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AI Robotics Transportation

Autonomous Audi TT Conquers Pike's Peak 187

Posted by samzenpus
from the mega-turbo-boost dept.
fergus07 writes "After a year long research program, this week Audi revealed that its Autonomous TTS car had completed the 12.42-mile Pike's Peak mountain course in 27 minutes. An expert driver in the same car would take around 17 minutes — now we have a benchmark, the race is on, and it's almost inevitable that a computer will one day outdrive the best of our species, and it may be sooner than you think."
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Autonomous Audi TT Conquers Pike's Peak

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, 2010 @08:05AM (#34304910)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKgeCQGu_ug (Ari Vatanen with peugeot 405 T16, Pikes-Peak 1990)

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Monday November 22, 2010 @08:07AM (#34304922) Homepage
    This is Slashdot, dammit, we're supposed to be talking about the tech the car uses, the sensor fields, blind spots, known bugs, and so forth. What do we get? A typical journalist "the narrative" story, where humanity is in a race against robots which will surely supplant us. Guh, it's like a rejected 1950s sci-fi manuscript. Bonus points for using the tech-y "benchmark" phrase like the car is some sort of Crysis.
    • by Urkki (668283)

      This is Slashdot, dammit, we're supposed to be talking about the tech the car uses, the sensor fields, blind spots, known bugs, and so forth. What do we get? A typical journalist "the narrative" story, where humanity is in a race against robots which will surely supplant us. Guh, it's like a rejected 1950s sci-fi manuscript. Bonus points for using the tech-y "benchmark" phrase like the car is some sort of Crysis.

      Yeah, like that's news. It's a certainty, that humanity will either exploit itself to extinction, or be surpassed by AI creatures of our own making.

      All we can hope for, is that those AI creatures will find us amusing, and perhaps, wether out of pity, curiosity or boredom,will guide us in our otherwise futile attempt to keep this planet habitable for human-like life forms. Of course we must remember, that those AI creatures will be the "humanity" of that era, and if anybody will carry human/Earth legacy to t

      • by kvezach (1199717)
        Yeah, like that's news. It's a certainty, that humanity will either exploit itself to extinction, or be surpassed by AI creatures of our own making.

        Everybody imagines AI. I find IA (intelligence amplification) another possibility. Perhaps the nascent superintelligence will be ourselves. "They" will be "us" and we'll have a reason to keep the planet habitable.

        Or perhaps marginal improvement in intelligence gets much harder the further you go. Singularity-style extrapolation involves physical parameter
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Cryonix (1234264)
      A quick google search for "Autonomous Audi TTS hardware" turned up these articles, offering various details on the hardware used:
      http://sun.systemnews.com/articles/143/2/feature/22601 [systemnews.com]
      http://www.audiusanews.com/newsrelease.do;jsessionid=2CB13CF6B9E286A75E8E2B1663E63318?id=1589 [audiusanews.com]
      http://www.topspeed.com/cars/audi/2010-autonomous-audi-tts-pikes-peak-ar92542.html [topspeed.com]
      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Yeah, you're missing either a comma or a hyphen.

        I was born a steel-driving man.

        or

        I was born a steel, driving man.

        With that grammar fix, it resolves the ambiguity one way or the other. Not nearly as fun as the one-eyed eater who eats one-horned, flying purple people, though.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          No, it's a hyphen.

          "I was born a steel" makes no sense. "I was born a steel-driving man" makes sense, "I was born a man who drives steel" makes even more sense, but it isn't poetic.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Maxo-Texas (864189)

      I'm not sure how long it will be for truly intelligent machines (could never happen / be impossible without wetware).

      But machines able to do our jobs are here now. And for a lot of jobs the annual cost is $15,000. Compare that to $32,000 (after benefits) for even minimum wage jobs and you have to think things get ugly soon.

      Already diapers.com has "hundreds of robotic warehouse workers" (business week) and some hospital has "hired" 19 robotic workers *instead* of humans. It seems great as a cost savings m

      • by hitmark (640295)

        It could be that what is missing is for software that can reason. So that when it is told to grab something from a shelf, it can work out how to do so using internal simulations and observational data.

        As for your employment/tax worry, i agree. Except that right now, China have moved that somewhat backwards as there is a long line of workers willing to work for pennies rather then live the life of subsistence farming. But even there the high water mark is rising, and China is sending out "feelers" to the las

      • by mini me (132455)

        It wasn't many years ago that 75% of the population were employed as farmers. A new invention, the tractor, replaced the majority of farm workers with machines. Today, only 2% of the population still work on farms, yet we do not have a 73% unemployment rate.

        Twenty years ago people were claiming that robots would be the death of the employment and that we'd all be out of work in twenty years. Here we are. The employment rate has not changed significantly over that time.

        We have been replacing jobs with machin

        • I understand that.

          I think this one is different- a paradigm shift.

          You say, "A machine that can replace farmers".

          I'm saying, "A set of machines that can replace ANY physical labor."

          Plus, since the 1990's they've been messing with unemployment numbers.
          Real unemployment is now over 20%.

          http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data [shadowstats.com]

          ---
          Now, on top of those factors add a huge number of highly intelligent, well trained indians and chinese willing to work for $15k as well.
          So we lose jobs both at the bottom (due to autom

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tehcyder (746570)

        Seriously, we could be looking at 50% unemployment in 20 years. It will be concentrated on the low end. How do we handle that as a society?

        Try reading Oscar Wilde's "The Soul of Man Under Socialism". Over a hundred years ago he was imagining a world where machines were the new slaves and the majority of mankind was released from the drudgery of labour.

        • by guruevi (827432)

          It's the transition period from most people working through some people working to no people working that is the main problem. It was the same problem with Communism why would you work hard if the rest of the population doesn't have to work hard and still gets paid.

    • by timeOday (582209)

      What do we get? A typical journalist "the narrative" story, where humanity is in a race against robots which will surely supplant us.

      It's especially bad because the robot didn't even come close to breaking the record! Let's celebrate this technical triumph for what it is, but save the robot overlords concession speech for when it actually applies.

  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Monday November 22, 2010 @08:10AM (#34304932)
    "It's an old racing adage that it's a lot easier to make a fast driver who crashes safe than to make a slow driver faster. The penalty for error on Pikes Peak is massive as the edge of the circuit is often a massive cliff.
    Audi is logically taking a cautious and considered approach because the negative publicity of a car plunging over a fatal drop would hinder the development.".

    Actually, the dash-cam video of the Autonomous Audi speeding off the road, going over a cliff and crashing in a fiery explosion would be pretty damn awesome.
    • by kieran (20691) on Monday November 22, 2010 @08:48AM (#34305148)

      "All autonomous vehicles are fitted with extra gasoline tanks made out of cheap plastic for explosive awesomeness".

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Shakrai (717556)

      Audi is logically taking a cautious and considered approach because the negative publicity of a car plunging over a fatal drop would hinder the development.

      You mean like this [youtube.com]? Lockheed Martin invited local media out to test drive their new vehicle. One of their guys started the day off by stating "You can't flip this vehicle." Care to guess what one of the reporters managed to do?

      Whoops....

      • by nschubach (922175)

        There's also a video of a braking assist vehicle crashing somewhere (at work, can't look right now...)

        But it brings up a point (question?) Are people so fearful now that ANY recorded incident is a terrible disaster? If we look at the history of human flight, it's full of accidents and disasters... but with each failure is a learning curve. That's how we work! Has the overload of video showing crashes prevented us from taking the next step faster than taking the slow and methodical "Public Image" route?

    • by rwa2 (4391) *

      "It's an old racing adage that it's a lot easier to make a fast driver who crashes safe than to make a slow driver faster.

      Is there any source for this old adage? Google only turns up this slashdot article :-P

      Would have thought I'd at least have run into it in the course of Gran Turismo 4, or even a parody of it in GTA training :-P
      That, and I /always/ do much better in races by taking the latter approach... and that's when there's not even a penalty for risking dangerous crashes in the video games...

    • Local rumor has it that the car did run off the course at least once, requiring extraction by a tow truck. Audi was extra-tight with any information about the tests while they were going on - they didn't make the news in Colorado Springs until their film crew helicopter crashed [kktv.com].
  • I suspect... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday November 22, 2010 @08:10AM (#34304936) Journal
    I'd be inclined to guess that the easier(and for many purposes more important) area of computer supremacy won't be in absolute speed(outside of carefully-controlled-for-robotic advantage environments like pick-and-place machines and closed rail tracks); but in sheer endurance.

    Assuming that you don't totally cheap out on the fault tolerance or get horribly unlucky, the autonomous car should be able to complete the course every 27 minutes, with occasional pauses for refueling, and longer; but even more occasional pauses for hardware service on the car, virtually forever. That expert human driver, though, will do 17 minutes a number of times; but will be a downright danger to himself and others within 24 hours or so.

    For many applications(municipal bus service and low-priority-low-cost mail delivery and commodity trucking/train deliver come to mind), it is virtually irrelevant what a top-notch human in fresh condition can do. What matters is either how many of those you can afford as spares, or what an exhausted, bored, hopped-up-on-stimulants-just-to-stay-awake human can do. Computers, on the other hand, may take longer than one would expect to catch up with best of breed humans in anything resembling natural conditions; but will be able to catch up with real world, performance-degraded humans considerably faster...
    • Re:I suspect... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday November 22, 2010 @08:23AM (#34305008)

      but will be able to catch up with real world, performance-degraded humans considerably faster...

      If you'd ever watched a semi truck driver cross the country non-stop running on speed (the driver, not the truck), you'd know it's possible to extend the number of hours a human can perform without significantly degraded performances. In my youth, I've always preferred hitching a ride with a truck driver than ride the bus, as I would invariably get there faster, and I never really felt unsafe.

      As for the economics of autonomous vehicles, they'll become commonplace when

      - a human behind the wheel is massively more expensive than the computer solution,
      - people get over their fear of runaway machines,
      - drivers unions are squashed

      In short, it's not gonna happen anytime soon. Heck, even trains, the one kind of vehicle that could drive itself completely safely today, are still manned by "drivers" who spend their time pushing a button to tell the computer they're still alive, because passengers would be scared without drivers and unions prevent their removal from the trains.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by moonbender (547943)

        Not sure if you're right about trains. I guess that in a modern rail network, the driver could be made superfluous as long as things are running normal. Normal might even include most everyday delays, minor hardware malfunctions, speed limits (e.g. right now due to lots of leafy mush on the tracks). But you need the driver for extraordinary occurrences.

        If you were dealing with an isolated vehicle, having an automated system that simply failed safe might be ok, but I have a feeling that the interconnected na

        • by hitmark (640295)

          Air travel is mostly automated, with the pilot spending most of the time setting and adjusting the autopilot based on orders from area controllers on the ground (or even just confirming the corrections delivered via data link when crossing something like the pacific).

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by sirlatrom (1162081)

        Heck, even trains, the one kind of vehicle that could drive itself completely safely today, are still manned by "drivers" who spend their time pushing a button to tell the computer they're still alive, because passengers would be scared without drivers and unions prevent their removal from the trains.

        Well except in at least Copenhagen, Denmark, where our metro is without in-train operators [railway-technology.com]. As far as I know there is no union for the operating computers, as they have yet to gain sentience.

      • by chrb (1083577)

        even trains, the one kind of vehicle that could drive itself completely safely today, are still manned by "drivers"

        List of driverless trains [wikipedia.org]

      • Trains use a driver because its still one of the best "camera" identification system. It can spot the difference between a pattern of leaves vers a person/tree/cow much better than machine vision systems can. For now.

        Of course trains like the TGV that can't stop fast enough anyway, its really a bit moot. Some train systems are becoming driver-less. But its pretty limited.
      • by jafac (1449)

        A human behind the wheel will become massively more expensive the moment some insurance adjuster (runs a spreadsheet that) determines that a human behind the wheel is statistically more expensive for his employer to underwrite.

        On that day - kiss your god-given-right to drive legally on public roads good bye.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      The problem with using long-haul trucking as an example is that like so many jobs it consists of long stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of terror. You're either driving for long, boring periods of time, or you're having an "oh shit" moment due to equipment failure or driver error, usually the latter, and not necessarily yours. Why people like to cut off semis I'll never know. Even just hooking a travel trailer to the back of a 7 or 8 thousand pound pickup gives you lots of opportunities to have the

    • by renoX (11677)

      You forgot a little detail: normal driving don't happen in empty roads!
      Going fast on a road is only a small part of what human drivers have to do: they also have to monitor the other cars, the pedestrian, etc.

      • The computer isn't going to distract itself by dicking around with its phone, blackberry, makeup, or -- as I saw this morning on my way to work -- a Nintendo fucking DS.
        • by nschubach (922175)

          And neither am I... so that's why I think I might be better at seeing someone playing a DS (better than a camera that would have to determine the amount of distraction something causes) and making sure I keep a good distance from them.

  • ...that NASCAR will be the first auto-race to be fully computerized, and maybe then my dream will be answered. Once computers completely control NASCAR, Billy Nochin and his spawn will completely lose interest (one would suppose), and maybe it will just disappear. One can hope.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dave420 (699308)
      Huh? You can fully automate NASCAR with a steering lock and a brick on the gas pedal.
      • by ledow (319597)

        Yeah, NASCAR isn't really racing now is it? It's a practice track. I get bored by Formula 1 cars because they all finish within tenths of a second of each other but at least there's something interesting to navigate round. NASCAR is like watching a giant dragster race - interesting for the first few seconds and then it's just more of the same forever.

        Tip to Americans: The classification of a "sport" does not entail the spectators wishing everyone would just start fighting to actually provide some enterta

        • by puto (533470)
          Because "football" and rugby fans are never privy to fights.
        • AFAIK NASCAR cars actually cant steer right, the entire suspension setup is built to only either drive straight or turn left, maybe a very small bit of right turning to exit the pit, but those things are built asymmetrical

          And yeah F1 can get boring, but the recent season was quite good, with a rather interesting finale.

  • The best of us? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chill (34294) on Monday November 22, 2010 @08:21AM (#34304992) Journal

    I don't care about autonomous cars out-driving the best of us. I want to see common cars that can out-drive the morons on the freeways! Out-drive the mediocre and worst of us and I'd be happy.

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Ahhh, but remember there are hardly any mediocre or worst drivers - 80-90% thinks they are in the top 50%.

  • Question though... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheCarp (96830) <sjc AT carpanet DOT net> on Monday November 22, 2010 @08:21AM (#34304996) Homepage

    While I do not doubt that these e-drivers will quickly come to out drive most of us, doesn't it come down to a question of how close to the physical capabilities of the car the driver can go or is going already? I expect them to be more reliable overall, more attentive (obviously) and more able to repeat their own performance. However, I am not necessarily so sure that there really is that much more capability for them to squeeze out of the cars than a trained pro driver on a test course is already able to squeeze out.

    Driving maneuvers are a constant trade off, the closer to the physical capabilities of the car you come, the faster you can traverse a course, however, it also means having less ability to make adjustments and corrections. It is a crude example but, If 99% of my available traction is being used to make this turn, at this speed,I only have 1% more to add if I need to make an adjustment to my course, or speed.

    Admittedly cars can then be redesigned to push those limits.....but thats another issue.

    -Steve

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      The driver has to perform a mystical brain computation in order to integrate everything they're learning about the car through their five senses. The car can have as many senses as you have processing time and I/O to handle. The car can [theoretically] make more decisions per second as well. Ultimately the car is going to be faster... someday.

      • The driver has to perform a mystical brain computation in order to integrate everything they're learning about the car through their five senses.

        Five? You only have five senses?

        Okay, let's see
        Taste
        Sight
        Hearing
        Smell
        Touch

        Which one handles balance/acceleration? Seems rather nifty while driving a car
        Spatial sense (ability to know where your body parts are with your eyes closed)? Knowing exactly where your feet and hands are without looking at them comes in handy when changing gears and breaking
        Temperature? Is

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Cyberax (705495)

      Look at this as an example and cower in fear: http://www.cs.utexas.edu/~aim/?p=video [utexas.edu] ( http://www.cs.utexas.edu/~aim/video/fcfs-insanity.mov [utexas.edu] )

    • by ledow (319597)

      An autonomous car would be incredibly boring. Hell, driving down long motorways is already incredibly boring and it's nowhere NEAR the most efficient way to do that.

      And e-drivers can outpace us already in every statistic. They're still shit for driving in general, though, because like voice recognition, image recognition and everything else where you try to get a computer to do a job in a machine designed for human senses, it'll hit a limit that makes it entirely unable to actually *APPLY* any of those ab

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Boring? Don't think about it in terms of operating a car - it could be more like a train or bus (or, you know, as a passenger of a car), with many ways of filling the passing time.

        Especially in case of "long motorways" - where most of your reservations might not apply much sooner.

    • by amorsen (7485)

      Formula 1 cars are hampered by restrictions because the drivers can't handle 10G+ in the turns and because there is a limit to how survivable you can make 500km/h crashes. Take away the restrictions and you would immediately see a significant reduction in lap times, but the drivers wouldn't last long.

  • Working together, Audi, Stanford University, the Volkswagen Group Electronics Research Lab and Oracle developed a distinct engineering achievement. The Autonomous Audi TTS Pikes Peak integrates advanced algorithms, the Oracle Java real-Time System (Java RTS), Oracle Solaris and GPS with safety and navigation systems found in stock Audi TTS models to maintain control at a physical performance extreme.

  • "Grandpa you mean you actually had to DRIVE A CAR?? What if mom forgot to pick me up from school...she couldnt just send the auto-cab for me?"

    • by sznupi (719324)

      And quite possibly no reason to send it (a waste really, one way empty...), might be just in the form of car sharing as part of public transport (though it would require us coming to our senses, also including things like bikes in the process)

  • It's a question of style...

  • When it gets to the top.

  • The sooner this sort of autopilot technology is refined and made standard equipment, the happier I'll be. I fucking hate driving, and would love to just put the car on autopilot, reach down between my legs, ease the seat back, and take a nap.
  • I drove my car to the top of Pike's Peak several years when I was on vacation. Driving up is easy. Driving back down, on the other hand, is the real challenge.

    It was especially fun considering that my car was sold in a part of the country that was basically at sea level so the computer had trouble dealing with the air at that altitude. How will their automated system deal with the engine stalling out, causing a lose of both power steering and power braking ever couple of minutes?

    There's something else I too

    • by ledow (319597)

      That means that a driver has an accident (of ANY kind) only once or twice in a driving lifetime, or thereabouts. I call rubbish on that, I think the statistics don't show what you think they show - given that the average "no-claims bonus" is about 3-4 years and there's only one man in the entire UK who hasn't had an single accident (actually insurance claim, which isn't the same thing at all) in over 50 years of driving (according to a news article I read a year or so ago). I think you've looked at *insur

    • The US has a annual road toll of about 50000. That's pretty high and IIRC quite a bit higher per capita than the EU. Yes Europeans drive less. But we still love our cars, and still drive a lot.
    • How will their automated system deal with the engine stalling out, causing a lose of both power steering and power braking ever couple of minutes?

      with a turbocharger setup, the TTS has a 2 litre TFSI engine

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Power steering and power braking don't just instantly vanish after engine cutoff in general, and newer systems are shifting to electric in particular.

      Buses are an order of magnitude safer, so there's quite a lot of room for improvement when it comes to training and abilities of an average driver.

  • FTA:

    "Humans are not very good at driving cars, as is evidenced by our ability to destroy 1.3 million souls on our roads each year"

    Apart from the fact that you don't just measure driving skill by the number of fatalities, thats just BS anyway. Considering how few accidents there are per mile driven we're EXCEPTIONALLY good at driving. If say 1 billion people in the world drive and they each drive 10000 miles a year
    on average then thats 10 TRILLION miles a year, so in other words thats 1 death for roughly eve

  • No apostrophe in Pikes Peak. It's a common mistake, because you'd think, "It should have an apostrophe in it." But for whatever reason, it doesn't.

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