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Comment Re:Huh (Score 1) 240

That would be the same as the people in California voting for a government that bans irrigation to protect the ground water levels.

You make it sound like this could never happen. I could easily see this happen. The percentage of farmers in California is small compared to city dwellers. What do the city dwellers care about irrigation. California recently passed something similar where they are basically going to cause all the dairy farmers to leave (https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/11/29/california-passes-a-new-climate-law-to-regulate-cow-farts/) and many of their other regulations have likewise hurt their own companies.

Comment Re: Wind and Solar are Environmental Disasters (Score 1) 240

Actually, they regularly run into things like parked cars and windowless buildings. Did you have data to back up your claim, or were you just lying and hoping nobody would contradict you? The reason they hit the windows in houses, not the house, is that they hit the house, and you don't notice, but when they hit the window, you notice.

The reason they hit windows is because of the reflection and the transparency. A window sometimes works like a mirror and many times will reflect a second tree that they are trying to get to. They don't just randomly run into things they can see. Zoos have a solution for this. Instead of using glass which is both reflective and see thru, they use little very thin vertical wire which would probably be worse for the birds if the birds ran into it but the birds don't because they see it just fine.

Comment Re:Short-term numbers versus long-term (Score 1) 97

My opinion has nothing to do with bad drivers. Everybody gets tired. Everybody gets distracted. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding him/herself.

Besides, more than 70% of all drivers eat while driving, and that's responsible (according to one study) for about 80% of all crashes. When I say humans suck as drivers, I mean that the overwhelming majority of human drivers (if not all) suck at driving at least some of the time. The only reason we don't have orders of magnitude more wrecks than we do is that split-second reaction time is only important on very rare occasions (perhaps five-seconds in a typical hour of driving), so being distracted usually doesn't result in an accident.

Comment Re:Short-term numbers versus long-term (Score 2) 97

I'm anti-antibiotic and modern medical intervention because I think knowing that they're available just makes people careless and sloppy when they travel in areas where those interventions aren't available. I would much rather a few more people die because we don't use antibiotics at all than for people to become reliant on them and just become careless and unfit.

First, antibiotics are available nearly anywhere in the world you might go. By contrast, these sorts of autopilot features are available on a tiny fraction of a percent of vehicles, and probably will be for some time to come.

Second, the technology is highly limited, basically useful only on the highway, which means that if people get used to having that extra support during highway driving, it could easily result in an increase in accidents in cities, where accidents are much more likely to cause pedestrian fatalities. So there's a good possibility that this could actually make traffic deaths worse on the whole over the long term.

Early studies strongly suggested that partial self-driving solutions did more harm than good, which is why I think we should wait to make self-driving technology available until it can truly take the place of the human driver, rather than introducing a solution that only works part of the time and can lead to false confidence the rest of the time. I could be wrong, and I'd like to be wrong, but my gut says we'd be better off waiting a few more years for a more complete solution, rather than deploying a partial solution more broadly.

Comment Re:Good idea, bad name (Score 0) 97

Agreed. If I bought a car with a feature called "autopilot", I would think I would be comfortable taking a snooze (or watching a Harry Potter movie) while the car did the driving for me. I am really surprised they haven't dropped the name "autopilot" as it is totally misleading and something that has been pointed out repeatedly. I suspect that there are egos involved in the decision not to change the name.

Or, maybe, they think their software is close enough to achieve certification for totally taking over responsibility for driving the car that they think that can weather this storm and keep the name for the big roll out.

I agree completely. I'm actually surprised that they haven't been sued for false advertising instead just like the cell phone companies have for "unlimited". It should be called "Driver Assist" until the driver is allowed to nap. Yes, I know that a pilot isn't allowed to nap but that's not really the point. A pilot has had a lot more training AND is less likely to hit something if it does dose off AND usually has a second pilot as well.

Comment Re:Short-term numbers versus long-term (Score 1) 97

I'm not saying that the challenge of coming up with software that allows a car to autonomously drive itself better than a human isn't possible. I just challenge the assertion that a computer with multiple cameras is likely superior to a human.

I say that for several reasons:

  • Human vision is inherently focused on a single thing at a time. They teach you to move your eyes around and scan for things that might be problems, but the reality is that we're very limited in our ability to do so. Computers don't have that problem. They can see that kid on the side of the road who might fall out into traffic long before a human driver would happen to randomly glance in that direction, which means that on average, they can take corrective action much sooner even if their actual reaction time is much slower.
  • Computers can also look behind and beside them constantly. You might look in your side or rearview mirror when you're about to turn or change lanes or back up. However, the odds of seeing someone cutting into your side or flying up behind you in time to avoid a collision is remarkably small. A computer, however, would see those vehicles every time, and would often be able to prevent the resulting accidents.
  • Statistically, one in five collisions happens in parking lots, where human vision is hopelessly obstructed by other vehicles. Computers should be able to trivially avoid essentially all of those collisions. So right off the bat, even if computers were no better than human drivers while on the road, you'd expect a 20% drop in accidents just from having complete 360-degree vision while pulling out of parking spaces. And nearly half of all pedestrian accidents occur in parking lots, so the seemingly excessive caution that computer-controlled cars use should dramatically decrease pedestrian injuries and deaths as well.

Besides, Tesla's autopilot feature is designed exclusively for highway driving. (AFAIK, it still ignores stop signs and traffic lights entirely.) Highway driving is, on the whole, some of the safest driving possible, with nearly every accident caused by some combination of fatigue, distraction (particularly involving food/drinks), and/or drunkenness on the part of one of the drivers involved. To beat a human driver under those conditions, all Tesla's autopilot really has to do is keep the car in the current lane, reliably detect cars that have stopped in front of it without nodding off after half an hour or chugging one for the road, and avoid other people who have fallen asleep or are drunk. Of those, only the last one is particularly challenging, which is almost certainly why the crash numbers are only down by 40% instead of 80% or more. :-)

Comment Re:Short-term numbers versus long-term (Score 1) 97

I think that two numbers would be deceptive because almost no-one is capable of acknowledging their inattention.

They don't have to. With as much data collection as the Tesla systems do, assuming they collect the same data with autopilot disabled, too, it should be possible to do a post-mortem (so to speak) on a random sampling of accidents and determine whether a reasonable person should have noticed the stopped car in front of them (for example) or not and whether the driver failed to react in a timely fashion or not.

I think that two numbers would be deceptive because almost no-one is capable of acknowledging their inattention. If you found at that that 50% of accidents are caused by inattention, but the autopilot is a 20% *worse* driver than someone paying attention, you *know* that everyone would flee from AutoPilot it on the assumption they won't be part of the 50% failing to pay attention.

On the contrary. If the autopilot is 20% worse than a driver who is paying attention, then having those concrete statistics would provide the motivation to change the behavior of the autopilot feature to be more sensible, such as looking for signs that the driver isn't paying attention, and then automatically engaging when the driver's hands leave the wheel, when the driver's eyes leave the road, when the driver's grip on the wheel relaxes too much, etc., rather than making things worse by engaging when the driver would have done a better job. And as the statistics become more complete, you'd probably decide to add other weighting factors, such as time of day, whether they're driving away from home at night (e.g. to work the night shift) or towards it, etc.

Comment Short-term numbers versus long-term (Score 1) 97

One would expect that. Even a bad computer program with a dozen eyes is likely to be better than a bag of meat with only two.

I'm more concerned about the long-term secondary effects. Do drivers who get used to this technology become dependent on it, and thus have higher accident rates when driving rental cars that lack this technology?

Additionally, I'm less than convinced by the use of a single number here. To be meaningful, you need at least two numbers: the number of crashes avoided because of software intervention and the number of crashes caused by driver inattention. After all, if the system saves a bunch of lives because of things that a human driver couldn't have predicted, but costs a small number of lives because some humans depended too much on the vehicle to drive for them, then it is great from a statistical perspective, but that's little comfort for the families of people who died because the autopilot lulled them into a false sense of security.

Comment Re:What complete nonsense (Score 1) 277

And then it still doesn't make sense, because Mars will still be an inhospitable hell hole where nobody would want to live.

If we had autonomous robots that could build giant steel cities then there is nothing that says we couldn't make it hospitable. We would need a huge amount of energy to do it but if you had something along the lines of "Great Wolf Lodge" or "Mall of America", you could in theory create a place where people could live comfortably without ever going outside. This would not be all that different than the many people who rarely if ever leave the city they live and work in. But again, we are talking city scale construction (or at the very least mall size) and you would either have to ship a ton of equipment there or somehow bootstrap a modern factory starting with basically nothing.

Comment Re:Shipping and Handling (Score 1) 277

Somebody forgot about shipping and handling.

And Economics 101. If you somehow managed to bring that much iron to the Earth, it would completely change price structures. Iron would become essentially free as a raw material, with only transportation and processing costs. People would develop all kinds of new applications for raw meteoric iron to take advantage of its low price, etc.

I seriously doubt it. Iron is already essentially free. It's around $100/ton (4 cents a pound) How much lower does it need to go? The cost of iron goods is pretty much already 99% based on the transportation and processing. Iron is already one of the cheapest raw materials there is.

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