Self-driving vehicles

Google's Robot Car Cuts Off Delphi's Robot Car: No Road Rage Ensues

What is the self-driving equivalent of flipping the bird?



Self-driving vehicles are coming sooner to America's highways than many expect. In what appears to be the first of its kind encounter, a tricked-out self-driving Google Lexus rudely cut off a similarly accoutred Delphi Audi in the mean streets of Palo Alto, California. Reuters reports:

The incident occurred Tuesday on San Antonio Road in Palo Alto, said John Absmeier, director of Delphi's Silicon Valley lab and global business director for the company's automated driving program, who was a passenger in one of the cars.

No collision took place.

Google declined to comment.

Absmeier was a passenger in a prototype Audi Q5 crossover vehicle equipped with lasers, radar, cameras and special computer software designed to enable the vehicle to drive itself, with a person at the wheel as a backup.

As the Delphi vehicle prepared to change lanes, a Google self-driving prototype—a Lexus RX400h crossover fitted with similar hardware and software—cut off the Audi, forcing it to abort the lane change, Absmeier said.

The Delphi car "took appropriate action," according to Absmeier.

Appropriate action? What is the self-driving equivalent of flipping the bird?

For more on the how morality will need to be built into self-driving cars, see my article, "The Moral Case for Self-Driving Cars."

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  1. Why is Feyenoord kid now wearing a Carolina Hurricanes shirt?

    1. JB: The miracle of photoshop?

  2. Self-driving vehicles are coming sooner to America’s highways than many expect.

    No, they’re not. Planes, yes. Cars, no. And I am strongly in favor of self-driving cars when I say that.

    1. NAS: By 2020 some will be on sale.

      1. This seem incredibly optimistic to me. By 2020 the technology to have them on sale will certainly be there (it already is), but I think you’re giving the government too much credit. I expect them to weigh self driving cars down with so many binders full of regulations that they won’t get up to speed for a lot longer than that.

        1. “I expect them to weigh self driving cars down with so many binders full of regulations that they won’t get up to speed for a lot longer than that.”

          And if you think some agency won’t demand records of who traveled where, you are giving the government more credit than due.
          Roberts will easily find that was the intent buried in O-care.

        2. *ding* We have a winner. We live in the Precautionary Principle world today. There can be no risk (except to taxpayer wallets, of course).

        3. I expect them to weigh self driving cars down with so many binders full of regulations that they won’t get up to speed for a lot longer than that.

          I expect government to kiss the ass of insurance companies.

          Consider the increased insurance rate on your human-driven car as a penaltax.

        4. Judicious donations can smooth over an awful lot of regulatory concerns. Unlike the drug war and other cultural relics that are slow to change, there doesn’t seem to be a party with a strong financial stake in opposing autos. I’d expect a fast track.

      2. No. You’re writing as someone who has never shipped a product to market.

        1. NAS: True that, but I believe (naively?) that it’s such a killer app that fierce competition will bring it to market sooner rather than later. Let’s talk in five years.

          1. In five years I expect us to be in gulags, not self driving cars.

            1. Gulags for some, self-driving cars for others?

            2. The good news is that you’ll be taken to the camp by a self-driving train.

          2. And you are being quite naive. 😉

            There are massive technical problems still to be solved. GPS isn’t accurate enough or available enough. GPS is also trivial to jam, and there are commercial jammers available for a few hundred bucks. The gigantic databases of all streets, alleys, parking lots, etc will be a configuration management nightmare. Keeping all the data online solves some of the problems, but makes a continuous datalink from the vehicle to the central database a critical requirement. And then there are all the sensors that have to be mass produced at commercially viable price points that must never fail or must be fail passive. And these sensors must be easy and low-cost to maintain for the life of the vehicle.

            The first implementation will be on big commercial rigs where the business case is positive.

            1. I, for one, welcome our new Maximum Overdrive and Killdozer overlords.

      3. There will long-haul vehicles capable of driving “hands-free” on limited-access freeways very, very soon (Mercedes has already demonstrated one).

        A car that can go any where at any time will be decades away regardless of what Google says.

        1. Yeah, advanced cruise control will be more like it.

          1. Engage autopilot on the on-ramp, return to manual control on the off-ramp. Really quite doable and cost effective on a big rig I assume.

    2. Agreed. I think assistance technologies will (continue to) be a big thing, but totally self-driving cars will meet with adoption hurdles.

      1. One problem where Google, specifically, has a problem is they don’t have a clue about attractive design. Even the second-generation car design they are about to unveil looks goofy.

        This isn’t even getting into their approach to self-driving cars, which is to build a humongous big data map of any area where it will operate.

  3. Who is liable if a collision takes place?


    2. Deep-pocketed manufacturers, of course.

    3. The taxpayer.

    1. How about the PE who signed off on the code?

      1. QA guy is fucked more than normal in the dev-stack how’d-it-get-released blame game.

        It’s why they’re there.

  4. And who will keep the records of where the car has traveled with which passengers?

    1. NSA

  5. I still don’t see the point of this when a driver in the vehicle will be required to be alert and ready to take over at a moment’s notice. It’s like a fancier cruise control – big whoop.

    1. Because much like speed limits, that will only be enforced when a cop is around. Turn on waze and pretend to be alert if there is a cop in the area. Otherwise, book reading time.

      1. With the ($2500 option) HUD display, just fire up iBooks or Kindle app and read while going down road. Or Netflix.

        1. Not going to lie. That idea makes me sick to my stomach. The book HUD, not the video HUD.

      2. Go ‘way! Batin’

    2. Hopefully that requirement will go away.

  6. “Unsafe At Any Speed: 2
    This Time – It’s Personal!”

    By Ralph Nader. Available at and most booksellers.

  7. My test- does an app (for lack of a better word) exist which will enable a robotic arm holding a cup of hot coffee over my lap to look through the windshield and identify bumps in the road, erratic drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, dogs and various and sundry other hazards to navigation, and correctly anticipate speed/direction changes and not dump boiling coffee on my balls?
    That is essentially the baseline for the AI at the wheel, in my estimation.

    1. That’s trivial.

  8. When will the first hack take place?

    1. Maybe it already has….

      *fiendish chuckle*


    2. About three years ago. Hacking automobile control systems was a big topic at the Black Hat security conference about 2-3 years ago.

  9. It’s no surprise a company such as “Google” is involved with a driverless car.

    That type of vehicle is so?.sheesh?.it’s so freak’n sissy-like and effeminate. And with “Google” being such a feminine, wussy-like company, it’s a perfect match.

    Google never has to fear being associated with anything related to testosterone.

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