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Here's why Google ditched the steering wheel and pedals in its self-driving car

By Shawn Knight
Mar 18, 2015
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  1. google google x sxsw autonomous car steering wheel sxsw 2015 astro teller

    During his closing keynote at South by Southwest, Google X director Astro Teller provided a bit of insight into exactly why the company ditched the steering wheel and pedals in its autonomous car (but kept some other human aides like windshield wipers and mirrors).

    After logging thousands of hours behind the wheel, Google’s autonomous driving team recruited other employees outside of the division to test their vehicle. At the time, the self-driving feature only worked during highway driving meaning a human had to drive the car to the highway before relinquishing control.

    Part of the agreement was that these new testers would need to focus all of their attention on the road when the car was driving unassisted, just as they wouldl be expected to do in any other vehicle. Knowing this and also being aware of the fact that they were being recorded, drivers’ poor human habits kicked in almost immediately.

    Considering that people already do stupid things like texting while driving a car they are 100 percent in control of, it goes without saying that things got even worse when they weren’t actually driving. Teller didn’t give any specific examples although he did say it wasn’t pretty.

    The experiment led them to the painful conclusion that humans simply wouldn’t be a reliable backup and that the car needed to be in control at all times. The best way to express this, Teller said, was to eliminate the pedals and wheel completely.

    The windshield wipers and mirrors, however, were left on the car for legal reasons. As it turns out, cars are required by law to have such accessories, even if humans aren’t at the helm.

    Permalink to story.

     
  2. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 6,498   +2,051

    Self driving cars can't come fast enough for me but it'll be a while before they're a common sight on our roads.
     
  3. RustyTech

    RustyTech TS Guru Posts: 865   +434

    "...humans simply wouldn’t be a reliable backup and that the car needed to be in control at all times."

    and so it starts [insert dramatic music]
     
  4. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,553   +2,358

    "The experiment led them to the painful conclusion that humans simply wouldn’t be a reliable backup and that the car needed to be in control at all times. The best way to express this, Teller said, was to eliminate the pedals and wheel completely."

    It never ceases to impress me how daft techies can be. Allow me to break this down via syllogism...

    Humans are fallible creatures. Because humans are fallible creatures, they will not always be reliable. Because humans are not always reliable, they cannot always act as a reliable backup. If we design a car with no pedals or wheel, the impact of human fallibility will be greatly reduced because humans will not be in a position to act as a backup. Instead, all navigational input, primary and secondary, will be handled by a computer designed, constructed, and programmed by humans.

    I whole-heartedly agree that this is a painful conclusion. The more you think about the logic being employed by an elite executive in the tech industry, the more you realize you're being ripped off by your current socioeconomic reality.
     
    spectrenad likes this.
  5. Mikymjr

    Mikymjr TS Enthusiast Posts: 121   +8

    I think it's not about being Human at all, cause even the car and it's electronics are made by humans.
    They will have a fault or mistake somewhere, be it very small to very huge. We can only test to get those mistakes out. What I'm saying is that davislane1 here in the comments is right. It's more about some drivers being ignorant about paying attention to the road or are just plain insane (really don't know how some people got their drivers license in the first place)
     
  6. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,154   +1,429

    Evidently, they also ditched good taste in cars altogether. That thing looks ridiculous.
     
  7. And what happens when the computer inside the car malfunctions? Does Google really believe that at no time will the computer or equiptment ever fail? Some form of control would need to be available. If say the camera's went out, or the computer locks up.

    Sorry Google, I wouldn't buy a car without some form of control.
     
  8. SirGCal

    SirGCal TS Maniac Posts: 365   +136

    Who pays the ticket when the car doesn't slow down for a construction zone or something else which is otherwise obvious but all too often obscured from a camera's lense? So it was 65 and is now 40 and the driverless car gets pulled over for 15 over (that's very bad). Who gets the ticket?

    Do you need a driver's license to operate a driver-less car? Do you have to be of age to get in and tell it where to go? It could be the perfect new nanny-car otherwise. Take the kids to school, etc. Ya, I don't see that happening any time soon myself.
     
    davislane1 likes this.
  9. Cycloid Torus

    Cycloid Torus TS Evangelist Posts: 1,657   +309

    "The windshield wipers and mirrors, however, were left on the car for legal reasons. As it turns out, cars are required by law to have such accessories..." but I suppose I could drape them in black crepe.
     
  10. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,180   +73

    No, it just thinks the people in the car won't be able to do anything useful about that, which is most likely true. Someone not driving a car (that is, a passenger in a self-driving car) will take many seconds to respond to an emergency, and if the malfunction is not an emergency, there might be a way to deal with it which doesn't involve pedals and a wheel.

    And yes, these cars will have to be designed to be very trustworthy.

    I can imagine however that once driverless cars become the norm, people will start adding a wheel and pedals to play racing games while the car drives. I'm sure that will be a thing.
     
    spectrenad likes this.
  11. spectrenad

    spectrenad TS Rookie Posts: 97   +18

    Exacly.

    But I still think a wheel and pedals are required. Like, if you are driving offroad, or in a specific situation, like a construction zone, with a flagman leading the traffic and traffic cones everywhere.
     
  12. "Considering that people already do stupid things like texting while driving a car they are 100 percent in control of.."
    --> I see that as 'natural selection'

    "The experiment led them to the painful conclusion that humans simply wouldn’t be a reliable backup and that the car needed to be in control at all times. The best way to express this, Teller said, was to eliminate the pedals and wheel completely"
    --> That painful conclusion sounds genius, I agree that.. But, the option to eliminate the pedals and wheel completely sounds stupid.
     
  13. "The best way to express this, Teller said, was to eliminate the pedals and wheel completely"

    omg, it seem they want to replace pedals and wheel with some touchscreen interface, or maybe it can be connected to your smartphone :D
     
  14. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 1,669   +778

    Not unlike the old Mercury Space Program, you might have the greatest design this side of the moon but if you don't give the operator a stick, peddle, and ability to manually take control, it's ain't going to fly! There are simply too many variables and situations where manual control may/will become necessary. The real usefulness will be when this kind of control is an option on standard cars and can be engaged at will so the driver can turn over control in order to do some txting, talk on the phone, take a snooze, or just stare out the window at the hot babes .... of course I am assuming there will still be hot babes when it becomes available .... and of course I won't be too old to remember WHY I'm staring at the hot babes ...... :)
     
  15. RzmmDX

    RzmmDX TS Guru Posts: 305   +62

    Well, as long as the car is built like a bunker that could withstand a nuclear blast and all the airbags are like soft marshmallows.

    Sure.
     
  16. unloco101

    unloco101 TS Rookie

    No one is going to buy it without steering and pedals... maybe 100 years from now, that can be taken out, but there is no way I am buying a car that I cant pull into my yard for maintenance or drive down a dirt road to my friends house. If I see an accident from those clumsy analog drivers, can I not pull into a safe spot to give assistance?

    A bird hits your rotating laser on top the car on the highway, there is NO other way to get to a safe spot?

    A criminal can run up in front of the car and rob you... the car wont move while he is there. The new trend will be pedestrians setting up road blocks demanding tolls to pass or they will break your sensors lol

    The roads seem like a simple place for a computer to navigate, but it cannot react to how people will adjust to them without manual override.
     
  17. You can imagine how easily you can be kidnapped. Just punch an address and the car takes you somewhere else, at a predetermined address - by your kidnapper. No thanks! I'm not buying a car that I don't trust. I like to choose my own road and if I have to die it will be by my hand.
     
  18. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,180   +73

    Come to think of it, smartphone connection is a great idea. The likelihood that the passenger of the car will be on their smartphone is very high, so it will be the quickest way for the car to get attention and some reaction.
     
  19. "Come to think of it, smartphone connection is a great idea. The likelihood that the passenger of the car will be on their smartphone is very high, so it will be the quickest way for the car to get attention and some reaction."

    it'll also the quickest way for the car to get attention and become target for hackers, noooo :)
     

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