sometimes, and it's a place where you have no choice but to drive if you want to get somewhere, because aside from busses and taxis there isn't really public transportation and everything is spread out. If you could get half of the drivers, the people who have no business driving a car and have no interest in it anyway, to buy a driverless car, you'd make the roads so much safer.

    So, I don't welcome my driverless car overlords, but I do welcome them for the weak drivers.

    • Devin says:

      I keep thinking that improving public transit systems is probably a more important priority than driverless cars though. Even badly done public transit – hiya Saskatoon – can be convenient for people and get distracted or disinterested drives off the street – I'd frequently take the bus to the mall, for example, just because in the winter it was plain easier and I didn't have to deal with parking costs. Well done public transit would do more good (and would likely be more efficient and even faster) than just having everyone in their driverless cars.

      • You're definitely correct there. The problem down here is the continual voting into office of people who want nothing to do with spending money, even when it is something that's badly needed, even (with the case of light rail) when we get federal assistance to do so. The state motto should be "Cutting off the nose to spite the face." Driverless cars is something that could not politically be stopped, or at least it's highly unlikely given the state's unfortunate laissez-faire approach to driving laws. It's a "better than nothing" solution.

  11. Devin says:

    I don't trust computers. They don't react well to new situations and they are easily confused. Every time I hear about a radar cruise control that slows down because of oncoming traffic or my computer crashes for a stupid reason I realize that I don't want to give too much control to these frigging things.

    Hell, nobody has even figured out how to make traction control work consistently in heavy snow.

  12. skitter says:

    Bryce Womeldurf and Devin sum up my views on this. Structural crash safety will always remain important. The big question is whether a manual override would make things better or worse in an emergency. Most people would never even notice to go for it, and most of them would react incorrectly, like the car with a flat that just stopped in lane 5 (of 7) of I-85 this morning, rather than moving to the shoulder.

  13. danleym says:

    I can see the benefits. A lot of people don't give a crap about driving and don't focus when they are. Maybe a computer would be better than them. Maybe computer drivers would help eliminate the slow person in the fast lane problem. But the problem I see is that for the system to work best, all cars would have to be computer driven and on one synced up network. And that means I would no longer be allowed to drive. And that does not make me very happy.

    I think I could be ok with some set up where interstates in big cities were exclusively for computer driven vehicles. Not like those are used for much more than getting to and from work, anyways. Once you get off the interstate, you take over control again, but while you're on it the cars all talk to each other and help prevent accidents and traffic jams. If you have an older, non computer controlled car, then you can't get on the interstate. I'd be ok with that. Don't like driving on them much, anyways.

    My biggest concern would be the problem Will Smith had in I, Robot- who controls the network that drives my car, and how can I guarantee that I can assume manual control when I want to? Sure, it's a pretty silly worry for most of us, but it could be a new way to kidnap a specific target- hack the system, force the car to keep the doors locked, windows up, and drive right to where you want it. Yeah, that's probably just something out of a sci-fi movie, but at least worth consideration. I'd want some sort of hard plug I could pull and completely deactivate the computer.

    • jeepjeff says:

      I think it is going to happen in stages. The first automated cars are going to have to deal with human drivers on the road, so they will have to get along with us.

      My other bet is that what we'll end up with is a distributed network of car computers that upload their statistics to a centralized server and get real-time traffic data and variable speed-limit information from the central system, but still make routing decisions locally with a few traffic calming heuristics thrown in (things like: always let people who want over in; this works better when the two cars' computers can negotiate directly). A centralized computer that routes all traffic is going to be massive, even with a couple more Moore's Law iterations. Also, that super computer is going to look a lot like the network of car computers, just in one room instead of in a whole bunch of cars. Doing the routing work in one place might allow you to take into consideration where current traffic flows are going, but it would be super complicated and even if we got it 100% correct, only marginally better than letting every chauffeur computer do its own thing.

      The much more interesting thing is to have the central computers watch flow patterns, aggregate all the data coming in from the cars and then make adjustments to things like speed limits (to smooth out traffic jams and even out traffic flow rates). We'll have that in place before the majority of cars are autopiloted, anyway. The autopilots will just make that stuff work better (because they'll obey it!).

      The other thing that I expect to happen is that as the robotic chauffeurs begin to take over the roads, there will be aftermarket computers and sensor kits available to retrofit human driven cars to communicate with the robots around it. (I'll start the company to make them if no one else does.) The idea being that it tells the robots that it doesn't have control, and they should be wary of the meat-sack, but it also forwards stuff like your blinker state and current speed to the other cars (turn on your blinker, and the box negotiates a hole in traffic the next lane over, and the robots oblige as they would for a fellow 'bot). It would also be able to send up your traffic data and pull down traffic data and variable speed limit data from those central computers.

      None of this makes the fear of these systems being hacked any less scary. Even if the routing decisions are done locally, all the attacker has to do is get at your vehicle, not into the central computer. It means your kidnappers could be anyone, not just the government that controls the roads.

  14. Tanshanomi says:

    Yet again, I find myself offering a more nuanced answer among the chorus of dogmatic"NOs!"

    I feel neither emasculated nor disempowered when I ride in a taxi, train, bus or airliner, all of which require me to trust that somebody other than myself is going to keep me from dying or, worse, ending up in Terre Haute. An automated car would be in the same class. So automation isn't perfect; I would still trust a computerized, GPS-savvy automaton developed by the best and brightest minds in the world a tad bit more than the creepy, trailer-park-dwelling old man who drove my school bus in 6th grade. Lots and lots of people die every day on the highway. If there is technology that can mitigate that human loss, I am not so cavalier that I would reject it out of hand just to preserve of my own egotistical swagger.

    On the flip side, one could argue that you'd also save lots of lives by banning motorcycles. I don't have to tell you what I'd think about that proposal. Don't take away my ability to get into an old, manual-drive car and have fun with it on the open road. So, I'd hope for a middle ground. As long as I can savor the behind-the-wheel experience SOMEWHERE, I'd be okay if you restricted my old non-automated wheels from places it would make less sense…say, Manhattan island, for instance.

    I don't have a teenage daughter, but I do have two teenage nieces I am very close to. At 11:30 PM on a Friday night, I would be more than glad to accept the potential risks of an automated car over those of a distracted/inebriated/unskilled high-school classmate, or that drunk/sleepy/pissed-off driver in the opposite lane.

    • Kogashiwa says:

      And speaking of motorcycles, I sure hope the systems under development are designed to actually notice us. That alone would already be a massive improvement over the average driver.

  15. I_Borgward says:

    If a vehicle drives itself through a forest but no one is there to hoon it, is it really a car?

  16. jeepjeff says:

    Mark me in the "yes, I will welcome them" category. But on a "For Thee, But Not For Me" basis. If I ever own one, it's going to be my wife's car (I could see her being quite happy with a robotic vehicle). I want to drive myself, and I spend a lot of time setting myself up so I don't have to do any chore-driving (commuting to work in traffic, primarily).

    But I would love to see the people who don't want to drive replaced with attentive, polite robots. That would improve the roads greatly.

    The only downside I see is that a couple generations down the line (maybe sooner, maybe later, depends on how fast things move), driving your own car will end up like gun ownership. We'll split on it as a society, and there will be forces trying to ban it. Maybe the right answer is that driving a car is a quirk of our times and not the right thing for the deep future, but that definitely not a happy thought for any of us here. Even with that, I think it's coming, and we should welcome it for the good it will bring, even if it also may mean the end sometime down the line.

    • skitter says:

      The difference between hoons and gun advocates would also be interesting. Often, we see the necessity of a car as a means of transportation, while at the same time favoring stronger licensing regulations.

  17. name_too_long says:

    I would love to have a self driving car as long as I still had a second, non-self-driving car to have fun with.

    Let's be honest, even here, the majority of the driving we do is just to get from A to B and for that type of driving automation would be perfect. Just think how much less stressful a rush hour commute would be if the car was smart enough to crawl along in traffic all on its own.

    That said, all of those sensors and computers are heavy so you'd still want something else for the odd drive for the sake of driving.

  18. Maymar says:

    I'll echo the sentiment that automation has to be a hell of a lot better than a healthy percentage of the drivers out there. And even if it's a little buggy at first, you know there's a computer programmer who'll want to fix it. Whereas, I'm sure we all know a terrifying driver who can't(or worse) won't change, if they even know they"re the problem.

    Hell, I can even see the benefit for me – I have to drive for work, and frankly, after spending 3-4 hours a day in a Hyundai Accent, caught in traffic, or just driving on Toronto's dull roads, I don't want to go drive anywhere in my spare time. Maybe if that time spend wasa doing absolutely anything else (to say nothing of the hopefully shortened commute times), I might enjoy driving more.

    • Devin says:

      Would the programmer fix it? I see a lot of "well it's good enough" solutions in almost all the software I use, methods of operation that don't work well, but do work, so they never get fixed as new features are implemented and other bugs are repaired. Most of it's minor, like badly implemented shortcuts or byzantine methods of executing a simple task, but generally good enough is what most software seems to be striving for, rather than actually good.

      I don't think a badly coded computer is any more likely to change than an old man in a hat.

      Really all my objections to this are firmly routed in just using software on a daily basis above all.

  19. Tomsk says:

    Ideally, driver education and testing would be redesigned so that people scoring below a certain threshold (say, 95 points out of a possible 100) would only be able to purchase and use autonomous cars, while those scoring above that threshold would be allowed to buy and use autonomous and "manual" (referring to all controls and not necessarily transmission type) vehicles.

    Unfortunately, that's not any government's preferred path (i.e. the one of least resistance).

  20. Rover1 says:

    It is interesting to note that it is Audi involved with this. Maybe it's their way of finally admitting that they have no idea of how to put the steering feel, that they started out with on the NSU RO80, back in their front heavy cars. Although occasionally they have fluked it on some models, ( step forward and take a bow, Ur Quattro, R8, sundry RSs and current Bentleys ), perhaps now is the time to accept that the use of feel and response in the steering mechanism is over. Obviously it doesn't matter if no-one is actually driving. Engineering problem solved !

  21. Xedicon says:

    Driverless cars absolutely will become the norm, like it or not. The truth is anytime technology can manage to make something more convenient than it was before, it almost always succeeds. Look at digital distribution of movies and music. Email over "snail mail". On-line shopping over going out and going shopping. On-line / delivery food. Microwaves and their spawn the microwave meals. Steam bag veggies. Cell phones. Keyless cars with power everything imaginable. Home appliances and thermostats you can control over the web for when you get home. If it can be made more lazy the human race will eat it up, and not having to drive is right at the top of that list.

  22. craigsu says:

    Given their experience in I, Robot it would seem Audi is the one to take the lead here. Not that I'm interested for myself, mind you.

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