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Transportation United States Technology

Fully Driverless Cars Could Be Months Away (arstechnica.com) 160

An anonymous reader shares a report: Real driverless cars could come to the Phoenix area this year, according to a Monday report from The Information's Amir Efrati. Two anonymous sources have told Efrati that Google's self-driving car unit, Waymo, is preparing to launch "a commercial ride-sharing service powered by self-driving vehicles with no human 'safety' drivers as soon as this fall." Obviously, there's no guarantee that Waymo will hit this ambitious target. But it's a sign that Waymo believes its technology is very close to being ready for commercial use. And it suggests that Waymo is likely to introduce a fully driverless car network in 2018 if it doesn't do so in the remaining months of 2017. [...] According to a report on The Information, Waymo's service is likely to launch first in Chandler, a Phoenix suburb where Waymo has done extensive testing. Waymo chose the Phoenix area for its favorable weather, its wide, well-maintained streets, and the relative lack of pedestrians. Another important factor was the legal climate. Arizona has some of the nation's most permissive laws regarding self-driving vehicles. "Arizona's oversight group has met just twice in the last year, and found no reason to suggest any new rules or restrictions on autonomous vehicles, so long as they follow traffic laws," the Arizona Republic reported in June. "The group found no need to suggest legislation to help the deployment." According to the Arizona Republic, a 2015 executive order from Gov. Doug Ducey "allows universities to test vehicles with no driver on board so long as a licensed driver has responsibility for the cars and can take control remotely if the vehicle needs assistance." Waymo is getting ready to take the same approach.
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Fully Driverless Cars Could Be Months Away

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  • by saccade.com ( 771661 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @06:22PM (#55304689) Homepage Journal
    ...the relative lack of pedestrians.

    Let me guess: the "extensive testing" took care of that problem.

  • ...how is this ride-sharing?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by losfromla ( 1294594 )

      It picks me up on the way to work, notices that you're also going the same way, picks you up, drops me off, picks up someone at my workplace going somewhat in your direction, drops them off cause they're on the way and you're good on time, then drops you off.
      P.S.
      Before you get mad about getting dropped off last, my co-worker is super-hot and single and thought you were kind of cute and had a good sense of humor. My co-worker has a thing for chubby neck-beards ;-)

    • How will they keep the cars from being trashed?
  • Check list. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @06:39PM (#55304773) Homepage Journal

    Check list.
    * Favorable weather
    * Well-maintained streets
    * Lack of pedestrians.
    * Everyone driving slow golf carts
    * Shopping malls don't always work.

    Sounds like not really ready for prime time, just cherry picked locations.

    • Re:Check list. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by losfromla ( 1294594 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @07:00PM (#55304861)

      Gotta start somewhere. They'll work out the bugs. I know this, if I was a taxi or uber or lyft driver, I'd seriously be making alternative career plans. I'm guessing they'll have to buy out the taxi drivers that have invested in badges and such. Lyft and Uber drivers are SOL.

    • Sounds like not really ready for prime time, just cherry picked locations.

      Sounds like a cautious start in a state that allows it.

      Good engineering mandates aggressive testing, but production deployment should be done slowly and in the most favorable environment first. You don't do your first real surgery on a tricky brain aneurysm, you start with an ingrown toenail or similar. Oh, and you also do it in a state which gives you legal permission to practice medicine.

  • ..multiple times every day. It's no surprise that we're taking a more liberal stance on testing the technology. With that said...

    Another important factor was the legal climate. Arizona has some of the nation's most permissive laws regarding self-driving vehicles.

    That's because of our lousy state legislature (a.k.a. Ducey's rubber stamp).

    The McDonald's manager's pay package ($30K/year salary for their time and trouble - it's for about 6-7 mos out of the year) keeps a lot of people out of the job. Then you

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So last weekend I drove down I-5 to L.A. Trucks in the right line going 55-60mph. Cars in the left lane going 90mph, or passing anyone on the right who isn't.

    So how does this work with automated cars? because I didn't see a SINGLE car on I-5 traveling at the legal limit. Will the Google car go 100 on I-5? Cause I can't imagine anyone wanting to ride in one if they only go the speed limit.

    The automated future looks like this?

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&

    • I have seen people say that you will be so comfortable doing your own thing in your automated vehicle that you will happily accept a longer ride. Not something I'd be interested in, but there it is.
    • Probably not as much as the faster drivers you are seeing, but they will generally be programed to follow the flow of traffic, which is much safer than following a speed limit. Except for school zones where the programming would probably keep it pretty strict out of an abundance of caution...

      Basically just think of the best drivers on the road, that is what self driving cars will be doing. Only better. Because once they know how to do something well, they just improve from there.

  • So in other words, soon we'll be seeing articles about how a self driving car ran over this child or that pet, and automated car proponents will be in full force explaining how that pet or child were using the outside wrong.
    • Tesla Autopilot has already killed several people. Yet Tesla owners continue to use it. Statistically, it is still safer than a human driver.

      • So my manual car is safer, and it would be illogical for me to use autopilot. Maybe autopilot is statistically safer for average people, I guess I'm above average since I have never killed anyone and therefore don't expect to. I would be stupid to use a technology that may kill someone.
  • They can't drive in the snow or rain. They can't drive into the sun. They can't understand road construction. They can't dodge potholes. They basically can't drive in real world scenarios. No way in hell are these coming out in a month.
    • Not only that but they then go ahead and compare cherry picked perfect driving conditions that self driving cars operate under to freezing rain pileups and heavy traffic jams human drivers deal with and declare that they are safer.
    • Cars are operated like that in South Florida . . . all the time!

    • by b0bby ( 201198 )

      According to TFA:

      The company has built a real-time command center that allows self-driving cars to "phone home" and consult human operators about the best way to deal with situations it finds confusing. The ability to remotely monitor vehicles and give timely feedback on tricky situations will be essential if Waymo hopes to eliminate the human driver from its cars.

      We can fly drones in Afghanistan from Nevada, it's not too far fetched to think they can have a remote driver for tricky situations. One

  • by oldgraybeard ( 2939809 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:36PM (#55305755)
    sarcasm
    I would like to know what happens if one hits me. Does the vehicle just try and drive off and perform a return to base, while I am trying to get the lic number and vendor id before it gets out of sight.
    Will it drop a little paper note saying, "Call this number to settle up with us over your accident." ;),
    And when you call you get a message saying, "Your call is very important to us! Someone will be with you soon." ;) If you do not settle with us legal action :"WILL BE" taken. . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!
    Do these vehicles have orange flashing beacons on the roof letting everyone know "Warning, Be Careful, Be Aware, Automated Machine in your midst!" ;) lol
    /sarcasm
    Do they have any liability protections built in to the laws to protect the companies deploying these vehicles?
    Is it assumed the human is wrong and the autonomous vehicle is right?
    Do the companies have complete control of all the logs on the vehicle before the authorities? Do they get to choose what to hand over and when?

    I am very suspicious about this being fast tracked. About issues and accidents being covered up. What are the liability protections for the public and the riders?

    I think it would also be interesting to hear from inidivduals working in one of the Amazon warehouses that have both bots and individuals working in them. What is their experience? Maybe that would be informative ;)

    I am not against this, I just think the path is longer than most think ;) And a central point to this is the degree of risk the CEO's, bureaucrats and politicians are accepting for the public at large as the kinks get worked out of this technology.
    • When one hits you? Good news, even though all the IP is owned by Alphabet in general, and even though the rider contracted Waymo to drive you around, that car was actually fully owned by a special LLC that only owned that one vehicle. Oh, and it was entirely underwater (debt-wise), so the LLC had no assets to sue. Enjoy your state minimum insurance payout.

      For the rider, it's even more fun. Because they EULA they agreed to means that they have to agree to individual arbitration with the LLC, and have alr

  • by Beeftopia ( 1846720 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:52PM (#55305791)

    There are five SAE accepted levels of autonomy: [washingtonpost.com]

    Level 0: No self driving features
    Level 1: Some driver assistance
    Level 2: More driver assistance
    Level 3: Conditional autonomy
    Level 4: Nearly autonomous.
    Level 5: Completely autonomous.

    When will it get here? Dates range from 2017 (Ol' Musky) to 2026 (president of IIHS) and beyond, from people in the know. [qz.com]

    Every bit of driver assistance I think is a good thing, but Level 5 - true autonomy - is still a ways off, it seems to me.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      I can assure you that Musk is wrong. Tesla haven't even got their Autopilot V2 hardware working as well as the V1 yet, let alone self driving. I see they have release a V2.5 hardware as well, which doesn't bode well for people with V1 and V2.0.

    • And "Level 5: Completely autonomous" is where we, as humans, say bye bye to the world.Complete autonomy of machines will make us beings of the inferior sort.
  • So...100 years = 1200 months. So yes, definitely just months away!

  • remotely so are they paying an sat + cell link with no caps and no roaming fees?

    or an drive in to mexico or canada can cost $10K-$20K for just 1GB of data on some plans.

  • It is amazing to see that the number of xkcd references [xkcd.com] are starting to outnumber [xkcd.com] the number of references in the original Slashdot post, isn't it ?!?
  • While automakers focus on defending the systems in their cars against hackers, there may be other ways for the malicious to mess with self-driving cars. Security researchers at the University of Washington have shown they can get computer vision systems to misidentify road signs using nothing more than stickers made on a home printer.

    UW computer-security researcher Yoshi Kohno described an attack algorithm that uses printed images stuck on road signs. These images confuse the cameras on which most self-driv

  • Sorry, No thanks!

    Driver-assist? Lane keeping? Collision warning? Auto-park? Cool.

    But I ultimately refuse to put my physical safety into the hands of a machine built AND programmed by humans.

    • Then don't step into that elevator! Take the stairs!

      Joking aside, nobody steps into an elevator thinking "I'm locked in a box dangling on top of a deep shaft - I put my physical safety into the strength of a cable". They trust the machine.

      Same when flying across the ocean, or driving at speed down the motorway. Planes and cars are orders of magnitude more complex and they can easily kill their passengers if anything goes wrong. Yet people trust them because they work just fine the vast majority of the time.

      • by Chas ( 5144 )

        An elevator travels inside a brick/concrete vertical tunnel. Not on a public road with dozens/hundreds/thousands of other cars.
        An elevator's controls actually DISENGAGE the brakes to travel between floors. If the controls fail, the car locks itself in the shaft.
        A plane flies in a pre-determined path that's cleared of other traffic in a fully 3D medium of which the plane occupies an infinitesimally small percentage of.

        A motorway has a person in charge of a car. People generally don't suffer software failu

  • LOL,

    Think of all the data Google can collect about road data and road closures via 3d capture methods. Then share it with all it's cars to prevent accidents.

    Sorry Tesla, you don't have a chance.

  • I applaud this plan! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2017 @11:02AM (#55308777)
    Perhaps when it's Waymo/Google's cars that get stuck trying to make a left turn across a four lane road at an uncontrolled non-intersection during rush hour because Google Maps thought that was quicker they'll get around to correcting those suggestions.
  • So, what do you think municipalities will do when they realize that by allowing driverless cars, they've effectively slashed their revenues to the bone?

    In the (alleged) words of George Westinghouse, "where will we put the meter?"

    Lots of great ideas have died horrible deaths by being suffocated by red tape.

    • Government agencies relying on fines for operation has always bothered me. If you need $x to run your department properly, then justify it in a budget and let's raise the taxes appropriately. Funds collected from fines should be diverted in a way the original issuer sees no benefit.
      • I agree that's how it should operate, but the trouble is, that's not how it actually operates.

        I can see local and state officials scrambling to find new revenue streams once they realize they won't be making fat bank of writing tickets anymore.

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