back to article Google promises autonomous cars for all within five years

Sergey Brin is promising Google's self-driving cars will be available for everyone within five years, and says that his company's current fleet of vehicles has managed to drive 50,000 miles without humans having to take the wheel. Google has over 300,000 miles of automated-driving testing under its belt already, he said, and …

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  1. Thorne

    Book me up. I want one except in Australia, it will take the retards in government twenty years after the rest of the word has them to approve them.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This brings a new meaning to...

    ...are you feeling lucky?

    1. Thorne

      Re: This brings a new meaning to...

      "...are you feeling lucky?"

      Every time you get into a car (or even out of bed for that matter), it's a question of feeling lucky.

      Is the dude in front of me an old geezer with the vision of a mole and the reactions of cheese? Are they drunk? on drugs? morons? hoons?

      Is there wild animals about to leap out in front? Did I just drive over a nail? Are the kids fighting on the back seat? Did my phone just ring?

      The real question is of the risk. 90% of accidents are caused by humans. Can a robot with perfect reflexes, perfect attention and who can see 360 degrees as well as in the dark do a worse job than human drivers?

      There will still be accidents and sometimes the robot will be at fault and sometimes people will die but people are dying right now anyway and less people will die with self drive vehicles.

      The only real threat from self drive cars is to the coffers of the roadside tax collectors

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This brings a new meaning to...

        Every time you get into a car (or even out of bed for that matter), it's a question of feeling lucky.

        I drive every day on one of the most dangerous stretches of road in Australia. It's almost entirely single carriageway with very few overtaking lanes. Much of it is atop of three metre high embankments to avoid flooding. Armco barriers are unknown. It's filled with psychopath truck drivers that don't have a tachograph and consequently drive stupid hours, out of state holiday makers towing tin snails behind them, local yokels that wouldn't survive ten minutes in London, very large clueless animals that randomly wander out in front of you, no equivalent to an MOT for any vehicles and yet somehow I survive. Add a vehicular Blue Screen of Death to that list and I may have second thoughts.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: This brings a new meaning to...

          Add one small risk, take out several bigger ones - the net effect is positive.

        2. hplasm
          Happy

          Re: This brings a new meaning to...

          Don't let Windows drive- solved.

        3. Waspy
          Facepalm

          Re: This brings a new meaning to...

          Typical human exaggeration of skill, chance and certainties. Statistically, you and every other meatbag on the planet are terrible drivers.

          And it's not exactly going to be a Windows box running in the backseat, it will be a solid, road-tested-to-fuck embedded system with chips that are at least 3 generations behind and selected for proven reliability. Look at the aviation industry...they are still using old Pentiums because they have been used day, day out for years in other applications, the software will have been tested and logged for years with the hardware and then finally approved - the systems are known inside out. Plane crashes are rare. Systems and autopilot malfunctions are even rarer. Almost all crashes are down to human error. And so it goes with the upcoming road going 'autopilots'.

        4. Winkypop Silver badge
          Alert

          Re: This brings a new meaning to...

          Bruce Hwy much?

        5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: This brings a new meaning to...

          Add a vehicular Blue Screen of Death to that list and I may have second thoughts.

          This is Google we are talking about. It probably runs Android.

          Thanks, but I've already got my coat <exit stage left in a Rush>

        6. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This brings a new meaning to...

          "I drive every day [....]"

          Funny how it's ALWAYS the OTHER driver who's at fault/an idiot/etc.

          I for one I'm an atrocious driver and can't wait until the car drives for me so I can free up my little mind to worry about strategic decision-making.

      2. Derezed
        Headmaster

        Da

        "...and less people will die with self drive vehicles."

        Fewer people will die.

        Also, Google navigation sent me into the middle of a forest the other day on farm tracks. It was only after zooming in to the max that I saw my destination and where Google had put me had quite a few contour lines between it...I should have realised as the roads went from M to A to B to bridle path...hum.

        1. censored

          Re: Da

          It doesn't work by following navigation - GPS is nothing like accurate enough.

          It compiles Street View, GPS, previous tracks, a video archive, radar and live video feeds to do several things.

          1. It knows roughly where you are thanks to GPS

          2. It compares where you look like you are from the video to make the GPS more accurate

          3. It compares previously driven tracks with yours

          4. It has a 3D 'memory' of the area, so can identify things that aren't usually there: be they cars in front or pedestrians waiting to cross

          5. It senses distance to other objects and adjusts speed accordingly.

          6. Ideally it would be talking to nearby vehicles and they'd all coordinate responses, but that's not going to happen for a long while.

      3. Waspy
        Thumb Up

        Re: This brings a new meaning to...

        Anyone with have a critically-thinking brain can see the safety inherent in driverless cars...but it just takes one robot car while the technology is in its infancy to set the unsure middle mass against it. I'm sure it will be fine up until people accept these things and everyone buys them in droves (they will be super safe after all), but a fatal crash will occur at some point and the question comes over culpability; who is responsible, the vehicle occupant? The manufacturer? The software designer? The chip makers? I for one welcome our new driverless overlords, but these are serious questions that will need to be considered sooner rather than later.

        Also, don't expect an easy ride (he he) from taxi drivers either.

        1. Esskay
          Flame

          Re: This brings a new meaning to...

          My biggest issue is not whether the robot will "know" when there's something wrong - it's whether it will know when something is *likely* to go wrong.

          Humans, for all their issues, and vulnerabilities, and flaws, are good at recognising patterns - as thorne said, there's an element of not knowing what the people around us on the road are doing - but we can look at driving styles, techniques, driver behaviour - hell, even the type of car - and make a lot of judgements about how the driver will react before we even start to have a problem. And we can do that extremely quickly, for all the cars on the road around us. That sort of recognition requires a huge amount of computing power, and some pretty amazing AI in order for a machine to do it effectively.

          Eg. If I'm driving along and come up to an old clapped out commodore - a P plate on the back, tyre rubber sprayed over the rear guards, mismatched wheels, a passenger in the front seat with his feet out the window and the stereo blaring, I can make judgements about how he will react if I try and overtake. I know he might not be paying full attention to the road, and that he may make poor decisions, sudden lane changes without indicating, etc. A computer will require massive amounts of power to see these same things - assuming a meatbag has told the computer to look for these issues at all.

          The biggest risk IMO is that it'll probably be the government who decides what the autonomous car needs to "see", and in their opinion as long as it stays 5km/h below the limit no-one will ever die. Which will, presumably, be proved wrong immediately and horrifically. Then we'll never see autonomous cars on Aussie roads ever again, because it will, inevitably, be everyone's fault except the government regulators...

      4. Mike Flugennock

        Re: This brings a new meaning to...

        ...Can a robot with perfect reflexes, perfect attention and who can see 360 degrees as well as in the dark do a worse job than human drivers?

        Can a robot with moving parts that break or wear out, programmed by notoriously-fallible humans do a worse job than human drivers?

        There, fixed it for you.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: This brings a new meaning to...

          >>Can a robot with moving parts that break or wear out, programmed by notoriously-fallible humans do a worse job than human drivers?

          Your car is already a 'robot' controlled by software. If the software was buggy you might find things like brakes didn't work.

          1. piran

            Re: This brings a new meaning to...

            Your car is NOT already a 'robot' controlled by software... some of the operations of its systems are controlled by a robot ie engine management, anti-skid assisted braking systems, seatbelt tightening, radiator water flow, climate control air conditioning etc. None of the basic things YOU need to do say for passing your driving test and conducting yourself safely along the public highway are ALREADY done by a 'robot'. Automatic systems do not constitute the full autonomy being suggested.

  3. Mike Echo
    Joke

    A google car, using google maps, automatically drives you to a google advertised business where you can spend money from your google wallet. Sounds perfectly fine to me.

    1. Thorne
      Gimp

      Google Car

      Better than the iCar using Apple maps....... God only knows where you'll end up or if it even has a road.

      On the bright side more Fanbois will drown....

      1. Pedigree-Pete
        Pint

        Re: Google Car

        Don't see a problemj with taht. If you want to drive to iMaps Paris, it'll get you there. Only it'll be Paris, Texas :)

        1. Martin Budden Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Google Car @ Pedigree-Pete

          So will I be able to park my pink cadillac in Paris?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      don't forget

      don't forget the cameras and mikes inside to monitor your behaviour, to better understand how the meat in the can behaves on a long trip, what reaction this or that advert has on them... they turn away, trying to look at another window advert? / getting green at watching the same advert? / putting a black bag over his/her head? / etc.

      all perfectly anonymised results, being fed to the google central and carefully selected business partners (minus the usual statutory disclaimers about gov agencies, spooks, local council, insurance companies, etc. And tax authorities, in case you happen to be sniggering at how you managed to hide this little extra income.

      but no, this would NEVER happen, nosir. Like they said just over 120 years ago humans will NEVER be able to fly. They still can't, right?

  4. johnnytruant

    this is why I like Google

    OK, there's a discussion to be had about privacy with email, search results, tracking cookies and so on. Personally, I trust them enough. Definitely not entirely, certainly not without caveats and care - but enough that I can live with them.

    But what I really like about Google is they're not afraid to try for the big stuff. Project Glass might be bobbins, it might be awesome, it might never even work at all - but it takes guts to take a punt on something like that. Imaging significant amounts of the planet from space down to street level is a staggering task to even contemplate, let alone actually do (albeit imperfectly, but it's still impressive). Now there's not-far-from-commercially available self-driving vehicles. ROBOT FRICKIN' CARS. Cars you can get into and say "take me home" and they ACTUALLY DO.

    I have come, with time, to accept that the promised future of hoverboards and replicators is unlikely to occur, but I'll settle for a self-driving car and a wearable AR device. Probably with AdBlock+ installed, mind you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: this is why I like Google

      > Probably with AdBlock+ installed, mind you.

      Up vote specificially for that. :D

      1. mhenriday
        Thumb Up

        Re: this is why I like Google

        Kudos to Wladimir Palant !...

        Henri

  5. Orv Silver badge

    If these really do appear in 2015, I bet by 2045 it will be illegal to drive a car manually except on a closed course. People will shake their heads at the idea that unreliable, inattentive meatbags ever piloted objects traveling at 70 mph.

  6. DanceMan
    Alert

    Five years?

    No need to wait. We have driverless cars now, with airheads behind the wheel staring down at their smartphones.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Five years? They're on crack

    Maybe it'll be able to drive your car for you on simple roads like interstate highways, but navigating city streets? Google Maps may be way better than Apple Maps, but they still contain enough errors that you don't want your car following their instructions and driving you into a cornfield or a creek.

    How the hell is it going to deal with construction zones? Sometimes even I, a human with a lot more vision recognition ability than even Google can muster, has to slow down and think about exactly where the hell the high school dropout who placed the cones and signs is trying to tell me to drive.

    Nevermind driving in rain, snow, or fog. And I'm only thinking about the US. Traffic lights and stop signs make for pretty simple intersections. Having a computer navigate a complex roundabout seems a lot more difficult. The narrow roads in some areas of the UK will present big problems too. Sometimes the only way two cars can pass without busting mirrors or worse is to drag the side of one or both vehicles in the hedges (I've always wondered if that's where the expression "hedging your bets" originated) Is a Google driven car going to be willing to hit a few hedges without tripping its collision avoidance? Or will it stop in the middle of the road and force its human to take over?

    I think these problems can eventually be solved, but if overzealous idiots try to push this technology out to the general public before it is REALLY ready, all they'll do is harden a public perception that it is dangerous and/or worthless and should be banned and avoided, and set back actual availability by a couple decades.

    1. Thorne

      Re: Five years? They're on crack

      They've already clocked up thousands of miles, in every weather conditions and traffic conditions with only one accident recorded which was caused by a human in the other car rear ending them at the lights.

      How do you prove them safe to drive on the road without getting them on the road?

      That said I think they must be on crack to think they'll be on the road in five years. The effort to get laws changed to allow self drive cars will take at least twice as long as that. It's not a technical issue but a bureaucratic issue. New laws written, new standards drafted, new testing regimes and a mountain of red tape that will dwarf most soverign nations, then multiply that by every country you want to sell them into cause their all different.

      If that doesn't kill off self drive vehicles, nothing will.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Five years? They're on crack

        Computers aren't good at handling exceptions. If the car has a fault or flat tyre is it really going to know?

        1. DJ Smiley
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: Five years? They're on crack

          lol you think modern cars don't already know these things?

          Modern cars already monitor everything from tire pressure to the temperature outside to make sure the windscreen doesn't mist up.

    2. S4qFBxkFFg
      Terminator

      Re: Five years? They're on crack

      "How the hell is it going to deal with construction zones? Sometimes even I, a human with a lot more vision recognition ability than even Google can muster, has to slow down and think about exactly where the hell the high school dropout who placed the cones and signs is trying to tell me to drive."

      Simples, the "high school dropout", and every other human, will be banned from erecting any sort of barrier on the roads. After all, there'll be construction robots that can do it correctly, in a way the robot cars will understand.

    3. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Five years? They're on crack

      I do love every time we have a story on auto-cars we get comments along the lines of "it won't handle a junction or something unexpected".

      Really, you seriously don't think they thought of those things? You think they're pushing to put these into mass production but didn't do any testing apart from on quiet dual carriageways? Come on get serious, they are already legal in a couple of states.

      You massively underestimate the state of modern computing.

      1. Graham Marsden

        Re: Five years? They're on crack

        "You think they're pushing to put these into mass production but didn't do any testing apart from on quiet dual carriageways?"

        No, but some American roads are vastly different from some British roads

        .How do you think one of these would cope with a "Single Track Road with Passing Places"?

        What about those "Unsuitable for HGVs" roads that idiots still drive lorries down because that's where their Sat Nav said to go?

        Can the computers read "Road Closed, Diversion" signs?

        If the navigation data is wrong, will the computers be able to cope with the changes?

        Don't get me wrong, I do like the idea of these vehicles and I think they're excellent for urban/ motorway driving etc, however there's still a lot that needs to be taken into consideration before they're ready for a world-wide roll out.

        1. Lord Voldemortgage

          Re: Five years? They're on crack

          All these objections are valid difficulties the system would have to deal with (eventually).

          But they are minor problems once you've got the thing able to drive itself - plenty of solutions for all these scenarios spring to even my dulled mind.

          -

          The real problem for this is going to come when the first robot car kills someone (or at least the first person is killed in an incident involving a robot car) - even if the overall safety record is vastly superior there will be a hell of a fuss and politicians tend to take the easy way out in these situations and bow to the noisy protests.

        2. JDX Gold badge

          @Graham

          You've been watching too much TV. the USA might on average have wider roads but they still have narrow 1-lane roads and busy cities... if a car can self-drive in a city then that's pretty much the ultimate test.

          Having good maps is all well and good but people don't need that. Just two squishy eyeballs is all we need to navigate these fiendishly difficult tasks.

          Sure on a 1-track road with passing places it will be SAFE - it will not drive into the oncoming car but will slow to a safe stop. But it MIGHT not know what to do, however then you would simply take over; nobody is suggesting these are not going to allow human intervention.

          So I imagine the car would safely slow to a halt and then you sort it out until the other guy stops honking at you.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Five years? They're on crack

        I do love every time we have a story on auto-cars we get comments along the lines of "it won't handle a junction or something unexpected".

        Sure, it'll handle 99.9% of everything it runs into. It's that 0.1% that humans will deal with better in many cases.

        Look, I have faith that computer driven cars can be much safer than human driven cars. They don't get distracted, bored, angry, sleepy, drunk, etc. which account for the bulk of accidents. They will mostly avoid the accidents that humans get into. However, they'll also get into some accidents most humans WON'T, because of that tiny percentage of things it won't handle correctly that for humans is not that hard. That's going to be their achilles heel.

        I think cars will be computer driven with a human required to be in the driver's seat and required to be ready to take over at a moment's notice the second the computer becomes uncertain of what it should do for well over a decade before we can sleep in the back seat while the car drives us home.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. Pedigree-Pete
      Pint

      Re: Five years? They're on crack

      Thanks Doug, you just reminded me Happy 40th Birthday Swindons "magic" Roundabout.

  8. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    More reading time

    If I am going somewhere with a railway station or a good bus service I take that because it is so hard to read a book while driving. I like the idea of self driving cars, but I would want it dual control with me in charge for years before I have the nerve to read a book while a machine drives. The obvious way to start earning my confidence is a video showing the camera's view of the road marked up with the machine's idea of what it thinks is outside.

    I live near a narrow windy road. The speed selected by locals depends on the depth of the pot holes hidden around the next corner. Anyone know if Google can drive like a local? This includes remembering refuse collection day and if the hedges look really neat, dodging the tractor in the middle of the road with a hedge cutter.

    1. QuinnDexter

      Re: More reading time

      Perhaps with that mindset we should ban anyone who is not local from driving on roads.

      Perhaps the system will be smarter than a mindless automaton who follows direction like some meatsacks do wtih TomTom and end up in the sea. Perhaps if you bought one it would be able to register the shock of the first time it goes over a pot-hole and knows where it is for future use. Just like a local would...

  9. Goa T. Herds
    Thumb Down

    You bumped into me...

    No, I didn't.

    ... I'm gonna sue you.

    Sorry mate, I wasn't at the wheel...

    1. Lord Voldemortgage

      Re: You bumped into me...

      At least in the case of two robot cars there would be a lot of data available to help with the post-prang decision making.

  10. mfritz0
    Happy

    Now to get rid of the need for gas.

    If they make the car run on water, it would be perfect.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Now to get rid of the need for gas.

      Should be easy for the goo-tards. They already run on hot air ...

    2. CCCP

      Re: Now to get rid of the need for gas.

      You have gas powered cars? How interesting. Ours mainly run on petrol and diesel. Oh wait...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Not long until there is a whole generation who has never driven a car.

    If they work out well safety-wise, manual driving might be forbidden except in emergencies.

    No one with driving skills is going to kill motor-racing stone dead rather abruptly!

    Private ownership of cars might give way to phone-app hiring of cars by required seating or carrying capacity, they drive to you, Taxi drivers aren't going to be happy.

    Top Gear will be nothing like we know it... O.K that might be a good thing.

    Where are my car keys? You don't need them Grandad!

    1. dotdavid

      "No one with driving skills is going to kill motor-racing stone dead rather abruptly!"

      I agree with your other points, but not this one.

      Has horse racing stopped because horses are no longer the primary means of long-distance travel in the UK? Has sailing stopped because sailing ships are no longer the dominant kind of sea vessels?

    2. Bill B

      I am not sure why commentators here assume that a driverless car is wholly driverless .. that it's all or nothing. Think about cruise control .. useful in certain circumstances, not in others. Or automatic gearboxes .. many of these have a semi manual override now.

      In the same way i would expect a driverless car could be used on a motorway (freeway for the colonials) but switched to manual 'town and country' driving when required.

      For long distance driving this would be a god-send .. I look forward to it happening.

  12. Pen-y-gors

    Maybe other causes?

    Interesting:

    USA 40,000 deaths, population 314 million

    UK: under 2000 deaths, population 62 million.

    How does the USA manage to have five times the rate of road deaths as the UK, given that the UK is such a crowded little island? Perhaps the US should be looking for some low-tech measures to reduce the casualty figures before worrying about driverless cars - or is the right to kill people with a car enshrined in the US Constitution along with the right to kill people with automatic weapons?

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Maybe other causes?

      It's more a question of miles driven. The UK with gas prices at about a weeks wages per liter makes people a bit more thoughtful before they get in the car and drive 100 miles. In the USA with gas priced at McDonald's lunch per tankful in cost keeps people on the road.

      Automatic weapons? Anybody that has them usually keeps their mouth shut about it or the FBI, SWAT and a dozen other "official" state security thugs will break in, confiscate the weapons for shipment to the cartel in Mexico, shoot the owner in the head and claim that he made a threatening move. I would make a threatening move if I heard shouting outside my house followed by people smashing in the door at 5am. Somehow, the cops wonder why people present them with so many problems on these raids.

      1. DJ Smiley
        WTF?

        Re: Maybe other causes?

        Yup, its not the fact you can pass the test simply by driving around the block thats the problem of course.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Maybe other causes?

      Year, please? Can you give me a site to catch sight of that cite?

      The "right to kill people" is just plain silly. Regardless of weapon. Knock it off. Just makes you look like an idiot.

      1. Chris Miller

        @Jake: LMG*TFY

        http://www.dft.gov.uk/statistics/releases/reported-road-casualties-gb-main-results-2011/

        http://www.nhtsa.gov/PR/NHTSA-05-11

        US traffic deaths have dropped by 25% over 5 years - so they were well over 40,000 just a few years ago - there's been a few % reduction in miles driven due to the hike in gas prices. The US vehicle-miles figure is 10x higher than the UK's, but (of course) the huge difference in road types makes a straight comparison problematic.

        * Yes, I know you're still using Gopher.

        1. Alpha Tony

          @Chris Miller

          'The US vehicle-miles figure is 10x higher than the UK's, but (of course) the huge difference in road types makes a straight comparison problematic.'

          You're right - Imagine what would happen if they had the corners we have in Blighty - It would be like a demolition derby!

          I'd also be interested to know what percentage of UK road deaths are caused by American tourists encountering roundabouts..

          1. phil 27
            Thumb Up

            Re: @Chris Miller

            Upvoted because the four times I've encountered f**ktards going the wrong way around a roundabout while on my motorbike, its been near a airport, and when I flagged the driver down, they were all americans in hire cars.

            How the hell you manage to go the wrong way when the approach ducts you into the correct direction I do not know...

            I get that sense of pucker now approaching roundabouts near airports...

    3. Colin Wilson 2

      Re: Maybe other causes?

      > How does the USA manage to have five times the rate of road deaths as the UK

      It's because they all drive on the wrong side of the road there!

      1. Chris Hart

        Re: Maybe other causes?

        Not all. Though, in the last few months, there have been several fatal accidents in this area from people driving down the left side of the interstate.... (though, almost universally, alcohol was involved as well)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This would be more interesting if it were being run invented by a advertising company whose main interest is tracking my every step.

    Oh and he looks like a penis in his glasses. If they want those to succeed then need to look cool and not like penis eater eye wear.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If your penis looks like Sergey Brin, the classy thing to do is not to mention it.

  14. Paul J Turner
    Coat

    Future consequences

    Not long until there is a whole generation who has never driven a car.

    If they work out well safety-wise, manual driving might be forbidden except in emergencies.

    No one with driving skills is going to kill motor-racing stone dead rather abruptly!

    Top Gear will be nothing like we know it... O.K that might be a good thing.

    Where are my car keys? You don't need them Grandad!

  15. praos

    praos

    As usually, what is dropped out is the paradigm shift. The expected result of this robotization is not lazy driver but a robot taxi. With cars tailored to your momentary needs (single seaters, familly sedans, city cars, roadsters, sermis) coming on demand, at a bargain price, why own a car at all? And then, for cars operating 24/7, the cost of electron-ware is not so important. It goes without saying that in this scheme of things EVs will be preffered.

    1. conel
      Thumb Up

      Re: praos

      Roughly my thoughts as well. For me, the interesting thing is that it will take a start-up or a company like Google (no interest in the automotive industry) to make the change.

      Once driverless cars are common people in general won't own private cars (except maybe toys for wealthy people). People will instead use automated taxi like services. So we'll end up with lots of black cab like cars on the roads which will be commercial vehicles so will be designed for long lives and high reliability.

      In this scenario there will be far fewer cars manufactured per annum to do the same work as the vast majority of a car's time is currently spent doing nothing so it will take far fewer automated cars to replace them. These new cars will be quite utilitarian so it's hard to see where the market for high end motors will be.

      The long and the short of it is the current automotive industry is not going to embrace automated motoring.

      1. Thorne
        Terminator

        Re: praos

        Totally wrong!

        There will be more cars owned cause nobody want to drive in a taxi where some drunk puked up and so on.

        Self drive means suddenly people who can't drive will now be able to use a car. Dad's car, mum's car and the kids have one too.

        The real improvement will be that they will be able to drive faster and closer together to handle more traffic on the same roads

        1. Andy Gates
          Thumb Up

          Re: praos

          Embrace the JohnnyCab. Embrace the "report this cab as pukey" button on your JohnnyCab app, so it can drive itself to the depot for a scrub down while it recharges. Embrace the future!

          Uber will be all over this. Betcha.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: praos

        Once driverless cars are common people in general won't own private cars (except maybe toys for wealthy people). People will instead use automated taxi like services.

        That might be the case in urban areas, but it's unlikely in the suburbs - too much latency due to low population density - and a complete non-starter in rural areas.

  16. Paul J Turner
    Coat

    Future consequences

    Not long until there is a whole generation who has never driven a car. If they work out well safety-wise, manual driving might be forbidden except in emergencies. No one with driving skills is going to kill motor-racing stone dead rather abruptly! Top Gear will be nothing like we know it... O.K that might be a good thing.

    Where are my car keys? You don't need them Grandad!

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
      Happy

      Re: Future consequences

      I have this sudden sense of deja vu

      1. ratfox
        Happy

        Re: Future consequences

        Obviously, Grandad's memory is not what it used to be…

    2. conel

      Re: Future consequences

      I think motor sport will survive, horses no longer have a utilitarian purpose but people still ride them for sport.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Future consequences

      One future consequence I thought of was people could just buy an "autovan" and never need to buy a house, just set it to auto cruise around the m25 all night, wake up at the office :)

  17. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Scary stories from the Chocolate Factory

    I am very concerned about the tens of thousands of unattended miles of driving these cars have done. I haven't heard about permits, notifications or any closed course testing. It's like the airport scanners.... they're perfectly safe... no, the FDA didn't test them, we did and they are perfectly safe. Prepare for the 2-headed mutants.

    There has been work on autonomous cars for years and it is still a problem that vexes the experts. I highly doubt that Google has a car that will work well enough to be allowed in the wild. One or two spectacular smashes will spell the end for automated cars for a couple of decades at least. Roads and traffic control are created to be worked by protein not platinum.

    Want to read or surf the net on the way to work? Check out the PRT pod cars at Heathrow's terminal 5. If there were routes all through London, you could take the train from Brighton, switch to a pod at Charing Cross and be at work before you know it. No congestion charges, no ulcers and if you are late, you can blame it on National Rail.

    1. Raggs

      Re: Scary stories from the Chocolate Factory

      The Reg has been reporting these exact stories, even to the point that the cars have already been licensed for some time now in Nevada (lots of empty space admittedly, but still).

    2. QuinnDexter

      Re: Scary stories from the Chocolate Factory

      STOP EVERYTHING, GOOGLE! MachDiamond doesn't know what you're doing so it must be wrong, unsafe, and not very well thought through!

      1. hplasm
        Happy

        Re: Scary stories from the Chocolate Factory

        Does he use Bing?

    3. Andy Gates
      Facepalm

      Re: Scary stories from the Chocolate Factory

      The testing miles have been attended: an engineer in the seat, ready to take over if there was a problem. Do pay attention, old chap.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is an automatic car going to avoid a bad pothole in the road? how will it deal with the Police and emergency services wanting to get past?

    We don't have fully automatic trains and those things are on rails with a hugely limited number of destinations, no pedestrians to worry about. So why do we think cars will be much easier?

    1. Raggs

      Probably better than people, it knows exactly where it's wheels are, the oncoming traffic, it will be calculating the depth of the pothole, and doing all these things simultaneously. As for emergency services, I'm sure a simple enough signal (or even siren recognition) would sort it out fairly easily.

      People don't seem to understand the advances these things have made in the last 5 years.

      1. The obvious

        Plus the small matter of having a 360 degree field of view which meatbags just don't have even with mirrors.

        Obvious? it's in the name.

      2. Mark Allread
        Trollface

        Siren recognition, really?

        The day that cars start automatically pulling over due to siren recognition, I'm going to have a lot of fun with some sound effects and a megaphone.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "People don't seem to understand the advances these things have made in the last 5 years."

        Indeed. It's impressive the spatial awareness new cars have.

    2. Amonynous
      FAIL

      Fact check before hitting reply?

      "We don't have fully automatic trains and those things are on rails with a hugely limited number of destinations, no pedestrians to worry about."

      Erm, yes we do. A significant number of partially and fully automatic train systems have operated since as early as 1963. The most obvious example is the Docklands Light Railway, but there are 20+ examples globally. They are mostly metro/light rail systems, but in principle there is no technical obstacle to mainline railways being automated.

      The major barriers to automation are the capital cost of retro-fitting existing lines (which is why you tend to see semi or full automation on brand new lines), public perception of safety (vs. actual safety) and of course good-old self interest (in the form of the RMT and their brethren worldwide).

      1. S4qFBxkFFg

        Re: Fact check before hitting reply?

        The RMT and similar are the main reason automatic trains exist; the French learned this a long time ago.

    3. boatman

      I work in the aviation industry and the second biggest reduction in crashes, after the invention of the gas turbine, was taking control away from the pilots.

      A modern passenger aircraft will fly and land itself with no input from the two meat bags positioned in the room with the best view. There is a TV show "air crash investigation" where you get ample opportunity to see the chain of events leading to some of our worst incidents, and it will shock you the number of events that are directly caused by the crew or at least compounded by their actions.

      A flight crew is rigorously trained with hours of simulated failure scenarios and still they make mistakes. Now compare that to some of the the fuckwits on the road.

      Bring on automation, it will lower deaths and serious injury's, reduce insurance costs and taxi you home when you have had 6 pints of old peculiar in the lazy cock on a Friday night

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Boatman,

        "I work in the aviation industry and the second biggest reduction in crashes, after the invention of the gas turbine, was taking control away from the pilots."

        After asking for the source of your statement, may I point out that automation does not take control away from the pilot: what it does is reduce our workload so we have more spare capacity to concentrate on strategic decision making. That and increased spatial awareness (e.g., in the form of TCAS and TAWS) has greatly reduced our accident rates--we still remain in control, however (well, management does... but that's another discussion).

        I welcome the increased automation and driver assistance systems found in today's cars for the same reasons.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Few points....

      Not sure if you have been reading many articles on the reg, but there has been talk of car to car communication for a while now. So I can imagine emergency vehicles will have transponders built into them that command vehicles to move out of their way, in a much safer way then humans panicking when a blue light appears in the mirror.

      Police have also been longing for an automatic stop function in cars for a long time to end high speed pursuits and stop car thieves etc.

      I know a certain mapping organisation that is doing high resolution mapping of roads which I suspect others are also doing, so its not a stretch to think it will become a mandatory data layer for the navigation system.

      Finally I can imagine these cars will also have black boxes in them recording all the environment data, so when that twat cuts you up, because you are driving an automatic car. The data will automatically upload via 4G to the police and 3 points on the license with a ticket in the post, like Fifth element :)

    5. Thorne

      "Is an automatic car going to avoid a bad pothole in the road? how will it deal with the Police and emergency services wanting to get past?"

      Yes the automatic car will avoid the pothole. The first car hits the pothole and records it's location. It then transmit the location of the hole to passing vehicle heading back that way which in turn transmit it to to other passing vehicles so all passing vehicles know. The first vehicle then also submits the location of the pothole to the road authority while passing a radio receiver.

      As for police and ambulances, they will get fitted with a radio version of the siren. I'm a police car, I'm at this location, I'm going this way. Self drive vehicles will pull over long before any human knows their coming. Traffice light will change so there will be absolutely no blockages to emergency vehicles.

      "We don't have fully automatic trains and those things are on rails with a hugely limited number of destinations, no pedestrians to worry about. So why do we think cars will be much easier?"

      Cars will be harder than trains. The only reason why train drivers still exist is because of unions protecting the drivers.

  19. bill 36
    Pint

    This is an interesting website

    http://www.abd.org.uk/safest_roads.htm

    You can make your own conclusions but Sweden ( zero tolerance and heavy penalties) for drink driving, UK (heavy penalties and little tolerance) for drink driving....

    In the US, can you shut one eye sir and walk in a straight line and count backwards from a hundred, kind of gives you a clue.

    In Austria, drink driving is almost a national pastime.

    Methinks the yanks are trying to fix a symptom.

    1. Pedigree-Pete
      Thumb Up

      Re: This is an interesting website

      Yep! That was an interesting web site. Amazing that the UKI can manage such impressive stats given some of the knobs I've seen on the road.

  20. Isabello
    Terminator

    The future

    I'm sure that in the not-too-distant future people will look back in horror at the idea that humans were allowed to independently control tonne-and-a-half metal boxes hurtling along roads at speeds of up to 130kph (Europe) or more (Germany)

    1. Thorne
      Terminator

      Re: The future

      Or alternatively, Skynet will take control of the self drive vehicles and use them as hunter killers

  21. b166er

    This is a huge win for everyone, the biggest impact I think, will be the reduction in time spent traveling to/from work.

    We just need to make sure those regained hours don't end up gifted/guilted to our employers.

  22. Derezed
    Black Helicopters

    Hum

    Only thing that could ever go wrong was if a frozen criminal and a frozen demolition expert cop were to be reanimated as these cars are introduced. Then there would be high jinks and no mistake...

    1. Thorne

      Re: Hum

      Only from the three shells...

  23. Risky

    I bet the lawyers will be ready

    All they need if for someone to drive into one and they will be racing to sue Google Inc for billions.

    1. QuinnDexter
      Megaphone

      Re: I bet the lawyers will be ready

      Risky - the level of arrogant luddism on this thread is phenomenal. Arrogant, specifically in terms of presumptive insolence, rather than any lack of knowledge, but maybe that's worthy of mention too.

      The presumption that the two minutes of thought you have put into an opportunity such as this, will come up with something unique, that thousands of previous man-hours of effort from everyone involved (so within Google, the out of the box thinkers who came up with the concepts, the techs, the engineers, and not to mention Google's lawyers, and then State or National law-makers, and probably most importantly insurance companies and lawyers who would be for and against Google, and those who look at it not including Google etc) haven't been able to uncover or comprehend, something as simple as who would be to blame when the car is involved with an accident, is staggering.

      Download the logs from the Google Car and it will tell you exactly what happened when, thus clearing Google from the opportunity of being sued for defective software or algorithms. You can be 100% certain that before the slightest bit of code was touched with the mindset of self-driving cars a risk assessment was carried out and this grew and grew, and Google would not release these into the wild until their lawyers have practically signed in blood to say that everything is covered for Google as far as can be expected in terms of economically viability.

  24. Ben Rosenthal
    Gimp

    At last, this is the sort of tech that I identify with living in a post 2000AD world!

    Make it happen and I may well turn rabid google fanboy for life.

  25. James 36

    bah !

    But I like driving,

    suppose that will make me a dangerous eccentric with an expensive hobby,

    I also love motorsport

    double bah

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If it can negotiate the magic roundabout in Swindon I'm in.

    1. Pedigree-Pete
      Happy

      Swindons Magic Roundabout

      I re-iterate. Hapy 40th.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-19726385

  27. Ed 13
    FAIL

    Read the background material

    All those who want to use an auto-car pissed , stoned or asleep, probably ought to read the second paragraph of the bill:

    "This bill would authorize the operation of an autonomous vehicle, as defined, on public roads for testing purposes, by a driver who possesses the proper class of license for the type of vehicle being operated if specified requirements are met, including that the driver be seated in the driver’s seat, monitoring the safe operation of the autonomous vehicle, and capable of taking over immediate manual control of the autonomous vehicle in the event of an autonomous technology failure or other emergency."

    1. Thorne

      Re: Read the background material

      "All those who want to use an auto-car pissed , stoned or asleep, probably ought to read the second paragraph of the bill:"

      Yes thats now but how much longer until the meatsack is removed from the equation? Not long at all

    2. Ben Rosenthal
      Facepalm

      Re: Read the background material

      Ed 13

      if you re-read the paragraph you quote, it does state that it's talking about needing to be licensed and capable of driving "on public roads for testing purposes" at this stage, I don't think even google allows it's engineers to work drunk or stoned.

      The aim is clearly stated as including use by non licensed passengers, and if non licensed why not also plastered? You can't legally drive either way.

  28. Quinch
    Terminator

    No XKCD, but...

    Along the lines of no-manual-driving predictions.

    http://www.schlockmercenary.com/2002-08-29

    {foot the note}

  29. Mark Allread
    Trollface

    Let's just hope that...

    .. they don't use iOS maps.

  30. Beanhead McGinty
    Thumb Up

    I've always wanted a Johnny Cab

    But will this one whistle the Norwegian national anthem?

  31. ForthIsNotDead

    Creepy

    Man, that google dude really gives me the creeps. Not content with his evil web site tracking everything we do on the web and knowing who we are, where we are, what our likes and dislikes are, now he wants to be able to physically track us as we use our vehicles.

    Well, he may have been borged with his creepy eyepeice on his head, but I will not be assimilated.

  32. Dana W
    FAIL

    Becuse you NEED a car in the US.

    There is no way around it most places in the US.

    We have an incredibly high car ownership rate. and you really cannot function without one. Most cities are built around car ownership, If you don't have a car what you can do and where you can go is very limited.

    Public transit is limited has short hours, is dirty, unreliable and dangerous, and generally things are wildly spread out. And the better and often more fun things often have no access at all if you don't drive there.

    The only things in my city I can think of well served by public transit is the Casino, and the Mall of America. And its not as much transit as trucks to bring the sheep in for easy shearing.

    All forcing this wound do is keep poor poor off the road. They can keep the automatic car. I'll keep driving my 74 Beetle.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lets talk about the real raodblock, pun intended

    Here in the ol USofA the bigger road block is the legion of lawyers waiting for one (or many) of these autonomous vehicles to crash. They are salivating at the chance to sue a big auto maker, software company and every other company that has a hand in manufacturing the components that went into making the car autonomous. Now if a car crashes it was never the drivers fault so for every crash you have many more victims that you can represent.

    If I was in the business that would stop me. Remember antilock breaks? The USofA had antilock breaks well after the Europeans because Mercedes and the other luxury makers were scared spit-less that their car wold stop too fast and the person that hit it and sue the driver of the car that stopped too quickly and the automaker. Imgine how they would respond to a car that fully controlled itself.....

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