Techdirt Podcast Episode 29: Autonomous Vehicles Will Change Everything

from the drive-my-car dept

Last week, we were joined by Upshift founder Ezra Goldman to discuss the future of mobility in a world of on-demand services like Uber. This week, Ezra is back to help us fill in the other big piece of the transportation puzzle: autonomous vehicles, and their potential to change just about everything.

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  • icon
    webster (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 1:33pm

    Autonomous Vehicles

    Uber and other services are a start.

    1. As the systems develop, fewer people will need cars, but those that have cars will use them each for longer periods to haul more people, i.e. greater efficiency.

    2. These cars are already guided by GPS-Map systems for speed and efficiency. Drivers rely on them to fetch their fares, deliver them and then collect their fare. They are much better than cab systems.

    3. An automated guidance systems is faster, more efficient, and safer. If you have ever seen a house of drones change rooms simultaneously without mishap, you immediately understand that humans could never do this safely even at a low speed.

    4. Robots do not mean a bunch of Lone Rangers. All vehicles will have to be compatible with with the same GPS-Map system. There will also be precautionary, individual, collision-prevention systems, at least for a time.

    5. With this robotic-drone-car system, there will be no stop, yield or speed signs. These will change with the traffic conditions and weather. No one will need to stop at intersections; the system will take people quickly and intermittently through the intersections and junctions. Everyone will get around faster and safer. Of course pedestrians will have to be accommodated and guided in the old way with some rigid rules and zones. There had better be no balls in the street.

    6. Cities will start with robot/human driving zones, but rapidly change to robot-only zones as the benefits multiply. Quickly cars will be required to have self-driving systems as an alternative. These will become mandatory in some areas. They would even override the human driver. Human-option driving areas will eventually not be as extensive as robot-only areas although they may always be available.

    7. The big driver for this system will be cost and insurance. It will soon become prohibitively expensive to insure the human-driven cars and drivers. They will also not be compatible with, or meet the superhuman demands of the area guidance system. This option on the car will allow for human error. Human driving will also be prohibited in some areas, like city centers. Humans can not react precisely to guidance commands as will the robots. Humans also suffer from distractions and road rage...

    8. With these inevitable possibilities it is an exciting time. It is like space travel on earth. Our capabilities are far surpassing our imaginings. Amazing change is in store for us.

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    • identicon
      That One Other Not So Random Guy, 16 Jun 2015 @ 2:22pm

      Re: Autonomous Vehicles

      "it will soon become prohibitively expensive to insure the human-driven cars and drivers." Citation needed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 3:10pm

      Re: Autonomous Vehicles

      I agree with you up to here:

      "It will soon become prohibitively expensive to insure the human-driven cars and drivers."

      There will be little change in the risk factors, the risk premium, and the risk coverage for human operated vehicles. If anything, it might drop a bit because the robots can practice defensive driving around the humans.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Derek Kerton (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 3:21pm

        Re: Re: Autonomous Vehicles

        To be clear, I'm talking about the "transition period" when both bot and human drivers coexist. I expect this period to be a long one, since we're going to be buying classic cars for at least a decade more, and then the fleet takes a decade or more to age off the road. Even culture is able to change as fast as the car fleet. (Think about how popular Hummers were in 2000.)

        Long-term, once the transition is made and infrastructure is redesigned for Type 4 autonomous cars, it will be dangerous for humans to drive.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Leigh Beadon (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 4:09pm

        Re: Re: Autonomous Vehicles

        I'm not sure people will view it that way, though. At first, lower premiums for autonomous cars will be seen as a nice way to save some money — but as they become more common and more of the norm, that perception will likely flip, and the cost of insuring a human driver will seem prohibitive and unnecessary. All it will likely take is the first generation of parents who are buying & insuring a car for their kids (or at least subsidizing all those costs for them) when autonomous cars are an option, and I think we'll see the viewpoint start shifting pretty rapidly.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2015 @ 5:52pm

      Re: Autonomous Vehicles

      All vehicles will have to be compatible with with the same GPS-Map system.


      I hope they choose the one I own the copyright/patents/trademark to

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 2:05pm

    ".. the problem is, when you make something obligatory, people resent it. And when they resent it, they fuck with it." - John Oliver

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    That One Other Not So Random Guy, 16 Jun 2015 @ 2:21pm

    "With this robotic-drone-car system, there will be no stop, yield or speed signs."

    Awesome!!! No longer need to worry about stopping, speed limits, or merging... On my MOTORCYCLE. Cant wait!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 2:42pm

    Self-driving cars.

    I remember the self-driving cars they had back when I was a kid in the 1960's. They were one of my favorite things at the then-new Six Flags amusement park. Of course, they only traveled along specially prepared routes, but I understand the same true of today's self-driving cars as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    James Poirier, 16 Jun 2015 @ 2:49pm

    The epicenter of America's new autonomous-car infrastructure is Manhattan's Ground Zero, the World Transportation Center (WTC).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 3:15pm

    Naysayers

    Autonomous driving is an extremely ripe field for naysayers. It just seems so far-fetched.

    But the arc of technology is easily tracked. The medium-term capabilities of autonomous vehicles are easily predictable. Complex ADAS systems are here already. Ray Kurzweil warns us that technology is exponential -- you can't predict the next 10 years by looking at the rate of change in the past 10 years without making vast underestimates.

    I know many will disagree with us few, and it in 10 years, you will forget how wrong your forecasts were. But the naysaying is on par with IBM's chief predicting a market for 7 computers in the world. If you just look at your feet, and individual waves, you're never see the tide flow in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 5:10pm

    "But the naysaying is on par with IBM's chief predicting a market for 7 computers in the world."

    There's a bit of unfair presentism there, (viewing history through the eyes of today). Those words were uttered in 1943, and he was talking about massive vacuum tube computers. Viewed through the eyes of 1943 it is not such a ridiculous statement.

    (also it was 5 computers)
    (also also He never said it)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 11:30am

      Re:

      Sure, but the thinking in the IBM analogy is:

      "Looking at the way things are today, I don't see how your proposed future makes any sense."

      And that is always the wrong way to predict the future. None of the better prediction methods are accurate either, but at least they don't make the fallacy of looking at each invention in a silo, assume nothing else will change, and compare how the innovation would fit into the world of today.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 17 Jun 2015 @ 12:59am

    Have You Realized This Could Revolutionize The Taxi Service?

    Imagine an Uber/Lyft-style service, but without any actual human drivers? Just call up a car on your mobile phone—it would be more like a car rental, but for no longer than a few minutes to a few hours.

    At last, a form of public transport that people would actually want to use!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Insured and Licensed to Drive LEGALLY, 17 Jun 2015 @ 9:18am

    Get the fuck off the road

    This wetdream of some very nefarious corporations pushing the autonomous vehicles should stick those cars up their asses. I pay insurance and drive to get where I'm going because I have the fucking right to do that in AMERICA Because I am a citizen with the US Constitution on my side. These dicks with their money in their hands have no right blocking my view on the highways and byways with these driverless cars. And while I'm at it, get the fucking texting dickheads off the road as well. Fuck you very much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 10:03am

      Re: Get the fuck off the road

      I see. Since you're an AMERICAN, you have all the rights and nobody else has any. Got it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2015 @ 11:11am

        Re: Re: Get the fuck off the road

        "I see. Since you're an AMERICAN, you have all the rights and nobody else has any. Got it."

        Damn right!
        U.S.A.
        U.S.A.
        U.S.A.
        ...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 11:31am

      Re: Get the fuck off the road

      Hah. Sure.

      And that's exactly why you drive without a license, right? Driving on public roads is a god-given right in the USA. Not some privilege that requires a Permit from the state.

      Or do you have that wrong?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 1:35pm

    Autonomous vehicles

    Let's suppose we find the car in a situation like this: a collision is unavoidable, and if the car swerves to the left, let's say, it will collide with a school bus. Let's say the car computes that several kids will likely be killed. If the car swerves to the right, the passenger will be killed.
    I don't think the manufacturer could decide how to program for that. In the absence of legislation, we would need a switch that let the passenger decide which thing to do.
    That would absolve the manufacturer, but then ....
    Wow!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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