Previous Entry Share Next Entry

Self-driving cars

Standford's team (which won the DARPA contest) is doing some great stuff.

When jet engines were new jet airplanes had to have 3 pilots. The third pilot did nothing but run the jet engines: constantly adjusting the settings, tuning them, and keeping them running manually. Eventually electronics were developed to the point that such controls could be automated, thus eliminating the third pilot. The electronic control system is not just less expensive, but it produces better fuel efficiency.

Cars today require a driver. The driver requires good health, must be rested and sober. Humans are not very good at optimizing fuel efficiency. Humans don't communicate very well between cars. Imagine a world where cars drove themselves. The computers could optimize for better fuel performance, people could relax during their commute, and the cars could network to get better performance. For example, if 10 cars were all driving to the same destination they could get into a line and drive like a 'train' eliminating wind resistance for each other. Who knows what other optimizations will be discovered: the lead car could take on different computational responsibilities than the other cars.

One problem with our current highway system is that we equate "safety" with "speed". What we want is a "safety limit" but that is hard to quantify so we make due with a reasonable approximation: the speed limit. Computer controlled cars could enable a true safety limit and be permitted to drive at any speed as long as their metric is maintained (super fast on straight roads, slowing down for curved roads or during rain). Wouldn't you prefer a driver that had a mathematical model of friction ratios based off of sensors on the tires?

Of course, as the "driver" we humans could select from a wide menu of maneuvers that are humanly impossible. Like, parking a car James Bond style.

Eventually the cost and safety issues will be worked out. At that point, autonomous cars may be a big time management win. In the meanwhile, the bar association should advocate for more research in this area. I don't mean the legal organization, I mean the association of bar owners!

  • 1
This idea has been routinely promoted in pop science media for at least 15 years (and has incidentally been a gulfie favorite for about as long). I don't feel like practically speaking we're really too much closer than we were when he first started raving about it.

Now I'm going to have the theme for "Knight Rider" running through my head all day.

The first jets were all single seat fighters!

You do mean the legal one, because legal issues will stop it from happening: does any firm providing the software want the liability?

Dutch police drive on motorways like a 'train', albeit one where they are slightly to the side of each other, so the various drivers can see.

Fun fact of the day

In Wisconsin, the "bar association" is actually called the Tavern League.

We've been hearing and reading about these ideas since at least the early 90s, IIRC. The technology moves forward, and it's great, but the much harder problems will be social and psychological, and I'm not aware of anyone even trying to tackle those yet. Perhaps because they've had to wait for the tech to get further before it's practical to start... but at whatever point the tech is considered good enough to start that stuff, we'll only be at the pre-beginning of the development of this technology.

There are ways to slowly socialize them. You can use them at lower risk places until people develop confidence: amusement parks, etc.

I think the whole issue is (1) a matter of moore's law, (2) some risk-taker doing it.

  • 1

Log in

No account? Create an account