How a driverless car sees the road

I found this TED talk on self driving cars interesting, particularly the time frame mentioned at the end that Google is aiming for.  If it comes to fruition, it could revolutionize travel by the 2020s.

Personally, I’m looking forward to being able to surf the web, read, or just get a head start on emails and phone calls during my morning commute.  And for long trips, if I don’t have to actually drive it, but can instead spend it playing games, watching movies, and sleeping,  I can see car travel taking me much further, to destinations I currently feel the need to buy a plane ticket for.

Many people will insist that they love driving, and can’t imagine giving it up.  I like driving too, when the weather is good, the traffic is lite, and I’m not tired.  I have to say that those circumstances don’t happen nearly often enough these days to stop me from giving it up once I can have the same freedom without it.

21 thoughts on “How a driverless car sees the road

  1. Love the idea. I wonder if the inside would change…maybe a bed? Maybe something like a mini RV? I like the idea of traveling by night and waking up in the morning at my destination. Anything to avoid plane travel would be terrific. Once we no longer have to drive ourselves, the design possibilities could get very interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was thinking of a van, with maybe a cot in it, and whatever entertainment someone wanted to provision. (Not sure how seatbelt laws would factor into this.) We wouldn’t care how much power (as in acceleration) the van had, or how well it handled. We would care about how efficient it was, but a self driving van can be pokey without a noticeable hit to how fast it gets us from point A to B, as long as it can cruise at a reasonable speed.

      Some people think we’d give up owning our own vehicles and just use taxis. Personally, I think that’s wishful thinking, at least for my part of the country. But I can see a scenario where convenient parking ceases to be a requirement for most establishments. We’d have our vehicles drop us off, tell it to go park at the nearest parking garage (or back home if we don’t live too far away), and then call it to come pick us up when we’re getting ready to leave.

      Professions that take an economic hit might include just about anyone who drives for a living (bus drivers, truck drivers, taxi drivers, etc).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think a van would be perfect. In fact, just yesterday I went looking at RVs, just to see what they’re like. I decided they’re full of crap I wouldn’t need and not worth the price. I started checking out websites about how to build your own RV using a commercial van…pretty interesting stuff. In one of those, you can park anywhere and no one will know what’s inside. Still probably not worth the expense compared to just staying at motels, but I love the idea. (I’m a big fan of camping, just not freezing my butt off or setting up a tent in high winds.)

        As for power and acceleration, I probably wouldn’t care about those things too much, but I do like a quiet vehicle.

        As for seatbelt laws, I noticed that the Class B RVs had seat belts in the dining area. I imagine there’d be some issues with sleeping, though. But then again, if the car is self-driving, presumably accidents would be less of a concern (unless it’s a transition phase and there are still people driving).

        I think you’re right about the taxi thing. For a second I envisioned no one owning a car, but having access to any car at any time (kind of like taxis, except no waiting time). That would be most efficient. However, people’d want to have their own things in their cars and they’d want a choice in what it looked like. I imagine we’ll still be looking at the same old bumper stickers.

        And come to think of it, if we have beds in our vehicles, I don’t think I’d want to share.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. With RVs, I know I’ve felt the appeal before myself, but after talking to a few people who owned them, and learning about all the maintenance involved, I came to the same decision. (I went through a similar realization with boats, which are much easier to just rent.) In my mind, an RV is an alternative to a hotel (or motel, cabin, etc), but a hotel is usually going to be more comfortable. It might be worth it though if you’re constantly traveling.

          In the case of a van, I think I’d only want to sleep in it while in traveling. (Of course, if you’re prone to motion sickness, that might not work.) Once at my destination, I would find lodging of some sort.

          Just googled seat belt laws and found this: Most states only require people in the front seats to wear them. Although a few require every passenger to have them. I wonder if it’s legal to lie down as a passenger in a moving RV or van in those states. I’m sure those laws would be reviewed, or at least enforcement of them, as technology progresses.

          I agree about not sharing. For that to work, someone would need to clean them up between uses, adding to the cost, otherwise no one would want to use them in pretty short order.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I like the RV idea so I don’t have to worry about finding a motel that will accept Geordie. Plus, I like camping, but not really roughing it (I had a bad experience of freezing my butt off in Santa Fe.)

            Unfortunately for me, I’m prone to motion sickness, so maybe all that I said earlier about sleeping in the van then arriving at my destination wouldn’t work out. I hadn’t thought about that one. And if I’m required to wear a seat belt while I sleep, maybe I’ll stick to flying.


          2. I’ve never had motion sickness (thankfully) but I can imagine it might be an issue for a lot of people. But for most people, it seems like it would be a fairly infrequent event for them to sleep lying down while traveling. I wonder if Dramamine would work. I know a lot of people take it when they go on cruises.

            The good news is that unless you happen to drive through one of the few states that require everyone to wear a seat belt, there wouldn’t be any legal requirement for you to wear one when sleeping, at least unless the bed were at the front of the vehicle 🙂


          3. Never had motion sickness? Wow are you lucky! I remember going deep sea fishing as a kid…unfortunately I spent most of the time feeding the fish. ANNNNND I missed seeing the dolphins. ANNNNND no one bothered to give me dramamine until we were just about done with the trip. (I was too young to know about it.)

            I’ve only been car sick a few times, and usually it was because I was trying to read in the back seat. Maybe if I were only sleeping, it wouldn’t be a problem.


          4. Again, I’m not personally familiar with it, but I recall one of the people I went on a cruise with complaining that it was any change of motion where they couldn’t see or anticipate what was happening, which fits with your reading in the back seat experience. Sleeping on a cruise ship (san medication) made them nauseous. I actually found the rocking of the ship relaxing, like I was a baby in a giant crib or something.

            One thing my cousin asserted was that keeping food in your stomach made a difference, that most of the people who got sick were light eaters. Maybe. We both pigged out prodigiously on that trip and never experienced any sickness, although I suspect genetics might be a factor as well, and that my cousins theory was a convenient excuse to eat like there’s no tomorrow.


  2. At 6’14” he says, as regards accidents in the driverless car, that “they’ll happen, but [at a] very low frequency”. I wonder where accountability lies in these instances; presumably Google will demand a liability waiver, in the event of – heaven forfend – a software bug manifesting.

    Such cars would certainly change the character of many European cities dramatically. What on earth are the Italians going to be able to gesticulate at as they get ferried around Rome in these things? Google will at the very least have to leave them in charge of the horn!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On Google and liability, I’m sure they’ll try, but based on the one law course I took in college, there are limits to how much of your rights you’re allowed to sign away. It might hold some water until the first fatality from a software bug, leading to legislation in most countries that overrode their waivers.

      Haha. No comment on Italians gesticulating and horning.

      I suspect there will be holdouts who insist on driving, until it becomes obvious that they’re the source of most traffic problems and manual driving starts becoming restricted on when and where it’s permitted. Although that seems like it would be several decades away.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. I think the trick will be to not watch it as if you were driving, but to occupy yourself with other things. When you ride a bus or a plane, do you get impatient with the caution of the driver or pilot? If you’re like me, you don’t even look out the windows anymore.


          1. Of course, the freedom to occupy myself with other things would be a primary motivator for participation.

            I don’t think the bus/plane comparison is apples-to-apples, though. I don’t fly my own plane, and a bus handles quite differently from a car (moreso than cars differ in handling from each other, which they do).

            Speed limits are blunt instruments, and in many areas, the flow of traffic is typically (and rightly, IMO) above them. (85% rule, etc.) Rigid adherence to them could make one’s travels significantly longer. And with a certain mass of vehicles on the road doing the same, then everyone’s travels take longer, and the whole system could become less efficient.

            I’m not saying I want speed demon autopilots. I’m just saying that I think that the current speed limits would make bad caps.


          2. On the flip side, as people become progressively more comfortable with the autodrive, I could see having stretches of road where the speed limit is actually increased, but only for vehicles in autodrive mode. Humans drivers, with their propensity for boredom, distraction, and slow response times, might be restricted to lower speeds.


  3. It was fascinating seeing the renditions of the inner process! It would fun to study those in detail to understand how the algorithms work. I recall reading a Goggle paper a while back about self-driving cars where their radar detected approaching hazards invisible behind bushes, so such vehicles might have capabilities beyond human drivers.

    And I certainly agree most drivers suck. That’s been a stick in my craw a long, long time.

    One challenge will be software bugs, especially once these cars become mass manufactured commodities. You might have heard how the recent light sail project had their satellite become unresponsive due to a log file getting too big and filling up the available space. The sort of software bug that’s inexcusable. Or consider something like the Heartbleed bug (also inexcusable). Or the constant stream of software updates for Flash, Adobe, and most browsers.

    Frankly, people are just as bad at software as they are at driving, and for much the same reason.

    Or the challenges of hardware and software systems failing under operating conditions. When there are millions of such vehicles on the road, what are the odds of them all working per spec?

    And these vehicles will have sensors — laser and/or radar — and what happens if those get dirty or messed up? With many dozens of other vehicles around you using similar systems, will there be any chance of interference?

    Let alone the legal implications and public perception issues. (A friend who’s an airline mechanic has often mentioned that planes right now today can basically fly themselves — including take off and landing — but public perception keeps pilots in the front seat despite problems with pilot boredom and error. But who’s going to fly in a pilotless plane?)

    One more thing. People today who lose their cell phone are often stuck being unable to remember anyones’ phone number because the phone did it for them. The video ends with the guy saying he doesn’t want his kids to even have drivers’ licenses. So what happens in those rare situations when you do need to drive? Are we seeing that as a skill no one will need anymore?


    1. I do suspect driving skills will quickly deteriorate. It’ll become a special skill. The tests to get the license might also increase in difficulty.

      That’s not to say that all will be smooth sailing. In addition to everything you mention, there’s this:


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