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Science Technology

California To License Self-Driving Cars 301

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 02, 2012 @11:57AM (#41206017)

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

  • 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 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.

  • Re:Not safe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wintersdark ( 1635191 ) on Sunday September 02, 2012 @01:18PM (#41206609)

    Well, 300,000 miles, one non-fatal accident (with, again, a human at the wheel - but we'll ignore that for now).

    Now, I pulled these numbers of a set of google searches. There was a fairly wide range of stats, so I took a bit of an average:

    Insurance industry assumes one accident CLAIM per 17.9 years (lots of minor accidents go unclaimed, but we'll ignore them too). Average of 15,000 miles per year per driver. Thus, an average of one accident per 268,500 miles per human driver.

    Of course, while the human driver stats are numerous (and this is why insurance is expensive!) the self driving car stats are not. Only one accident with new, unrefined technology in 300,000 miles... and that with a human in control of the car.

    That said, your example? That's where a self driving car is much, much better than a human. A human driver with a pregnant woman giving birth, woken up in the middle of the night is going to be tired, highly agitated and distracted and definitely not at his best. The self driving car isn't tired. It doesn't care what time it is. The self driving car will be aware of the speeding racers - and know their exact speed, trajectory, and likely path - sooner than the human driver will, as these are very simple computations to make. The self driving car is indifferent to the passenger; which is also important. It's not distracted, worried, or anxious.

    Of course, there certainly are cases where that's just not good enough, extreme emergency cases. That's why all these self driving cars can be driven in manual mode. You've always got that option if need be.

    Obviously, routes being set aside for autonomous vehicles will be safer, but routes mixed will be safer than pure-human routes, because autonomous cars are simply safer than human driven cars overall.

    I've been rearended while stopped at traffic lights six times in the last twenty years; every time due to an inattentive driver. None of those would happen with an autonomous car.

    Finally, yes, mechanical/electronic failure can result in crashes. Just like it can with human drivers - sticking accelerators, for example, failing steering linkages, brakes, etc. Software problems? No different than a human driver having a heart attack, stroke, seizure, getting stung by a bee, etc - those all happen all the time. There's no real difference there.

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