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Transportation Government Technology

California Opens Driverless Car Competition With Testing Regulations 167

Posted by samzenpus
from the johnny-cab dept.
smaxp (2951795) writes "California just released rules for testing autonomous vehicles on California's roads and highways. Californians will soon be seeing more autonomous vehicles than just those built by the Google X labs. These vehicles offer great promise, such as freeing the driver's attention for productivity or leisure, better safety and less congestion. It will be a while, though, before we see these vehicles on the road. From the article: 'Getting started requires the RMV’s approval of testing under controlled circumstances prior to testing on public roads. The manufactures must insure the vehicles with a $5 million surety bond. Autonomous vehicle manufacturers need a permit and test drivers need a special license. The RMV will receive applications beginning on July 1, 2014, and the permits that are granted will be announced beginning on September 1, 2014.'"
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California Opens Driverless Car Competition With Testing Regulations

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  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @02:52PM (#47069653) Homepage

    I call it the aggressive, psychotic driver who makes random, unsafe lane changes, fails to signal, and swoops across several lanes of traffic while doing well over the speed limit.

    Lemme see your driverless car handle that, then we'll see.

    • by Narcocide (102829) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @03:03PM (#47069743) Homepage

      That isn't any sort of a problem for LIDAR at sufficient resolution. It remains to be seen whether it can sufficiently improve traffic flow and accident incidence/mortality rates, but personally I'm more worried about asshats who will purposefully try cloak their cars so that the automated sensors can't even see them at all, just in some misguided attempt to try to prove self-driving cars as unsafe to protect "muh freedomz!"

      Don't get me wrong, I'm personally not interested in one of these self-driving contraptions, but its pretty apparent during any rush hour(s) that at least 90% of the drivers on the road couldn't beat a self-driving car's computer for accuracy to save their own lives on a good day.

      • Why not? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Don't get me wrong, I'm personally not interested in one of these self-driving contraptions, ...

        I would LOVE one of these things. I hate driving and I can't afford to hire a driver. And after an 8 hour road trip yesterday, I would have LOVED to have an auto driven car. Hang back read or something. Because towards the end of the trip, I was having a real hard time concentrating.

        But if I have to pay attention even if under automatic control, then I don't see the point. If I have to pay attention, then I might as well do the driving myself.

        • Re:Why not? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by FlyHelicopters (1540845) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @04:27PM (#47070363)

          But if I have to pay attention even if under automatic control, then I don't see the point. If I have to pay attention, then I might as well do the driving myself.

          Understandable reaction, but you're wrong.

          Autopilots in airplanes do not remove the pilot's requirement to pay attention to what is going on. In fact, by NOT having to physically fly the plane, the pilot has a better idea of what is going on around him/her.

          I can tell you from much experience that autopilots are wonderful things, you'll see more and be aware of so much more once the car does the driving.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by zieroh (307208)

            Understandable reaction, but you're wrong.

            The AC was presenting his personal opinion -- that if he has to pay attention, he's not interested. Technically speaking, one cannot be "wrong" about whether he is interested in it or not. He's either interested, or he's not, and there's only one person on the entire planet that actually has a say in that.

            • You make a good point, fair enough, if the OP doesn't want one because of his personal views, then he is not "wrong" in his opinion.

              I of course was referring to the point that just because you have to pay attention doesn't make an autopilot useless, it actually enhances safety.

          • Re:Why not? (Score:4, Informative)

            by Obfuscant (592200) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @06:11PM (#47071097)

            Autopilots in airplanes do not remove the pilot's requirement to pay attention to what is going on.

            Autonomous vehicles are being promoted for exactly their ability to allow the driver to do non-driving functions (like read, eat, nap, or other things). That's what they mean when they talk about increasing productivity of those who commute to work using one.

            I can tell you from much experience that autopilots are wonderful things,

            Yes, they are. But they are not intended to allow flight in close formation (like a string of autos on the freeway would be), or in close proximity to the ground*. These autopilots are intended for an environment where the closest thing to you is more than 500 feet away at least. And they will quite happily fly you into the ground when they fail. Or fly you to the point you stall and then fall to the ground.

            Here's just one example of how the autopilot can fail, even though the NTSB would call it pilot error (just like everything else, almost.) The Garmin G1000 with (mumble) 700 autopilot has a VS command. That's "vertical speed". You can tell the autopilot to climb at a set rate, say 500 fpm. If you forget to add power you may not be able to achieve a 500 fpm climb (or you may initially make it, but as you climb the performance decreases and you can't keep it) -- but the autopilot will keep trying. It will try to increase your angle of attack to get more lift so you can climb at the rate you've requested. It will keep trying so hard that it may cause your airspeed to drop below stall speed.

            Hello, Pilot, you are now in a full-on stall, probably about to enter a spin, maybe in IMC, and your autopilot has adjusted your elevator trim to full-up trying to do what you told it to do. It's your aircraft. HAND.

            It has, in it's data, the stall speeds for the aircraft it is in because it will display the critical speeds as flags on the airspeed indicator, so it could easily report the problem to the pilot. "Bong -- minimum airspeed reached, climb aborted." It does not. There is a recent article in Aviation Safety, I think it was, about a crash of a military version of a King Air in the mideast that did exactly that. The pilot was IFR and distracted and the aircraft stalled and then spun in.

            There is a very good reason that there are half a dozen (8 for the G1000, as I recall) or more ways of disabling the autopilot in an aircraft. They fail often enough, and in serious enough ways ("hey, let's run your elevator trim FULL UP for no reason at all, bud", e.g.) that it is important to be able to kill George immediately. And have multiple ways to kill him in case the first three didn't kill him well enough.

            You should probably not use aircraft autopilots as examples of robo-perfection.

            * Yes, there are cat III autopilots that will fly the aircraft onto the runway, or "auto-land". It takes specially certified equipment AND CREWS to do that. You aren't going to find many Joe Sixpacks out on a drive that could meet equivalent quals. And that G1000 I use as an example? The aircraft manual prohibits use of the autopilot below 800 AGL, as I recall.

            • Autonomous vehicles are being promoted for exactly their ability to allow the driver to do non-driving functions (like read, eat, nap, or other things).

              Ahh, fair enough... I think we're further away from *that* than we are autodriving cars where you still have to pay attention.

              The car you describe, I could put my kids into and it would take them to school, without my even being there. I think we're more than a few years away from THAT. :)

              But they are not intended to allow flight in close formation

              Actually, you might be surprised, there are such autopilots... First, the autopilot on most modern airliners can do a Cat III autoland in zero/zero conditions. You don't touch the controls until you're doing a go aroun

          • by guruevi (827432)

            Plenty of pilots sleep while they're doing an automated flight, they also have laptops or tablets these days for personal use. There have been some reported incidents where pilots were caught doing those things.

      • by dpidcoe (2606549)

        but personally I'm more worried about asshats who will purposefully try cloak their cars so that the automated sensors can't even see them at all, just in some misguided attempt to try to prove self-driving cars as unsafe to protect "muh freedomz!"

        Screw passive cloaking, lets see how well that self driving sensor package works when getting hit full in the face with some broad spectrum jamming.

        Depending on how well driverless cars handle that sort of thing (and how well they can trace any jamming back to the source), I could imagine jamming might replace sawing partway through the tie rods or poking holes in the brake line as the hip new way for arranging accidents for inconvenient people.

        • I could imagine jamming might replace sawing partway through the tie rods or poking holes in the brake line as the hip new way for arranging accidents for inconvenient people.

          Yea, because the government totally won't have a backdoor already installed at the factory for dealing with... let's call them "undesirables."

          Nope, nein, no way, huh-uh, not gonna happen...

          • by jopsen (885607)

            Yea, because the government totally won't have a backdoor already installed at the factory for dealing with... let's call them "undesirables."

            What makes you think they don't already have that... most cars can be drive to accidents electronically these days...

        • Depending on how well driverless cars handle that sort of thing (and how well they can trace any jamming back to the source), ...

          Self driving cars, or SDCs, use multiple sensors, including LIDAR, visible light cameras, GPS, rotary encoders and inertial sensors. The LIDAR is usually infrared, rather than the RF used in RADAR. Good luck jamming that. Since your jammer would have to be high powered direct line-of-sight, and SDCs record sensor data, tracing the source would be easy. Even if you shut down all the sensors, the car would apply the brakes, and pull off the road. It is conceivable that you could kill someone, but it wou

          • by dpidcoe (2606549)

            GPS

            Not gonna help you avoid road obstacles, or even do much more than really general navigation. Also jammable.

            rotary encoders

            Again, not going to help you much at avoiding things unless they're things that you saw before being jammed.

            inertial sensors.

            depends on how accurate they are, but that goes into the same category as rotary encoders in terms of avoiding things.

            The LIDAR is usually infrared, rather than the RF used in RADAR.

            Yeah, did the term "LIDAR" give it away?

            Since your jammer would have to be high powered direct line-of-sight, and SDCs record sensor data, tracing the source would be easy.

            It doesn't have to be very high powered at all, not does it need to be a brute force DOS attack. I bet there are plenty of ways of spoo

        • by zieroh (307208)

          Screw passive cloaking, lets see how well that self driving sensor package works when getting hit full in the face with some broad spectrum jamming.

          Oh, it's a lot easier than that. I anticipate that we'll see exploits right off the bat that are based solely on specific behaviors next to / in front of / around an autonomous vehicle. It probably won't be hard to force one off the road just by aggressively encroaching into their lane and matching their rate of deceleration.

          Dangerous, sure. Irresponsible, absolutely. But inevitable just the same.

      • by Ksevio (865461)
        Even if you jammed the LIDAR, visual (or thermal) cameras could detect the cars moving. It's non-car objects like children or tree branches that are more difficult.
      • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @04:19PM (#47070283)

        That isn't any sort of a problem for LIDAR at sufficient resolution.

        Indeed. Google regularly subjects their cars to these types of scenarios, both in simulation and on test tracks. It is odd that when people try to come up with situations that SDCs "obviously" can't handle, they so often describe situations where SDCs have a clear advantage due to their much faster reaction time.

      • That isn't any sort of a problem for LIDAR at sufficient resolution.

        Yes, it is. People keep insisting on thinking of just one small part of the issue as being the whole problem.

        What happens when it sees a vehicle coming the wrong way down the highway and there are cars in the adjacent lanes? How does it choose whether to smash into the car on the right, which has kids in it, or the one on the left, which is a big truck, or take the head-on?

        Just for example.

        This is probably what is going to happen, just like it happened to computer-controlled engines, antilock brake

        • by Copid (137416) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @06:08PM (#47071071)
          I think that the driver of the vehicle going the wrong way down the highway would probably be at fault.

          It's easy to come up with vanishingly rare scenarios with no solution that a computer won't be able to solve (although how a human driver would do better in this situation is beyond me). Making policy based on bizarre edge cases is silly.
        • A computer controlled car can't do worse than a human in that sort of situation. Most drivers would probably just reflexively swerve somewhere before even seeing what is going on in adjacent lanes.

        • More likely scenario: It would cease acceleration and break at a speed and accuracy you could only dream of and pull into the pocket behind the truck or family and match the speed of the truck exactly enough to slowly pull away from its bumper. A maneuver that not within the abilities of your average human driver. (Though I'm sure there are some stunt drivers who could handle it.)

      • No matter how good, how sensitive, if your car breaks fast to avoid hitting a car in front, the drunk behind you in a Suburban can still cream your Prius.

      • by jez9999 (618189)

        Don't get me wrong, I'm personally not interested in one of these self-driving contraptions

        Why not? They sound a fuckload better than the daily commute, if you still had the opportunity to drive yourself for pleasure when you felt like it.

    • Because humans react faster than computers?
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        No, but humans tend to adapt to things faster.

        Computers ... well, I have less faith in that.

        Not saying it wouldn't out-perform some humans, but the random stupid stuff I see on the road every day tells me they better have a LOT of coverage for corner cases.

        • The real test is to have the driverless cars race 500 miles at a super speedway like Daytona.

        • Can you apply a different brake pressure to each one of your 4 wheels?
        • Humans can adapt to situations they have no prior experience with, usually after failing the first few times. Watch a 1 year old try and walk, for example.

          As for computers, they are stunningly good at doing things they have been programmed for.

          Airplanes can take off, fly, and land better than you or I can, far, far better... Airplanes have had autoland for almost 40 years now, people can't do that without being able to see something (even if it is using thermal or other enhanced technologies).

          In the big p

          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            Airplanes can take off, fly, and land better than you or I can, far, far better...

            Because airplanes have wings that provide lift and you and I don't.

            If you are saying that autopilots can fly aircraft better than you can, well, that may be true. I'd like to see one handle the Gimli Glider or Sully's Water Landing better than the pilots involved. Or the the Sioux City DC9.

            Airplanes have had autoland for almost 40 years now,

            Some airplanes have had that, and it requires special certification for the aircraft and crew to do it. A bit more training than the typical Department of Motor Vehicles road testing for a new driver's license. Many m

            • If you are saying that autopilots can fly aircraft better than you can, well, that may be true. I'd like to see one handle the Gimli Glider or Sully's Water Landing better than the pilots involved. Or the the Sioux City DC9.

              You are quite right...

              However, if you add up all the accidents caused by human pilots and add up all the "saves" caused by human pilots, you're not ahead.

              If you went ahead and allowed everyone to die who otherwise would have been saved by a human pilot, yet saved everyone who was killed by a human pilot, you would be net ahead of the game.

              ---------

              Example... Airbags in cars have saved thousands of lives... they have also killed a few dozen people... do you remove them because of even one death, or do you

      • by epyT-R (613989)

        No, but humans are much more contextually aware than computers.

        • by orasio (188021)

          Tell that to google search, or wolfram alpha

        • by Ksevio (865461)
          But computers can have multiple input sources and be monitoring all (potential) blind spots at once. Humans only have the forward facing eyes. Of course it remains to be seen if the software can handle the inputs to make good driving decisions, but that's not an impossible challenge.
        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          Most of the accidents I see are due to people not being contextually aware. I'd have more faith in a computer that can look in every direction at once.

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Also, let's see how it deals with a bi-directional bike lane where one of the lanes is against traffic. These exist in Montreal, as well as other places I'm sure. Instead of putting 1 bike lane on each side, they put them both on one side of the street. When turning across the bike lane, you have to watch out for cyclists coming from both directions.

      Also, let's test in snow. I'm tired of these things that only work in sunny California. It's bad enough that cell phones don't work with gloves on. I would
      • Will it get lost in Death Valley.

        http://www.npr.org/2011/07/26/... [npr.org]

      • Have you been to California? The Sierras can be ridiculously treacherous. Personally, I'd sooner put my trust in a computer than I would a Texan who's only seen snow on Wikipedia.
      • by swillden (191260)

        Also, let's see how it deals with a bi-directional bike lane where one of the lanes is against traffic. These exist in Montreal, as well as other places I'm sure. Instead of putting 1 bike lane on each side, they put them both on one side of the street. When turning across the bike lane, you have to watch out for cyclists coming from both directions.

        Why in the world would you think that's a problem for a vehicle with LIDAR continuously scanning in all directions? Unlike a human who has to remember to look both directions, an automated car will always be looking in all directions.

        Also, let's test in snow. I'm tired of these things that only work in sunny California. It's bad enough that cell phones don't work with gloves on. I would hate it if my car failed to operate when there was a little bit of snow falling.

        Even if the computer couldn't handle driving in snow your car wouldn't "fail to operate", it would just fail to drive itself. You'd have to operate it, as you do now. One common concern about this situation is that your driving skills would atrophy and then be called upon in t

    • by jcochran (309950)

      I call it the aggressive, psychotic driver who makes random, unsafe lane changes, fails to signal, and swoops across several lanes of traffic while doing well over the speed limit.

      Lemme see your driverless car handle that, then we'll see.

      Let's see now.

      Aggressive driver going well over the speed limit cutting in front of me.... Don't really see that as a problem if the autonomous car is doing the speed limit. Yes, there's an interval where the car is too close for safe following, but the aggressive driver fairly rapidly increases the gap. (after all, you did state "going well over the speed limit"). As for failure to signal? I somehow doubt that the programming and sensors for the autonomous car will even notice turn signals. It will however

      • Will they do the speed limit when most of the traffic is going over?

        Will it miss read school zones? Both ways?

      • by AK Marc (707885)

        Random - That's the impression a HUMAN driver would have. A better term for "random" would be "unpredictable". And since the autonomous vehicle would be monitoring the relative location of nearby vehicles, people, and other objects the main criteria is "will that object with its current velocity and potential acceleration impact this vehicle?"

        That's the impression a bad driver would have. The person weaving doesn't say "oh, I traveled 10*RND(x) seconds, I'll change lanes to [left/right]." They say "I wish to be going the speed that should be legally set, and I'll weave to go it. I'll go in the open space to the right." And yes, there are documents indicating that Dallas was notified that they broke State law in setting artificially low speed limits, but they ignored it and set illegally low limits for a while until people started fighting in

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      The driverless car, going the speed limit in the presence of the driver you mention who is "speeding", would ignore the aggressive driver. And nothing bad would happen.

      Why do so many people complain about those in front of them going faster than them? They are in front of you, and going faster than you. They will not affect you in any way, unless they crash, which happens very rarely (on a per-passenger-mile scale).
      • "Did you ever notice that anyone driving slower than you is 'An Idiot!', and anyone driving faster than you is 'A Maniac!' ???"

        - George Carlin

    • I call it the aggressive, psychotic driver who makes random, unsafe lane changes, fails to signal, and swoops across several lanes of traffic while doing well over the speed limit.

      At night, during a blizzard, on a section of road with more holes than a chunk of Swiss cheese.

      You know, get that realism factor going full-steam.

      • At night, during a blizzard, on a section of road with more holes than a chunk of Swiss cheese.

        Uphill! Both ways!

        I had to deal with that when I was a kid. But tell the driverless cars of today that, they'll just sit and stare at you.

    • by jopsen (885607)

      I call it the aggressive, psychotic driver who makes random, unsafe lane changes, fails to signal, and swoops across several lanes of traffic while doing well over the speed limit.

      Lemme see your driverless car handle that, then we'll see.

      I personally look forward to driverless cars... no more looking before crossing the street..
      If you want to cross the street just jump out in front of a car...


      I saw one of the cars when I visited Mountain View a few weeks ago, and I was so tempted to jump out infront of it to see what happens :)

    • by delt0r (999393)
      It will handle it better than any slow to react wet computer with only two rather directional sensors.
  • I hope it's not the same special training that Law Enforcement gets for driving at 70+mph without a seat belt on. I think the lesson on sudden impacts loses a lot of students.
  • ...because it looks like regulation is working overtime to stifle development of autonomous cars before they become practical.

  • I'm curious as to how they handle various types of mechanical failure - what does the car do if:

    • tire flat
    • tire blowout
    • brake failure
    • power steering failure (I had a hydraulic hose pop once in my F350... very tough to steer!)
    • engine overheat / low oil pressure
    • Unexpected out-of-fuel (fuel tank puncture / unreported battery failure) - does the car attempt to get to the shoulder in an orderly fashion?
    • occupant emergency - passenger may just want to pull over suddenly for whatever reason (nausea, or window gets brok
    • Most of those: power down engine, alert the driver and transfer to manual control. An autonomous car doesn't need to handle every scenario, it just needs to recognize when a situation is outside its parameters and let the human take over from there.
      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        Most of those: power down engine, alert the driver and transfer to manual control.

        Excellent response. Your car is driving you at 70MPH on the freeway in traffic and sees a problem. "Bong -- I've detected a condition outside my parameters. I've shut your engine off and you've got control. Put the book down, assess the situation, and do the right thing, human! NOW!"

        "Oh, I forgot to tell you, that semi right behind us doesn't respond to my data signal so it must have a human driver. Hope he's awake and alert, cause we're STOPPIN!"

        • Yeah. How's that any different then when you have to slam on your brakes during any other emergency?
          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            Yeah. How's that any different then when you have to slam on your brakes during any other emergency?

            Well, I'd guess it's different because YOU were in control of the vehicle and aware of the surroundings when you applied the brakes, and you didn't shut off the engine when doing so (killing any power steering, btw). When the car decides to bail out on you because it finds itself "outside the operating parameters" you may be in the middle of a book, completely unaware of what's going on, need to observe and analyze the situation, and then deal with a car that has left you without an engine or reasonable st

            • My point precisely.
              The car must be designed such that it can continue to function without a driver until the driver is actually capable of taking over - it should get the car to the shoulder in a resumable fashion, etc.

    • I'm sure it handles them as well as any human being--which is to say, it ignores it completely until the car stops in the center lane and causes a 5 mile backup.

      At least that seems to be how it works in LA...

    • by Yosho (135835)

      I'm curious as to how they handle various types of mechanical failure - what does the car do if:

      For all of the situations you listed, the solution is quite simple: turn on the warning lights, slow down, pull over to the side of the road, and display an error message to the driver. Then either let the driver take control or resume control after the problem has been fixed.

      In addition, do these cars handle unexpected road conditions:
      Unannounced road closures/detours

      Detect that the road is closed and calculate a different route.

      Tree blocking part or all of roadway

      If it's not blocking all of the roadway, drive around it. Otherwise, see above.

      Large sinkhole ruins part of all of roadway

      See above.

      Potholes

      Detect and drive around them.

      Road maintenance requiring speed reduction (chip&seal)

      See above.

      Dirt or gravel road

      Just keep driving? I don't see how this i

  • I'm not usually that pedantic, but...

    Californians will soon be seeing more autonomous vehicles than just those built by the Google X labs. [...] It will be a while, though, before we see these vehicles on the road.

    So which is it? Soon? Or awhile?

    Or is it that we'll be seeing them somewhere other than the road? Like in the ocean, up in trees, or in our backyards?

  • So when can we expect these autonomous vehicles to be fully deployed on our (U.S.) roads? 5 years? 10? Will they be able to cross over into other countries?

    Also, would the 'driver'/'passenger' have the ability to regain control at any given time, even if they are not legally licensed to drive?

  • by Yosho (135835) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @10:46PM (#47072087) Homepage

    is how every time there's an article about autonomous cars, there are waves of people who have spent about five minutes thinking about the subject and are sure that they have come up with a laundry list of show-stopping issues that the people who've been working on this problem for a decade could not have possibly thought of.

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.

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