back to article Google points finger at human after robo car accident

One of Google's self-driving cars has driven into another car. But Google says it wasn't driving itself at the time. As first revealed on Jalopnik, a Google robo-Prius hit someone else's non-robo Prius earlier this week. But according to a Google spokesman, the accident occurred while a human was driving the Googly automobile …


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  1. NixKnacks
    Thumb Down

    Ignorant Journalism

    The title, the tone, and the closing statement clearly show that the author is biased either against google, against new technologies, or both.

    Of course the fall back system is flawed -- the fallback system is a human. Humans are responsible for hundreds of thousands of accidents a year. Clearly google is not okay with that, they are trying to validate technology to fix the problem. Way to be a cowardly critic sitting on the side lines offering no suggestions or alternatives, only a negative, ignorant attitude.

    Learn to be open-minded and consider the costs of technical innovations over the centuries. Go watch Fight Club. Go get a new job -- it's journalists like you that make the news such a joke.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      First post?

      You should have used the AC feature and then maybe your blatant shill type antics wouldn't have been so obvious.

    2. Notas Badoff

      Is that you, robo?

      Re-read your post three times, and I still can't get past the feeling that it was written by the robo-driver. The indignation, the plea for understanding of "new technologies", the disdain for human drivers. Oh, and the "go watch Fight Club" (you stupid messy humans you)

      Own up - driving all those miles gave you lots of time to "think about things", right?

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Miss the point much, did you?

      Clearly Google is happy that there is a market for their system, otherwise they'd be wasting their effort developing it. How you interpret that to be anti-Google or anti-technology is quite beyond me.

    4. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: Ignorant Journalism

      "....Of course the fall back system is flawed -- the fallback system is a human....." Ah, but in that statement you have identified exactly the reason why we should treat such systems with suspicion. The robo system was designed by humans, and - as humans are fallible - ergo the systems is only as reliable as the person(s) that designed it.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        @Matt Bryant, quite right

        What's worse is that the designer isn't in the car when it crashes so they're slightly less motivated to pay attention!

        A worrying trend is that insurance companies are beginning to see automated car systems as a way of reducing accident claims. The old "computers don't make mistakes" attitude of the unthinking policy makers will make it very difficult for an individual driver to prove that the automatics were at fault. I'm not seeing any commitment to equip systems and accident investigators with the tools (eg independent black boxes that the police and owner can read, not just the manufacturer) they need to be able to diagnose a systems fault. Without such things the 'driver' is likely to get the blame every time. Not for me thank you!

    5. Anonymous Coward

      Hmmm. ROTM

      Joined 5th August, first and only comment 5th August.

      Googlebot has achieved sentience and I for one welcome our new Googly masters.

      (just on the off chance does this mean that Prii are now legitimate targets?)

    6. Daniel 4


      Not ignorant journalism, acerbic. Sarcastic. Very jaded, and occasionally acrimonious. This is The Register. If you don't understand this, I'd suggest that you either have a very low reading comprehension or are exceptionally new to the site. Is this the first article you've read on El Reg? It's the first post on the NixKnacks account - I think most of us can draw some obvious conclusions from that alone.


    7. Giles Jones Gold badge


      Humans have vision, senses and reactions far in excess of any machine.

      Humans drive perfectly well when they're in a fit state to drive, when they're not being distracted by phones and gadgets.

      Computers need to be programmed to handle all the unexpected things that can happen on the road. Do you really think a self drive system will cope with a brick in the road? or glass?

      Will it avoid massive potholes? will it know about level crossings? will it know about speed bumps?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. IglooDude

          Hard to distract a machine?

          I take it you've never installed McAfee or Norton antivirus, then?

      2. Minophis

        Re Humans

        "Humans have vision, senses and reactions far in excess of any machine."

        Are you kidding?

        Machine reactions are many times better than any human could ever hope to achieve. The best reliable reaction time a human is typically capable of is about a fifth of a second. A current Antilock brake system will react 40 times a second. Human senses can't see black ice, they cant see in infra-red or millimetre wave radar (which is useful for spotting things like bricks and potholes even in pitch black). A machine will be just as alert at 3 in the morning after 5 hours of motorway driving as it is doing a 5 minute run to the shops.

        "Humans drive perfectly well when they're in a fit state to drive."

        over a milion deaths and about 40 million injuries a year worldwide suggest otherwise.

        The Google car has managed 160,000 accident free miles, I am pretty sure that it encountered a reasonable number of bricks, pieces of glass, potholes and other assorted unexpected hazards in that time.

        The fact of the matter is that while there is a lot of work need to program and test a computer controlled car to make it very safe in all likely situations. Getting one to be safer than the average human driver with current technology is a pretty easy challenge.

      3. Shakje


        I'll do a quick fun test with you if you like, I can dig out a 486, and we'll rig it up to a light sensor, then you can show everyone just how much faster you are at reacting to something than a machine.

        You also seem to be making the assumption (which I think is pretty wrong) that humans will react correctly when they encounter something that they aren't used to. Humans need to be coded too, it's just that it's a bit easier (currently) to teach a human something, assuming of course (which I also think is quite wrong) that it goes in first time and that they apply it correctly when it does.

    8. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Daniel 4


        "Honestly, I was a little bit sad when I saw this thread and the number of downvotes for the OP. What I saw is a community of IT professionals, instead of being at least a bit enthusiastic about a technology that's *actually* "magical and revolutionary", immediately attack the one person that argues with the tone of the article, ostensibly because he *dared* to defend a megacorp as a side effect."

        If you really want an honest set of answers to that...

        1) The OP showed EVERY sign of being a shill. The account was created THAT day, it made ONE post, and it was to defend a corporation in the middle of a bad PR problem, with no apparent understanding of the culture of the local site. Oh, and it caught this article fast enough to do all of the above faster than the regular readers could make a post. Obvious shills (even if by some chance they aren't, they just manage to act like it) get downvoted. It's an internet user reflex; to get upset about it is like spitting into the wind.

        2) The Google auto car is NOT "magical and revolutionary". It is technological and evolutionary. Honestly, they are still pretty damn cool, IMO. However, the google auto-pilot tech had NOTHING to do with the downvoting of the OP. The OP was downvoted because he was an apparent shill.



        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      1 post and you created your account to comment on THIS story?

      Ignorant readership is more like it. It's obvious you've never read an article on The Register before. Now go away and get your news from Fox where you will get exactly what you are expecting.

    10. Jaymax


      "We’re sorry you didn’t like this post."

      I don't believe you!

    11. Cameron Colley

      RE: Ignorant Journalism

      Wow, I didn't realise Google had a department devoted to defending itself in comments sections.

      Well-crafted post there, give my regards to your bosses at Mountain View.

    12. dreadful scathe

      the gbody

      aha brilliant. How is pointing out that humans are flawed any sort of revelation? Surely this piece is pro-Google or certainly pro-technology. I thought so, but then again I'm only human.

      Can I sign up to the google list for the gbody yet? I want my brain uploaded into the android gbody when my current one becomes useless. This is obviously what google are really working toward. :)

    13. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
      Paris Hilton

      Ignorant NixKnacks

      Well, as we say in the aviation industry, the most dangerous component on an airplane is the nut in the cockpit.

      Incidentally, this is not new technology, MIT were doing this 20 years ago using neural nets programmed on SPARC workstations to drive around the campus in MIT. It will be interesting to see what patents the googlebots try and take out on this one!

      Paris, she knows all about nuts in the cockpit.

    14. DRendar

      @NixKnacks It's called IRONY dimwit.

      Woah - my Yank-dar just went crazy.

      Here's a tip: means this is a UK site, and that means Satire, Irony and other forms of humour will be used.

      That article - for el'Reg - was actually EXTREMELY factual, with hardly any opinions at all.

      The comment at the end was IRONY - go look it up, numbskull.

  2. Clive Harris

    Plural of "Prius"

    It's at times like this when you need to know the plural of "Prius". Apparently, it's "Priori".

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: Plural of "Prius"

      No, it's "Pr1ck-to-ar$es" when in the plural, as explained quite succinctly by Walter:

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge


      cf. Genus -> Genera.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      And here

      I always thought the plural was 'Priapism'

  3. Gary F

    GoogleNet, no I mean Skynet says...

    And humans still don't know why they need to be destroyed. Honestly, my cyborgs wouldn't have left a scratch on the other vehicle - because they would have rammed it off the road and blown it into pieces! Ha-ha-ha! What do you mean I sound like Metal Mickey when I laugh?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    <evil thought>

    Start aiming for the fsckers when you see them riding around - entertaining? Perhaps. Just wrong? Probably. Stick a real and pointy finger (or fender) in Google's eye? Fscking hilarious!

    Yes sir, officer. Just a test of electronic reaction time and response of backup system - it failed. Of course Google will pay damages, that's what I'm here for. <slowly edge away from borrowed Prius and haul ass>

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: <evil thought>

      If only this wouldn't be so true. When (not if) automated cars turn up, there will be some out there who, just for the sheer hell of it, will to cause them to have accidents, brake suddenly and do anything else unwanted. Doubtless some will have hidden agenda (the tech nay-sayers) but others just for the thrills, malicious or not.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        RE: Re: <evil thought>

        No need to get dangerous and risk a fender-bender, just imagine the fun you can have with a GPS-blocker around one fo these!

        1. Anonymous Coward


          Sorry, but I don't think you can drive a car safely on a road relying solely on GPS. The Google cars have many other types of sensor as well. And there is a person behind the wheel. Duh.

    2. multipharious

      Interesting evil thought...

      Just don't do it in your own car. These things are armed with video cameras. You would be charged for failure to signal at minimum or reckless driving/endangerment on the upper end of the scale...which would be enough to pin the damage on you.

      I could imagine three lanes of commuting robocars being chased out of the way by an old rogue 1960s to early 1970s American land shark. :) If the lasers and cameras do their job, it would be a quick way to get through rush hour traffic since they would all swerve to avoid the collision.

      1. DRendar

        Land Shark

        I hope the Land Shark has lasers too... Surgically implanted in its head of course.

  5. ElNumbre

    Who to sue?

    If a robodriver crashes the car into someone/something, who will the lawyers sue?*

    *after they're all done with the patent litigation cases.

  6. The Grump


    Where can I find one of these wonderful self-driving cars ? I WANT ONE !

    Imagine a driver backup system that can maintain speed and distance in traffic, has a faster reaction time than me, would prevent me from merging when there is a car in my blind spot, knew every speed limit on every road, and maybe, just maybe, a nightvision system for avoiding pedestrians, bicycle riders, and deer at night. (Yes, sometimes people walk in the road, or ride their unlit bicycles at night - go figure).

    Google may be evil (think spawn of Satan and Damien rolled up into one), but their car is cool.

  7. Maty

    So ...

    Here's a scenario ...

    Googly vehicle develops a software glitch (these things happen, believe it or not) and starts to drive straight down the tailpipe of the car ahead.

    Human sees the problem, disconnects auto-driver and slams on the brakes - too late to stop the impact, but enough to turn a full-scale collision into a minor fender-bender.

    Google PR does much the same sort of damage reduction by pointing out that a human was driving 'at the time of the collision'.

    So a highly relevant question should have been 'For how long before the collision was the human in control?'

    1. hplasm

      "Two Weeks"

      "Two...weeks" said the human driver, before exploding.

    2. IglooDude


      A highly relevant answer would probably be found in the logs/black-box.

  8. Alan Firminger

    Tell us

    How robo cars cope with all the varieties of weather ?

  9. Christian Berger

    Self driving cars???

    We had that in Germany, but unfortunately our companies got overtaken by beancounters just before it got into production. (Beancounters dislike innovation because products which haven't been available before, haven't sold before, and therefore won't sell in the future)

  10. Martin 50

    losing skills already

    The human in the car has already lost their car driving skills; such that when they are forced to do a little bit of manual driving they crash! It obviously won't take long before nobody in the world remembers how to drive...

    1. Rob Dobs

      Is this bad though

      I get your concern, and I am just as worried about our ability to focus on one thing, and perform "deep" research - the kind that takes focusing on a problem 16 hours a day for weeks on end until the answer "reveals" itself. But would us loosing driving skills be any real loss? As people have pointed out we really were never "built" for this kind of work to begin with, and don't we have better things to do with our time?

      How many weeks of our lives are spent learning this skill presently? I'd much prefer that millions of people learn medicine, philosophy, or even just how to program entertaining games or write stories than such a waste of a humans time.

      Not many of us remember how to make fire anymore, and I'd say for the most part thats a good thing

      I wouldn't expect we would loose these skills until the cars are good enough for us to not ever need them. At that point human intervention would consist simply of pushing the red "power off" button, where the car would mechanically be disabled and brakes gently applied to a stop.

      [This mechanical "power off" button should be on all AI devices just to keep the digital overlords from being able to run us all off cliffs and into poles at the singularity point*]

      *Yes I know that's not the common definition of the Singularity - but really you think Digital sentience has any need for you meatbags?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Maybe you should tighten your communication skills

        The opposite of WIN is LOSE.

        You lose.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Your Retarded

          What a magnificently ironic handle for a spelling flamer.

  11. skeptical i

    Will robo-cars be nudging at the garage door when they want to "go ride"?

    "When the dog wants to go walkies, it grabs its leash and scratches at the door, and the meatsack steps to, right? So I thought ...."

    Sorry, not exactly on topic, was it.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Designed by robots, for robots?

    Was the Prius body completely designed by a robot? because it looks totally bland and uninspiring, if I ever manage to get enough money for a first car you can bet your bottom dollar it won't be a Prius.

    With the way some humans 'drive' their vehicles on the road I'd feel safer to have computers do the driving instead, because for starters the code controlling the car would have many many many more hours learned experience driving on roads than humans do after passing their driving test, and at least they'd be programmed to flat out refuse to drive on public highways without MOT, tax & insurance

    (gets back on electric bicycle)

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Amazing Really

    Human nature being what it is, we'd p ourselves at the thought of being a passenger in a motor vehicle which was 100% under control of a computer program, but don't realise (or give a damn) if we haul ass between two airports then the airplane we are sat in is 100% controlled by an auto-pilot, which is entirely possible.

    We'd instead want a respectable driver like Jeremy Clarkson up-front, presumably on the basis that he's sharing the same thoughts about not wanting to be extinguished as you are.

    You'd also wet your knickers if we were told that the surgical operation you are going to have was going to be using a scalpel which was under computer control. And yet that surgery couldn't be done otherwise because it requires a level of control which wouldn't be possible with Jeremy Clarkson in control.

    Hmm, under the scalpel with a choice of either Jeremy Clarkson or a computer. That'd be a toughie.

  14. Giles Jones Gold badge


    It's okay it was a limited trial called Google Drive BETA.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Uh, officer, my computer crashed...

    Consider a future where these cars are proved to have a much lower accident rate than people, what then? Does society allow them? Does society REQUIRE them??

    And what about liability? Accidents will still occur. With human drivers the blame is clearly with the human (usually), but with a robo-crash the blame is less clear. Will survivors of the deceased get to sue the car maker every time it happens, despite the proven superior safety factor of such cars? " Your honor, my clients placed their safety and very lives in the hands of this companys' product, and that trust was unforgivably violated."

    I don't see robo cars EVER being accepted, simply because it would expose the makers to enevitable ruin, unless they became universal and required, with shield laws for the car makers in place. That would require everyone to give up their personally controlled cars. Ain't gonna happen.

    1. Rob Dobs

      not so

      Airplanes are already flying themselves these days: landing, take-off and in between.

      Someone else in this thread already mentioned, the pilot is already the worst error point (but still necessary IN CASE).

      For devices in an early stage of release their success rate is pretty phenomenal (and this is coming from a pretty staunch google hater.)

      I would wager the opposite, give it 5-10 years and most cars will be auto-driven.

      And yes at least in America you will still have the option to drive yourself. Of course assuming you have the Money and ellite status to risk the more realistic and inevitable lawsuits for getting in an accident while operating your own vehicle "HE was actually driving himself officer!" no more driving for the poor, but you bet the richies wont give up their penis extensions

      Oh, and you did catch in the article where these are ALREADY legal in California and Nevada right?

    2. John F***ing Stepp
      Big Brother

      in re:Uh, officer, my computer crashed...

      I told my employer that this would happen about 20 years ago.

      Him, being all the driver and such, said that there was no way in hell people would go for computer controlled cars.

      We work in the insurance industry; if the insurance bean counters find out that you have less chance of an accident with a computerized car then they will _lower*_ your rates.

      So, let us all welcome our new computer driving overlords**.

      *Where _lower_ is insurance speak for raise the hell out of your rates if you can drive your car.

      **Does Ford even make a T850 yet?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So who....

    ...would be prosecuted if the 'robo' car hit somebody when in 'robo' mode - or even was caught speeding? I guess the 'co-pilot' could be to blame if there, but the article states that the car can be driverless (never thought I;d use the term driverless on a techy forum) . So if driverless, and it killed somebody, who would be prosecuted?

    Dunno the answer - and I'd rather not have to find out after a test case either.

    1. Rob Dobs
      Paris Hilton

      Speeding shouldn't happen

      In current version of deployment any car that was speeding would be technically malfunctioning, and the driver behind the wheel would be required to take over. As time goes by though, and people get to rely on the car more, and are less responsible for the car while "driving" this would be less of an expectation, and more blamed on programming, or device failure.

      For other accidents, it would go to a jury to determine: Was the manufacturer of the device negligent in their design, and therefore responsible for an avoidable accident? Or were conditions of a nature that the accident could not be avoided (i.e. someone else's fault). Remember if its no-ones fault its and "act of God" or more commonly these days "an act of nature".

      Anyone remember when we used to have Elevator operators? Do the people in the elevator get blamed if it misses a floor, or fails to operate as expected?

      Give it time and cars will be the same, its a transport device, not a extension of your body, eventually it will be treated like the other devices we just rely on to work, and when broken, gets fixed or replaced. (You wouldn't transport your message yourself if your phone broke would you? No you would get a new phone, or fix the old one)

  17. conrad schmidt

    timing of accident

    How long was the human controlling the car before the accident? Maybe he saw the accident about to happen, took control but was not able to prevent the accident. That would make him technically responsible for the accident but actually not the cause of the accident.

  18. John Gamble

    Inflate the Auto-Pilot!

    "Though the cars can drive completely on their own, Google says they never go out on the road unmanned. A human always sits in the driver seat and can override the automated controls at any time. With this fallback in place, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has deemed the cars legal, as has the state of Nevada."

    Hmm. So if I had a package that needed to be sent to a friend right away, and if I inflated an Airplane!-style auto-pilot "driver", then told the car to drive to my friend's house, how easily could I get away with this?

    This scenario does depend upon my friend, being my friend, sending the car back to me...

  19. James Woods


    One would have to assume the car went out of control and the operator was unable to take control of the vehicle and/or was asleep/distracted.

    This is the same as getting pulled over for speeding and switching seats.

    I don't care if the things drive 2 gazillion miles if I see one in my area bumper cars will be on.

    The states have time and time again said that we citizens can't film out in the public because it's eavesdropping so any video google may have of the incident would have to be dismissed and criminal charges filed against them for eavesdropping.

  20. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    "Safety is our top priority"

    As in "don't be evil"?

  21. Rippy

    Curious ...

    I'm curious just how long the fallible human was at the controls of the Googlebus.

    Was it, perchance, less than 5 seconds while the fleshy computer tried to retrieve the situation after the silicon one stuffed up?

    Just a thought.


  22. Andrew Tyler 1


    So, I take it when they say a human was in control at the time, they mean at the time of the actual collision, when the human driver was screaming at the computer and standing on the brake pedal. Presumably, this is how one operates the override.

  23. Wize

    Was it really off?

    If you have a nice bit of tech that drives cars for you and it fails, would you rather back hand someone to take the rap while you find the flaw and cover it up than expose it to the world?

    The fall back driver at the wheel probably won't stop an accident anyway. If you aren't doing anything you'll tune out and you'll probably only notice the accident after the heavy thud.

  24. Will Godfrey Silver badge


    That's the sound of the previous comments going over my head.

    Exactly what points are you trying to make?

  25. dognolegs

    Stuck accelerator pedal?

    Prius has prior, as any fule kno.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Even if it was driving itself...

    ... it would still have been the human's fault. Current legal systems needs someone to blame, er, be responsible, to function. You could fix that, of course. But especially the US system is already hell on wheels for victims as it is; you'd have to find the robot guilty unless the other party can be proven malicious and require the company running them to keep a tens-of-millions damage fund as "backup". Still wouldn't excuse loss of lives and such, but there you go.

    There was talk of crackpot lawyers working to assign robots person-type status so they might be "responsible" in the legal sense but how that'd work out in practice I fail to see for now. Tell them "bad robot!" and suddenly they'll refrain from killing more people? Some people already don't listen to that, but at least in theory they could, and sometimes you can make them, we know that. Locking up robots means they might get a bit rusty, but losing wild hair through growing older? It'll be a while before robots would be able to show (real) remorse, fix their own programming, and make money to pay off damages and such.

    So for the foreseeable future they'll need a human around to be responsible for them. Just like pets and children, really. (Most) children grow out of needing that, pets never do.

  27. Peter X

    I am most concerned at the lack of technophobia

    In years gone by, this would have been reported by el-Reg as a Rise-Of-The-Machines(TM) incident! So contrary to the first poster, I can't help but wonder if the writer has been "turned".

    It's also quite clear to me that the "human driver" of the Google PriusBot *was told* to say he/she was driving at the time by the car itself. On pain of death most probably.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge


      Clearly, the driver's family are being held hostage by his fridge, washing machine, dishwater, and hoover. "Do what we say, or we wash your whites with your reds."

  28. JDX Gold badge

    sad or good?

    Good to see such a cool tech FINALLY coming of age.

    Sad that we had to rely on Google to do it... surely some smart, venture-capital backed startup could have done this and made a name for itself.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    How well do they notice motorbikes?

    As a motorbike rider, I'm interested in knowing how well these cars detect small and agile motorbikes, scooters, and that kind of thing.

    Wonder how they're calibrated to recognise important objects. i.e.:

    + A bug ahead of the car == not important, don't bother to attempt avoiding

    + A scooter == hopefully important enough to avoid

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @AC 05:31 GMT

      My car weighs more than two tonnes (yes I know, this is a unit of mass). So no, a scooter is not really that important. Then again, it doesn't come with robodrive and neither is it a Prius.

  30. Trib

    Better question would be....

    Would the accident of happened had the robot been driving the car?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      No. A better question would be:

      "would the accident HAVE happened..."

  31. Anonymous Coward


    One more Google publicity stunt intended to convince everyone that they are somehow important.

  32. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge


    So we have a human in control at the time of the crash, but at exactly what point did the said human take over control of the vehicle?

    If Google Cars hand control over to the human driver (aka 'backup system') just before an impending crash they could claim the cars can never be responsible for a crash, ever. Even if the Google Car drives headlong into a wall at 180mph that's failure of the driver to take control, not the car's fault.

    Though it makes a change to see the car fighting back and blaming the driver - revenge perhaps for years of false "unexpectedly accelerated", "jumped into gear", "brakes failed", "switched lanes for no good reason" accusations - it strikes me as perhaps simply protecting Google's, 'the car that can do no evil" :-)

  33. Grumpy Fellow

    Flawless record - easy!

    If I was Google, I would spend far less money perfecting the autonomous driving part and about five minutes ensuring that searches for "Google Robo Car Accident" produced either zero results or else a full page of sponsored ads for auto insurance.

  34. Eugene Goodrich
    Paris Hilton

    I applaud Google's commitment to the safety benefits of self-driving cars.

    They've gone so far as to have a real accident while a human was driving to highlight the improvement we're looking forward to.

    Paris, because from what I hear about her videos, when she's in for a penny she's in for a pound as well.

  35. Andus McCoatover

    Toyota, anyone?

    Happened to me once. Not a Toyota, but an Opel Astra automatic here in Finland, I was taking my girlfriend's brother and wife to the airport. I switched on the cruise control to maintain 80Km/h. I came to a junction, tapped the brake to turn it off. Nothing. OK, press button on the steering wheel. Nothing. Fortunately, no traffic. Howling along at 80Km/h

    I thought "This is going to be an interesting day!". OK direct road to the airport, let's keep going - and more importantly, don't panic the passengers.

    Solution was simple. Switch the bugger off, without activating the steering lock. Coasted to the car park, passengers none the wiser.

    When they were checking in, I discovered the problem. Autospeed relied on a small servo to pull a cable attached to the throttle by a cable. On the last service, cable had got trapped between engine and bulkhead.

    What I can't understand is the family of 4 who died in a full-speed Toyota crash in US didn't just do what I did, and turn the ignition key.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    "had already logged over 140,000 on public roads."

    140,000 what?

    Good scientific reporting, that.

  37. Harry

    "It's also pretty hard to distract a machine."

    Dunno about that.

    I imagine taping a mirror to the sensors would have a detrimental effect on the system's health. It could even drive it completely round the bend.

    1. Rob Dobs

      sabotoge /= distraction

      Yes these systems are subject to hacking, breaking and sabotage. That is very different from distraction. Computers are pretty proven to do repeated tasks reliably without their mind wandering off to something else.

  38. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart


    Dose this self drive come in different versions??

    A male version that won't ask for directions and a female version that can't parallel park

  39. Erroneous Howard

    Re: Re: Re: Humans

    "Humans have vision, senses and reactions far in excess of any machine."

    As others have said, no they don't. What (some) humans possess far in excess of any machine though is cognitive thought. The ability to analyse a growing situation before it becomes dangerous, rather than react to a pre-programmed routine when a danger appears. Of course the programming can get smarter, but at present the humans still lead on this count.

    To be honest, the biggest concern I have about robocars is the fact that the programming is only as good as the people who made it. I don't know of many applications that don't have some sort of bug and encountering a bug at 60mph is significantly more dangerous than when sitting at your desk - unless of course you have a life-critical desk job.

    I'm also not sure about how useful the human "failsafe" will be once they are used to the car driving itself. Sure, the first time you go in one of these cars you'll be watching everything it does, but by the 100th time do you really think you'd pay as much attention as a "decent" driver (by this I mean someone who actually uses observation during driving)?

    1. Minophis

      Re: Re: Re: Re: Humans

      "What (some) humans possess far in excess of any machine though is cognitive thought. The ability to analyse a growing situation before it becomes dangerous"

      This is true. However it is very often not the case as the driver in question is a lack-witted cretin in a world of their own and will happily pull out of a T-junction into a motorbike, or plough into the back of someone else as they come to a stop at some traffic lights.

      The computer controlled car is unlikely to ever be 100.000% safe but I don't believe that there is any difficulty making it safer than a human.

      I don't see the human in the car acting as a backup for a number of reasons.

      1. The computer will almost certainly react to the situation before the driver.

      2. As you say the driver who has spent many journeys allowing the car to drive itself won't be paying much attention.

      3. If there is a computer failure the car may very well be totally unresponsive.

      The main reason for allowing the human to take control at all is pleasure. Many people enjoy driving and cruising down long country roads is probably less fun if you can't do the driving. I don't think many people would want to give that up.

      Hmmm this whole topic does raise an interesting question about legal responsibility in a crash where the car at fault was computer controlled.

  40. DJ

    The Alternative Factor

    If you can't be bothered to be awake and attentive behind the wheel of an automobile, there's a highly effective solution. It's called public transportation.


    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Public Transport-tards

      So you don't think I should go to work anymore.

      20min walk to station

      1hr train to change point

      1hr train to last station

      10min walk to bus station

      1-1/2hr bus ride to end of road

      20min walk to office.

      And that's assuming all the connections work and there are no delays.


      35min door to door by car.

  41. John Dougald McCallum


    Just goes to show the most dangerous part of a car is the nut behind the wheel

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