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Science Technology

California To License Self-Driving Cars 301

Posted by samzenpus
from the how's-my-driving dept.
DevotedSkeptic writes "Californian senators have passed a bill that looks set to make the state the second in the US to approve self-driving cars on its roads. The bill was passed unanimously by state senators, and now hits the desk of governor Jerry Brown, who's expected to sign it into law. It calls on the California Department of Motor Vehicles to start developing standards and licensing procedures for autonomous vehicles. 'This bill would require the department to adopt safety standards and performance requirements to ensure the safe operation and testing of 'autonomous vehicles', as defined, on the public roads in this state,' it reads."
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California To License Self-Driving Cars

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  • Considering half the drivers there don't seem to be paying attention to their driving, self-driving cars would probably be a huge improvement.
    • by Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @12:06PM (#41206075)

      Considering half the drivers there don't seem to be paying attention to their driving, self-driving cars would probably be a huge improvement.

      I got a ticket about 10 years ago and had to go to driving school. Maybe 50-60 people packed into a room. First two things the guy asked were questions on how close you could legally follow another car, and who had right of way in a simple merge situation and in a lane change. About 75% of the people, by show of hands on a multiple choice answer set got the wrong answer. Which means 3/4 of people on the road don't understand the simplest of rules regarding driving.

      Couple that with being able to get a handful of questions wrong on the driving test, and rarely if ever re-testing, throw in some distraction since driving a two ton killing machine just isn't that interesting after you've done it a couple of months, and you have driving problems and accidents.

      The car knows the rules of the road. It isn't distracted. It wont change lanes every 5 seconds when there's heavy traffic and all lane changing does is increase the likelihood of an accident. It wont tailgate. It won't drive drunk. Its not texting continuously. It wont speed 20mph over the speed limit so as to arrive home 1.5 minutes earlier. In short, it won't do any of the 95,000 things that human drivers do, usually at considerable risk and low to no gain.

      Maybe if people actually read and retained the rules of the road, and didn't drive like they were playing a video game with no downsides and no risk, along with unlimited lives...we wouldn't need this.

      But...we do.

      Good on California legislators for reacting quickly to a potential source of licensing revenue. While they may go for years without addressing serious problems and safety issues, or doing complex things like resurfacing roads...they're pretty quick to respond to an increase in the revenue stream that allows them to continue spending billions on pork every year.

      Now I just have to figure out how to trick them into thinking its fun to spend money on roads and schools.

      • by Atryn (528846)

        While they may go for years without addressing serious problems and safety issues, or doing complex things like resurfacing roads...

        Why can't they have autonomous vehicles resurface roads? That seems like an ideal situation for efficiency... controlled environment since the lanes are usually blocked off anyway, repetitive and standard task, etc. Its always been something done at a bad time of day for humans anyway and you might reduce union problems (once you get over the obvious initial ones to implem

        • don't you need to keep mixing and reloading the assault or concrete and you need people to look over the work as it's going as well.

          • don't you need to keep mixing and reloading the assault or concrete and you need people to look over the work as it's going as well.

            I don't think anyone is assaulting the roads, I think they're just old.

      • by dalias (1978986)
        Actually it means 3/4 of the people who were either stupid enough or unlucky enough to get caught by a cop don't know the basic rules of driving. If your sample is people in (remedial) "driving school" for having lots of tickets, you have a huge selection bias towards bad drivers.
        • Actually it means 3/4 of the people who were either stupid enough or unlucky enough to get caught by a cop don't know the basic rules of driving. If your sample is people in (remedial) "driving school" for having lots of tickets, you have a huge selection bias towards bad drivers.

          I considered that until I realized that I had been stopped for being halfway through a light when it turned red. Which is perfectly legal, but I'm guessing the cop needed some work on his quota.

          So its a little less a situation of being the one stupid enough, just the one trailing the pack by too far a margin. Any which way, the relative randomness of traffic violations seems to offset the plausibility of this being a group of people different from any other group of 50-60 you picked at random.

          My wife perf

      • Good on California legislators for reacting quickly to a potential source of licensing revenue.

        If they look at the revenue part of the equation, they'll never do this - they get a LOT of revenue from traffic tickets, and won't make that up if the cars never make mistakes....

    • ...self-driving cars would probably be a huge improvement.

      For lives saved, of course, it will be quite dramatic, but not for those municipalities that depend on revenue generated by traffic fines it won't. Expect more layoffs of LEOs and bankruptcies, and higher taxes to take up the slack, unless they become more creative in extracting money from the public.

      A side benefit will be the dissolution of MADD

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...and they'll work the security into it after the first major hacker-caused pile-up.

  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @11:59AM (#41206035)

    And your driver's license lets you vote in CA, does that mean these cars get to vote? Can they vote themselves "car friendly" politicians? Will we be talking about "vehicle rights" in the next election?

    In a panic, will we try and pull the plug?

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @12:00PM (#41206051)

    what about stuff like code review and liability?

    Now there are 2 big liability parts criminal liability and civil liability.

    and no who makes the car and or the software coders who make the code can't hide behind a mandatory arbitration or an eula.

    Even more so if say the car hit's some thing out side of the car.

    • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @12:05PM (#41206067)

      There are a lot of interesting legal implications for these self driving cars but all that a side I dream of the day when a drunk can stumble out of the bar and fall into the back of his car and wake up in the drive way of his home the next morning.

      Anyone who seriously moves to prevent the self driving car from becoming reality regardless of how safe they are is simply against saving lives. I'm sure most people will wonder how anyone could be flat out against self driving cars but people like that do exist and at some point this will move from a legal issue to a political issue when it starts looking like mass adoption might happen and these people will come out.

    • Liability won't be an issue. If (when) these are truly safer than humans driving, the insurance industry will be falling over themselves to insure the cars. It'll be pure profit for them, and the incredibly rare incidents that pop up will be more than covered by all the other people driving problem-free.

    • by Halo1 (136547)

      It's not as if cars don't already contain software today that affects how it drives, from anti-lock braking to engine control to powered steering to... It's simply the next (admittedly, big) step, not going from complete manual control to complete automatic control.

    • Who is doing the code review on your brain? Serious question. People crash cars all the time and the automated cars have already been demonstrated to be at least as safe as the best human drivers. Are automated cars perfect? No; but so far their record is.
      • Who is doing the code review on your brain?

        From what I've been able to determine, most people seem to be written in an early variant of Visual Basic.

        Wake me up when they've been refactored.

  • Caution! (Score:5, Funny)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @12:05PM (#41206073) Journal

    Don't put any ethanol in the tank! Or you'll see a lot more DUIs...

  • I assume that in order to actually have one of these things drive on public roads, insurance is required? And which insurance company will insure this relatively incalculable risk, and at what price?
    • by king neckbeard (1801738) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @12:36PM (#41206269)
      I would suspect the first waves of cars would be big companies like Google running tests. In that case, they could meet the legal requirements for insurance themselves. After that, we'll probably have enough data to calculate the risks with far greater accuracy than human drivers.
    • by fisted (2295862)
      And which insurance company will insure this relatively incalculable risk, and at what price?

      Probably the same insurance companies which insure the equally (or even more) incalculable risk of human drivers.
    • by w_dragon (1802458)
      I have a friend who likes importing 15 year old Toyotas from Japan, which are difficult to get insured for the same reason. There are always a couple of companies willing to charge a bit extra to take the risk. They employ actuaries for more than just looking up values in a chart, after all.
  • by physburn (1095481) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @12:12PM (#41206113) Homepage Journal
    I'm expect a lot of political trouble from trucking unions etc. Driving is many peoples livelihoods.
    • That's a |10-38| Outsider blabbing about auto-drive system

      now we need to do to you what we did to jimmy hoffa

    • by 0-9a-zA-Z_.+!*'()123 (266827) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @01:58PM (#41206875) Homepage Journal

      unions aren't designed to protect peoples jobs from automation but to represent collective bargaining issues and represent workers in the face of often arbitrary and hostile (and incompetent) management.

      the forces that prevent government change for something (or force it upon us) are the corporations that benefit most from them. I'm guessing a well known search engine had something to do with the ability to get a law passed that benefits.... them?

      and when lawsuits arise around self-driving cars a well known search engine will hire a high powered PR firm to astro-turf a lobby of "citizens for self-driving robot car rights" and we'll here politicians railing about how small businesses will fail if they have to pay minimum wage to a human driver and the right to own and (autonomously) operate a self-driving car is the American Way.

      Politicians have been destroying the power of unions for decades and never really wanted them in the first place. And that's almost certainly because politicians are the dogs and the corporations are the masters who pull their chains (running dogs of capitalism no less!).

      • by srobert (4099)

        I'd mod that insightful. I can't help but think someday when I get into a "Johnny Cab" in Las Vegas, or New York city. I'm going to have a much higher probability of getting to my destination alive, provided the cab isn't shot at by an out of work cab driver.

  • by Baldrake (776287) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @12:15PM (#41206125)

    It's clearly just a matter of time until automomous cars are head and shoulders safer than those driven by people. Once this happens, adoption will be driven by the insurance companies. It will become prohibitively expensive to drive your own car.

    I actually look forward to this, and wonder how it will change the interior design of cars. Will we turn the front seat around and go for a more social living room style arrangement? Will we dispense with the view from the front windshield in favour of an immersive large-screen TV? Beds for those long drives? Will we have refrigerators and microwaves so we can get breakfast on the morning commute? The possibilities are awesome.

    • by cvtan (752695)
      Yes I could see this. You want to do WHAT!!! Drive your own car?? Whoa, way too dangerous!! Step right into the Space-iPod and don't worry your pretty little head about all that driving stuff! Eeewww!
    • by king neckbeard (1801738) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @12:42PM (#41206317)
      I'm sure there will at least be a market that opens up for drivers who want to personally drive a car. A good stretch of private road and a few boilerplate waivers and we'll all be driving in that same setting car commercials take place in.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Minority report had an interesting vision : 4 seats facing each other in front of a small table. The direction of the car is irrelevant.
    • I actually look forward to this, and wonder how it will change the interior design of cars. Will we turn the front seat around and go for a more social living room style arrangement? Will we dispense with the view from the front windshield in favour of an immersive large-screen TV? Beds for those long drives? Will we have refrigerators and microwaves so we can get breakfast on the morning commute? The possibilities are awesome.

      An autopilot in your RV and you're already there. In more ways than one.

      As a bonus, since they only go 45 mph in straight lines, the system should be pretty easy to set up. Lots of room for hardware and you can use the CPU as a stove top.

      I'm gonna write Winnebago right now...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 02, 2012 @12:20PM (#41206151)

    Car drives you!

    You know you were all thinking it.

  • by LongearedBat (1665481) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @01:07PM (#41206497)

    Somewhat off topic, I know. But if we're going to have auto-driving/piloting, then wouldn't self-navigating ships be more important, from a practical perspective? (Though I can see the fun and technological offshoots in designing self-driving cars.)

    Self navigating cargo ships might need to be be piloted manually when leaving and entering docks (at least to start with), but in the open oceans they could auto-navigate and be centrally monitored.

    Open water piracy would take a dent as there would be no crew to kidnap, and there would be no incentive for ship owners to follow pirates' demands to reroute ships. After all, if you're going to lose a ship and its cargo either way, then might as well do it by not appeasing pirates.

    It would also mean that ships would not be piloted by crews who try to navigate tricky waters to cut corners.

    • It seems to me that either ships and airplanes would be easier to automate than cars. But the incentive to automate both is much smaller, since the cost of keeping a crew is relatively smaller, and neither has stopped time due to the human pilots.

      Automated trucks are the way to go, but better test it on cars first.

    • by deburg (838010)

      Open water piracy would take a dent as there would be no crew to kidnap, and there would be no incentive for ship owners to follow pirates' demands to reroute ships. After all, if you're going to lose a ship and its cargo either way, then might as well do it by not appeasing pirates.

      Dude, methinks ye have not been reading enough sci-fic.

      Piracy will still exist, as long the ship or cargo is valuable to someone. Maybe the pirates will involve the services of a hacker or insider. I can imagine boarding a ship to subvert the computer or sending false "storm avoidance orders" and ordering the ship to hangout at a certain port. Many ways to skin a cat, there is.

  • When police start riding these, we're all in trouble. Imagine a police car which at any given moment knows the exact speeds of the cars around it, and can read license plates of those ahead. Heck, just drive on the highway in an unmarked car, and have it automatically issue speeding tickets to everyone. Neat.

    • by downhole (831621)

      I'm a little uneasy at what will happen when most people are driving these and how they will interact with the police. I suppose there wouldn't be any point in trying to ticket one, but I still would expect they'll eventually do something like on a signal from a police car, the autonomous car will pull over and stop itself. Things just get more ominous, if more unlikely from there. What if it was set up that, if the Government wants you, any autonomous car you get into will automatically drive you to the ne

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