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  • The Next Big Thing

    Posted by Dan from Madison on February 25th, 2015 (All posts by )

    A few weeks ago while sitting around, my wife and I started discussing the Next Big Thing. My new smart phone is simply an improvement over the last one – that isn’t it.

    I will tell you what is the Next Big Thing – driverless cars.

    I had heard about them a few times before reading America 3.0, and they are mentioned in that book. I send Lex links about testing and we have both come to the conclusion that the big hurdle with them won’t be the technology – it will be regulatory hurdles. But this is coming faster than we all think – and there really won’t be much anyone can do to stop it since the demand will be intense.

    I imagine the cops will be trotting out “safety” issues when the real reason will be that their days of writing dumb speeding tickets will be over. That revenue train, along with the DUI industry, will take major hits. I imagine they and others will fight this to the end. Insurance companies will likely see damage done – as crash rates go lower, they will be forced to drop premiums, or people will just go to a simple liability policy and chance the crash.

    As for me, I lose 70 minutes a day of productivity sitting in my car. All isn’t lost since I listen to Bloomberg business news, however if I could have that 70 minutes to catch up on email, or to simply further myself by reading a book it would be a huge plus in my life. How about being able to have more than one glass of wine with dinner with my wife at a nice restaurant or at a wedding reception and not having to worry about a DUI?

    Elon Musk says that we will be ready, tech wise, in five to six years:

    Mr. Musk expects autonomous driving to be safer for riders and pedestrians by a factor of 10.

    I absolutely believe this. In addition, when the computer gets traffic reports, it will choose the quickest way to the destination, and will choose the speed to use the least amount of fuel.

    This article is interesting from CNBC. Here is a quote:

    But for some mass market brands like Chevy, Honda or Volkswagen, Winterhoff says it will tougher to compete and win in a world where self-driving cars usher in the idea of mobility on demand.

    “Autonomous drive vehicles will mean many families will need fewer cars and if you only have one car instead of two, you will likely make it a premium brand,” he said.

    Imagine having only one car for a family of four. In my life, it would drop me off at work, head home and transport the wife if she needs to go somewhere, pick up/drop off a kid at school, head to the market where my groceries will be loaded by a clerk there that I have already paid for with Google Wallet, etc. etc.

    When you get talking heads speaking about winners and losers, you can feel that it is on the way. I just can’t wait.

     

    66 Responses to “The Next Big Thing”

    1. Dan from Madison Says:

      And this doesn’t begin to take into account what wonders it will do for my deliveries of HVAC parts and equipment.

    2. Joe Wooten Says:

      My main problem with driverless cars will be hackers, government or freelance, taking control of it. I can see a new business of killing someone in a traffic accident by taking remote control of a car and ramming it into a bridge abutment. If I had one, I would always be in the driver’s seat with my hand on the autodrive kill switch ready to take control at the first sign of trouble. That kill switch is something I would insist upon or I would not buy the car. I can trust the computer, if left alone to safely get me to my destination, but this kid of car will have to be networked into a traffic control network, and with all the backdoors in modern computer tech, there is no way a good hacker can be kept out.

      So much for doing something else while the car drives me to work every day.

    3. Dan from Madison Says:

      I can trust the computer, if left alone to safely get me to my destination, but this kid of airplane will have to be networked into a traffic control network, and with all the backdoors in modern computer tech, there is no way a good hacker can be kept out.

      How do you like the sentence now? We have trusted computers with our safety/travel aboard trains and airplanes for eons.

    4. dearieme Says:

      This will be a wonderful opportunity for the USA to adopt the wise habit of driving on the left. That means that your traffic will “seed” fewer tornadoes and so you’ll all be a bit safer from those too. Minor civil engineering adjustments will be required, but those will be “shovel ready” projects, so all will be well.

    5. Jonathan Says:

      Many Americans already drive on the left.

    6. Grurray Says:

      I agree interstate shipping will get a big boost from autonomous semis, and it will be safer also, with no worries about a driver with too little sleep.

      Buses and snow plows too.

    7. Dan from Madison Says:

      “autonomous semis” – I imagine the Teamsters will line up and try to fight this alongside the cops and others. They will lose.

    8. tdaxp Says:

      “Imagine having only one car for a family of four. ”

      Take this to the next step: capital utilization. A car is an expensive depreciating asset that is unused most of the time

      This is true of corporate servers, which is why Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are making a ton on cloud computing. When your asset is mostly unused, its more efficient to pay on-demand and accept surge pricing.

      If a car has no drivers seat (buy, say, 2-4 “seats” equivalent to a first-class international airlines “seat”) why isn’t the app smart enough to know folks who begin and end near the same place, or along the same route? If my time is more valuable, why can’t I subsidize the other rider(s), paying more of the total fare in exchange for my route being optimized. During non-rush times rides may be nearly free, just expensive enough to pay for depreciation, wear and tear, etc, while during rush times rides would be more expensive.

      Beyond technology (can a driverless car work?) and law (may a driverless car work?) is class signaling: does riding in a driverless car make me look good? Ride-sharing in a GM or even a VW means I’m a working stiff making ends meat.

      Aspirational/Luxury Brands like Tesla or Apple, however, may be able to make that work.

    9. Dan from Madison Says:

      “…why isn’t the app smart enough to know folks who begin and end near the same place, or along the same route?” I imagine it will be way smarter than we think. I can see neighborhoods chipping in on “the” car and/or cooperatives using this strategy as well. There will certainly be apps that have meeting points for people and drop off points. Carpooling on demand, perhaps.

    10. Bill Brandt Says:

      Funny you should mention this. Last Sat our car club was invited to Daimlers R & D center in Sunnyvale. They were saying that with the options provided today an S-Class is capable of being “driverless” but for legal and regulatory hurdles. (if they linked them properly).

      Personally I like to drive but I can see wanting driverless on a long, dreary commute to work.

      The most interesting car they had there was the F 015 – I told someone there that of all of “concept cars” I have seen over the decades – this looks like it could be a reality in 30-40 years. You look at concept cars from the 1950s and they look like some stylist’s idea of the future but at at least to me the F 015 looks like **the** future.

      It is a hybrid but the engine is hydrogen. The front seats swivel back so you could have a little “conference room”in driverless mode. LEDs on the grill are blue or red depending on mode.

      https://www.mercedes-benz.com/en/mercedes-benz/innovation/research-vehicle-f-015-luxury-in-motion/

      I have toured the Tesla factory – those too look like the future. Because an electric motor gets all of its torque from start (unlike an internal combustion having to get to a certain RPM) acceleration is spectacular. 0-60 in 4 seconds – and silently.

      http://www.mbca.org/event-report/2013-11-02/visit-tesla-factory-fremont-ca

    11. Dan from Madison Says:

      Oh my GOD that Mercedes is awesome. I would sell one of my kids for it (not really but damned close).

      “Personally I like to drive but I can see wanting driverless on a long, dreary commute to work.” Don’t forget DARK. It is dark every single day I go to work, and half the year it is dark when I drive home. To be able to have a martini and catch up on email on the way home in a mini conference room with day lights would be a dream come true.

    12. tdaxp Says:

      “Disruption” is a buzz word, but it actually means entering a market with some new technology that allows you to undercut market leaders.

      An autonomously driven and autonomously recharged moving vehicle service (an “auto-mobile”) is competitive against

      1. the first car of dwellers of dense urban areas
      2. the second car of dwellers in semi-dense areas

      You may still want your car or SUV for the freedom to travel where you want, when you want, in the countryside or on vacation. But what about your second, back-up car? Or the third car your teenager wants?

      If you’re driving your second car 10k miles/less, uber is already price competitive.

      If you’re thinking of placing a teenager behind a well — you’re also thinking about the risk of injury, loss of future income, loss of life or health, etc.

      If you’re thinking of an elderly relative…

      Well, the list goes on.

      The auto-mobile is disruptive immediately, even if it can’t compete against the first car of car enthusiasts.

    13. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      >>I can trust the computer, if left alone to safely get me to my destination,

      Good thing nothing nothing ever goes wrong with computers. Or software.

    14. tdaxp Says:

      “Good thing nothing nothing ever goes wrong with computers. Or software.”

      Irrelevant.

      As long as P(Injury | Human driver) > P(Injury | Automated driver), human cars are death traps, even if P(Injury | Automated driver) > 0

    15. Lexington Green Says:

      “If you’re thinking of an elderly relative…”

      Tens of millions of baby boomers are going to be able to stay mobile for many more years because of this.

      That is huge, and will be a huge source of demand.

    16. Jonathan Says:

      Computers and software control high-stakes machines such as medical devices, machine tools and warplanes. Why not automobiles too? It’s merely a matter of allocating sufficient resources to design and testing. In this case the business incentives and liability disincentives are such that the resources will be allocated. Buggy, inexpensive retail software isn’t the proper standard for comparison.

    17. Dan from Madison Says:

      “Good thing nothing nothing ever goes wrong with computers. Or software.” We haven’t exactly seen airplanes raining out of the sky over the last 40 (or however many) years of aviation since computers were monitoring systems and planning flight patterns. Elon Musk says autonomous cars will be 10x safer than human drivers. I think that number is far underestimated.

    18. Joe Wooten Says:

      can trust the computer, if left alone to safely get me to my destination, but this kid of airplane will have to be networked into a traffic control network, and with all the backdoors in modern computer tech, there is no way a good hacker can be kept out.

      How do you like the sentence now? We have trusted computers with our safety/travel aboard trains and airplanes for eons.

      And the pilots and train engineers are always there to take control if necessary. Who will run the network? The air traffic control system is stressed now with a few thousand aircraft in the sky at all times, how will the government manage a system to control millions of cars at the same time?

      I am an engineer (mechanical)and I don’t like giving control to a system that could be hacked by a vengeful teener or government bureaucrat.

    19. JNorth Says:

      Another engineer (civil/mechanical) here and you are forgetting the other great thing about self driving cars, no gas bill since they will be powered by cold fusion. Might as well say that since both will be available the same time, day after never.

      Even if they get the technical parts working the legal issues will never allow it. Who is liable in a crash? Rotating seats in self driving mode? Ya, that will meet crash safety standards. Martini on the way home? Not if there is anyway you can take manual control of the vehicle.

      Maybe if you want to go build an entirely new metro area with only networked, self driving cars. Good luck with that (no, really, good luck, I’d make bank building a whole new city).

      Also, enough with the “planes and trains have computers and they are perfectly safe”. Especially trains, even automated trains crash into each other and trains, unlike cars, can not suddenly (due to software glitch or broken tie rod) make a hard left at 70mph. For planes, even when they are on autopilot they are either at cruising altitude and therefore 30,000+ feet from anything else or the pilots are sitting at the controls ready to take over if something doesn’t look right. If you have to pay just as much attention while the car is driving itself as you do actually being in control then what is the point.

    20. tdaxp Says:

      “And the pilots and train engineers are always there to take control if necessary. ”

      yup :(

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EgyptAir_Flight_990
      http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/567034-malaysia-airlines-flight-mh-370-sabotage-pilot-suicide-mass-murder-not-ruled-out/

    21. Dan from Madison Says:

      Do you guys mean this won’t be perfect or seamless? And what we have now is? And nobody is drinking and driving right now? Who knew?

      As I have stated there will be resistance from certain corners however it will quickly wither away as the market demands this like no invention since…the car.

    22. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      I got beaten to it by others, but there were a few high-profile aircraft crashes dues to computers locking up and/or software issues. Man-in-the-loop and the ability to immediately override automated systems is generally a good plan. That said, I have great faith that overall computers will do a good job driving cars and trucks.

    23. Tdaxp Says:

      @Dan from Madison, those links were when man-in-the-loop was the fatal cause of aircraft disasters.

      IIRC both Google Car crashes are also because of man-in-the-loop.

    24. David Foster Says:

      There is always a man in the loop. People specify the software. People write it and QA test it. People decide when to deploy it and what procedures it shall operate under.

      See my post blood on the tracks

    25. Jonathan Says:

      There will be accidents but that’s true of any new transportation technology. The software can be made good enough. I’m not talking about autopilots. Modern warplanes are generally unstable without constant computer-generated control inputs. Many modern medical devices require flawless software. The tech won’t be the problem. I agree that the obstacles will be legal and political. I also agree with Dan from Madison that the benefits of automation are so great that the problems will get solved.

    26. Grurray Says:

      Here’s one way to transition into it.
      Car train:

      http://youtu.be/qVFLG3hTUEU

      The man in the loop problem is due to the fact that, in the words of Macroresilience, people make poor computer monitors when they only have passive control.

      So put the man in active control in a mothership. As technology gets better, the active control gets more remote.

    27. newrouter Says:

      the day the emp explodes over the us will be interesting

    28. GFV Says:

      Driverless?…Only when they pry the steering wheel…from my cold…dead…hands!!!

    29. Carl from Chicago Says:

      When the EMP explodes over all of us we are done anyways because we won’t be able to manufacture or transport gasoline.

      This is a great thread. Likely driverless cars will start in confined areas off the grid a bit… kind of like how some old folks areas drive around all day in golf carts.

      The rise of computers is unstoppable and perhaps “hybrid” cars where the computer CAN control it would start to become the norm. We have this today with various driver assist models. Over time there would be less driver and more computer.

    30. newrouter Says:

      When the EMP explodes over all of us we are done anyways because we won’t be able to manufacture or transport gasoline.

      we could if we planned ahead. take this <a for example:
      To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design. electronics on automobiles encased in Budget Prep: Faraday Cage

      what if the sun nukes us rather than iran
      Solar storm of 1859

    31. newrouter Says:

      To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design

    32. Robert Schwartz Says:

      The idea that we will rely solely on rental autonomous vehicles will collapse the first time one shows up at your door covered in vomit and urine because the last users were drunken frat boys on the way home from a bachelor party.

    33. Mike K Says:

      “To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design”

      Engineering gets a lot from failure. The photo on the cover is Galloping Gertie,” The Tacoma Narrows bridge that was done in by flutter never anticipated by the designers. I’ve seen the Golden Gate bridge flutter, not as much, in a storm in the Bay Area. Traffic was stopped.

      The Jet Stream was discovered, contrary to the Wiki article , by the USAF bombing Japan in pressurized, high altitude B 29s. The intense head wind at that altitude and the resulting inaccuracy of the bombing, was essential in understanding the jet stream. LeMay solved the problem by low altitude bomb runs that did not risk the inaccuracy of high altitude. By 1945, fighter opposition was very small. Not zero but small.

    34. Bill Brandt Says:

      @MikeK – you are so right about the B29s and the Jet Stream. They couldn’t figure our why that Norden bomb-sight was so inaccurate at 30,000 feet.

      On software and aircraft – lots of examples abound of software failing at a critical juncture. We learn and correct it. I think when the F16 first came out pilots were crashing due to unknown causes. This was one of the first fly-by-wire fighters, and the plane was pulling G’s that were too much for the pilot. He’d pass out and the plane crashed.

      Redundancy should be built into the code and of course the “trick” is trying to foresee every parameter of the flight envelope.

      I’d be willing to bet that software is the big problem plaguing the F35.

      I love driving but I can see there are times – as Dan suggested – droving home from work in the dark on a snowy night – I’d just like to set the controls to auto pilot and have that martini, too. Wonder how the car works when the road is covered with snow. Unless the roads are mapped so precisely via GPS that it “knows” where the road is, or should be ;-)

    35. dearieme Says:

      This morning’s Telegraph carries a story about two tourists who wanted to visit a Trappist monastery on Caldey Island (Wales) and, trusting their satnav, attempted to drive to it. Happily the yielding sands on the beach saved them from reaching the water. I suppose the monks couldn’t yell warnings.

    36. Dan from Madison Says:

      “Wonder how the car works when the road is covered with snow.” I imagine the GPS will “know” where the road is as you mentioned. The computer already fixes a lot of my driving mistakes on the road when there is snow with anti lock brakes and moving the drivetrain effects around to different wheels so I don’t see why that would be an issue. Deep snow might be another matter, but there are always humans sliding off during snowstorms so again, I don’t see how that could get worse.

      Of course, the Mercedes above is silly as far as this climate/snow goes, but we are in the first inning after all. Maybe even in pre game warmup for this.

    37. Trent Telenko Says:

      Mike K,

      >>The Jet Stream was discovered, contrary to the Wiki article , by the USAF bombing Japan in pressurized, high altitude B 29s.
      >>The intense head wind at that altitude and the resulting inaccuracy of the bombing, was essential in understanding the jet
      >>stream.

      Not quite.

      The Japanese were well aware of the Jet Stream.

      American code breakers of Japanese weather reports were also well aware.

      General Hansell, Lemay’s predecessor as leader of the Pacific B-29 strategic bombing campaign, was not.

      See:

      History Friday: A Tale of Balloon Bombs, B-29s and Weather Reports
      Posted by Trent Telenko on February 21st, 2014
      https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/41791.html

      American Ultra decoders had by October 1944 broken the Japanese Purple diplomatic, Mainline Japanese Army, Japanese Army Water Transport, Japanese JN-25 Naval and Japanese weather codes. Anyone with Ultra access should have known about the jet stream over Japan. It raises the question: Why didn’t General Hansell know about the jet stream? The answer comes from a ‘marker’ via General Hansell himself, from pages 203 – 204 in his 1986 book “The Strategic Air War Against Germany and Japan: A Memoir” ** –

      …Our weather information came chiefly from a nightly B-29 flight to Japan. I had a meteorological officer who did a magnificent job under almost impossible conditions. His name was Col. James Seaver; I had known him in England. He knew perfectly well that my decision to “go” or to “stand down” depended directly upon his forecast. He also knew that his estimate was going to be better than mine, so he stated it without equivocation. He said what he thought would be the case, without hedging it with subjunctive clauses. Sometimes he was wrong, but more often he was right. I relied upon him heavily and was careful never to criticize when the weather forecast did not pan out.
      .
      The XXI Bomber Command had no special liaison unit (SLU) to receive Ultra information — a grievous omission. I cannot understand why. Group Captain Winterbotham in Ultra Secret drops the casual statement:

      In Brisbane (Australia) many of our main signals now came from Delhi, but radio blackouts were frequent. Sometimes signals came via the Australia Post Office cable, or even radio from Bletchley (England), and Japanese weather reports came up from Melbourne by teleprinter, so the SLU at Brisbane had a bit of a job sorting out what was going on.
      .
      What Colonel Seaver would have given for those Japanese weather reports! Weather over Japan was our most implacable and inscrutable enemy. Such reports received through Ultra were of great value in the strategic air war against Germany; they would have been priceless in the air war against Japan. It seems simply incredible that no one “in the know” recognized our need, especially for Japanese weather reports, and took steps to supply me and later General LeMay with an SLU.

      .
      The person “in the know” that Hansell was referring to was Admiral Nimitz. Only Nimitz as the POA Theater commander could authorize an Ultra special liaison unit (SLU) to the XXIth Bomber command. Not even the 2nd in command for the 20th Air Force, General Harmon — a former commander of the 13th Army Air Force in the Pacific who had gotten Ultra intelligence from General MacArthur, and had later succeeded Admiral Halsey as a South Pacific Theater commander under Nimitz — someone who was very much “in the know” for Ultra, could countermand Nimitz on providing an Ultra SLU for Hansell.

      General Harmon’s death flying to Washington DC to “clear up Army Air Force chain of command issues in the Pacific” takes on entirely different shades of meaning in light of General Hansell’s Ultra weather report ‘marker.’

    38. Roader Says:

      Autonomous drive vehicles will mean many families will need fewer cars and if you only have one car instead of two, you will likely make it a premium brand…

      Probably only for fairly wealthy people. The rest of us subscribe to car service, much like we subscribe to cell service now, with varying levels of service available at varying price levels. And we really won’t care what brand of vehicle we ride in. Most of us will choose to share a ride on our regular commutes just because it will save so much money and splurge for a private car on special occasions. The Antiplanner frequently finds fault with urban planners who completely ignore the advent of autonomous cars and instead bitterly cling to soon-to-be-outmoded mass transit systems.

    39. Dan from Madison Says:

      There are a lot of great articles at that Antiplanner site, thanks for linking.

    40. dearieme Says:

      It would make “tidal flow” roads much easier to operate, so we could just concrete over much of our passenger railway network. In fact, converting a twin railway track to one car lane up the middle with a bicycle lane on each side might be a brilliant success.

    41. Jonathan Says:

      Antiplanner is on our blogroll, BTW.

      WRT “planning”, the public will be lucky if the current generation of planner, politician and developer parasites can be stopped from wasting even more of our money on graft-laden mass-transit white-elephants that are obsolete even before considering the new automotive technologies.

    42. setbit Says:

      I apologize if I sound douchey when I say this, Dan, but you’re very late to the party.

      Here are a couple of articles, from 2008, that cover this in depth:

      The Future of Driving, Part II: Life after driving

      The Future of Driving, Part III: hack my ride

      Part I in the series is about the technology, which is now 6 1/2 years out of date, but is still interesting.

      The author doesn’t mention the Teamsters by name, but anyone who is at all familiar with that organization will notice the ominous implications of the discussion about regulatory issues.

      My expectation is that the Teamsters will be bought off quickly, without too much drama. Long haul trucking will go fully autonomous seemingly overnight, but trucks will be required by federal law to have a human “safety operator”, who will of course need to be a fully licensed union member. Said operator will sit in the cab collecting union wages while sleeping and watching Netflix, as the truck drives itself far more safely and efficiently than a human ever could.

      The thing I find most intriguing is that autonomous cars effectively erase the current distinctions between cabs, rental cars, Uber, carpooling, and shared private vehicles. All those modes of utilization will become points along one seamless continuum. We have currently have various business models to deal with the questions on who drives, where is the car parked, and how does it get from one passenger to the next. All those become non-issues for a car that drives itself.

    43. Dan from Madison Says:

      Why would you sound douchey? The more knowledge we can add to the conversation the better.

    44. setbit Says:

      Why would you sound douchey?

      Because I made a point of asserting that the whole “driverless cars are the future” thing is soooo five-years-ago. I was being mostly tongue in cheek.

      I absolutely agree, obviously, that they are the Next Big Thing. I expect that the cultural impact will be of the same magnitude as the wireless mobile Internet has been.

      Maybe even greater, in part because it will affect older generations more than the younger. Grandma may be slow to get a FaceChanTwit account, but you can bet she’ll take advantage of an autonomous vehicle to go shopping and visit the grand-kids.

    45. Kirk Parker Says:

      As an occasional Uber user, I say that ya’ll who think it will replace private car ownership, rather than just drive traditional taxis out of business, are ignoring the huge lifestyle changes that would be required.

      For a daily commuter, when all you’re doing is going from home straight to work, and then back again: sure. But in that scenario you probably already have some kind of public mass transit that is way, way cheaper than Uber.

      For the rest, though:

      My car stays with me throughout my entire trip. I might stop at the gym on my way to work, then a quick trip over lunch to someplace not reachable during that time period by mass transit, then stop at a couple of stores on the way home. How in the world is that going to be practical with Uber? Furthermore, my car can be preloaded with any of my stuff with I might find useful to have on hand… including for spur-of-the-moment stops that I didn’t know to plan ahead.

    46. Dan from Madison Says:

      @Kirk I agree wrt Uber. Also, Uber is fine in dense cities where you have a mass of people/cars. I tried it here in Madison, WI and it was laughable. I am going to San Diego on business next week and I expect Uber to work just fine for my needs there.

    47. Robert Schwartz Says:

      “The rest of us subscribe to car service, much like we subscribe to cell service now, with varying levels of service available at varying price levels.”

      The moment one of the car services cars shows up covered in bodily fluids. Its over. If you have to send every car back to a service area to be steamed cleaned you have lost your economics.

      “Most of us will choose to share a ride on our regular commutes just because it will save so much money and splurge for a private car on special occasions.”

      Without a cop in the car?

    48. Roader Says:

      The moment one of the car services cars shows up covered in bodily fluids. Its over. If you have to send every car back to a service area to be steamed cleaned you have lost your economics.

      I’m guessing the car services will emulate the airline industry WRT minor cleaning. Might even create an entire new service industry with crews of teenagers staged at cleaning kiosks throughout the city, cleaning cars at the curb when previous passengers press the “needs cleaning” button. Just in time cleaning. And probably a more thorough, scheduled cleaning at a service area between 2am and 4am.

      Ride sharing security will be an issue. The lack of driver is what makes riding the bus safer than light rail: the bus driver keeps an eye on things. Vetting passengers? T-Mobile Car Service™ doesn’t accept any riders without full criminal background checks. Rest assured that your 85-year-old mother will enjoy a pleasant and safe trip to and from doctors office, grocery store, or wherever she cares to go.

      Just a thought. Or maybe car compartmentalizing, like the dividers in police cars, with an additional front/back divider? That would mean though that half the riders would be forced to enter and exit on the street side, unless the divider was retractable.

    49. Grurray Says:

      “Without a cop in the car?”

      The idea with those things is the Users ratings and social networking provide the best information about safety, reliability, and compatibility.

    50. Robert Schwartz Says:

      “The idea with those things is the Users ratings and social networking provide the best information about safety, reliability, and compatibility.”

      Drivers of Uber Cars is one thing. But if you have a car picking up random customers, You won’t be able to screen out muggers.

      My assumption is that people will still want their own cars. because of the security and cleanliness issues. WFM.

    51. setbit Says:

      Robert Schwartz,

      You’re assuming that it’s an either/or decision: own a private car or share a random vehicle with random strangers.

      But my point about multiple points along a continuum of ownership is that that assumption no longer applies. The combination of automated vehicles and ubiquitous wireless computing allows for almost infinite possibilities.

      Suppose, for example, that you could subscribe to a car service that would guarantee a maximum wait time of 10 minutes for a clean, air-conditioned car to show up anywhere in a predetermined service area. The car that picks you up will make a maximum of two other stops to pick up or drop off other passengers between your start and destination.

      The passengers you agree to share rides with are drawn from a list of people you select (from your contact list, LinkedIn connections, company roster, church membership, neighbors, etc. — easily 1000 people for anyone with a job and/or social life).

      You would never share a ride with a complete stranger. When you’re in hurry, you can pay a one-time surcharge and get point-to-point service with no stops and a maximum three-minute wait for pick-up.

      In exchange for these compromises, you save, say, $1000 a year in car related expenses. (Maybe a lot more; hard to guess how the economics might ultimately shake out.) You also never have to worry about maintenance, insurance, parking, breakdowns, financing, depreciation, car salesmen, pumping gas, designated drivers, picking up the kids from soccer, or almost any other car-related hassle ever again for as long as you live.

      You personally might or might not take that deal. But a lot of people will, including, probably, me.

    52. setbit Says:

      Also, RE bodily fluids:

      Any car with enough sensors and computing power to drive itself can also tell when someone pukes in the back seat. An odor sensor, a few moisture sensors, and a UV camera that activates during passenger entry and exit (but can be covered by a visible, physical shutter during the ride) would be enough.

      Plus, as Roader suggested, human inspection and cleaning at some regular interval.

    53. Kirk Parker Says:

      I am going to San Diego on business next week and I expect Uber to work just fine for my needs there.

      Of course! When you’re traveling by air, at your destination you expect to eat all your meals out, or in the hotel cafe/restaurant; you won’t be needing to schlep home a week’s worth of groceries — or a case of M885 for that matter (goodbye, coyotes!) — on your way home from your out-of-town work site. ;-)

      So we’re mostly agreeing here, then: it will be the Bostonians or Manhattanites who were thinking about maybe buying a car and decide they can mostly Uber instead, not the residents of the great Midwest, Mountain, or West Coast cities’ urban residential neighborhoods who get rid of their cars.

    54. Mike K Says:

      I understand Uber does well in West Los Angeles and Santa Monica, both high income areas with leftist residents, for the most part. I have heard that Uber drivers are not interested in large areas of LA. I wouldn’t be either.

      “Rest assured that your 85-year-old mother will enjoy a pleasant and safe trip to and from doctors office, grocery store, or wherever she cares to go.”

      I lived in Leisure World for a year after I moved back from the mountains and the number of taxis going in and out daily is amazing. Lots of residents use golf carts but golf carts and Alzheimer’s don’t go well together. A few years ago I heard a police alert that an old guy was on the 405 freeway in his golf cart heading north.

    55. m1shu Says:

      The first best application is for mining operations. Front loaders or shovel cranes will load ore or coal onto driverless trucks. The trucks then would then drive their load to the trains which will dump their load into the train cars. It’s a predictable route that will serve as a confidence booster for the public. Of course the teamsters won’t be fans.

    56. Robert Schwartz Says:

      When I was an undergraduate, I read a couple of books published in the interwar years (they weren’t that far the past when I was an undergraduate) called Middletown by Robert and Helen Lynd that claimed to be sociology. I would cite them as proof of the proposition that sociology is intellectual junk food.

      I remember two things about them. One is that they were very dull. The other is that the authors could not understand why the good people of Middletown wanted to buy and install clothes washing machinery in their homes, when they could just use a laundromat.

      Fortunately they were professors, and not marketing executives for Maytag. Laundry machine ownership has no salience as an issue anymore.

    57. Robert Schwartz Says:

      I still don’t see your vision as very compelling.

      Do I want to ride around town with my 975th closest friend? No. It would be really awkward because I can’t remember his name and don’t want to have to explain why I never call him. I have nowhere near that many friends around here, as most of my friends are scattered across the Country because we have lived in other cities, and they have moved, etc., etc.

      Further, I don’t think it would save me any money. I live in a nice suburban house with a 3 car garage. The costs of car ownership are not much of a strain. The biggest one is the capital cost. I figure its about $230/mo. for my 2014 Honda Accord. Gas would be next. It is about $35/15 gal. fill up 2×mo. better than it was, but even when it was pushing $4/gal. it wasn’t that much (I paid $13 for the fish for dinner for the two of us). Insurance is less than $100/mo, although I am not sure, as the bill is bundled with the homeowners and my wife’s car. Since it is a new car under warranty, and a Honda to boot, maintenance is negligible.

      Finally, in my life waiting for a pick up before and after every destination would add a lot of time. Today I went to the grocery store, pharmacy, bank, and gym. I had to make three trips to the pharmacy because the order was not ready after I left the bank. I had zero waiting time for pick-ups. If I had to wait 10 minutes each location, it would add more than an hour a day. Not to mention added time on pick-ups and detours for other riders. This is time I would begrudge.

      Nope, I will continue to own my own car even if it can drive itself without my help or attention. I look forward to that. I would much rather talk on the phone or surf the net than drive. It would be nice to go out for the evening and not worry about having another drink. That is cool.

      Waiting for Godot is not cool.

    58. Robert Schwartz Says:

      OTOH, even if your theory does nothing for me, I can see how it might apply to my daughter. She is single and lives in New York City. She could not begin to afford to own a car there. But she has plenty of transportation options. She can walk. New Yorkers walk a lot more than Ohioans. She can take the bus, there are crosstown and downtown bus stops in front of her building. She can take the subway, there is a stop right across from her building too. She can step out of her building and hail a cab. She can, and does use Uber. Before Uber there were plenty of car services that you could call on the phone.

      Would she use you automated service? I am not sure. Uber, yellow cabs, and even car services, have drivers. The drivers can help her get herself and her packages in and out of the car. Drivers scare off predatory strangers. I really doubt that she would want to use a service with out a “driver” even if the driver were not actually driving in the car. Besides, if she wants to spend time in the state of nature with strangers, she can take the subway.

      Detours would be incredible time sinks in Manhattan crosstown traffic.

      I think you vision only works for commuters who go once a day to a suburban office park. And that is a narrow slice of the population.

    59. Mike K Says:

      “Uber, yellow cabs, and even car services, have drivers.”

      I was nearly scared out of my wits by the driver in New York City on one of the very few occasions that I visited. Bob Simon found out how bad drivers they can be.

      I was also in an accident in a taxi in London. Not a good record.

    60. Robert Schwartz Says:

      I didn’t say they were good drivers qua drivers, but if you are a single woman, the driver, who is finger printed by the TLC, means you are not alone in the city.

    61. Robert Schwartz Says:

      BTW, our experience with taxi drivers in London, is that they do not know their way around.

    62. Roader Says:

      I wonder if/when human piloted cars will be prohibited. If autonomous cars truly are 10x safer then at some point on the technology adoption curve there will be political pressure to ban regular cars. Perhaps municipalities will allow the old fashioned, human piloted cars on the road between 8am and 6pm on Sundays, sort of like how antique car buffs gather at the local Sonic drive-in on Sunday afternoons.

    63. Subotai Bahadur Says:

      Late to the discussion, but then again the delay has allowed some things to sink in. Keep in mind that any such system is going to have to be run by the government, almost assuredly the Federal government. And specifically the Executive Branch.

      The same Federal Executive Branch that has been caught repeatedly weaponizing every aspect of the government against the political opponents of the party in the White House.

      The same Federal Executive Branch that claims that they have lost every document subpoenaed by Congress, whose appointees have been caught perjuring themselves under oath repeatedly, and who ignore Congress at will. Mind you, this says something also about the Congress and Courts.

      The same Federal Executive Branch that claims, so far successfully with no effective opposition, the power to create and modify statutes by decree at whim.

      The same Federal Executive Branch that ignores the Constitution at will.

      The same Federal Executive Branch whose formal statements of who they consider to be terrorists include those who support the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the rule of law.

      Would it be wise to make all the movements of an individual not only known to the government who controls the driverless vehicle system, but to make all their movements subject to over-ride by that same government?

      Freedom of movement is part of being free, and this yields it up to the government with both hands.

      Best case, getting to the polls may be subject to just enough “technical difficulties” in districts critical of the incumbent.

      Worst case, people could literally disappear with no record of having been picked up by the government system. [Remember, they just found a “Black site” interrogation center in Chicago run off the books. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/chicago-police-detain-americans-black-site-report-article-1.2128552%5D Or as noted, certain people could be singled out for tragic accidents.

      This is the same government that just took over the internet because it works too well to monitor the government. And just unilaterally declared that the ammunition for the most popular rifle in the country was illegal.

      Regardless of your own political inclinations, and regardless of the ideology of the incumbent, do you want that much power, targetable to you specifically without accountability, in the hands of any government?

    64. setbit Says:

      Subotai Bahadur:

      I hate to be the one to break it to you, but your car is already being tracked by the feds via its license plate. I’m sure you will be shocked, SHOCKED, to know that these systems are being fielded with no public discussion or legal oversight.

      If anything, autonomous vehicles may hold out a glimmer of hope for this situation, since there will hopefully be some public debate about tracking as part of the larger discussion about driverless cars in general.

    65. Lexington Green Says:

      Setbit is right. Surveillance is a political and legal question, not a technological question. They already surveil us as much as the technology allows. That will only change if thy are compelled to be transparent and stop doing it — i.e. comply with the Constitution.

    66. Subotai Bahadur Says:

      Sorry about the delay in replying, but I left for my family’s celebration of the Year of the Ram just after posting the above, and just returned a little while ago.

      I absolutely grant the ability and present practice of the regime tracking vehicles of interest connected to anyone classified as an enemy of the State. However, tracking a vehicle is not the same as tracking a specific individual. A few moments’ thought will reveal a number of spoofing techniques.

      The problem with “driverless cars” is that they can only operate with the active involvement and permission of the same regime that is tracking us for hostile purposes. And as noted above, soon private vehicles operated by humans would be illegal for “safety reasons”. Assuming that the person of interest ever wants to travel [across town or across country], it would be child’s play, and untraceable child’s play, to send a harmless appearing vehicle, and to render the passenger incommunicado and deliver him/her to any fate desired with no record. The person would simply disappear and the records be erased; probably more effectively than done by the IRS.

      It is a tool for the <emLaogai.