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Self-Driving Car

Car that would be equipped with adequate sensors (distance radar, visual analysis, GPS) and processing power to steer/completely control itself.
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I think this should not be so technically challenging as it seems. A camera and visual detection system could read lane positions and twists of the road. A radar could constantly monitor distance and speed of all other cars, optimizing the safety in a way no human driver ever could. GPS could be used for navigation, coupled with detailed area maps, pulled from a central server. Traffic signs are fairly standardized, so speed limits, stop signs and traffic lights should not be a problem.

The goal is simple: get in a car, push a "home" or "mall" button or type an address and take a nap or read a newspaper :)) Many people spend 5-10% of their time on a boring task of driving... why not effectively "extend" your life for 5 years? Speed and safety would be optimized and you will never take a wrong turn again.

I guess companies can begin by employing a drive-by-wire (a la fly-by-wire, used in most Airbus airplanes) system, that would disable drivers from executing obviously wrong actions (such as driving into an obstacle).

danilom, Apr 24 2000

German Robot Klaus Passes Driving Test http://dailynews.ya...c/tech_robot_1.html
A recent article about the current state of the art in automated driving. Not yet ready for the public highway, but it's a step on the way. [baf, Apr 24 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

CMRI Autonomous Rover Project http://www.ri.cmu.e...ts/project_303.html
The Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute has been working on this for more than ten years. A few years ago, one of the researchers had his car drive him down to DC for a conference, where he presented a paper about the system. [Eeyore, Apr 24 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]


       Heck, just replace those icky roads with a decent public transit network of some kind (ordinary things like trains, or something wackier like slidewalks or those freaky little networks of single-person vehicles).
egnor, Apr 24 2000

       The biggest problem with going any farther is the American love affair with driving. People will resist the idea of giving control away. I predict that this will catch on somewhere else first.
jweston, May 06 2000

       Well, think of it like this. <From a 'Merican> You're at work. Your SO calls and says shi doesn't want to cook, pick up dinner on the way home. If you have your car, you can easily stop at any restaraunt and get whatever you like. If you rode the bus you're stuck with whatever they have along the route with a half hour wait between buses, and if you took the train you're completely out of luck. Not to mention that you then have to walk home from the stop carrying the food.   

       Most Americans, I think, given the ability to 'autodrive' <a la 'Demolition Man'> would happily use it. Then they could read the paper, make notes and talk on the phone and nobody would think they were <anal orifices> for endangering the rest of us. <And lest you think I made that up, I SAW this and was nearly killed by it on the Interstate. Phone in one hand, newspaper draped over wheel, pen in other hand and writing on the paper.>   

       That being said, one of the most frightening things I've ever seen was a TV show about the development of automatic cars. Six cars running along at 80 mph about two feet apart, and the voice over saying the cars' computers are talking to each other about road conditions, their speed, and so on...and as the camera pans as they pass, the last one has a banner reading 'MICROSOFT'.
StarChaser, May 06 2000

       Wurf. Sorry about the novel...
StarChaser, May 06 2000

       Egnor first mentioned something that I am curious about. What happens in inclimate weather? How does a computer handle icy roads or hydroplaning in wet conditions?   

       I also must add: Deer, pedestrians, and potholes to the list of concerns.   

       I have experienced a womans scorn after accidentally running over a defenseless rodent. Imagine the horror of Bambi in the headlights and no way to stop. Oh....not Thumper too!..(hic) ..The humanity!
IBBen, Sep 13 2000, last modified Sep 15 2000

       I have also had a similar idea to danilom. But mine was more centered around traffic eg. using GPS which would be programed with road signs etc and also told weather conditions from the MET office or satellites. Then traffic warning system that auto corrects your route around any jams. Finally speed sensitive collision detectors (similar to ones used when parking) would solve IBBens' fears. You could even have a heat sensor that sets off the horn if it sees body heat on the road.
chud, Nov 11 2000

       Yeah, a horn is gonna do alotta good. Ever drive in the city? With this heat seeking horn contraption, dead pedestrians would be commonplace.   

       Simple braking functions would be easy to accomplish, yet severe conditions require more than just hand-eye coordination, they demand quick, moral decisions.   

       Consider this: You are driving on a bare wet thoroughfare at 35 mph and turn to a snow covered, icy side street. Suddenly a dog runs in front of the computer controlled car, the computer instantly reacts to Rover's heat, lays on the horn, flashes high beams, and swerves to the right causing the car to lose control. An old woman slips while getting into her car and her invalid body slides into the road.   

       Dog or woman? Perhaps both.
IBBen, Dec 22 2000

       Okay, I was going to post this if nobody else had. It is THE reason I created an account here. I have given this a lot of thought over the years, and believe it is the way of the future.   

       As for the hazards mentioned so far: I understand a computer can watch bullets being fired from a gun, and determine the point of origin, and the destination before the bullet reaches it. It shoud be fairly simple to manage the hazardous situations mentioned with GOOD programming (Not Microsoft). The computer can recognize the difference between a human and a dog. Poor choices will happen, but overall safety will increase dramatically, and the human factor will improve the programming.   

       A dedicated computer would be necessary. You can't have WindowsXX crashing because you wanted to play Unreal 7, while holo-conferencing with your college buddies.   

       Also, ultimately, all cars would need to be run by this system. There would be a long grace period where incentives are given, and new road technologies would be implemeted.   

       At that time, traffic signals could be obliterated because the communication between vehicles would allow for cars from all directions to go through an intersection at high speeds, with slight braking or accelerating as necessary. Roads would not have set directions, or lanes. Rather, lanes would be allocated on demand. You might have 3 lanes going into downtown in the morning (1 out), and 3 going out in the evening. Speed limits would be unnecessary as the network of cars' computers would determine safe operating speeds, which on average, would be much faster than normal.   

       Failsafes would include daisy-chain notification of obstacles in the road. Everyone travelling in this direction, on this road, would be notified for so many miles in advance, and the car would change lanes or choose another route ahead of seeing the obstacle. Plus, some central agency would be notified, and a debris removal crew would automatically proceed to the area as needed, on a severity/convenience prioritizing program. There would have to be an emergency override for all vehicles, which would immediately notify the other vehicles in the area, and possibly rescue authorities depending on which panic button was pushed. It could even monitor vital signs, and rush you to the emergency room without an ambulance if you go critical.   

       Taxi services would be driverless, and probably remain the same price as today, even well into the future, because you remove the labor element (well, that will be some time coming because of the unemployment aspect, but other entire sectors of business have already gone under because of technological advances) Parking hassles would be eliminated, because all cars would be auto-valet, and retrievable via remote. You could even have your car go home while you are at the mall. If you did park it at the mall, all the cars can park really close together, and even block each other in, because they can just tell the other cars to move when it comes time to go. If you want take-out, just call the restaurant, and have the car go pick it up. The possibilies are endless.
chronkyrios, Feb 09 2003

       I am going to write this idea into my election program (in Dutch on my website) for the 2006 elections in the Netherlands (with only 60000 votes I get 1 seat in the 150 seat parliament).   

       My proposal is to have no or very little tax on cars that can drive themselves, operated by a licensed (tested) computer.   

       It's about safety, the environment, the economy and urban planning.   

       Safety because most accidents are due to human errors. Computers would make mistakes, but would make them structurally and you can program them better. With humans this is not possible. Then there is the reaction time. With good sensors this can be nearly instantly while a human needs much longer to react and is never paying as much attention to the road as a sensor. Cars without drivers, just cargo, can choose to crash themselves if this saves lives. You can't intimidate a computer while (certainly here in the Low Countries) motorists want to educate other drivers, even with extremely dangerous stunts. Already if 1 on 10 cars drive automated this will have a huge impact on the humans who drive near this car.   

       Environment because these cars can drive very economical. They can calculate after all. Pointless cruising is discouraged because the car always asks a destination. With less distance between the cars existing roads can process more cars, there will be less traffic jams, less road constructions. If cars can drive by themselves it is also pointless to have your own car parked. Today the average car remains parked 23 of the 24 hours. Then the same car can be used by others when it can return to the owner autonomously.   

       The economy because it is important that people get at their work, waste less time travelling between locations and cargo moves without much delay and little cost. More cargo can be transported with less drivers.   

       Urban planning because now many old European inner cities have space reserved for parking at the expense of humans as pedestrians. Cars can drive themselves to a place to park, in cities parking can be completely banned.   

       I would fund research to have computer driven cars on public roads. At first perhaps accompagnied by ordinary cars with the researchers that can take over control of the car, but eventually the public can get used to cars without drivers (no cockpit either, just trunk, wheels and engine) that drive across the country like TCP/IP packets.
rrr, Mar 18 2003

       Security problem is not a problem, issue are technicaly solved today....the only limit to this excellent idea is the money$$$, no investisment...means no results, a lot of test and prototype were done....no industrialisation because of $$$$ so if you know someone who is ready to invest on this...I can help to make it works...just let me know toto_48313@yahoo.fr
toto_48313, Jul 15 2003

       I have had this idea for a long time. Nice to see that other people think the same.   

       Originally I was thinking of using roadside markers as reference points for an automated system to keep itself on the road, and to precisely determine location. Current GPS is a bit unprecise for determining exact location for vehicles travelling speeds near 80MPH. And do you really want to wait 40+ seconds after you get in the car before you can start driving? (referring to warm-up period for all GPS devices.)   

       Additionally, short-range digital wireless communications standards would need to be beefed-up to handle mission- critical applications, for which they are not currently prepared.
Amerist, Nov 11 2003

       Self Driving Car? Yeah, it's called a train. Hop on the monorail boys.   

       Seriously, GPS technology would need a much finer resolution than it has right now. I believe that the best is 9 ft accuracy with the help of earth mounted radio transmitters, some sort of Digital GPS. 9ft accuracy at wallmart on the weekends will cost you a lot of insurance deductables.   

       Also, I've read reports that Big Brother (US Govt) can alter GPS accuracy selectively in different areas so that it can befuttle enemy technology that uses it. This ability gives citizens more accurate GPS during times of peace (which hopefully is 100% of the time. but doesn't compromise security in that day of need. If an area of the states ever came under a terrorist attack and the govt' needed to reduce the resolution of the GPS, all cars would be rendered pretty much useless.   

       I like the idea of a self-driving-car safety mechanism that watches the road lines and if the vital signs of the drive ever fall below a threshold point, the car could take over to put on the hazard lights and pull over to a safe region in case of drunken passout or epileptic ceasure instead of barelling down the interstate at mach 1, crossing the median, and committing a reverse lane genocide.
DeusExMachina, Nov 13 2003


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