Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation AI Government Software Hardware Technology

California Says Autonomous Cars Don't Need Human Drivers (bloomberg.com) 202

Currently, California law requires that all self-driving cars used for testing purposes be done with a human behind the wheel, so that they can take control if necessary. While California has been fairly strict on how self-driving cars are to be used in the state, they appear to be relaxing several of the rules. "The state's Department of Motor Vehicles released proposed regulations Friday for autonomous vehicles, dropping an earlier requirement that a human driver had to be present while testing on public roads," reports Bloomberg. "The DMV also backed down on a previous rule that vehicles needed a steering wheel and pedals for the operator to take back control." From the report: "When we think of driverless vehicles they can either have conventional controls, which are steering wheels, pedals, things like that, or they cannot," said California DMV Chief Counsel Brian Soublet during a conference call with reporters. If companies test vehicles without conventional controls, they have to show the California DMV that they have approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, he added. NHTSA said in early 2016 that self-driving software systems, not just humans, can be considered drivers. "If California was going to keep that level of development activity in the state, what they did was necessary and timely," said Eric Noble, president of The CarLab, an automotive consulting firm. "They kind of had to do it because at some point manufacturers can't move autonomous vehicles forward without getting controls out of cars." The proposed regulations have a 45-day public comment period that ends April 24. That will be followed by a public hearing. During Friday's conference call, the California DMV said the rules should be completed by the end of the year.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

California Says Autonomous Cars Don't Need Human Drivers

Comments Filter:
  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kqs ( 1038910 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @09:11AM (#54017663)

    This seems like an important next step. Expecting even a trained human to take over with only a few seconds (or less) leeway is crazy and cannot work.

    I expect that these regulations will evolve a bit as we see which self-driving car developers can handle this and which ones cannot. There will likely be a few accidents, hopefully none serious. But since these cars have no egos and no temper, they're likely to drive far safer than the average human.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by elrous0 ( 869638 )

      Yeah, what could possibly go wrong, right?

    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by religionofpeas ( 4511805 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @09:21AM (#54017691)

      Expecting even a trained human to take over with only a few seconds (or less) leeway is crazy and cannot work,

      True, but there are plenty of circumstances where there is more time for the human to intervene. Suppose the road is blocked somewhere, and there's somebody directing traffic and letting people drive over the sidewalk, or on the wrong lane, or explaining how to make a detour, or tell the driver to wait for the pilot car. Plenty of situations are too difficult for an autonomous car to handle, but not imminently dangerous, assuming that the self driving car is smart enough to stop when it notices the road is blocked.

      • Fortunately, while the new regulation is going to say that there doesn't have to be a human driver in the car, it doesn't actually prevent him from being actually present. And concerning changes in route topology, chances are that if information on such changes is distributed using an electronic system, all connected autonomous vehicles would react way in advance of most, if not all human drivers. Even on-site personnel could communicate driving information using some simple broadcasting beacon that vehicle
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          The regulations would be smart to impose some restrictions for vehicles operating with no driver. One of them could a an successful operating history with a driver. Speed limits should also be considered. We may not want driver-less cars on the road doing, say, 40 mph + when there are zero demonstrations of technology being able to do that safely.

          Even Tesla, the self proclaimed leader in this technology, is struggling to get the simplest things to work reliably; http://bgr.com/2017/03/02/tesl... [bgr.com]
          • by jcr ( 53032 )

            There's very little difference between driving at 40 mph and 120 mph when the car is autonomous. Consider the speed of today's CPUs.

            I'd be glad to let the car drive itself and get much shorter trip times.

            -jcr

        • I expect self driving cars to be hitting the road well before such technology is adopted. It also takes time to set it up and program it with the proper information, in case a road is blocked suddenly.

        • Re:Good (Score:4, Insightful)

          by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @11:24AM (#54018039) Homepage Journal

          Fortunately, while the new regulation is going to say that there doesn't have to be a human driver in the car, it doesn't actually prevent him from being actually present.

          When opening for the autonomous car not having controls for the human, it doesn't much matter whether the human isn't prevented from being there.
          The first time a cop tries to direct traffic around an accident, and there either isn't a driver in the car, or there aren't controls in the car for the driver to operate, this will be challenged. If it led to severe delays for important people, I expect it to not survive.

      • 'I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that.'

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by vtcodger ( 957785 )

      "Expecting even a trained human to take over with only a few seconds (or less) leeway is crazy"

      Let me see if if I have this straight. An autonomous car is doing something nutty, like following the vehicle ahead of it into a gas station at excessive speed? And you think the way to handle that situation is to trust the car?

  • Its too early IMO (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @09:13AM (#54017675)

    I think its too early for autonomous cars to drive around without drivers. Imagine what happens when an accident occurs. Then the technology will be demonized. That would be horrible. Only allow autonomous cars to drive around without drivers once you are certain they are not just better than the average driver, but than 95% of all human drivers.

    But I guess its like with most people who have a risky driving style: they say "who cares", until something horrible happens due to that carelessness, and then they are either unable to say anything any more, or are terribly sad.

    • It depends... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Junta ( 36770 )

      If it is a 4,000 lb. passenger vehicle with human occupants going at 70 MPH, I agree. For a vehicle that will be carrying humans *anyway*, I don't see any need to remove the controls in the near future, even if they are not going to be used much. Maybe one day if you have unaccompanied humans who cannot be trusted with that option, but I think it's too early for that.

      If vehicle + payload is less than a couple hundred pounds, about the size of a scooter, and doesn't go more than 35 MPH or so, then I think

      • So if a vehicle carrying packages runs over a pedestrian that's ok?
        • by Junta ( 36770 )

          We allow people on bicycles that can do about the same damage without requiring they prove themselves.

          You can also regulate the design of it such that it's unlikely to do much damage to a typical pedestrian, even if things go very wrong. Think about how cars today in europe are required to give more to allow for pedestrian safety. Then amplify that further since you don't need to tradeoff against human visibility.

          • People with bicycles do the same damage as a loaded delivery truck??
            • by Junta ( 36770 )

              If vehicle + payload is less than a couple hundred pounds, about the size of a scooter, and doesn't go more than 35 MPH or so,

              I explicitly said that in the beginning. I don't picture the future of delivery being giant trucks, but more scooter sized things in the scenario of humanless vehicles. It takes a lot of energy and fuel to move the giant trucks, so I imagine the balance for home delivered packages to be smaller than a passenger car, and the giant trucks reserved for large packages and similar special cases, and human occupancy for the foreseeable future for such vehicles.

              • But then you'll get people stealing them.
                • by Junta ( 36770 )

                  You have people stealing packages today (they get left out a lot). A vehicle could conceivably be constantly streaming location, cameras streaming security feed out, and so on. Sounding an alarm and notifying police is possible, keeping about the same level of risk/reward as stealing packages today. A vehicle capable of driving itself should be able to notice if something isn't right, indicating breakin, being forced to stop, or being moved, and alert human operators to scrutinize that particularly units

          • We allow people on bicycles that can do about the same damage without requiring they prove themselves.

            False logic. We actually have a very long history of bike riding and know very well the safety and risks. There are even rules and laws established to manage these risks. And on top of that there is human self preservation instinct that helps. Not so for autonomous vehicles.

        • "So if a vehicle carrying packages runs over a pedestrian that's ok?"

          Hey, this is America. If we allow people to take precedence over commerce, we will lose the freedoms our forefathers fought for. Right?

      • Full agree. But when it has the size of a scooter, I wouldn't call it "car" any more. That's a different category of vehicle.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 )

      I have a friend who is a truck driver who worries about driverless trucks one day putting him out of work. I laughed and told him that the first time some driverless 80,000-pound semi has a software glitch and piles full speed into a busload of kids, his future employment will be secured forever.
       

      • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @10:14AM (#54017809)

        I wonder though how much that is currently done with big trucks will become smaller vehicles, but more numerous. One of the big motivators for piling tons of stuff onto one truck is because each vehicle needs an expensive driver.

        Now there are other motivators, but in scenarios where the big truck is used because only because you need to amortize the large expense of a human driver, you'll probably see smaller things on the road when/if autonomous cargo transport happens.

        • "One of the big motivators for piling tons of stuff onto one truck is because each vehicle needs an expensive driver."

          No, it's because freight containers come in two standard sizes, with road trucks being sized accordingly.

          • by Junta ( 36770 )

            I said *one* of the big motivators. I know a lot of road truck trailers never touch a train or boat. Some definitely do. Some are going very directly from point A to B with a large amount of cargo that gets economies of scale and it makes sense to have a single big weighted thing. Some are driving convoluted delivery routes because it's cheaper than concurrently operating a lot of vehicles, and the convoluted delivery route with many stops becomes a burden compared to a hypothetical fleet of lightweight

          • "No, it's because freight containers come in two standard sizes, with road trucks being sized accordingly."

            Some ARE like that. Some aren't Surely, you don't think that Walmart truck up ahead of you on a rural state highway is delivering 1300 34 inch flat screen TVs to the Walmart in North Hellandgone, Idaho.

      • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

        Well, airplanes still have pilots even though they pretty much fly themselves. And airline pilot told me that the reason he is in the plane is mostly for passengers to feel safe.
        They are just starting making conductorless trains even though in many cases the conductor does nothing but push a button. There is value in having a human on board that goes beyond operating the vehicle.

      • Truck drivers will still be needed for the last mile delivery. I don't think shippers will come up with a robot nimble and clever enough to deliver appliances and fitness equipment into homes (and unpack and install them when contracted to).

        However this reminds me of our heading toward a 60% unemployment rate due to automation (store checkouts, stock clerks, fast food jobs, etc. are gradually going away. This is evident in many NYC pharmacy/convenience stores, for example) - what are we going to do about th

        • by jcr ( 53032 )

          Truck drivers will still be needed for the last mile delivery. I don't think shippers will come up with a robot nimble and clever enough to deliver appliances and fitness equipment into homes (and unpack and install them when contracted to).

          That person doesn't need to be a driver, and he doesn't even need to be on the truck. As long as he arrives at the customer's home within a minute or so of when the truck does, it's all the same to the customer.

          -jcr

          • Fair enough but then you're increasing fuel and vehicle costs and creating a new logistics problem.

      • by ranton ( 36917 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @11:35AM (#54018075)

        I have a friend who is a truck driver who worries about driverless trucks one day putting him out of work. I laughed and told him that the first time some driverless 80,000-pound semi has a software glitch and piles full speed into a busload of kids, his future employment will be secured forever.

        If that was true human drivers would already be out of a job, since about 5000 people are killed every year in trucking accidents. While it's certainly likely for a new crop of Luddites to fly off the rails at every autonomous accident, I don't share your pessimism about what the outcome would be of their crackpot protests.

        • by Mitreya ( 579078 )

          If that was true human drivers would already be out of a job, since about 5000 people are killed every year in trucking accidents.

          Let me rephrase the original poster a little bit:

          "the first time some driverless 80,000-pound semi has been hacked remotely and piles full speed into a busload of kids..."

          An accident is one thing, but human drivers cannot be hacked.
          A student of mine just had to delay his application to a cybersecurity PhD program because the website has been defaced and disabled.

        • by elrous0 ( 869638 )

          While it's certainly likely for a new crop of Luddites to fly off the rails at every autonomous accident, I don't share your pessimism about what the outcome would be of their crackpot protests.

          You just watch how fast legislation gets passed when CNN and every other media outlet does a week straight of coverage of the horrific tragedy caused by the first driverless semi to cause a major deadly crash. The first question every Congressman will be answering for weeks in every interview and press conference will be "What are you going to do to stop this from happening again?" Yes, people have accidents every day too. But Americans have come to accept that. But when a robo-truck kills, everyone and the

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      I agree, we need standardized testing to actually license the software and hardware. Drivers need to prove their aptitude before we allow them on the same burden should be true for autonomous vehicles.
      • "I agree, we need standardized testing to actually license the software and hardware."

        Maybe. I don't think the Silicon Valley folks understand how liability works. If they start killing foiks and destroying property, they're going to find out that license agreements are a dubious protection from predatory lawyers. Auto company programmers understand liability, but I think they have even less understanding of the complexity of a fully autonomous vehicle system than the kids working along El Camino Real do

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @09:24AM (#54017695)

    In today's news, a North Korean businessman who was visiting the U.S. on a tourist visa was killed in a freak accident involving a driverless car in Los Angeles.

  • ... or California is going to be the first place to make a huge technological leap.

    I'm sort of hoping for the second option.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      No technology is perfect and no doubt people will still die in crashes but I think that overall the death total should drop over time as self drivers become the norm. When you consider around one third of highway deaths are alcohol related and then factor in things like cell phone usage and such you can see where autonomous vehicles should have an advantage. The problem is you can have drunks kill 10,000 people and the outcry from a few deaths due to sensor glitches in autonomous cars will drown that all

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @09:35AM (#54017715)

    "I don't trust these newfangled vehicles! Those computers will crash and cause accidents!"

    ...says the human ranting on social media, texting behind the wheel while driving on the freeway...

  • Whether humans or machines drive cars is irrelevant. What DOES matter is HOW they drive.

    Humans are required to pass a standards test. Machines (so far) are not.

    Why is there not a standard being established by the self-driving industry with stakeholders from government and the public?

    The standard needs to be there to set minimum guidelines for:

    - Software vulnerability

    - Computer redundancy (three computers checking each other - like the airplane industry)

    - Obstacle detection

    - Rule downloads/updates by

    • Good list, but I'd add one. There needs to be a remote manual override... if for some reason a police officer wants a car to stop, it needs to stop. If emergency vehicles need a clear path, the car needs to get out of the way.

      Yes, this will mean there will be a minimum level of exploit possible by malicious individuals, but it's necessary to make autonomous vehicles behave appropriately on public roads.

  • Congratulations to Google's lobbyists in Sacremento, I guess.
  • by wired_parrot ( 768394 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @11:16AM (#54018001)
    It seems premature. According to Google's last disengagement report [ca.gov], humans had to take control of the wheel at a rate of 0.2 per 1,000 miles, or 1 per 5,000 miles. While this is significant improvement from their previous report, which showed human intervention once every 1,000 miles, it would not give me confidence that the cars are ready to be in public streets without a driver present. They should be aiming for a rate of human intervention of no more than once per the lifetime of the vehicle (1 per 200,000 miles) before allowing the cars without a human driver.
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 )

      I would also want to make sure those tests reflect a wide variety of real-world driving conditions. An AI driving 1,000 miles on the relatively standardized interstate is WAY different than it driving 1,000 miles on poorly-marked country backroads in Bumfuck, Montana.

  • I don't trust autonomous vehicles because I don't have any reason to. I don't trust Google's or Apple's or Tesla's autonomous vehicles because we in the public (even us nerds) haven't seen enough data to trust them. While someone cited a stat earlier in the conversation like "a human has had to take control once in 5,000 miles", that's not enough. Where were those 5,000 miles? At what speed? What was the other traffic like? Were these 5,000 miles of continually changing conditions or 5,000 of crawling rush

Do not underestimate the value of print statements for debugging.

Working...