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AI Transportation

Concern Mounts Over Self-Driving Cars Taking Away Freedom 662

Lucas123 writes "Opinions in the blogosphere are building and run the gamut on self-driving automobile technology, but a survey supports the trend that most don't want their driving independence usurped by cameras, sensors and an onboard computer. The survey of British drivers last year commissioned by Bosch, a Germany-based supplier of automotive components, found that most would not buy a self-driving car. Only 29% of respondents said thay would consider buying a driverless car and only 21% said they would feel safe as a passenger in a self-driving car. David Alexander, an analyst at Navigant Research, pointed out that while driving yourself is often preferable, there's a lot of "grunt" driving that would be better handled by a computer. Navigant recently released a report stating that by 2035, 95 million autonomous cars will be sold every year."
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Concern Mounts Over Self-Driving Cars Taking Away Freedom

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  • In (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday August 22, 2013 @04:49PM (#44647299) Homepage Journal

    I love driving. Everything about it, but even I want it. Better driving from everyone. Safer, better traffic, and you can play board games with the family while driving down the road.
    All around awesome.

    I wouldn't feel safe. I know I would be safer, but at first it would feel dangerous. That's from years of driving and being driven.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2013 @04:52PM (#44647337)

    There are people who have medical or other reasons which make it so they can't drive. For them a self-driving car gives a huge amount of freedom: freedom to get yourself from point A to point B without relying on favors or public transit or taxis.

  • by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @04:53PM (#44647341)

    Driving a manually operated car through a hoard of autonomous cars. Splitting two lanes, step on the gas. The autonomous cars detect your car impinging on their lane, so they move out of the way, and the sea of autonomous cars parts like a wave in front of you.

    They'll need a lot of algorithms to deal with the unexpected, and people who deliberately want to mess with them, heh.

    That kind of driving would be dangerous and illegal; whether you can do it without a crash or not. I'd assume that driverless cars would have cameras to gather evidence in case of an accident, because the passengers might not be paying attention, so you'd probably have a dozen videos being sent to the police, enough for a conviction.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @04:56PM (#44647367) Homepage

    It's mass transit without the masses. Imagine your own personal bus, taxi or train. Mass transit is good for many people because it enables travel without so much stress... or at least without the same type of stress and certainly less danger. But among the problems of mass transit is the crowding and congestion which often accompanies more dense populated areas.

    I think having HOV lanes replaced with "Automated" lanes, self driving cars are likely to take you anywhere you need to go, respond to traffic problems by dynamically re-routing and generally even out the flow of traffic all over. Even if a driver decides not to participate in the use of self-driving cars, when there are enough self-driving cars, it will likely benefit the non-participants as well.

    One caveat is the fact that non-participants will see it as a license to be an even bigger asshole than they were to "other drivers." They would be bigger because they would drive rudely around machines which would, ostensibly, not be offended... (the passengers might though... imagine cutting off a self-driving car and how it might respond)

    There are probably a lot of scary scenarios which I haven't considered, but I recall batman movies and the self-driving batmobile and how that could be really useful. A car that will let you get out at your destination then drive away to park somewhere? Awesome... especially if you can notify your car that you are waiting to be picked up and have it arrive in a few moments. There's a lot of awesome there... and some scary.

  • by godrik ( 1287354 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @04:56PM (#44647371)

    Count me in as well. I do not actually like driving. That's a lot of wasted time for me. I'd rather do so many more things during that driving time. I could read all my commute time. Or even play need for speed! :)

  • by silviuc ( 676999 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @04:58PM (#44647389) Homepage
    Humans are simply not built for monotonous, repetitive activities. Driving is one of those. If you look at the main cause of accidents there is rarely faults in the machinery it's humans that are either sleepy, drunk or just plain dumb. I really do want to see smart roads and smart cars.

    Ugh we really need to learn to let machines do the jobs that we simply can't do well in a consistent manner.
  • by organgtool ( 966989 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @04:58PM (#44647395)
    This reminds me of when the internet was new and my relatives were amazed when I told them I did most of my Christmas shopping online. They couldn't believe that I trusted web sites on the internet with my credit card number and they said they had absolutely no interest in doing that. The very next year, most of those same relatives were raving about how convenient it was to shop at home and not fight car and foot traffic to buy gifts. The point is, people fear new things that they don't understand, but once they see the benefits and convenience of new technologies, it usually isn't long before they consider life without that technology as primitive.
  • Re:Safety (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DutchUncle ( 826473 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:00PM (#44647435)

    If such a car doesn't cooperate with government surveillance, it doesn't degrade your freedom . .

    "If". Such a small word, to express so much hope.

  • Expect to see a lot of competition and lobbying from local taxi authorities to prevent you from doing exactly this. They will argue that it's not safe for individuals to rent their cars out in this way - and to some extent they will have a point. Plus, when your fancy new car comes home with vomit (or worse) all over the interior you're going to be really angry.
  • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:02PM (#44647461) Homepage

    Actually the biggest driver (no pun intended) will be people themselves. Think about it, do you buy cars where you have to brace yourself or do you choose the model with the automatically deploying air bags? do you buy the car with all manual brakes or the one with ABS? do you buy the car with manual headlights or the one with AUTO setting? Do you buy the car with manual radio tuning buttons or the one with SEEK forward and backward functions?

    Ditto for newer features. If you ever driven a car with radar activated collision warning (and if no response breaking) you would never go back to one without one.

    People will surrender their "freedom" (which in this case is a bullshit choice of term) for the safety of a car that drives himself, just like you, along with the rest of us, sacrificed the "freedom" of your ice box for a fridge that turns itself on and off. Come to think of it, that is the complete opposite of "sacrificing freedom" we actually stopped the slavery of having to feed an ice box by having a machine take over.

    Same goes for an automatically driven car. Al you are surrendering is your mechanical input to the machine. You are no longer a cog in the driving system. Yay for (real) freedom!

  • Technically most of the bottom quarter think they are in the top half.

  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:06PM (#44647535) Homepage

    Driving is a privilege, that you have to earn, and comes with a thousand point list of rules and regulations.

    You can only drive when they want, where they want, and how they want. So were is there any freedom to loose?

  • by ImdatS ( 958642 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:06PM (#44647539) Homepage

    In fact, I wouldn't call it only 29%, but rather already 29%.

    The reason is that the discussion about driverless cars is so new/recent that I wouldn't even have expected that many people saying that they would consider buying a driverless car.

    My dream transport-solution is: (a) not owning a car at all; (b) call a car anytime I need one; (c) getting driven (automatically) to any place I want; (d) I pay for the time I use the car and can leave it anywhere in the country (obviously, in a village/town/city or so).

    If we had a system like that and everybody would use it, it could be the solution to most of our traffic problems, including congestion (cars can communicate information faster and react faster than humans), parking problems, and more. Most of the time, cars are just parked somewhere and standing idle anyway.

    So, yes, count me in...

  • by coyote_oww ( 749758 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:06PM (#44647545)
    Me too. People are not actually reading about the vehicles. They are reacting to what they think the vehicle will be like, rather than what they actually do.

    My mom is approaching the point when we're going to have to take away the keys. She's fine for most things, she's just a bit indecisive, hesitant, and, well, wobbly when driving. Taking away the keys means she needs to live with someone, be given rides everywhere etc. Completely unnecessary when the technology exists *RIGHT NOW* to enable her to remain independent. Not allowing/adopting this seem just cruel to me.

  • freedom? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Xicor ( 2738029 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:10PM (#44647591)
    the freedom to be stupid and cause accidents/deaths? or the freedom to speed at ridiculous speeds(i like this one)? or even the freedom to keep score while running over grandmothers?
  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:10PM (#44647595)

    I'll freely admit that I've made major mistakes behind the wheel, and I'm just lucky not to have encountered another car. I've missed red lights and stop signs. I've been fixated on a dangerous swerving driver only to ignore my blind spot. I've been so busy looking left that I missed a pedestrian crossing from the left. Shit happens. I'm human. I have no doubt that computers will someday drive more safely.

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:12PM (#44647645)

    My dream transport-solution is: (a) not owning a car at all; (b) call a car anytime I need one; (c) getting driven (automatically) to any place I want; (d) I pay for the time I use the car and can leave it anywhere in the country (obviously, in a village/town/city or so).

    So, a taxi then.

  • by MooseTick ( 895855 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:12PM (#44647651) Homepage

    "As long as insurance is required by the government, there is no reason for the rates to drop, even if they never have to pay out a dime."

    Your own sentence proves your wrong. Ig GEIKO, Allstate, or someone else charges you $2000 a year and never needs to pay out, someone else will start a new insurance company that only charges $200, knowing they won't ever have to pay out.

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:20PM (#44647771)

    A senior something should be a little more level headed and less hysterical, don't you think.

  • by danaris ( 525051 ) <> on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:30PM (#44647905) Homepage

    You've missed the point here. They do have a specific "freedom" in mind here:

    The freedom to break the rules of the road.

    The people talking about self-driving cars taking away their "freedom" are afraid they'll no longer be able to drive 75 mph in a 55 mph zone, or run that red light, or tailgate that person who's got the sheer audacity to drive a few miles an hour under the speed limit when they need to get home to watch the game so close they leave paint on their bumper...!

    In other words, they're afraid that if everyone's got self-driving cars, they won't be allowed to be assholes anymore.

    Dan Aris

  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:41PM (#44648031) Homepage

    I'm in.

    If driverless cars were available today I would buy one tomorrow.

    You could work, read, screw...seriously think about all the lost time you'd get back to do things that are far more interesting.

    I can't relate to people who wouldn't want a self-driving car.

  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:43PM (#44648063) Homepage Journal
    Hey, I don't care if someone wants a self-driving car.

    As long as it doesn't hinder, re prohibit MY ability to buy and drive manual cars on the road.

    I've never owned anything but 2x seat sports cars, I've never owned a manual transmission.

    I like to drive...I buy cars that are FUN to drive.

    So, as long as I can continue to drive myself (and I'm sure others do feel this way too)...I'm cool with self driving cars.

    I don't want "Johnny Cabs" to become the mandated only option.

  • by Dr Max ( 1696200 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @06:10PM (#44648369)
    I agree i wouldn't want it to be the only option but being able to sleep on a commute to work, or have the car pick me up and take me home from the pub is a pretty damn awesome feature. Problem with the article's survey is, people are idiots, if you asked people back at the start of 2007 if they wanted a smartphone they would also say they don't need one, fast forward a couple of years however.
  • by sahonen ( 680948 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @06:17PM (#44648445) Homepage Journal
    If routine commuting is "fun," then you're doing it wrong. Driving safely and efficiently is, and should be, boring as hell and I can't wait for it to be illegal to operate a vehicle manually on public roadways so I can spend my commuting time doing more interesting things.

    You'll always be free to do your driving for fun on private roads and tracks, but keep your "fun" off the roads that I have to share with you.
  • by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @06:42PM (#44648739)
    Er, isn't bumper to bumper stop and go traffic one of the things autonomous cars would be best at? It's pretty easy to figure out what to do in that situation. Every car moving forward in unison at a stoplight won't happen until all the cars are automated, but the automated cars will certainly be able to accelerate just as quickly as a human when the car in front of them starts moving forward.

    The reasonably legitimate concerns i've heard involve dealing with unexpected situations. You can see there's stopped traffic up ahead but the person in front of you isn't slowing down, you're on residential streets and a you see a ball bounce out between two parked cars and expect a child to follow shortly, etc.
  • by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:08PM (#44649017)
    Speaking of the NSA, doesn't anyone remember the beginning of Stranger in a Strange Land? Ben gets in an auto-cab (yes I know it flew), and before he realized what happened, it was locked and he was whisked off to the authorities and a windowless cell with some bullies.

    Do we really want to hand the State Police/TSA/NSA/ATF/FBI that power? Or the power to take control of the car of someone unliked by the authorities and have it crash, due to 'equipment failure'?

  • by devman ( 1163205 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:47PM (#44649419)
    He won't have to, insurance companies will do that for him. If self driving cars prove to be safer than manual cars insurance will adjust premiums according to risk.
  • by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:05PM (#44649579)

    There will ALWAYS be situations where the automation software can't cope with a particular scenario and you have to take the wheel in a split second.

    That will never be a viable option. It simply doesn't work that way. It's well known from aviation and industrial control rooms that if the human is out of the loop, it takes much, much longer than a "split second" for the human to get back into the loop. Sometimes entire minutes are not enough, I kid you not.

    The automation software has capacity to "see ahead", so to speak, and can and should get the vehicle into a safe state when it looks like a handover is inevitable. The split second taking over of a wheel is your fantasy, it's basically impossible unless you're paying full attention the entire time - at that point you might as well drive the car anyway, why bother with automation. If you pay any less attention than you would if you actually drove the car, there'll be no split-second handovers. I'm serious. You simply have zero clue what you're talking about.

  • by Reapy ( 688651 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:28PM (#44649759)

    In my ideal world cars can talk to streets and other cars for congestion reports, routing, and local avoidance. Having a manual driver in that process would fuck everything up since there is one X factor in the swarm that isn't responding.

    Still that is a long way off, I imagine self drive will begin like ski lifts, drive into a zone, control is taken, moved along a highway, then as you exit a slow ramp with some warning bells as you resume control of the car.

    Either way seems to be an infrastructure nightmare but damn would be nice when it is in place. Hopefully i can see something like this when I'm just getting old enough to not drive myself.

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:28PM (#44649767)

    I've never owned anything but 2x seat sports cars, I've never owned a manual transmission.

    If you've never owned a manual, you've never owned a sports car.

    You've already given up most of the control you have over your vehicle, I fail to see why you'd be hesitant to give up the rest.

    Automatics certainly aren't fun cars.

  • by golodh ( 893453 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:14AM (#44652135)

    So you think that automatic cars will be more susceptible to rear-end collisions than human-driven cars?

    Sorry, but no.

    First off, automatic cars can apply the brakes very much quicker than humans (they can respond in milliseconds rather than in seconds), and they continuously monitor the distance to the car in front of them and the rate and acceleration of closing. This means that, given certain common physics and certain standardised car parameters (such as maximum permitted acceleration), the cars will work out the safe following distance for their speed and (importantly) stick to it at all times.

    Phrased differently: avoiding rear-end collisions is a technical problem with a technical solution in terms of continuously calculating a safe following distance for the current speed and adjusting your driving to stick to that.

    The problem is that you must actually compute that solution very quickly and adhere to it for it to do any good. Humans can generally (unless ill, drunk, tired, distracted, vision impaired, or whatever) do the calculations and keep a safe distance, but they WON'T. They get bored, are in a hurry, in an emotional state, or plain like taking risks. So they have a lot of accidents. Automatons can do the calculations too, and they will never be in a hurry and will not take risks (unless programmed to) and simply stick to the solution plus a safety margin. Their accident ratio will be much smaller than that of the average human, and they will have their behaviour adjusted if it turns out to be less-than-safe.

    Secondly, there are developments that let cars communicate with the car ahead and behind (and even beyond the line of sight), and exchange parameters such as maximum deceleration and current manouevre (cruising, accelerating, decelerating, desired speed). This information is then shared throughout a platoon (i.e. group of cars driving closely behind each other). Cars that can't safely drive in the platoon will automatically drop out and increase their distance. It's like a peer-to-peer traffic control system, and it works very well in traffic simulations.

    So, in summary, the objection you raise concerns a technical problem with a technical solution, and isn't an obstacle.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson