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When an Algorithm Takes the Wheel 676

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the take-the-next-step-and-drive-for-me dept.
Wired has an interesting look at Jaguar's new automated driving dynamics system in their new XK convertible. From the article: "During an extreme test of the XK's handling capabilities, the car only fishtailed back and forth once after I jerked the steering wheel on a wet road around a 90 degree turn while driving at about 60 mph. The car's back wheels swung first left then right before the XK's sensors registered a difference in torque between the rear tires and, transparent to me, righted the fishtailing effect by a combination of de-acceleration, tire rotation and vehicle weight distribution control. More often than not, the sensation of flatness, as if there were a vertical force pinning the car to the road, was also felt then and when taking less extreme curves at high speeds."
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When an Algorithm Takes the Wheel

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  • Intrusive. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DrEldarion (114072) * on Monday April 17, 2006 @12:38PM (#15143306)
    This technology is great, but for the love of god, please let me be able to turn it off when I want to! If I want to give the car some extra gas through a corner and kick the back end out, don't interfere with me. Safety is a great goal, but I want to tell the car what to do - I don't want the car telling me what I can do. There are times when traction control gets completely in the way of non-spirited driving, too (like going up a snow-covered driveway).

    Toyota/Lexus is horrible about this. They include intrusive control systems and don't give you any easy way to turn it off.

    • Not intrusive at all (Score:5, Informative)

      by compact_support (968176) on Monday April 17, 2006 @12:44PM (#15143348)
      I drive a 1999 Toyota Solara SLE V6. There is a switch beside the transmission to disengage the traction control systems. I absolutely agree with you that their traction control is awful on snow. Getting from my house to the main roads through the residential neighbourhood requires disengaging the traction control and manually shifting the transmission between 1st, 2nd, and automatic. Probably because I'm too cheap to buy snow tires. A 2006 Lexus IS I looked at recently had a 3 way traction control switch: On, Off, and Snow. Apparently, Lexus agrees with us you about their performance on snow. CS
    • Re:Intrusive. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday April 17, 2006 @12:46PM (#15143360)
      If I want to give the car some extra gas through a corner and kick the back end out, don't interfere with me.

      It sounds like you're a great driver who knows how to control a car in a skid, so this probably doesn't concern you, but I'm quite sure the thousands of people injured by an encounter with a retard playing Michael Shumaker behind the wheel every year would have loved the car to forcibly keep the driver in check.
      • Somehow I don't think that technology is every going to stop those people from being retards. This is not a valid argument against an easy option to turn of traction control. You are misdirecting responsibility onto the car manufacturer, they are supposed to build the best cars not the safest trains. Asking a car to make a person a safe driver is a huuuge request, what happened at the DARPA challenge again?
        • Yup...I guess the day they take away the ability to let ME drive the car, is the day I'll have to look into taking the bus.

          Half the fun of driving a powerful performance car, is pushing it to the limits...of course, you do have to know how to drive a car.

          Lord, everything these days is 'safety concious' and 'what about the children'....me? I'd prefer to take my chances and LIVE life, not have it done for me....

          • Half the fun of driving a powerful performance car, is pushing it to the limits...

            This system doesn't change that. The car still has limits, they're just further out.
          • Re:Intrusive. (Score:3, Insightful)

            by SuperRob (31516)
            Unfortunately, most people end up finding their own limits before they ever find the limits of the car, and that usually ends up taking a toll on otherwise innocent lives (remember, you're taking chances with THEIR lives as well as your own). Roads are dangerous enough.
          • Re:Intrusive. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Gulthek (12570) on Monday April 17, 2006 @01:42PM (#15143741) Homepage Journal
            The problem is that when you LIVE life in a performance car (or, indeed, any car) it isn't just your life that is placed in jeopardy.

            The robot cars are coming. At first it will just be for safety, then auto collision evasion, then auto interstate driving, then mandatory auto interstate driving, then auto street driving in select cities, then auto street driving, then auto road driving, then mandatory street/road driving.

            Eventually you'll just be booting up the car and selecting a recent destination, bookmarked destination, or searching for a new destination with Google Auto Mapper.

            Pros: extremely high traffic density at high speed and environmental legislation will prevent cars from being used for travel less than ten miles---excepting for the elderly with an exemption (otherwise bicycles will be required, thus combating both pollution and obesity). Much higher traffic safety, particularly at rush hour and during inclement weather. Safety is maintained by a combination of centralized regional routing control and client verification of instruction (the car will refuse a central signal that tells it to drive 120mph into a brick wall).

            Cons: We don't get to drive anymore.
            • Re:Intrusive. (Score:3, Insightful)

              by cheezit (133765)
              "Cons: We don't get to drive anymore."

              Fine with me. I hate driving. It sucks. A great car on a great road can be fun, sure, but I never get to do that. I just bump over potholes while staring at the rear bumper of the car in front of me, doing the same twitch reflex actions over and over.

              I'd rather use that time for something else.
          • Re:Intrusive. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by hazem (472289) on Monday April 17, 2006 @02:08PM (#15143936) Journal
            Personally, I'd love to have my car drive me to work and let me do other things like take a nap. That would give me all the bonuses of "mass transit" such as:

            - being able to do other things while getting there (sleep, read, have sex)
            - can sing with the radio without getting killed
            - eat breakfast

            without all the irritating things like:

            - having to travel on someone else's schedule
            - sitting next to smelly/loud/irritating people
            - sitting on seats stained with who-knows-what
            - having to take 3 times as long to get where I'm going
            - standing half the time, next to smelly people, because there aren't enough seats
            - other people having sex (sometimes by themselves)

            Sure, I'd still like to get out and drive the way I want from time to time, but for my daily commute, let my car take me there. And 90% of my driving is to-and-from work.
          • by Mr Z (6791) on Monday April 17, 2006 @02:54PM (#15144245) Homepage Journal

            From the sounds of the review, it seems that this kicks in only when the car is pushed beyond certain limits, and that it performs certain actions faster than a human driver might be able to because the sensors and feedback mechanism are inherently faster through the computer than they are through the human behind the wheel. Humans can outperform the computer only when they correctly anticipate all of the road conditions.

            Correctly applied, this can allow the human to push the car further than would otherwise be safe because you have fine grain closed-loop compensation that is superior to pure open-loop anticipation. The driver can offload a few unknowns onto the car's compensating systems and really dig into it. For one thing, I don't think I've seen a car with human inputs for controlling the torque available on each of the four wheels. In contrast, several of these high-end systems can do tricks like partially applying individual brakes to force the differential to divert torque to non-slipping wheels. Last thing I want is four brake pedals.

            This has some implications. First, for a performance car, this should be relatively easily disabled, or at least severely restrained for cases where the driver wants to perform some "trick driving" actions inconsistent with "going down the road fast and staying on the road." e.g. intentional donuts, spinouts and burnouts. Second, when active, the system better not fail when the driver is relying on it to take up certain slack since a driver accustomed to the computer compensation has mentally offloaded some of the burden to the vehicle.

            I don't think this is about putting kid gloves and nerf on the car.

            --Joe
          • Re:Intrusive. (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ceoyoyo (59147)
            You are welcome to push yourself and your car to the limits, but do so on a track or in another controlled environment. Doing so on public streets is stupid and irresponsible. They're called public for a reason.

            I agree with you about living your life and taking considered risks but make sure those risks are your own. It's not fair of you to risk other people for your own enjoyment, particularly when there's a simple alternative.
      • It sounds like you're a great driver who knows how to control a car in a skid, so this probably doesn't concern you, but I'm quite sure the thousands of people injured by an encounter with a retard playing Michael Shumaker behind the wheel every year would have loved the car to forcibly keep the driver in check.

        This is true, but I can't help but think that a system like this might be crossing a line between technologies that make a car safer by adding a feature and those that make a car safer by removing a

        • Spped limit regulation would be technologically difficut at best, as the car would have to "know" what the speed limit is.
          OTOH, Cars enforcing minimum safe distance would be great. It seem every morning, one of the freeways I take to work is backed up because several cars following too closely behind one another are in an accident. blocking a lane in an already overloaded freeway. Why? Because somebody doesn't want to wait in line for the interchange ramp and squeezes in at the last possible second with m
          • Spped limit regulation would be technologically difficut at best, as the car would have to "know" what the speed limit is.
            Well, at the very least a car manufacturer could limit the top speed for a car to keep it from speeding on the highway.
      • Make it a no-cost feature that people with good driving records can request (like getting a license for automatic weapons or handling high explosives). The average person is way too much of a retard to have a car that doesn't second-guess them ... the two occasions when I, as a pedestrian/cyclist, have been struck by cars that weren't paying attention attests to that.

        If you're some sort of awesome super-driver that could pass a police offensive driving course while dying of alcohol poisoning and helping

    • I wonder what happens with this system on snow?

      One thing that has always worried me about anti-lock brakes, is what happens when I really need to lock everything up - like when I am sliding out of control in a safe direction and need to make sure the car does not spear off. I've been there on snow and - ahem - in other circumstances.

      Seems all these systems should know when they are out of a normal driving regime and then turn off. Antilock does not seem to do that. We hear of people driving into things on w
      • "We hear of people driving into things on wet grass at 5 mph because the brakes would not come on."

        I slid/rolled (slowly) down a 300 foot long incline on wet soft dirt & gravel because my antilocks freaked out. I applied the e-brake, which nicely locked up the back wheels, but since the back wheels had no load (pickup) I kept rolling. Didn't have the guts to throw it into park and kill the engine (and thus the anti-lock) as that is a one-way path, and I wanted my steering to avoid the fenceposts.
        -nB
      • Re:Intrusive. (Score:2, Insightful)

        by thefirelane (586885)
        We hear of people driving into things on wet grass at 5 mph because the brakes would not come on.

        This is an honest question: Do you know how ABS/traction control works? It isn't just: the breaks don't come on. What they do is give just enough brake so that traction is still held and the car doesn't slide. The point being it will slow you down in the absolute fastest way. In your wet grass example, if you really wanted to lock up the wheels,then you'd slide into something at 5mph. It doesn't make a di

        • Re:Intrusive. (Score:5, Informative)

          by smellsofbikes (890263) on Monday April 17, 2006 @01:19PM (#15143576) Journal
          Well... the absolute fastest way to stop is to hit the brake and hold it at the point just before the car starts to slide -- because sliding friction is (usually) much less than static friction, you don't want to slide, but you also want as much energy removed from the system per unit time as possible, so you want to hold the car *right* at the edge of the static->sliding transition. The way an ABS works is to modulate the force you're putting on the brake at some very high repetition rate, to approximate this maximum static friction case. So for most people (myself and 99% of all humans, excepting people who have extensive training under race conditions) the ABS approximates the ideal stopping distance but a few people can stop a car faster without ABS than with.

          That's a technicality, though. The number of people who can do this probably is in the hundreds, worldwide. (I had a friend who drove Formula 1's professionally and he could only manage to outdo an ABS about 20% of the time when he tried it.) So for real-world conditions, you're right: an ABS approaches an ideal stopping force, and allows you to A: not have great skill while still getting this benefit, and B: try and steer the car without worrying about braking modulation.

          I'm glad many cars have it, and I wish all cars had it.

          Mine works quite well in snow and mixed snow/ice/mud, even offroad. I'm really impressed by it.
        • I could be wrong, but I just have never seen what your described in your post.

          Same here. I grew up in a land that has snow on the ground from October to April, and never once met with anyone giving advice to lock the tires in a slide. Even in the days before ABS, the line was "pump your brakes" when trying to stop on ice.

          Tires function kind of funny in that they grip their best when on the threshold of a slide. Lock your tires and you blow past that limit and end up going in a straight line as momentum dict
      • Re:Intrusive. (Score:3, Informative)

        by Somegeek (624100)
        Modern ABS systems will allow you to completly lock the wheels at slow speeds, like below 5mph. This also helps on loose surfaces like gravel.
    • by fshalor (133678)
      How much does it cost to fix when it breaks!

      Sorry, I know for some people, its not an issue. But I can't stand gizmos that break and cost $1k + to repair. Why don't we just mandate better driver education. (Like weekend car control bootcamps or something!!! Like the motorcycle safety courses.)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Reminds me of a guy I knew who had a gravel driveway. Really thick layer of gravel. In his old car, he'd mastered the technique of pulling into the driveway at a fairly good speed, slamming on the brakes so the wheels locked, and plowing through the gravel to a perfect stop. Always ended up just a few feet from the garage door.

      Then he bought a newer car. With anti-lock brakes. Came home straight from the dealer, went to do his little trick into the driveway, and drove right through the garage door. Of
    • by Guppy06 (410832) on Monday April 17, 2006 @01:50PM (#15143809)
      Ah, yes, the United States, where every other driver on the road is an idiot except you.
      • by wsloand (176072)
        No, there are two classes of drivers other than me:

        Everyone who drives faster than I do is an asshole. Everyone who drives slower than me is an idiot.

        That means that only about 95% of drivers are idiots.
    • Re:Intrusive. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timholman (71886) on Monday April 17, 2006 @02:21PM (#15144024)
      This technology is great, but for the love of god, please let me be able to turn it off when I want to! If I want to give the car some extra gas through a corner and kick the back end out, don't interfere with me. Safety is a great goal, but I want to tell the car what to do - I don't want the car telling me what I can do.

      So you believe you're a better driver than the computer. But are you willing to bet the lives of your passengers, or the lives of other people on the road, that you're a better driver than the computer? More importantly, if I'm driving behind or beside your car in bad weather, am I willing to bet you're a better driver than a computer? I think not.

      Let's look at the statistics. In 2004, a total of 42,636 people died, and 2.8 million were injured on U.S. highways. In other words, more U.S. citizens were killed and maimed on U.S. roads every three weeks than have been killed and maimed in the Iraq war after more than three years. Yet society shrugs its shoulders at this level of highway carnage.

      I'll bet that many of the drivers who instigated the accidents that led to those 42,636 deaths and 2.8 million injuries in 2004 had the same thoughts: "I want to be in control of my car." "I'm a better driver than a computer." But clearly they weren't, and in many cases innocent people were hurt or killed because of that hubris.

      Finally technology is reaching the point that we can build an automobile with safety features that can help compensate for bad driving habits and bad driving conditions, and yet some people argue that they should be able to turn those safety features off. That's argument makes about as much sense as the old rationalization about not using seat belts: "My chances of survival are better if I'm thrown clear of the car, instead of being strapped in." I've heard people actually say that; of course, I'm sure none of them ever worked as a paramedic at a highway accident scene, either. It's an emotional argument, not a logical one.

      Sorry, but if you're going to be sharing a public road with other automobiles, then as your fellow driver I vote that you keep those safety features turned on. Furthermore, the statistics prove that if your car does have those safety features, you're foolish not to keep them turned on 100% of the time, even if they may cause more harm than good in some rare set of circumstances - because it's impossible for you to know in advance what those circumstances will be if you're involved in an accident.
      • Re:Intrusive. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DrEldarion (114072) *
        So you believe you're a better driver than the computer. But are you willing to bet the lives of your passengers, or the lives of other people on the road, that you're a better driver than the computer? More importantly, if I'm driving behind or beside your car in bad weather, am I willing to bet you're a better driver than a computer? I think not.

        Yes, I do believe that I'm a better driver than the computer. I know exactly what's surrounding my car at any moment, and the computer does not. I know exactly wh
        • Re:Intrusive. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Foerstner (931398)
          I know exactly what's surrounding my car at any moment, and the computer does not. I know exactly what I need the car to do, and the computer can only say, "I should probably stop now." It just has a few sensors.

          Do you know the exact speed of each wheel at any given time? Do you have an accurate accelerometer to measure lateral force? (The seat of your pants does not count.) Do you know, within a hundredth of a second, when an individual wheel looses traction? Can you respond within the next hundredth of
  • The cadence you get to experience when the XK's engine is pushed toward the 600 rpm point is what Jaguar touts as a centerpiece technology feature.
    Either it got some kind of weird V8 engine, or this is a typo. I think it is the latter - in fact, 6000 rpm would sound about right.
  • by AviLazar (741826) on Monday April 17, 2006 @12:40PM (#15143319) Journal
    KITT: "Michael, I don't think I can do that"

    Michael: "That's alright little buddy, I know you can" [Pushes button to do STUPID ass maneouver]

    Also, "Little buddy" does Michael not realize that he is a human, 6'4, probably about 180lbs (David Hasselhoff is kinda lankey) talking to a car that you know - weighs a lot - especially with all the toys it has built into it.
  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Monday April 17, 2006 @12:41PM (#15143324) Homepage Journal
    Side sensors on the car's side, for example, gauge if the car is about to roll over, and then activate the roll-over bar, which breaks through the glass of the back windshield.

    For front-end collisions, a fiber optic connection from left to right registers impacts. The sensors' algorithms then program the hood and front end to react differently according to what is hit.

    For pedestrians, a mesh-like material is activated in less than 50 milliseconds beneath the hood, which serve to cushion the blow upon impact.


    These well-nigh amazing safety features leave me asking the same question that I ask myself when I hear GM's OnStar commercials, touting features like calling emergency services on airbag deployment [gm.com].

    How many lives does a feature have to save before it should be required equipment?

    Early automobiles were deathtraps, until a fellow by the name of Ralph brought the issue to national prominence in 1965 with Unsafe at Any Speed [wikipedia.org] , a book to which many of us owe our very existence. Since then, we have assumed a right to a safe vehicle. No car company would be allowed to sell a $3000 rattletrap with no seat belts and no air bags and an engine in the passenger seat, even if they required purchasers to sign a safety waiver. I think this can be counted as "progress", though the more Libertarian folks out there might disagree.

    But assuming that Da Gooberment has an obligation to obligate safer vehicles, where do you set the bar? If a "mesh-like material" is the difference between injury and Pedestrian Souffle', why not require such a system on all vehicles? Or do I have to cross my fingers and only step out in front of cars built by Jaguar?
    • by Loco3KGT (141999) on Monday April 17, 2006 @12:47PM (#15143366)
      But assuming that Da Gooberment has an obligation to obligate safer vehicles, where do you set the bar? If a "mesh-like material" is the difference between injury and Pedestrian Souffle', why not require such a system on all vehicles? Or do I have to cross my fingers and only step out in front of cars built by Jaguar?

      When the costs of the increase in safety make it too expensive for the poor to afford even the cheapest "safe" car.
    • "I think this can be counted as "progress", though the more Libertarian folks out there might disagree."

      What most capital-L Libertarians fail to realize is that you can't "vote with your dollar" if you're dead.
      • You have just posted one of the most insghtful and astute statements I think I have ever read on /. And it was pithy to boot.

        Thank you.
      • by l2718 (514756) on Monday April 17, 2006 @01:04PM (#15143480)

        Actually, what most Libertarians realize is that you cannot govern based on emotions, and that everything has a value.

        For example, the latest just-approved medical treatment is usually very expensive (it may have cost $1bn to develop), while the treatments we had 10 years ago are cheaper, but not as effective. Should every medical plan have to cover the expensive option?

        For a more stark example, six healthy British men nearly died [cnn.com] while participating in a safety test for a new drug. Do you think it ok for drug companies (and indirectly, us consumers) to pay for people to risk their lives for this? Or is it wrong to ascribe a value to this?

    • No car company would be allowed to sell a $3000 rattletrap with no seat belts and no air bags and an engine in the passenger seat, even if they required purchasers to sign a safety waiver. I think this can be counted as "progress", though the more Libertarian folks out there might disagree.

      FYI: those cars are sold... they are used. So people that want 3k cars get crappy old ones, instead of what would naturally be better new cars. Just pointing out that because you make something illegal doesn't mean th

    • Or do I have to cross my fingers and only step out in front of cars built by Jaguar?

      WTF?! Maybe I am misunderstanding, but if your stepping out in front of moving traffic plan on getting turned in to shusi. What happens if you get knocked over and your head gets ran over by the next car? Saftey devices are great and all, but they can never replace paying attention.

      Look left, look right, live.
      • Not going to bother looking for it, but the new lexus has a system where the front end is designed to push you up and onto the hood instead of knocking you over, then the hood pops up an inch to cushion your fall. Seriously.. Can't wait for a family to sue because johnny still died.
    • by TigerNut (718742) on Monday April 17, 2006 @01:03PM (#15143473) Homepage Journal
      Well thought out safety features will save many lives on the occasions that they function effectively... However, there are many cases where safety features are nullified due to the ignorance of the driver and/or passengers, and reducing the incidence of collisions by better driver education (and proper appreciation by the driver of what they're doing) is the cheapest safety of all.

      Examples include: Proper adjustment of the seat and headrests for best control and protection; proper wearing of the seatbelt; proper use of child-safety seats; keeping signal lights in proper function and using the turning signals; Taking new drivers on a real high-speed driving course where they actually do accident avoidance maneuvers; teaching new drivers how to recognize treacherous road conditions; more emphasis on cooperative driving instead of purely "defensive driving" (which quickly turns into a passive-aggressive "I can be in the left lane because I'm doing the speed limit" game).

  • gravity (Score:5, Funny)

    by shams42 (562402) on Monday April 17, 2006 @12:44PM (#15143343)
    "More often than not, the sensation of flatness, as if there were a vertical force pinning the car to the road, was also felt then and when taking less extreme curves at high speeds."

    Yeah, if only there was such a force...
    • But I like my car to go sailing off into the sky whenever I hit a bump. I don't want some damned computerized traction control system stopping me from doing that!!

      (In other words, you beat me to it.....)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I rotate my tires periodically as well, but not usually when negotiating a 90 degree turn at 60 mph.
  • by JimBobJoe (2758) <swiftheart AT gmail DOT com> on Monday April 17, 2006 @12:46PM (#15143357)
    ...ordinary stability control? [wikipedia.org]
  • by WED Fan (911325) <`ten.liamhsart' `ta' `egihaka'> on Monday April 17, 2006 @12:49PM (#15143380) Homepage Journal

    I think I might love this idea being fully explored. Add some more IA, a social conscience. The I-5 and I-405 will get much nicer.

    Car: DAVE, I AM SENSING YOU ARE ON YOUR CELL PHONE AND DRIVING LIKE AN A**HOLE. I AM OVERRIDING AND MOVING YOU TO THE PREDESIGNATED IDIOT LANE.

    Or,

    Car: DAVE, THE RADIO STATION YOU ARE LISTENING TO HAS LITTLE REDEEMING VALUE AND IS OVERTLY REPUBLICAN, I AM TUNING THE RADIO TO NPR!

    Or,

    Car: DAVE, FLIPPING THE FINGER AT THAT NICE LADY IN THE BMW WAS NOT NICE. I AM ACTIVATING ON-STAR AND CALLING YOUR MOTHER.

    To be honest, I still want control of my car. I'll drive, thank you. (Still don't trust ABS since I hit that deer.)

    • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday April 17, 2006 @12:57PM (#15143440)
      (Still don't trust ABS since I hit that deer.)

      That's logic turned on its head. So you hit a deer with your ABS-equipped car: does it occur to you that, perhaps, without ABS, you'd have hit the deer a lot faster?
      • ABS doesn't slow you down any better then non-ABS systems. What it DOES do though is allow you to steer while under maximum breaking conditions.

        -Rick
        • ABS doesn't slow you down any better then non-ABS systems

          Yes and no. The fastest way to stop any car is to brake at the limit of traction - so that the wheels are still rolling, but any more braking and they'd lock up. A skilled driver can do that in a non-ABS car, but most people can't - they just slam on the brakes and lock the wheels, causing a skid. ABS will make a normal driver stop faster by preventing that skid and braking at the limit of traction.

          What it DOES do though is allow you to steer while

      • There is a reson why insurance companies don't give out ABS discounts any longer in places where it snows regularly. They don't work well because conditions are variable from one second to the next, and the algorithms that are programmed into the controllers can't measure intent. In fact, among people that I know that HAVE ABS on their vehicles, the first thing they do is pull the fuse to disable it in winter.
        I wish I had done the same. My vehicle was involved in one moderate crash over a thirteen year s
  • Jaguar (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HungWeiLo (250320) on Monday April 17, 2006 @12:49PM (#15143381)
    Why don't they concentrate their efforts on something more worthwhile - such as making their cars suck less?

    Seriously, I've known at least 3 people who bought them (against my advice) who all unloaded their problem-prone cars within a year to some other poor soul. (Just for the sake of not picking strictly on Jaguar, BMWs suck quite a bit sometimes too. I have a friend that I pick up from the BMW dealer's service dept at least once every 2 months or so).

    Before any Jaguar fanbois flame on, there's certainly a reason why the resale value of a Jaguar plummets to 21% of its original retail price after only 5 years of ownership.
  • A while back there was this airplane show. One of the planes had to fly close to the ground in a sweeping motion. The computer thought it was about to land, and started the landing procedure. For a couple of minutes, the pilot where fighting the computer. The ending was tragic, because the plane did land - in a forrest - and burst into flames.
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Monday April 17, 2006 @12:51PM (#15143398) Journal
    Some lady slowed to a stop without her tail lights working, so I noticed it at the last moment. I deliberately fish tailed my car, and I was about a foot from her rear bumper. If I had ABS or anti-fishtailing, I would have been in an accident.
    • I was always taught to respond to the car, not the lights. After being in a few close calls with drivers whose brake lights did not function, this lesson is engraved in my brain. It also made me get in the habit of checking the lights on my vehicles every month like I am supposed to (I still don't floss, though).

  • ...but no matter how cool it is, it is still a Ford.

  • Translation (Score:4, Funny)

    by Sneftel (15416) on Monday April 17, 2006 @12:53PM (#15143412)
    a combination of de-acceleration, tire rotation and vehicle weight distribution control.

    Translation: The car tossed him out the window.
  • ...the car only fishtailed back and forth once after I jerked the steering wheel on a wet road around a 90 degree turn while driving at about 60 mph

    You could also just slow down.

    I'm kind of sick of seeing commercials with cars driving 60mph through 2 feet of snow as if it were a hot summer day.
  • Robot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blair1q (305137) on Monday April 17, 2006 @01:09PM (#15143510) Journal
    Don't anyone mistake this for what it is: a robot that overrides your control inputs.
    • The first law trumps the second. :)
    • Re:Robot (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stienman (51024)
      Don't anyone mistake this for what it is: a robot that overrides your control inputs.

      Ah yes, the "control freak" response, also used by the "robots are taking over our jobs" people.

      Let's think this through. If you want to tune the station on your radio, would you rather 1) turn a dial or 2) tune the PLL by hand because, after all, there's a "robot" that doesn't allow you to tune in non-standard frequencies and it is making decisions for you how best to tune to stations that may not be exactly on fre
  • While enabling the car ( or should I say, irresponsible driver ) to turn corners faster, does it also enable the car to stop hitting the pedestrian crossing the road round the corner? Maybe we should be delveloping that software *first*, and then the 'drive more irresponsibly' later?

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Monday April 17, 2006 @01:18PM (#15143562)
    Automated highway systems will never happen.

    First, and foremost, you could never have a mixed environment of automated and manually driven vehicles. Watching iRobot and seeing Will Smith take over manual control on an automated highway was completely ridiculous. In an environment where computers will have to react to the unpredictable behaviour of human drivers, the computes will always lose. How many 200 car pileups will have to occur before it is realized that computer drivers and human drivers won't mix. Computers cannot anticipate the irradict behaviour of a drunk driver. Nor can they anticipate a woman swearving across 6 lanes of traffic to hit her exit because she was too busy putting on lipstick to pay attention to the exit signs. Humans and computers won't mix.

    Secondly, you need to either put the highways underground or put a cover on them. There is no way a computer driven vehicle will respond appropriately if a deer rushes on the road, or suddenly there is a freak blizzard and the road conditions go from dry to slick. Putting highways in tunnels will mean your eliminating weather and most other external obstacles from interfering with computer driven vehicles. A human might pick up a deer standing still off the side of the road and slow down anticipating if it might jump out. A computer probably wouldn't register the deer was standing there until its firmly embedded in its windshield.

    Lastly, simple fact will be that there will be some significant flaw in the entire system. Your not going to get all car manufacturers to use the same systems. Your going to need some external system regulating the traffic and communicating with a variety of different systems which will vary city to city, state to state. Even if the communication protocol is standardized, your still going to have some car manufactures that implement automated driving better then others. A Jaguar or other high end vehicle is going to react faster and have better handling them some Geo Metro or Ford Escort.

    Bottom line is, in an environment with so much variation, something will go wrong, and it will cost significant human life. When this happen, people will abandon the concept of computer driven vehicles.

    Its a nice hobby, but its a complete waste of time. Unless they invent anti-gravity and force fields, your never going to have an automated highway system.
    • by Manchot (847225) on Monday April 17, 2006 @01:48PM (#15143791)
      I don't think that's necessarily true. I think that automated highways will eventually come to pass, but it won't be overnight. What will probably happen is that it will be a gradual process, driven by the fact that the automobile companies will want to make sure that accidents can't be attributed to their vehicles. You can already see it starting. First, we had cruise control. Then, we had adaptive cruise control. Now, we're seeing adaptive cruise control with the ability to brake, as well as cars which can parallel park themselves. As long as the manufacturers take baby steps, all possible scenarios will eventually be accounted for.
    • by CreatureComfort (741652) * on Monday April 17, 2006 @02:01PM (#15143885)

      I will, slightly, agree with your contention that computer and human controlled vehicles will not co-exist on the same structure. However, there are already numerous examples of seperated roadways that carry automated vehicles. Las Vegas has just installed an automated busway where the buses have drivers, but in reality, the bus does 99% of the driving with the driver just there "in case" (really just there so the people on board don't freak out over no human driver). You also see more and more HOV lanes going in all over the country. It wouldn't take much to turn the HOV lanes into high-speed automated vehicle lanes.

      All of the other points in your article are merely technological difficulties, and not particularly difficult ones to solve. Solving cost effectively right now is the issue, but as technology is improved in testing and the incremental cost comes down it is almost inevitable.

      In addition, are you serious that you believe a human being in a car at night is more likely to notice a deer at the side of the road at highway speeds than a computerized hazard identification system? Let alone said human being able to take an appropriate action in sufficient time. Humans work on the order of seconds, while a decent control system will work on the order of milliseconds. This would make a huge difference in a lot of cases.

      Add to this the fact that the vast majority of drivers would really prefer to be able to get into their car in the garage, tell it to take them to work, then sit and read the paper, talk on the phone, apply makeup, etc. and have the vehicle deliver them to the front door of their office in a fast, safe manner... then go park itself to wait until they needed it again. The representative audience of /. is highly skewed to do-it-youselfers with a high level of scepticism toward untested technology. The average person who first sees an automated vehicle speeding past the congestion with the person inside drinking coffee over a newspaper is immediately going to want the same experience. (of course, in today's world the next reaction will be to hope that lucky s.o.b. dies in a fire, and he doesn't deserve it, and obviously we should raise taxes on the rich so-and-so, etc., etc.)

      Your contention that "something will go wrong, it will cost significant human life, it will be abandoned" is laughable. The system we have today kills over 45,000 americans per year. To me that's pretty significant loss of life, and not only do I not see people trying to abandon the system, I see idiots all over (in this discussion thread even) defending it in the name of "I should be free to drive like an asshat if I want to."

  • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Monday April 17, 2006 @01:20PM (#15143588) Homepage Journal
    My father complains about his anti-lock brakes, says they don't feel "natural." Personally I even hate power steering. Does anyone else feel like these kinds of things distance you from a more natural, intuitive feeling of control?
  • by up2ng (110551)
    I have a 1997 Cadillac DeVille, as part of the Northstar system I have ABS/Traction Control and ICCS (Integrated Chassis Control System) AKA Stabilitrak. My car does what this Jaguar does by keeping the car going where I point the steering wheel, and Cadillac has had it since 1997!
    The system does what it is supposed to and does it well, it has saved my ass a couple of times on icy winter roads. My only problem is that if you are a good driver these systems will help you, if you are the type that pushes a c
  • by danpsmith (922127) on Monday April 17, 2006 @01:50PM (#15143806)
    I think having the vehicle control emergency systems is a lot safer than having the car completely drive itself at this point. It combines the best of what people are good at, which is being able to physically identify where they need to be on the road and maintain basic control, and what a computer is good at: namely, crunching numbers.

    Humans are worse at thinking logically in situations where they have to emergency brake, or steer, etc. and are more prone to panic. If the computer could figure out these functions for the driver, that would make driving a car a lot safer in hazardous conditions.

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