back to article California gives green light to test self-driving cars on public roads

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has approved new rules governing the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads, making it one of the first states to adopt a formal policy on self-driving cars. California Governor Jerry Brown gave the state's blessing to autonomous vehicles in 2012, when he signed off on …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Oninoshiko


    Hopefully this means we can start getting autonomous vehicles soon. It's the only upcoming feature that makes me really want to replace my current car.

    1. Thorne

      Re: Good

      Same here. With the highway patrol becoming more and more militant to try and raise roadside tax, self drive may become a necessity for everyone

      1. Zack Mollusc

        Re: Good

        Highway patrol will love the new roadside tax opportunities offered by self-driving cars. New laws will spring up to catch out the JohnnyCabs and you will get fined for breaking the laws until it is time for you to pay for firmware updates to prevent them being broken.

        1. Mark 65

          Re: Good

          Nah, they'll just go back to busting your tail lights.

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Technical hurdles

    Researches first had to engineer a car that could talk on two cellphones while drinking a coffee

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Re: Technical hurdles

      and shaving/applying makeup.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tech is the easy part

    The whole of transportation liability for cars is based on the driver, except for cases of product failure. Now enter the driverless car. Absent actual product failure, what happens when things don't work out the way the car planned?

    That liability must be attached to some person or legal entity. If it's the passenger in the 'hotseat,' will they still be willing to entrust their legal future (and their actual future!) to the machine?

    If it's the car maker, how will they protect themselves financially? Try to imagine the deep-pockets lawsuits that would result. Will they pull strings, changing laws to limit their exposure? Will the public stand for that?

    If these cars are to be legalized, will the public even have any input, or will we be kept out of the debate, since such a "good thing" ought not be lost due to baseless "fear of the machines?"

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Tech is the easy part

      Exactly the same arguments were put forward against electronic engine management, ABS, etc

      What will happen is that autonomous cars will have much fewer accidents, the insurance premiums for these will fall to the level that the manufacturers will self-insure as one of the benefits. Meanwhile the cost of all the drunk drivers, teenagers and general idiots will fall on the manually driven car owners - so their premiums will increase to the point that nobody could afford to drive a car manually

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tech is the easy part

        Yeah man, fuck insurance. When was the last time I used it? Ummm... lets see: Health - never; Fire - never; Oh wait... unemployment insurance! Now there is one, but I've paid far more in than I've got out. I'd wager just saving money the good old fasion way makes more sense if you are not a blundering idiot. However, we live in a communist society which says we are all equal. So fuck you blundering idiots who keep taking my money, and you old people are really just too much now. I cannot believe the retarded politicians of yesteryear. I hope you feel some guilt - most likely not. Though you probably are not enjoying your life either. So why didn't you quit while you were ahead? Oh you didn't understand your own greed? Still not satisfied giving millions pain? It's getting so old already. There is a saying where I come from: every morning a idiot wakes up.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tech is the easy part

          "Yeah man, fuck insurance. When was........"

          Anger management courses are freely available. I suggest you take one little child.

          Can we have a "you need a hug icon?"

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tech is the easy part

      One aspect of the tech is definitely not easy - making these things fall safe - and I don't see any evidence of that being addressed in the current test vehicles. Most likely is that you'll still have to have a sober, fully licensed driver behind the wheel, ready to take control if the automation fails. And take the blame if it all goes wrong.

  4. phil dude
    Thumb Up

    next stage...

    once they have been shown to be better (!) than human drivers, I'll wager the car manufacturers will make driving seats that swivel (so everyone can face the centre of the car).

    Really, as someone mentioned above the police fearing the loss of an income stream, really don't need to worry. I'll bet crims will find a brand new way to stick out....

    Plus, imagine how much help they will be for disabled members of society....?


  5. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Francis Boyle

      Dammit, it's always Hal

      Why don't I ever get the sexy female AI?

      1. toxicdragon

        Re: Dammit, it's always Hal

        Because female robotic voices sound like they come from a computerised Monty Python style pepperpot woman.

      2. Thorne

        Re: Dammit, it's always Hal

        "Why don't I ever get the sexy female AI?"

        Why? Do you want it to offer you some cake?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The logical next step

    A computer does not get tired, distracted or upset. Plus, when a majority of the cars has a system like this, cars could drive in much closer formations, reducing traffic jams and fuel usage.

    1. Zack Mollusc

      Re: The logical next step

      Modern cars are already full of computers and, although they do not get tired/distracted or upset, they manage to malfunction enough to make the car beyond economic repair.

      Traffic jams and fuel usage _could_ be reduced by removing traffic lights, but corruption and bribery will keep them in place.

    2. M7S

      Re: The logical next step

      "A computer does not get tired, distracted or upset"

      I beg to differ. Mine is around 2yo. It worked fine when new but now it frequently hangs, especially when browsing, mostly due to the increased froth that websites insist you have (animated adverts etc). The same might appIy here if, for example, new electronic traffic control signals are introduced over time, or perhaps a new car-to-car data protocol. I am sure that there will be all sorts of careful management of these things, but as a general premise, I don't think we should rely on that statement.

      My greatest worry is the continuing availability of updates etc.

      I live in a part of the country where from time to time a 4x4 is essential.

      I have one nearly 40 years old. I accept it's not the most efficient vehicle, but for the few weeks of the year I need something like this, its better than being stranded, and the cost, both to the environment and my wallet of manufacturing a new car is too high.

      I can get parts for it and find someone to fit them if required and its gets all its annual tests to ensure it is safe and legal.

      On the assumption that autonomous vehicles will not be "disposable" and engineered to last, battery packs aside (if electric), I hope that there is something to ensure that older vehicles are not required to be written off prematurely.

    3. DropBear

      Re: The logical next step

      "A computer does not get tired, distracted or upset."

      You're right, it breaks in much less graceful ways when it does. When, not if.

    4. VinceH

      Re: The logical next step

      "A computer does not get tired, distracted or upset."

      It also can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear - and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

      Oh. wait, the article on robots and AI is that way, isn't it?

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The logical next step

      "reducing...fuel usage."

      I've never yet driven a car with cruise control that can better my own skills at reducing fuel usage.

      I'd be interested to see a car that comes with settings for "get me their quickly" or "get me there cheaply" since as a manual driver I can make that choice.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The logical next step

        Yes, you can drive cheaply, as do I (getting 50mpg+ in my 2.4 diesel), but most people don't. They just drive like retards and then complain about the amount of fuel they buy a month...

  7. Ralph B

    Good To Know

    In future, all those millions of GM cars can drive themselves back to the dealers for their recall work, and form an orderly queue. (If they don't explode on the way.)

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. TopOnePercent

      Re: good news if

      good news if

      As long as they are programmed so they can't tailgate or overtake badly, I'm in favour.

      Tailgaiting isn't an issue - they'll be programmed to do it safely. If you do suffer from it currently, just pull over and let the asshat go be someone elses accident.

      Overtaking will rarely be required as all the JohnnyCabs will be driving at the speed limit, not 20 in a 30 or 40 in a 60 etc. Speed limits could even rise because average driving standards will improve.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: good news if

        " Speed limits could even rise because average driving standards will improve. Speed limits could even rise because average driving standards will improve."

        Bwahahahahahahahahahahaaa! You think for one moment that the luddites of government are going to let cars go faster?

  9. TopOnePercent

    People problem

    As usual, people will be the problem with this.

    How can a human “assume control if the automation fails”? People that are supposed to be driving their vehicles don’t pay sufficient attention to what they’re doing which leads to a lot of accidents. The chances of them paying enough attention to notice the tech has failed and have the reaction times to correct it are slim to none. Not unless the car also policies its drivers awareness and stops if they’re sleeping, reading, chatting, or doing their bloody make-up.

    While I think auto cars will reduce the overall injury rate, questions still need to be answered regarding who is legally responsible for its actions – someone has to be. You can pretty much guarantee it won’t be the car makers, or the state, which leaves the owner. When their JohnnyCab causes an accident and the impact wakes them up, 1 gets 10 they’ll invent a story blaming the innocent party because A) they were asleep so don’t know what happened, and B) they won’t believe their car could have been at fault. So now the cars will need secure 360 degree video recording building it that also records what the driver/passenger was doing.

    Still further questions surround how these cars can be made to stop after an accident assuming their passengers are asleep or drunk. Will it always flawlessly detect that it’s just ran over old Mrs Miggins and stop, or will it carry on regardless. My money is on the latter because had it been aware of Miggins, it’d not have ran her over. Some hit & run drivers later hand themselves in to police or their friends & family report them, but if the driver and vehicle are completely unaware they’ve had an accident?

    None of the problems are particularly hard to resolve technically, but people will get involved. Ambulance chasers, baby kissers, scammers looking for a quick buck, the anti-car lobby, and the speed enforcement industry. They’ll ruin, retard, and reduce the possibilities that could have been.

    Self driving cars will come. They will be safe or at least safer than the average motorist. They just won’t be all they could be if everyone was pulling in the same direction.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    $5M!? Pah!

    A pittance in California, unless they plan on testing solely in places like Compton.

  11. Steven Davison

    How can a human “assume control if the automation fails?

    by having multiple layers of redundancy.

    multiple, independent monitoring systems can be used to check and recheck all the system to ensure everything is working. If it is not, it reports to the ''driver", gets them to take control, and drive the vehicle to a place for checking and repair if required.

    Take for instance, a throttle position sensor. most cars have one for the ECU. an automated car should have 3 or even 4. At all times, the readings are compared from each sensor, if the readings don't match at any given point, the system goes into alarm, and alerts the driver to take control. (similar principal as the 4 Guidance Processors on the shuttle, IIRC)

    1. phil dude


      A part of me read this as "we don't believe this technology exists, so we are going to put in a requirement for a human to be present and liable".

      Nothing wrong with that really, as we *still* need to see the evidence they are better.

      I must say it bothers me that other car manufacturers are trying to "get in on the action". I would much rather there was a collaborative solution with different implementations, rather than competing implementations...


    2. TopOnePercent

      multiple, independent monitoring systems can be used to check and recheck all the system to ensure everything is working. If it is not, it reports to the ''driver", gets them to take control, and drive the vehicle to a place for checking and repair if required.

      The driver will be asleep or drunk when the alert comes in. They'll then need time to wake up, realise what's happening, come up with a plan to avoid any impending accident, and then execute it. If they need to sober up too then it'll all take a lot longer.

      Whatever the failure is will already have caused any accident it was going to cause a long time before the fleshy bit gets busy with evasive action. It's why the shuttle pilot isn't allowed to watch cat videos, drink or sleep while flying the shuttle, to cut down on effective handover time.

  12. John Robson Silver badge

    They already are safer

    700,000 miles, rear ended once. That's no accidents driving an average distance every year until you are 87.

    Bring them on.

  13. fur real

    Simply a waste of time

    This is a classic example of solving a problem that doesn't really need solving.

    We need fewer cars on the road, and less reason to have to drive for routine things like work and shopping. Driverless cars do not provide a single benefit except to automate a quotidian paradigm established in the Mad Men era.

    Someone above was complaining we live in a communist society, yet the benefits of our free market have led to the effort to create more cars (on the road) than drivers. If they could only find a way to get me to pay for a car that they don't actually have to make (oh wait, I am pretty sure that has happened).

    They say alchemy died, yet every day I see people turning foolishness into gold.

    With the self driving car navigating the congestion, you can assault a different set of arteries with your predicatively prepared quarter pounder "use two hands, now that you can" combo (Amazon prime will know when you are hungry), and remember, since you don't need all those console instruments any more you Prius Pal will have an AED right there in the dash, just in case you have been relying on your autopilot a little too much...

  14. Maty

    Self-driving cars have been a fact of life for decades.

    They're the cars that are left to drive themselves while the person behind the wheel texts, snoozes, turns round to talk to the kids in the back seat or digs under the dashboard for that elusive CD.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like