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GM Says Driverless Cars Will Be Ready By 2018 646

Gregor Stipicic writes "Cars that drive themselves — even parking at their destination — could be ready for sale within a decade, General Motors Corp. executives say. 'This is not science fiction,' Larry Burns, GM's vice president for research and development, said in a recent interview. GM plans to use an inexpensive computer chip and an antenna to link vehicles equipped with driverless technologies. The first use likely would be on highways; people would have the option to choose a driverless mode while they still would control the vehicle on local streets, Burns said. He said the company plans to test driverless car technology by 2015 and have cars on the road around 2018."
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GM Says Driverless Cars Will Be Ready By 2018

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  • GM's problem: (Score:3, Informative)

    by r_jensen11 ( 598210 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @05:41PM (#21960744)
    GM's problem stems from the fact that they've had since the oil embargos in the 70's to improve their auto's milage. No intelligent person can argue successfully that GM's engines aren't a lot more efficient than they used to be. It's that they've wasted all of these efficiency gains on increasing horsepower to drive heavier cars more quickly.

    GM's had 30 years to bring fuel efficiency & milage to the forefront of their goals. I have no sympathy for its demise.
  • Re:Good for safety (Score:3, Informative)

    by gnuman99 ( 746007 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @06:33PM (#21961652)
    As a motorcycle owner, I'd trust a computer controlled cage much more than a human controlled one.

    Humans make a lot of mistakes including the stupid excuses "I didn't see you". With computer controlled stuff, the software will *see* everything down to a given size all the time. It doesn't get distracted or starts the 'stare into oblivions', both of which result in the same scenario.

    Cars and SUVs and trucks are the largest obstacle to safety for cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists. Remove the recklessness from the former and the latter can only screw themselves by their own mistakes not because the cage driver just doesn't give a fsck about you because in a collision, you lose, not the cage.

  • Re:Good (Score:3, Informative)

    by vtcodger ( 957785 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @06:49PM (#21961866)
    ***Good lord, what if the autobot is localized? I mean, how much worse would the driving be if it was a BostonBot(tm)?***

    What's the problem? You just need a sensor and a little code that can juggle the special factors involved in Boston driving -- Relative Vehicle Size, Number of dents, Condition of the paintjob. Vehicle with the least to lose in a collision has the right of way. You won't even notice that a robot is driving.

    In fact, judging from most of the computer controlled gadgets around here, you may not even need a sensor or algorithm. Best software practices should yield about the right degree of randomness for Boston driving.

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

    by ddrichardson ( 869910 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @06:59PM (#21962018) Homepage

    I don't think that better fuel economy is neccesarily a given - cars currently support a very minimal set of electrics and on many cars there is no surplus of power - a lot of small european cars for example noticeably dim lights when electric windows are engaged.

    There also comes the issue of redundancy which is not currently an issue, as well as the increased weight if the control components and sensors.

  • by nehumanuscrede ( 624750 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @07:41PM (#21962548)
    All things considered, if the tech works as well as GM is hoping for, then accidents would be
    far, FAR fewer than what we see today. Owning a self-drive capable car might even LOWER your
    insurance payments as you're taking the human out of the equation. Think about what causes most
    accidents. Hardware failure ? Um. . no.

    Usually it's stupidity on the drivers part. Driving too fast, ( or too slow in the wrong lane )
    didn't see the vehicle next to them, drunk, racing, rubbernecking, on the phone, whatever.
    Remove the driver from the equation and 99% of the traffic fatalities will probably go away.

    Once the tech arrives, it would probably take 5-10 years to get the changeover completed. Once
    that happens, most of the accidents and the reasons behind them would vanish. Talk all you wish on
    your phone. Eat your breakfast and rubberneck till you are blue in the face. The computer won't run
    the light, blow the stopsign or try to race the idiot next to you. Freeway traffic will likely be
    self-drive ONLY.

    Hell, they may even RAISE the speed limits. The ones we have now have to factor in the idiot
    equation. Remove the human problem and higher speeds navigated via computer will be just as safe
    ( if not safer ) than the lower ones driven by their flesh and blood counterparts.
    the lower ones.

    With my drive testing the limits of my sanity on a daily basis ( ~80 miles roundtrip to the office
    through the worst traffic Houston has to offer ) I'll be first in line if / when this tech becomes
  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @08:28PM (#21963046)
    I'd assume the tech works under ideal driving conditions, but what about the unforseen stuff that comes up in day to day driving?

    I'd trust a computer over most drivers. Traffic engineers model traffic off completely unintelligent fluid dynamics. And they have to adjust because humans are less efficient that particles (yes, I'm saying that the average driver is more stupid than a molecule of air). With a computer driving, conditions that require slowing down ahead will result in slowing before you have to jam on your brakes. Mileage will increase greatly when predictive driving is used, rather than drivers that speed up for red lights to make sure the guy in the other lane doesn't get in front of them.

    Can the car detect an icy patch on the upcoming corner?

    Yes and no. Same as with a human driver. Can it *always* do it? No. Can it do it every time a human would? Probably not. Can it do it more accurately than a human? Probably. So, you run into a question of if a human was doing it and would be safer, should you require the safety feature that makes them less safe? Based on the results of airbags, the answer is yes.

    Will it swerve violently to avoid an empty cardboard box blowing across the highway?

    No. Will a person? Yes. I've seen people do it all the time, yet swerving is rarely the best course of action.

    If I were designing the system, I'd brake in a straight line for all moving objects that shouldn't be there (people, animals, boxes). For things that aren't moving, I'd have the car brake in a straight line. If there isn't space, then I'd have it change lanes, check behind, and brake in a straight line. Oh, and smart cars would notify those around them of the conditions, so cars behind would already be slowing for the unknown obstacle. Of course, that's just a 10 second addressing of the problem. It could be refined much better than that, but you get the general point (that you are assuming the worst, then implying that the strawman is wrong).

    Will it still work around radar jammers? Technically illegal, but I'm willing to bet there's still a fair number of them out there.

    Why not? It might fail around the radar used for grocery doors. It might fail when sunlight hits it. It might fail for all sorts of reasons. However, since you thought of this problem, I'm sure that others have as well. And you know what? It's easy to work around. Radar jammers are for very specific bands. Use different bands. Use lasers. Use sound. Wow, problem solved in like 10 seconds and I didn't even have to burn a brain cell. But then, I don't think you really have legitimate concerns. I think you don't like the idea of giving up control, and are giving more weight to whatever you can think up that sounds reasonable. When you attitude is "I hate driving and I'd love to be chauffeured everywhere, but I'm not sure I'd trust this system" rather than "I love driving and you can pry my steering wheel from my cold dead fingers" I'll think it a little more than fear of loss of power.
  • ...expect them from Toyota in five.
  • Re:Good (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:30AM (#21965040) Homepage
    This line cracked me up -- since those four groups are the primary users of public transportation

    Not around here. Around here, the primary users are the able-bodied poor.

    Those are the groups that are the least likely to a) be capable of driving, and b) be able to afford the cost of owning, maintaining, insuring, and fueling a vehicle.

    And, more importantly, walking several blocks to the nearest bus stop multiple times on each trip. I have a good friend with muscular dystrophy. She drives a car. The concept of her walking everywhere to catch busses, especially in winter, is almost laughably bad.

    Healthy adults are the people who take transit the least, for the simple reason that they're the ones that can afford cars and have both the mental acumen and physical health necessary to operate them.

    Tell that to gardeners, construction workers, factory workers, and all other "manual laborers". Tell them how wealthy they are. Go on. Because, at least around here, those are the sort of people you see on the bus. Them and students.

    That's what an iPod and a book are for.

    How nice for you that this is all you need to be unaware of everyone else around you.

    Even the most obnoxious of the homeless insane wont try to talk to someone protected by such an overpowering barrier of leave-me-the-fuck-alone.

    Funny, because I've had, on multiple occasions, homeless insane (or at least seemingly homeless and insane) people carry on one-sided conversations with me for my entire ride on the bus while I'm programming on my laptop the hole time, and I don't even ride it that often.

    The grocery is that close, but you can't walk?

    I don't know about you, but I don't exactly feel like needlessly losing 40 minutes of my day a twice a week and carrying back half a dozen bags of groceries weighing dozens of pounds total (sometimes more) in my arms. Or should I tow a little red wagon with me? Any more annoyances you'd like to pile onto my life for no particular reason?

    that means your grocery store is at most 1.5 miles away. A reasonably healthy person can walk that in about 15 minutes.

    It's actually 1.3 miles, 4 minutes drive, according to google

    I'm sorry but 6 miles per hour is not a "walk". That's jogging. So, now what am I to picture -- you want me to jog with a dozen bags of groceries in my arm? What's next -- do you want me to juggle and play harmonica at the same time?

    Anyone who's actually used public transportation at all (as opposed to the people who go around making up bullshit about how unsuited it is for everyone except healthy adults) knows that for short trips, it's usually easier to walk.

    Um, excuse me, but I used to ride the bus daily. Don't lecture me about "anyone who's actually used public transportation".

    Youths generally can't afford cars, so they depend on public transit.

    I said the "young". As in children. As in "American parents don't typically want their kids riding alone on a bus and would rather just drop them off somewhere".

    The elderly frequently can't afford cars and are often incapable of driving, so they depend on public transit.

    If they're incapable of driving, I bet walking a dozen blocks with groceries in their arms is a blast, isn't it?

    Not owning a car is a sign of being poor, not elderly.

    The disabled are one of the lowest income groups in any society, especially American society with its disdain for social services. Do you really think that they can afford cars?

    My friend Cathy has one. It's a junker probably worth less than a thousand dollars, but it drives just fine. It's fitted with hand controls so she can run it properly. Before she was able to get that car, she was part of a car co-op. Again, think for a second: person who can hardly walk, and you want her to *carry things* for *several blocks* each way to get to a bus stop? That's positively ludicrous.

    Not to mention the fact that many disabilities directly prevent people from driving.

    You really don't know anyone who's disabled, do you?

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