Tuesday, February 16, 2016

So relaxing in a self driving car

You have probably heard of the Google self driving car. Apparently Apple too has been employing engineers of the type who can design and build a car. I hope Microsoft don't join in. Can you imagine the paper clip assistant popping up; It looks like you are driving a car. Would you like some help with that? Then again, it might be good if it said, It looks like you are in a traffic jam. Would you like some help with that?

I doubt we will ever see self driving cars on our roads en masse. There have been a number of accidents involving the Google self driving car, not usually a direct fault of the car though, perhaps more its un-human like behaviour. Here are a couple of instances. One involves entering and merging on a freeway. Australians used to be quite poor at this skill but I think it is one skill that has improved over the past couple of decades. Thank goodness something has improved as every other driving skill seems to have gone backwards.

So, heavy traffic on a freeway. The driver entering the freeway speeds up to the speed of the traffic on the freeway, indicates and someone will drop back a little or change lanes to let them in. Usually! The last thing you want to do is slam on the brakes because there is no obvious gap but that is what the Google car did. It could not see a gap to merge into, so it simply came to abruptly stop with probably bang, bang, bang behind it.

Another problem, a road with a single lane in each direction. A cyclist is riding along and there is insufficient room to pass the cyclist without moving a little bit into the opposing lane, which is what drivers would normally do once there was nothing coming the other way. Not so the Google car. It will not cross the white centre line so it just sits safely behind the cyclist. Cyclists may well like this aspect of the Google car but as the line cars grew behind the Google car, drivers would become very frustrated and start taking risks.

While we won't see self driving cars for a long time, well not cars as we know them, what we will see and are already seeing is lots more driver assistance. There is already braking radar, lane drift warnings and many other features to help drivers. There will be more and more of this type of driver assistance and it will become very sophisticated.

I recently heard of a car in Sydney that could read speed limit signs and adjust its speed accordingly. Sounds good? Until it came up behind a Sydney bus with the warning to pass the bus at 40 km/h if the lights are flashing. The car read the forty as a normal speed limit sign.

Sorry, this is a gratuitous photo of an old Sydney double decker. I'll try again.


There you go. Got it right now.


19 comments:

  1. Definitely a wait and see proposition. And I too have probably not got enough time left to see them become mainstream.

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    1. EC, it is unfortunate to have to say things like, I won't see it, but one has to be realistic.

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  2. Forget the self driving car, with the traffic these days and only to get worse in the future. Is it not time they developed the George Jetson family space car.

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    1. Allan, I really thought we would have something like that by now. Instead after a 150 years of steel wheels on rails, we even seem to have lost the skill to do that.

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  3. Interesting read regarding the Google car.
    Melbourne drivers are usually courteous and let you in off another lane, not hear, they won't let you in! Annoying.

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    1. Margaret, I think it is critical mass here. Most people realise there has to be great deal of give and take on our very congested roads.

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  4. I don't like the idea of self-driving cars. it would take the joy out of motoring for so many people who just love to get behind the wheel and drive. And I don't think a self-driven car will be able to make split second decisions to suddenly take the side road, just to see what's down there.

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    1. River, I really hate driving now. It is a miserable experience and I find no joy in motoring. You are correct, the car will go when it is programmed to, without variation.

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  5. Gratuitous photo are fine :) But the buses were/are big old petrol guzzlers and polluters, weren't they?

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    1. They certainly were Hels, and the beasts replaced Sydney's trams.

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  6. I would like to ba a driver of the blue bus

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    1. Gosia, I am sure they are very comfortable for the driver. Sydney's new buses are excellent.

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  7. I can't see how it would work en masse Andrew it wouldn't be very relaxing, you know how some passengers can't help themselves going through motions, braking etc. I have this hilarious image of many stressed people arriving, hopefully, at their destinations :)

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    1. Grace, I did not think of that and I should have as I am person who is inclined to operate the invisible brake on the passenger side.

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  8. It might be helpful, if they can ever get the bugs worked out, for people who can't drive for some physical reason. Can't see it becoming the norm for several generations, at best.

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    1. Cranky, it certainly would be. In theory you would not need a driving license. Yes, it will be a long time yet.

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  9. On a complete tangent from your post I notice the double decker bus is displaying route 440. Last October Sydney bus routes were subject to massive changes in preparation for construction of the new South Eastern light rail. The well known and very popular route 378 (Bronte Beach to Railway Square) became route 440 (Bronte Beach to Rozelle). For decades all Eastern Suburbs bus routes have fallen within the 3xx series of numbers and it still feels strange to see a 4xx bus route in my area.

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    1. Victor, that must be quite unsettling, and just when I learnt some new bus routes after last year's visit. I guess the new 440 goes via Railway.

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    2. I'm not certain what the route is between Railway Square and Rozelle. I must take the bus one day and see.

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