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  • Where’s The Lane?

    Posted by Dan from Madison on January 28th, 2017 (All posts by )

    I recently traded in my old Acura MDX for a new one. What a long, long way we have come in the 7 years since I purchased a new vehicle. I now have an air conditioned seat, something I am looking forward to using this Spring and Summer. I also have a heated steering wheel now, which is great during Winter. Quite the creature comfort.

    It also has a feature called Auto-Idle Stop that you can enable and disable that shuts the car off at a stop to save gas. The Acura dealer says that is will save a mile a gallon. At first I didn’t like it, but now I am used to it. I remembered it from when I was in a Prius cab once. When you take your foot off the brake, the car fires up and off you go. While you are stopped, all of the climate control and audio/whatever else you have on is still functional. It automatically turns back on after around a minute sitting there if you haven’t moved. I have no clue how this actually saves you gas but if they say it does, I guess they can’t really lie about it.

    Outside of all of the comfort things, the new vehicle is a technological powerhouse. I have had it for almost a month now and am still figuring out all of the features and tech stuff. It has 16 gig of memory to store music onboard. I don’t use that much since I love my XM, but there it is if you want it.

    Of the greatest interest to me are the next steps auto manufacturers have made to get everyone used to the idea of the inevitable autonomous vehicle. Three things work in concert on my vehicle. They are Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW). At first I turned all of this stuff off, but decided to one day read the manual (I know) to understand how it all works. It is interesting to say the least.

    ACC is basically “smart” cruise control. You set your cruise and it will keep the speed, but will also compensate for cars in front of you. You can set the distance that you prefer between your car and the car in front of you (there are four distances to choose from). In the city, I choose the closest distance so as not to clog traffic. The car will actually go all the way down to zero, braking at a light, and will start moving again when the car in front moves forward. There is a bit of a delay when you re-start, so you may look like you have no idea what you are doing, but to heck with everyone else, you don’t have to accelerate or brake and they do. Oh yes, the Auto-Idle Stop feature works with this as well, but you have to hit the accelerator to resume again if you are Auto-Idle Stopped with the ACC in charge.

    LDW is, from what I have figured out, just a warning system. It wiggles the steering wheel and shows a display when it feels you are out of the lane.

    LKAS is where the rubber really hits the road. When you enable this along with the ACC, the car literally drives itself. LKAS keeps you centered in the lane at whatever speed you are going. I have taken my hands off the wheel, but there are apparently sensors in the wheel because after a few seconds, the car says “you have to drive” and shuts down the auto systems. So just a light pressure on the wheel is all you need and you can let the car do the work. Sometimes the delay takes a bit and it would seem to the car behind you that you are drunk driving since you are weaving back and forth a bit in the lane. This typically happens when you are on a curved road. It isn’t perfect, but when the road is straight, it works very well.

    But.

    The cameras for all of this are only as good as the ROAD MARKINGS. We had a snow storm recently and my car was caked with snow and ice and the car just said on the display “cameras blocked” and you are on your own. In addition, I live in rural Wisconsin, just outside of Madison. In the city, there are much better lane markings. In the country, the roads have NONE. No smart driving for you in the country, although the ACC always works wherever you are as long as the camera isn’t blocked by snow. Even in the city, the lane markings deviate and/or are in bad shape in areas, and the car will beep and tell you that “tough stuff, you have to drive”, we can’t see the lane. This means that you have to pay attention because at times, you can see the lane markings, but the cameras can’t. There is a part of the display that lets you know if the camera can see the lane markings. I haven’t been on the interstate with it yet, but will soon and look forward to seeing what the car can do in that venue. I assume it will work great.

    All in all, when I figure out everything, this new vehicle will make my hour plus a day in the car a much more pleasant experience. Without proper lane markings, however, or unless and until we have lightning speeds with GPS, I don’t see fully autonomous vehicles coming for a bit. Which gets me to thinking I should probably look into investing in companies that manufacture lane marking equipment and paint, but that is certainly grist for another post.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

     

    71 Responses to “Where’s The Lane?”

    1. dearieme Says:

      How would it handle some of our local road signs, which instruct us to slow or stop because of the likelihood of animals crossing the road: variously deer, ducks, and frogs? Or our motorway signs that impose temporary speed limits or warn of congestion ahead?

      A major cause of local car crash deaths is drowning. This may require better marking of the edge of the road I suppose. (The driver is wise to carry some sort of hammer or pick within easy reach unless he has old-fashioned wind-down windows.)

    2. Mike K Says:

      I use cruise control all the time when driving in highway conditions. Now, I am in Tucson and next Tuesday start commuting a day or two a week to Phoenix. That is 105 miles and my Los Angeles commute was 50 miles but the time is about the same. Arizona has a 75 mph speed limit although I have the impression that they enforce it more vigorously than LA. I have been driving along at 80 mph on the 405 at 6 AM and have had motorcycle cops pass me.

      Once you get to the “South Bay Curve” on the 405, traffic at any hour slows to 20 mph or less so it took me 1.5 to 2 hours to drive the 50 miles at 5 AM.

      I expect it will take 1.5 hours to drive the 105 miles to Phoenix.

      An auto driving car would be interesting in those conditions. Thank God no snow but there are occasional dust storms and I have been in one that occurred instantaneously. We were in the right hand lane and could quickly slow down as visibility went to zero but we could hear cars crashing all around us. I think there were 11 collisions that day and it happened in two minutes. We were lucky in that one.

      People in Phoenix all say how they love Tucson but the jobs are in Phoenix. I can do this 6 or 8 times a month but a daily commute would be too much.

    3. CapitalistRoader Says:

      A decent Honda Sensing video. This outfit shows how to add a modified high-end cellphone, load it with maps, mount that cellphone with the camera in front of the rear view mirror, and viola, a self driving car. Maps are crowd sourced. Pretty interesting. They’re jumping through hoops to keep the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration off their backs.

    4. Dan from Madison Says:

      “How would it handle some of our local road signs, which instruct us to slow or stop because of the likelihood of animals crossing the road: variously deer, ducks, and frogs?” We have a lot of car/deer crashes here, and I can only assume that the reaction time of a computer will only improve the likelihood of crash avoidance and/or mitigate serious injuries much better.

    5. James the lesser Says:

      I doubt that it measures the road conditions in detail. Especially on side streets, blown or misplowed snow can make one lane much less useful than another. When traffic permits I prefer to drive around the ridges, “potholes,” and obviously slick spots–and there were plenty of those this last snow/icestorm. (I work in Madison too.)

    6. Mike Doughty Says:

      I’m no technophobe, and I do like the creature comforts and “assists” that are incorporated into modern cars, but the idea of a “self-driving” car is a bridge too far for me. I’m not a control freak, but I want the person driving to have as much skin in the game as me. I wouldn’t fly on a pilotless airplane (if we ever get there) for the same reason.

    7. Dan from Madison Says:

      “I wouldn’t fly on a pilotless airplane (if we ever get there) for the same reason.” You already do as most jets use autopilot for at least a portion of the flight.

      “When traffic permits I prefer to drive around the ridges, “potholes,” and obviously slick spots–and there were plenty of those this last snow/icestorm. (I work in Madison too.)” – you can always take over at any time to avoid those potholes (and I feel your pain). The system never fights any manual input that you offer to the wheel.

    8. Mrs. Davis Says:

      the idea of a “self-driving” car is a bridge too far for me.

      Even if it reduced highway fatalities and injuries by 90% with commensurate reductions in insurance premiums? I see self driving cars as our best realistic opportunity to reduce medical costs.

    9. Brian Says:

      Assisting the driver is one thing. Actually taking over completely is a much bigger challenge. There will be situations where it’s just too difficult for software to work decently. I’ve worked in computer vision problems for a long time and the real-world success of completely automated software is still pretty limited.

      Airplane autopilot is not a good comparison because the odds of a collision anywhere except at an airport are zero. By the way, does anyone here know if the reason why they don’t use autopilot for takeoff/landing is because the situation is too challenging, or because pilot’s unions don’t want their jobs to go away?

      To me the biggest concern, even if you had a perfect algorithm, is still security. I’m not aware of any internet connected system that is anywhere close to secure, even systems that you would think vast amounts of time and money would have been spent to accomplish it (My detailed personal information is now in the hands of the Chinese government and probably other malicious foreign entities, as is the case for millions of people who have ever held a security clearance, thanks to US government incompetence.). Your odds of being hacked might be low, given that you’re just one of a few hundred million cars on the road, but that’s not at all enough to be reassuring.

    10. David Foster Says:

      Brian…autopilots are indeed used for landings, in fact, they are *required* in extreme low-visibility low-celing situations (ILS Category II and Category III). Interestingly, ‘autoland’ systems systems were introduced way back in the 1960s, using analog technology, and were adopted more quickly in Europe given generally worse weather conditions.

      I believe today’s advanced autopilots do have crosswind limitations, requiring manual landing if crosswind exceeds X knots. And they do not deal well with unplanned situations…for example, Captain Sullenberger’s Hudson River landing.

      The Airbus crash in the South Atlantic involved an autopilot which said in essence, ‘hey, I can’t handle this, humans need to take over’ when the pitot tubes iced over and autopilot lost its airspeed source. The human flight crew should have been able to handle this situation, but was out of the loop and didn’t assess the situation quickly enough.

    11. Brian Says:

      Interesting to know. Thanks!

      “And they do not deal well with unplanned situations”
      “Unplanned situations” will happen orders of magnitude more often for cars than for airplanes.

      “The human flight crew should have been able to handle this situation, but was out of the loop and didn’t assess the situation quickly enough.”
      This will be a massive concern for cars. There’s no way to count on a person to go from passive passenger to active driver in an instant, especially since we give driver’s licenses to anyone, unlike pilots who have significant training.

    12. Dan from Madison Says:

      “Even if it reduced highway fatalities and injuries by 90% with commensurate reductions in insurance premiums? I see self driving cars as our best realistic opportunity to reduce medical costs.” THIS. I saw a guy on Bloomberg say that this year there are approximately forty thousand Americans who are going to die on the roads, we just don’t know who they are yet. That is a sobering way to put it. Autonomous vehicles will be so much safer. Sure there will be the headline grabbing crash here and there, but we don’t even hardly shrug anymore when crashes are reported every day unless we know someone.

      I imagine insurance companies and ambulance chasers will try to slow walk the technology as much as possible.

    13. Brian Says:

      As far as I am aware, we would eliminate the overwhelming majority of traffic deaths if cars couldn’t go above 5 mph if your seat belt wasn’t buckled.

      The model year before they mandate self driving is the last model year I’ll ever own. I’ll go full Cuban and rock a 1951 Lincoln Cosmopolitan.

    14. CapitalistRoader Says:

      “The model year before they mandate self driving cars…”

      I don’t think the technology will be mandated insomuch as human drivers will be outlawed. I envision autonomous vehicles slowly gaining market share and will likely be–as Dan says–an order of magnitude safer than cars driven by humans. At some point the pressure on politicians will be great to remove “unsafe” human drivers from the roads, at least in major metropolitan areas. And if that’s the case, car manufacturers will shift production over to AVs only. Maybe AVs will have a pop out joystick so the car can be manually positioned in case of malfunction but I’m guessing that steering wheels and pedals will go the way of hand crank starters.

      Ten years? Twenty? By then most people will be astonished that anyone would voluntarily choose to pilot a car rather than doing something else more valuable or satisfying while being wisked from point A to point B.

    15. Dan from Madison Says:

      I agree with Capitalist Roader. Eventually human coltrolled vehicles will be legislated off the roads. This may get sped up by aging Boomers who will pay any price to see little Sally’s piano recital, but maybe can’t control a vehicle safely, or at night.

    16. Brian Says:

      Nah, they’ll grandfather human drivers in the same way we allow horse and buggies to use the roads. I have no illusions that I’m an outlier on this topic, but you can have my steering wheel when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

      If this does actually proceed the way people predict, it’s going to decimate the auto industry, though. Even worse. It won’t cut their business by 10%, but more like by 90%. There will be no reason for many people to own their own car, if it’s all completely automated in this way. Also, the applicability and utility of self-driving cars is much different for urban vs. rural, another way in which technology and other factors will keep driving profound social, political, etc., divergences across the country.

    17. Mike K Says:

      Autonomous vehicles will be so much safer. Sure there will be the headline grabbing crash here and there, but we don’t even hardly shrug anymore when crashes are reported every day unless we know someone.

      Having run a trauma center for years which mostly admitted auto accident victims as we were in the suburbs, I suggest that the drivers who crash are quite often impaired or doing something stupid.

      I know of two young women killed when they reached for another audio tape and lost control. We had a red light runner killed in a collision. On the floor of his car was a cellphone with part of a dialed number on the screen.

      Alcohol and drugs are another big factor. One girl was applying makeup in her rear view mirror.

      Another my son was called to was a eyebrow pencil in the rear view mirror case. When that cause was published in a newspaper as the reason for three fatalities (including the car she hit head on) her family angrily complained. My son said there was no doubt. The eyebrow pencil was embedded in her eyeball.

    18. Mike K Says:

      The Airbus crash in the South Atlantic involved an autopilot which said in essence, ‘hey, I can’t handle this, humans need to take over’ when the pitot tubes iced over and autopilot lost its airspeed source. The human flight crew should have been able to handle this situation, but was out of the loop and didn’t assess the situation quickly enough.

      The inexperienced third pilot stalled the plane when he lost focus. The captain, who was sleeping off a party in the crew bunks, did not get there in time.

      Even I know not to pull up the nose in a stall.

    19. Mrs. Davis Says:

      Brian, you’ve got it! Do you own your own airplane? Personal ownership of a motor vehicle in 50 years will be as prevalent as airplane ownership today.

      The distinction will not be rural/urban, it will be civilized/wilderness. Farmers will want self-driving vehicles and roadways as much as anyone else. But it will be a long time before they can be used by loggers.

      If our solons had any sense, they’d be constructing their infrastructure bill to establish roads for self driving vehicles.

      And you are also correct that the effects on the auto business will be profound. The corporate fleet owners will value reliability, longevity and maintainability much more than consumers.

      Depending on how young you are, you may find you have a fairly large insurance bill if you keep your hands on the wheel till they go cold.

    20. David Foster Says:

      Brian…”If this does actually proceed the way people predict, it’s going to decimate the auto industry, though. Even worse. It won’t cut their business by 10%, but more like by 90%. There will be no reason for many people to own their own car, if it’s all completely automated in this way.”

      If I want to run up to the grocery store (5 minutes away), I don’t want to call for an Automated UBER and wait 10 minutes for it to show up.

    21. Brian Says:

      “If I want to run up to the grocery store (5 minutes away), I don’t want to call for an Automated UBER and wait 10 minutes for it to show up.”
      In an urban area, that won’t be a problem. In rural areas–big problem.

      “The distinction will not be rural/urban, it will be civilized/wilderness. Farmers will want self-driving vehicles and roadways as much as anyone else.”
      Plenty of people live in rural areas who aren’t farmers.

      As cars become more of a fleet product, they will become more expensive. The cost for an individual to own and maintain a car will skyrocket. And Uber won’t be reliable in rural areas since it won’t be cost effective for them to adequately cover a small, dispersed population. The combination of cost and service issues will add to the pressures that drive urbanization. I happen to think that urbanization contributes to social and political problems, so this is all a Very Bad Thing.

    22. Mike K Says:

      ” And Uber won’t be reliable in rural areas since it won’t be cost effective for them to adequately cover a small, dispersed population.”

      Our daughter, who lives in Santa Monica, drove over to Tucson two weeks ago with her mother as we were moving and I didn’t want my wife having to drive alone.

      Our daughter needed to be back at work Monday so she was just going to take Uber to the Tucson airport. There are like three Uber drivers in Tucson.

      She drove her mother’s car to the airport and parked it there. We retrieved it when I got there Monday afternoon.

      Tucson is not wilderness but it is not Santa Monica or LA either. In fact, that’s why we moved.

      By the way, driver reaction time may be an issue in self driving cars when something goes wrong.

    23. David Foster Says:

      Mike K (re the Airbus accident)…”The inexperienced third pilot stalled the plane when he lost focus. The captain, who was sleeping off a party in the crew bunks, did not get there in time.”

      The junior pilot had 2900 hours, which is pretty decent…but:

      “(the hours) were of low quality, and his experience was minimal, because almost all of his flight time was in fly-by-wire Airbuses running on autopilot.”

      Interesting piece on the accident and on the human/automation interface here:

      http://www.vanityfair.com/news/business/2014/10/air-france-flight-447-crash

      See also my post When Humans and Robots Communicate:

      http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/39039.html

    24. Mrs. Davis Says:

      As cars become more of a fleet product, they will become more expensive.

      Shopped for a car lately?

    25. Brian Says:

      Shopped for an airplane lately?

    26. Anonymous Says:

      What will all this technology portend for motorcycles? I note that BMW and Honda both have prototype bikes that are self-balancing, like a Segway. Self-driving automation will take all the fun out of it.

      War story: I was passing through Atlanta via the I-285 Beltway. I was doing a slow overtake of a car in the next-right lane. It was driving a smidge erratically side-to-side, but nothing alarming. As I got abreast of her, I noticed she had the rear-view mirror cocked so she could see herself directly. She had her elbows on the steering wheel, and was flossing her teeth. At 70 mph.

    27. Mike K Says:

      I had read the Vanity Fair article and that magazine is at its best when it does those pieces. Sadly, the politics has dominated recently.

      Since I am one of those “little god” surgeons, my impression may not be valid.

      A friend of mine is an ex-fighter pilot who flew F 18s in Gulf War I. He flies for American and was always against Airbus until he ended up flying one.

      I wonder how much the trend away from military pilots has affected all this? Sullenberger was a military pilot and so was my friend. What percent of airline pilots are these days ?

      I have many times compared flying to surgery and used to warn juniors against the “DC 10 Cockpit Syndrome” in which I used a Chicago crash where an engine came off the wing at rotation as an example.

      The pilot had too many variable and no time to sort them out. I have seen similar situations in operating rooms.

      Of course the surgeon has the advantage that he or she is not the one on the high wire.

      I have seen surgeons panic in an operating room.

      Actually, it probably happens more often in an ICU than an OR.

      An old professor had a saying, a couple really, that apply. One was, “Don’t just do something. Stand there !”

      Another was, “if nothing is working, pull out all the tubes and feed the patient.”

      Both sort of apply to the 447 situation.

    28. dearieme Says:

      “If I want to run up to the grocery store (5 minutes away)”: on yer bike.

    29. Mike Doughty Says:

      Lots of interesting comments. I have an observation, FWIW:
      I think some are vastly over-estimating the willingness of the “average” person to go along with the program. I think there would be lots of push-back from the masses, especially in the Red states, to any such mandate. Obamacare has been a prime example of a huge change that was mandated as supposedly “good for you”. I think there are lots of people, especially outside of major urban centers, who wouldn’t like this unless it was left up to them to opt in. I think legislating current cars off public roads would be a non-starter. I thought lots of people here identify as libertarians (little “l”)?

    30. Anonymous Says:

      “I think there are lots of people, especially outside of major urban centers, who wouldn’t like this unless it was left up to them to opt in.”

      Agreed. I think human drivers will be banned in major urban centers but not outside those centers. And in those urban areas AVs will allow maximum vehicle density on roads because instead of wide spacing between cars to allow for imperfect human reaction times cars will be packed together with just a few feet between them, even at high speed. Human drivers just couldn’t handle that.

      Although AVs themselves will be more expensive the cost of auto transportation should drop, a lot. I imagine that most of us will subscribe to a car service much like we subscribe to cell phone service now. There will be all sorts of plans, from high-end, no shared rides, two minute max wait time to shared rides only, off-peak times only, and a half an hour max wait time. Most people will probably choose to share a ride (with people vetted on their social networks) on their daily commutes and pay for three or four private roundtrips on week nights or weekends. But in any case what fraction of an Uber or Lyft ride cost is the driver? Over 50% is my guess, so AVs should drop the cost of auto transportation by 1/2.

      And if people can work or dine on their daily commutes, why would the length of the commute be so important? As I recall the average commute in the US today is 25 minutes. If you’re working instead of driving, would it matter if your commute is an hour each way? That would allow people to live further away from major urban areas, reducing housing density, increasing rather than decreasing the number of vehicle miles driven. More cars, not fewer, although cars will be sold almost exclusively to fleet buyers, not individuals.

    31. CapitalistRoader Says:

      Accidentally posted as Anonymous…

    32. David Foster Says:

      There are a lot of things that would have to happen for self-driving cars to be used on a general level. For starters:

      1) Lane markers have to be maintained religiously…can this really be done by the same highway departments that can’t be counted on to fix major potholes?…or alternative means of precise position identification need to be developed.

      2) The problem of driving on ice & snow needs to be addressed; this includes handling when skids inevitably happen.

      3) Redirection by law enforcement or other emergency response teams needs to be provided for.

      4) Compatibility needs to be assured between/among the collision-avoidance algorithms of different manufacturers and their systems to ensure that they don’t interact in ways that does more harm than good.

      I think it is likely that these vehicles will initially be deployed on special routes, which can be engineered and maintained to the appropriate standards.

    33. David Foster Says:

      Some comments on driverless trucks by Matt Rose, who runs Burlington Northern Railroad, in Trains Magazine, with additional commentary by consultant Rod Case.

      Rose: the first wave of autonomous trucking will arrive by 2020-2022, in the form of truck platooning.

      Case: if rail costs to move a container 2000 miles are indexed at 100, highway costs today are 131. With various platooning options for trucks:
      1–drivers in all trucks, platooning enabled by semi-automatic systems to save fuel costs, index =121
      2–driver only in the lead truck, index=96
      3–fully driverless, index=79

      I wonder about the numbers for Case 1….from what I’ve read, platooning with drivers in all cabs saves only about 5-10% of fuel, and has no effect on other costs, so I don’t see how could cut the cost index from 131 to 121.

      Intuitively, platooning with one lead driver and the other cabs following seems considerably easier to achieve than does full automation of all the trucks in the platoon.

    34. CapitalistRoader Says:

      Weird seeing this eighteen wheeler full of beer cruising down I-25 in traffic with no one sitting in the driver’s seat.

    35. Bill Brandt Says:

      I wonder how hard on the starter that stop start feature is. I know Mercedes added that this year or last year and I thought it was a bit irritating. What I didn’t like about theirs is that while you can turn it off the default is always on. So every time you get into the car if you don’t want it you have to turn it off. The default should be off

      An option the newer cars have that I really do like is that feature that shows you when a car is in your blind spot. There’ll be a little LED in the side mirror that lights up

      I was driving a friends Lexus with this feature and I thought for the first time in 50 years of driving I don’t have to look back.

      Maybe I sound like an old fart, but while all these electronic doodads are nice when they do go out they are very expensive to repair. But then technology has always been a double edge sword

    36. Dan from Madison Says:

      The auto stop on my Acura is a manual switch so you can turn it in or off at any time. I also wondered about the wear on the starter components but as I mentioned the Prius has been doing this for a while so maybe that has been solved. I drive the same route every day so I guess I could do a mileage comparison someday. I also have the blind spot alert. I think part of that movement comes from thicker support pillars to improve safety (pretty sure the pillars contain airbags) but I don’t really know.

    37. Mike K Says:

      “I really do like is that feature that shows you when a car is in your blind spot. ”

      My one accident in ten years was two years ago when I sideswiped a kid in a Prius who was next to me and just behind the read passenger side door. He had been there in that spot for blocks and I didn’t see him when I made a lane change. Fortunately, he kept control but we hit pretty hard.

      I’ve been rear ended by inattentive drivers but that was my first own-fault accident in probably 50 years.

    38. Mike K Says:

      rear passenger side door.

    39. chuck Says:

      “If I want to run up to the grocery store (5 minutes away), I don’t want to call for an Automated UBER and wait 10 minutes for it to show up.”

      No problem. The grocery store will do your shopping and send it to your home. I’m old enough to remember the milkman…

      I bought new two years ago, the backup and right hand lane cameras were a big selling point. The technology is changing so fast that I’m thinking of buying again in three years or so, the new tech compensates for my advancing age.

    40. David Foster Says:

      Chuck…”No problem. The grocery store will do your shopping and send it to your home. I’m old enough to remember the milkman…”

      The grocery store will already do that, it’s called Giant Peapod. It works fine for staples, but untrustworthy for anything that requires selection.

      In any event, there are also things like going out to lunch, going out to dinner, meeting up with friends, etc.

      I’d be happy to use a self-driving car for a 45-minute trip downtown, but would prefer individual vehicle for instant-availability reasons on shorter trips.

    41. Bill Brandt Says:

      @Dan – from what a Mercedes tech told me they really strengthened the starter components for this feature. And since i have a 20 year old V8 SL on the original starter (and my late 400,000 mile i6 300E was on the original starter) I guess they have starter longevity dialed in.

    42. Jonathan Says:

      -AV-only routes could be implemented initially as individual lanes on privately owned and/or managed toll roads. Such settings might present the best combination of minimal technical and legal obstacles and maximal revenue-generating and driver-convenience features. Tolling authorities could offer drivers higher speeds, reduced driving time and a chance to stop paying attention to the road, all in exchange for more-expensive tolls.

      -Auto-stop cruise control with user-selectable distance between vehicles is not obviously a good feature for urban driving. It is easy to spot drivers who either use this functionality and set too large a gap or are dogmatically following driving-school advice to leave X feet between their vehicle and the one ahead. Whatever the cause for it, driving in this way exacerbates traffic backups when vehicle density on the road is high.

      -Going to a nearby store is one situation where on-demand AVs are not obviously better than individually owned cars. Another is any situation that currently requires a pickup truck, trailer, four-wheel drive, or a vehicle that you can park with your gear in it while you do something away from the road.

    43. John Says:

      I can see how driverless cars could have better reaction times than people, but I really wonder how much of that would be made up for in the inability to predict many typical situations. I’m thinking of the places I know where you *must* slow down because there are Kamikaze deer leaping into the roadway directly in front of the car. (Actually had one come down on the roof one time, broke my driver’s side window…)

      Or those people who are entering the highway from a parking lot while talking on their cell phone. An alert driver can see that they are not paying attention and will soon be in the path of the vehicle, whereas the computer will have to wait until it happens…

      Maybe the latter would be a non-issue if *all* the cars are driverless…

    44. tyouth Says:

      The uniformity of the interstate highway system makes it a natural place to begin using driverless tech.

    45. JNorth Says:

      Tyouth – as a highways engineer, thank you for the humor.

      None of this will work in the norther latitudes (i.e. anywhere with snow) without totally redesigning and rebuilding all the roads. In the winter here the lanes move since no one can see the road markings even on some of the busier roads. I can see sections of some larger cities down south moving to it inside the cities. The legal and cultural changes needed will be harder to change then the technology.

    46. Grurray Says:

      “I think legislating current cars off public roads would be a non-starter. I thought lots of people here identify as libertarians (little “l”)?”

      Doing whatever you want is called libertine, not libertarian. It is true that ultimately Natural Law and the self-organizing order emerging from it are the basis of civilizational order, but standards and associations that connect people still need to be legislated and codified. What’s important is that the rule of law must still protect liberty by being unambiguous, non-arbitrary, and assigning authority to the least centralized entity possible.

      The problem with handling the decision strictly on the local level is the aforementioned concomitant infrastructure. After reading through the comments it looks to me that we’ll probably see different technologies for different situations. Sort of like rail with commuter lines, light rail, heavy rail, high speed rail. In urban areas, cars will be linked up to some centralized controlling system, in keeping with the centralized nature of cities. Around the metropolitan areas or short distances between cities, it would be the “road train” with a bunch of cars following a mothership. Then, outside cities on the open road the fully autonomous vehicles take over.

      Peopled cars will stay around, but they’ll have the same legal status as horse drawn carriages. Just as horses have to stay off the interstate because of minimum speed requirements, peopled cars will stay off because of connectivity requirements. Otherwise, the few people that still want them will be able to drive most everywhere else.

    47. Gene Says:

      I’m one of those weirdos (and there are many of us out there) who actually enjoys driving. Apart from stop-go rush hour traffic jams there are damned few situations I don’t get enjoyment from driving in.

      I’m old enough that I may reach the end of my driving days before the worst of this kicks in, but I expect people like me to be relentlessly legislated and insurance-premiumed out of my car.

      I can only hope that some wise entrepreneurs come up with a practical way to allow me to get my fixes, or else I’m going to be hell to live with someday.

    48. Mike Doughty Says:

      “The few people that still want them” (cars, that is).

      As I said earlier, I think some people here are vastly underestimating the push-back anything like this would generate, at least for a couple generations. I’d liken it to trying to convince gun owners that “smart guns” will be all they can buy.
      Also, you’d have to change a great many things related to Interstates and federal highways, as the various States own, maintain and set operating requirements and standards for the ones in their State. No easy task to get them all to agree on something like this, so they’d have to be forced, and we know how well that works.

      I don’t see that people having their own vehicles to use as they see fit is “libertine”, any more than guns, ATV’s, boats, etc.

      Anyway, as Gene says, I’m old enough that it’s for certain not going to happen in my lifetime.

      As an aside….The number of people killed on the road in 2015 was 35,092. That’s quite a few, but put into perspective, that’s 11.3 people per 100,000 population, or a .00113% chance in a given year, and about half of what it was in 1972. In 2016 there were approx. 595,000 deaths from cancer and approx. 1,685,000 new cases. You may disagree, but given the tremendous medical costs involved, I’d personally rather see money going into cancer research (where some very significant advances are being made) than into upgrading the highway system for autonomous cars (not that anyone cares what I think).

    49. Mike K Says:

      I’m one of those weirdos (and there are many of us out there) who actually enjoys driving.

      Back about 25 years ago, I was very interested in medical quality and whether you could learn to measure and improve it.

      I spent a year at Dartmouth after I retired (due to spine surgery) and thought I would have a second, sedentary career at this. Nothing came of of since no one is interested in medical quality but I do do some interesting reading and learned some new subjects.

      One of these is best described in a book by a guy with a name I can never spell but his is titled, “Flow.”

      It is about the experience of pleasure in work or other activity. He found that the average person experiences the most “Flow” in driving as it combines mastery and challenge.

      Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s famous investigations of “optimal experience” have revealed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called flow. During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. In this new edition of his groundbreaking classic work, Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates the ways this positive state can be controlled, not just left to chance.

      That is a newer edition of the book I read but probably has similar findings.

    50. tyouth Says:

      JNorth, I’ve always imagined that radio waves (from mile markers?) or GPS would provide the general directions of speed and lane to the destination for the vehicle and that the car’s visual cues would be for accident avoidance and maneuvering in traffic. I expect that if it can’t be done on the interstate that it can’t be done at all.

    51. David Foster Says:

      Here’s an article on how Google’s approach to self-driving cars works:

      https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/05/all-the-world-a-track-the-trick-that-makes-googles-self-driving-cars-work/370871/

    52. David Foster Says:

      Also, an interesting comparison of the Tesla and Google approaches to the self-driving problem:

      http://seekingalpha.com/article/3987540-teslas-cheap-approach-autopilot-might-lead-anywhere

    53. Grurray Says:

      Mike, I read Flow and am a big fan of Csikszentmihalyi. I’ve also read another book he wrote, The Meaning of Things, a few times. It’s an ethnographic study on artifacts and possessions, why people find meaning in them, and what qualities have the most meaning. It’s a little dry at times, and he detours into some extraneous environmental sermonizing at the end. However, it’s still got some good insights.

      He found that people who were in well adjusted relationships and relatively secure in their place in the world valued possessions that they could share with others and that connected them with loved ones. Those who stuggled socially or were in unhappy relationships valued things that allowed them escape or distraction from immediate concerns.

      It was from the 70s, so it was still mostly nuclear families with the husband working and the wife at home. Husbands usually valued possessions that seemed practical and functional while housewives valued things that provided some philosophical or ideological fulfillment.
      I’m sure if the study was done today that would probably be reversed in many cases.

      There might be some further insight for our discussion here. Cars used to mean freedom for some to eacape on the open road, but for others it meant connecting with friends tinkering or hot rodding or just cruising around. For AVs or whatever comes next, those needs and qualities will need to be addressed and correctly applied for it to be a success.

    54. Bill Brandt Says:

      @Mike – my idea of the ideal vacation is to just hop in the car and drive – stopping where I feel like stopping with no strict itinerary. It is depressing where the powers that be want to take driving – we will see if they succeed.

      Haven’t read Flow but I would assume having a car with some suspension and steering feel would optimize the driving experience.

      Dan made a good point about self driving cars though – saying that for a normal dull commute to work he’d just assume the car do it (I think that is what he said a few months ago).

      Wonder how they would react with all references to the road gone in a blizzard.

    55. CapitalistRoader Says:

      “[Csikszentmihalyi] found that the average person experiences the most “Flow” in driving as it combines mastery and challenge.”

      That’s exactly how I feel when riding my bicycle. It’s a great combination of speed and risk and physical challenge. It’s my version of driving a sports car.

      I’d like to read it but that will have to wait since very single copy of the 2008 edition of Flow is checked out at my library.

    56. David Foster Says:

      Mike K….interesting insight about driving and flow. I also wonder if horseback riding has the same effect….traditionally, being a horseman was of course a major marker of the class of nobility.

    57. tyouth Says:

      the Zen of the commute

    58. Mike K Says:

      “GPS would provide the general directions of speed and lane to the destination for the vehicle ”

      There are a number of amusing anecdotes about tourists (most stories I’ve seen are about Japanese tourists in Australia) relying on GPS and getting into spectacular trouble. Examples are driving into the ocean or lakes trying to get someplace the road doesn’t go.

      I’ve had trouble with Google maps.

    59. tomw Says:

      One problem unmentioned is the interaction of the aggressive ‘people’ driver with an automated driver. The auto system should be expected to obey traffic laws, yield properly, merge, etc. The aggressive driver could readily bully the automated driver by abusing the ‘aversion to collision’ systems of the automated system. Additionally, an aggressive driver could force itself into a merge lane, etc, and the automated driver would accept the behavior, and allow ready bullying. I realize my explanation is lacking, but people do act in rude ways while driving, and their rudeness would pay off against an automated driver.
      Perhaps I missed something in considering the characteristics of an automated system.
      tom

    60. David Foster Says:

      TomW…great point.

      It’s sad to say, but I can also imagine ‘Social Justice Warriors’ deliberately interfering with trucks bearing the logos of companies that they have decided are Enemies of the People.

    61. David Foster Says:

      The problems of people driving into lakes, etc, seem to be caused by inaccurate GPS mapping info rather than bad position data from the satellites. (The real cause, of course, being clueless humans who follow directions blindly)

      Nevertheless, I doubt that GPS can be relied on as the sole source of position information to a level that would allow lane-following with no other assistance. For one thing, GPS signals are very weak and will be lost in tunnels. I suspect they may also be lost in very dense urban areas with many tall buildings, although I haven’t experienced this personally.

      Possibly GPS supplemented by inertial navigation and/or ‘dead reckoning’ (counting wheel turns and direction of steering) would be enough. Google’s LIDAR system uses lasers to determine position precisely by comparison with roadside objects, as described in one of my links above.

      In any case, it seems that very precise mapping of the roadways in question will be required by solutions that are likely anytime in the near future. I think we are likely to see certain routes identified and maintained as ‘AutoDriving Qualified’ and that they will initially be in places where there is not heavy snowfall and the standards of road maintenance are high.

    62. Mike K Says:

      “it seems that very precise mapping of the roadways in question will be required by solutions”

      There have been a number of sailing incidents involving boats using GPS to enter harbors that were often charted in the 19th century. This is especially a problem in the Pacific.

      Celestial navigation, which I used to find Hawaii in 1981, is inaccurate enough, especially on a small boat, that skippers would wait until daylight to enter unfamiliar ports and harbors and use local pilots at times. Now, there are a number of cruising sailors that have limited experience and lots of money and rely on GPS when it is imprudent to do so.

    63. Jonathan Says:

      Tomw:

      I think this is a major concern of AV developers. A related problem is pedestrians. You’d want your AV to stop automatically for most people in the road, but not for people who walk onto the road with the intention of victimizing AV passengers after their vehicles stop automatically. There are also variations of the “Do you kill the AV passengers or the pedestrians?” question.

    64. Mike K Says:

      Here is an interesting video presentation of the hyperloop, an alternate concept for the “Bullet Train” that will never be built.

      It could be an alternative for longer distance travel. It travels at about the speed of sound. Los Angeles to San Francisco in 35 minutes.

    65. CapitalistRoader Says:

      Centimeter-Level GPS Positioning for Cars:

      Superaccurate GPS may soon solve three robocar bugbears—blurred lane markings, bad weather, and over-the-horizon blind spots. These are things lidar and radar often can’t see, see through, or see around.

      A group led by Todd Humphreys, an aerospace engineer at the University of Texas at Austin, has just tested a software-based system that can run on processors in today’s cars, using data from scattered ground stations, to locate a car to within 10 centimeters (4 inches). That’s good enough to keep you smack in the middle of your lane all the time, even in a blizzard.

      “When there’s a standard deviation of 10 cm, the probability of slipping into next lane is low enough, meaning 1 part in a million,” he said. Today’s unaided GPS gives meter-plus accuracy, which gives you maybe 1 part in 10, if that, he adds.

    66. Bill Brandt Says:

      Would that imply they have every road mapped down to the centimeter and not only every road but every lane?

    67. Mike K Says:

      Would that imply they have every road mapped down to the centimeter and not only every road but every lane?

      That was my point of the charting errors in the Pacific. Who is going to do the mapping ?

    68. David Foster Says:

      “When there’s a standard deviation of 10 cm, the probability of slipping into next lane is low enough, meaning 1 part in a million”

      One part in a million WHAT? A million hours? A million seconds? A million typical trips? The assertion is utterly meaningless without a time qualifier.

    69. tomw Says:

      A woman drove into a pond about ten miles easterly from where I live. She contacted the 911 emergency number and reported her situation. She subsequently drowned.
      The 911 service was contacted via the nearest cell tower, which happened to be in the adjacent county, which had no geo-location for the street name reported.
      She had plenty of time to escape had the 911 crew given advice about technique to escape a sinking vehicle.
      I bring this up for two reasons: 1)dependency upon others to save your bacon just because they are ‘apparently available when in fact they are not and 2) mapping of streets down to the 10cm in variation being mentioned as adequate for self-guided vehicle operation.
      Following the instruction of a GPS guidance device may be fatal, just as waiting to be rescued in a sinking vehicle, and making no attempt to exit, depending on someone else to handle your problem may do the same thing.
      Depending on technology to guide a vehicle via the 10cm GPS may also ignore(will) the ‘clear tracks’ on a snow- or ice-covered interstate highway, and attempt to drive through snow drifts that form on the roadway rather than using the common sense of driving in the ‘dry’ lanes.
      It doesn’t matter who is ‘right’ when you are in a box six feet under, or are mid-air heading for the beach or rocks 100 feet below after blindly following GPS instructions to TURN RIGHT, NOW!
      AKA, I don’t think we are quite ‘there’ yet. See also: ‘Tesla drives into(under) semi-trailer blocking lanes as driver watches cartoon…’ In Florida, of course. Said driver is no longer with us, having lost his head, literally.

    70. Bill Brandt Says:

      Never will forget some years ago that I having a Sony GPS device, was trying to find an address in Newcastle California. Newcastle is at the foothills of the sierra Nevada mountains.

      Anyway the device takes me right over the main railroad tracks and pronounces that I am at my destination. Unlike the woman in the pond I did not believe it ;-)

    71. CapitalistRoader Says:

      GPS is like swiss cheese, it’s full of holes: an Australian company’s attempt to fill those holes with a local positioning system. They have a contract with the USAF for the White Sands Missile Range and claim…

      …positioning accuracy to an aircraft flying up to 25,000 ft in altitude and at speeds up to 550 mph, of 6 cm (horizontal) and 15 cm (vertical) – totally autonomous of GPS and without augmentation from any other system – terrestrial or space-based.

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