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Slowing Down Driverless Cars Would Be A Fatal Mistake

from the people-are-already-dying dept

Unsubstantiated driverless car hype may be annoying, but that shouldn't blind us to the real cost of unnecessarily delaying autonomous vehicle (AV) deployment.

Last week, after exploring new data from the California AV disengagement reports, Ross Marchand of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance argued that we should "put driverless cars back in the slow lane." California requires AV companies testing in the state to report each time a human operator takes over for a driverless car — an event otherwise known as a "disengagement." Marchand offers some interesting analysis, but ultimately reads far too much into a limited dataset and pushes for a restrictive policy prescription that would undermine public safety. The discussion is worth fleshing out because it reveals important limits to the "precautionary principle" mindset that is so common in AV discussions.

In 2017, Waymo — the self-driving car project formerly belonging to Google — reported driving over 350,000 miles on California roads with 63 total disengagements. Marchand claimed that, based on these data, Waymo's test vehicles are still not as safe as human drivers and that they are improving at a slower rate than those hyping AVs would have us believe. Further, he argued that until driverless cars can prove they are safer than human operators, we should keep them off public roads — and instead test them on expensive private tracks.

There are a few glaring issues with this argument. First, it overestimates how applicable and reliable the California disengagement data really are. As many commentators have pointed out, disengagement data are a poor measure of AV progress. Not only are disengagement reports an apples-to-oranges comparison across vehicle manufacturers who use different definitions, strategies and road conditions for testing, but Marchand drills down by comparing particular disengagement subcategories, leaving him with sample sizes of less than 20 — several orders-of-magnitude too small to make meaningful comparisons. Furthermore, comparing disengagements to would-be fatalities is problematic given that a safety driver's presence enables testing in regions that the vehicle is still learning to handle.

Marchand also left aside the successful testing and deployment of Waymo's fully driverless cars in Arizona. Since November 2017, hundreds of AVs have been providing free taxi services in the suburbs of Phoenix without any safety driver in the front seat. To date, there have been no reported accidents or fatalities. This suggests what we've known all along: these companies already face a host of legal, political, economic, regulatory and publicity pressures that incentivize them to prioritize safety in AV deployment. They know that every bump, scrape and crash will make headlines (regardless of who is at fault) and will slow or — if it's serious enough — completely derail their path to market. Waymo obviously feels confident enough to take its hands off the wheel, and so far has been right. Why rip AVs off the roads when no one has been harmed?

Marchand's larger argument against AV testing on public roads provided a textbook example of the precautionary principle in practice. Simply put, the precautionary principle requires innovators to prove that their new technology will not harm society, rather than placing the onus on regulators and litigators to demonstrate that an innovation actually causes harm.

And to that point, Marchand fails to specify what exactly the harm of public testing has been. Public testing has not unleashed mass fatalities on society, or even mass fender-benders. Rather, it appears to be speeding up the feedback loop of better data and more-rigorous test environments, leading to faster improvements in autonomous technology.

As a society, we can't afford to wait until we are 100-percent certain that driverless cars are statistically safer than humans before letting them on the roads. As a report from RAND highlighted, it could take several decades to accumulate enough miles on private test courses to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that AVs are safer than their human counterparts. Relying on Marchand's precautionary principle approach would mean waiting decades while nearly 40,000 people die on our roads every year. Regulatory delay of this magnitude could, conservatively-speaking, cost tens of thousands of lives.

That's not to say private test courses don't have a role to play in AV development. Indeed, Waymo already operates an extensive test track in Arizona where operators take real-world scenarios and experiment with hundreds of possible variations. This hybrid approach combines the advantages of real-world testing and private test courses. But forcing all AV testing onto private test tracks cuts off the real-world data necessary for this complementary approach and substantially raises the barrier to entry for new competitors.

To be clear, we should avoid over-hyping the progress made in AV development. Carefully taking into account the safety data will be a key part of this effort. But halting all real-world AV deployment is a heavy-handed "solution" desperately in search of a problem.

Caleb Watney (@calebwatney) is a technology policy associate at the R Street Institute. Marc Scribner (@marcscribner) is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2018 @ 4:46pm

    In 2017, Waymo — the self-driving car project formerly belonging to Google — reported driving over 350,000 miles on California roads with 63 total disengagements. Marchand claimed that, based on these data, Waymo's test vehicles are still not as safe as human drivers

    63 disengagements (which could be literally anything) by automated vehicles versus 3,680 vehicle related fatalities by human drivers

    And he's claiming that automated vehicles aren't as safe as human drivers? Yeah, they seem safer.

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    • icon
      Richard (profile), 3 Mar 2018 @ 4:13am

      Re:

      And he's claiming that automated vehicles aren't as safe as human drivers? Yeah, they seem safer.

      Er no - that's not what the statistics show at all.

      350,000 miles represents the average mileage of about 50 cars with human drivers.

      I'm guessing that the 3680 fatalities represents rather more than 50 cars.

      Also "California roads" are fairly untypical of the rest of the world in that it is a first world country with an infrastructure that has mostly been built for the car.

      These companies need to test their vehicles in places where much of the road layout predates the motor car (eg Europe) and in places that don't have much road infrastructure at all (eg Africa, Asia Latin America.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 6:42am

        Re: Re:

        I see a new reality tv show - Driverless Ice Road Truckers take on the world's most dangerous roads.

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

      • identicon
        Mason, 3 Mar 2018 @ 7:26am

        Define Your Terms

        >>> What the hel| are "Driverless Cars" exactly ??


        Nobody here defines that -- so everybody is talking about different levels of vehicle automation & spouting statistics that are irrelevant to the primary issue of "Full Automation" vehicles (vehicles that can go Anywhere/Anytime on normal roads with zero human intervention).

        There are clear and useful definitions of the degree of automation in vehicles ... which greatly eases the confusion about this technology -- and dampens the nonsense discussions (like we see in this TD post/thread).

        NHTSA/SAE specify the five official categories of automated vehicles. Category #5 is Full Automation -- what most people envision when hearing the term "Driverless Vehicle". However, CAT #5 vehicles do not exist anywhere and are not being tested anywhere. CAT # 2 are the only ones available on the market.

        nhtsa.gov/technology-innovation/automated-vehicles-safety#issue-road-self-driving

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        • identicon
          Jeff R, 3 Mar 2018 @ 10:50am

          Re: Define Your Terms

          Apparently, they do exist at Category #5. From the story above:

          'Marchand also left aside the successful testing and deployment of Waymo's fully driverless cars in Arizona. Since November 2017, hundreds of AVs have been providing free taxi services in the suburbs of Phoenix without any safety driver in the front seat.'

          They are not, as you say, available for purchase by the general public at this point.

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          • identicon
            Mason, 3 Mar 2018 @ 12:56pm

            Re: Define Your Terms

            No

            Waymo's Phoenix taxi vehicles are a weak Category 4, at best -- no where close to Cat #5.

            Waymo's taxi had a human driver in the driver's seat for almost all the testing. Waymo now uses a safety-observer in another seat for its intended "driverless" taxi service. If something goes wrong, the company safety-observer can push the "pull over" button to stop the car.

            Waymo's alleged "fully driverless" cars will only navigate in a small portion of the Phoenix metropolitan area around the southeastern suburb of Chandler... a very carefully chosen area that has been thoroughly pre-mapped in 3D for the vehicle's computer. That computer software will refuse any taxi destination outside the safe area.

            Arizona, was cherry-picked for its excellent weather and relatively uncomplicated road system. Try using this "fully autonomous" vehicle in a Chicago winter. None of these "driverless cars" can handle normal rain/snow/fog conditions.

            Anytime you see the media hype about "driverless vehicles" for taxi/bus service... you know it's phony. Current driverless technology can not handle normal driving tasks -- so it's only being used for very restricted purposes and driving conditions.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 12:23pm

          Re: Define Your Terms

          Well I'm glad we cleared that up otherwise we would have nonsense discussions.

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

      • identicon
        Michael, 5 Mar 2018 @ 7:36am

        Re: Re:

        "These companies need to test their vehicles in places where much of the road layout predates the motor car"


        No they don't. It is not necessary that the cars handle these conditions to be used in places where the conditions do not exist. If driver-less cars could handle just specific cities in the US, there would be a great market for commuter travel and they would not even need to be able to handle driving on a dirt road.

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        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 6 Mar 2018 @ 12:04am

          Re: Re: Re:

          True, this is the sort of thing where "letting the perfect be the enemy of the good" is a thing, so to speak.

          If the cars are going to be used mainly in places like California to begin with, then they need to test cars there to begin with. Lessons will be learned, and those applied to more complicated rollouts. Demanding that a car be able to perfectly navigate a labyrinthine European city before being used in a grid-based American city is silly.

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

  • icon
    Avatar28 (profile), 2 Mar 2018 @ 5:27pm

    human statistics?

    I would like to know, statistically speaking, how many accidents humans would have in 350,000 driven miles. Probably less than 64 but that's assuming each disengagement would have resulted in an accident too, unlikely. Also were the disengagements spread evenly or were the weighted towards the beginning of the year, suggesting they were improving?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2018 @ 5:43pm

    rather than placing the onus on regulators and litigators to demonstrate that an innovation actually causes harm

    excellent point. i bet the food and drug people would like to hear more about this innovative approach. we could cure overcrowding in a decade or less.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 9:13am

      Re:

      There is a world of difference between "Chemical X is untested for human consumption, let's put it on the market until someone dies" and "the concept of a vehicle controlled by computers has shown to be reasonably safe in controlled tests, and has passed every test that we give human drivers to grant them a license, so let's allow it to drive on public roads."

      If you want to compare it to food and drug, it would be more comparable to banning pizzerias from selling pizza because more people get burnt by eating pizzeria's pizzas than by making pizzas themselves.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 1:10pm

        Re: Re:

        I dunno, "Drug X has not been proven safe. Let's try it out on the public" and "Driver-less cars have not been proven safe. Let's try them out on the public" seem rather similar to me.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 2:13pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          More like "Chemical X has not been proven dangerous despite rigorous testing" and "Driverless cars have not been proven dangerous despite rigorous testing."

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 7:42pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "Driverless cars have not been proven dangerous despite rigorous testing."

            I am not aware of driverless cars passing rigorous testing. If you're talking about the limited manufacturer testing that has been done, then I'm reminded of the testing done by cigarette manufacturers that purported to show how safe cigarettes were.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2018 @ 11:00am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              how safe cigarettes were

              bullshit. they discovered that cigarettes are good for your health and advertised them as such.

              yes, that's pretty similar to the whitewashing we're getting from the car companies. to me it is impressive that they do as well as they do, but there's a whole world out there that they don't encounter.

              they are insisting that they use every one of us and our loved ones and friends as their lab rats.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2018 @ 3:35pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "Chemical X has not been proven dangerous despite rigorous testing"

            ..... by the manufacturer of chemical X ?

            Why should I believe them?

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          • icon
            The Wanderer (profile), 6 Mar 2018 @ 7:51am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            As far as I understand, our testing sample for Chemical X is the Powerpuff Girls and Mojo Jojo.

            Based on that set of results, I'm not sure "dangerous" can be entirely ruled out.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2018 @ 8:57pm

    “until driverless cars can prove they are safer than human operators, we should keep them off public roads”

    This would be an interesting requirement to also apply when giving out driving licences to humans.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 7:43am

      There is a corollary...

      Relying on Marchand's precautionary principle approach would mean waiting decades while nearly 40,000 people die on our roads every year.

      What this argument is saying is,

      1. driverless cars will never cause fatalities
      2. nobody should ever drive because driverless cars will be safer.

      After all, who wants to die / wants others to die?

      But you know what else would prevent people dying on roads? Passengerless cars.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 9:40am

        Re: There is a corollary...

        You do have a point. Driverless cars would not prevent all 40,000 fatalities from happening.

        But nearly all accidents occur for one of three reasons. One: a driver was being reckless (such as speeding). Two: a driver was not fit to drive (such as being drunk) but determined it was the only way they could get from point A to point B (such as driving home from a bar). Three: a lapse in concentration (such as using a cellphone, not checking mirrors, ignoring a stop sign).

        A driverless car would not be reckless, nor would it reasonably be distracted. ("Distraction" caused by hacking a vehicle to make it unsafe is a completely different concern -- like hijacking an airplane vs. safety of autopilot. It absolutely needs to be addressed, but is a different problem than the actual driving algorithms.)

        It would also provide an easy option for those who are not fit to drive. And for those who are too stubborn, it could even be enforced the way it is for DUI convictions. Want to drive yourself instead of using autopilot? Blow into the attached breathalyzer to prove you're legally sober.

        And for crashes caused by distraction, there are a number of fender-bender situations that can be avoided by having some level of autonomy in either vehicle. Even most non-autonomous vehicles these days are produced with these override features installed -- those automatic brakes and lane-drift alerts that the commercials are always so proud to tout. So even if your car is not fully autonomous, you have some level of protection which can respond instantly to avoid a potential crash caused by a human driver, which another human driver may not have been aware of or had time to react to.

        We certainly wouldn't see all 40,000 deaths disappear. But we'd see a drastic reduction in them.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 12:28pm

          Re: Re: There is a corollary...

          "But nearly all accidents occur for one of three reasons."

          idk ... from my experience the number one cause of automobile accidents is tail gating coupled with lack of attention. I see it in the commute every day. Irresponsible drivers are causing everyone's insurance rates to increase. Why do we not hear about how this is socialism .. bad bad socialism.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 2:15pm

            Re: Re: Re: There is a corollary...

            That falls under either #3, distraction (if they don't realize they will make impact) or #1, recklessness (if they realize they might make impact but go forward anyway).

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

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 5 Mar 2018 @ 10:39am

        Re: There is a corollary...

        What this argument is saying is,

        1. driverless cars will never cause fatalities
        2. nobody should ever drive because driverless cars will be safer.

        It's really not. It's saying that 1) it's expected that driverless cars will cause fewer fatalities than human drivers. And number 2, as far as I can tell, you just straight made up.

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

  • identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, 2 Mar 2018 @ 11:52pm

    You've got to be kidding

    Driverless vehicles are just another thing, as in IoT. And just like the rest of the IoT, they are an absolute horror story of security and privacy problems. It's not a question of if they'll be hacked en masse with horrific consequences, it's only a question of when.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 6:46am

      Re: You've got to be kidding

      and when the hackers are of the crazy variety, there will probably be driverless vehicles causing mayhem in cities across the globe - what a wonderful idea!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 3:44am

    "we need to put driverless cars in the slow lane."

    "I propose we call this the Ford/GM didn't just put $345,212 into my personal offshore bank account law".

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

  • icon
    madasahatter (profile), 3 Mar 2018 @ 5:31am

    Prototypes vs Production

    AVs are in the prototype phase of development, which might be lengthy. In this phase, one of the goals is to find the situations where the AVs do not perform correctly (why the disengagements). Once these are known, they potentially can be fixed. If a sufficient number and type can be fixed then AVs become production ready.

    A logical flaw is that every disengagement automatically means an accident. Without knowing the details of each event it is hard to say if an accident would have actually occurred or whether the fault is with the AV.

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

  • identicon
    Jimc, 3 Mar 2018 @ 6:44am

    Actually!

    The one question unawnsered, why the disengagement? Was it because of conflicting inputs? Steep hill? Or bad programming, such as in needed an updated map? New roadways added to the area? That's the most telling. Even with the latest GPS, you have to update the program, and with housing being built, the address may not be in the system. That would be a disengagement to to finish the route. Not all would be prior to an accident.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 6:44am

    "Further, he argued that until driverless cars can prove they are safer than human operators, we should keep them off public roads — and instead test them on expensive private tracks."

    In which case, surely, they'd never be safe to drive on public roads, as they'd not be being updated to deal with all the pottential scenarios which can occur on such a road, which they would likely encounter if being tested there, and could be adapted for?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 7:16am

    I say put them on the roads first.

    Fix the problems later.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 12:31pm

      Re: I say put them on the roads first.

      Our customers are the best and cheapest Quality Assurance group that any corporation could wish for.

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

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 Mar 2018 @ 7:42am

    It may just be about taxes

    It has just occurred to me that Ross Marchand of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance is actually arguing for a small subset of taxpayers, and is being disingenuous about that. The small subset? Taxi drivers, and maybe bus drivers or truck drivers or any other professional driving occupation. If these autonomous vehicles become rampant, then those fine, taxpaying, professional drivers will no longer be paying taxes from their income derived from driving professionally. Or, the income from special licenses needed to drive professionally. Or both.

    Then there are the unions for those professions that contribute to political campaigns, who would no longer be contributing to political campaigns as their raison d'être would be gone.

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

  • identicon
    Michael DeKort, 3 Mar 2018 @ 7:58am

    Aerospace Engineer-Member SAE AV Testing Task Force

    My name is Michael DeKort. I am a former systems engineer, engineering and program manager for Lockheed Martin. I worked in aircraft simulation, the Aegis Weapon System, NORAD and on C4ISR for DHS. I also worked in Commercial IT and in cybersecurity.

    I received the IEEE Barus Ethics Award for whistleblowing regarding the DHS Deepwater program post 9/11 - (Google me for much more) - http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=4468728

    I am also a member of the SAE On-Road Autonomous Driving Validation & Verification Task Force

    While your desire to avoid slowing down in creating AVs is laudable you are actually causing the problem you are trying to avoid. As Waymo’s recent paradigm shift after 8 years of getting it wrong clearly shows most AV makers are not only using approaches that will never yield a full autonomous, and not save lives doing so, they will soon take lives needlessly as the hyped and benign scenarios you and everyone else thinks are so impressive evolve to complex, dangerous and accident scenarios. When they run thousands of accident scenarios, thousands of times each and cause thousands of accidents injuries and casualties you will do more than slow down.

    Please find detailed information below on the issues and how to resolve them.

    Impediments to Creating an Autonomous Vehicle
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/impediments-creating-autonomous-vehicle-michael-dekort/

    Autonom ous Levels 4 and 5 will never be reached without Simulation vs Public Shadow Driving for AI
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/autonomous-levels-4-5-never-reached-without-michael-dekort

    Disengage ments and Miles Driven Mean Almost Nothing
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/disengagements-miles-driven-mean-almost-nothing-michael-dekort /

    DoT, NHTSA and NTSB are Enabling Autonomous Vehicle Tragedies
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dot-nhtsa-ntsb-enabling-autonomous-vehicle-tragedies-michael -dekort/

    Please let me know if you would like to discuss this further.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 3:44pm

      Re: futility

      ...good points, but yer pi$$in' into the wind

      the public is heavily influenced by the mainstream media and massive internet social chatter ... which are all extremely biased toward the cool/glamorous hi tech aura of "Driverless Cars" . Facts are unimportant. Your resume is just noise to them.

      It's not what you say that counts -- it's what they hear !

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 4 Mar 2018 @ 1:35am

        Re: Re: futility

        "...good points, but yer pi$$in' into the wind"

        With the way he's putting across his point, absolutely he is. He gives no reason to believe him, while he's handily knocking down strawmen and hyperbolic versions of what people might actually be saying.

        Maybe people should try not simply attacking those with opposing opinions, attacking positions most of them have not stated, arguing logical fallacies like appeal from authority and referring to trustworthy primary sources rather than random opinion posts on social media.

        It's correct to be cautious, but posts like the above really aren't going to change anyone's mind.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2018 @ 3:39pm

        Re: Re: futility

        "the mainstream media and massive internet social chatter"

        Would you rather have blind obedience? I'm sure some would say yes.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 11:03am

    Have their been any Techdirt articles about the implications of self-driving cars upon privacy and personal freedom? Because there are commenters I've seen in articles about self-driving cars on tech sites like this and Ars Technica where they seem to love evangelizing automated vehicles to the point where they treat other commenters who want to own and drive their own vehicle as a backwards Luddite.

    Being able to own an automobile and being able to take it wherever you want, when you want are significant freedoms. The "People would be safer without humans behind the wheel" crowd need to understand that a future with fully autonomous vehicles being enforced as the norm means less personal autonomy for your average person. There's no getting around the fact that it would be a huge transfer of power from individuals to corporations and governments, and that's something that I feel would be worth an article or two on Techdirt (if there aren't any already).

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 12:36pm

      Re:

      It will never be mandatory as that would not work if the vehicle is unable to go where it has no map.

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

    • identicon
      Tchaikovsky, 3 Mar 2018 @ 1:51pm

      Re:

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

    • identicon
      Christenson, 3 Mar 2018 @ 2:02pm

      Re: locus of agency

      The problem of just who is in control is very much core to basically ANY connected device, even the phone I type this on. ANY IoT, too.

      And it becomes more acute when we talk cars...who is deciding to what degree it will obey its occupants commands?

      This is the conversation being avoided...the contract left implicit that causes all the trouble.

      Not that these things can’t save lives....and let me do stuff on my commute

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 4 Mar 2018 @ 1:28am

        Re: Re: locus of agency

        One of the things that *has* been talked about is security on these kinds of cars, which is IMO a much more valid concern as to whether the agencies that already control most of what you do on the roads will be able to exercise said control more effectively.

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        • identicon
          Christenson, 4 Mar 2018 @ 7:30pm

          Re: Re: Re: locus of agency

          PaulT, "agency" used here does not refer to a subunit of the government. It instead refers to whatever or whoever makes decisions with consequences.

          Standard Car: Drive off that bridge. Car: going forward, steering towards the barrier...oops, we are in the drink!

          Autonomous Car: Drive off that bridge... do we hit the barrier or not, and how hard? Why? Who made the decision?

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

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 6 Mar 2018 @ 12:29am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: locus of agency

            "Why? Who made the decision?"

            That would be an incredibly specific question that would have to be dealt with on a case by case basis. It's not a real argument for deferring this tech. Hell, half the time we don't really know why the human drivers made certain decisions, and I dare say that the automated system would have a lot more "training" in how to deal with split-second extreme decisions than the average human driver. Plus, it would hopefully provide detailed logs that make the sequence of events clearer than it can be with current post-crash analysis, at least in terms of how the decisions were made if not why, and the lessons learned used to improve software decisions.

            Anyway, the security of these devices is a valid concern, and frankly a government agency *will* be the one setting the standards as to whose decisions take the highest priority. Whether or not that was the meaning of the word agency that you meant, a government agency will be heavily involved in these processes.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 4 Mar 2018 @ 12:08am

      Re:

      "to the point where they treat other commenters who want to own and drive their own vehicle as a backwards Luddite."

      Depends what your argument is. Most of the arguments do indeed seem to be "I don't want to give up the old ways" and "new tech bad old tech good". Other arguments that are most intelligently arrived at are welcome.

      Put it this way - there's typically 2 types of drivers - those who really just need a way to get from A to B, normally on a regular commute, and have no access to decent public transport, and those who genuinely love owning their own vehicle and everything it entails. If the first group outnumber you and your only argument is that you're in the second group, you're going to lose the argument.

      "The "People would be safer without humans behind the wheel" crowd need to understand that a future with fully autonomous vehicles being enforced as the norm means less personal autonomy for your average person."

      Or... we understand that trade-off and think that the lower autonomy is worth the reduction in death & injury through stupid human decisions that will be prevented.

      It also depends on what you class as "freedom". I'd sure love the freedom of being able to have a could of extra beers at a party without trying to get someone else to drive me after, or towork on a few things during my commute while the car drives me, over and above the freedom to do whatever it is that I don't do with my car at the moment. Your tastes may vary, but that doesn't mean my preferences are wrong.

      "There's no getting around the fact that it would be a huge transfer of power from individuals to corporations and governments"

      Not really as much as you think. Those already control everything from the vehicles you drive to the roads you drive on. Unless you think that they're going to tell you where and when you can drive (which will be the one thing that turns people against this tech, for sure), they're not getting much more power over you.

      Otherwise, again, what is worse in the minds of most people - the government being able to actually force cars to stick to that 70mph speed limit, or the asshole who just caused a 20 car pileup because he used his freedom to drive at double that limit before he lost control? You might argue freedom, but the people stuck in the 10 mile tailback trying to get home would sure love some of that automated control at that point in time.

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

      • identicon
        christenson, 4 Mar 2018 @ 12:36pm

        Re: Re: tradeoffs with autonomous

        I think it's worth disussing the tradeoffs here, noticing that YMMV, and starting with what's known or should be known and the limits thereof.

        Start with my point-wise estimate from personal experience: One acquaintance killed in a car was drunk or high and joyriding, distinctively stupid; another hit ice and smashed a pole. Do we have a good model for the actual causes (besides the common observation that half of fatalities involve alchohol) of both injuries and fatalities involving cars?

        As for manual control: I've been to plenty of events where parking is "on the grass", and until autonomous transport becomes common enough near my rural home I'm comfortable not owning a car, I'll need my own vehicle. I've also borrowed parking spots on the side of the road, and used an overgrown gravel drive. I have overriden "lanekeeping assist" many times to go around trees and things that have fallen or almost fallen into my roads from the latest windstorm, not to mention runners and cyclists. How hard can I ask my vehicle to push the speed limit? 10 mph under? (it's a good day, want to finish something before I hit work) 10mph over? (it's a bad day, boss is mad I'm not there yet) 20mph over? (I'm having trouble breathing, asthma, we are on the way to the hospital) Oh, and, someone tries to wave me down on the road...now what? (one time that was a domestic violence victim, but what if I'm afraid?)

        Now, we get to a law-enforcement interaction with my vehicle and me....what if I'm a suspect and they want my vehicle to stop? What if I want to ensure that happens in a relatively safe place, like in front of a crowd, so there are lots of eyes reporting the abuse law enforcement is all-too-ready to heap on suspects?

        I think I have just shown that proper autonomous driving has multiple value- and context- based decision problems on the same level of complexity as moderating online forums.

        Now, for an interesting idea:
        Hey, can I leave my personal autonomous vehicle double parked, NYC style, or send it to a parking lot a mile away from my dropoff? And I'm sure happy to have it go visit the mechanic while I'm at work....

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

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 3 Mar 2018 @ 11:55pm

    "Marchand claimed that, based on these data, Waymo's test vehicles are still not as safe as human drivers"

    That may possibly be true. However, did anyone actually claim they would be during the prototyping stage or insist that they will never improve with further testing before they come to the mainstream market?

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


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