The Not-So-Safe Self-Driving Car

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Obeying the law can sometimes get you killed. Humans – those not asleep at the proverbial wheel – know this.Google self-driving car

Self-driving cars don’t.

They are programmed to be obey every law, all the time – regardless of circumstances. This is creating problems.

Potentially, fatalities.

Example: Up ahead, there’s a red light. Your autonomous Google car is coming to a stop because its sensors can tell the light’s red. But your Google car hasn’t got a brain, so it can’t override its Prime Directive – obey the red – in order to deal with the big rig coming up behind you that’s locked up its brakes and is clearly going to crush you to death in about three seconds if you don’t run the red light and get out of the truck’s way.

You’d mash the accelerator pedal, blow the light. But the Google car won’t. That would be illegal.

So now, you’re dead.

Or, you’re trying to make your way home in a blizzard. If it’s you controlling the car, you know that coming to a full stop for a stop sign at the crest of a steep hill is probably going to result in your car sliding back down the hill and into the cars behind you.truck wreck

So, you California Stop the sign. It’s technically illegal – but it’s the right thing to do, in order to not lose momentum – and to avoid losing control.

The Google car would stop. And you’d roll back down the hill.

Evasive/emergency maneuvers are almost always technically illegal. But they are often the only way to avoid an accident.

Humans can process this – and are capable of choosing the lesser of two evils. A driverless car cannot. It only knows what the sign (and law) says and is programmed to obey as doggedly as Arnold’s T800 in the Terminator movies.

Nuance is not yet a machine thing.

And that’s a real problem, not a hypothetical one. Prototype driverless cars that are in circulation have twice the crash rate of cars with human drivers, according to a just-released study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute (see here).Hal 9000

Apparently, Bobo (human drivers) not so stupid after all.

It’s not that autonomous cars are stupid. It’s that they lack the uniquely (so far) human attribute of judgment. They cannot weigh alternatives. It is either – or. Black – or white. Parameters are programmed in – and the computer executes those parameters without deviation.

Because that’s what it was programmed to do.

Human drivers, on the other hand, can foresee the consequences of a developing situation and take action based on intangibles no computer can (yet) grok. Humans know that most traffic laws are, as they teach in law school, malum prohibitum (i.e., technical fouls, violations of a statute, certainly, but not moral violations) rather than malum in se (morally wrong, like stealing things).self driving car pic

Computers cannot appreciate the distinction. They defer to the law – even if it means that eighteen wheeler bearing down on you isn’t going to stop, regardless of the law about running red lights.   

Humans also know when a law is ridiculous – and (provided no cop is around) will ignore it outright. And here we come to a possibly happy unintended consequence.

Autonomous cars may end up highlighting the ridiculousness of certain traffic laws; most posted speed limits, for instance. By obeying them. The old man in a Buick will be replaced by the autonomous Corvette doing exactly 65 with everyone else running 70-75 (at least).

The machine Mind Cloverized Corvette will never move over.

He – it – is “doing the limit,” after all.

old cootThere are only a few old men in Buicks out on the highway. But there could be millions of autonomous cars. All programmed to do the speed limit – no matter how dumbed-down and preposterous for conditions, road… or car.

How about right on red? Forget it!

Even if it’s obviously clear – and safe – to proceed. The law is the law.

Merging and yielding? Better leave ten minutes early.

If a deer runs in front of the car, will the autonomous car swerve briefly (and illegally) into the other lane – and break the law forbidding crossing over the double yellow – in order to avoid the deer?

Probably not.

So, you wreck the car.

And if there’s a wreck, who gets the blame … and the bill? If the human inside is just a passenger, it’s hard to write him a ticket (or sue him for damages). But computers don’t care about DMV “points,” you can’t send them to driving school and they haven’t got any wages that can be garnished to pay your medical bills.sharks

Ironically, these autonomously driven vehicles were touted as being more competently driven than cars driven by humans. One of the claimed benefits being that we’ll be able to get where we’re going going faster. But unless speed limits are raised dramatically – to reflect the speeds people are already driving, the law be damned – it’ll take us longer to get where we’re headed.

No more hammer time. Instead, a conga line of self-driving cars driving extra, extra cautiously – at the “safe” pace of the least common denominator. Which is what almost all traffic laws presume.

Imagine your car controlled by your fearful, hesitant and rigidly law-abiding mother-in-law. That’s the Autonomous Future looming in the rearview.

Oh, we’re gonna have some fun! depends on you to keep the wheels turning! The control freaks (Clovers) hate us. Goo-guhl blackballed us.

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  1. Hey Eric, I’ve got to wonder if Google’s claims that there have been “ZERO” at fault accidents from the Google car is complete B.S. or not. The fact that I’ve personally seen a crashed Google self driving car (RX330), and then nearly crashed into one myself as it ran a yield sign makes me think that their under reporting incidents in a huge way. I seriously doubt I am that “lucky” to have witnessed one of the 13 “not at fault” crashes, and then nearly crashed into one myself.

    Any info on this?

    • Hi AJ,

      I have anecdotal reports (people sending me e-mails) but no direct personal knowledge. I’ll have a look around, though, and see whether I can find anything solid after I get done writing up the Lexus RC (not F, unfortunately) I have right now! 🙂

      • We’ll see then. I’ve had this sneaking suspicion for a long time but no way to confirm. Maybe the recent wikileaks train will somehow reveal collusion with Google and Uncle so that the whole Goo-vernment can come crashing down. Fingers crossed.

    • I really should compose an essay on this, but I’ll attempt a short version. Taking the approach of having software learn is an interesting one. I explored that with simple games back in the 80s, so I get how it works. But there are various engineering problems that have to be dealt with and learning won’t solve them, nor will cutting down the number and kind of sensors.

      When something is automated a great deal of care needs to be taken for safeties, redundancies, and so forth. This guy is a software guy, he’s never designed physical products that can hurt people before so he doesn’t know what he has to do mechanically, electrically, and even in the software to deal with these issues. That doesn’t mean his approach doesn’t add something, but the idea that he can strip out everything else is simply not true… well not true if doesn’t want to end up losing a lot of 7 and 8 figure lawsuits.

      Also he’s going to run right up against the social enforcement of laws. He’s training his cars to drive like everyone else. Now what about when the selective enforcement hits? When he sells the system or a car and people in certain social classes or of certain eccentricities or what have you keep getting pulled over from the way the car drives? There are so many social nuances to deal with the machine probably won’t ‘get’ them all.

      • Reckon his software will recognize what the DPS, Sheriff Depts and police have been doing the last month? They let people who are well above the limit go on. They sit perpendicular to the road to get a good look at people and vehicle. They are obviously looking for those they think fit the profile of people who would do something illegal, specifically, possess illegal drugs. I’ve watched them work hell out of I-20 where US 84 blends in from the plains and 84 and 180 30 miles away. Every stop involves at least two LEO vehicles and has the occupants standing in the barditch while the vehicle is searched. “Kanine” unit is often involved(can’t spell either). Meanwhile, all these guys swear up and down they don’t profile. Why, they don’t lie either. I saw a single male on his back yesterday and the occifer hopping around his head from one side to the other, reaching into his right jean pocket. He had something in his other hand and from how the guy was acting on the ground, he was most likely getting tazed out the wazoo. It’s hard to take in every aspect doing 75 in a big rig with a huge amount of traffic to contend with.

    • “He’s not teaching the car the rules, but having it learn from watching other drivers on the road.”

      Excellent. Today’s driver education classes in schools here concentrate on teaching aspiring drivers the rules, rather than any driving skills whatsoever. I was hit head on by one of these young DE graduates.

      Being taught all the rules shows students that rules are mostly ridiculous and can be ignored. That would be fine if driving skills were stressed, but what we get are lots of new drivers who learned rules by rote and passed their written tests without learning how to drive.

  2. The problem is that we really don’t know what causes/caused traffic accidents. The police investigation includes a written account and usually a drawing of the road with a sketch of the scene. The insurance company might use that to determine fault. A high school graduate police officer isn’t going to know the physics necessary to accurately determine what happened, so 90% of the time the answer is “vehicle was traveling at an excessive speed,” because that’s what they were instructed to say. But what is an excessive speed? As Eric points out, a 1968 Pontiac Bonneville (the wide tracker) can’t possibly run through the corners like a modern crossover vehicle, let alone a BMW M3. That’s pretty obvious, but what about an M3 vs a tweaked up Honda?

    Now compare that to the NTSB investigation of an airplane crash. There’s the black boxes, radar data, weather data and a myriad of other inputs into the investigation. Investigations have traditionally had a “no fault” approach to determine the cause of an accident, and if possible, reengineer planes (including retrofitting existing models) to prevent the accident from happening again. In fact, “pilot error” was usually considered extremely low on the list of causes. The black box data collected by modern cars should be treated the same way, by a neutral 3rd party who just wants fewer accidents. Unfortunately it will be used as a bludgeon to reenforce prior bias against the driver. Note that in recent years Airbus and Boeing have been pushing the NTSB to blame pilots and not their fly-by-wire systems, some of which run on Windows NT(!).

    One could argue that manufacturers are upgrading automobiles with adding safety features designed to keep people alive if there’s an accident. But the reality is that instead of going after the source of problems: poor handling, limited information and bad training; the result of all the meddling and lawyering has been a band-aid approach, adding air bags, crush zones, massive A-pillars, etc.

    Meanwhile, high end vehicles have lane departure warning systems, collision avoidance systems, and improved handing and driver feedback that actually helps avoid accidents in the first place. I personally would love to see a limited automatic pilot like system, fully overridable, much like a cruise control. It would work like cruise control too: on clear, dry highway in light traffic, set it and relax a bit. If there’s activity ahead, cut out the cruise and take over. If the weather is bad, take control. Sure, there’s going to be idiots who use it when they shouldn’t. But with 33,000 people killed per year, there’s a lot of room for improvement.

    • Bang for the buck, that foot wide strip along the edges of highways now that raises holy hell sound-wise and feel-wise is the best thing I’ve seen come along in a while, a long while. I may be looking in the opposite side mirror but I know when i’ve reached the shoulder without looking. There’s no telling how many wrecks it has deterred and it didn’t take a genius, computerized anything, just a wheel with a gear-like outside that creates a rough surface that’s created while striping, a two-fer.

      • I love those too. Another good use is when trying to effect a pass, I ride it to let the dawdler in front of me know I’m there. If he ignores it and still doesn’t move right, well now I know he’s an asshole clover as well and can plan accordingly. They’re starting to put them on center stripes as well for the lane drifters who start drifting into oncoming traffic on some of the RM roads.

    • EricG,

      Airbus sucks. That Air France flight had one pilot pulling up and the other pushing down. Computer read that as zero input.

      The whole idea of these crowd killers flying around with glass cockpits blows my mind.

      The guys driving don’t even carry paper maps.

      At least Boeing has “force feedback” on the yoke.

      Pilot error is starting the engines on one of these electronic clusterfucks.

  3. The autonomous car is another front in the ageless of war of security (collectivism) vs freedom (individualism). Given the endless safety, and “environment”, propaganda forced upon children for the first 20 years of their lives, it is a war the freedom side is currently struggling to hold, let alone gain, ground in.

    The state-run media is even attempting to question the idea of individual automobile ownership eg Marketwatch: “Private car ownership is on the road to becoming a rarity.”

    It’s not just transportation. Polyamory is being touted as the new sexual solution to traditional patriarchal based family structure.

    Town houses and condos are pushed by metro central planners as “eco friendly.”

    Any opposition to the aforementioned is heresy and signs of dog-eat-dog, greedy, capitalistic, selfishness, in addition to racist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, and last but not least Islamaphobic. Can you say secular original sin?

  4. Eric, I think your argument is self-defeating, because the majority of the problems you cite will become less of an issue once/if self-driving cars become the majority of cars on the road.

    For example, let’s take the situation you described, of a semi with locked brakes bearing down on other vehicles at an intersection. The semi is not going to be able to stop. If all of the vehicles are self-driving vehicles (or have that capability), what happens?

    The first thing that will happen is that the semi will broadcast what is happening to the vehicles around it. There will be a “conference” of sorts among the vehicles in the immediate vicinity.

    For the vehicles crossing the intersection perpendicularly, who has time to stop before they reach the intersection? What vehicles already in the intersection (or ones that cannot stop before they enter it) need to clear it? What other vehicles need to stop or yield so that the vehicles in the latter category can clear the intersection?

    For the vehicles stopped at the intersection, who is in the path of the semi, and will need to take evasive action? How will that action best be executed—accelerating through the intersection, changing lanes, or a combination of both? These actions will need to be coordinated with the vehicles crossing the intersection perpendicularly.

    But here’s the thing: this conference, decision-making, and coordinated response—where all of the vehicles analyze the situation and decide how to best avoid any collisions—will occur within a fraction of a second, before any human driver in any vehicle would even realize what is happening, let alone have time to decide what to do and act. It will occur if the visibility is near-zero (e.g., in dense fog); it will occur if the intersection has 4 blind corners; it will occur regardless of the state of the traffic lights.

    You’re correct: having a mix of self-driving and human-operated vehicles on the road is the worst of both worlds: the self-driving vehicles are a hazard to human-operated vehicles, and vice-versa.

    But I think belaboring this point in order to bash self-driving cars is ultimately going to backfire on you. Because the clover/statist solution to this problem will be to force all cars to be self-driving cars.

    It’ll be incrementalism, mind you. First, self-driving capability will be optional. We’ll be at that stage soon enough. Then, all cars will be required to have a self-driving module that activates and takes complete control of the vehicle in emergency/collision situations (like airbags)—for saaaaaaaaaafety’s sake, after all.

    The next step will be mandatory self-driving zones, where the self-driving module takes control of the vehicle while you are in the designated zones. Gradually, the mandatory self-driving zones will expand, to the point where the majority of roadways become mandatory self-driving, and most people will find it easier to leave the car in self-driving mode all the time. And finally, rather than maintaining all of the mandatory self-driving zones, all cars will simply enforce mandatory self-driving by default, and the only locations where human driving will be permitted is in specifically designated areas.

    Oh, and good luck trying to defeat the mandatory self-driving. Even if you could figure out how to disable the self-driving module in your own vehicle, the instant another self-driving vehicle realizes that your vehicle isn’t self-driving, and is in a mandatory self-driving area, it will rat you out to the police.

    The best way to argue against self-driving cars is to highlight their morality dilemma. For example, a self-driving car comes around a sharp corner on an icy mountain road, to encounter a disabled vehicle in the middle of the road with 4 occupants. The car calculates that if it impacts the stopped vehicle, it will cause serious injury or death to the majority of the occupants. But if the car plunges itself off the side of the mountain, only one person will be killed—its own occupant.

    In this situation, what do you program the car to do? Minimize overall injuries/fatalities, or protect its own occupants at all costs? And who decides this? The programmer? The car manufacturer? The government?

    Arguing that self-driving cars will take the fun out of driving is a losing argument, because most people don’t drive for fun. Arguing that self-driving and human-driven cars don’t mix is also a losing argument. But arguing that your self-driving car is required to kill you if it believes doing so will minimize the overall number of fatalities? That might give people pause.

    • “the majority of the problems you cite will become less of an issue once/if self-driving cars become the majority of cars on the road.”
      First of all, what about in the meantime.
      Second, I think you are a raving optimist to expect the gunvermin to anticipate many of these types of problems and program to handle them.
      The big problem with any collective program is that knowledge is expensive. The free market works as well as it does only because there are massive amounts of people gathering data on which to base their decisions.

      • It won’t be a collective program. The government won’t be programming the cars, any more than the government programs the OBD-II and OBD-III systems. The government will set the standards.

        (Yes, in most cases, the standards will be sub-optimal, and/or make the jobs of the programmers harder. But it’s still not going to be the government programming the cars directly.)

        Also, consider: you are reading this message via multiple, freely-available, open computer/network protocols (Ethernet, IPv4, TCP, HTTP, BGP) that were developed in cooperation among many people and organizations, many of whom directly compete with each other. Particularly because it’s worked so well for the Internet, I have every confidence that the same process will repeat with the communications protocols that self-driving cars use to speak to each other on the road.

        Since the hard part is the intelligence of the car in recognizing what is occurring around it, that’s where the auto companies will compete against each other. That’s where the innovation will occur. And that competition will drive the evolution of the intelligence. But the protocol they use to talk to OTHER cars on the road will be an open standard.

        I see no technological barrier to self-driving cars. The intelligence of the individual cars will continue to evolve, as will the communications protocol self-driving cars use to communicate with each other.

        I know MANY people who take no joy in driving, and would cheerfully buy a self-driving car if they could trust it not to get them into accidents, and wasn’t inordinately expensive. And the fact that it would take longer to get from place to place wouldn’t matter to them, because they could use that time productively (checking email, finishing up a presentation, et. al.).

        If you went back in time to the 1980s, and tried to tell people that in just 20 years, there would be a worldwide, high-speed, computer communications protocol that links all of the worlds computers together—if you had tried to describe the World Wide Web, or email, or Facebook to them—they would dismiss your descriptions as pure fantasy, and dismiss you as a lunatic. But that’s the world we live in.

        I enjoy driving, and I think most people who read this site enjoy driving. But I think there’s an excellent chance that in another 20-30 years, the idea of an actual human operating a motor vehicle (beyond a racetrack, or other forms of driving-as-entertainment) will go the way of Hayes 2400 baud modems.

        So, enjoy it while you can.

        • “It won’t be a collective program. The government won’t be programming the cars, any more than the government programs the OBD-II and OBD-III systems. The government will set the standards.”
          If the gunvermin is setting the standards, it is a collective program. Period, end of sentence. It’s not a question of who is doing the programming.

    • Full self-driving cars is myth:
      I have a question. What if all “self-driving” cars on the world are connected to one global system and terrorist hack this system? all people in cars in this moment are dead? you want to have 10 milion victims in one minute? autonomous technology should improve people driving skill and assist them not replace. Can you show me 100% bug-free software? can you show me unhackable PC, smartphone or something? can you tell me what if i want to go to place where is no internet and my car dont know map? i need call for roadside assistance? auto-pilot function is good if i can turn it off. Car without steering wheel and pedals is unusable.

    • You greatly underestimate the “computation” abilitiies, including rapidity, of skilled and experienced drivers. I used to drive “on the edge” a lot, still can, but for various reasons choose not to. Back in the day, I recall, there were quite a number of “close calls”, some by my own slight miscalculation (when you’re “on the line”, a fraction of a percentage in the calculted result can be all it takes). Many times, as things began to get haywire, my reflexes made the corrections and saved the day, and I figured out after the fact what I had done…. “reverse engineering” the “equation” and corrections, I was often surprised that I had perfectly assessed the situation, made precisely the right corrective moves, AND followed through regaining place on the roadway and carrying on… all well before the adrenaline even had a chance to dump. Even lately, I find myself in a sticky wicket on occasion, and without even thinking automatically perform just the right maneouvers and “skate” once more. And, like I said, I no longer “push it”. One ton van, dark rainy night wich gusty winds, two lane road, approaching a green light on the croass street (all out in the middle of nowhere), no cross trafic visible, van has four wheel ABS, I was moveing at speed limit, 40 mph. Just far enough away to make stopping the “right thing” to do, ight turns yellow. I apply the brakes, just as a slight dip in the roadway “unweights” the van. Front begins to skid, both sides, on the water, I “feather” the pedal, NO BRAKES WHATEVER, the stinking ABS has decided it needs to let the wheels turn again. I lift off, apply again, immediately lockes up and begins juddering, wheels locking up, no traction, ABS again decided it will not apply. I laid on horn, flashed main beams, applied accelerator, and sailed on through entering the intersection as the light turns red. CLosest I’ve come to a crash in that van in 200K miles. Same scenario happened a different time. A few months back the yellow warning light informing me there is a problem with the ABS came on… and has stayed on ever since. Brakes work normally now, no ABS. I am leaving it alone. I LIKE having brakes that I CONTROL. First vehicle I’ve had with ABS, and I hope its the last. I can, and have, mulitple times, had to feather the brakes to stop when one or more wheels begin to skid. I do it reflexively, without thinking.

      Same with skids, gravel patches, drivers pulling into my lane, entering from cross streets….. ONE TIME in 2 million miles I’ve had contact with another vehicle wilst driving mine. Two lanes into roudabout, I’m in left, I’m going straight, one of the signed options for left lane. Right MUST also go straight. Tiny car on right decides he’s going left…. he’s so low and small I do not see him, as I’m loooking for other traffic being where they could be. Next thing I know, my van is being gently pushed left….. no “crunch”, no noise, no impact. I immediately and reflexively swerve left to lighten the pressure from I know not what…. apply brakes, and as my head turns to see what’s going on, I see this small white Kia sideways in front of me, being pushed up against the kerb in the centre island as we leave the roundabout. His entire left quarter is hammered, including the LR door…. one small dent behind and above my steel bumper, one small scrape on the pain of my bumper. I suppose, had I not reacted instantly, he could have been pushed up and flipped into the centre island, perhaps them rolling out into the traffic lane he’s just left. My reflexes did the perfect thing, once more.

      Do I count on them? Nope. I drive as if I did not have them. But they have still saved my bacon many times. Oh, the other driver? Not a scratch. his car? I am guessing close to total, well over 3K damage, If his airbag had popped, it WOULD be a total. His iinsurance sent me a check for a grand to repair the damage. I’ve not bothered. It only shows when I wash the van… maybe once a year.

      Experienced drivers can, and do, often have reflexes that kick in and do the perfect thing. Don’t know how many times these have worked driving in snow and ice… even in a big rig. Same on my bicycle.

      • Hi Tionico,

        True Story (another one):

        Last Sunday, I was headed down the mountain in a press car (the Nissan Altima I recently reviewed). Two cars ahead of me on US 221, which is a two-lane divided highway.

        Without any warning, all of a sudden there is a white Ford Explorer headed my way… sideways. Half of him in my lane. I bank right as far as I can – the shoulder drops off about four feet into a “holler” (as we say in The Woods) and I am straddling the edge as the out-of-control Ford sails by me – with a hail of plastic and chrome trim debris along for the ride – with maybe 16 inches of air between us.

        What happened was the Ford driver got addled and wandered across the double yellow, struck the car ahead of me a glancing blow and the impact of that rotated him sideways and sent him my way.

        Could a computer have straddled the ridge and not gone into the holler (and almost certainly rolled)? Or would the computer have just let the Ford pile-drive into me?

        I am glad it was not up to a computer!

        • eric, good story and one I’ve lived out more than once myself. I suspect that computer would have tried to stop that car as fast as it could, of course, without locking the brakes. You wouldn’t have liked the outcome. And kudos to your skill and awareness. I’m sure the other driver would say the same.

          I was taking one of my never-ending defensive driving classes once(it was great when one county didn’t have any relation to another so I could lie and take several of these courses in a year to avoid lawyer fees or a speeding conviction)when the trooper(I pissed him off right away by simply being honest. He asked how many people and the class was quite large, had done this before. Everyone held up their hand. Then he asks twice, most held up their hand, thrice, quite a few held up their hand, four, maybe ten people or so held up their hand, five, and a few held up their hand, six, and I’m the only one holding up my hand which made him frown at me….hey, you asked) made the statement that locking the brakes resulted in stopping distances longer than not locking them. I responded by telling him(to his chagrin)that was simply untrue. Not locking brakes allows you to still steer but locking brakes results in a significant(think about stopping a foot or two before striking some object so significant will stand I think)reduction of stopping distance. I’m speaking of a surface with good traction, not necessarily ice. We got into an argument but I wouldn’t budge. Just a few months earlier Car and Driver magazine had done tests with various vehicles to determine if ABS led to shorter stopping distances. In every instance, the vehicle stopped shorter with brakes fully locked. I won’t say and they didn’t either, you wouldn’t ruin your tires by flat-spotting, but no matter what you’re trying to avoid, an inch can be the difference between life and death.

          I used to live down a dead-end road and always have since then, although not the same places(not a joke this time). A friend was visiting and left for home. When he got to the major highway he was otherwise occupied with something and didn’t realize where he was. When he made the realization he locked em up, a brand new set of tires, and slid right into one lane of traffic that was unoccupied at the time but stopped just inches before being run over at high speed by a car in the other lane. He was alive, his tires were ruined but he had no problem with ruined tires or the fact he wasn’t still facing straight ahead. He pulled back down my road and breathed a while, probably cleaned his pants and had various thoughts before turning around and proceeding back to his home with some not so round tires. BTW, the trooper, never ones to be very informed of reality, never would admit this was true.

          I called a co-worker yesterday while the DOT was doing their thing. He asked if I were in jail. Not yet said I. He just wanted to let me know he would come by and visit. I thanked him and we laughed at the running joke. We sometimes trade jail stories. I admit I have been highly entertained in jail before but the experience as a whole wasn’t worth the entertainment.

    • “most people don’t drive for fun.”
      Those days are gone, and they will not come back. We serve the state’s mandates, and that is the true end of history.

    • “Arguing that self-driving cars will take the fun out of driving is a losing argument, because most people don’t drive for fun.” – maybe yes, maybe not, but people want to be in control of their cars and full self-driving cars without steering wheels and pedals are uncontrollable.

  5. No doubt Mr. Peters considers himself a cut above the rest as a competent driver. I wonder what he thinks of the average human driver? But he is likely one who drives for the “thrill”, which probably means he isn’t driving purely for transportation.

    I, at 68, no longer find it fun to drive. I don’t own a muscle car (though I did in my 20s) and I would prefer to relax in the back seat. Some time ago I gave up the clutch and went to the automatic trans. While I’ll never be able to afford my own personal driver, an autonomous car might be in my future, if I live long enough. Consider some of the upside when all cars are autonomous:

    No DUIs or speed traps (and perhaps we can fire all the traffic cops).
    No road rage.
    No reckless (immortal) teens driving for kicks while distracted by 120 db music or high on something.
    No need for a designated driver.
    Much fewer traffic jams.
    Speed limits adjusted for the road and conditions. No need to have a 55 limit just to get everyone to drive under 70.
    I can get to my eye doctor’s appt without bugging someone to drive me, and then driving home with all that glare.

    And once these are the majority (or only) cars on the road, they will be able to communicate to one another and avoid accidents that humans will never avoid. Will they be perfect? Of course not. Will they reduce the 40k fatalities per year? Almost certainly. Will people stop hurrying to try to save 2 minutes on a commute and reduce the anxiety of today’s driving. For sure. Will some pine for the days of screeching tires? Yes.

    And that 24 in a 35 traffic stop was because the vehicle’s top speed was 25, not because the software thought that was the optimal speed on that road.

    Frankly, I look forward to a time when stupid and/or thrill riding is done only on a closed private track.

    • Hi ET,

      Think about riding a bus. That’s the autonomous future.

      You’ll get to your destination according to a schedule set by someone else. You will have no more control over how and when you get there than the a passenger riding the hound does.

      Keep in mind, the government will run this autonomous show. Do you really believe it will be more efficient?

    • You mean the private tracks that can’t exist for long any more because no matter how far out in the middle of nowhere they are built someone has to move next door and complain about the noise until the track is shut down.

      Automated cars for the disabled or the lazy or the just plain don’t want to drive is fine. The problem is we don’t live in that sort of live and let live society where the automated car means mobility for more people. We live in a control freak society where people use government to tell their neighbors how to live. And because of this DUI won’t go away. Currently the law is that someone who has ‘control’ of a car can be arrested for DUI. Sleeping it off with the keys in your pocket and the car securely parked is a DUI. Machined controlled or not, the alcohol prohibitionists are not giving up their wedge and they already have the law set up for it because the guy sitting in the autonomous car is the one with control under the law.

      We could greatly reduce fatalities on the road simply by getting rid of the misengineering which remains out of emotional thinking and revenue collection. But that won’t happen because it means letting up on power and money. And no solution that reduces those things is ever going to have the easy road and rarely succeed.

      • A friend from NM in the early 70’s left a party, realized he needed to just sleep and not drive so he drove his pickup out into a field along the highway, knowing the owner and went to sleep. the next morning the highway patrol rousted him out and took him in for DWI. He wasn’t drunk then or at least wasn’t determined in any legal way to be drunk but was arrested and charge with DWI. He could have , for all the badged thugs knew. driven into that field, gotten drunk and sobered up without ever being on the road. I think this was in ‘4, back before the DWI paid such a huge salary for the badged ones.

        This poor guy also got charged with DWI after that because he had a wreck with someone who pulled out in front of him. He had just quit work, stopped by and bought a bottle of wine that broke on impact. He showed the NM pukes the seal was still on the bottle and he’d had nothing to drink. Another ride to jail is what logic got him. I have countless stories just like this. A friend who knows a DPS well said he admitted it was a real scam, that the occifers would laugh about it all.

    • Consider some of the upside when all cars are autonomous:
      – all cars connected to one global system
      – 10 milion people on the world in cars in one moment
      – hackers who hack system where these cars are connected
      – 10 milion victims in one minute
      Do you want more?

    • ET, I’m two years younger than you. I drive an 18 wheeler or what the hell ever needs to be driven 12 hours minimum a day, often much more. I may change in two years. I may be dead in two minutes. But driving fast cars is fun as hell to me.

      Driving fast trucks is fun too. I long for the old days of uber horsepower, 4X4, 5X4, 5X6 gearboxes and triple digit trucks. I virtually slam the door on my thumb every day to put myself in the mood, warm up 14 or 15 liters of turbo diesel, pull my cap on tight, position my headset, flip my armrests down, reluctantly fasten my seat belt(only in the daylight), crank the stereo up and stand on it. I hustle big loads at the limit on curves, turn on the Jake brake for stopping when I’m pressed for time and mostly enjoy it till the clovers do stupid shit that endangers everybody out there. But find me bumping tires, doing a walk=around and offer me a Ferrari to wring out and I’m all over it.

      I’m sorry you don’t enjoy those things any longer. If I had a car I could drift around curves at the limit, I’d love to do it. I’m not saying this to be crass or put you down……but get some testosterone therapy and come back to the fun of life.

      I can’t speak for other truckers, but simply knowing how to drive a certain type of rig with panache and professionalism is one thing, loving how to appreciate the change of gears, the whine of the turbo and the power of huge torque is the thing that keeps me doing it. When I load a big dozer on a lowboy, put on those “wide load” signs and put my foot into it, i’m alive once again. But my fun is not simply driving but being an operator. I spent Sunday, a rank, horrible day for 40+mph, cold -ass winds loading my belly dump and running 70 mile round trips as fast as I could to get a job done was satisfying even it was trying physically and mentally….and emotionally with all those fools out there pulling out in front of 40+ tons at 75 mph.

      I guess what I do is “stupid” or “thrill riding”, but it keeps the oil flowing, your heat and lights on. I just count the days when i can get a new Peterbilt with a DD16, an 18 speed and somebody who needs that load run “yesterday” and doesn’t mind paying for it.

      What eric does, as well as many other people, is a love of motion, speed and the love of things mechanical and doing it exceptionally. I call it being a gearhead. Everyone else is welcome to call it anything they want.

      Even when driving a car, I’ll reach for the non-existent gearshift to downshift for a steep hill. My wife reaches out and slaps my hand searching for a gearshift when I drive an automatic car. I’m not even aware of it.

        • Thank you eric. Maybe I was inspired by meeting a Caddy hearse, or hearst as Karl would say, yesterday. I realized once again how much I’d like to have one but don’t desire “the ride”. They’re very hard to find these days having been displaced by Suburbans, one of which I recently drove hauling the pall bearers for my cousin.

          It would probably have been better written had I been sober but the last stop of the day, by the DOT left me with a bitter taste I had to change.

      • Driving fast cars is fun as hell to me, too. I love driving with an open top.
        Nobody can take that away from me. I will be dead before they do!

    • Wow, ET, with some more planning you need NEVER leave your house, in case you have a heart attack at the local shopping mall. Or have a stroke looking at the latest Nestle treat of quadruple mixed chocolate chips with your prime rib steak. Or get killed walking across a railroad track because you didn’t see the electric train coming. Or get hit by a bolt of lightning, or a stray bike propelled by a 6 year old boy out on his first trip away from home. Gosh, maybe you need a cook so you wont be cooking disease laden foods. Or eating foods that are full of fat because your pension doesn’t cover the cost of vegen foods. Or perhaps you want to live a life so safe and boring that you will die from boredom by the time you are 23. Or perhaps you could die in your fabulous electric car from a heart attack unnoticed by the computerised driver. And anyway the car would never exceed the speed limit even in a medical emergency. And if you are like this at 68, imagine living to 150 and being this bored with life at 34 because computers do everything for you!!

    • “No doubt Mr. Peters considers himself a cut above the rest as a competent driver.”
      I, too, consider myself a cut above the rest, especially after reading the comments here.

      No wonder they are letting state rules taker over their lives!

      • Hi Fred,

        In re: “No doubt Mr. Peters considers himself a cut above the rest as a competent driver.”

        Well, sure I do. Because I pay attention, am involved – and learned how to drive. I esteem knowing how to do things. Like parallel park neatly, without multiple attempts. I do not understand people who not only take no satisfaction in developing a skill but actually seek to avoid even trying to develop it.

  6. There is talk of racing self driving cars. Wow. Probably the dullest event ever.

    How will these things handle an officer’s hand signal? Or the situation where traffic is routed to opposing lanes due to construction or accident?

    • Hi Jay,

      For me, driving is about much more than getting from one point to another. It is an adventure, with you determining how it will play out. Why must we be shorn of all control over our lives? What’s the point of being alive?

      • because of the new world religion, that’s why/ Which one is that? goverbnment IS god, to these peole. And that god controls, knows, supplies, does all. Simple. THAT is where this is headed… and has for well over 150 years. Yup.. back about the time “honest” (don’t make me laugh) Abe ascended the throne.

        • Tionico, I start the day reading a chapter or two from whatever book(s) i’m reading at the time. Today it’s a thriller about the Freemasons, George Washington and the hidden globe with secrets that could destroy the Washington elite and the US as it’s now known.

          A nun(from Australia) representing the Vatican is speaking to a large group of the usual suspects and has this to say:

          The whole point of one nation under God(maybe she doesn’t know that was added much later, much much later) in the American pledge of allegiance is recognition that the govt. isn’t God. Individual rights are the foundation of the United States, and much of this philosophy came from preachers like Thomas Hooker, who argued for the “priesthood of believers”, insisting that since the Holy Spirit resides in the heart of every person, each person should be able to vote and live their conscience. In short, we’re the govt., you and me and all of the people.

          Sometimes I wonder if my evangelical friends in America have forgotten this. Are we people OF faith…in the halls of power? Or are we people who have faith IN the halls of power? It’s an important distinction. One leads to an open, diverse society. The other leads to something like we have in Russia today, where the former KGB spy agency has taken over the govt.. One begins to wonder if something like that could even happen here.

          Well, I take issue to some of this but the main point I think is well-taken. This book was published in 2008. The author evidently didn’t see it then but he’s surely had a smack-down since I’d bet.

          • The KGB, in the form of the National Patriot act, has taken over the gov’t of the USSA. This is a known fact, and not a supposition.

              • If the ‘consent of the governed’ actually meant anything, we can’t consent to what we don’t know. But the Congresscritters don’t even know what they’re voting on because they don’t read it ahead of time.

                • Yes, as you well know, they failed(big surprise)to pass a bill requiring them to read bills they vote on. How stupid can people be when they don’t trip on that?

                    • Must be that old line of tell a lie enough and it becomes truth. I commonly laugh out loud when I see one refer to his “constituents”. And who would that be I’m thinking?

                    • It’s an unchecked premise. So easy to fall for. But once examined, so easy to reject.

                      Some random person – whom you’ve probably never even met – presumes to “represent” you?

                      Even if this person was sincere and really wanted to do so, it’s mechanically not possible. There is no way one person can represent a body of people unless it is on a single point which all members of that body have specifically agreed on in every detail, without deviation and the representative has no power to deviate one iota from the single agreed-to point.

                      “Representative Democracy” is a brilliant long-con version of the Divine Right of Kings model of herding human beings.

                    • The average Congressional district is rapidly approaching 3/4 million people.
                      I emailed ‘my’ representative as follows –
                      You claim to represent me. Yet you live in Montgomery County (MD). I can’t afford to live in Montgomery County, and would not choose to do so if I could. How can you represent me?

                    • eric, do you remember a couple years ago(longer actually)when I had a thrice broken leg and I complained all summer of a strange sound that seemingly came from all around, something I thought was airborne? It went on for months. I know many of you probably thought I was simply drunk since I had no pain relief other than alcohol and I might have agreed but CJ heard it too and he’d get bent sometimes and tell me about it. A few months before, in a state of frustration and eventual rage against the system that was brought on by a letter from my DC rep, I became incensed to no end to the point I clicked reply and sent a scathing letter back that probably rang every bell and smoked every server from here to there.

                      That continuous sound started not long after and continued for months. It was only that really cold, wet, icy winter when it stopped.

                      I don’t explain it, just report it.

  7. But unless speed limits are raised dramatically – to reflect the speeds people are already driving, the law be damned – it’ll take us longer to get where we’re headed.

    Probably intentional, if of any consequence to our overlord shepherds at all. As far as they’re concerned we shouldn’t be going anywhere anyway. The more inconvenient mobility is for us, the better for them to control us.

    • The solution to any problem is always more control as far as they are concerned. So any problems that arise will be good news for them.

  8. I think that those cars should be assigned to coproaches. They are far worse than the general public about violating laws and driving dangerously. They claim to be “public servants”, so let them be the guinea pigs.
    I am sure that car manufacturers will not make or sell such cars unless they are promised liability protection for auto accidents. Who, then, would be held liable? It would not be the passengers fault that the car caused an accident and/or a fatality. What about the highly profitable (for the state) DWI laws? Can a drunk owner get into the car that he owns and travel home or to another bar? He couldn’t over-ride the cars computer driver anyway; so should he get charged with manslaughter if his car kills a family of 4 in an auto accident?

  9. No argument with your assertions about the current state of driverless cars. But

    Computers cannot appreciate the distinction.

    That’s incorrect. As you state elsewhere, computer software will do exactly what it’s been programmed to do, and there’s no reason it can’t be programmed to weigh various options in an emergency, or when coming to a stop sign at the top of a slippery hill, etc. etc. Now, there may be political difficulty in including options that are technically illegal, but that’s a political problem, not a computer problem.

    • There will always be some instance the that will fall between the cracks of the programming. Sure, over time these cracks will be found and patched but there will be more and more. It will get rarer and rarer over time and people will die in the process.

      The programming will ultimately be political and controlled by the king clovers in DC. The fight between state and manufacturer control of the programming is already started.

  10. You know, I never thought of that fact…that the car doesn’t have a “preserve passenger life as primary directive” mentality, and you’re right…the car needs to have the “screw it, save the people” override. Think Isamov’s 3-laws, protect humans first, THEN obey the rules…in that order.

    Though, I’m sure that eventually they WILL program in something like that, but the testing phase would be brutal! One cannot predict every nuance, and frankly if the car decided that in a crash scenario, by doing something on it’s own MY life is expendable in order to save the lives of the 4 people in another car, frankly *I’D* like to be involved in that decision, thank you very much!

    People like to think it’s driving with artificial intelligence, but it’s not…it’s driving based on complete obedience. But animals and nature do not follow the same rules, so it will be a fascinating algorithm they eventually come up with.

    I just hope we survive the decisions made by our robotic overlords. (laugh)

  11. …today’s traction control systems are not foolproof and can be dangerous as well. If you are traveling up a hill in icy conditions, the traction control will not allow you to override the system to avoid sliding backward…
    As to airplanes, American designers program planes so that the pilot can override normal parameters, if necessary, in an emergency. European designers do not trust the pilot and do not allow the pilot to override normal operating parameters…

  12. Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188.

    Tesla Autopilot.

    Sum Ting Wong.

    Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

    Aeroflot flight 593.

    Plenty more if anyone is skeptical.

      • Epic humor to lighten the epic FAIL occurring across a spectrum of tragedies that episode spawned. It was a day when reality mimicked satire.

      • I can think of countless situations a computer could not keep you alive, situations where I have been before and kept me and others alive. The situation you describe eric of having a big rig coming up your ass and can’t move forward…..for any reason, a computer being one, you’re screwed. I can’t forget July 23, 2014 when a sand frac rig rode up my dovetail trailer and only steered off, avoiding the cab, at the last second. If I’d had anywhere to go, the red light on the side of the road in the construction would have not let the computer controlled car go forward and save it’s occupants. Fortunately for me, I was in a big rig and had the foresight to leave 30 feet between me and the 3 people in a welding rig I would have run over since my rig was slammed over 20 feet down the road. I’m not over it , probably never will be, but I’m alive.

        • Morning, Eight!

          Two things could crutch all this:

          First and foremost, an off button. For everything. The driver (or pilot) should be able to completely over-ride the computer at any time.

          Two, driver skill expectations must not be dumbed down (the opposite of current trends). Higher skill should be encouraged.

          If a person can’t parallel park a car without computer assist, that person probably ought not to be driving at all.

          • eric, I sure don’t see anyone getting any smarter. Yesterday running load after load down the same stretch of interstate it was danger city. I don’t get people passing me, both of us coming up on a slower rig, and then letting off for 10 mph to pace that rig. They didn’t do that with my rig. I’m coming up fast on slow traffic, signal on, just waiting for that fool to get by me and then they slow down so when I get a chance to move into the passing lane, they’re there to make meslam on the brakes for THEM. I just wish everyone here could have been with me to see how many this happens in one run and unbelievably, in one day. Then there are those who I come up on and begin to pass who speed up. I would bet they/re on cruise control so why speed up? In my biz you’re often overloaded as I was every run but two. People are basically incompetent on the road. I had one guy, in a pickup no less, give me a flash of lights so I could pull back in. I don’t want to run 80 mph with these loads but you’ll end up doing just that all too often just to get around and get some breathing room. Everyone is only happy in a big crowd……idiots!

          • “First and foremost, an off button”

            Yeah. With a big sign over it reading “WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T MASH THIS BUTTON”. That would probably satisfy the control freaks. ahaha

            • Nah Ed, an inoperable button might satisfy them. For some reason this reminds me of the goat with diarrhea and a cork in it’s butt shut up with the monkey who won’t stop pulling out every cork it finds.

  13. And don’t forget general computer errors and breakdowns. They will happen. Those failures will kill and injure people. There is a video of a computer driven car (I think a Volvo) plowing into a group of people during a demo.

    Just think about it. How many times a day do you come across a web page that isn’t displayed right? Lots of times. Imagine those errors happening on something way more important.

    I think for the time being, I want to control my car.


      You’re not far off. Friend got a call from his Wife who’d run out of fuel maybe 15 miles from home, “out in the midddle of nowhere. Busy road. She tripped the OnSar which contacted him and set some sort of code. Nice day outside, so she waited for him to bring the fuel. Got there the car was locked, she outside, keys inside. He called GM, and THEY unlocked the car… from Detroit. Almost instantly. He pondered whether someone ELSE could perform that function….. or someone else oh his behalf without his knowledge or permission. I wondered if that “someone” could be government……… silence…… j

      • Back early 90’s a friend locked himself outta his Caddy. He caught a ride to a phone and called GM who unlocked it for him. I saw the writing on the wall back then.

        Lots of people have been busted by On Star. A guy in NM leaves his 3 year old in the Escalade. He and his buds are unloading a trailer full of pot. His kid is entertaining himself by pushing the OnStar button and talking 3 year old to the “live” operator. cops show up, several, shit happens. I’m guessing dad learned to leave his kid at home…..if he ever saw him again.

  14. And you can bet your life that the ZILs and Chaikas (Cadillac and Lincoln limos and Suburbans), not to mention Volgas (Tauruses, Impalas and Chargers) won’t be self-driving! Kinda in the same vein as how these cars somehow get away with having atrocious gas mileage.

  15. There is also a half-hidden bias when “robots do better than humans on tests”.
    For something like airplane pilots, they will take every scenario and tweak the algorithms to do the right thing in that specific scenario, so it will always get 100% on the tests. Some times conditions are strange so you need to do something wrong – or you may just get lucky. Those will be baked into the AI, learning the wrong lesson.
    (we’ll soon seen if the perma-bull market hedge fund AI works when a black swan comes along)
    But what about something completely new?

  16. Cyber-monkey-wrench them.
    I wonder how their LIDAR reacts to jammers.
    Or if they lose GPS.
    What happens if you start crowding them, will they go on the shoulder?
    What happens if they are going due west at sunset at the equinoxes (Once on a motorcycle…).
    With LED traffic lights that get covered in snow which doesn’t melt (or if they are off)? 4 way stop?
    They may work in urban traffic in nice weather areas. Some of the “assist” tech would be good. But not algorithms.
    We have something even better, but it isn’t very fast, Horses, and Mules for the farther off road crowd.
    Robot Road Rage v.s. Cyber Clovers.

    • People are going to start trolling automated cars.

      But here’s how the control freaks will attempt to solve the problems of automated cars, get rid of humans. The solution is always more control for central command.

      • Yup. Highwaymen, four across, standing still in the road…… Robot car HAS to stop. It MUST, it has no option. Then, hammers, bricks, rocks, whatever, will afford access to car, occupants, and contents. Unless occupants are equipped with the appropriate “tools”, which by then will almost certainly be banned… or “all of them confiscated.. for your protection, you understand……..” the occupants are toast.


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