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VisLab Sponsors Milan-to-Shanghai Driverless Trek 133

Posted by timothy
from the with-a-bit-of-human-assistance dept.
incuso writes "VisLab announced the most advanced challenge so far ever organized for autonomous vehicles. Two driverless electric cars will perform a trip from Italy to China to demonstrate the feasibility of autonomous driving in real traffic conditions. Each vehicle will be equipped with five laser scanners, seven cameras, GPS, inertial measurement unit, three Linux PCs, and an x-by-wire driving system. The mission will start on July 10 in Milan, Italy, and will reach Shanghai, China, on October 10 (10/10/10) on a 13,000 km route though Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, and finally China."
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VisLab Sponsors Milan-to-Shanghai Driverless Trek

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  • Auto-Autos (Score:3, Funny)

    by wagonlips (306377) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @01:54AM (#31805376) Journal

    Should an autonomous car be called an auto-automobile?

    • by JavaBear (9872) *

      "Automobile" became "car". In other words, it could be "auto-car",

      • by siloko (1133863)

        Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, and finally China.

        if this goes according to plan then maybe 'auto-car' is right if not they missed off switzerland, france, spain, morocco, algeria . . . and auto-car becomes the modern equivalent of 'the fucking homing pigeon's lost again!'.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          It'll never make it that far.

          My in-laws live in Serbia, and I've got $5 that says the car either gets stolen and stripped halfway between Sarajevo and Belgrade or the border guards end up raping that slutty car that was asking for it.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            ... or the border guards end up raping that slutty car that was asking for it.

            That's why these cars have built-in bribe dispenser!

      • I prefer the term “auto-bot”.

        But I fear that the DARPA is preparing their “Decepticon” project already. ;)

    • by eclectro (227083)

      I'm going with a train of wrecks myself. Either that or robo bumper car.

  • These are " non-polluting and no-oil based ... vehicles" created as examples of "sustainable mobility ... central to the [World] Expo"

    Autonomous is not really an accurate description: Humans will control the first vehicle. The second will follow the route of the first.

    I expect China will disassemble, reverse engineer, and then copy these vehicles en masse. [[//satire]]

    • by Devout_IPUite (1284636) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @02:01AM (#31805428)
      What happens if someone cuts off the 2nd vehicle?
    • I expect China will disassemble, reverse engineer, and then copy these vehicles en masse.

      If they work well, I don't care who makes them, as long as somebody does.. Better than having all the tech rotting on the shelf.

    • "I expect China will disassemble, reverse engineer, and then copy these vehicles en masse" Oh yeah, if we copy you we'll always be one step behind, or be misled. Nice strategy though.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)

      I expect China will disassemble, reverse engineer, and then copy these vehicles en masse. [[//satire]]

      Well don't blame China for US' inability to do so...

    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @08:21AM (#31806964) Journal
      From the article :

      The first vehicle will drive autonomously in selected sections of the trip and will conduct experimental tests on sensing, decision, and control subsystems, and will continuously collect data. Although limited, human interventions will be needed to define the route and intervene in critical situations. The second vehicle will automatically follow the route defined by the preceding vehicle, requiring no human intervention (100% autonomous). This will be regarded as a readily exploitable vehicle, able to move on predefined routes; at the end of the trip, its technology will be transferred to a set of vehicles to move in the inner part of Rome in the close future.

      The first vehicle is a bit more than a drone and the second one is a bit more than a mere follower. From what they say, once the trip has been made once, a vehicle could be autonomously doing the road without following anyone. That is an interesting achievment.

  • What about the fuel? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by daniel_i_l (1655579)
    Who fuels the cars on the way? Do they know how to spot gas stations and ask the gas station attendants to fill them up? How do they pay?
    • Yes, they have built-in AI just for that purpose.
      or
      RTFA and realize that they're running on solar energy. I guess that's too much to ask.
      • FTFA: "mainly powered by solar energy" (emphasis mine) What's the rest powered by? Water? To the best of my knowledge, even electric cars need some kind of fuel to provide electricity when there's little sun or during harsh conditions.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by bitflusher (853768)
      Cars don't need fuel, that was just implemented to prevent sleep driving on long trips, this car has no driver so it does not need that function.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by iamhassi (659463)
      "Who fuels the cars on the way?"

      FTA:
      "Two electric vehicles will perform a 13,000 km trip mainly powered by solar energy, with no driver; two backup vehicles will be part of the trip as well. As a support, 4 Overland trucks will follow the expedition to provide a mechanic shop, storage, and accommodation; "

      So they're solar and then they have FOUR trucks following them for support. Fuel shouldn't be a problem.

      Why don't we see more of these? I remember watching a show nearly 20 yrs ago about a self
      • by Carnildo (712617)

        Why don't we see more of these? I remember watching a show nearly 20 yrs ago about a self-driving car running on a 486 processor. They had video of it driving and everything, looked like it did very well. Now we have quad core processors for less than $200 and we still don't have self driving cars. What happened?

        Self-driving on a closed course at low speeds is easy. I've seen a 486-powered car as well, and it was cruising along at the blazing-fast speed of ten miles per hour, navigating by a camera update

  • The catch is, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gzipped_tar (1151931) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @02:00AM (#31805414) Journal

    that it is probably illegal to drive such an automaton in real traffic in any country, incl. "Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, and finally China."

    • by Nadaka (224565) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @02:07AM (#31805440)

      Perhaps it is illegal to drive an autonomous vehicle, those 3 linux pcs are going to rot in jail if they ever get caught.

    • Actually, an autonomous vehicle couldn't drive any worse than 90% of the drivers here in Shanghai, where driving tends to be a bit less organized than a mass emergency exodus from a burning aircraft.
    • You know, usually the way the law works is that you, as a citizen, are allowed to do anything it doesn't explicitly forbid. I don't think any law in any country forbids the use of automated guidance systems in your car, as they don't yet exist. I might be wrong, though.
      • But the car is going to be operated without a licensed driver driving it. The keyword here is "license", not "driver".

        Or can we license an AI? I guess yes, if the AI manages to pass the driving exams. Or is this expedition part of the exam?

        • by anarche (1525323)

          Or can we license an AI? I guess yes, if the AI manages to pass the driving exams. Or is this expedition part of the exam?

          Turing Test 2.0, now testing on a highway near you!

        • If there is no driver, there might not be anyone breaking the law, or at worst someone is hauled up for leaving the brake off of a parked car and letting it roll onto the road.

          Actually, they would have made sure they had permission, but the first is funnier.

          • by Zumbs (1241138)
            I think most laws have a concept of criminal negligence, which would seem to apply, particularly if someone comes to bodily harm.
            • The car seemed pretty good at avoiding a pedestrian steeping out from behind a car, and since its reaction time is probably faster than a human's, it isn't very likely to cause an accident.

              This is an area which needs to be sorted out, because given how fast this field has developed recently, it seems likely that these sorts of cars will be ready for use on roads in a decade or so, and it would be a shame if their use was blocked by out-o-date laws.

      • by jibjibjib (889679)
        I expect many countries have laws prohibiting leaving a vehicle unattended in the middle of the road, though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by story645 (1278106)

      Visalab is sending along 2 backup cars, 4 maintenance trucks, and 2 media vans with the two auto-vehicles, so they could probably just have someone get out and drive the cars (or just sit at the wheel) in the parts where they'll get in legal trouble for having the cars be autonomous. There are also long stretches (like Russia), where the cars will be the only thing on the road.

    • by deniable (76198)
      It's usually not law that's directly the problem. It's more likely to be a problem with insurance and the need for a vehicle to be insured to be legal. I've seen cases where a car has hit something, but nobody was driving so they refused to pay.
    • actually quite the opposite.
      I read an article a while back where they pointed out that in almost all US states such cars would be perfectly legal, furthermore due to the wording of many traffic laws such vehicles could avoid many laws since they refer to the *driver* of the car and even specifically exclude the owner if he is not the driver.
      I'll try to find it in a while.

    • by hedwards (940851)
      Not necessarily, it depends how it was permitted. If they shut down the road for small bits while they drive through then there wouldn't be any traffic to drive through. Likewise if they just use the roads during off hours. At any rate they wouldn't want to drive in traffic anyways since other drivers would cause all sorts of problems for the test.
  • ... China on October 10 (10/10/10) on a 13.000 km route though Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, ...

    Sorry for the confusion folks, that's thirteen THOUSAND km, not thirteen point zero zero zero km.

    • by andi75 (84413)

      I have heard that Americans don't know much of the geography outside the U.S., but if this was confusing to the average American, I don't know what to say.

      • by anarche (1525323)

        it wasn't the decimal that was confusing the US, it was the kms.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        It's probably the fact that unlike smug Europeans, we in the US know that it's more than 13 km from Italy to China. That would be walkable in less than a day.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BlackPignouf (1017012)

      The . as a thousands separator should die.
      Especially when there's no decimal separator around.

      Put a space if you really want to make it easier to read :
      13 000
      13 000.00
      13 000,00

      but
      13.000 is just plain wrong.

      • There is a fairly long history of using ',' as the decimal separator and '.' as the thousands separator, and so long as one follows the convention for the surrounding text's language, neither is better or worse. Personally, I use ' ' for thousands and '.' for decimal, but it's not as though anything else is hard to understand, especially when context makes the order of magnitude so obvious.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          There is a fairly long history of using ',' as the decimal separator and '.' as the thousands separator, and so long as one follows the convention for the surrounding text's language, neither is better or worse.

          That is completely false. The comma is a piece of punctuation used to connect run-on sentences, or so it commonly seems; either way, it separates portions of one complete thought. The period is a piece of punctuation which tells us that something has terminated. Using it for a decimal point is potentially confusing enough. Using it as a thousands separator is just plain stupid. I agree with others; it makes far more sense to eschew separating thousands.

          • '.' as a thousands or decimal separator is always distinguishable from an end-of-sentence marker, except in poorly handwritten text, because it is never followed by whitespace in the former case but always is in the latter. The same applies to ','.

            It is obviously a bad idea to use '.' as the thousands separator in English text because we expect it to mean a decimal point, but French, German, Italian (which is where this number was copied from, so it was probably a simple copy/paste mistake) and many other E

  • I think I would rather not be the CEO of the first company who's "autonomous" system exhibits "Toyota" like behavior.

    The first avoidable death attributed to such systems should see the end of this nonsense.

    I cannot however, argue with the ecologically friendly developments that this experiment will hopefully promote.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by j_sp_r (656354)

      Lets say we have 1000 traffic deaths each year, if an autonomous system in all cars reduces this to 250 (due to programming errors) should everyone get back on the wheel then?

    • Yes, because people driving cars never kill anyone..
      • by hedwards (940851)
        In the US, that's the preferred way to murder people. It can be a pain in the ass to get them to cross the street at the right time, but the penalties for doing so are much less.
    • by kombipom (1274672)

      The main problem is that people won't look at the situation rationally. Even if the cars are statistically safer drivers than people the general public will not accept deaths from equipment malfunction. The resulting law-suits will probably kill off the idea never allowing the cars to get really good. The result - continued carnage on the roads.

      • Where I live I stand the following risks...

        1 in 2 chance of death from heart related problems.
        1 in 25 chance of death from cancer.
        1 in 5000 chance of death from road traffic accident (pedestrian or driver).

        The percentage risk of death from road traffic accidents has not risen in the last ten years.

        Better planning, requiring local bodies to consider the impact of new structures and sub-divisions of old, in regards to road capacity availability as a PRIORITY, would be a start. Further better planning
        • what's with the irrational hatred if autonomous vehicles?
          It's entirely possible that given a few decades they'll be able to drive better than the average human.

          If you could cut that chance down to 1 in 10000 would you choose otherwise for nothing more than your ego?

          • It's a matter of acceptable risk, in five thousand different ways of dying only one involves a car.
            For me that is a small enough risk not to loose and sleep over.

            Why some people are scared by it I do not comprehend.
            • I'd be interested in a source for your figures since they seem extremely low.

              In the US for one year I found:
              approximate cost of accidents:230 Billion dollars.
              2.9 million people were injured and 42,636 people killed.

              Total deaths in a year:2426264

              fraction of deaths due to traffic accidents:

              1/56.6 approx

              which would make it a fairly common way to die and an extremely common way to get injured.
              I know the US has a somewhat higher than normal number of road deaths but what country has a death rate 100 times lower?

    • Toyata's problems were caused most likely by a glitch between the pedal and the chair. In fact the multiple investigations have revealed no issues. The mat issue was the only issue they've had in the last 20yrs. People just suck. Thankfully computers won't get confused and stomp on the gas instead of the brakes.

      While a fully autonomous system will likely kill a few people it will likely save many more. It would END drunk driving for one...
  • Avoiding conflict (Score:2, Informative)

    by Superdarion (1286310)
    I just saw the route on the map and man, are they going a looong way just to avoid the middle east conflict zone!
    • by CaptnMArk (9003)

      > The mission will start on July 10 in Milan, Italy and will reach Shanghai, China on October 10 (10/10/10) on a 13.000 km route though Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, and finally China.

      There's some confusion about the route...

  • Does this great race come with a Natalie Wood ride-along and a pie fight in eastern Europe?

  • do they autonomous control them too? No doubt that those cars can navigate their way to China the technology exists and this is a nice proof of concept. But human behavior especially on the road is not very rational. You need a lot of AI to interpret such behavior in a way to avoid all kind of trouble and sounds like a real quest to me.

  • Whatever happens, let's pray the two cars can't communicate with each other lest Skynet become self aware.
  • Really?? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Hermaniac (1658955)
    So, to "demonstrate the feasibility of autonomous driving in real traffic conditions" they are sending the cars not only through areas that, for the most part, have fuck all traffic, but also on a trip that practically no-one would do anyway. Well done.
  • This bit caught my attention:

    Moreover the Municipality of Rome, an active player in this project, is planning to exploit these vehicles downtown to deliver goods to shops, collect trash, and arrange sustainable mobility in the last mile.

    I'm reminded of the time when I was growing up that we had garbage men hanging off the back of city-owned garbage trucks. Yeah we liked it that way, just as we liked most of the guys doing the work for us. Unsurprising (or not), it was also a time when a single-earner pay

    • by MooUK (905450)

      Disclaimer: Readers of this post may note that it has fuck all to do with cheese (aside from the possibility that the poster has watched too many episodes of Wallace and Grommit). My excuse is that I've just now discovered that when making a post, the Subject field offers a pre-populated set of choices. If the powers that be at Slashdot considers those valid, legitimate and appropriate Subjects, then cheese it is. Hmm. Maybe I am feeling a bit peckish?

      I would suspect that the contents of the subject field depends on what you've entered there before, as per your browser's record of such things for filling in forms automagically..

    • pretty much every advance in technology leads to someone losing their job.

      "Computer" used to be a profession.
      Sitting in a bank, adding up columns of figures all day and doing simple calculations(distinct from an accountant.).

      What happened to all those people who were put out of work?
      knitting and weaving cloth used to be a common profession.
      Now massive looms create huge volumes of cloth for a fraction of the cost.

      every one of these advances has put people out of work but every one has created a handful of ot

    • Where I am, the gangs of men hanging off the back of trucks have long gone, they now have one man per dustcart with an arm which reaches out to the kerb, grabs a wheelie bin and dumps it in the top. The old-style, rear-loading dustcarts are only common for things like municipal bins and at the universities where bins are often in awkward locations (and even there, they usually use wheelie bins).

      Since a wheelie bin is a standard size and shape (and usually colour, although you do see painted ones now and the

      • "Pizza delivery"

        You could have the vehicle drive up, auto ring your house. And then act as a big vending machine sticking the pizza out the side. Not to the door service but I could see it catching in some places.
        • "Bus drivers"

          If the bus driver were to be replaced it would be time to do what I've wanted for a long time. Free buses! Seriously, people use the bus to either spend money or go to work, both things that increase funding for the city. No one is going to be riding it for the sheer excitement whilst it is full. It makes sense to have it be free.

          Having a person hired to collect money/stopping people get on is a fucking terrible waste of money. Not only do you need a guy to stand in the bus that you pay by
          • by HiThere (15173)

            You left out one of the major functions of the bus driver. Deterring vandalism. Vandalism is a major expense for bus companies, and without a driver it would get MUCH worse.

            • There aren't guards in bus stops or many public places.... So I don't get the distinction. With vandalism in mind certain designs would reduce costs as well.
              • by HiThere (15173)

                And bus stops get vandalized. But buses are much more expensive, and also more delicate.

                • Stick cameras inside. Problem solved. Ok, perhaps an exageration but cameras are cheap. Vandalism in many cities isn't bad enough to warrant REPAIR as you seem to imply. Or I'm being overly optimistic maybe. Most people on the bus won't care if it is painted with people's tags.
                  • by HiThere (15173)

                    Cameras tend to get their lenses covered with gum & paper. And people do care about tags, but that isn't the limit of vandalism. Damaged windows are common, even WITH a driver on board and in charge.

                    Any automated system is going to need to deal with vandalism. If it can't, it will just fail.

                    Of course, this isn't just a problem for automated systems, but people generally have ways for dealing with vandalism. It's not, however, a minor cost of doing business. And it goes well beyond tagging.

                    • Since vandalism is a criminal matter, and most buses here are GOCOs, putting beat police in plain clothes on buses would be the obvious solution to vandalism. They already have occasional plain-clothes patrols here to enforce jaywalking at tram stops (although they are often in half-uniform, so you can see their trousers and the bulges at their hips), so there would be no new issues with the concept. Vandalism really isn't too bad here on buses, even when one would have plenty of anonymity, partly because

                    • Your city sucks. Hamilton is often labeled as the shittiest city in Ontario and it has no such problems. Toronto is the biggest city in Canada and has no such problems. No such problems in Tokyo (9million people).

                      No such problems on the fully automated driverless trains in Vancouver that moved 700,000ppl/day during the olympics where people from across the world were. Or the many other automated train systems. Or hell trains in general since there is no way the one driver can watch the whole giant ass trai
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      But let's put nostalgia aside and embrace the promise of cutting edge green technologies that offer cost efficiencies for governments and businesses alike, I wonder what, if this technology is successful and widely used (bound to happen sooner or later), will happen to the livelihoods of, say, UPS and FedX drivers? Or postmen, bus drivers, cabbies and pizza delivery drivers? If they're to be considered the buggy drivers of tomorrow, what form will a job for the ordinary guy graduating high school take? Seems those kinds of jobs are increasingly eliminated with little or no acknowledgement of the consequences.

      Won't someone please think of the buggy-whip makers?

      In the USA, the education system has not changed substantially since we decided we needed it to produce factory workers and soldiers. That's right, Public School's primary job is to prepare our nation for war. The Powers That Be don't give one tenth of one shit about what you're going to do out of high school. If you become a criminal, it's that much easier to funnel you into the military. We can try you as an adult, or you can get entry into the military

  • ...And thank you for not performing these tests anywhere near my hometown.

  • It strikes me that such enterprises always start in Western Europe and end in the Far East. Anybody have an idea why it's not the other way around?
  • The original silk road sadly leads to territories which are politically to unstable.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @06:22AM (#31806436)

    When renting a car in a western European country, the first thing that Hertz will tell you, is that you are not allowed to drive the car to an eastern European country. Because "the car will not make it back." Hertz says the same thing when you rent in Texas: "You cannot take this car to Mexico".

    So what anti-theft-AI is planned for these vehicles? Maybe those lasers can do more than just scan?

    A car loaded with so much luxury high-tech accessories would surely make a tempting target for a thief. Maybe the cars will just autonomously disappear?

    • One car has a driver in it to handle navigation and regulatory requirements, and there are two large support vehicles following with camera crews, engineers, and so on.

    • There were a few typos in the summary. Here is the correct sentence:

      Each vehicle will be equipped with five laser cannons, seven (particle) cannons, GPS (graviton-propelled smartbombs), inertial mutagen unit, three Linux AIs, and an xray-by-wire dying[sic] system.

      I find it sad that they didn’t finish the star compressor for the ammo clip of the gamma ray burst artillery tower.

  • In Russia there always been two problems: fools and roads.
    It's really interesting how these super-cars shall overcame that problems.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The first vehicle will drive autonomously in selected sections of the trip and will conduct experimental tests on sensing, decision, and control subsystems, and will continuously collect data. Although limited, human interventions will be needed to define the route and intervene in critical situations.

    The second vehicle will automatically follow the route defined by the preceding vehicle, requiring no human intervention (100% autonomous). This will be regarded as a readily exploitable vehicle, able to move

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