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Comment Re:Not so fast. (Score 4, Insightful) 154

Actually, lets.

It is perfectly legal for me to repair my own brakes or steering. People have done so for decades even though a failure while driving could be very bad. The upshot is simple, if you're going to work on safety critical parts of your car, you'll want to make sure you know what you're doing. If you screw up, you might face significant liability.

Comment Re:DMCA is a federal law (Score 4, Interesting) 154

He did that because he HAD to. Otherwise, he starts a small scale war where the state then makes most activities that might support enforcing the federal law illegal. Next thing you know, there are DEA agents sitting in jail while it all winds it's way slowly through the courts. Worst case (for the president), the legitimacy of invoking interstate commerce to permit the federal laws to exist ends up in court with an opponent that can actually afford to fight it.

Comment Re:Just what we needed (Score 4, Insightful) 220

As a C++ programmer, I don't know if I'll ever use "concepts" in my own code.

That said, I'm nevertheless very much looking forward to them becoming part of the language, if only so that when I do something wrong when using an STL class, the compiler can come back with an error that tells me what I did wrong, rather then five pages of incomprehensible gibberish.

Many C++ features are like this, aimed not primarily at the average C++ user, but rather at the STL developers.

Comment Electrons (Score 1) 434

So how does this work? Is a domestic consumer is given an electron which has passed through a wind generator, there is going to be hell to pay, but a different pool of electrons must be used to export power from the state.

And sure, with a mix of energy sources, local consumption can be less than generation from coal.

Comment Re:Short-term numbers versus long-term (Score 1) 161

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 1) 161

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:Short-term numbers versus long-term (Score 1) 161

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) 161

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.

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