Saturday, April 18, 2015

Bryan Leyland: "Things you know that ain't so” - self driving cars

Things you know that ain't so - self driving cars are a long way in the future.”

Most people believe that self driving cars will not be available for many years and will not have any major effect on the transport of people and goods within their lifetime. Not so.

All the major manufacturers are researching self driving cars and most new cars incorporate some aspects of the technology. You can now buy cars that will: follow the car ahead in a traffic jam; ensure that you stay in the lane on a motorway; automatically apply the brakes if you are about to run into another car or a pedestrian and so on.

Google has been working on self driving cars for many years now and their cars have driven 700,000 miles without a single accident that could be attributed to a technology failure. In 2005 they won the US Army prize for a driverless vehicle that could traverse unmetalled winding roads at speed. They hope to have a vehicle capable of driving itself on sale in 2017 and certainly by 2020. The ultimate aim is to produce a car without brake or throttle pedals and without a steering wheel.

In the heavy transport industry, tests are being carried out on trucks and buses that can drive in convoys along motorways with only a single driver. When each truck reaches its designated off-lane it takes and parks safely waiting for a driver.

The potential advantages of self driving cars are enormous. 80% of car accidents are driver-caused so the potential for reducing accidents is enormous. Because the cars will communicate with each other they will be able to drive closer together on motorways without any risk of rear end crashes. Traffic density on motorways could be increased by a factor of three.

Self driving cars will also provide cheap and efficient personal transport. In the not too distant future we will be able to call up a self driving car with our smart phone, tell it when we want to go and when we arrive at their destination it will drive off to pick up the next passenger. For many families, this could eliminate the need for a second car and it would certainly make a huge difference to traffic congestion in city areas. There may also be fleets of roving minibuses under the control of a central system that selects a minibus going in your direction and directs it to pick you up.

All these things will happen and, probably, sooner than you think because they offer huge advantages over private cars, buses and, especially, trams and trains. But, as with many major advances, we can be sure that those who believe in and profit from trains, trams and buses will do everything they can to delay their introduction.

If the Auckland Council researched this technology properly I am sure that they would abandon plans for a rail tunnel that, for sure, will suffer from huge cost overruns and delays and carry half the number of passengers that they predict. It will be a financial burden on the city for decades.


david said...
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Driverless cars are a solution looking for a problem. People don't make that bad a job of driving, and most of us rather enjoy it. A lesser target would actually be more beneficial - universal intelligent cruise control and collision avoidance will significantly increase highway capacity and will be here a lot sooner. It is the current massive road building program that should be being cut.

Brian said...
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Quite Agree
Technology driving is far superior to human driving, far more efficient, fewer accidents; eliminate chance and human error ...the perfect solution as Bryan says, to Auckland's traffic chaos.
Why not take the final plunge with a new “human” invention. A Bionic technological marvel designed, subjected too, and operated to the best advantage instead of the present obsolete versions of humans. It can be completely wired in or out to the latest bureaucratic internet regulations as directed by Parliament. Elections will be superfluous, (we are half way there with MMP anyway) with the perfect people standing to represent us all. An safe ordered living, with creation on tap......Why wait till the twenties bring it on NOW!!!
For further instructions please read George Orwell’s 1984. Or the revised edition published by “Total Bureaucracy” available from all Governments Departments as a mandatory condition to "living”? In God’s Own.

Stuart Hayman said...
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How many "accidents" are caused by anything other than the driver? Have you ever driven any distance on any main highway and not seen utterly moronic behaviour?

Clunking Fist said...
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"Driverless cars are a solution looking for a problem"
Couldn't disagree more. Initially I thought "why bother" but then I thought of some of the many reasons: read & check emails while getting around, loads cheaper than taxis, you can sleep on the journey to Auckland, so a family of 5 need not fly, but take their/a car. My mother-in-law has given up driving, and refuses to be a passenger in cars driven by some of her elderly friends: imagine how much freedom the disabled and elderly could have with these cars. You could safely send your children over to visit their friends in the next city for school hols, without having to go with them!
So the technology may kill off buses, so what? Electric washing machines have killed off laundrettes. Progress. And these cars will be likely be modest: they will have only enough power to accelerate smoothly. That'll be an improvement over the aggressive acceleration and hard breaking of Wellington bus drivers. And it will be so good to be dropped right at the door on windy wet days. Other days, I'll get the car to drop me off at Oriental Bay, so that I may walk round to the city and grab a coffee on the way. When I want an adrenaline rush, I'll get the car to drop me off at Manfield, and I'll hire an old fashioned car for a bit of a blat. Will we even own cars? Will we subscribe to a car service, or will we pay per journey, per kilometre? Will we order the type of vehicle according to that journey's need: 5pax + luggage to the airport please, or 1pax + laptop to client meeting please! Man, I can't wait.

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