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Comment Re: Thanks. Mr. Obvious (Score 1) 239

What if I refuse to purchase 'autopilot' insurance from the dealership, but then use the feature anyway. They can't force you to purchase and keep paying the monthly fee, and at this point, who knows if they lock out that feature remotely.

It is an absolute certainty that all self-driving cars (level 4 or 5) are going to be phoning home for the foreseeable future.

If I get in a crash with autopilot on, and I claim I wasn't driving so I'm not responsible, but the insurance fee to the dealer has not been paid, who foots the bill.

Under that model, obviously you would be liable, but injured parties would certainly also tend to sue the automaker.

If you say the owner would foot the bill, then you are making the claim that in the end, the owner of the vehicle is responsible for autopilot, not the manufacturer.
That's why tacking on a 'lifetime' insurance premium to the price of a new car is the only real way that makes sense

Agreed.

They're not going to do this until their accident rates are way lower than humans, because of the liability issues involved. So that's going to keep the truly autonomous vehicles pushed out into the future for some time. In the meantime, we will get more driver assistance features added into the vehicles. Many of these features are useful to the self-driving system anyway, so refining them before using them for full autonomy is a pretty darned good idea.

Comment Re:The owner should be liable (Score 1) 239

So whether that can still be considered a taxi company is debatable.

I think that if Uber is a taxi company (and let's face it, that's what it is) then it will still be a taxi company when there's no driver in the cab. I think that it will largely be a function of how you're paying. If you have better credit, you'll be able to get into a better network and you'll pay less per mile for a decent vehicle. If you have no credit, you'll have to settle for one with econoboxes or something. If you have bad credit, you might not be able to get into a ridesharing network at all, and you'll have to pay more because of the inherent risk in supporting that class of rider. Ah, capitalism. The rich get things for free, and the poor pay the most.

Of course, presumably there will be self-driving public transit. It can use smaller vehicles than buses because the reason we use buses is that human drivers are expensive and buses let us minimize the number of people one human can tote around. You'll fire up the public transit app (or log in at a public transit kiosk, or make a phone call to an automated system) and request a pickup, and it will tell you when you can have one based on when a unit can reasonably be diverted through your area. People who need wheelchair access can be grouped together (with any accompanying traffic) on vehicles with support for them, but all of them don't have to have it, so they don't all have to carry it around. Of course, they will probably still smell like bodily fluids...

Comment Re:The owner should be liable (Score 1) 239

(There will be lots of competition, there will be a lot of incentive to undercut competitors for market share, so the price should be about the same as owning my own vehicle.)

Actually, this is an interesting question. What will the price be like? I would imagine that it would actually be a lot cheaper, because of the competition. It's going to be a lot cheaper to provide you a share of a car than your own car, especially because presumably the owner is going to be an automaker or dealer for the foreseeable future. That means they'll have the opportunity to really service these vehicles in a way that doesn't normally happen with privately owned ones; even owners of expensive brands get driven away from dealer service by exorbitant fees. I have a fully documented 1997 Audi A8. It got some dealer service under warranty and extended warranty early on, and then the owner started taking it to third party shops which didn't do a very good job on a lot of things. As a result, some of the parts deteriorated. Now I'm just nabbing its transmission, which was replaced under warranty, for another car.

In addition, cars designed for this purpose are going to have a lot of interior improvements. It's going to be cheaper to swap the interior, and the interior is going to be designed for more longevity and for easier cleaning. And a user who really destroys some interior pieces is going to have to pay for them, so that's just gravy to the automaker.

Comment Re:Thanks. Mr. Obvious (Score 2) 239

I may be missing something here, but why do manufacturers have to take on the liability?

Because the automobile insurers are unlikely to assume the full risk before they know what the risk is, unless they are forced. And as we know, nobody is forcing the insurance companies to do anything. The automakers are very much going to be putting their own pocketbooks on the line when they release self-driving cars, which is why you aren't seeing half-assed attempts at level 4 or 5 hit the streets now. If you were willing to accept human-like levels of collisions, fatalities etc., you could probably get that with current technology, but that's not a level we're willing to let the automakers be responsible for. Instead, we have to do it to ourselves. Rightly so, of course; they do have to do better if they want to be in charge. And as it turns out, they have to do much better. As a result, the automakers are not in a hurry to get fully self-driving vehicles on the road before they get ubiquitous V2V.

To really get the accident rates down, you not only need V2V on almost all of the vehicles which aren't self-driving, but you need for there to have been some time for the technology to shake itself out. You want V2V to get hacked and exploited before the self-driving car phase, when it will only confuse people and you can blame at least some of the resulting collisions on the drivers. I presume that we will actually get legislation demanding V2V retrofit into all roadgoing vehicles, and maybe trailers as well so that a lost trailer reports the fact, and where it is located, and what its wheels are doing. It will almost certainly include GPS and transmit the location at all times, and it will have to be connected into at minimum the speed sensor, throttle position, and brake switch. This is a relatively easy thing to do (owners of particularly vintage vehicles will have to install a throttle position sensor on the side of their carburetor, or the equivalent on their mechanically regulated diesel) but of course is a political minefield that nobody wants to step into before they have to. However, every automaker considers it a fact already, so you'd better get used to the idea. This may well have to happen before Level 5, no steering wheel and take a nap autonomous vehicles are allowed to travel at freeway speeds.

The guy's not an oracle, but I was recently watching an interview with Bob Lutz, and he was talking about the future of vehicle automation. He presumes that once we actually get up to level 5 vehicles, they'll actually mandate basically all the style out of them for aerodynamics reasons. There will be minor styling cues, and automakers will be free to play around with textures and minor shapes to accomplish different aerodynamics goals, but in order to make "road trains" efficient, the vehicles are all going to be shaped like minivans with flat faces. The lead driver takes a penalty from having to push through the atmosphere, but they get some of it back from the reduction of turbulence behind the vehicle when the following vehicle creeps up close behind them. He allowed that this might not happen right away or all at once, and that perhaps for the foreseeable future you'd be allowed to have a stylized vehicle as the social tradeoff for taking away your steering wheel.

Of course, this is all stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. We have the technology to make self-driving arrays of closely coupled cars right now. It's called rail. Something in between light rail and a roller coaster is what's called for. Ideally you'd implement it as a monorail (monorail? monorail!) which could run right up the middle of almost ordinary-looking cars using two or four electric motors for propulsion, split to the sides of the vehicles. Then you'd build vehicles which could drive on ordinary roadways at ordinary freeway speeds (they only need a top speed of 100 or so, forget all this ridiculous performance jazz) for a little while on a relatively small battery, but then get on a rail which would not only handle steering the vehicle, but which would also charge the battery. There could be stretches without charging, but ideally the whole of the rail would be electrified. You'd elevate the rail, so the footprint would be minimal. You'd use the network for long hauls, and then eventually you'd cut all the roadways back to just one lane in each direction and carry the majority of traffic on the rail, with the roadways being driven by enthusiasts, service vehicles, cyclists, etc.

To me, this is not actually the idea transportation network, which would involve less car-like vehicles. However, this is probably the only place we can realistically go from here which would actually be different. It preserves the car, and automobile ownership. A lot of people are very invested in those things, so a plan that does away with them is probably not realistic.

Comment Re:the laws may take 3-5 years to get rid of drive (Score 1) 121

In Australia for example they have not paid tax since setting up and a raid by the tax office resulted in no employee information since that is apparently all in Holland.

Sounds like they really think they're clever. Like I said, scumbuckets. However, they are fighting to change laws I want changed, and I like that about them. I also think they're going to be made irrelevant by competition and/or driven out of business for their illegal actions.

Comment Re:Thanks. Mr. Obvious (Score 1) 239

What do you mean "initially".

What I mean is that eventually, when the bugs have been worked out and only automated cars are allowed to use most of the lanes on the interstate and the accident rate stabilizes (hopefully near zero) then the burden will be shifted from the automakers to the customers, who will pay for it along with the rest of their mandatory liability insurance. The insurers aren't going to deal with insuring vehicles individually until the risk is reasonably estimable.

Comment Re:Left and right (Score 1) 153

Which definition?

I am opposed to government meddling in what I do in my house, but I am in favor of government meddling in everything that business does. You know, the definition. Conservative, of course, is the opposite. Populists want to control both. Anarchists want to control neither. According to the libertarians I am an upper-left centrist (hey, they have a snazzy test) but I personally think I'm more left than they think I am, and less upwards.

Comment You appear to be advocating... (Score 1) 143

You appear to be advocating for a technical solution for fascism. The problem is, the fascists have better rubber hoses. Also, if it can't be turned off, then it can be used to grief people; if you can get them to turn it on, whether by owning their account or by tricking them, and they can't turn it off, that's beyond inconvenient.

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