back to article Will a data centre be driving your car in 12 years' time?

Driverless cars will be taking over our roads in around 12 years time, when comms technology has advanced to deliver the power of the datacentre direct to your preferred motor. Andreas Reich, head of electronic pre development at Audi, this week told a Huawei Innovation Conference in Munich that if the 1970s was the age of …

  1. nematoad Silver badge

    Keep your eyes on the road.

    "Connected services meant drivers would be able to use all the apps they use outside their car, inside their car, while driving, he claimed."

    Maybe not such a good idea as he seems to think. Watching what's going on outside the car is a lot more important than checking your e-mails or Twitter. If it's a risk to use a hands-free mobile when driving think what the distractions with the systems he's advocating could be.

    Vorsprung durch techik? More like crunch durch techik.

    No, thanks, I'll watch where I'm going and keep an eye out for idiots watching Youtube when behind the wheel.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Keep your eyes on the road.

      No problem if the car drives its self. Maybe they should switch priorities.

  2. smudge
    Big Brother

    All this will require very wide band communication into the car.

    And this will work in the Highlands of Scotland? The Alps? The Rocky Mountains? <insert your favourite remote - not necessarily mountainous - region here>

    So it will have to be possible to drive the car manually with all the remote stuff switched off. In the case of systems/network failure, as well as when you are in a remote region.

    Once these cars become commonplace, will it be illegal to drive manually if you have remote control and could use it? So how easy will it be to switch it all off?

    Especially when you're entering the Highlands of Scotland....

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: All this will require very wide band communication into the car.

      "So it will have to be possible to drive the car manually with all the remote stuff switched off. In the case of systems/network failure, as well as when you are in a remote region."

      No, I would expect the robot cars will be required to operate autonomously if there's a loss of communications - they just won't be able to co-operate with other vehicles or traffic management systems (which is less of an issue in the areas with poor connectivity).

  3. JeffyPoooh

    Humans aren't smart enough to reach that nirvana...

    They'll screw it up, and it'll take decades longer than you think.

  4. Ye Gads

    The first thing that sprang to my mind was

    What happens when people are doing 140 mph on the highway and there's a data-centre failure for the cloud service controlling your car?

    1. Little Mouse

      Re: The first thing that sprang to my mind was

      "What happens"?

      Your car will automatically raise a ticket with the Service Desk. The call will get bounced between 2nd and 3rd line support for a couple of days until they stop arguing about whether the issue is with the user, the machine, or the network. The outage should then be fixed within 4 working days of the initial problem, 90% of the time.

      Oh - and you'll be dead.

    2. localzuk

      Re: The first thing that sprang to my mind was

      What happens when you're doing 140mph on the highway when you sneeze or pass out?

      We have industrial control systems in place that run our most complicated systems around the world that don't have the issues you're discussing, and if they do they have fail-safes that kick in and can safely remedy the problem or protect the system. How many modern planes have fallen out of the sky because the fly by wire systems failed? I don't know of any.

      1. Infidellic_

        Re: The first thing that sprang to my mind was

        [Edited] Kind of Turkish Flight 1951? Instrument failure caused autothrottle issues, although FBW would still have allowed for "manual" (used loosely) override. I guess it's more of an FMS failure than FBW failure. I actually agree with your point and think this tweet sums it up nicely:

        For those unwilling to go to Twitter:

        "so what did you do before self-driving cars?"

        "we just drove 'em ourselves!"

        "wow, no one died that way?"

        "oh no, millions of people died"

      2. Dan Paul

        Re: The first thing that sprang to my mind was

        A recent Airbus crash because some dinkwad decided to program the engines to fail to the off mode while plane was at altitude?

        1. localzuk

          Re: The first thing that sprang to my mind was

          Sounds like human error rather than machine error...

  5. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Let's be realistic

    The 'brain' behind any car-control software MUST reside on the vehicle, preferably in triplicate, with fail-safe options by default. Same thing for aircraft or any fast-moving, life-threating objects. Connection to a datacentre is fine for the occasional software or map data update, but that's it. We won't see 5G outside London, Brum and the Northern Powerhouse until at least 2086 anyway.

  6. 2+2=5 Silver badge

    Decisions, decisions...

    > for example, in the event of a child running out of the road, should a piloted car hit the child or avoid the child but hit an oncoming car with four passengers?

    Well, clearly, the piloted car should brake sharply, avoiding the child who continues to run across the road and is hit by the car with four passengers.

  7. andy gibson

    old cars

    My current car is 13 years old, still looks in good nick inside and out, and sailed through its MOT again last week for the third year on the trot.

    I'd imagine that in 12 years time my car of 2027 will be a 13 or 63 reg car, assuming they're not so laden full of electronics gizmos with a short lifespan that you can't get parts for and will be resigned to the scrap heap. I don't think I'd trust "park assist" on a 12 year old Ford.

    1. nematoad Silver badge

      Re: old cars

      "My current car is 13 years old, still looks in good nick inside and out..."

      My point exactly.

      It's OK for those people who buy a new car every year but they don't make my Mini Cooper S any more and I'm damned if they force me to stop driving it just because everyone else is using auto-drive vehicles.

  8. Filippo Silver badge

    Not worried about system failures. Not worried about software bugs. Not worried about data centre outages. Not worried about ethics decisions.

    Worried about the people who get a driving license, live in and around some major urban center for 10 years, all the time the auto-driving working perfectly, and then decide to take a holiday in the mountains - and, when the signal goes out, suddenly have to remember how to actually drive manually.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      What he said

      ^^^^ exactly this ^^^^

      There are enough terrible drivers around as it is, and they drive manually every day.

      Will there be some mandated annual retest of drivers with automatically piloted vehicles to ensure they can safely take over if and when needed? Or will they just be left to go "Oh FUCK!!!" and hit some innocent bystander because they forgot what to do?

      Whilst the mechanics of driving are not so easily forgotten, the skill, the reaction times, the ability to predict what other drivers are likely to do, not panicking when the slightest unexpected thing happens, even just the feel of the pedals under your feet so you aren't stalling the motor each time you take your foot off the clutch or pressing the brake so hard you face-plant the steering wheel - these are things that require constant practice to maintain.

      There are other questions too, like: will it be legal to "drive" (ok this is the wrong word - be in the driver's seat of?) a piloted car without a licence if it were to only shut down and park itself in the event of a data connection failure? Since the occupant isn't actually driving and cannot if the car won't let him/her, does this mean we could legitimately see kids behind the wheel of daddy's prized motor?

  9. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    A laudible aim

    He said the firm's infotainment systems would be modular to allow silicon horsepower to be jacked up in the future without scrapping the whole vehicle.

    Until the bean counters get in the way.

    Then it will be...

    "Ah Sir, your car has told us that it needs an upgrade. Let me show you the latest model. Good? That'll be £60,000."

    "What's that you say? Your last car was only £40,000."

    "Well Sir, this new one has done away with all manual controls. It is totally automatic."

    "Yes, I know the last one was like that. Now you only have to think where you want to go. Telling the vehicle your destination is so 2019."

  10. chris swain
    Black Helicopters

    If the government-industrial complex says this will happen then it likely will

    And when it does then I can see it becoming mandatory to use self-driving systems in due course, with older vehicles being phased out and possible exemption for classics. It may well be at that point that they decide motorcycles don't fit the plan. Not something I'm looking forward to as an avid biker.

    Still, at least in the interim there'll be less chance of getting wiped out by some brain-dead incompetent who's too busy arguing with the husband/wife/kids or yacking on their phone to pay attention to the road.

    Blackhawk icon 'cause I don't trust the gubernment to not bugger up the things I love

  11. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Big Brother

    Will a datacentre be driving your car in 12 years' time?


  12. Eddy Ito

    Overseeing thousands of servers is of course quite another level of complexity – but one you will soon be able to do while stuck in a traffic jam.

    If you're stuck in a traffic jam wouldn't it mean the thousands of servers are already screwed up?

    Sorry, but this shift in paradigm from the current vision of autonomous to a data center is starting to look a bit too much like smart meters to me. Hell, the current data centers can't keep the billing straight and they expect me to allow myself to be stranded somewhere until I pay up - I'll pass.

  13. theOtherJT

    Cold. Dead. Body.

    Over my, etc.

    I've done the whole commuter stop-start hour of hell thing, and I can see why you might want your car to do that for you, but even if it did nothing would convince me to move back outside of the city and do go through that waste of time again every week day.

    I _like_ driving. I live in the middle of Oxford for gods sake, and you'd have to be certifiably insane to choose to drive around here as a means of getting from point to point. That's not why I do it. I own a car and 2 motorbikes for the purpose of going places far away and enjoying the process. Pick the one most appropriate to the prevailing weather. Sometimes I just go get lost in the back-roads for an afternoon because it's fun.

  14. M7S

    "real images of your environment up to 30 meters, then Streetview"

    So, at least in the former instance, no use of Windows then?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A lot of potential... bring the fun back onto the road.

    If everybody else is driving a super modern self-driving vehicle which has all the collision avoidance gizmos built in... what happens if I drive a manual car like a lunatic? Will they avoid me? Will they give way when in fact I should?

    *goes to wash his old car, in the hope that he can keep it until then*

  16. big_D Silver badge

    Data centre?

    No way! IF the car is going to drive itself, then it will need to do it without having to rely on a data centre! I have no problem with it getting traffic condition updates through the DC, but being driven FROM the DC? Nope, no way, no how! If that is the case, I'll stick with driving myself.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    driverless trains all have internal systems, but the minute they lose connection to central system they default to stop, sometimes system wide (have a look at some of the issues in Vancouver last couple of years) and a train system is a whole lot less complicated than driverless cars.

    I did like his examples of how auto driving might be slowly introduced, makes sense and a logical extension of existing capabilities (smart cruise control)

  18. thx1138v2

    "Keep your hands off the wheel, sir" Steering wheel? You don't need no stinking steering wheel - that's a very dangerous device. BTW, you're late on your child support so we'll be routing you to the nearest cop shop to take care of that. Never mind, an autoupdate installed a new app that just came online and we automatically paid your child support so off to work you go. Well, never mind. We just found that the automatic bank draft overdrew your account so it's off to the bank for you but they're closed for a holiday today so we've decided the safest place for you is home in bed. Off you go. But wait! One quick stop for a battery recharge. Ooops, your account is overdrawn. Shutting down in 3...2...1...

    ....Autoboot is bring your system up for a message from your employer, "You're fired!" Shutting down in 3...2...1...

  19. Doctor_Wibble


    The data centre will inevitably be hacked and groups of cars will be driven to fields and arranged into amusingly rude shapes for the satellite photo-op. Preferably on a weekly basis. This is far too silly an opportunity to be passed up and the black hats will demonstrate their evil skills, the grey hats will do it to prove it can be done, and the white hats will insist on regular testing of proofs of concept.

    You, the legal driver of the car, have absolutely zero chance of ever getting from A to B at any time except mid to late Wednesday afternoons when everyone is insanely bored yet lacking the energy to actually do anything.

  20. John Geek

    indeed re old cars. all my cars are from the early 90s and in good enough shape to last another 20+ years with suitable maintenance. I am NOT going to be retrofitting my 1993 Mercedes Cabriolet with anything more digital than a CD player in the dash, and a Garmin nav that I only occasionally use when I need to find some place in a big city (most of the time, the garmin is in the boot).

  21. Bob Dole (tm)

    The answers are usually pretty simple

    >>for example, in the event of a child running out of the road, should a piloted car hit the child or avoid the child but hit an oncoming car with four passengers?

    There's an obvious answer here. The piloted car should hit the other vehicle. The passengers of both vehicles would have a much higher chance of coming out unharmed.

    Honestly, I am absolutely ready for cars to be self driven. The number of complete and total morons on the road is astounding and, quite frankly, the robotic overlords seriously can't do any worse.

  22. dan1980

    Will my car be driven by a data centre?

    Fuck no.

    And I don't believe this could ever happen. All cars need to be utterly independent for safety reasons. They can be directed remotely but the actual driving part must occur without the car relying on any external input.

    It must always be assumed that, even if the car you are in will work 100% perfectly and the systems and connectivity are infallible, there may be other cars on the road that are not connected and are not working properly - or are being driven manually. Cars must be able to respond in real-time, without reliance on external updates and car-to-car communications.

    This is one reason why this kind of technology is further away that some think - it must be able to work accurately and safely in all conditions, including where connectivity to 'home base' is disrupted or disabled and where other cars are being driven manually or erratically or are faulty. The technology cannot rely on a best-case scenario where all the cars are inter-connected and constantly being updated from a data centre and each other.

  23. Captain DaFt

    Cars driven by data centre

    For an idea of what could possibly go wrong, play the latest version of Sim City.

  24. DubiousMind

    Open to corruption

    "Similarly, systems to automate parking and direct cars to empty spaces will require cars to be integrated with municipal systems and those of private parking operators."

    What's going to stop the private parking operators paying subsidies to the companies which drive the data systems, to encourage their overly priced parking facilities to be preferred over cheaper or even free parking?!

  25. James 36

    This is a particularly unnerving statement

    “We bring the internet to the car. The driver should get all the information he needs while he is driving."

    All the info the driver needs for driving comes from the windows, the seat, the wheel, the instruments, the pedals, the sounds and the mirrors not the fucking internet.

    Everything else is not important , nice to have at best.

  26. Yugguy

    this would include “real images of your environment up to 30 meters, then Streetview.”

    Or how about LOOKING OUT OF THE FECKING WINDOW???????????

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