Self-driving cars: New US policies aim to accelerate development

By on May 31, 2013, 10:00 AM

Although self-driving cars may seem a long way off, the US Transportation Department has released a new policy designed to accelerate the development process. It is easy to see why there is such a demand for automated vehicles – they have the potential to eliminate foreseeable accidents and speed up the flow of traffic.

For example, built-in features such as inter-car communications and automatically deploying brakes are just two of several innovations. David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, explained, “We see tremendous promise in these technologies whether you’re looking at the current active safety systems in some vehicles today or whether you’re looking at a truly autonomous vehicle.”

According to the 14-page paper from the NHSTA, research will focus on how the vehicles should react when left unsupervised, as well as protecting the cars from malicious hackers. The Transportation Department has already spent millions of dollars towards self-driving technology, with tests involving close to 3,000 different vehicles.

Despite the advantages that automation has to offer, the NHSTA still wants to proceed with caution. Safety officials have made it clear that licensing the technology to car manufacturers will not be rushed. “NHSTA is right in telling states to slow down, think this through and don’t rush into regulating driverless vehicles,” added Barbara Harsha, the executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The new policies will surely help the technology to advance, but drivers shouldn’t expect truly driverless vehicles to hit the market anytime soon.  That being said, Google is quickly approaching this benchmark through the use of a modified Toyota Prius and Lexus RX 450h; cars that have been equipped with extensive radar, laser and camera systems. The current expectation is that semi-autonomous vehicles, comparable to Google’s current test vehicles, will begin to commercialize in four years.




User Comments: 24

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Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

Electric & self driving cars have been one of mankind's better ideas. I wish this technology would evolve faster than it is. I have driving nowadays.

MilwaukeeMike said:

they have the potential to eliminate foreseeable accidents and speed up the flow of traffic.
I'll bet more on speed up traffic... Humans require a lot of space between cars because even the fastest reflex can't be quicker than two tenths of a second. Computers could get that down to two thousandths probably.

The lawyers are already circling on this issue too... I saw a story the other day about 'Who's going to be accountable' when one of these crashes. They put people in a simulator and found that half of the people tested tried to take over the car before it crashed, while the other half trusted in the car to get out of the bad situation. They'll have to figure out some liability issues before these things can be on the road. The first person to hit one will obviously blame the self-driving car.... until they watch the footage of course.

These cars will need extensive recording 'black-box' type systems to analyze accidents after the fact.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Electric & self driving cars have been one of mankind's better ideas. I wish this technology would evolve faster than it is. I have driving nowadays.

Oh totally... that phrase 'When something seems too good to be true, it probably is.' comes to mind. Well, going on a trip by leaving at 4am and just getting in your car, programming the GPS and drifting off to sleep sounds too good to be true to me. I hope I get to do that in my lifetime.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Oh totally... that phrase 'When something seems too good to be true, it probably is.' comes to mind. Well, going on a trip by leaving at 4am and just getting in your car, programming the GPS and drifting off to sleep sounds too good to be true to me. I hope I get to do that in my lifetime.
I have a better one for you.

How about programming the GPS before you lay down. At some point through the night, you are kicked out of bed, dressed, thrown in the car, and when you wake you are already at your destination.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

Electric & self driving cars have been one of mankind's better ideas.

Those two things are worlds apart in terms of importance. Progress in electrical cars will benefit the entire world immensely. Compared to that, self-driving vehicles are just a publicity stunt, it has very little to offer by comparison, like instead of focusing on driving a solo passenger will be wasting time in the internet.

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

Dome on the top would need to be flatten,if a wind storm or anything else might tear off the bracket. Idea of all of this sounds like more automation and replace the taxi driver with a smart robot electric taxi or personal car for those who don't know how to drive.

TheBigFatClown said:

Okay, first Windows 8 now this....there must be a growing weed epidemic in America. Where in the hell are all these wacko jacko ideas coming from....When I ask myself where all these retarded ideas are coming from I am reminded of the movie 8MM with Nicholas Cage when he asks the lawyer why the old man did what he did and he replies...."Because he could". Self-driving cars??? Ummm....okay then.

What's the purpose of this technology....it would be cheaper to hire a taxi driver for a year than to do the maintenance on a car like this for a year. And would you really trust your life or the lives of your sons or daughters to an electric car you have no control over? LOL. Good luck with that. I wish you all the best.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

What's the purpose of this technology....it would be cheaper to hire a taxi driver for a year than to do the maintenance on a car like this for a year.

Are you trolling? Taxis are insanely expensive, especially for long trips. And imagine the savings (and job losses) that will come for the trucking industry.

Plus drivers are far more dangerous than computers. People are unpredictable and sometimes downright aggressive on the road.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

This is progress going wrong... and this is what this one will create...

Ex-drivers will be bored in the passenger's seat, looking for something stupid to do, like getting wasted, to make up for all the previous years of enforced abstinence.

It will create a new wave of hackers, targeting such vehicles, with the potential to override it and drive you into pits or worse - cause a collision.

Software bugs & patches history...

Update 1: Car couldn't tell road markings from curbs, causing death of pedestrians.

Update 2: Change of clock over midnight caused maximum acceleration.

Update 3: Presence of a dog causes continuous u-turn

etc...

BMfan BMfan said:

I blame the manufacturers,they are making cars sooo boring to drive today that people would rather let the car drive,instead of buying a car with more soul than a prius.

cmbjive said:

What's the purpose of this technology....it would be cheaper to hire a taxi driver for a year than to do the maintenance on a car like this for a year.

Are you trolling? Taxis are insanely expensive, especially for long trips. And imagine the savings (and job losses) that will come for the trucking industry.

Plus drivers are far more dangerous than computers. People are unpredictable and sometimes downright aggressive on the road.

As opposed to "cars that have been equipped with extensive radar, laser and camera systems"? I'll take my chances with a monthly subscription fee with a taxi cab company.

MilwaukeeMike said:

What's the purpose of this technology....it would be cheaper to hire a taxi driver for a year than to do the maintenance on a car like this for a year. And would you really trust your life or the lives of your sons or daughters to an electric car you have no control over? LOL. Good luck with that. I wish you all the best.

Well... what would you prefer?

1) Trust our lives to a computer car built by Google that underwent years of testing and revision vs 2) trust our lives to the drivers around us who are texting, half asleep, stressed out, or worst case, drunk.

Almost every single accident is the result of driver error. The human brain is remarkable at decoding tons of information at once. But it can also miss things and get distracted. A self-driving car will never get distracted, never get tired, never read a billboard or even need to take it's 'eyes' off the road to check the rear-view mirror.

This is progress going wrong... and this is what this one will create...

Software bugs & patches history...

Update 1: Car couldn't tell road markings from curbs, causing death of pedestrians.

Update 2: Change of clock over midnight caused maximum acceleration.

Update 3: Presence of a dog causes continuous u-turn

etc...

When wi-fi came out everyone said we'll all get hacked and lose all our money. Then when smartphones came out they all said the same thing. Then it was NFC. What makes you think they're going to sell some half-baked, untested product? This isn't a product like windows that needs to integrate with a million different unknown things. It's a closed system with limited interfaces, which means it'll be much more stable.

And let's be realistic... you'll never remove all risk. it'll take some adjusting to be sure, and you're free to let others try it out first.

cmbjive said:

"A self-driving car will never get distracted, never get tired, never read a billboard or even need to take it's 'eyes' off the road to check the rear-view mirror."

Does your computer crash? When it does, who has to fix it?

If a self-driving car hits someone who is at fault: the manufacturer, the passenger(s), the dealership that sold the car, or the city who obviously will have to install technology to help the self-driving cars navigate the roads?

There is no such thing as error free technology.

Guest said:

I just want to know who I get to sue when I get hit by one... :)

I don't see how I could hold the driver responsible other than he was dumb enough to buy one.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

Does your computer crash? When it does, who has to fix it?

Fully redundant systems exist. Like the Segway, for example. If one of the boards fails, it safely stops until you have two again. Many servers have two of everything, as well.

cmbjive said:

Fully redundant systems exist. Like the Segway, for example. If one of the boards fails, it safely stops until you have two again. Many servers have two of everything, as well.

But there is a time delay at which you have to get everything back to optimal operation lest everything crashes. When I had to help IT support change batteries for its servers, the senior IT tech told me that we had thirty minutes to get all the batteries changed and back into the servers before all of the data was lost.

My point is that all technology has the potential to fail or encounter unknown errors. Self-driving cars would be no different.

Besides, when a human hits me with a car I know whom to hold accountable.

1 person liked this | davimous said:

The amount of lives that would be saved would my astronomical as long as everyone got on board. Humans love to drive and most of the population doesn't trust computers as we can tell by reading the comments. Insurance companies must hate the idea though. I would love to be able to safely drive drunk home or travel at night while I'm sleeping.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

I have a better one for you.

How about programming the GPS before you lay down. At some point through the night, you are kicked out of bed, dressed, thrown in the car, and when you wake you are already at your destination.

That's teleporting for you.

JC713 JC713 said:

Drive by wire is much better and safer than self driving cars and the development should be accelerated more.

Guest said:

Google has already had self driving cars for years. They have been driving around freeways in California. Also, Las Vegas has passed a law letting autonomous cars drive there.

If you want to find more information on what Google has been doing with autonomous cars, then Google it.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

I think the most exciting promise of all cars being self-driven, is that cars won't have to halt at stop lights. They'll all be in sync and could interleave each other at intersections.

kvdjr18 kvdjr18 said:

Not a good idea. If 2 self driving cars hit each other and if someone gets severely injured, who is at fault. And with Toyota's recent problems, that's even worse.

2 people like this | captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Aren't Americans morbidly obese enough? You want give them cars that drive themselves? That would take away turning the steering wheel as the last vestige of exercise many people engage in..

This is fraught with the potential for abuse. Just think how many "Krispy Kreme" donuts you could in shove in your cake hole, if you could devote all your "effort" to the "task", while your car drove your useless, lazy a**, to work..

Every forum on the internet would need to supply "double wide smileys", so the "big is beautiful" anti-defamation organizations wouldn't claim "discrimination" for only having merely circular emoticons.available, instead of the soon to be popular, flattened oblate, much wider than high "plus size-icons",that will be foisted off on us in the coming years.

After this, we may need to build robots to operate our "Clappers" for us too.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

Aren't Americans morbidly obese enough? You want give them cars that drive themselves? That would take away turning the steering wheel as the last vestige of exercise many people engage in..

This is fraught with the potential for abuse. Just think how many "Krispy Kreme" donuts you could in shove in your cake hole, if you could devote all your "effort" to the "task", while your car drove your useless, lazy a**, to work..

Every forum on the internet would need to supply "double wide smileys", so the "big is beautiful" anti-defamation organizations wouldn't claim "discrimination" for only having merely circular emoticons.available, instead of the soon to be popular, flattened oblate, much wider than high "plus size-icons",that will be foisted off on us in the coming years.

After this, we may need to build robots to operate our "Clappers" for us too.

I LOL'd so hard at this

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