Friday, June 24, 2011

Driverless Cars: Keep an Eye on Nevada

"Google driverless cars will soon hit the road in Nevada"
Matt Weinberger, Googling Google, News & Blogs, (June 24, 2011)

"Nevada has just passed legislation removing many of the legal barriers to the use of Google's self-driving car technology. So if you see a Toyota Prius or Audi TT without anyone at the wheel the next time you're in the state, don't worry - Google's got their back.

"Let's back up. All that Assembly Bill No 511 says is that Nevada lawmakers have to draft legislation which provides rules for Google's fleet of autonomous cars, according to the Daily Mail report. That means it could still be a little while before the general public will get to take a ride...."

The Lemming remembers when driverless cars were just around the corner. That was in the late '50s. This time around, the Lemming thinks we're a bit more likely to see practical transportation that brings 'horse sense' back to driving. Without the horse.

Quite a bit, actually. Between systems like GPS, and AI that's almost worthy of being called "artificial intelligence," a whole lot more pieces of the puzzle are on the table this time.

It's more than a matter of getting the technology to work.

Who Do You Trust?

"...The benefits of driverless cars include less traffic accidents and greater fuel efficiency, to hear Google tell it. And they never let a car go off without a human operator who can take over in the case of a mistake. But would you ride in a car without a driver?"

Right now, with state-of-the art technology and road systems that aren't designed to handle autonomous cars, the Lemming probably wouldn't.

Having redundant systems will probably be necessary:
  1. A control system in the car that works okay on its own
    1. Staying on the road
    2. Not running into
      • Other vehicles
      • Obstructions
    3. Pulling over on the shoulder if A1 or A2 aren't possible
      • And calling for help
  2. A control system in or over the road that works okay on its own
    1. Staying on the road
    2. Not running into
      • Other vehicles
      • Obstructions
    3. Pulling over on the shoulder if B1 or B2 aren't possible
      • And calling for help
    4. Monitoring traffic near each vehicle's stated destination
    5. Re-routing vehicles to alternate routes if congestion is likely
    6. Updating each vehicle's occupants on
      • Estimated arrival time
      • Rerouting
        • if any
      • Weather conditions at the destination
      • Snack concession reviews at the Cineplex
      • Which friends and acquaintances are at or near the destination
        • What they think of the
          • Popcorn
          • Movie
          • Meeting
          • Decor
          • Whatever
        • Lichee nut futures
        • Whatever
    7. Tracking road usage
      • Anticipating maintenance needs
Unlikely? In detail, yes. For example, the Lemming doubts that there's going to be much demand for a lichee nut futures data channel. Not as standard equipment, anyway. Not soon.

Robot Cars? What Next: Trains Without Firemen?

Maybe a third of a century ago, the Lemming lived in San Francisco, and used the BART trains fairly regularly. Each train had somebody in the 'front,' in a little 'driver's compartment.'

The human didn't have all that much to do, really. Certainly not 'driving' the train.

Then there was the time the 'driver' left the train - and didn't tell the train that he'd gone. (April 21, 2010)

Still, the idea of driverless cars seems rather far-fetched.

Next thing you know, we'll be hearing about some crazy new technology that'll make it possible for some guy living in some small town to publish regularly. And have just about anybody who understands the same language, and has the same tech read the stuff.


Wait a minute - - -

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