Sunday, December 27, 2015

Breaking Bad; The Corruption of the Autonomous Driving Vehicle

Autonomous driving cars are just around the corner and I can't wait! The option to snooze, work, or just snap pix to post on Facebook during my commute is something... I would love to be able to do "safely."   Studies claim a 50% increase in commuting time for the average worker in the Puget Sound Region has happened in just the last 4 years and I have to say I concur. (although I feel the number is a bit low)

Traffic being the issue it is means something has to be done but the traditional options of pushing everyone to mass transit options, building more roads or raising taxes or providing breaks to encourage car pooling has not worked or is simply way too expensive.  The one transportation obstacle that was hurdled (after years of debate over who was going to pay for it) the downtown Seattle Tunnel has been derailed due to the digging machine not performing as expected.  FYI; many experts see a slight easing of congestion issues at best since most of the traffic will simply be moved from another traffic corridor that is going away.

Autonomous cars can go a long way towards reducing congestion. They can safely drive at a much higher density which means a higher rate of thru-put despite only driving at or below the speed limit.  Software can easily create "Car trains" where its determined that several cars will be traveling in the same direction for several miles. Drafting each other, automatically adjusting following distances to account for weight, braking distances, etc. Even putting the vehicle with the largest "frontage" in the lead to help "break wind" could be an option.  A successful car train would save tons of fuel even for the lead car.

Autonomous cars will be safer because driver fatigue, physical limitations and poor driving conditions due to weather, time of day, etc. are eliminated.

Networking Autonomous cars will greatly increase efficiency and safety by greatly reducing the interactions with rogue drivers.  Imagine a setting "Remain in area surrounded by other ADVs"(Autonomous Driving Vehicles)

But there remains a huge psychological road block to ADV's.  It is fear of the unknown and putting the your life on the line to rely on a computer to get you around safely on a crowded freeway is going to be a major hit on anyone's comfort zone.  BSOD visions aside; have computers really advanced that far??

Well, yes. Yes, they have! In fact they have advanced more than far enough to take over a relatively simple task of driving...or is it that simple?? Well, COMPLETELY remove the Human Element and it would be!  In this article the word "safe" and its variants have been used several times and ADV's are, right?....right?

A recent article illustrates how much we do not belong behind the wheel.  It appears that ADV's has suffered from an accident rate higher than normal. This is shocking and will no doubt be used out of context with neighsayers later at least until we delve further and find

The self-driving car, that cutting-edge creation that’s supposed to lead to a world without accidents, is achieving the exact opposite right now: The vehicles have racked up a crash rate double that of those with human drivers.
The glitch?
They obey the law all the time, as in, without exception. This may sound like the right way to program a robot to drive a car, but good luck trying to merge onto a chaotic, jam-packed highway with traffic flying along well above the speed limit. It tends not to work out well.

Yeah... thats right. Most of the accidents are happening because of a flagrant violation of the written law resulting in people rear ending ADV's because they are obeying the traffic laws!  But not surprising!  Despite spending a bankroll large enough that make Bill Gates jealous; Auto makers have not been able to significantly reduce highway deaths.  Now, we have made progress and highway deaths are down 50% despite more miles driven and worse accidents (as a result of excessive speed mind you...) but cars still kill over 30,000 people every year. Ya, that is more than ten times the rate of mass shootings in this country.  So why is a handful of deaths by firearms from people primarily ignoring the law generating so much passion when thousands of deaths are attributed to people ignoring the speed limit (which is a law as well... shocking I know, but its true!! Snopes confirmed) in a car? Well, obviously I cannot out argue the gun or automotive lobbyists so what are our options?

 As the accidents have piled up -- all minor scrape-ups for now -- the arguments among programmers at places like Google Inc. and Carnegie Mellon University are heating up: Should they teach the cars how to commit infractions from time to time to stay out of trouble? 

say WHAT!! Google; I am SHOCKED!! Of all the companies in the World, you were the last (besides Apple) that would take "Lemming over the Cliff" option!  What is the upside to arriving at your destination 10 minutes earlier?  Keep in mind; more autonomous cars could very well lessen that gap but on the flipside...

Excessive speed has so many downsides that listing half of them will cause me to miss the kickoff of the Seahawks game which as we all know is not an option.

Accidents, driver stress,  higher insurance rates and death.  Good luck finding specifics on how many deaths are solely the result of excessive speeds but even low ball figures puts it at 35,000 a year. Wait a second! How can it be 35,000 when there will be just over 30,000 killed this year?(estimate only)   Well the first figure is Highway deaths only.  It does not include deaths on the city and county roads where its open season on pedestrians. I am not going there simply because of the number of incidents involving the number of children under age 6.  It really would ruin my day.

So Google, Apple and whoever, do not cave under the moniker of the all mighty dollar.  Resist the temptation from the dark side.  Stick to your guns.  Add the ability to immediately upload videos of all traffic incidents seen to the proper law enforcement authority and insurance agency.  Do this and eventually the gap between insurance for an ADV  (over 10,000,000 miles without causing an accident) and people who refuse to give up the wheel.

So how much are you willing to pay for that 10 minutes?

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