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Smart Car, Or Dumb Idea? 167

Lee writes: "this article on BBC News (& This longer one on New Scientist, with a nice diagram) talks about an 'artificial passenger' being developed by IBM. It's built into the dashboard of your vehicle and will talk to you, tell you jokes, and monitor your responses ... why? To keep you from falling asleep at the wheel,and adding yourself to the 30% of road traffic accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel. Some of the countermeasures are entertaining, but there's no mention of electrocution. Damn!"
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Smart Car, Or Dumb Idea?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    While driving I talk on the cell phone to keep awake. ...Wait a second.
  • by davidu ( 18 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:22AM (#68974) Homepage Journal

    If a response indicates a driver is getting sleepy, the artificial passenger has several options available to rouse the person behind the wheel. It could wind down a window to let cold air circulate, sound a buzzer and perhaps even use a spray to dash cold water into the face of the driver.

    Why do I fear this is the first sign of "The Terminator" becoming a reality.

    Sure, water guns today, heat-sensing laser guns tomorrow.
  • I'd want it only if I could have Robert Picardo's voice programmed into it:

    Arnold: "Where am I?"
    Car: "You're in a Johnny Cab."
    Arnold: "How did I get here?"
    Car: "The door opened - you got in. Hell of a day!"

    Now that would be fun!
  • I found I could even fall asleep while taking notes. My writing would degenerate into a random wavy line. When my head slumped forward, the shock would cause me to wake up for another minute or so.
  • It is a mental check.

    If you find that joke funny it means you are too tired to drive.

    Time to pull over and rest your brain.

  • Wenn ist das Nunstuck git und Slotermeyer? Ja! Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!?

    (For the Python-impaired, see this link [].)

  • Yah, telling them not to drive won't do much good, because most people are too fucking self-centered and stupid to accept the *fact* that driving while drowsy puts people's lives in grave danger.

  • So yeah, during night flying pilots could use their instruments to tell them they were going up, down, or sideways -- but the coffee never lied.

    Um, not quite. A fluid, like hot water in a bowl will only tell you that you are accelerating upward in the sense of the plane, not the sense of the ground. Ie, you can do a loop in a plane and not spill your bowl of water, and you can pile-in just fine while pulling positive G's the whole way :-(

    Not a pilot, but married to one :-)

  • Who's to say that jokes that 90% of the population think are funny, I will think are funny?

    One of my favorites is:

    Q: What's the difference between a duck?

    A: One of it's legs is both the same!

    I'm sure Joe American will just go 'Duuh ... Huh?' at that one...
  • by Christopher Thomas ( 11717 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:20AM (#68982)
    I can just see loading Eliza into this for laughs.

    The irony is that an Eliza-like program might actually be a decent enough conversationalist for these purposes.
  • You're missing the point. If your government spent as much money on mass transit as it does on roads and policing them, public transit would be faster than driving AND safer, and you wouldn't have to buy a car.

    Comparing the current state of driving now to the current state of mass transit now is unfair unless the two are equally funded.
  • I think this just shows us how stupid the idea of individually controlled transportation is. This is just one of the reasons any form of mass transit is 7 times safer than automobiles. This "entertainment" is a high tech kludge to a inherently limited transportation system. As long as any joe in any physical condition can jump behind a wheel of a vehicle, automobiles will continue to be deadly.

    It's a pitty that the US government so heavily subsidizes automobiles and gives other forms of transit the shaft, especially with possibility of having other much more technically advanced forms of transit such as high-speed rail and supersonic transport.

  • >Mass transit isn't as safe as you'd think.

    Mass transit is far safer than you think.
    Any form of mass transit IS 7 times safer than
    automobiles on a per person per passenger mile basis. That is, you are 7 times less likely to die in a bus, airplane, or train than in a car for every mile that you travel. Yes, there are more news articles about people dieing in large crashes than smaller ones, but that is because deaths in small auto crashes are so common (~50000/year in the US!) newspapers don't even print them anymore. Automobiles are FAR more deadly than any mass transit.
    I think you also underestimate the possibilities of mass transit in moderate density areas. But that could be argued much more.

  • I think this is not a good idea. People will get into their cars with a false sense of security (my car will keep me awake). People who drive cars with ABS also tend to drive closer to the car in front of them, and take more risks because their car 'can stop at once if necessary'.
  • <voice_change mode="Stephen-Hawking/WOPR>I don't think Global Thermonuclear War is such a good game. How about a nice game of chess, professor?</voice_change>

  • My understanding is that a system that allows computer controlled cars on highways exists. And that work is being done to use the system in cities. the latter is based on hearsay from an AI grad, who is not affiliated with the project.

    While I agree with your point, you fail to mention that computers can drive much better than people. They would be able to handle construction zones and on ramps with aplomb, unlike the morons whose sole purpose is to prevent others getting in front of them. I think the only problem is convincing people give up control of their cars, and handling the idiots that don't.

    Consider the blowout scenario, a sensor can detect the blowout by; looking at the tire, hearing the sound of the blowout, noting the change in handling or simply monitoring the pressure within the tire. the computer can even stop the car as the likelihood of a blowout reaches a critical point - i am not a car guy so this might not be possible. and in the case of a blow out a computer will simply take release the gas and cruise to a stop. it would slam on the brakes flip over and kill everyone like a human.
  • I lived in Calgary when they put in the LRT, and it was pretty damn good. At the time, the population was 500,000 and we had a pretty good bus network. If you've even been there, you'll understand "urban sprawl" :)

    Subways, OTOH, always assume a downtown core that you can tunnel under. Either that, or you end up with elevated trains like Boston's old Orange Line, or Chicago's El, neither of which looks very nice :)

    A lot of smaller cities in Ontario (London, Guelph) have bus service. If you're too young to drive, it's pretty much the only option.

  • by Pope ( 17780 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @11:12AM (#68990)
    is a car that dispenses Tim Horton's coffee! (you think Starbucks coffee is hot? You ain't seen nothing yet! It's why all the drivers on the 401 are maniacs. :)

    Oh, and a nice selection of up-tempo tunes.

    Honestly, if you're feeling tired, don't fuckin' drive! It's been a while since I've have to drive *anywhere*, but back in high school I always knew where the nearest Honeydew or Dunkin Donuts were so I could at least perk myself up for the drive home.

  • Or since these machines probably have a way of communicating with each other, the car that had the blowout can just transmit the fact to its neighbors.
  • So help me God if it try's to convince me that "a Door is a Jar!"
  • Don't forget - IBM has the record for the most patent one year. How many more are like this one???
  • Yes I totally agree. It is such an obvious fact that people just can't believe it's true. Stupid!

    I already posted a comment detailing how to tell if you're sleep's simple, really. Too simple for the media to report, apparently. Dumbasses.
  • students have it bad! Odd how many early sleep studies were skewed because they used sleep-deprived college students! ("Hey, these students sleep 10-11 hours a night for 2 weeks, then they miraculously only need 8 hours a night." -- hence the discovery of sleep debt)

    Fortunately, most college students can't afford to drive a car, or can't afford to commute. So, they sleep on the bus.

    Truckers, salesmen, executives, and blue collar workers likely are at highest risk of sleeping at the wheel.
  • Good advice. Unfortunately, I could never get into the napping thing. I always end up too wide awake a few hours lately, and never get back to sleep.

    Damn those weekends...going to sleep at 2 or 3 am Friday and Saturday nightmesses up my sleep rhythm for the rest of the week. I'll blame computers...yeah that's the ticket! :)
  • Hmmm...that sounds pretty dangerous. Also, I'm pretty sure it was Thomas Edison (the inventor guy) and not Jefferson who attempted this schedule. I could be wrong, but I do know that Edison attempted the same schedule, but his assistants witnessed him dozing for hours when he was supposedly "napping" for 20 minutes!

    Now, the claim about the 1.5 to 2 hours of REM sleep being required (and not the typical 8 hours minimum) per day is interesting, but does contradict the research conclusions found in the Promise of Sleep book. Lack of REM didn't affect the subjects, when they were awakened repeatedly during REM sleep, but allowed the total 8 hour requirement of "deep-wave" and other non-REM stages of sleep.

    Also, I think this system is extremely dangerous for long driving trips. What happens when you've been driving for more than 2 hours? Hitting REM sleep would likely be involuntary if you adjust to the author's schedule, and will undoubtedly be fatal!
  • Not in the Promise of Sleep, but it does mention that sex, even at night, seems to have no effect on sleep patterns. In other words, hot sex won't won't change how well you sleep that night.

    That's a good thing. :)
  • by Rectal Prolapse ( 32159 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:40AM (#68999)
    I can't believe one seems to understand the costly effects of sleep deprivation. The article doesn't even point out that people shouldn't be so stupid as to drive when drowsy. Here's a clue. Take two, they're small!

    Sleep deprivation, that results in drowsiness during repetitive activities as driving and assembly line work, is one of the leading causes of car accidents at night. Mix in a small amount of alcohol, and you have a potentially lethal situation, even when you're very much under the legal blood alcohol limit. Alcohol + sleep debt = ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL.

    The problem is, people are too stupid to realize they are sleep deprived. Here's a clue:

    1) Complaints that they are always tired (then don't drive at night. Are they stupid? YES!).

    2) Do the Stanford sleep test...hold a spoon or loud toy out over the floor while sitting down. Have a timer or clock nearby. Close your eyes. If you fall asleep, you will hear the object hit the floor. If it fell 5 minutes or less after your eyes were closed, you have serious sleep deprivation and probably shouldn't be driving for long periods AT ALL. USE COMMON SENSE FOLKS! If you fall asleep and don't hear anything, you are in serious trouble.

    3) Get plenty of sleep. Some people need eight hours of sleep a night, others need more or less. Also, sleep debt is CUMULATIVE. If you require 8 hours of sleep a night, but have only slept 4 hours a night for a week, then you have 4*7=28 hours of sleep debt. The more sleep debt you have, the fast you drop the object in point 2 above. I believe there is a sleep debt maximum (40 hours debt?) but the research is inconclusive.

    This should be common sense folks...but unfortunately the media lacks the vision to let the public know these simple facts.

    References, easily looked up at

    The Promise of Sleep, by William C. Dement.
    The Sleep Thieves, by Stanley Coren

    *sigh* It only takes a few minutes to learn all this, folks. Anyone want to buy a book on Hell and Handbaskets?
  • They could use a black Trans Am, add a cheesy light effect in the front and get actor William Daniels [] to do the voice.
    Detroit should have no problems finding plenty of Insecure Men [] willing to drive it!
  • gawd yeah...I'm up in northern illinois near chicago and it never fails, some idiot in a 4 wheel drive doing 60 through the snow. They never seem to grok until it's too late that four wheel drive might get you going quicker than me but it's not going to help you stop any quicker.
  • 3) Get plenty of sleep...This should be common sense folks

    Yep. I've also got a four-day old infant at home right now. He won't sleep unheld for more than an hour. Care to let me know how I'm supposed to get enough sleep? My wife tried to let me sleep from about 1:30 to 6 this morning so I could drive to work, but I still wake up every time he cries, so I probably got about 2 hours of real sleep and 3-4 of half-doze in 30 minute stretches.

    Sometimes sleep-debt can't be avoided.


  • Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these! No one could sleep through *that* :)
  • can't help it, the embodyment of the original M$ joke..."this is where you will go today"

    I can see that you are on your way to the Moscone Center, my records indicate that is where LinuCon is taking place. You don't wan't to go there, you might catch a virus or cancer., lets go to Redmond, its much more fun there...*screeeeeech*

  • Heh, try a retirement community (beach town) in central florida. The old folks don't even get off the road to stop.
  • Hmmm... I wonder if either of those books comments on thoughts of sex while sleepy. For some reason whenever I drive and start thinking about old girlfreinds, I start to nod off (no, I am not making this up..).

    Now I don't think this is some curse my present GF put on me - It happens when sex of _any_ stripe enters my mind while driving.

    I generally have to crank NPR. Noah Adams wipes away all thoughts of love.
  • Thanks for the anecdotal evidence--it appeals well to human emotion, but it doesn't accurately represent the objective risks associated with mass transit (buses, trains, airplanes) versus the risks associated with automobiles. I don't know the statistics offhand, but I'm pretty sure that the risk of death on any given bus/train/subway trip is less than that on any given automobile trip. In fact, the arguments you give help prove this point: so few people are involved in any given automobile accident, and therefore the media don't deem such events newsworthy unless there are other circumstances surrounding the accident.

  • You can kill a dog by keeping it awake continuously for more than 3 to 4 days. I don't know how long it takes for humans -- probably 2 days is sufficient for typical drivers.
  • Unfortunately, mass transportation is a) slow b) slow and c) slow. Oh, not that a train is slow, but the bus transfer to get Where You Really Want To Go After The Train Gets You Within 5 Miles (tm) makes it slow. I live near a train station, but my place of work is no where near one. This makes the commute time close to 1.5 hours instead of 15 - 40 minutes. Forget it.

    Now what we really need are cars that can take over the driving on interstates, in say, special lanes with positional transponders. Computers can put cars close to each other to reduce drag, increase fuel efficiency, and increase road capacity, without giving up any of the freedom or individuality associated with having your own car.

  • Well, they mentioned systems that look at your eyes and head position. But, true enough, if it isn't intelligent enough to kick in only when you need it, then most people will cut the wire.

    I particulary liked the part about it spraying cold water on you as a last resort. Sounds like a Get Smart gag....
  • There are a few problems...
    They are mostly engineering issues tho...

    1) What happens when there is road construction? People have a hard enough time as is when roads are detoured, highway lanes are shifted over, or one lane completely disappears from the road. This will need some pretty complex AI to work.

    This one is simple. Turn the system off until it the construction is over. Just another hassle of road construction...

    2) Where exactly do we put these extra "auto-drive" lanes? As it stands now, most cities don't have large enough roads for the traffic that is there already, and many are in a constant state of construction. To set up auto-drive lanes, one (or more) lanes have to be set aside for them, pushing everyone else into the other lanes. And what about exit ramps?

    This is indeed a chicken and egg problem. However it is easier than 1) getting people and business to relocate near train endpoints. 2) Radical physical modifications to the cars like that norwegian (?) system that puts the cars on a rail like thing. 3) getting the typical driver to share rides with others.

    If the technology was feasible, and I dunno if it is or if anyone is working on it, the government could just as easily mandate it as they are mandating zero emission cars and commuter lanes.

    Exit ramps should be handled just like commuter lanes -- the driver handles it. Transfering from the auto-drive to manual in a safe manner is an engineering/human factors problem.

    3) What happens in an emergengy? Can the car's computer recognize a blowout? What about a blowout in the car in front of it? What about debree in the roadway?

    This is also an engineering problem, I doubt if it would be impossible to make such unusual situations managable.

    4) How are you going to get people to go for this proposed method of driving? It can only be installed as an option on new cars, and only in cities that have spent the millions to ugrade their interstates to handle them. And this is only after you can convince a driver that it is okay to let go of the wheel...

    Yes, it would take some getting used to, but this might be mainly a matter of human factors engineering -- making it *feel* safer. Or it might actually appear and _be_ safer:
    Imagine a line of perfectly aligned cars ahead and in front of you traveling at constant speed. No more turbulence induced sudden stops for no apparent reason. No more lookilus slowing down to take a look at the latest victims. No clueless drivers going 60 in the fast lane with a line of commuters behind them and others doing 80 to get around them in the slower lanes....

    As for the money, billions have been poured down mass transportation systems with poor results, except possibly in very dense places like NY and Tokyo.
  • Do the Stanford sleep test...hold a spoon or loud toy out over the floor while sitting down. Have a timer or clock nearby. Close your eyes. If you fall asleep, you will hear the object hit the floor.
    I was in the US Navy, in Nuclear Power School in Orlando. Basically, your job was to go to school 8 hours a day. Reactor Physics, Heat Transfer and Fluid Flow, Electrical Theory, Mechanical Theory, etc. Some classes were boring and others were extremely boring. This was recognized as a problem and there was plenty of caffeine on hand to combat this. For some instructors, no amount of caffeine was enough. In those cases, you just went ahead and stood up at the back of the room when they walked in. :) (There was at least one time when someone hit the floor. Did I mention that some of this stuff was BORING!?)

    Anyway, a good friend of mine, Pat Doyen (Hi, Pat. Are you on here?) tried this: Rest your elbow on your desk, holding a penny between thumb and index finger. When you fall asleep, the penny drops on the desk, you wake up, pick up the penny, elbow back on desk. Unfortunately, the first class he tried this in was so boring that the 6th or so drop in as many minutes caused the instructor to forbid any further use of this sleep remedy.

    I imagine he wasn't the first to do this. Anybody do this in college? Anyway, it was pretty funny at the time.
    Alex Johns
  • I'm surprised nobody mentioned Kit, from the Knight Rider series. One of the oldest on-board computers.

    Goes back to the '80s, IIRC. I suppose I'm getting old...

    (I don't really care about a smart-assed computer in my car, but a row of LEDs on the front would be incredibly cool.)

  • Mass transit works in Vancouver? HA! Not with a 4 month and still running transit strike! I agree with you in principle though...
  • I used to think the same thing. But I've discovered that I can fall asleep to any non-interactive sound source, from Rammstein to the Lain: Cyberia soundtrack to Classical Thunder. Having the 75 mile route memorized, and it being basically unpatrolled by police officers late at night doesn't help either.

    I've been lucky enough to escape actual death via sleeping at the wheel, or even an accident. I have a friend who wasn't so lucky; ruined the car and now pays through the roof for insurance (he's also under 18!).

    Whenever I have to take my long drive, I try and find a passenger to keep me awake. Having an interaction with a virtual passenger would duplicate half of the effect, the interactive part (but not the fear of killing the passenger himself). I suppose the usefulness of the virtual passenger will be proportionate to the degree which it evolves and changes. But it sounds like something I could really use.

  • K.I.T.T. , does it also have a nice running light with a woosh! sound on the front of the car ?
  • I quickly realised that mass transit ONLY works in huge cities: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Atlanta, Detriot...

    Ah ha ha ha, clearly you've never been to detroit, the DPM [] is one of the most abysmal examples of public transit in the nation. The Motor City's "mass" transit system consists of 3 whole miles of elevated rail which stop operating at midnight and don't even go anywhere fun, like the freaking baseball stadium even, let alone to residential districts.


  • I'll never understand people, the thought of grizzly, fiery death won't keep them up, but Jerry-freaking-Sinfeld will.


  • I'm even more self-centered and stupid (and lazy), so I assume that wherever I am, I'll be able to find someone to drive me around :)
  • by jesser ( 77961 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @12:06PM (#69020) Homepage Journal
    Most people with sleep-deprivation problems (well, at least most students at my college with sleep-deprivation problems) are aware that they don't get enough sleep. They just feel like they have too much work, and so they have trouble falling asleep until they're very tired, or they frequently pull all-nighters. Telling them to "get plenty of sleep" won't help. Telling them not to drive won't do much good if they commute.
  • As a Canadian who has been to the states often enough to understand mass transit in both countries, I quickly realised that mass transit ONLY works in huge cities: Toronto, Vancouver
    Oh yeah, transit works great in Vancouver. Just look [] at how much money Translink has saved over the last three months!

  • Making it easier for people to do stupid things (like drive when tired) just encourages them... and unfortunately, the consequences affect more than the stupid (which otherwise would be a reaon to encourage them :)

    Sleep deprivation is one reason why I *don't* drive... I get too tired to fast when I drive. I also tend to put the relatively mundane tasks of driving in the background, and think about more pressing matters, which is very dangerous, so I don't do it.

    DOS is dead, and no one cares...
  • Why not just bring along a Furby? Or bring two, so they can talk to each other.
  • There's been a top-secret way of doing this for years, funded by the big 3-letter agencies (NSA, CIA, FBI). Their code name for it is "seebee." Disseminate the truth far and wide!


  • They just feel like they have too much work, and so they have trouble falling asleep until they're very tired, or they frequently pull all-nighters.

    Not so good, I know. It's all about priorities, awareness and the ability to observe your own pattern to be able to change it. Sometimes you HAVE to work at night and you get more and more screwed up during the week. It's incredible that this can happen after just one such session, but it's because we ignore the impulses we get when we get them at unusual times.

    Tell them (or yourself) to sleep when they feel tired, ie usually right after work. There's a reason after dinner-naps are very old and well-used. Basically, the mistake I and they are doing ;) is getting out of sync with the daily sleep rythm. You feel very tired at dinner time, but force yourself awake until you're over-tired (feels like you're fully awake again). Then it's _physically_ hard to go to sleep at night a few hours later. If you're unlucky, you can waste 2-3 hours lying awake in bed. It's not just a mental thing, ie having lots of due work. Although being over-tired, makes your brain think - and worry more than usual.

    Of course, it's easy to say this. Harder to live it. I'm trying to take my own advice now ;)

    - Steeltoe
  • I can only give ideas, because nothing is set in stone. How about using a clock to nap just for 30 mins up to an hour? Running round the block, a few hours before you go to sleep may help too. (Or be active during the day instead of glaring at a computer all day. Hell, I know that's a tough habit to break ;)

    - Steeltoe
  • by Bloody Pulp ( 101306 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @11:02AM (#69027) Journal
    Here's the link to the IBM patent for the system.("Sleep prevention dialog based car system", US Patent No. 6236968 []).
  • Holy shit! I thought only Maryland drivers did that kind of stupid shit.
    It's not like it doesn't snow here. They should be able to handle it, but they can't.
  • I'd much rather have Talkie-Toaster, just in case I need a snack.
    =\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\ =\=\=\=\
  • Would it be like the "Automatic Pilot" in Airplane! ?

  • Detroit's mass transit system largely sucks. (with the possible exception of the mugger^H^H^H^H^H^Hpeople mover) The bus system is sporadic, and doesn't connect with itself very well. Routes are not well marked. Hell, I can't even find an official webpage for the system (known as SMART)

    If you want an example of a relatively decent mass transit system in a relatively small city (105,000), look at (Ann Arbor Transportation Authority)

  • Yep. After driving from Vancouver to Edmonton, once, I stopped to visit a friend who was working in a nightclub. Fell asleep in the booth there.

    To give you an idea as to the sound levels... The next week their DJ smoked the speaker system (as in, the speakers started smoking from being over-driven.

  • ...I quickly realised that mass transit ONLY works in huge cities: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Atlanta, Detriot, New York, for example.

    Er, NO. Edmonton (like Calgary) had a population in the 500K~750K range (depending on how you counted) when they put in an LRT (Light Rapid Transit) system. They already had a bus system that worked pretty well. I lived there between the ages of 10 and 30. I only owned a car for about 2 years of that time -- and the car was bought by accident (but that's a different story).

    I did almost all of my transport via either bus or bike in Edmonton (being a mostly flat space helps for cycling). Obviously, much less biking in the winter. My biggest complaint was what I called the 'cinderella syndrome': The bus system essentially shuts down at about midnight. After that, it's either bike or taxis.

    The system works well and, in many cases, it turns out that commuting via mass transit is faster than by car (mostly if you end up using the LRT).

    As for cars killing fewer people per fatal accident, it's probably true since 75% of all car rides are SOV (Single Occupant Vehicles). But like all misleading statistics, it hides the fact that mass transit vehicle accidents are generally rarer, and less fatal than car accidents.

    First of all, the drivers are professionals, and take pride in NOT being in accidents. Second of all, if a transit bus runs over your mazda Miata, guess who's gonna get CRUSHED? Inertia favors the larger vehicle, so unless the bus does a head-on with a dump truck or a brick wall, chances are that the vehicle is gonna come to a stop more gently than most cars do when they get into a similar accident. It generally takes something pretty impressive (and newsworthy) to cause a passenger deaths in a bus/train accident.

  • >I don't understand how 30/200 and 4/200 translate to near certainty of death.
    As a pessimist, that's still too high for me...

    That's 1/6 and 1/50 chance of death, respectively, for a catastrophic/fatal accident. Death rates in automobile fatal accidents tend to be in the 1/1 and 2/3 range. If you're in a fatal car accident, the liklihood of you dieing is far more than if you're in a fatal bus accident.

    That having been said, the liklihood of your death being on TV is far higher if you die in a bus/train/air crash. That's because they're so rare. Car deaths don't usually make it onto the news unless they're notably spectacular. Usually you just get the stats on how many people died in their cars this month.

    With transit, it might be considered big news having 3 deaths in 2 years. BC transit would be doing a complete safety review after a pair of years that bad. I can't remember how many thousand busses they have.

    I know people with more accidents per year than some entire transit bus garages have (hundreds of drivers). These are, of course, people that I do not tend to accept rides from.

  • That's a bit bigger than the cities I'm talking about (sorry, that wasn't so apparent). I'm talking about cities in the 50k-500k range.
    . . . .
    Exactly. Night service isn't around much. Take a bike, get mugged.

    Uhm, getting mugged in a small city? Where the hell do you live? Cycling in Edmonton and Vancouver, I've never been worried about being mugged on my bike... I've had a propositions from a pair of hot babes -- I mistook them for prostitutes -- god were they insulted. That that may be the closest I've come to being mugged on my bike.

    And when that bus goes over a bridge and turns over, guess who dies? Or what about when it hits the ice, skids, and snaps in half on some telephone poles?

    If a bus skids into a telephone pole, chances are the pole will snap before the bus does. Modern poles are designed to crumple to lessen the impact of a small car. A bus would just slow down. For the newsworthy bus accidents I've seen, most had zero fatalities. I'd have to cross the nation to find a recent multiple-fatality bus accident (brakes failed, flew over a cliff). Even there, the death rate was well under 50%. Far better than if a Mazda had done the same thing (which they do far more often). Fatal car accidents are a dime a dozen.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:56AM (#69039) Homepage
    There are systems designed to detect truck drivers falling asleep at the wheel. An overview [] is available. I've always wanted to have these on programmer's workstations, with a systemt that tags lines of code based on fatigue level. The correlation with bugs would be interesting.
  • Why don't they just play sound from a porno clip or something.

    No, that would lead to an increase in the already frightening 15% accidents caused by masturbation at the wheel...
  • LOL, reminds me of some conversations me and my girlfriend had.

    Here in Georgia when it rains heavy people get weird. They will begin by flipping on their hazard lites, while not illegal is incredibly annoying.

    Then the next phase of driving paranoia kicks in. Phase two is the truly dangerous phase. People randomly slow down in the fast lane or rapidly change lanes going at a much slower speed than the vehicles behind them causing near immediate stops.

    It is down-right distracting to watch a highway full of blinking hazard lights. People start pulling off the road left and right. All people have to do is stay in their lane, maintain a good distance between them and the person in frotn of them and keep going at 45-55. Instead people get panicky and perform these rapid lane changes to get off the road or get to the slow lane that really cause people to get hurt.

    It is crazy.

    The whole time im showing her these kind of people and the way they are driving she is laughing at me. She is from up north so shes quite used to doing 50 in a snow storm. She just thought people driving like this was the funniest thing. Oh well


  • by legLess ( 127550 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @11:07AM (#69046) Journal
    My dad (RIP) was in the Navy Reserve in WWII; he flew a torpedo bomber off aircraft carriers. He was in flight training in Corpus Cristi, TX, in 1942. What they encouraged pilots to do was put a saucer full of hot (hot by Navy standards, that is, which makes McDonald's look pretty tepid) coffee on their laps.

    One reason, of course, was that if you dozed off at all and the plane left straight-and-level you were guaranteed to be completely alert when you woke up, seconds later.

    Another reason is that much of the military equipment churned out for the war wasn't of the highest possible quality. The US won WWII with our massive industrial base, and in the heat of things some corners were cut. So yeah, during night flying pilots could use their instruments to tell them they were going up, down, or sideways -- but the coffee never lied.

    "We all say so, so it must be true!"

  • by joto ( 134244 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:23AM (#69049)
    Having something that senses if I start to get drowsy and warning me wouldn't be to bad.

    It doesn't even have to be annoying. A loud buzz if you close your eyes for half a second or more. That should be enough to remind you that taking a break and stretching your legs a little would be a smart move.

    However, the idea of a "virtual passenger" really offends me. I don't want another Eliza to offend my stupidity (or intelligence for that matter).

    They should make it simple, and something that works for responsible drivers. If they have to splash someone in the eyes to wake him up, it's already far too late, and no safety system on the planet, except perhaps something taking control of the car, could help.

  • Both wrong. Goliath will flatten your ass. BTE, if Knight Riger were made today, he would've been an Excursion.

    Actually, it was just an Expedition, in Team Knight Rider. And rumor has it it's still going to be a car in the rumored new series. []

  • by gunner800 ( 142959 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:18AM (#69051) Homepage

    The idea of something that can passively detect drowsiness is intriguing, but from the articles, it seems this technology can't tell if you're sleepy without activately talking with you. So it will be a distraction when you're wide awake (99% of the time if you're a remotely compotent driver), and still be a distraction when you're drowsy until it does whatever it does to wake you up entirely. Seems like this would do more harm than good.

    An "on / off" switch is appealing, but only useful if you remember to turn it on when you're drowsy, which you can't bet on.

    My mom is not a Karma whore!

  • by Smudgy ( 144144 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:19AM (#69052)
    I can see it now...

    "It looks like you're trying to take a left turn. Do you need help? If you have right of way, click here. If you do not have right of way, click here. If you aren't sure, click here. If the light is red..."
  • Already exists. The amazing NAP ZAPPER [] [sic]. First saw it on some lame Discovery Channel show a couple years ago. What worries me is that it's sold by a company which specialises in stun guns.


  • by BadDoggie ( 145310 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:14AM (#69054) Homepage Journal
    1) Father mode: "I know a short-cut"
    2) Mother mode: "Slow down!"
    3) Wife mode: "Let's just ask that guy there and where _______ is."
    4) Mother-in-law mode: "He's trying to kill us! I know it! My husband, god rest his soul, knew how to drive and it wasn't like this! You kids these days don't think about anyone but yourselves."
    5) Little sister mode 1: "The mall is thaaaaaaaaaaaaaat way!
    6) Little sister mode 2: "Let me off at the corner. I'd just die if my friends saw me getting a ride with you!"
    7) Your driving teacher: "Hands at 10 & 2! Pay attention! This ain't worth a teacher's salary..."

    Does anyone care to speculate on the lame jokes this thing might tell? [1] .

    Will you be the first to hack your buddy's wheels to scream "COP!!!!" at 1:30a.m.?


    [1] It won't be anything good like "What's the difference between a tire and 365 blowjobs? The tire is a Goodyear; 365 blowjobs is a very good year."

  • "
    First part agreed. Second part I would disagree with. I was just poiting out that IF you are in a crash on a mass transit vehicle, expect to die."

    I don't understand how this follows, in the UK we've had a number of fatal nasty rail accidents recently. One near Paddington Station - 30 people killed and one near Hatfield - 4 people killed.

    These were both high speed crashes (>100mph), the first caused by driving through a red light - the second by a broken rail.

    In both cases there were in excess of 200 people on each train.

    I don't understand how 30/200 and 4/200 translate to near certainty of death.

    Apart from that, cars keep the driver safe from his own mistakes (that guy came out with a cut to his forehead, nothing more -- he didn't even have an airbag).

    However, public transport does not have the same forces involved in crashes. When your car crashes at 70mph into a stationary object it stops in a distance of around 2 feet. Trains crumple the engine carriage first, the people at the front of the train stop over a distance of 10-20 feet and at the back may 50 feet as the carriages infront gradually deform.

    Driving 200 km/h on the freeway and your car flips a couple of times? I've seen people walk out of cars after that. I'd like to say that about buses, but I can't.

    How many buses have flipped on the freeway?

    In a bus, your biggest risk is the vehicle will catch fire after the inital crash buring everyone inside.

    Incidently in the Hatfield train crash I mentioned earlier, the front carriage caught fire buring the people to death. Several people managed to sramble out through the doors before it caught fire. It is very unlikely that anyone was killed by the impact as is usual with cars.

    Anyway, I commute to work 30 miles across English countryside by train, I do so because it's 30 mins faster and £5/day cheaper than buying a car to drive me. Plus, I can read a book / program my laptop instead of conventrating on driving.

    Driving is only cheap if you don't value your time.
  • >Edmonton (like Calgary) had a population in the 500K~750K range

    That's a bit bigger than the cities I'm talking about (sorry, that wasn't so apparent). I'm talking about cities in the 50k-500k range.

    Unfortunately bike paths are few and far between where I am, and no one respects the people on bikes (most pass them while there is a car in the lane beside). Not too many hills here, but most of the roads are on slopes.

    You can't bike here for 3 months of the year. For 1/2 that time you freeze your ass off (-10 degrees C) and the other half you'd need 5 inch thick tires to get through the snow (well, actually, even people with motorbikes don't come out in the winter).

    >After that, it's either bike or taxis.

    Exactly. Night service isn't around much. Take a bike, get mugged. Take a taxi, pay 20x more than you would have to go by car. Problem is, if you instate night service, you don't get enough takers (it seems) to pay for the service. And there's NO WAY my taxes are going to pay for people freeloading on a bus at night. :-)
    I did take the bus near where I live yesterday. Cost me $2. I could have driven the same distance for $1... It's already too expensive.

    >But like all misleading statistics, it hides the fact that mass transit vehicle accidents are generally rarer, and less fatal than car accidents.

    First part agreed. Second part I would disagree with. I was just poiting out that IF you are in a crash on a mass transit vehicle, expect to die. They might not happen often, but they are damn horrible when they do. Generally in a car you are wearing a seat belt, have a personal air bag (or two). Your seat is adjusted to fit. The crumple zones can protect you. Rollbars save you when your vehicle goes upside down (if this happens on a bus, you WILL go to hospital). And, if you have enough sense about you, your driving can keep you even safer.

    Truth is, I trust myself behind the wheel more than the bus driver. Then again, I hated drama class where they played those "trust" games (you know, fall and expect your partner to catch you).

    >Second of all, if a transit bus runs over your mazda Miata, guess who's gonna get CRUSHED?

    And when that bus goes over a bridge and turns over, guess who dies? Or what about when it hits the ice, skids, and snaps in half on some telephone poles?

    I'm pretty careful about not hitting big objects... I know what they do (I saw a car hit a bus once, ugly... BUT he was going 100 km/h in 1 meter visibility weather). Apart from that, cars keep the driver safe from his own mistakes (that guy came out with a cut to his forehead, nothing more -- he didn't even have an airbag). Driving 200 km/h on the freeway and your car flips a couple of times? I've seen people walk out of cars after that. I'd like to say that about buses, but I can't. Heck, just going over large bumps sends kids to hospital in those things (ala overly played school bus driver having heart attack at wheel video).

    I think you see a lot more car accidents simply because people driving cars generally aren't as good at driving as bus drivers and truck drivers.

    I'd like to see stats on how many people die in taxi accidents. It'd be interesting to see if they are higher than the stats on other mass transit. My feeling is that the driver is what keeps you safe... Not just the vehicle.
  • Mass [] transit [] isn't as safe [] as you'd think. []

    Cars [] kill fewer people at once.

    I guess if something happens while you are on some mass transit you can at least expect it to be on the world news (small comfort).

    >It's a pitty that the US government so heavily subsidizes automobiles and gives other forms of transit the shaft

    As a Canadian who has been to the states often enough to understand mass transit in both countries, I quickly realised that mass transit ONLY works in huge cities: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Atlanta, Detriot, New York, for example. And since a large amount of the population in both countries lives in cities where ANYTHING and EVERYTHING (especially work) takes a minimum of a 15 minute drive (often 1/2 hour) mass transit is NOT a viable choice. I refuse to wait an hour (each way) to get my groceries by bus. Heck, where I live I have to drive 20 minutes just to pick up groceries, and I'm only 5 minutes out of a city of 300,000. This is normal in a not-so-big-but-growing city.

    Rail: Won't work because you'd have to stop for 3 minutes every 3 rail minutes to pick people up, due to urban sprawl. It will take twice as long to get to the destination (assuming traffic on the roads isn't bad -- and in the smaller cities it usually isn't).

    Bus: A better idea, but still much too slow. The amount of buses needed to take so few people ends up pumping more crap into the air than the individual cars, from what I see now.

    Supersonic Transport: Great for going to other cities. But that isn't really the problem, is it?

    Subway: Not unless your city population is in the millions. The price is just way too high.

    Basically, these ideas work well for most other developed countries because their population in most cities is high enough to support them. The United States, and Canada (especially) don't have enough population density to make these ideas work.

    I think if you want to solve the problems of the under 1/2 million population cities you need to pack people in more tightly and fix the roads so that people can get where they need to go quickly. Oh, and you need to encourage more really local business (like a 5 minute walk local), rather than have patches of houses, and (far away) patches of stores.

    Just my 2 cents.
  • by cyberconte ( 156446 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:04AM (#69064)
    What about the other 30% (wild guess) of accidents that occur because the driver was disturbed, or their attention was not on the road?!?! Thats it. Lets distract the driver so they dont' fall asleep.

    Brilliance. (sigh)

  • I thought this is what people put radios in their car for. If I think I'm getting tired, I put something like Rage Against the Machine or Offspring in the CD player.

    Well, as long as it doesn't use that valium drenched voice that Hal had in 2001. That would put me to sleep even if I were wide awake.

    "Dave... Dave... Dave, are you listening to me?"


  • Airplanes have been talking to their pilots for years...


    Your door is ajar.
  • A button on the steering wheel might be more reliable and affordable. If your finger slips off the button while the car is moving, it could beep or something. Train engineers have to press a button every few minutes to keep the train moving. Similar idea.
  • It's not the size of the city that determines how well mass transit works, but the concentration of the population and how it's distributed. San Francisco is considerably smaller than Dallas, Houston, or LA, but mass transit is fairly successful there. The difference is the amount of sprawl seen in most of the newer American cities. SF is pretty old by US standards and is built up along the NYC/Manhattan style.
  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:57AM (#69072)
    does this qualify me to drive in the carpool lane?
  • WTF?
    People have told me for many years that I am disturbed. I still drive fine.

    The slashdot 2 minute between postings limit:
    Pissing off coffee drinking /.'ers since Spring 2001.

  • If you are driving 55mpg in a blinding snowstorm you need to distracted by your "passenger" yelling at you to SLOW down.

    Nahhh... Wuss. I grew up in Ottawa and Montreal, Canada. I know a thing or two about driving in snow.

    For one thing, you need rear wheel drive. Four wheel drive and front wheel drive just don't do the same thing. A rear wheel drive car or truck will actually take corners faster on snowy roads than it will on dry pavement... assuming the driver is well versed in the judicious use of the fishtail.

    'Nother thing: 4x4 doesn't help you steer or stop. Too many car accidents that I've seen on 401, 417 and Decarie ("of the cavity") expressways have been caused by invulnerable Yentas on cellphones in their Lincoln Navigators. Gimme a break.

    Finally, and most importantly, snow is soft, so when you hit that car in front of you, at least you're padded. [grin]

    Seriously, winter driving is an art, and if the conditions are right, 55MPH in a snowstorm is no big deal - but I wouldn't go any faster than that.

    Novel use for an old power steering pump [].

  • Bad idee every time i put Rage Against the Machine in my cd player i get so pummed up i start to drive to fast and verry agressive

    Golden Earing's "Radar Love" does that for me. I have a "must get there one hour ago" CD where that song is the every third track. Also the every third track is "Hot Rod Lincoln", and some other "driving songs" there to fill the space.
    "Danger CD", according to my Japanese friends who have seen the influence it has on my driving - yes I do have to pay MAJOR speeding tickets everynow and again...70.000 yen a couple weeks ago. :-(
    (And I wasn't even going that fast, definitely under 220KmH, regardless of what their "laser" said.)

  • by fahrvergnugen ( 228539 ) <> on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:03AM (#69090) Homepage
    But what I really need when I'm driving late night stretches is a virtual backseat driver. "You're going too fast! Stop tailgating that semi truck! Shouldn't we pull over? I have to pee! Why did you buy that expensive CD player instead of upgrading my CPU?"
  • by FeTrut ( 254033 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:35AM (#69095)
    This type of thing sends the wrong message. If you're tired enough to do something stupid like fall asleep at the wheel you ought to pull over and take a nap rather than force yourself to stay awake. Having something like this in your car just allows one to delude themselves into thinking it will be alright to keep driving while exhausted.
  • In YOUR own words, I can't believe this. Sleep is NOT cumulative as you jest. You cannot build up on sleep as you cannot require 28 hours of sleep.

    Each person has a set amount of time for which they need to sleep. For most, it's around 8 hours. It doesn't matter if you have been up for three days or napped all day, you will still require the same amount of sleep each night for a good rest.

    Your thinking is just the kind of thing that causes falling asleep at the wheel. I'm sure you probably think you can sleep all weekend and have this "stored up" for the busy work week. This just isn't so.

    Your body is a clock, not a rechargable battery. You don't sleep to rest, you sleep because during this time certain chemicals are released which are required every night or set-time. The state of being tired is just a felling, like pain or hunger is. It's your bodies way of telling you something is wrong, and something needs to be done. And since the act of fullfilling your bodies request is pleasurable, you fall asleep, often at the wheel of your car.

    But you cannot have a sleep "tab" or have "debts" as you claim.
  • If you have to put up with an artifical passenger, maybe they should include an optional mannequin so you can drive in the car pool lane.
  • down south in the midwest(Iowa here, i'm originally a St Louis boy), we get a lot more ice than you do up north. it's warm enough to melt some of the snow, which then freezes on the road. and even as far north as iowa it's not as bad as down by st louis (where they get freezing rain at least once a year). part of the reason i can put up with the "cold" iowa winters. (i lived in idaho for a bit too... -40degF, -80 with wind).

    anyway, driving in a snowstorm at 55 or 60 is trivial, until the road is icy. once there's ice, the very concept of control is a joke.

    there is little more fun than snowpacked parking lots... *nostalgic sigh*
  • by Ayende Rahien ( 309542 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:05AM (#69104)
    Just as long as it wouldn't be smart enough to insult my driving.

    Two witches watched two watches.
  • You forgot "Are we there yet?"
  • by Lynx0 ( 316733 )
    I'm not really sure if jokes written by IBM engineers will keep me awake or get the car wrapped around the next tree with me asleep... I you want to get a new joke-and-chat file, it will probably be full of hints like 'buy IBM, buy...'
  • by Uttles ( 324447 ) <> on Sunday July 22, 2001 @11:08AM (#69110) Homepage Journal
    ... as long as it uses the voice of Stephen Hawking...
  • Maybe the wartime Navy training was too simplistic. If a dozing pilot pushed the plane into an uncoordinated maneuver in the first hour, hot coffee would definitely spill in his lap. However, if he happened to put the plane into a gentle downward spiral, as long as the rudder and ailerons were properly coordinated, the coffee would stay in the saucer until he flew into the ocean. You can verify this on any airline flight with beverage service. Coffee could work as a turn coordinator but not as an attitude indicator.
  • For the old Macintosh Talking Moose DA to pop up in the upper left corner of my windshield in the middle of those long, late night drives...
  • by 6EQUJ5 ( 446008 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:12AM (#69117) Homepage
    Notice the prototype picture has the wheel on the incorrect, right side of the dash-board... so you can bet it's all British humor. That'll put you to sleep if anything, or even prompt you to drive off the road on purpose and kill yourself.

    Why don't they just play sound from a porno clip or something. That'll keep you up.
  • Next it will be locking you out of the car if it decides that you are unable to drive. ;-)

    Open the car doors, HAL

    I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.

    Phoenix ;{)
  • by All Dead Homiez ( 461966 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:06AM (#69133)
    Here in the Midwest, we often have the displeasure of driving through heavy rains and blinding snowstorms. When you're driving in nasty weather at 55 mph and scanning the road ahead of you for black ice, you don't want any sudden distractions from the task at hand. This "computerized passenger" could be such a distraction if it suddenly starts telling knock-knock jokes while you're driving and you scramble to shut it off (or need to divert your attention to ignore it).

    Just my 2 cents...

    -all dead homiez

  • by UberOogie ( 464002 ) on Sunday July 22, 2001 @10:18AM (#69134)
    Five bucks to Tuesday someone will have the thing rigged up to talk dirty to him within a week of its release.

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."