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Smart Cars Tell You About Road Signs 348

Roland Piquepaille writes "There are many systems designed to help car drivers and to improve safety. In this article, New Scientist focuses on a system developed by the National ICT Australia lab (NICTA). This new driver assistance system uses three cameras, one to look at road signs ahead and two to check what the driver is looking at. The images are transmitted to a computer which decodes the road signs and the driver's reactions to them. If you're driving above speed limits, you will be alerted. Same thing if you're about to pass a stop sign without reducing speed. You still can choose to ignore the warnings, but if you're caught speeding, you'll have to tell the police officer why you refused to slow down. This system is currently being tested and appears to perform well especially in poor lighting conditions. Read more for other references about similar helping systems and to see how the road signs are analyzed."
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Smart Cars Tell You About Road Signs

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  • Ummm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by midifarm ( 666278 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:02PM (#10423431) Homepage
    New cars are already way too expensive. I don't want to pay an extra $5k for junk I don't need. Ack!


    • Re:Ummm... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:04PM (#10423442) Homepage
      It's only $5,000 right now. Things will get better in a decade or so.
      • Yer, it should cost closer to $10,000 by then.
      • Re:Ummm... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by severoon ( 536737 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @10:43PM (#10423913) Journal

        No they won't. In 1989 my dad bought a Dodge Omni, stripped...the only option was a rear window defroster, it didn't have A/C, automatic tranny, power steering, brakes, doors, windows, nuttin'. He paid $5800.

        Now look at the cheapest car money can buy, discounting the Hyundais and the Kias (we're going to keep the quality/power level approximately the same...that Omni was a car, not a lawn mower). The equivalent car now is probably the Ford Focus. Stripped, it's like $11k. Did inflation nearly halve the value of a dollar in the last 15 years? No, on the contrary, inflation has been rather low. What happened, then? Air bags and computer chips.

        I'm not necessarily complaining here, though I do think that when you require all cars be made with airbags, that's not very compassionate to the lowest-earning 15% or so of society that now finds even the cheapest car to be way beyond their means. This limits their potential job opportunities to jobs that happen to be on public transportation routes, meaning that they must choose from a much more limited pool of possible employment situations than normal. Thus, the cycle perpetuates. (And besides, public tranny ain't cheap either--I live in the San Fran bay area, and I moved to a new apartment that has commuter access to SF. I was overjoyed at first...but it turns out, I never use it--it's way cheaper to drive my car and pay exhorbitant parking rates in the city. If that's true for me, and I'm fairly middle class, how do low-income families swing it?)

        For most people, the cars we buy are way beyond transportation and we identify ourselves with them. We must have air or the leather seats or the sport suspension. For these people, a car is nothing short of independence, though, and we rob them of that independence when we raise the floor on cars.

        Cars aren't the only place this happens either--another good example would be if the anti-cruelty people were successful in passing laws requiring that all chickens be free range, or all veggies be organice. Then there'd be a significant chunk of the population that would find they have to cut back on their grocery bills every month and buy less, or further compromise already poor eating habits. Are we willing to trade human lives for animal comfort? Certainly, there's a balance we have to strike here, but if everyone were vegan/vegetarian/organic-only/"humane"-only, food would cost a heck of a lot more.

        • Re:Ummm... (Score:4, Informative)

          by astar ( 203020 ) <max.stalnaker@gmail.com> on Sunday October 03, 2004 @11:04PM (#10424028) Homepage
          I googled and found an inflation [westegg.com] calculator and for what is worth a $5800 cost in 1985 is equivalent to a 2003 $10000 cost, sort of close to $11K. Might be fun to play with, but I also claim the government figures this is based on are suspect, but that is a different rant.

          My conclusion is that parent poster is underestimating the effects of inflation.

          • Re:Ummm... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by severoon ( 536737 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @03:53AM (#10426274) Journal

            OH NO YOU DI'INT! <rolls up sleeves> :-)

            You're right to be suspicious of those numbers from westegg. I checked an authoritative source before I even posted (I should've included it, I guess I forgot the /. crowd is inherently skeptical :-) ): Consumer Price Index [bls.gov] from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (search for the "inflation calculator" link).

            According to the BLS, $5800 [1989] is $8414.68 [2002] (when I priced Focuses at $11K). This year, the 2005 Foci (sorry, had to) go for a stone-stripped base price of $13,090, which is $8565.44 [1989]. That's a difference of $2765.44 [1989] or $4226.22 [2004].

            So the Focus is about $4200 more (today's dollars) than the equivalent car in 1989. I know for a fact that this isn't far off the mark, because if you look at home much it costs per car to computer chip the engine, meet more stringent bumper protection guidelines, add airbags, and do other things more or less mandated now by law or practically mandated by insurance companies (costs more in premiums to not have the feature than pay for it up front), it adds up to about $3800 for parts and labor. That leaves about $400 in profit for the car companies (which is a much higher margin than they make on the rest of the car because it doesn't account for R&D for incorporating these new features into their products and factory upgrades, etc).

            The upshot is, what I'm saying is true. All this stuff costs money, and all this stuff limits low-income families from owning cars. It's true that the used car market is still there, but airbags and other mandated features don't make these cars last any longer or continue at any higher quality. (That's not to say they're not higher quality, just that they would have been higher quality anyway, and the used cars would have been that much cheaper.) But the used car market is a fickle market to try and gauge to understand the effects on low-income families--this is because used cars are not under warranty, and therefore they can't be counted as reliable transportation...necessary to, say, keep from losing a job.

            Besides, if you look at the actual numbers, you'll find that in actuality, used cars aren't drastically cheaper than new cars on a consistent basis. "Consistent" is the watchword in that last sentence--we all know someone or other who's gotten a million miles out of a car with all original parts and only standard maintenance, but that's not the usual experience. If you amortize all of the cost of up-trended maintenance costs and sudden, large purchases (like when a tranny gets smoked--and these are the hardest on low-income families because they can't make a sudden investment in anything, regardless of what the upside is), you'll see that new, warrantied cars are indeed more expensive, but not *nearly* as much as you probably thought. (Considering a brand new $25k 2005 model against a 2002 model and a 1997 model, both of which were equivalently priced when new, you'll find the difference in total cost of ownership about $45/month and $60/month respectively if the "average" amount of stuff goes wrong with the used, non-warrantied cars. And if you think the extended warranty is a good deal...well, let's just say I have a bridge you might be interested in. So you can have a brand new 2005 Chrysler minivan for $360/month, or a used 8-year old for about $300/month--and this monthly fee will be unpredictably collected at that.)

            Also, you'll see that many of the benefits of all this new-fangled technology we're paying for actually makes used cars more expensive to maintain in the long run. Used to be you could go to the auto parts store and throw a new distributor on your car. Used to be you could change your own engine coolant. Now with cars being closed systems, you have to pay a mechanic to do much of this long-term work, pumping up the cost of keeping these older cars.

        • Re:Ummm... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by general_re ( 8883 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @12:58AM (#10425207) Homepage
          I'm not necessarily complaining here, though I do think that when you require all cars be made with airbags, that's not very compassionate to the lowest-earning 15% or so of society that now finds even the cheapest car to be way beyond their means.

          The major problem with your theory is that it's empirically false [ca.gov]* - cars may indeed be getting slightly more expensive in real terms, but more people have them than before, which puts to the lie the idea that cars are being priced out of reach for more and more people. And you're cherry-picking the data by excluding the lowest end of the current new car market. Other than that, it's a wonderful idea ;)

          Aside from the Hyundais and Kias that you ignored, don't forget that there's a vibrant secondary market for used cars. The first car I bought, a few years after your dad's purchase, cost me a whopping $800, or about 10% of what he spent. Was it as nice as his? Probably not. Did it last as long as his? Probably not, but it got me back and forth to my job and enabled me to earn the money to buy something better. Which is just the sort of thing the working poor can do also.

          * You can get the big picture from the entire paper here [ca.gov].

          • Re:Ummm... (Score:3, Informative)

            by maxpublic ( 450413 )
            Which is just the sort of thing the working poor can do also.

            The working poor don't have any money to save. According to our own government, the majority of them need assistance just to cover basic expenses, like food, rent, and heat in the winter.

            What you're talking about is the working lower class.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      "I don't want to pay an extra $5k for junk I don't need. "

      Don't worry. Next years cars will not have brakes.
    • Re:Ummm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by thogard ( 43403 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:17PM (#10423520) Homepage
      With the way Aussies put up road signs, you need this.

      In Melbourne, they tend to have one sign indicating what the next exit is so if you miss it, your out of luck. Maybe that explains so many people making a mad dash towards the exit and the resulting wrecks.

      Street name signs are even worse. On three lane roads, they use small signs that you can't read until its too late to indicate and then turn.

      If your on a side street you better know the major roads because there won't be any street name signs when you cross larger roads. They also insist the the sign be on the side of the pole that the road is on so it sort of points down the road. Of course that means that 25% to 50% of all street signs are hidden from some place on the intersection where people might want to be able to read the signs. Sometimes it seems that they look at an intersection to find the one spot that won't be lit up by a street light and choose that to be the location for the street name signs.

      Add in lack of lane ending signs added with the habiit of ending the slow lane on the highway. When there is a lane ending sign it will be a white with words. Not the yellow diamond picture warning signs that cost less and follow the rules about sign colors.
      • Re:Ummm... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 )
        Stop me if you've heard this one, but maybe you'd be better off with in-car navigation? Sony sold a unit several years ago (by which I mean, more than 5) that read its data off a cd-rom and had its own LCD panel, and still cost less than $3,000. I haven't checked but I suspect you could do the same thing today for about $1,500. This is indeed cool technology (or at least, detecting signs is something I think a car should do eventually) but is it cost-effective?
        • Re:Ummm... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by thogard ( 43403 )
          The problem is the map data isn't any good and its very expensive. The Aussie gov't wants to change about $25 per suburb per user for road data. There are about 1000 suburbs in the state of Victoria. That data isn't very high quality and will be on some unknown map datum so you can't just use it as is. Compare that to the free data you can get on any US city thats almost all on the WGS84 datum so the coordinates match what the GPS says.
          • Re:Ummm... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:59PM (#10423727) Homepage Journal
            Perhaps the solution is to assemble map data independently. Outfitting vehicles with a passenger who operates a laptop with GPS and indicates what street one is on should pretty much do it. I know there's a lot of road in Australia (although I suspect the US has significantly more, there's less open spaces, .au just has more ground to cover and mostly doesn't cover it) but I think it's pretty doable. Just use some nice fuel-efficient cars, like your 200SXs :)
      • Re:Ummm... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ozbird ( 127571 )
        If you know you have to exit in the next few kilometres, what the hell are you doing out in the right hand lane?! It's called "being prepared".
        • Re:Ummm... (Score:3, Funny)

          by pyrrhonist ( 701154 )
          If you know you have to exit in the next few kilometres, what the hell are you doing out in the right hand lane?! It's called "being prepared".

          You actually expect people to get over that early?

          Sheesh, I don't get over until the last 400 meters (or when I see the quarter-mile sign, since I live in the U.S.). This assists other commuters by forcing them to slow down suddenly and spill their morning coffee down the front of themselves, thus resulting in burns in very sensitive places, which helps them sta

    • $5000 NOW, but with economies of scale upon mass deployment, I think it will be cut to just a few hundred, if that.

  • by datastalker ( 775227 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:03PM (#10423440) Homepage
    ...my mother already does this when I drive her anywhere... do I really need the car to do it as well?

    • do I really need the car to do it as well?

      well, you could always use both and eliminate the less effective solution.

    • >> ...my mother already does this when I drive her anywhere... :) Sucks being you, but you've got to look on the bright side! If you're ever stopped by the police, and she "rats you out", you can always claim prior art. Hey, I think we've solved the problem of the Underwear Gnomes...

      1. Nagging Mother-In-Law +
      2. Traffic Ticket +
      3. Prior Art Claim with patent bureau =
      4. Profit!!
  • What if (Score:3, Interesting)

    by trippy ( 94675 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:04PM (#10423443)
    What if you have a light with green arrow telling you to go right and a sign next to it saying no right turn on red. I have pictures and a ticket for obeying a traffic signal. Unfortunately, i do not have time to drive 3 hours to fight it.

    While this system could help those that just dont pay attention, its not much help when streets are mislabled.
    • What if you have a light with green arrow telling you to go right and a sign next to it saying no right turn on red. I have pictures and a ticket for obeying a traffic signal. Unfortunately, i do not have time to drive 3 hours to fight it.

      Actually, what happens in this case is the CPU slips into a logic conundrum a la "Star Trek", smoke starts to rise from the box, and it exploads.

    • Re:What if (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bcattwoo ( 737354 )
      This sounds more like a dumb cop then a problem with the road signs. If the green arrow is lit and you turn, then you are not making a right on red because you have a green light, correct? If you turned right while that arrow was red (or rather not green or yellow) then you would be making a right on red and thus disobeying the sign. I have seen plenty of intersections like that and it makes sense to me.
    • I'm not sure if what you think you said is not really what you did not mean to say. Would you say it again, and this time use the preview?
  • Gee.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigattichouse ( 527527 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:04PM (#10423444) Homepage
    And in the name of the children, your car will report you and automagically deduct the fines from your bank account.. or report if you have doubled the speedlimit and need "assistance" from local law enforcement... ahh the brave new world
    • Re:Gee.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bconway ( 63464 ) * on Sunday October 03, 2004 @10:17PM (#10423809) Homepage
      And yet, strangely, the fact remains that you were (hypothetically) breaking the law. When did it become acceptable to only follow the rules if you're in danger of getting caught? *groan* Personal responsibility is dead.
      • Re:Gee.. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Dun Malg ( 230075 )
        And yet, strangely, the fact remains that you were (hypothetically) breaking the law. When did it become acceptable to only follow the rules if you're in danger of getting caught? *groan* Personal responsibility is dead.

        You can be written a ticket for driving the speed limit (say, 65mph) in the left lane when the speed of traffic is 85mph. Driving in traffic, like much of life, requires rational adaptation rather than slavish adherence to the letter of the law. Sometimes it's more important to be safe th

        • Re:Gee.. (Score:3, Informative)

          Depends on the state. When travelling in Oregon, there are no hard speed limits. The "LIMIT" part off the sign wasn't just a cost saving measure on the part of ODOT, it's just a posted speed. It mostly exists to advise drivers what the safe speed under normal conditions is (in western Oregon, it's typically tuned to poor visibility on wet pavement in the rain, the kind of weather that you're expected to have lights on 24/7 for). If you're exceeding the posted speed and you're passing most of traffic in
    • This looks like a big distraction and distractions are dangerous. I want idiot lights go go off if my car is having mechanical problems, not when I go over the speed limit or some other dumb thing like that. Suppose I am approaching a stop sign and I don't see it. I'm going to be looking at my dash for what's beeping if this stupid thing is installed. What happens to the kid running after the ball while I'm looking at my dash because the nag alarm fired at 25MPH when I thought the speed limit was 30? W
  • RFID (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FlipmodePlaya ( 719010 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:04PM (#10423445) Journal
    Wouldn't it be easier to use some sort of RFID to tell the cars of changes in speed limits/etc. than relying on feeble image recognition technology? Without knowing much about the subject, it seems like that would be more resistant to weather conditions as well. In either case, it seems like a much better addition to cars than black boxes and OnStar GPS tracking...
    • Re:RFID (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bcattwoo ( 737354 )
      But with the RFID technology you would have to add RFID tags to all of the street signs which would probably add up quickly. With the proposed system the cost would only be shouldered by the owners of the cars using the new technology. That said your system probably would actually work better.
    • It would cost a vast amount to add an RFID tag to every single sign that a car might potentially pass (i.e. every sign in the US), and continue to cost extra while the government is required to post both a sign and an RFID chip.
      • The only reason it would cost a vast amount to RFID-tag every sign is that the signs are put up by a union and putting stickers on the backs of them would probably violate some kind of exclusivity agreement. Let's face it, the cost of putting stickers on signs is pretty minimal; you do it by location and you spread it out, people (workers) do it when they have to go past a sign anyway. Do it over the course of a year or three, which is still stunningly fast for most any government entity, local or not, and
  • Yes, but... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:05PM (#10423448)
    does it also read the secret markings on the back of the signs used for tactical planning in the case of a UN invasion?
  • AGAIN? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:05PM (#10423450)
    Slashdot editors - are you actually getting paid off by "Roland Piquepaille" for this, or just tremendously vulnerable to astroturfing?
    • Re:AGAIN? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pave Low ( 566880 )
      It's funny. Another day, another RR story. Check this highly moderated Roland thread from yesterday, [slashdot.org] and now michael as a "everybody loves roland" in the tagline.

      There has to be something going on, or at least michael just enjoys pissing people off.

    • Re:AGAIN? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Here's some info [smartmobs.com] about Roland and his blogging business. It's nice to see he's managed to manipulate the slashdot effect to his advantage.

      Seriously, I think the Slashdot editors should really stop allowing him to submit things that link to his blog instead of the real source.

    • This is why you should ad-block Roland Piquepaille's journal [slashdot.org], as detailed in my journal. I guess "detailed" is too generous. Synopsis: add a regex for Roland's blog to your ad-blocker and you'll never click on a spam-link by mistake again.
    • They just want to make sure not to forget Roland, in case Bush reads slashdot.
    • What difference, exactly, does it make who submits a story?
    • Note the byline above:

      from the everybody-loves-roland dept.

      It seems Michael is at least hearing the criticisms.

    • Look people. If Roland whatsisname consistently submits interesting stories about interesting technology, which are researched on his own time and given to Slashdot for free, why should Slashdot reject every story just because they link to his blog as well as other news sources? There is not a single good reason to have a grudge against this guy. You all could do exactly the same by starting a technology blog, finding interesting stories, and posting them to Slashdot daily. So stop whining! This story
  • by Stinking Pig ( 45860 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:06PM (#10423455) Homepage
    Drive the speed limit on an American highway and you'll be given a ticket for obstructing traffic :) Seriously, the right-hand slow lane is usually a few mph above the posted limit, and the great mass of traffic is going 10-15 mph above. It's the cowboys blasting along at 20 mph above and greater who tend to get busted, particularly if they're weaving through the lanes, as it is not very practical to give everyone on the highway a ticket.
    • A better system would look at the cars you're passing, and determine whether you were moving too fast relative to the flow of traffic.
    • Having to learn to drive during the 55 days in Oklahoma when the de facto speed limit was 70, I find it odd how well the Aussies obey the speed limit on the highways. yesterday I didn't see a single car going over 105 on the 100 km/hr freeway. This road is Interstate and Autobahn quality but has nearly 100% speed limit compliance which sounds like a good thing toll you check the accident stats and find out that its 4 times deadlier than any Interstate or Autobahn and its not safer than a typical large cit
    • Japan has a very nice and very expensive system of multilane freeways throughout the country, completely with hundreds of tunnels to keep grades reasonable and turns wide. They pay for the construction partly with extremely high tolls (on the order of $0.30-$0.50/mile, so a journey between, say, Tokyo and Hamamatsu costs over $50). And what do they do with this very nice system you have to pay a lot of money for the privilege of driving on? They have the speed limit uniformly at 80 kph. That's 48 mph.

  • by lukewarmfusion ( 726141 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:07PM (#10423459) Homepage Journal
    My first impression here is that this isn't the easiest way to accomplish things.

    Three cameras?

    Wouldn't it be easier to add RFID (or something along those lines) to the street signs and then simply allow the car to read those? Consider the cost of adding this camera-based system to just one car. Multiply that by the number of cars that end up with it, and see how far that would go toward adding chips to street signs.

    I'm pretty sure I read something about this kind of project here on Slashdot.
    • * Consider the cost of adding this camera-based system to just one car*

      in mass mode.. maybe 1k bucks.

      and the "add chips to street signs" would be nice, but it also needs the goverments and other agencies to make a decision and then roll out the system (most probably gradually.. taking a zillion years basically). ..or they could slap few cameras that would probably come quite cheap when done in numbers.
    • The key here is that you don't add anything to the existing infrastructure. The brand new signs in Boston work just as well with the system as the signs put up in the 50's in West Bumfuck. Smart driving systems need to drive like people, taking input from visual cues, to be truely useful on all roads (signage is usually good enough that you don't need assistance in places where its replaced often enough the RFID tags could appear quickly)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:07PM (#10423460)
    Officer: You were doing 100 in a 50. Do you have anything to say for yourself?

    Speeder: The voices in my head. I was trying to get away from the voices...the voices...make it stop.

    Car: I see that you are stopped on the side of the highway. Do you want me to call the highway patrol and alert them?

    Speeder: Ahhhhhhhhh!
  • dangerous (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vijayiyer ( 728590 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:10PM (#10423482)
    What happens when we all have road range when we hear "Warning. Warning. You are traveling at 63mph in a 60mph zone" over and over again? I know I don't drive as safely in a fit of rage.
    • Re:dangerous (Score:2, Informative)

      What happens when we all have road range when we hear "Warning. Warning. You are traveling at 63mph in a 60mph zone" over and over again

      A speakerectomy will work just as good then as it does now.
  • by bursch-X ( 458146 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:14PM (#10423503)
    The next step will be to get rid of those drivers. They're the ones always screwing up anyway, what better solution than to eliminate the biggest cause of error in driving?

    Let's just build cars that drive themselves and everybody start walking to work again. Problem solved.
    • by iphayd ( 170761 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:29PM (#10423569) Homepage Journal
      Actually, if we have cars that drive themselves, they can be coordinated centrally to time themselves to virtually eliminate street lights and traffic jams.

      Imagine the cars on the road impromptu trains, with many cars drafting each other. With humans eliminated from the system, the safe gap between cars can be shortened greatly. I would gladly give up driving to a _great_ AI to know _exactly_ when I have to leave the house to get to my destination.

      Problem is, I wouldn't trust the AI until it has been tested _years_ in the field. Maybe driving freight on a specialized set of lanes.

      Other problem is, that to have a true system like this, non-AI controlled cars cannot be on the road, as they will add randomness to the central control.
  • but there's the whole matter of giving people yet another reason to not pay attention to the road.
  • by antimatt ( 782015 ) <xdivide0.gmail@ORG.NET.EDU.com> on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:17PM (#10423521) Homepage
    Smart drivers drive for the conditions anyway.

    Smarter cars will help, sure. The problem is: the 'bad drivers' will start to rely on the car to do the thinking for them. I don't exactly want to share the road with these people.
  • and, Stupid Cars tell you about the Extended Warranty
  • in the future... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lifix ( 791281 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:21PM (#10423539) Homepage
    If the car knows when you are going over the speed limit... how long will it be until your car gives you a ticket for speeding? I predict that in the future, cars that give tickets to their drivers will be available to low income families (at special rates) and to regular folk that come packaged with a nice tax break somewhere.

    Your car just gave you a three hundred dollar ticket... /discuss

    • Well seeing as how the monetary awards to the local police ball are 'revenue' enhancers...as a 'invitee', I would prefer the car NOT allow me to speed.

      No speed == no ticket.

      Bets on the number of days before the local govs file to have this technology junked?
  • by ZoneGray ( 168419 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:30PM (#10423573) Homepage
    For those old enough to remember Firesign Theater, yet immature enough to read /. (which apparently includes me):

    "Antelope Freewway, 1/2 mile"

    "Antelope Freewway, 1/4 mile"

    "Antelope Freewway, 1/8 mile"

    "Antelope Freewway, 1/16 mile"

    "Antelope Freewway, 1/32 mile"

    • "How Can You Be In Two Places At Once, When You're Not Anywhere At All???"

      bump bump bump...



    • Beat me to it...but I'll add, that if you listen carfully they get at least as far as 1/256, but it's so far in the background it's hard to make out. This bit I supposed predicted such a system as described in the article, or even GPS systems we use today. Sometimes I really wonder if at least one of the Firesign Theater crew had access to a time machine. They could have had a second career as SF authors I'd say.
  • 3 Cameras? how about just imbedding a small transmitter into the sign itself and a simple reciever in the car? The reciever gets within 300ft of a sign and picks up a coded transmission, basically indicating "stopsignahead". I guess you would have to rig a constant power source for the sign, but it can't be anymore complicated/expensive then 2 cameras tied into a PC dedicated soley to object recognition while one tracks where you're looking. This just has over-engineered written all over it, frankly.
  • by jspectre ( 102549 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:34PM (#10423604) Journal
    jeeze. now our cars are going to nag us about our speed? what's next? why doesn't the car just phone in the ticket to the police?

    if the government really didn't want us to speed they could just put governors in everyone's car and be done with it. why all these silly games, black boxes in cars, cars to recgonize signs, gps trackers?

    fact of it all is, townships, counties even states NEED us to go above the "speed limit" else they wouldn't get to levy those hefty fines. governments make HUGE profits off of speeding tickets and it's big business.

    maybe we need some sort of organized strike. have everyone agree NOT to speed one day out of the year. wonder how much money would be lost and how much those governments would be mad. and the poor police, they'd have to sit around eating doughnuts all day. :-(
    • The point, I think, is that a system like this won't stop someone from speeding, but it will make it easier to bust them. If someone disables the system, it can be seen as admission of guilt since you don't need to disable it unless it's hassling you often, meaning you're speeding often. It's definitely not to stop people from speeding.

      It would be interesting to see what would happen if everyone did stop speeding for a significantly long period of time, say three years, to compare accidents and fataliti

  • by Reverberant ( 303566 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:35PM (#10423610) Homepage

    No way does this system ever become mandatory:

    1. If the system ever does become mandatory, you'll see a major increase in stolen traffic signs. Highway departments already have enough trouble trying to replace missing/damaged signage.

    2. If it's in our cars, it wil be in the cars of our elected officials. We already know that our officials don't like to drive the speed limit [google.com]. This system will put more heat on them.

  • by ylikone ( 589264 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:36PM (#10423612) Homepage
    Once this becomes a standard feature in cars, I can see the future youth hacking it and customizing it to say things like "woman with child, 50 points".
    • how about messing with the AI image recognition, i am sure there is a way to use a white background (side of a house?) and a few black objects to make what looks to a computer like a speed limit sign saying 25 mph, then everyones cars would bitch at them untill they passed another speed sign, which could well be a rather long time.
  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:37PM (#10423620)
    You still can choose to ignore the warnings, but if you're caught speeding, you'll have to tell the police officer why you refused to slow down

    And maybe he/she will have to explain why they use speed "enforcement" as a means of generating revenue and a means of generating an excuse to search people's cars.

    MA did a survey of traffic stops and found overwhelmingly black drivers were stopped, searched, and issued tickets more than white drivers. White women had the absolute lowest rates as well. There was one notable exception- the MA state police were almost dead even for all races, genders, and age groups. Town police departments were the worst "offenders".

    Speed enforcement is just an excuse for getting into your wallet, and your car. It's extremely selectively enforced; the cops don't pull over everyone(next time you're on the road, look down at your speedo. Notice the car in front of you and behind you and all around you- they're all doing the same speed), they only pull over who they want to. It's extremely abused and results in gender, age, and racial profiling. It has absolutely nothing to do with safety(number one cause of highway deaths? Drunk driving).

    Oh, and those laser speed guns? Guess who put them in the hands of your friendly local police officer? Geico [google.com]. No conflict of interest there, no sir, not an insurance company giving police officers a device that, every time it is used, causes someone's insurance rate to go through the roof, despite no evidence speeding causes accidents. What a great money maker. No increased risk, but lots of increased revenue!

    • Police absolutely pull over women to hit on them. I just had a cop tell me the other week that he's done it and one of his coworkers does it on a regular basis. They don't ticket them, of course. No information on how many dates it results in. That's pretty fucking sleazy though, right up there with getting a chick drunk so you can fuck her (which only counts the first time you do it to a particular woman mind you.) After all, when someone gets pulled over they're in a vulnerable mental state. And cops wonder why people hate them.
    • Driving a Red 1996 Eclipse GSX (I'm not a "ricer", it was a graduation gift from my family) and being 19 years old, I gotta tell you that the cops aren't as bad in Berkshire county. I didn't notice a cop sitting in a road-side break area until I was right on top of him doing 85 in a 50... He dropped me a wave and I waved back.

      Not complaining that I don't get tickets, just saying that the police aren't as bad as the rep they get.

      Just my personal experiance, though.
    • by Dhalka226 ( 559740 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @10:37PM (#10423886)

      And maybe he/she will have to explain why they use speed "enforcement" as a means of generating revenue and a means of generating an excuse to search people's cars.

      Mmm... not quite. Being pulled over is not an excuse to have your car searched. Suspicious activity while you're being ticketed, however, may be, and of course anything in plain sight is fair game. Any scent of alcohol or indication of drug use may be grounds for a sobriety test as well. Then again, if we're complaining that cops are taking drunks and druggies off the roads, I simply don't have a lot of sympathy about it.

      As far as generating revenue, sure, they do. And that (especially combined with "quotas") might well be an excuse to pull you over. But you know, you're also breaking the law and they're enforcing it and I find it somewhat ironic trying to take the high road about it. But you know, on the other hand, those tickets DO get a message across. Illinois just made not having your seatbelt on a ticketable offense. (For clarity, it has been illegal for quite some time, but they never used to be able to pull you over FOR it, only write you an additional ticket when they had you anyway; now that is enough cause.) On the way back from college for the weekend, my dad and I both got nailed for no seatbelts. My dad has never worn a seatbelt in his life, but damned if he doesn't have it on every time he gets on that highway now. Am I happy about paying the fine? Hell no. But I'm wearing my seatbelt. No, it's not perfect; no, it hasn't changed his behavior on every road, but it helped.

      Likewise, I have friends who have gotten speeding tickets and it's amazing what good, curteous drivers they become for a few weeks. Again, not permenant, but it's something.

      Speed enforcement is just an excuse for getting into your wallet, and your car. It's extremely selectively enforced; the cops don't pull over everyone(next time you're on the road, look down at your speedo. Notice the car in front of you and behind you and all around you- they're all doing the same speed)

      I'll have you know I don't wear a speedo on the road!

      But seriously, enforcement is an "excuse" to get into your wallet? Buddy, it's the law, and while there are plenty of bad laws around (*cough*Patriot Act!*cough*), I'm not going to fault the police for enforcing them. If you have a problem with the law, take it up with your legislaters, not the cops.

      As far as "they're all doing the same speed," that's a poor excuse/example for a number of reasons. For starters, if you're just going as fast as the traffic around you your chances of getting pulled over for it are lessened, for a number of reasons. It's the guys blowing by the people taking liberty with their "freebie" 10 miles over who get nailed the most. And the second reason I can explain with an old cop joke:

      A man was speeding down the highway, feeling secure in a gaggle of cars all traveling at the same speed. However, as they passed a speed trap, he got nailed with an infrared speed detector and was pulled over.

      The officer handed him the citation, received his signature and was about to walk away when the man asked, "Officer, I know I was speeding, but I don't think it's fair - there were plenty of other cars around me who were going just as fast, so why did *I* get the ticket?"

      "Ever go fishing?" the policeman suddenly asked the man.

      "Ummm, yeah..." the startled man replied.

      The officer grinned and added, "Ever catch *all* the fish?"

      No conflict of interest there, no sir, not an insurance company giving police officers a device that, every time it is used, causes someone's insurance rate to go through the roof, despite no evidence speeding causes accidents.

      NO evidence? If nothing else it cuts down your available time to react without causing an accident and I think that would be a fair example. But even if you're right that

  • I knew Nick Barnes when he was a postgraduate at the University of Melbourne and I was an undergrad, and a mate of mine is going to NICTA to become his PhD student. He's been involved in Melbourne University's Robocup team at times, amongst other projects.

    Deep down in his heart of hearts, I'm sure Nick knows perfectly well that trying to use computer vision to read road signs is at best a temporary hack for a legacy system. However, it's a nice application to show to wowser politicians to get them to fund his real interest - computer vision algorithms.

    It's the same reason why a lot of American scientists take money from the armed forces; they're neutral at best about the application, but it's a great way to get funding.

  • Instead of spraying it on my license plate, I could just spray it on the street signs on my route home to prevent this new "advance" in technology.

    The cameras won't be able to decode the signs (it's IR paint or something to that effect) and thus the system would be averted.

    Disclaimer: I'm [obviously] kidding here.

  • Impossible signs (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fhic ( 214533 )
    I wonder what the system will do when it encounters signs with logical impossibilities? I've driven through an intersection in NYC that had opposite-facing "one way" signs on the same utility pole, along with a "no entry" sign at the entrance to the only other way out. Eventually I figured out which one was wrong, or I guess I'd still be there. Somehow I doubt that this system would come up with the same answer I did.
  • snow? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jardine ( 398197 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @09:49PM (#10423685) Homepage
    I wonder how well this system works in a snowstorm. Or even after a snowstorm when there's clumps of snow on the sign. I expect it can't read things better than a human in those conditions.
  • I forget what it's called but all the Escort radar detectors I've had for the past 10 years or so have had a feature that's supposed to pick up special radar signals and display warning messages like "road work ahead", "fog ahead", "accident", etc. The system requires police, road crews, etc. to have radar transmitters on their vehicles that send out specially encoded signals that the detectors pick up & convert into these pre-defined messages. Despite having seen this feature built into radar detecto
  • Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by celeritas_2 ( 750289 ) <ranmyaku@gmail.com> on Sunday October 03, 2004 @10:01PM (#10423736)
    Dumbest application of technology....ever. I have to say I think this technology would do nothing except make cars more expensive and roads less safe. A good driver can see a damn sign with their own two eyes so they don't need this. A bad driver who pays little attention to the road will be made worse because he will depend on the system instead of (gasp) looking at signs. When the system fails as it most certainly will, the good driver will only notice a wallet deficit, the bad driver won't see a sign he wasn't looking for and will run a stop sign and kill someone, then blame the system. Not a good idea. When it works it's useless, when it doesn't it's deadly. How about car mfg. pay 5000 to pay for driver education instead of stupid technology eh?
  • I'm about to move ahead on my carputer project and have thought about building an in-car video e-card function with one of those pencil-sized video cameras used by so many reality shows (think Blind Date). I've also wondered about what I would like to be able to do by pointing the camera out the front windshield. A 5-minute TiVO-like buffer comes to mind for times when I witness car accidents. Finding computer vision applications is something else, and I often wonder how difficult it would be to analyze a f
  • by realdpk ( 116490 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @10:43PM (#10423912) Homepage Journal
    What I've always thought would be cool would be a system that reads the signs, and then lights up something behind the speedometer at the speed you're supposed to be going (only when you pass the sign, tho, so it doesn't keep showing you 55 when you turn off the highway 3 miles later. ;)
  • Bad, Bad, Bad Idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lcsjk ( 143581 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @10:45PM (#10423930)
    What if a sign is down or missing or obscured by some tree limb? What if the cameras fail to decode properly? Drivers will start to depend on the system and tend to miss things like the dog or child entering the roadway. If a driver is depending on some external device to "see" anything for himself, he or she will become dangerous.

    We have much better technology than depending on cameras. For instance, a vehicle sensor embedded in the roadway could turn on a strobe visible to the driver and at the same time send both RF and light (IR-data) to the auto's onboard sensors to tell whether the upcoming event is stop sign, speed limit sign or traffic light.

  • by writermike ( 57327 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @10:52PM (#10423960)
    I like the idea. I like it more if you can give it a familiar voice like, say, your Dad when he taught you how to drive.

    "stop... stop .... STOP!!! Jesus Christ, what the hell are you doing?"
  • by kumachan ( 618013 ) on Sunday October 03, 2004 @11:46PM (#10424519)
    In places like New Zealand we can have a range of speed limits (50,60,70,80,100km/h), and some roads vary as you move through dense areas into less dense. It would be nice to have the car remember what the speed limit was. I have driven along the road, stopped at a place for a few hours, and when returning to the road couldn't remember what the speed limit for the current section was.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard