back to article Cruise parks entire US fleet over safety fears

Cruise is temporarily halting supervised and manual operations of its autonomous vehicles in the US and is hiring an outsider to assess the technology and safety risks of its computer-controlled cars.  Last month, the self-driving taxi biz made headlines when one of its driverless cars struck a woman and trapped her under the …

  1. JimmyPage Silver badge

    The only way to make autonomous cars safe

    is to ensure they have a very regular predictable environment.

    Basically a version of a railway.

    1. JWLong

      Re: The only way to make autonomous cars safe

      Better yet, just cut a few cables and the entire problem is solved forever.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Dedicated right of ways ARE the better option

      But rail isn't as good a comparison. What's needed is basically a carpool lane with the addition of some machine readable signage. Limit them to streets with no other loopy terrain features or complications, or problematic pedestrian interactions. No more than one of every 4th street or so in the city grid and to highways. Mandate that there actually be someone in the drivers seat at all times. Mandate that if self drive is enabled the car also respond to a remote stop order from emergency services, and let them move the car out of the way or enter the car if it's blocking them. That's all doable with the technology we have.

      And unlike rail, can be added to existing roads, share the road with other vehicles, and cars can get on and off them when they need to. In an emergency the lane can handle normal traffic, unlike rail which will never be rolled out in any scale in existing urban centers, has a checkered safety record of it's own, an is eye wateringly expensive. Dedicated right of ways mean a driver should be able to live with driving a couple blocks to get to or from an autopilot enabled road, Pedestrians won't have to share the street with them unless their home or destination is on one, and if they want to avoid them they can largely do so by taking the next street over. You could also give one of the remaining streets over to foot, bike, and other light vehicle access. (hipsters on unicycles are people too! No really...), and still have two left for boring regular cars that don't want to interact with AVs, and literally every other lane of the highway system.

      Also many of the train enthusiasts become less so when they are filled with poor people. The light rail in my area has been watching the ridership plummet since we came out of the covid years. Sadly the reason they don't want to ride the bus is the same that they stop riding trains after millions or billions have been wasted building them.

      If you can fix train ridership, you can fix bus ridership. Electric busses already work. We operate them at scale already. They are cheap, reasonably safe, and won't wipe out an entire city block like a train derailment. There are no mile long cargo busses jamming up the bus lane. And lastly, a bus can easily share the road with cars, trucks, or AVs. Not that trains should disappear, they can still make some sense for high volume or longer haul lines, where there is already track.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge

        Re: If you can fix train ridership, you can fix bus ridership

        If they actually

        1) went to useful places

        2) at useful times

        3) on a regular basis

        4) were reasonably priced

        then you've fixed it. However every single one of those objectives breaks the "business model" of someone who has bought your government.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: If you can fix train ridership, you can fix bus ridership

          This is not an exaggeration but I live in rural Oxfordshire. I moved there last year.

          There is precisely one bus that stops in my village.

          It goes to a small town, drops off near the "market".

          It runs only on market days. Which is a Tuesday or something. I don't know because I've never witnessed the actual market, even though I've driven through that town on countless hundreds of instances for each day. If there is a market, it's not what you and I know as a market. Also, that town only has about 10 roads and 5 shops, so it's not in some side-street or other.

          Anyway, this bus runs once every Tuesday. It goes from another big town MANY miles away, into my village, and then onto another town 3 miles away.

          That's it. It doesn't COME BACK. It just goes there.

          I asked all the neighbours about it - in a village of barely a few dozen people, nobody has even seen it, knew it ran or ever used it. Why would you?

          Apparently it was there for the elderly and disabled to get to the village on market days. It just abandons them there. It doesn't even go back to the far larger town further away. So nobody ever uses it. It's only because we're a village that it has to go past to get to the bigger town, it "stops" but we're absolutely not who it's designed for. It's designed for one big town to transport people to a smaller town.

          I have seen this mythical bus (I believe) twice. It's a little minibus. I saw it stopped, or got stuck behind it, once or twice in my village. I've never seen anyone get on it. There were about 3 people on it whenever it was heading towards the drop-off in the town.

          People don't believe me, and then I show them the schedules.

          One bus. One day. One trip. One way. One destination.

          Strangely, when planning permission was being sought to add ten new houses to the village, this was raised - because the village has no resources of its own, no public transport, no schools, no doctors, etc. The council refused planning permission and all appeals because there just aren't the facilities to serve the village, including transport.

          The other day my car was unusable and I haven't tried to get to my current employer by public transport. The journey is 25 minutes in a car. I used all the tools and found the "best route". This involves a 20 minute DRIVE to the nearest railway station. Catching a train into Central London. Changing onto another train out of Central London. And then a 30 minute walk to my workplace. The total estimated time - including waiting for trains - was 3.5 hours.

          The other story I have is when I was challenged why I don't use public transport. At the time I lived in a pretty major London town that you've definitely heard of. I worked just across the same town. My commute was about a 5-10 minute drive.

          I researched the public transport. The one, sole, viable option I could find was thus: a 20 minute walk to a particular bus stop. Catch a single bus that only ran at one time that would get me to work on time (earlier, that bus doesn't run, later the other required links don't run or have huge gaps to make me late). Get off bus, walk to another bus stop. Wait 15 minutes. Get on that bus (assume it's perfectly on-time), get off that bus, get on another bus almost immediately (again, I hope everything's running on time!), get off bus, walk for 15 minutes to destination (because no other bus goes that way).

          When people ask me why I don't use public transport in the UK, I tell them - it absolutely, categorically sucks unless you've deliberately bought a house and got a job near the right type of public transport. Anything else, and you're absolutely stuffed. And those houses/jobs are costed to factor that kind of access in - the houses are more expensive, and the jobs don't provide any other way to get to them, nowhere to park, you have to buy a season ticket, etc. etc. etc.

          Even when it comes to travel for a break or holiday... I can take some ridiculous time and money to get to Cornwall from London (and only certain places in Cornwall), or I can do it in half the time, half the cost just driving myself, whenever I like, however I like, to wherever I like.

          I'm not a car fanatic, I have no interest in Jeremy Clarkson's diatribes or fast cars or making loud noises or leaving tyre tracks. I never have. I don't like that the only way I can reasonably get to most places is by car. But that's been a fact of life for almost my entire life, except when I lived in London near a tube station and went to university in London near a tube station on the same line.

          My retirement plans include an electric car, because there is no other reasonable alternative whatsoever. And when I start becoming too infirm for that, I'm stuck. Sure, I'll have "the time" to spend 3.5 hours trying to go shopping, but I will not have the inclination at all. And I imagine I'll just live in the same village and order goods in. Goods that will arrive by road.

          Public transport is abysmal almost everywhere I've ever lived. In one place it was actually better for me to get on a train for half the journey and then cycle for 15 miles to get to work than it was to get the equivalent buses and trains.

          That's before you even get into timings, reliability, frequency, night services, rail replacements, and all the other things that "go wrong" so often that they are more correctly called "the norm".

          As far as I'm concerned, outside the centre of major cities, mostly London, we just don't have public transport.

      2. lglethal Silver badge

        Re: Dedicated right of ways ARE the better option

        Just to say one thing, if your light rail, or trams if you prefer, are not getting usage then you clear have a poor network. And by that I mean it is not going where it needs to go for people to want to use it.

        Visit anywhere in Continental Europe, and tram, bus, and tube networks dominate. They are (usually) all run by the same network within one area, so that means they meet up, making it one continuous network of transport. This means people can commute in their cities without the need for cars, from pretty much anywhere to anywhere else. Does it always work? Of course not. But until we moved to a small country village a couple of years back, I did not need to own a car in the previous 15 years, across living in 3 countries and 7 cities of sizes varying from Millions to about 300,000.

        I'm not quite sure what you mean by the poor using buses and trams stopping regular people using them? I assume you mean homeless people? If that's the case you need to ask why are homeless people setting up on the trains and buses? Clearly a few extra shelters would go some way to solving that problem. But if you are meaning white collars workers dont want to mix with blue collar workers, that's, well that's just kinda crazy...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dedicated right of ways ARE the better option

          I've lived in rural France, and the situation was little different to that in the UK. Public transport is great in cities, but outside them it's simply not viable for most of normal life.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dedicated right of ways ARE the better option

        >Also many of the train enthusiasts become less so when they are filled with poor people.

        Sounds like you are talking about the Portland, OR MAX train. Also known locally as the light-rail "Crime Train".

        Probably just a random coincidence that hard data on crime rates show an increase whenever a new MAX station is opened nearby. Surely such a utopian mass transit system would never be used to bring unsavory types to the area. In January 2022, as part of their "inclusivity" focused policy changes, police are now prohibited from checking passenger's fares, so everyone can ride for free.

        Imagine how much fun can be had once the same paradigm is applied to driverless cars in a public transportation system.

    3. Fonant

      Re: The only way to make autonomous cars safe

      Or make the vehicles lightweight, so collisions are rarely fatal. Electric bicycles and velomobiles are the future. Less energy usage, less danger, happier people!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The only way to make autonomous cars safe

        "Electric bicycles and velomobiles are the future. Less energy usage, less danger, happier people!"

        Actually, a surprisingly dangerous means of travel, even if we discount accidents with cars. Good at knocking over pedestrians, significantly involved in serious fires, zero weather protection or comfort. The only happy people are scratters using them to get to their next anti-social behaviour episode, and the people making money from them.

        I work in one of the UK's largest cities, and things have improved immensely with the termination of the e-scooter hire contract - far fewer riff-raff riding dangerously, and none being littered around the pavements. Unfortunately, the council and region imbeciles of said location didn't plan this, it's just down to their own incompetence in letting the contract run out without a replacement or extension.

        1. Fonant

          Re: The only way to make autonomous cars safe

          E-scooters were not on my list: they're nothing like as safe or efficient as bicycles or velomobiles.

          But yes, the UK's cities are horrible for transport, in general. Car-infested sewers for streets. Go to a European city to see how urban transport should work. Integrated buses, trams, underground, with simple ticketing, and plenty of proper cycleways specifically designed for people riding bicycles.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Objects in mirror are farther than they appear

    In 2017 the Texas legislature passed a law preventing local jurisdictions from restricting self-driving cars. *Six* years ago the Texas legislature said 'whoopee' and "hands off" to an unproven, unseen-as-yet technology.

    Austin was handcuffed, unable to protect its own citizens. Isn't it nice one of the companies decided to protect... itself?

    Somehow "tech nerds" and "Texas pols" don't match up for me. I'm thinking "hands with money under the table" is much more likely.

  3. sanmigueelbeer

    Cruising a commotion.

  4. Johnb89

    How to detect there's someone underneath? Listen for screaming!

    So they might be checking that the applied torque matches movement including wheel slip, which would work sometimes perhaps.

    But what would a human do? Listen for screaming from under the car or from bystanders. Are they doing that?

    There are too many edge cases for AVs to be safe in the real world. As the other commenters note, they need to be separated.

    1. Fonant

      Re: How to detect there's someone underneath? Listen for screaming!

      To be honest: "There are too many edge cases for cars and lorries to be safe in the real world.".

      By which I mean, mixing 1 tonne cars doing 20mph or more with people on foot is never going to be safe, whoever, or whatever, is driving.

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