Every year cars get a little better, but we’re in for a period of about 5 years in electric cars where each year's new model is a lot better, and that’s trouble for people trying to sell them. To top it off, in a few years robocar features will start getting more serious (starting with the first no-supervision traffic jam assist), and so other parts of the car will also be on the Moore’s Law curve. How might a taxi model for robocars mitigate this?
While many people view technology or regulation as the biggest obstacles to robocar deployment, it could be that the bigger obstacle is that we have yet to determine what our safety goals are for autonomous cars, and also how to test these vehicles so that we can know when these goals have been met.
Be careful what you wish for. Google had previously requested that state regulations on robocars be clarified, to help ensure that their driverless cars were legal. When California's DMV finally released its proposed regulations yesterday, Google found them quite upsetting. The state's draft operating rules effectively forbid Google’s current plan, making it illegal to operate a vehicle without a licensed and specially certified driver on board.
In the buzz over the Tesla autopilot update, a lot of commentary has appeared comparing this Autopilot with Google’s car effort and other efforts and what I would call a “real” robocar — one that can operate unmanned or with a passenger who is not paying attention to the road. We’ve seen claims that “Tesla has beaten Google to the punch,” but while the Tesla release is a worthwhile step forward, the two should not be confused as all that similar.
Hear about the current state of the driverless vehicle industry from experts including IEEE Member Jeffrey Miller, IEEE Fellow Wei-Bin Zhang, Bernard Soriano, and Bryant Walker Smith. In addition to present-day commentary, the panelists explored the future of the industry as it relates to technology, policy and ethics.
In a surprise move today, Toyota held a press conference (see video below) announcing a substantial investment in robotics and AI research to develop “advanced driving support” technology, with former Program Manager of DARPA’s DRC Gill Pratt directing the overall project as Executive Technical Advisor. Toyota will allocate USD$50M over the next five years in a partnership with MIT’s CSAIL (headed by Daniela Rus) and Stanford’s SAIL (headed by Fei-Fei Li) to develop research facilities in Stanford and Cambridge.
I’m in the Detroit area for the annual TRB/AUVSI Automated Vehicle Symposium. Those in Ann Arbor attended the opening of the new test track at the University of Michigan, but I was at a small event with a lot of good folks in downtown Detroit, sponsored by SAFE, which is looking to wean the USA off oil. Much was discussed, but a particularly interesting idea was just how close we are getting to something I had put further in the future: robocars that are cheaper than ordinary cars.
A reader recently asked about the synergies between robocars and ultracapacitors / supercapacitors. It turns out they are not what you would expect, and it teaches some of the surprising lessons of robocars.
Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported on several past crashes involving automated vehicles. (Per SAE Standard J3016, I use the term “automated vehicle” instead of “autonomous vehicle” or “self-driving car” or “driverless car.”) A few thoughts.
An interesting article in last week’s Wall Street Journal spawned a series of unfortunate headlines (in a variety of publications) suggesting that Tesla had somehow “solved” the “problem” of “liability” by requiring that human drivers manually instruct the company’s autopilot to complete otherwise-automated lane changes.
(I have not asked Tesla what specifically it plans for its autopilot or what technical and legal analyses underlie its design decisions. The initial report may not and should not be the full story.)
Google has done over 2.7 million km of testing with their existing fleet, they announced. Now, they will be putting their small “buggy” vehicle onto real streets in Mountain View. The cars will stick to slower streets and are NEVs that only go 25mph.
The University of Michigan recently released some advance research about motion sickness rates for car passengers. Press coverage of the study tended to conclude that this will be a barrier to self-driving cars. But does this have to be the case?