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Maes

Google gets driverless license

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BBC article

The way I see it, the problem is not primarily technical -self driving cars, either fully autonomous or with external assistance such as GPS and sensor networks- were in the works in the last decade at least for highly visible civilian applications, which means they are at least 10-20 years behind what the top classified military tech could offer at the moment.

The problem is legal: in case of an accident or software malfunction leading to one, who is ultimately responsible? Where is the "driver"? Whose name will appear on the insurance policy? In case of even a minor accident, who do you negotiate with to do a "friendly appraisal"?

In the case of military applications, these issues are usually classified as "collateral damage", whether it's a guided weapon missing its target, or a UAV losing control/firing indiscriminately, since most malfunctions will be in the face of the enemy. Also, at least so far, there's always a fully commisioned military (not civilian) human operator behing each UAV's "trigger", so even in that case, there's actually a face and a chain of command behind a faceless killing machine.

Even when malfunctions lead to friendly losses, e.g. if a rifle or mortar malfunctions and blows up in the face of its operators, all Armies are prepared to accept such losses and are outside normal legal repercussions. Even in the case of a self-driving APC or Jeep carrying human soldiers, if it malfunctioned and went off-road, the Army would class it as "collateral damage" and "acceptable losses", even in peace time. Something you can't really do in a civilian setting.

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I'm all for this. As long as a manual override is possible. It would save many lives if implemented, and honestly I wouldn't mind having one of these cars.

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Krispy said:

It would save many lives if implemented, and honestly I wouldn't mind having one of these cars.


The last time I checked, your run-of-the-mill software engineer/code monkey was not exactly held to the same standards as regular chartered engineers -whether electrical, mechanical or automotive, and so I would shudder at the thought of putting any hard real-time and life-critical responsibility in the hands of some Indian code sweatshop.

That's one of the reasons why "real" aerospace/mil-spec/medical-grade/nucleaar plant-grade software still costs so much: those are still designed by white lab-coat wearin' engineers and cost millions of $$$ and come with precise guarantees and even legal penalties if something goes wrong. The usual EULA clause that "suitability for a specific purpose is not guaranteed or implied" does not cut it in this sort of software.

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what goes without saying is that google will be recording all the data it can "accidentally" harvest. and storing and catalogizing them, oh yes. i'd say get that big brother box away from me and my car, but what's the point? the other cars will connect the dots on those without spycams.

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Maes said:

The problem is legal: in case of an accident or software malfunction leading to one, who is ultimately responsible? Where is the "driver"?

In the event of a reproducible software malfunction, I expect the manufacturer would be held accountable. I also expect the car's "brains" will be located in a fairly vulnerable position, so anything worse than a fender-bender will result in the "driver" being lobotomized. Apart from that, whoever buys the car and pays to insurance it is presumably accepting responsibility.

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GreyGhost said:

In the event of a reproducible software malfunction, I expect the manufacturer would be held accountable. I also expect the car's "brains" will be located in a fairly vulnerable position, so anything worse than a fender-bender will result in the "driver" being lobotomized. Apart from that, whoever buys the car and pays to insurance it is presumably accepting responsibility.

Who's to assume some part of the code directing the driving machine didn't do it, be it intentional or a fluke? Assuming it did, would the programmers be held responsible, even if every bit of code they wrote was perfect? If they can't determine the exact cause, who do they place the blame on specifically?

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Maes said:

The last time I checked, your run-of-the-mill software engineer/code monkey was not exactly held to the same standards as regular chartered engineers -whether electrical, mechanical or automotive, and so I would shudder at the thought of putting any hard real-time and life-critical responsibility in the hands of some Indian code sweatshop.

No kidding. If we allow control of vehicles to be entrusted to some sweaty programmer somewhere, airplanes will be next. Mark my words.

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AndrewB said:

No kidding. If we allow control of vehicles to be entrusted to some sweaty programmer somewhere, airplanes will be next. Mark my words.

But who will we blame when said planes fly into buildings? Is al-Qauda really a super computer?

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Kirby said:

Who's to assume some part of the code directing the driving machine didn't do it, be it intentional or a fluke? Assuming it did, would the programmers be held responsible, even if every bit of code they wrote was perfect? If they can't determine the exact cause, who do they place the blame on specifically?

There's bound to be some set of circumstances the driverless car's not programmed to handle, especially when it's sharing the road with unpredictable humans (not to mention pets, livestock and wildlife - who know even less about the rules of the road than most drivers), so I doubt the program code will ever be anywhere near perfect until driverless cars are the default - and probably only - mode of transport. Until then, we'll just have to hope both parties involved in an accident have "No Fault" insurance.

Technician said:

But who will we blame when said planes fly into buildings?

Google Aerospace - for superimposing the wrong flight path on Google Autopilot maps.

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GreyGhost said:

Apart from that, whoever buys the car and pays to insurance it is presumably accepting responsibility.


I really don't see how you could get such a car on the streets of a country where every last jackass will promptly sue for billions of dollars for stepping on a bubblegum or because they didn't like the color of their local Walkmart's shopping cart.

That's exactly why only the military is able to use such technology without fear of legal repercussions: even if malfunctions result in friendly losses, they are deemed "acceptable" anyway, they wrap your coffin in a flag, play some bagpipes, shoot three rifle shots in the air in your "honour" and everybody's happy because you died "in the line of duty".

Needless to say, no such concerns arise if malfunctions result in unintended overkill of enemy troops or collateral damage to enemy civilians...

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Technician said:

But who will we blame when said planes fly into buildings? Is al-Qauda really a super computer?




HAL Qaeda

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DoomUK said:

I don't want a car which navigates itself. I like driving.

Don't you want a robot car? Not even one which might talk? I actually saw years ago a news bulletin about a self-moving car which was even talking (mostly command acknowledgements, and in Romanian! probably it had already been translated in all languages, wow), but haven't heard anything else about it since. And it wasn't 1st April.

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printz said:

Don't you want a robot car?


No.

printz said:

Not even one which might talk?


You can do that already to any device with some cheap chinese 8-bit sound chip, if by talking you mean "playing back samples". If you meant full voice recognition....no thanks. It's pretty shitty as it is for the "general public" in just about every service I've seen it being used, unless you use a very controlled tone and restricted vocabulary.

Again, something that works well only in a military environment, not in a civilian setting where it would have to deal with the accent and grammatical deficiencies of every chimp.

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printz said:
Don't you want a robot car? Not even one which might talk?

I would if it were an '82 Trans-Am with sequenced red LED lights on the front...

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I wonder if companies would find good use of these cars for their employees to move efficiently.

It has the advantage that, unlike a train, it doesn't need pre-placed rails, but it still can be set to move through a preset path, while being collision-safe too.

Still, how would you do that (the path)? Well, modern roads are already darker than sidewalks (IR non-reflective?). If they need any additional guide rails, the point said in previous paragraph gets defeated. I guess that a roadmap as a guide would be helpful in this case, as well as regulations to mark the roads in easily readable paint for the robot to detect and obey traffic rules. Really now, the roads and the places that cars can go are so tightly regulated, that they're easily and naturally robot-applicable. It's always allowed or not; human fuzzy interpretation is completely out of the question.

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Just wait until google's satellites forget about that bridge that they have out on a back road.

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Ralphis said:

Just wait until google's satellites forget about that bridge that they have out on a back road.

What's the purpose of the sensors on the car then?

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Most of the time they're co-opted by the CIA or FBI to conduct covert surveillance.

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K!r4 said:

What's the purpose of the sensors on the car then?

Spying on you, to improve targeted advertising.

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I am talking about those whose role is to check what's around the car.

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printz said:

Still, how would you do that (the path)? Well, modern roads are already darker than sidewalks (IR non-reflective?). If they need any additional guide rails, the point said in previous paragraph gets defeated.


AFAIK there were two "schools of thought" over how self-driving cars may be implemented: aided and unaided.

Aided systems that required modifications to the roads themselves (visual cues, magnetic aids, sensor networks etc.) were initially considered by several research teams around the world about a decade ago, since they lead to very simplified designs, but they would not be universally applicable, nor very economic or sustainable from a legal standpoint. Maybe they can be applied to closed, private roads (e.g. a fenced road for automated vehicles only), but not to open, chaotic city streets.

GPS may partially take up some tasks of a sensor/cue network but a 10m average accuracy is not enough to keep on the road, so some degree of autonomous robotic vision is necessary.

printz said:

Still, how would you do that (the path)? Well, modern roads are already darker than sidewalks (IR non-reflective?).


Just a couple of years after being laid down, tarmac greys considerably and then whitens. And if it rains or snows, all such assumptions go out of the window.

printz said:

Really now, the roads and the places that cars can go are so tightly regulated, that they're easily and naturally robot-applicable. It's always allowed or not; human fuzzy interpretation is completely out of the question.


If you live in a country like Sweden, maybe yes. All images I've seen of large e.g. USA cities show a clusterfuck of traffic, while e.g. Greece's or Philippine's or China's are simply hardcore. If the aim is making a robot car that can survive unscratched through these roads, the easiest way is to make it a robot-tank! Of course, there's the thorny issue of damage vs third parties ;-)

K!r4 said:

What's the purpose of the sensors on the car then?


They mostly mean immediate proximity and general environmental sensors that may prevent collisions with the car ahead, not something that can react if e.g. an unexpected hole in the ground opens up in front of the car in real time (an uncharted closed bridge would be just that). A mil-spec vehicle may have software even for that, but as I said, even if it doesn't, it will be written off as "collateral damage", "friendly casualties" or "acceptable losses". In a civilian setting...it would mean lawsuits up the ass.

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Maes said:

No.



You can do that already to any device with some cheap chinese 8-bit sound chip, if by talking you mean "playing back samples". If you meant full voice recognition....no thanks. It's pretty shitty as it is for the "general public" in just about every service I've seen it being used, unless you use a very controlled tone and restricted vocabulary.

Again, something that works well only in a military environment, not in a civilian setting where it would have to deal with the accent and grammatical deficiencies of every chimp.


YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG

A civilian setting would improve faster than a military one because of the massive sample size (see: crowdsourcing.)

Anyway, if driverless cars mean less fucking old people, women, and bad drivers shitting up the roads, then YES PLEASE

/E I don't want to sound like a broken record, but voice recognition has gone from bad to "good enough". Stuff like Watson and Siri. It's certainly at the level of "Take me to the 7/11" or "Take me home."

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Mr. T said:

A civilian setting would improve faster than a military one because of the massive sample size (see: crowdsourcing.)


Improve by itself? Not unless some marketroid felt that it's worth pouring some billion dollars into it so that a coke vending machine can understand even the last hillbilly's accent.

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By phoning home to some gigantic data center dude... I think you should read about some technology from this decade ;-)

I think your second statement is misleading. Why would a vending machine be voice activated anyway? We are talking about cars.

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