Technology

Driverless Cars Legalized in Nevada

|

When someone hits the rumble strips on the highway or bumps over a curb, it's de rigeur in the Mangu-Ward family to shout "Driverless car!" (I know. Nerds. Believe me, I know.) But soon that expression may be a hilarious anachronism, like "taping your soap operas" or "sending a letter by writing it on paper and finding an envelope and putting a stamp on it and taking it to the mailbox and waiting two days for it to arrive." At least in Nevada, where Google's driverless cars are hitting the road.

Google received the first license Monday from the state Department of Motor Vehicles to test the autonomous vehicles. It is believed to be the first such license issued in the country.

The 2011 Legislature passed the first law in the nation to permit testing of driverless cars. But state regulations require a person behind the wheel and one in the passenger's seat during tests.

Those people, presumably, could be some of the state's legal prostitutes, just for double awesomeness points.

For triple awesomeness, watch this blind dude drive to pick up some tacos and his dry cleaning:

NEXT: Cafe Hayek's Don Boudreaux Brings Sanity to the "Half-Witted" Media

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. This post should have been titled “Skynet Gets Its Learner’s Permit”.

    1. Don’t be ridiculous – driving a car requires no self-awareness whatsoever. At least that seems to be the case with half the drivers currently on the road.

    2. Skynet would know enough not to eat at Taco Bell.

  2. My brother-in-law’s huge German Shepard guide dog is watching this development carefully, and with bared teeth.

  3. This has to be stopped. In a few decades every car will have a driverless option. That means that people will no longer drink and drive. If that happens, how will cities raise money? How will defense attorneys pay their bills? How will cops mindlessly harass people? What will MADD do? People might be allowed to drink in peace.

    Just what the hell kind of monsters are you people?

    1. Don’t worry, the law will be amended so that turning on your car and selecting the driverless option while drunk will constitute DWI and force a 5,000 fine and a 6 month forfeiture of your license and keys without trial. We have to protect the children from mommy typing in the wrong house number and accidentally parking the robocar in their neighbors driveway. I bet someone in NJ is already working on it.

      1. This is why I don’t go father in government service than I do. I just can’t think this deeply.

        Seriously, this is going to end DUIs. As fast as technology is developing, how long before the top end Mercs and Acuras have a driverless option? I would be surprised if it is five years. And if it is on a Merc E-class one year, it will be on the baseline Chevy or Honda five years after that. That means in ten years every new car will come with a driverless option. And considering that most people replace their cars every ten years, within 20 years the majority of cars on the road will have such a thing.

        1. Just like the Nevada regulation mentioned in the article they will require that someone be behind the wheel, and that that person will be sober.

          1. For now obviously, but the tech is still in it’s infancy and will take a few years to prove out, not to mention work out the bugs, but inevitably the computer controls will prove to be safer than human operators and such restrictions will wane in time.

          2. That is how they will get around it. Even though the technology is better than an ordinary driver. It might have failed and you were drunk. That will be enough to keep the cult of the DUI alive.

            Of course, if the computer is driving it is going to be very hard to find out who is drunk behind the wheel.

            1. Of course, if the computer is driving it is going to be very hard to find out who is drunk behind the wheel.

              The cops will just lie in wait outside bars and restaurants just as the staties here in MA watch NH gun-stores.

              “I observed the defendant leave the bar walking unsteadily and enter his vehicle. Before I could cross the street to intervene, the defendant started his vehicle and began to back out of the space. Ignoring my attempts to get his attention he departed the parking lot and turned right to the westbound direction of Main St. At this point I radioed ahead to dispatch requesting any unit available on Main St to pull him over based on a probably cause of driving while under the influence”

              And if you staggered because you have a stiff back and the restaurant was cold, or even if the video shown no staggering at all (the cop was viewing from a different angle and innocently made a mistake), the testilying will have its usual effect.

        2. It’s also time for taxi drivers to start looking for a new line of work, not to mention the likely need for cities to replace the mounds of cash they get for auctioning off the artificially restricted Hackney licenses.

          30 to 40 years from now (if not sooner) you won’t call a cab, you’ll call Metro Car or Enterprise, the car will drive itself to your location, and then drop you off at your destination and move on to the next job or return to the holding lot depending on the demand at the moment.

          1. They’ll just require SKYNet Cars, Inc. to get a hackney license. Probably with a surcharge.

            Easy. Peasy.

            1. Wrong reference. You were looking for “Johnny Cab”.

        3. There are massive issues with rolling out a production system that have been glossed over by the current demonstrations. The databases do not exist with the accuracy to take any car any place. Even if the database did exist, road closures, accident reports, and all sorts of temporary restrictions on any individual road will be difficult to communicate to each car.

          Despite mandates and enormous expense, guarenteed collision avoidance (vehicle-to-vehicle) has eluded aviation industry for a long time (and it keeps sliding out to the future each day). And of course, none-cooperative traffic (bicycles, pedestrians, dogs, squirrels, etc) cannot be avoided with enough confidence to guarentee you won’t hit something ever.

          And even though aircraft operations are highly automated, the aviation system depends on a human being to take over in a “what the fuck” scenario like bird strikes taking out both your engines.

          And let’s not forget about rain, snow, ice, sand, litter and other debris that will be extremely hard for any kind of sensor to recognize with the confidence that you need.

          Just plan on calling a fucking cab.

        4. I don’t mean to deminish the cool stuff that Google is doing. I can certainly see a time when you can pull on to a free way, hit cruise control, and the automation takes over everything including speed control, direction control, and maintaining separation from other vehicles.

          I just don’t expect to see door-to-door service in my lifetime.

          1. That’s what John Conner said.

          2. They already have freeway automation cruise control at Mercedes. The attached video shows that Google has door-to-door service now. The stupid thing even goes through a drive-through at Taco Bell… all hands free.

            1. Many companies have experimented with automatic spacing on the freeway. BMW put out videos of cars travelling at very high speeds, only feet apart.

              Google’s demonstrations (including the Taco Bell drive through) have many, many restrictions that must still be overcome. Not the least of which is that all the routes driven by the autocar where previously driven multiple times by data recording vehicles.

              These demos show enormous potential. They are also just like every other engineering demonstration — highly constrained and guarenteed to fail outside those constraints.

            2. One of the restrictions is that pre-recorded data shows where all the fixed obstacles are (like lamp posts). The Google-car uses these pre-recordings to determine the difference between a pedestrian and a lamp post.

              Obstacle detection, recognition, and avoidance is an extremely difficult problem.

            3. Also humans understand that a basketball bouncing into the street is almost certainly going to be followed by a child in a few seconds.

              Computer vision still sucks. First the computer has to see a bouncing ball, then it has to recognize that it is a ball, then it has to trace back in time to see where it came from, then it has to know that it’s looking for a small humanoid shape moving at a fast pace.

              This is non-trivial stuff.

            4. Some kind of fixed guidance devices need to be installed. Which businesses like Taco Bell could maintain if they wanted to.

    2. “Did unlawfully operate…”

      Starting your robot car is operation. They are not easily going to give up the DUI shit. People get charged for just being drunk and turning their car on.

  4. When someone hits the rumble strips on the highway or bumps over a curb, it’s de rigeur in the Mangu-Ward family to shout “Driverless car!”

    When that happens in my car I hear shouts of “DAD! Wake up!!” and “OMIGOD we’re gonna die!”

  5. How long until walkerless shoes?

  6. How long before it’s mandatory?

    1. Hey, if they remove speed limits in the process, I bet traffic flow would improve immensely. Learn to merge, people!

      1. Speed limits raise revenue. They’re not going to get rid of speed limits any more than they’ll take cops off the payroll for enforcing them.

      2. I do this (and at the very least try for the “you go then I go – like a zipper!” policy), while at the same time driving in an, for lack of a better term, assertive manner. I’m generally considered an asshole on the road, but in a situation that actually requires some courtesy I provide more than most.

    2. My thoughts exactly. I hate the trend towards less operator involvement in driving. No fun. At least stickshifts are finally making a bit of a comeback which will (hopefully) give me some better options when buying my next car.

      1. I saw a commercial for some car the other day which would warn you about other drivers in your blind spot. I hate that shit. Drivers start to rely on it and pretty soon they don’t bother to look before changing lanes, and I don’t trust their automated systems to see me on my bike.

        1. The automated system will see you, all right. That’s the problem. They can target and eliminate you quickly.

          1. So long as it’s quickly….

            1. Maybe not on the first impact, but definitely on the second pass over your prone body.

              1. Perhaps two vehicles could cooperate and crush me in between.

                1. Networks. Is there nothing they can’t do?

        2. I wrestled with buying my first accelerate (and BRAKE) by-wire car. I’m creeped out that I don’t have a solid circuit of good old fluid between my foot and the calipers, but then I thought about the other things it does:

          – periodically drying off the pads when it’s wet outside
          – pre-positioning the pads nearer to the disc if I abruptly remove my foot from the accelerator, which shortens braking distance.

          Reasonable people can disagree about the net safety gain or loss until we have something resembling real actuarial data.

    1. The fuck is this hipster shit?

      1. Admittedly not their best song.

  7. I won’t be impressed until the day when I can drop my kids off to school like in The Jetsons.

  8. Who is liable in accidents? Google?

    1. All accidents will become no-fault, and insurance companies will cut checks to everyone within a one-mile radius. That’s why we have to mandate auto insurance, even for people who don’t own cars.

      1. You, sir, are a visionary! Might I recommend running for Congress?

        1. You know, I would. But I’m having trouble ginning up campaign money.

          Where could I find financial support for my idea to mandate buying insurance?

          1. This is why we should have publicly funded elections. So fine candidates like you can finally challenge the system and run!

    2. Question just came up in my office. And the short answer to your question: Yes.

      Before, when some fuckwit without insurance ran you over, you gotsed runned over.

      Now Google(tm) just ran you over. The lawsuit-ness of it is too delicious.

      1. Hey, that’s great. Young law grads are having real trouble finding work. Now they can all sue Google for every collision that happens.

        1. Google donates a lot to politicians, don’t they? I’m thinking they’re not liable.

    3. You would be. Your vehicle.

        1. Settling does not equal fault.

          1. Not my point. My point is you can get sued.

            However, I’m a little old school. And I admit that my quaint ideas and provincial attitudes would probably not pass muster in the cutthroat, devil-may-care world of corporate swashbuckling.

            But when you settle, that means they had a case.

            If someone falsely accuses you of rape, do you settle?

            1. Not necessarily. If it would cost you a couple million and two years of distractions to litigate and you can settle for a half-million now, you probably settle.

              My company was involved in a class-action suit that was spectacularly stupid and wrong. But rather than fight it out, we used the class attorney and the lawsuit to very cheaply eliminate all risk of future lawsuits. 10,000 customers got a small settlement, the lawyer got a couple million and we got a boost of 50 million to our portfolio because of the reduced risk. Did that mean they had a case? No, not in the least.

              1. Not necessarily. If it would cost you a couple million and two years of distractions to litigate and you can settle for a half-million now, you probably settle.

                And that half-million settlement is blood in the water to the rest of the circling sharks, begetting another $40 million in copy-cat suits.

                I understand why companies settle, but I also look at these lawsuits in aggregate, and I am personally convinced they’ve attracted more lawsuits, adding to the pain.

                Imagine you’re an entrepeneurial lawyer filing bullshit classactions. You win most of your cases by settling. Then you see a possible case with ABC corporation so you wiggle the doorknob, only to find they fought and won nearly all of its lawsuits, and has never settled out of court.

                Do you go ahead and try to pry open ABC corporation, or do you move on down the street to the next doorknob and continue looking for one that’s unlocked?

            2. Not it means you did an economic calculation that the costs of settling were lower than the costs of defending the suit.

              This is not a case where a private individual has his life and reputation on the line, it is a pure accounting calculation.

              Also, I can think of a great many cases where someone who thought themselves innocent of a rape charge could be convinced to plea to a lesser charge to avoid the possibility of 20 years in jail for a crime they didn’t commit.

      1. Even if that’s the case, and I’m not sure it is, Google could still be on the hook.

        1. It’s not, john is just projecting how shit should be, not how it is.

          If I run over 25 people in a crowd and I can squeak through an argument that the carz suddenly acceleratedz! you can sue the manufacturer.

          That’s how ‘Murrica does it.

          1. Just thinking about it for a second, I suppose it’s a products liability claim, which means strict liability for Google. At least potentially.

            In theory, once everything is automated and networked, accidents should be reduced dramatically in frequency and scope, so such litigation might be manageable. Until the machines start intentionally attacking us.

            1. Making everything automated means making it illegal to operate your car yourself.

            2. One a complex system (other than your crazy ex-girlfriend) is behind the wheel of a car, things can go wrong. If a sensor fails and no longer accurately reports distance to target, imagine the good times and fun that can ensue.

              1. Could be mitigated by a fully networked system. In that scenario it wouldn’t just be your car, or your sensors. The other cars, street signs, road sensors, etc. all working together and talking to each other. Not just “here I am”, but “Here’s where I’m going”, etc. A broken sensor could be supplemented by these other sources, or an override command could safely shut down the car in the event of spurious data.

                1. Agreed. I’m thinking because of the potential high liability, there will be extra backup systems to monitor proper operation.

                  Google’s car drove 200,000 miles on some of the nation’s most dangerous roads and the only accidents were human error (other drivers). Human error scares me far, far, far more than risk of electronic malfunction and is the cause of 95% of car deaths. Meanwhile, your brakes can still give in at any time today anyway.

                2. A broken sensor could be supplemented by these other sources, or an override command could safely shut down the car in the event of spurious data.

                  While all of this is theoretically true, it’s also entirely possible that a system will fail, and fail catastrophically.

                  I work in a multi-million dollar IT factility, and we’re constantly amazed at how the redundant systems are the ones that cause the failure.

                  Because even if you’re Cisco, failure can occur where you least expect it.

                  You know what’s a good time? Watching the reduntant failover system fight the primary sytem for control, because the failover system erroneously decided that the master had failed.

                  1. The product obviously isn’t mature enough. I have no doubt driverless cars will have bugs that need to be worked out, but I also have no doubt that they can build a product that can perform the equivalent function to a human driver but without the human error, and worst-case-scenario, shuts down upon malfunction, calls a tow truck and signals all the other driverless cars to avoid it.

                  2. “While all of this is theoretically true, it’s also entirely possible that a system will fail, and fail catastrophically”

                    Actually given enough time the certainty of this occurring approaches 1.

                    The question is not whether this is a foolproof system, it is whether a network of automated cars is safer than the alternative, a bunch of unreliable humans of varying driving skills and alertness levels all occupying the roads together.

                    The answer is not quite yet but they are getting close and the majority of the problems they have to work out are matters of implementation and roll out, not unsolved engineering problems.

                    So what we will see is first, enhanced cruise control, where you set you car into cruise control mode and it not only maintains the speed but also maintains distance and spacing to the cars around you and choses a path down the highway that minimizes risk. Next they will add limited self navigation, then fully automated driving on the highways as an option, then fully automated driving on city streets and finally the removal of the human control interfaces on at least some models.

                    Yes, it is a slow roll out, probably over the next 30 – 50 years but there isn’t much short of a collapse of our industrial infrastructure that will stop it.

          2. They will have to change the law limiting liability or the technology will never be used. It is that simple.

            1. Maybe. Problem is, consumers and their ambulance-chasing advocates will object.

            2. They will have to change the law limiting liability or the technology will never be used. It is that simple.

              I’m not sure. The drive-by-wire systems were intially blamed for Toyota’s sudden acceleration syndrome.

              It seems to me that the potential for a lawsuit would drive the industry to fail-safe the shit out of their technology.

              Again, on first blush limiting liability seems like the answer, but it could lead to unintended results.

              1. The transition period seems to be the hard part. While we have automated cars driving amongst human-driven cars, we’re going to have all sorts of problems. And the computers may actually be at fault for plenty of accidents.

                When everything is computerized and networked, that will likely be less of an issue, though it’s scary thinking what a glitch or a hacked system might do.

                1. When everything is computerized and networked, that will likely be less of an issue, though it’s scary thinking what a glitch or a hacked system might do.

                  The irony of all this is that Ralph Nader will finally get his wish.

                  There will finally be a federal mandate that all hoods locked down, all systems to be tamper-free.

            3. No they won’t. The manufacturer will have to build a good product, insure themselves and place responsibility on the consumer to ensure proper maintenance in specified intervals.

  9. Sorry, not good enough, I was promised frikin flying cars by now, where are my frikin flying cars!!!!!!!!!

    On a more serious note, while the tech is impressive and will likely be transformative (likely heralding end of the era of personal car ownership for most if not all) there are some serious concerns about how the police state will use the inevitable tracking data that will be available when all of our movements are tracable in a centralized database.

    1. Sorry, not good enough, I was promised frikin flying cars by now, where are my frikin flying cars!!!!!!!!!

      Done and done. Boom! Already to market.

      http://www.terrafugia.com/

      1. I think that may be my next airplane. It completely changes the assumptions behind “mission profiles” for aircraft, in concert with the relatively new Light Sport certification.

        In terms of product liability, general aviation is an interesting data point. The industry was all but dying until Congress passed a law essentially invalidating claims for product liability for technology over 18 years old that otherwise had a reasonably normal safety record.

  10. Can’t come soon enough. Driverless would be an improvement over the morons who drive in this town.

  11. I can’t wait until I can get in my car, and be all like, “Computer! Take me to the titty bar!”, and it does as I command.

    1. Please tell me you use your Sean Connery accent for that one.

    2. “Car! Liquor Store!”

      1. Could I just send the car and have it return with the booze?

        1. Hell, why not send the kids at that point?

          1. Cause the little bastards always try to keep mah change.

        2. Could I just send the car and have it return with the booze?

          Can’t I just call/text/oneclickorder the liquor store and they send their own autocar over with my order?

    3. A chicken in every pot and a HAL 9000 in every car.

      1. Warty: “HAL. Please take me to the strip joint.”

        HAL: “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dave.”

        Warty: “My name’s not Dave.”

        HAL: “Dave’s not here.”

        1. Joke handle: Sargent Stadanko

          Good thing we didn’t step in it!

          –It’s funny because we’re of a certain age.

          1. Possibly the first known instance of a 2001/Cheech and Chong mash-up.

  12. As the Ruler of the Wasteland, I demand nitrous and the ability to drive head-on into semis without a nanny computer. It’s my right as a consumer.

  13. Trying to be an optimist, I could see this technology as a vehicle (no pun intended) for ending the WOD. After all, if anyone with a car always has a safe way to get home, recreational drug use loses a lot of its “…but think of the children!” ick factor.

  14. I understand the point of requiring someone in the driver’s seat, but what’s the point of requiring someone in the passenger seat? Hostage?!

    1. Carpooling will be mandatory.

      1. I can imagine a future when we get to pick where we’re going but not the route to get there.

        On the other hand, this might make the high-speed rail advocates look stupid–at least in terms of the gridlock argument. Maybe you just give up control once you get on the freeway?

        I can’t imagine why we’ll need taxis in the future. Remote control taxis a la Total Recall are gonna happen.

        Real Soon, I guess.

    2. This is Nevada, right? I assume the passenger is a prostitute.

    3. Not sure about the general case, but in the case of the video the driver was legally blind. So detecting and avoiding problems would be difficult for him.

  15. After just completing a long car trip (10 hours in each direction), I’ll say it would be awfully nice to tell the car where to go, then spend the entire trip sleeping and screwing.

  16. Warning Government:

    Never. I will never give up the capability of complete control of my vehicle.

    1. Nobody will make you sell your vehicle and buy a driverless car. They will merely end manual driving licenses for public roads, or make them prohibitively expensive.

      You can move to a place with all private roads and commit “human error” to your heart’s content.

      1. Somalia, here I come!

  17. Will be a revolutionizing development, easily the best since the Internet. Imagine minimal wrecks and traffic deaths, reduced stress/hypertension, more time to work or play, better fuel efficiency/less pollution, faster commutes, etc.

    Provided the transition is gradual and the technology attains all the safety advances I foresee, I see no real problem (or conflict with libertarianism) with requiring driverless cars. Maximizing safety and minimizing endangerment on public roads is one of government’s only legitimate purposes. As such, they have the right to exclude unsafe vehicles or mandate special licenses to drive them.

    1. Subsidized infrastructure is generally a conflict with libertarianism. So are traffic control devices and laws.

      The purpose of the government is only to protect negative rights, not to protect people who voluntarily chose to do inherently dangerous things.

      1. Well, I support government roads and services paid for via voluntary land value taxes. If you don’t pay taxes (which you don’t have to), you get no drivers license, no garbage service, no police protection, no access to public schools or hospitals, etc.

        But we’re talking as it is: roads paid for via taxes, and therefore government administers road laws.

        Sorry, I’m glad government is preventing four year olds from driving, airplanes landing in the middle of highways and drivers from swerving around me at 250 mph, and I don’t see any conflict with libertarianism preventing these things, since use of roads is a conditional privilege and not a natural right.

        1. WOOT! Private roads FTW! The 4 year olds drive in my neighborhood!

          I kid, but only just.

    2. Will be a revolutionizing development, easily the best since the Internet. Imagine minimal wrecks and traffic deaths, reduced stress/hypertension, more time to work or play, better fuel efficiency/less pollution, faster commutes, etc.

      Whole meals in pill form!

      Slow down, cowboy. This technology is cool, but let’s not get all Segway on it just yet.

      There’s a whole lot of shit that has to happen between driving the way we do now and the Jetsons. Because at best, we’ll have a mixed condition of driverless/driverful cars for decades to come.

      The government’s gonna love them some driverless cars and I suspect that government at some point is going to try to push everyone into them. And then you’re gonna see some pushback.

      1. *And then you’re gonna see some pushback.

        Read: Bipartisan bickering and divided government!

      2. Actually I don’t think the government will have to push at all.

        For the same reasons they almost don’t make manual transmissions anymore I’ll bet that the overwhelming majority of people who grow up after the system becomes fully automated will never bother to learn to drive. You will of course still have a portion of the transition period where there are a few grognards who refuse to give up control because they actually like driving, but not enough for it to even be feasable to license them and from their POV it will look like they are being forced to convert to automatic cars but really their problem will simply be that they are too small of a minority for society to make accomidations for them in public infrastructure.

        Of course I also think there will always be places people can go and drive their “old fashioned” manual control cars as a form of entertainment, just as there are places you can go today and ride horses but you can’t take them on the freeway.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.