Self-driving vehicles

Ford Gets It Right on Self-Driving Cars

Go for full self-driving capability, not half-assed autonomy.

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FordFusionAutonomous
Ford

Ford Motors has just unveiled the latest iteration of its self-driving automobile, a modified Ford Fusion that processes a terabyte of information per hour from lidar, radar, optical sensors, high resolution 3D maps, GPS and more to navigate itself. The new vehicles still require someone to sit in the driver's seat to monitor the car and take over if it gets confused. However, Ford is on the right path; the company wants to build a fully autonomous car available for ride-hailing and ride-sharing services by 2021. That car will dispense with fripperies like steering wheels and pedals.

The key is that Ford is aiming for full autonomy, not half-assed autonomy that requires a driver to take over whenever an alarm bell sounds. Chris Brewer, Chief Program Engineer, Ford Autonomous Vehicle Development explains:

Building a car that will not be controlled by a human driver is completely different from designing a conventional vehicle, and this raises a whole new set of questions for our autonomous vehicle engineering team: How do you replicate everything a human driver does behind the wheel in a vehicle that drives itself? …

Just as we have confidence in ourselves and other drivers, we need to develop a robust virtual driver system with the same level of dependability to make decisions, and then carry them out appropriately on the go. We're doing that at Ford by taking a unique approach to help make our autonomous cars see, sense, think and perform like a human?—?in fact, better, in some cases.

With regard to performing better than human drivers, automated vehicles will have access to lots more information. For example, the Ford Fusion cars' lidars have a 360 degree sensing range the length of two football fields. Virtual drivers could use this superior information and their finer control over the car's steering, brakes, throttle, etc. to pull off evasive manuevers in dangerous situations that a normal human could not achieve.

For more skeptical view of when fully autonomous vehicles will become available, see Reason Foundation Director of Transporation Policy Bob Poole's Reason TV interview below. Among other things, Poole says that his skepticism about the speedy deployment of self-driving cars "is coming from researchers, serious researchers, not reporters writing in the popular press, at UC Berkeley, at Carnegie-Mellon, and at MIT…." Ouch.

For a reporter's view, see my article, "Will Politicians Block Our Driverless Future?" Bob, want to place a friendly bet?

NEXT: The real reason President Obama won't recess-appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court

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  1. Wow, car companies are better at making cars than neophyte tech billionaires. Who knew?

      1. Fripperies? Awesome.

        I am of the belief even the all mighty government can’t stop the technological advancement of something as wealth generating as automated transportation.

    1. I knew you would be here John. It’s like Ron lit the John Signal?.

      1. A long time ago when I still had delusions that I would hit it big in the tech boom, I came up with the idea of the Rusty Avenger. The premise was that once I was a billionaire, I’d go buy a bunch of shitty cars and a lot of insurance. Then I’d don my super hero disguise and drive the streets looking for asshole drivers. Once I found one, I’d ram him in a way that wouldn’t cause any bodily harm, but would require the asshole to have to deal with insurance companies. Eventually, any time people saw a shitty car driving down the road, they’d start signaling, allowing zipper merges, etc.

        Now, I’m thinking that I might have to rework the idea. I see John as the Rusty Avenger. Driving down the road in his old non-computerized 1972 Ford LTD in total freedom. The rest of us will be stuck in our govt controlled match box cars while he rolls right through stop sign after stop sign.

        1. LTD’s are awesome.

          1. First car I drove regularly was a baby shit brown 1972 Ford LTD.

            I vehemently disagree with your opinion, but I will die for your right to get stuck on the side of the road every 40 miles or so in that piece of shit car.

        2. You aren’t the first to have this idea. See the W.C. Fields segment of IF I HAD A MILLION (1932).

          Which doesn’t make it a bad idea, mind…..

        3. It works out, since by the time the tech is common, the luddites will be the only people not already spending half their drive twattering away on their phones or AR goggles or whatever.

      2. The John Signal? is a silhouette of a big lady driving a 67 Chevelle.

        1. I get a royalty fee when you use that sir. Pay up. Send to showmethemoney@yahoo.com.

        2. I am more of a Ford guy. And the lady is a lot smaller than you think.

        3. This signal. What would it look like in the sky?

    2. Well, just wait until the Government makes driving a car illegal. You know, ‘for the children’ and because people can’t be trusted to make decisions for themselves. It’s the same old tune, every time.

      Then, I look forward to the first time the government locks all cars down in a certain area. Say, a place where people are rioting.

      This is basically a straight up nationalization of all transportation in the entire United States. If you think I’m wrong, and that government won’t demand control-by-fiat-regulation to these threats to public safety, you just haven’t been paying enough attention. I’m sure this could be considered a public utility, and the government already owns the roads & infrastructure.

      So, in short, even if this technology is possible I don’t welcome it because I already know what it will be used for: controlling the mobility of the population.

      1. You are dead on. This technology is horrible. If you are too stupid or lazy to drive yourself, you are unworthy of your freedom. What the hell is wrong with people?

    3. Can’t wait for someone to use one of these in a bank robbery. Flip the switch – the car drives better than any human driver! 😉

  2. So does Reason get a cut on the blood pressure medication that is prescribed to John?

    It is the only reason I can see for running so many of these robot car stories. You know it will get him so reved up that he will have to get his dosage upped again.

    😉

    1. He’s busy calling de Rugy a Hillary loving moron right now.

  3. Will politicians block efforts for self driving cars?

    No

    Will they cripple the implementation, rollout, acceptance, and use of them for their own greedy and self enriching purposes?

    Hell yes.

    1. No doubt encouraged and facilitated by Ford, GM, and Chrysler.

    2. I look forward to not wanting to kill my dawdling neighbors.

      I swear to fucking Zod, none of these people have any sense of urgency whatsoever. It’s like driving in a retirement village in Florida Hell.

      1. There’s this weird thing in Tucson that I have never seen anywhere else – people at stop signs and red lights will leave 2 or 3 car lengths between them and the car in front. And I have never seen people so leisurely about starting when a light turns green.

        And we still get scads of T-bone accidents and splattered pedestrians. I’ve had people blow through four way stop signs going 40 or more miles an hour on my commute, more than once. Probably a good thing I don’t carry a gun in my car – that’s attempted murder, in my book.

        1. I will leave car lengths between me and the car in front if i’m in shade. It’s a Tucson thing.

        2. This was my experience in places with a significant migrant worker population? You described driving in Salinas CA to an exact T.

        3. When I lived in Tucson there were traffic light gunfights on a regular basis. Maybe they leave that space to give themselves room to run.

      2. Autonomous cars will be even worse. No car company is going to expose themselves to the liability that would come with allowing their cars to break even the most minor traffic law. Autonomous cars are going to drive like the worst of your dawdling neighbors. Imagine a car that never breaks the speed limit or rolls a stop sign or takes a left after the light has gone red and the oncoming traffic has stopped or bogarts into a line of traffic. That will be an autonomous car. They are going to drive you crazy.

        1. takes a left after the light has gone red

          Worth it, in this case. People who delay oncoming traffic by making their left turn against the arrow should be dragged out of their cars and savaged.

          1. No. Sometimes that is the only way to make the left. If they don’t do that, they will never move and hold up traffic going the other way. And if they do it correctly, they don’t hold up the cross traffic. Just how fast do you tear ass off the line at a green light?

            1. I don’t mind crossing against a red but before oncoming traffic has a green. It’s the three or four people behind that person who cross anyway, despite traffic starting to move, who should be beaten.

              1. I was watching that at a bad intersection one day a few years back. I was first to go, and I noted that if I had gunned it off the line at green, I would have t-boned the 2nd car making the left on red. 3 more cars went after him. At that point my patience was gone and I almost hit the last one.

                1. At that point my patience was gone

                  This is the reason why your (and every other driver’s) autonomy must be replaced and AI managed.

                  AI cars are just like the NAP, in the sense that it only works if *EVERYONE* subscribes to it and practices it.

              2. commodious hits the nail on the head!

        2. Autonomous cars are going to drive like the worst of your dawdling neighbors.

          Probably, at first. I suspect that as the technology matures, speeds will increase. I’ll long be dead by then.

          The worst part about all this is that I get hella motion sick, so I won’t be able to read in my robot car, to pass the time.

        3. Easy solution John. Install a bookshelf in the car. You won’t even know any of that stuff is happening.

        4. Imagine a car that *sloooooooowly* rolls up to a stop sign, comes to a complete and utter stop, and THEN SITS THERE FOR SIX OR MORE FUCKING SECONDS!

          And you have the Yuma driving experience.

        5. Why would there be stops signs or traffic lanes or any of that anthropocentric nonsense when we have full on autonomous cars?

          I know I’ll be way too drunk to notice.

      3. I am laughing JW. I am one of those dawdlers. Of course, I have never been in a car accident. Not once, ever, and I have been driving for nearly 40 years.

        A frequently heard remark in my vehicle when I see someone driving fast: “They are in a hurry to get to a funeral. Their own, that is.”

        Lose that sense of urgency JW. Half of the people I see speed past me are sitting at the traffic light when I arrive there.

        1. I didn’t know they had Amish buggies down in your neck of the woods. Do you sell pickled veggies and apple butter? If so, I’m in.

        2. This here. You’re gonna get where you’re getting to when you get there. You can’t really make up time on the general flow of traffic, not enough to matter.

          I haven’t had an accident that was my fault in probably 20 years (a couple of people bent my fender because, wait for it, they were in a big hurry and not paying enough attention).

          1. I have a rule to never sit behind a slow driver if I can help it. I’ve made more green lights than I can count, that I wouldn’t have, had I stayed behind. That’s serious bizness in DC and Bal’mer traffic. That’s hours of my life back, not sitting in traffic or at red lights, every month.

            These twats usually make the green light of course, but no one behind them does.

            1. I’ve made more green lights than I can count, that I wouldn’t have, had I stayed behind.

              I find that I generally catch up with these folks at the next light or two.

              Unless you take stupid risks, you just really can’t outrun the flow of traffic by enough to matter, assuming there’s much traffic on the roads.

              1. My experience is contrary to yours, without taking unnecessary risks.

                I don’t always make progress, there’s only so much you can do with a traffic control system designed by syphilitic-addled chimps, but I usually do.

              2. It’s kind of like believing your secret method beats the house at craps. Probably once driving aggressively saved someone ten minutes. But in the aggregate it just doesn’t.

                1. I disagree. And I say this as someone who had recently pledged to slow down a fair amount going forward and it won’t be easy.

                  I’ll also add that I’m an atypical driver in that I love to drive, have been testing the limits for years (not in heavy traffic), and am OCD about being acutely aware of all cars around me, close behind me, and at least a few car lengths ahead of me (in day light, many areas allow visibly to dozen car lengths assuming no obstructions).

                  I also watch and think about traffic patterns on my normal routes over some time period (same daily route for years now, though exactly the time of day I’m on the road is malleable).

                  Add to that a tolerance for risk and traffic tickets, and I routinely/consistently make trips significantly faster than others. My commute takes most people during pre-rush hour 35-40 mins – I’m 25-30. I make the “4 hour” trip to family in 3 and some change.

                  Now I don’t play frogger in rush hour, or on streets with high traffic and a lot of lights….no point, but faster in time? Consistently? Yes.

                  And no wrecks at all, much less my fault, in 25 years (and that wasn’t my fault either, was rear ended).

                  Again though, I’m reforming my ways, as you need to be aggressive, though not dangerously so, but speed makes other, slower drivers, get angry, and I carpool with someone, but with focus, it works.

                  1. One additional note – anecdotally anyone who has ever said to me “I laugh when I meet the speeder at the next life” – much, much faster than they are. Their commute times per above would be 45 minutes plus.

                    Not that they care so much. They like their speed, but something I noticed, thought semi-relevant.

          2. I have seen some pretty horrible accidents which I will not describe. Years, even decades later I will wonder if what those people were in such a hurry to get to was worth all of the life they missed from then until now. Sadly, it was mostly younger people.

            1. It’s not the speed that kills you, but the sudden stop.

              Yes, there are many, many stupid, shitty drivers on the road, many who drive way beyond their skill level and wreak havoc. Most drivers are merely adequate enough in driving skill to not kill themselves or someone else, but that doesn’t make them good drivers, just annoying drivers who increase the risk for everyone else. Autonomous cars will only make that aspect much, much better.

              That’s what I’ve been drilling into The Boy’s head while he learns to drive, to drive within your abilities. He always wants to drive way outside his skill envelope.

              1. I thought experiment I used on my 12 yo son with regards to speed:

                I was driving down the road about 20mph.

                Me – Are we going slow?

                Him – Dad, you are going way too slow.

                Me – Can you run this fast?

                Him – No.

                Me – When we get home go out into the yard, close your eyes and start running as fast as you can. What do you think will happen?

                Him – I would probably kill myself. I get it. Will you speed up now?

            2. I plan to sign The Boy up for this ASAP. http://streetsurvival.org/

              1. A year or so before my son was licensed to drive we came across a pretty bad wreck. Traffic was stopped and the road completely blocked but we couldn’t see the wreck, our view was blocked. I thought some junk had fallen off of a trailer.

                We got out and walked up to see why everyone was standing around. There were body parts everywhere scattered in the road. Someone’s severed toe stuck to my boot when I accidentally stepped on it. There were four fatalities and only one survivor who was trapped in a crushed vehicle. The poor guy was barely conscious and moaning in pain. All we could do was stand there and try to keep him from swallowing his tounge if he lost consciousness completely.

                It made an impression. My son takes after his old man. Nothing is worth risking that.

        3. Lose that sense of urgency JW.

          GET OUT OF MY WAY, DICKTARD.

          In all seriousness, as long as people don’t fuck around in the passing lane, I’m fine with slower drivers. If only they would.

          And I’ve never been in an accident either, well, not since I was a teenager. It’s not about speed, but driving ability and skill. 80 MPH seems slow to me.

          1. It’s a lot easier to drive if you zone out a little bit and let your reflexes take over. That’s why I text on the road.

            1. I usually masturbate.

          2. The problem is, if some asshole is going 50 in a 65 zone in the right lane, some other asshole going 50.001 is going to pass him, and now both lanes are clogged with assholes not even going the speed limit.

            Slower drivers are THE hazard on the road.

        4. I split the middle. I don’t mind going 5 or 10 over, but I’ll slow down when the traffic is too tight to do so. Here in Dallas, half the people drive like they’re playing frogger (switching 3 or 4 lanes at a time) and the other half are putzing along in the fast lane going 10 under. Add on to that the fact that most of the exits from the highways are paired up with entrances that are 500 yards from the exit, and it’s a shitshow of people doing 20 over in the next lane to people doing 30 under.

          When I used to commute downtown, it wasn’t a question of if I was going to encounter a wreck on my 15 mile trip, but where.

          It’s not that hard… unless you’re exiting, stay out of the right lane. Unless you’re passing, stay out of the left lane. Pass on the left. Move to the right if you’re holding up traffic.

        5. And the other half are through the light and are two miles ahead of you.

          1. And the other half are through the light and are stopped at the light two miles ahead of you when you get there.

            1. Not if there are no more lights.

  4. That car will dispense with fripperies like steering wheels and pedals.

    WRONG. There will never be an automobile on American roads that doesn’t have a human control interface. And by never I mean not in the next 15 years at minimum. Governments won’t stand for it and neither will consumers.

    1. FoE: How about just a big red stop button? Would that be enough of a human control interface?

      1. Will the big red stop button work as well as the Russian reset button?

      2. I would LOVE to see a self-driving car navigate its way along the half-mile of my winding, gravel lane to get to me home. You people think everyone in America lives in the nice, concrete jungles and carefully planned suburbs with their fancy paved and even-surfaced roadways.

        Also, weather.

        1. I have no problems driving on your gravel road…

          1. That is a pretty sexy euphemism.

            1. I love that song. Kenny Rogers wrote it, I think.

              1. Know when to walk away, know when to run…???

                1. You picked a fine time to leave me, autonomous control system interface…

          2. That’s some fine euphemisming!

        2. Actually, your gravel lane is probably much less of a challenge than a road with a lot of traffic and intersections.

          1. This euphemism is getting too complex.

        3. FoE: You should see the gravel road that leads to what I laughingly call my “driveway” to my cabin in Greene County. Yet, I fully expect to see friends to arrive for a visit by driverless vehicles by the middle of the next decade.

          1. It’s a wager, then. Winner gets the other’s rural hideout.

          2. Middle of next decade? And here I thought you had claimed we would have them by 2020 (21 at the latest). What’s the whooshing sound I hear? Clock’s ticking.

            BTW, we still don’t even have automated air cargo delivery and that is a much, much simpler problem to solve. The only challenges remaining there are securing the dispatch system (no invention required just good engineering) and ensuring you have differential GPS upgrades and ground radar at all the landing facilities.

            1. We also don’t have automated tractors or mining equipment both of which would make enormous economic sense and are much easier technical problems than a self driving road car.

    2. ^^This.

      Also, why would car companies ever want to part of that? When someone is eventually killed in a vehicle without an interface, where does the liability finger point to?

      1. B(WCH): Liability is not a big problem. Liability would be figured out and divvied up contractually between the makers, the software developers, and the fleet owners. Also, since the cars will be safer (otherwise no one will ride in them) there will be fewer accidents and less damage anyway.

        1. I think you’re way under-selling that, Ron. The amount of accidents go down, but the amount gets concentrated to the producers.

          This means that the insurance bill gets rolled up in the price of the car, doesn’t it? I should only have to buy comprehensive on this vehicle, but someone has to pay for the liability insurance, still.

          Spoiler alert: the consumer always pays the bill.

          Also, I would bet that the per incident amount would sky-rocket.

          1. It will be interesting to see how these big companies producing the self-driving cars will structure things to try to avoid the big payouts that the lawyers will inevitably chase when these cars kill people. Considering these faceless corporations have billions in assets (and often in annual net revenue as well), I’m sure there are hordes of lawyers just salivating to see how far they can go in one of these cases, since the size of payouts often seem to be decided based not on damages accrued but by the ability of the defendant to pay. Get a sympathetic victim up against a giant corporation at Christmastime and the sky’s the limit on liability.

            1. For self driving cars to become widely used much less replace human driven ones, product liability law will have to be rewritten. Self driving cars make every car accident into a product liability suit. Product liability suits are decided by a standard of strict liability against the manufacturer. You don’t have to show any negligence on the part of a manufacturer to win a product liability case. You only have to show you were using their product and it caused you harm. You can win even if you were misusing the product as long as the misuse is deemed foreseeable.

        2. B(WCH): Liability is not a big problem. Liability would be figured out and divvied up contractually between the makers, the software developers, and the fleet owners. Also, since the cars will be safer (otherwise no one will ride in them) there will be fewer accidents and less damage anyway.

          Only if every other driver is within the same system, as you are not accounting for scofflaw holdouts, semi-autonomous vehicles, and people who lose patience with a vehicle that will *NEVER* by its very programming, break traffic laws, Ronal’d Bejlij.

          If you think ROAD RAGE won’t rear its ugly head when the autonomous car sits at red light that refuses to change to green, or more likely, a autono-car that won’t turn on an unprotected left for what seems like eternity, you really have jumped from Technocratic Pragmatist to flat out Techno-Religio Zealot. worshiping the Holy Automotive (Inter)Neural Net.

    3. Possibly even longer. Without manual override, how the hell do you make a car park on somebody’s lawn when the drive way is full, deal with single lane dirt roads, drive through high crime “no stop” intersections, etc. You can’t codify the right thing to do for every situation and human intuition is necessary at times. (Can’t/Shouldn’t… there’s a fine example of problems with 99% of government.)

      1. O: If you arrive by mobility service, the car will just drop you off – no need to park on your friend’s lawn. With regard to high crime “no stop” intersections … perhaps we could arm the cars? (just KIDDING).

        1. No need to qualify. Gun turrets could seal the deal for those still on the fence.

        2. If you arrive by mobility service, the car will just drop you off

          I’m more on board with autonomous cars sans human interface than with mobility service becoming ubiquitous. Mobility services will have the same exact customers as public transit: urban workers who can’t afford or don’t want to deal with downtown parking.

        3. Vehicles need manual control simply to handle situations that go beyond stay in lane, don’t run into cars, people, deliver vehicle to address.

        4. Ah – you’re assuming that individuals will no longer want the ‘hassle’ of car ownership. That’s a pretty big assumption. Even people living inside the core of cities fill the side streets with their cars overnight and that have access to close grocery stores and more functional mass transit than the suburb/rural dwellers.

          Then ‘it’ll go find a parking space’ – where? Because *everybody* where I live has two cars in the driveway and one on the street. Its going to park itself 5 miles away? What if I need to get something out of it? How do we tell it to wait in the middle of the street long enough?

          Then there’s the whole ‘this is my space’ thing.

          Plus, I don’t think I’d like to have to leave 15, 20, 30 minutes of slop in my schedule (unless AV’s are more readily available than current cabs that’s my experience of the average wait time for a ride) to accommodate the vagaries of vehicle availability. There really isn’t anything I could do in an autonomous car that would be sufficiently productive to make up for the wait.

          ‘No controls’ *only* works for fleet vehicles and I do not believe that fleet vehicles will make up more than a small percentage of the total number of cars (for at least another generation).

          1. Plus, I don’t think I’d like to have to leave 15, 20, 30 minutes of slop in my schedule (unless AV’s are more readily available than current cabs that’s my experience of the average wait time for a ride) to accommodate the vagaries of vehicle availability. There really isn’t anything I could do in an autonomous car that would be sufficiently productive to make up for the wait.

            I have never figured out why anyone thinks self driving taxis would be any more readily available than regular taxis. The assumption is these things will be lurking around every corner waiting for someone to hail them such that they will just magically appear when you do. And that is a pretty stupid fantasy when you think about it.

      2. Without manual override, how the hell do you make a car park on somebody’s lawn when the drive way is full, deal with single lane dirt roads, drive through high crime “no stop” intersections, etc.

        Gestures, voice commands. You come up to your neighbor’s house, the curb and driveway are full. Car slows down, beep or displays a question or says it. You point to the lawn or say “turn here, cross the curb, par on the lawn near that green Chevy.”

        Or in a confused section of a city, construction all over, traffic cones, manhole covers open, cars parked halfway into driveways, and you need to pull into a garage there for some work. The car slos down, you say “Go in here just after the three traffic cones.”

        No big deal.

        1. Sounds like a pain in the ass.

          1. Hell no! It would be just like being with a teenager on a permit, or telling a taxi driver where to drop you off. Natural as anything. “Park over there next to the green Chevy.” “On the lawn?” “Yes, next to the green Chevy.”

            5 seconds tops. What’s so hard about that?

            1. The hard stuff is the deductive reasoning that took that teenager half a second to process. Is anything even close to that yet? (Not rhetorical, if you can show something, please do. I’m interested. Tech lover here.)

              Green – all the shades of green, two tone car with green, white car under green light doesn’t count, what if it is a blue-green color, etc.

              Chevy – Chevrolet is same, maybe thought it was chevy but was pontiac of similar model, cars with make and model missing from cheap repair job, etc.

              Next to – The next car over is a beater with long doors, give it a little more space

              As it moves forward, the ground changes to absolute mud – driver walked off, now what? wait? call owner? Not answering. Drivers behind me are honking.

            2. This morning my Amazon Echo device refused to play the song “West Texas Moon”. West Texas Blues, West Texas Heart, Best Texas Moon, West Texas Noon, West Taxes Heart all of those would have been played had most of them existed. You will come out from a party to find your car parked itself in a lake.

  5. It would have come in handy, hier.

  6. Governments won’t stand for it

    True enough.

    and neither will consumers.

    If they are good enough, there will be a market. Will they be good enough in the next 15 years? I would say not in 5 years, maybe in 10. Consider: 15 years ago, there was no such thing as smart phones (iPhones hit the markets in 2007, I believe, barely 10 years ago). There’s a lot money going into autonomous vehicles – DOD and private money from big players. The first ones will be work vehicles – mining, earthmoving, warehouses, etc. From there, I suspect there will be fleet vehicles, maybe cargo, and finally passenger vehicles.

    1. RCD: Very astute. As I argued in my linked article above: How many self-driving cars would it take to supply the cheap mobility services of 260 million U.S. passenger vehicles? Using the University of Texas’ low-end calculation of each shared self-driving car replacing the services of seven individually owned vehicles, the answer is 40 million self-driving cars. Assuming something like cellphone adoption doubling times, an initial fleet of 100,000 fully self-driving cars in 2020 would increase to 6.4 million by 2026 and replace the services of nearly 45 million conventional automobiles. By 2029, the self-driving fleet could number more 50 million.

      In less than half a generation, Americans will benefit from a massive change in how we commute, shop, and travel. Autopia is within our grasp, if only we don’t allow over-cautious regulators, outdated infrastructure demands, and our fears to kill off the self-driving car.

      1. Autopia is within our grasp

        *facepalm*

      2. Assuming something like cellphone adoption doubling times,

        Ridiculously optimistic. Smartphones didn’t replace capital stock that cost two literal orders of magnitude more to acquire and had a much longer service life.

        I also think the idea that one self-driving car can replace seven ordinary cars is somewhat fantastical, but I haven’t looked at their math.

        1. RCD: I think you are assuming individual ownership of the cars – most will be fleet owned and the cost of such personal mobility services are estimated to be a third to a quarter of private automobile ownership (purchase, maintenance, insurance, fuel) now. Self-driving will win in the marketplace because it will be a lot cheaper and more convenient than the current private ownership model for most people.

          1. People will still have their individual cars until they wear out, then? There won’t be much of a secondary market, unless Ye Olde Cars are still being used a lot, so you might as well keep it. So they’ll have a perfectly good car in the driveway, and not use it, preferring to pay for a self-driving service anyway?

            Not seeing it, Ron. Cellphones doubled at the rate they did because they are relatively cheap and have a short service life regardless. The existence of a massive capital stock of substitutable vehicles for years to come will definitely slow the growth of the self-driving services.

            1. I think driverless cars would replace cars at same rate per car generation as cell phones per cell phone generation.

              So, about 5x the time span.

              1. A car is not a cellphone Rob. Each new generation of cell phone is more functional than the last. Robotic cars are only more functional than regular cars if the only thing you value is not having to drive. There are other values than that.

                And as someone pointed out on another thread, fleet vehicles are disgusting. Talk to any cab driver sometime and find out the gross things people do in cabs when there is a driver there. Now imagine what they will do when there is no driver there to see them. A fleet of self driving cars would end up being used for endless amounts of hookup sex, drug use and God knows what else. That is all fine and good except that you are not going to want to sit in the seats where all that went on. Have you ever been in a cab? Ever notice how gross they are inside? Imiagine that times a hundred and you will have what your typical robotic taxi will be like.

          2. Just saw an article today (a few months old) suggesting .40 per mile to end user vs .58 per mile to car owners on average now.

            1. How much of that .58 is depreciation, I wonder?

              Plus, there’s a “seen v. unseen” issue here. I have to pull out my wallet every time I use a driverless car. The costs of my own car are more sporadic and hidden.

              1. Probably a good bit, especially those who buy new cars. Uber or JohnnyCab or whoever is going to include that as a cost. But the economy of scale allows them to reduce the user end cost to well below current costs.

          3. : I think you are assuming individual ownership of the cars – most will be fleet owned and the cost of such personal mobility services are estimated to be a third to a quarter of private automobile ownership

            You need to familiarize yourself with marginal analysis. Even assuming that figure is right, one third to a quarter of the price sounds impressive until you realize owning a car is very cheap now. Nearly everyone owns a car. They are not that expensive. So the actual value of that marginal decrease in price isn’t that great. Moreover, you once again assume that the only value to owning a car is transportation. No, owning a car gives you freedom and autonomy that no rental or fleet vehicle ever will. We already have fleet vehicles known as zip cars. And some people use them. For someone who needs a car a few hours a week, a zip car makes great economic sense. Yet, many people who by strict accounting should use them own their own cars instead. Why? Because there is more to life and people’s choices than accounting.

            1. Yes, and the time I now waste driving would be better spent otherwise. But I can’t afford a personal driver. As soon as a driverless car service is cheaper than owning, it is a win-win. Save money AND save time.

              1. That is nice Rob but you are in the minority on that. And proof of that is the fact that there are lots of people who can afford a personal driver yet very few of them choose to do so. Why? Because most people don’t hate driving or find it to be much of a chore when they are stuck in the car anyway.

                Beyond that, even if you want a self driving car, you still are going to want your own. Ron’s dream of centrally controlled fleet vehicles replacing personally owned cars, self driven or not, is never going to happen absent the government forcing it to happen.

                1. I dont want my own. I want to eliminate my garage.

                  1. At first, I might own one instead of owning two cars.

                  2. You can do that now. If you live in a city, get a zip car. You pay for them by the hour and never have to store them. They are very convenient.

                    I understand that people like you and Bailey for whatever strange reason don’t get the appeal of cars and see them as some kind of inconvenience to be improved upon. You should understand that the country didn’t end up with 300,000 or whatever cars and an enormous car culture because many people feel the same way.

                    If people like you were in the majority, there would be three or four different models of cars all priced under $20,000.

                    1. I also want a pub on my street. But stupid zoning prevents that.

                      Apparently people want stupid zoning too, but I didnt realize we were pro-majority rule all of a sudden.

                    2. We like our cars and like driving. Have fun with whatever you want. Just leave us alone.

              2. Exactly – most driverless cars will be user-owned just like most cars are today.

          4. There is a lot to this that most of the boomers and my Gen X brethren can’t see.

            In the world we grew up in we took it for granted that outside of a few people living in the middle of megacities where you pay as much for a parking spot every month as you do for a 500 sq foot apartment everyone would have their own car and use it for their transportation needs and desires. We thought this because while cars were expensive to own and maintain they were not outside of the budget of even the poor to acquire ant the alternatives were either massively more expensive (taxis, chauffeured driving services) or massively less convenient (buses, trains, bikes and walking) or both.

            1. Today however things have changed, on an inflation adjusted basis the cost of a new car has increased by about 25% which is an even bigger jump when you consider median salaries have not kept up with inflation in nearly 20 years. Similarly thanks to the increase in cost of newer cars and the folly of cash for clunkers prices for used cars have risen even higher. You have even higher increases on the maintenance and fuel inputs so that for a growing portion of the middle class even owning a car is simply beyond their means. Combine that with the fact that ride sharing services ARE cheaper than owning a car already and when self driving cars become the norm for them they will get significantly cheaper it is going to make the cost proposition of owning your own car simply untenable for the young and the lower half of the economic ladder. Sure owning your own car (self driving or not) will still be a desired state and a status symbol but it will fall out of being the norm far faster than most of us think.

              1. Yes, the government and safety nannies are doing everything they can to make cars as expensive as possible. And that is a huge problem.

                But that shows what a lie the numbers Ron gives are. These things are not really that much cheaper. They are only cheaper because cars are artificially expensive thanks to the government.

                1. The auto manufacturers know that new car prices must continue to increase every year to keep sales up.

                  Sound counterintuitive I know but it is a fact.

                  If new cars do not steadily increase in price owners of used cars have no equity to facilitate trading it in. New car price increases help to show some phony paper equity at trade in which sayisfies lending rules.

                  Without that paper equity buyers would have to tely on true equity and/or cash out of pocket to satisfy those rules.

                  As a general rule of thumb. Zero down and other gimicky financing is at some point subsidized or recoursed by someone, usually the factory trying to keep the assembly line up to economies of scale.

              2. Sure owning your own car (self driving or not) will still be a desired state and a status symbol but it will fall out of being the norm far faster than most of us think.

                Eh, people have said the same thing about tiny house, “smart cars,” and a million other “footprint reducing” technologies. None of them ever generate mass appeal. Why? Because you’re trading convenience for economy, and most people value convenience over economy.

              3. Fuel costs have risen higher?? Are you sure about that? And the cost of cars themselves?

                When you say ride sharing services are cheaper are you accounting for the massive losses at Uber? The majority of the true depreciation cost of a car (real wear and tear) has to be borne by user. Uber doesn’t obviate that. Nor does it obviate the cost of fuel. Perhaps there is some marginal savings due to less idling, but micro-hybrids solve that problem for about $200/vehicle.

                The cost differences are going to be small so in the end it will come down to a convenience trade off: your own personal vehicle dispatched exclusively by you and maintained exclusively by you vs. a fleet vehicle that you have to request but that you don’t have to worry about except when you’re actually riding in it.

                Finally, what this GenX brother knows being an engineer who has to deliver technically complex products to the marketplace (even using the nanotechnology) is that transitions like these always come later than expected by all the cheerleaders.

                1. You are dead on Skippy. The problem with ride sharing and car fleets and all of that is that most people want to travel at certain peak times. To meet that demand you have to have cars that only work a few hours a day. That drives the price of using them way up because they have to pay for themselves. You end up either having too few cars to meet peak demand or you have to pay through the nose. The cost savings is nothing like what Bailey and others pretend it is.

                  1. I’m confused. I thought we live in a world in which prices signal something to producers. Am I wrong?

                    1. Sure it does but price doesn’t change reality. The problem with all forms of centralized mass transit, and that is all this is, is that demand isn’t uniform. So you either have to pay more for assets that are only used a few hours a day or pay less but be under serviced during peak times. No amount of price signaling is going to change that reality.

                  2. It’s the canary carrying problem: As long as half the canaries are flying, you can carry twice the amount! The only real savings would be in reduced road congestion once we get sufficient penetration. That is true whether the cars are fleet or individually owned.

          5. Self-driving cars will probably win some marketplaces, but I’d bet they’ll remain a minority share of the market outside of urban areas for a very long time. What you are describing with the fleet model is basically a taxi service, and even given the fact that a self-driving taxi will have cheaper fares I don’t see the general taxi service sector replacing individually owned cars as the standard mode of transportation in America. Many people will eschew these new taxis for the freedom and control of keeping their own cars, and the economics of scale won’t work as well in rural areas.

            1. That is exactly it. It puzzles me how someone could be so out of touch with how people actually think and live that they could not see that.

              1. I had a friend who tried to convince me that mobility services were going to replace individually owned cars within 10 years. Of course, this guy lives in downtown LA and sees cars as a massive inconvenience.

                To draw an analogy, there’s a reason why urban areas use convenience stores as the primary place to get groceries and suburban/rural areas use supermarkets. In urban areas, storage is at a premium, so they sacrifice the convenience of having groceries in their house and buy groceries on a much more frequent basis. In suburban/rural areas, storage is not at a premium, so they can buy groceries less frequently. Similarly with cars, there is a premium on parking, and they’re kinda a PITA to drive in the city. Out in the suburbs/rural areas, the convenience of having a car sitting in the garage waaaaay outweighs any inconvenience of owning a car. I’ve not yet been convinced that mobility services can come anywhere close to matching that convenience for suburban and rural consumers.

              2. How many urban/suburban 20somethings do you know?

                I actually know and hang around with quite a few of them. Most of them do not own cars simply because they cannot afford them. A significant minority of them are close to or even over 30 and have never had a drivers license in their lives.

                You got kids? How old are they? When we were kids everyone wanted their licenses as soon as possible because that meant the freedom to be able to go do things without your parents present. I’ve got 17 and 14 year olds at home and between them and their friends NONE of them is particularly eager or looking forward to getting their license because the teen driver laws make it so they actually don’t get much if any benefit from having the license (they are not allowed to drive after dark, or if there are other teens and no adults in the car etc.), it just means mom and dad can make them run errands now.

                I’m telling you, that for people younger than us things have changed and they do not think the same way we do.

                Yes even among them owning a nice pretty BMW or Lexus is on the bucket list but in the meantime if given the option of dropping $500 a month to own and operate a Honda Accord that is almost as old as they are or putting $300 a month into a combination of public transport, Uber, and Zipcar they are already choosing the latter on a large and ever growing scale adding self driving cars to the mix will only accelerate that process.

                1. How many urban/suburban 20somethings do you know?

                  I am one. I know plenty. Except for a handful that live in the trendy “walkable” neighborhoods in Dallas, everybody has at least one car, if not 2 or 3. Uber is used for going to the airport, going to an event where parking is an issue, or as a designated driver when we go drinking.

                2. if given the option of dropping $500 a month to own and operate a Honda Accord that is almost as old as they are or putting $300 a month into a combination of public transport, Uber, and Zipcar

                  $500 a month for a 20 year old accord? What are they doing, plating it with gold??? When I owned a decade-old Ford Taurus a couple years back, I had no car payment, I was paying ~$150/month in gas, another $100 in insurance (combined for my wife and I on both cars), and maybe $35/month in repairs on average.

                  1. It does not cost $500 a month to own and operate my wife’s Merc SUV. That is absurd.

                  2. $35 a month for repairs AND maintenance?

                    Really?

                    Lets assume you drive 15k miles a year.

                    That means you are going to need
                    3 oil changes a year – $5 per month
                    new tires every 3 years – $8 per month
                    a front break job every 3.5 years, rear breaks every 7 years – $5 per month
                    New shocks every 5 years – $5 per month
                    New Battery every 3 years – $2 per month
                    Tune Up every 2 years – $6 per month
                    and that is just off the top of my head for routine maintenance items.

                    That alone is $31 per month on routine maintenance items and we haven’t even had a single breakdown yet. Now we can start throwing some common breakdowns in older cars like voltage regulators, EGR valves, alternators, fuse problems (cheap to fix but you still need to pay the $60 for the service), Tie Rod ends, wheel bearings, transmission filter.

                    If you have even a 7 year old vehicle and you are spending less than $100 a month on maintenance consider yourself one of the luckiest men on earth.

                    1. That said, you’ve also missed a couple of other expenses.

                      How much were your tags? How much were your excise or whatever they called ownership taxes? Do you live in a state that requires routine emissions or safety inspections? How much did they cost? I doubt there is a state in the Union where you will pay less than $300 a year for the privilege of owning a car that is legal to drive on public roadways.

                      Now how much did you pay for that vehicle, how long did you drive it and what if anything were you able to get (or how much did it cost) to dispose of it? Lets say you paid $4000 to buy the car, sold it for junk for $400 and drove it for 6 years that is another $50 a month in the cost of purchasing the car.

                      So now we are up to …

                      $150 – gas
                      $50 – insurance
                      $50 – purchase
                      $50 – taxes and fees
                      $100 maintenance
                      _____________________

                      $400 per month to own and operate a car and that still requires an extreme amount of luck that you can spend that little on a used car, drive it that long, and still somehow manage to keep your average monthly maintenance costs down to just $100 per month.

                    2. $150 – gas
                      $50 – insurance
                      $50 – purchase
                      $50 – taxes and fees
                      $100 maintenance

                      All of those costs will still be there with a ride share. And you will be paying your full share of them plus a return on the owner’s investment. The only advantage ride sharing gives is that a car can drive more miles in a year than I drive it. But I am still paying my share of that cost based on the number of miles I use compared to the total miles the car covers.

                      No on some basic echo box, that will be reasonably cheap. But if I need something different, say an SUV or a bigger car that isn’t as in demand, then the cost is going to be higher than if I just owned the thing because cars that are less in demand are going to be rented less and the owner will have to charge a higher price to cover the costs. I could just own the SUV and use it for all my needs cheaper than I could rent the echo box some days and pay through the nose fo the SUV on the days I need that.

                    3. “All of those costs will still be there with a ride share. And you will be paying your full share of them plus a return on the owner’s investment.”

                      Actually no they won’t.

                      Gas would be the same, or likely even a bit higher.
                      Insurance would be less as the carshare company only needs 1 insurance policy to cover all of it’s cumulative risk and not a separate policy per user or even a separate policy per car.
                      The cost of purchasing the vehicle would be less because that cost would be spread across all users throughout it’s service life and it would have a higher utilization rate than your private car would in almost all cases.
                      Maintenance would be less due to economies of scale offered by teams of dedicated mechanics doing scheduled routine maintenance.

                    4. teams of dedicated mechanics doing scheduled routine maintenance

                      What the hell is a repair shop if not exactly that? The only way there are economies of scale is if there are only a few models that the carshare company uses, which would make it really inconvenient to use in a ton of situations.

                    5. The cost of purchasing the vehicle would be less because that cost would be spread across all users throughout it’s service life and it would have a higher utilization rate than your private car would in almost all cases.

                      No. A vehicle will run so many miles before it dies. You are going to pay whatever your share of those miles is going to be, whether you own it or rent it. In fact, your cost is likely to be more in a car sharing company. Car sharing companies will not be competitive with old or out of date cars. So will have to replace their cars long before their condition demands it. So if you buy your own car and don’t mind having an older car, you might get 250,000 or more out of it. A car sharing company won’t because they will have to replace it with a new one before that. So you will be paying your share of say 100,000 miles not 250 for the privilege of always using a new car, something that you don’t have to do if you own it.

                      Maintenance would be less due to economies of scale offered by teams of dedicated mechanics doing scheduled routine maintenance.

                      Car rental companies have the same economies. Yet, it is in no way economical to rent a car rather than buy it.

                    6. Actually a repair shop is anything but that.

                      a repair shop has a small set of mechanics and each works on a different car as it is brought in where each car has a different need that has to be diagnosed or a different maintenance operation that needs to occur and what they do on a daily basis is random.

                      With fleet mechanics they have a couple of oil change guys, a couple of brake guys, a tire guy or two, a couple of engine guys and so on, each only does 1 job and they do it on a regular scheduled predictable basis. With a fleet to manage I could tell you on january 2nd how many oil changes and break jobs that I will need to perform on next may 15th and be accurate +/-1% of the actual number. At that level even things like accidents and repairs become somewhat predictable on a statistical basis allowing you to operate your maintenance and repair facility like an assembly line. Something your local mechanic shop cannot do.

                      Why do you think it is cheaper to get an oil change from Jiffy Lube than it is to get one from anyplace else? It is cheaper and more efficient to have a team of people who do 1 task on a range of cars than to have a team of people who need to do every task on one kind of car

                    7. Insurance would be less as the carshare company only needs 1 insurance policy to cover all of it’s cumulative risk and not a separate policy per user or even a separate policy per car.

                      No insurance would be exactly the same. Every self driving car will give you the same amount of risk per mile no matter who owns it. And aggregating the policy for multiple cars won’t change that. Pooling for insurance only saves money if there is some kind of variation in the risk of each of the individuals. That isn’t the case here.

                    8. New shocks every 5 years – $5 per month

                      Bullshit. Shocks last decades. I have never replaces shocks on a car less than 12 years old and with over a hundred thousand miles.

                      3 oil changes a year – $5 per month

                      Only if you are driving it in the ground. Most cars go 10,000 miles between oil changes now. The days of the 3,000 mile oil changes are long over.

                      New Battery every 3 years – $2 per month

                      Bullshit. Every new battery is a 60 month battery.

                      Tune Up every 2 years – $6 per month

                      If you are driving a car with points and a carburetor maybe. But new cars never need tuneups. At most they will need new spark plugs every 60,000 miles.

                      You are way over estimating the cost of owning a car.

                    9. If you have even a 7 year old vehicle and you are spending less than $100 a month on maintenance consider yourself one of the luckiest men on earth.

                      I did almost all my own work, so cut all those estimates by 2/3. I avoided some maintenance since the car was 15 years old by the end, and I didn’t need new shocks or brakes, etc. for a car I was about to get rid of. I also overestimated my gas usage by half (included my wife’s car), overestimated insurance probably by half, and maybe paid $750 in emergency repairs over 7 years. Oh, and I got a grand back when I sold the car.

                      Off the top of my head, here is an approximation of my actual costs
                      Car cost: $2400 purchase price minus $1000 sale price = $1400
                      Maintenance and repair costs: 6x tires (one 2 wheel change and one 4 wheel change) $850, 10x oil changes (every 7,000 miles, give or take) $250, 2x battery $90, front brakes $75, other minor maintenance (wipers, headlights, etc) $150, engine idle issue/repair $750 = $2165
                      Insurance: 1/2x ~$100/month = $4200
                      Tags/Inspection: ~$90/year = $630

                      Total cost for life of vehicle = $8395
                      I owned the car for 7 years and change, so I’ll use 84 months.
                      Cost per month = $100/month

                      Even if I’m off by 100%, and my costs have been double, it’s still only $200/month

                    10. YOUR costs are anectdotal and don’t really mean all that much.

                      First off, great you can do your own maintenance, not everyone possesses such skills and even where they do they don’t always posses the tools or a physical location that will allow them to do so (most apartment dwellers are banned from even changing their own oil in their parking lots). Second your experience with breakdowns and repairs is not guaranteed to be average.

                      So lets look at some actual stats…

                      http://www.bankrate.com/financ…..state.aspx

                      Note this is still missing the cost of registration, taxes, and inspections so there are several hundred additional dollars you can add into the costs in most of those states.

                      It is also using data from 2010 so you can bump everything up a bit for inflation.

                      Most importantly however that is an average across ALL vehicles, from new cars down to 20 year old 300,000 beater cars. The older the car is the higher the maintenance and gas costs will go so when you are looking at a 10 – 15 year old vehicle yeah maybe someone can get lucky with annual ownership costs of under $1000 but for every one of those guys there is going to be someone running north of $6000 a year to keep a series of cars that age on the road and the average guy driving a car that old is going to be looking at average cost somewhere in the $3500 a year range.

                    11. a 10 – 15 year old vehicle . . . there is going to be someone running north of $6000 a year

                      Wait wut??? The whole point of having a 10-15 year old vehicle is that you’re running it into the ground. Once the maintenance and repair costs exceed ~$1k/year, you ditch it and use some of the money you saved to buy a newer beater. At $6k a year, you could buy a new beater whenever any repair was required and never do maintenance.

                    12. Yes, that is the point so you go out and buy the $2000 beater car, 2 weeks later you discover it needs new brakes, a month after that a new radiator, a week later a new alternator then you get a couple good months in before the transmission blows. All totaled you’ve got $3500 into the thing and now it is junk and you need to go buy another $2000 beater.

                      At one point in time I went through 5 cars in 2 years.

                      Obviously the point of buying an old car is to drive it into the ground, the problem is buying an old car is playing the lottery. Some people get solid reliable transportation that only gives them minor problems some people get a mostly reliable car that is in the shop more often than they can really afford but at least generally gets them where they are going, and some people get a series of money pits that require a string of expensive repairs before they finally decide it is not worth fixing and junk it only to play the lottery on another similar car.

                      You are making the assumption that only the first group of people exist because you happened to have that experience one time.

                3. I lived in downtown San Diego for a while. Parking garages for all the apartment/condo complexes, filled on-street parking at night for everyone else.

                  Urban 20 somethings are *deliberately* sacrificing a vehicle for the location but there’s really no excuse for someone living in the *suburbs* not being able to ‘afford’ a private vehicle. Where I live there are people who make a living picking lettuce and they can still afford a reliable car. So if that guy you know ‘can’t afford it’, its because he’s chosen something else to spend the money on.

                  And it may be that those 20 somethings may continue to use fleet services – but I would bet that once they get married and have a kid they’ll be on Craigslist or wandering down to the dealer looking for a private vehicle to buy – autonomous or otherwise.

              3. As far as rural areas, yeah you are right, this economic model doesn’t make sense there. So what. about 175 million people in the US live in metropolitan areas (that is urban or suburban) with populations over 900,000 where this economic model works just fine.

                1. Ras, do you by chance happen to live on the West Coast?

                  1. East coast actually, spent the last 5 years in Boston and now living in Maryland just on the eastern shore side of the Bay Bridge (I can make it to either DC or Baltimore in 45 minutes with no traffic)

                    1. However before that I was in Louisville Ky for 5 years and Columbus OH for 4 and even in those relatively small midwestern cities I knew a significant number of people who did not own a car

                    2. I was in Louisville Ky for 5 years and Columbus OH for 4

                      I can’t imagine living in C’bus without a car. There are maybe 2 neighborhoods where that could even possibly make sense given how horrible the bus lines are and how spread out the city is outside those neighborhoods. The only place where I would expect a significant number of carless folks would be on campus.

                2. Works fine *economically*. But taxis and Uber work economically for those same people *now* and the majority of them still own a vehicle and use the above for the occassions when dealing with a car is *less convenient* than using a fleet service.

                  Because in the end, owning a car is not that expensive and the convenience of having it immediately available, set to your preferences (no need to move the babyseat in and out, leave tools in the back, etc) is considered worth the slight extra cost.

          6. My ownership costs are pretty low – couple hundred a year. Cutting that to a third . . . isn’t going to make up for the costs inherent in not having a genuine ‘on demand’ vehicle (autonomous or otherwise).

            We’re talking an average of 40 hours waiting for the AV to show up at 5 minutes waiting, twice a day, 5 days a week. At even $8/hr that’s $320 in costs due to waiting.

            Best case scenario, I would still lose money using a fleet vehicle unless I had a sufficiently rigid schedule for the fleet provider.

      3. if only we don’t allow over-cautious regulators, outdated infrastructure demands, and our fears to kill off the self-driving car.

        That’s cute. Might as well say, “If only we didn’t live in the world in which we live.”

      4. Using the University of Texas’ low-end calculation of each shared self-driving car replacing the services of seven individually owned vehicles,

        Ron, how can you not see the flaws in the assumptions going on there? You are assuming that everyone who owns a car owns it for the pure necessity of basic transportation and not for status or pleasure or as a positional good or comfort, speed, excitement, convenience or anything else. Nope, everyone who owns a car owns a box that gets them to where they are going and for no other reason.

        People are not giving up their personal cars and the status and convenience and freedom that comes with it in anything like the numbers you think they will. It boggles my mind how anyone could think that people would give up their cars in return for what amounts to a taxi service. People who have the money to easily hire personal drivers and car services to be at their beckon call, still choose to buy their own cars and spend extravagant amounts doing so. If the world were like you think it is, there would be no such thing as a luxury or a sports car.

        1. *Beck and call

        2. J: There will be a lot of other new products and services that signal status in the coming years. I expect that some folks will want to retain the option value of having a personal car available whenever they’d like, but as I argue above with RCD: I think you are assuming individual ownership of the cars – most will be fleet owned and the cost of such personal mobility services are estimated to be a third to a quarter of private automobile ownership (purchase, maintenance, insurance, fuel) now. Self-driving will win in the marketplace because it will be a lot cheaper and more convenient than the current private ownership model for most people.

          1. elf-driving will win in the marketplace because it will be a lot cheaper and more convenient than the current private ownership model for most people.

            You know what is cheap and convenient, owning a Honda Accord as opposed to owning a BMW or a some luxury car. Yet, while accord is a wonderful seller and a great car, it represents only a fraction of auto sales in the world. Why is that? It is because people make decisions based on things beyond price and convenience.

            People like things to be personalized. A fleet car is like any other rental. It is going to be what is cheap and works for the masses. Owning your own car allows you to have what works exactly for you. People will pay for that for the same reason they will pay $70,000 for a BMW when a $20,000 will do the same job and probably do it better in many ways.

            1. “Elf-driving”
              Hmmm, jots down future marketable item.

              1. Driving elfs at you’re beckon call!

          2. …the cost of such personal mobility services are estimated to be a third to a quarter of private automobile ownership (purchase, maintenance, insurance, fuel) now.

            This is simply a stupid claim. Here’s Consumer Reports breakdown of car tco over varying time spans.

            Fuel costs are identical because that is the energy you are consuming to move you around. Differences in idling rates and searching for parking are likely more than made up for in repositioning costs to the next transit sale. There’s ~25% of your TCO already, so if you were to limit it to just that you would just squeak by at 4:1, but you can’t limit it to just that.

            Interest and maintenance will be baked into the ride cost as well. The average driver puts on ~12k miles per year on their vehicle so while you will be paying a tiny fraction of the cost of maintenance on an individual vehicle, you will be paying the cost in aggregate of an entire vehicle for a year which ranges from 1-6% depending on vehicle lifespan; let’s call it 3%. Interest can be amortized over a larger number of riders so you probably get a break there. Interest is ~10% of the vehicle cost, so let’s say you cut that down by 75% (I think I’m being generous).

            1. (cont.)

              That leaves the single biggest item in the TCO: depreciation. Now what does depreciation look like on corporate capital? Generally 4-5 years for the full cost accounting. And what is the aftermarket for an autonomous vehicle? I’d say basically zero. So depreciation is going to be at least as aggressive as any other corporate capital and you the rider will be paying for it. Even giving an amortization advantage of 2:1 (which I think is wildly optimistic) still leaves you paying ~25% of the cost of the vehicle.

              So what are we left with? 25% fuel + 25% dep. + 2.5% interest + 3% maintenance = 55.5%. So at best you have a 2:1 cost advantage. Frankly I’ll be surprised if it’s more than 25% in the final analysis.

        3. Yes people buy cars for a lot of reasons but you know what, the primary purpose of 90% of the passenger cars bought remains transportation.

          Sure there will always be guys willing to drop a quarter million on a high performance sports car or status symbol luxury car but now lets look at the other end of the spectrum.

          Lets take your average 21 year old millenial running around out there. He’s working a job paying him less than $30,000 a year which gets him around $1800 a month in take home income. Rent, Food, Utilities,and Student Loan payments are running him between $1200 and $1500 a month (depending on where he lives) leaving him $300 to $600 a month in income from which he has to pay for transportation. Now he can go buy his own car which depending on his choices (new/used, make, model, and year) will cost him anywhere from $400 to $1000 or more a month to own (covers buying, maintaining, fueling, insuring, registering, and taxes on the car) .

          Or he can drop $150 a month on a transit pass and another $150 a month into a car service that uses self driving cars to get him around.

          Which one do you think he is going to choose?

          And note, in 20 years the economic plight of the 21 year old post millennial is likely to be significantly worse given what is going to have to happen to keep Social Security and Medicare afloat.

          1. Rasillio,

            If your argument is that society will become so poor it can no longer afford the luxury of owning their own car, then I can’t argue with that other than to say I don’t think we are headed for poverty. That however is a different debate. Saying “we are going to end up so poor these things will be the only affordable option” is not the same thing as saying “these things are an improvement and what people will naturally choose”, which is what Ron is saying.

            1. Society isn’t poor. Young people are poor. Eventually they stop being young and poor.

              1. I agree. And when they do stop being young and poor, they are going to want their own cars.

                1. And in the meantime before they stop being young and poor they are going too…..

                  Oh right find an alternative form of transportation that they actually can afford.

                  And as far as society becoming so poor it can no longer afford the luxury of owning their own car, No I am not saying it is becoming that. I’m saying it HAS ALREADY become that for a large and growing portion of the lower classes and given the looming debt apocalypses we pretty much all agree are baked into our economic system I only see that getting worse for the next couple of generations at least.

                  1. . I’m saying it HAS ALREADY become that for a large and growing portion of the lower classes

                    The enormous numbers of cars on the road say otherwise. I know plenty of people who make very little money and all of them own cars of one sort or another.

                    1. Gee that is funny because even 16 years ago there were 50 cities where between 1 in 2 and 1 in 6 households did not own a car.

                      List of U.S. cities with most households without a car

                      Now, you want to take odds on whether those no vehicle rates have increased or decreased over that time?

                      Note, these 50 areas cover somewhere in the vicinity of 120,000,000 people with about 25,000,000 of those people not having a car.

                      Those 25 million people alone are a sufficient market to allow self driving rideshares to thrive, especially when you consider there are at least another 25 million who are only marginally able to hold on to the car they currently own and spend a significant amount of time being inconvenienced by a 15 year old car with 300,000 miles on it breaking down all the time.

                    2. Those 25 million people alone are a sufficient market to allow self driving rideshares to thrive, especially when you consider there are at least another 25 million who are only marginally able to hold on to the car they currently own and spend a significant amount of time being inconvenienced by a 15 year old car with 300,000 miles on it breaking down all the time.

                      And yet, Uber and Lyt are losing money hand over fist. And Zip cars are not that common. And every mass transit system in America loses money. The thing is that there already are pretty cheap alternatives available in these areas to car ownership. And those alternatives are not making money at all or certainly not much if they are.

                      That tells me that those people don’t have cars because they don’t need one, not because they can’t afford one. If the 25 million people you point to were a market for self drying cars, they would already be using Zip cars and Uber to such a degree those services would be making money hand over fist.

                    3. Those 25 million people alone are a sufficient market to allow self driving rideshares to thrive

                      The question isn’t whether there’s a market. Of course there’s a market for self driving rideshares. The question is whether they’ll replace the concept of car ownership. They won’t, and sans some dystopian horror show, they never will.

                  2. And yet somehow so many live in NYC and SF and other metro areas with ridiculous costs of living. How do they manage?

          2. Most people I know who live in dense urban areas do not own cars. They don’t need to, they can take public transit and even walk some places they need to go. Then there are places like Baltimore where the public transit is for the most part unsafe, so you’re better off owning a car even if you don’t have to. And then there are the people in rural areas who all own cars because there’s no other way for them to get to work or even to the grocery store.

            I think the driverless car services will serve suburban people best. But only if the rides are never shared, because otherwise you’re going to see people getting mugged, raped, and murdered on a daily basis.

            1. I think the driverless car services will serve suburban people best.

              Disagreed. I think they’re going to prefer car ownership over a service en masse. Why? Because owning a car in the suburbs isn’t at all inconvenient, and it also adds a ton of convenience. A mobility service can’t fold down the 3rd row of the Suburban and store all the hockey gear there between practices. A mobility service doesn’t make sense to idle at the bus stop when it’s too cold for little Special Snowflake to wait in the cold. A mobility service makes very little sense for towing the boat up to the lakehouse with all the kids and their friends.

              1. Those are all great points and things Bailey ignores. There are economies of scale at work here. If I am running a cab service, i can’t have every kind of car for every occasion available at a moments notice. The car costs money to buy and maintain and every vehicle in my fleet has to make enough money to pay for itself. So these fleets of self driving cars would necessarily have to be fleets of the most middle of the road basic transportation that pays for itself. If you want the SUV to hall all the kids and their hockey gear, you are going to pay extra and it isn’t going to be there at a moments notice and it might not be available at all because I am only going to have a few of those.

                It just appalls me how someone like Bailey who otherwise fully understands the limitations of central planing and the advantages of individual preference can forget all of that and think that everyone is going to give up their personal cars for a one size fits all robitc uber service.

                1. My wife can’t drive. I would LOVE to have a self-driving car. That would be tremendously liberating. It’s not going to happen for 10 years at least.

                  1. There are some people who can’t drive or hate to drive Skippy. And this technology will be great for them.

                2. otherwise fully understands the limitations of central planing and the advantages of individual preference

                  It’s technology worship. They don’t realize that AI isn’t a panacea, just like Gov’t isn’t a panacea. You can’t program a solution to everybody’s individual situations. In a world where everything is decentralizing due to the ability to cater to personal choice, the idea that we’re gonna recentralize transportation is perplexing.

                  1. In a world where everything is decentralizing due to the ability to cater to personal choice, the idea that we’re gonna recentralize transportation is perplexing.

                    It really is. It is technology worship and it is also an emotional dislike of the necessary consequences of freedom. Bailey looks at individual cars and he sees people doing things that are in his view dangerous and irresponsible and he can’t stand it. He sees AI as a panacea because it would bring uniformity. People would no longer have unnecessarily big or fast cars and they would no longer drive in dangerous ways. Everyone would have the same efficient and safe way of transport.

                    What Bailey and those like him can’t see is that all of that messiness and irresponsibility and variation that they hate is the necessary byproduct of freedom. Bailey really is an example of someone who loves freedom provided everyone acts responsibly. He can’t see the disconnect between claiming to embrace freedom but then also rejecting the irresponsibility and disorder than come with it.

          3. I don’t know – I just ran some better numbers on my expenses and it comes out to around $165/mo for a Jeep Grand Cherokee, including gas. Mostly gas actually. Something like 1.4k a year for gas, 600 for maintenance, tags, and insurance.

            Granted, its a 2001 Jeep but I got it for 4k, its paid off, its reliable, and it *is* a gas hog (so if all you need/want is on-road transport you can cut that a lot by buying something more reasonable).

            But consider the cost of waiting for your ride (while mine is immediately available) and, really, it ends up being neutral or saving money by owning versus ‘renting’.

            And a rollout of self-driving capability cuts the value of a fleet service to me – the value being not having to drive or deal with parking/storage (like when going to the airport) – making owning an AV a clear winner for a lot of people, even poor 20-somethings paying off their student loans while living in a trendy downtown, high-density mixed-use, development.

      5. Autopia.

        The scary problem with utopias is that real people rarely want to do what’s necessary for these things to be realized.

        A yuge part of the calculations relies on people *not caring about having a private vehicle* – and that’s contrary to my experience of Americans.

        The only possible way this could work is if the average cost of a fleet trip is small enough that the total cost of using the fleet is less than the total cost of owning. And the cost of owning is already pretty low. Low enough that if you drive 500ish miles a month (right now) it makes more sense to own your own car rather than use mass transit. And most people drive far more than 500 miles a month so the marginal costs of ownership are even lower.

        1. The only possible way this could work is if the average cost of a fleet trip is small enough that the total cost of using the fleet is less than the total cost of owning.

          Yes and don’t forget that the “cost” of the fleet trip includes the loss of convenience and personalization that comes with owning your own car.

  7. lidar, radar, optical sensors, high resolution 3D maps, GPS and more to navigate itself.

    i’m surprised it’s only 1 TB per hour

  8. This might be just me, but I’d prefer that my vehicles not be fully autonomous. I prefer dumb machines that I can control.

    1. I don’t even like automatic transmissions.

  9. If you need to speed up past the speed limit and swerve off the road to avoid a collision, will the machine solve this problem that a human mind could do in a second? Not without artificial intelligence. And I don’t think having Skynet carting us around in 2000# and up vehicles is a smart thing for our future as a race.

  10. True story: The guy who helped us maintain our septic (its this weird multi-stage aerobic/anaerobic thing) left to go work on Uber’s project. Really sharp guy, loved our kind of septic system, one of the few who could manage it, and now he’s doing autonomous cars. At least he didn’t have to move to CA.

    1. That’s shitty.

    2. Sounds like Uber might be aware that people will be shitting in their autonomous cars.

    3. its this weird multi-stage aerobic/anaerobic thing

      This is interesting.

      1. Uhh, CJ, that was not a euphemism. Sorry.

    4. I fail to see the synergy? Maybe it is a “startup thing”?

      1. Its weird, I know. I think he knew somebody who knew somebody, and is a sharp guy and a good worker.

  11. Poole says that his skepticism about the speedy deployment of self-driving cars “is coming from researchers, serious researchers, not reporters writing in the popular press, at UC Berkeley, at Carnegie-Mellon, and at MIT….”

    No sweat, Ron. Reason is not part of the “popular press”!

  12. Ten years ago, a friend of mine told me, “We’ll all have self-driving cars in ten years.” I called bullshit. Now I’m being told they think they’ll have “fully autonomous car(s) available for ride-hailing and ride-sharing services by 2021.”

    My friend thinks I’m skeptical about the technology and that I’m some kind of Luddite. No, I’m skeptical about technological predictions. They are always wrong. Sometimes for the better, but still always wrong. So, I can relate to the quote from Poole. Rather than dealing with wishful thinking, he seems to be checking with actual experts on the subject.

    I just get sick of the predictions. Tell me what technology they have, and what they’re trying to do. Let the results speak for themselves and STFU already about 5-10 years from now.

    1. *** huffily ***

      And you call yourself a “futurist” ….

    2. Your friend is full of shit. Not many individuals will ever own a self driving car and the ones they do own will have a human override interface. The fully autonomous cars will only be operated by companies like Uber.

    3. ^^THIS^^

      You really can’t say what Theseus is saying here enough.

    4. We’re going to land humans on Mars by 1980 1985 1995 2000 2010 2020 2030 …

      Sound familiar?

      1. Unlike with driverless cars, where is the profit in a Mars landing?

        1. Driverless cars have yet to turn a profit either…

          1. True, but the path to it happening is visible.

            I can’t even fathom how a mars landing could be profitable.

            1. It will be done regardless. What profit is there in climbing a mountain? People will do it for the adventure if nothing else. But someone will figure out how to profit eventually, maybe starting with tourism.

              1. Sure it will be done. But until someone figures out a way to make a profit by going there and or living there, it will forever be a one off vanity project.

            2. I can’t even fathom how a mars landing could be profitable.

              Government subsidies.

              That appears to be the entirety of the Musk profit model.

    5. There are luddites, then there are the futurists with their pie in the sky everything connected to everything irritating blowhards like Diamandis. I’m a futurist, but a cynical one. When you don’t factor human nature and government interference in markets, along with lots of other variables, you’re likely to always make wrong predictions.

      1. everything connected to everything

        Its funny how their utopia is my dystopia.

        1. Exactly this. They don’t factor in human nature. Sort of like progs and then cannot figure out why everyone is not on board their loony train.

    6. My friend thinks I’m skeptical about the technology and that I’m some kind of Luddite. No, I’m skeptical about technological predictions. They are always wrong.

      I agree, maybe for similar reasons.

      I don’t really care about the predictable (or not) rate of technology development. I care about the “market”.

      Its not that i don’t think autonomous cars are possible – its that i don’t think many people actually *want* them. Even when they’ve fully technologically matured – i think that the consumer reaction will be slow to adopt them, and that the phase in which they co-exist with regular cars on the road will reveal a lot of unexpected problems that prevent their ever getting more than a ‘significant minority share’, like 30%.

      I don’t think they’ll play well with other cars, and will end up having their own lanes… and that ‘regular’ drivers will bristle at being told they need to adapt to accommodate the driverless vehicles. etc.

      I just don’t think new technology is necessarily adopted exactly the way ‘planners/designers’ anticipate. some people think capability creates demand; i think its a more complex dance where consumer behavior doesn’t always perform as anticipated.

      1. I’m not quite as pessimistic on autonomous cars as you are, but I think you highlight the issue with many of these grand “robot Uber” ideas. People simply don’t want to use a glorified taxi for all their transportation needs. Even something as simple as having your umbrella in the back seat when there’s an unexpected shower is an invaluable convenience that mobility services won’t replicate. There are a thousand little things that a thousand different people do to make their transportation more convenient, and a centralized service provider simply can’t accommodate all of those preferences.

    1. There was some bad driving involved there. Pretty good reaction/stop time by the Tesla.

    2. Was that really a crash prediction, though, or just a timely response to the traffic slowdown that the at-fault driver missed while planning a lane change?

      It’s not unimpressive either way, but I don’t think it was actually predicting the crash.

      1. A bit of hair-splitting here. Maybe that driver could have recovered in time, but he’d have to have been a machine.

        He was following too closely and humans have a measurable reaction time that could not be improved enough to have prevented this accident. I’d call that a crash prediction, given that the alarm didn’t go off prior to warn that the two drivers might collide given how close they were to one another. At some point the computer will have a good enough estimate of the momenta involved given common vehicle masses and human reaction time that would imply that a crash is nearly inevitable, at least within the tolerances that the Tesla itself would be able to respond to if it actually does occur.

        Suppose that Earth did everything it could to stop a catastrophic asteroid collision and failed. At some point, scientists tell everyone to make their peace with whatever dear and fluffy lord they may believe in because the collision is now inevitable. Do you call that a prediction, given their expertise with physics?

    3. I have always said the future is driver aided cars. That is exactly what I say the future is not fully robotic fleet owned echo penalty boxes.

    4. Video’s been taken down, anyone got a mirror?

      1. That’s crazy. It wasn’t even up all that long and there wasn’t any music to get it DMCAed or anything.

        Here’s another video of the incident hosted by NBC news.

        1. Their technology is impressive. It takes some exceptional processing power to swerve into the oncoming lane.

  13. Poole says that his skepticism about the speedy deployment of self-driving cars “is coming from researchers, serious researchers, not reporters writing in the popular press, at UC Berkeley, at Carnegie-Mellon, and at MIT….”

    I think this technology is going to benefit interstate trucking far before it becomes useful in a city.

    1. That’s a fairly obvious application, but I suspect that getting drivers out of 18 wheelers will be very difficult, because FEARZ!!!

      1. Oh sure. But, there are plenty of truck stops where the trucks could be maintained and checked, and road work and accidents, etc would be much easier to plot on a highway. Teamsters could be stationed at the truck stops to check oil levels and tire pressure, and hook up the machine to a computer. They would love it!

        1. “They would love it!”

          Is it going to be great and classy too?

        2. There would be some significant infrastructure requirement.

          A big part of the work of trucking is at the terminal. The last 5-50 miles of the trip often involves driving into LA/NYC at 0400 to get into tight fitting locations and around rush hour traffic.

          Moving to completely autonomous OTR trucking would mean more larger freight terminals outside these places where final delivery would be handled by local trucking.

          Basically how rail freight works.

          1. Yes. There would be a big market for inland ports, and shipping goods into large metropolitan areas via rail or waterway.

  14. Individuals will not be owning these cars. Uber or other transport companies will, because they will be the only entities capable of maintaining the crazy level of liability insurance it will require and the court battles with the auto maker over whose fault it is the first time one of these things kills several people in an accident.

    I also don’t see these driving on some rural areas where there is no clear indication where the side of the road is or the middle because there are no clearly defined markings or any markings at all and the roads are generally in terrible condition.

    1. Individuals will not be owning these cars…

      This is my guess as well, at least until they perfect the technology and it becomes so cheap that it’s too attractive an option to pass up (or, at until the authorities demand our participation in the market – another real possibility)

  15. How do you replicate everything a human driver does behind the wheel in a vehicle that drives itself?

    Oh, it’s *trivial* to have the vehicle utilize Twitter.

    1. What if the cars become sentient and start texting while driving?

      1. Will they slow down while passing hotties?

        1. Sure, and then hit a fire hydrant and utility pole.

          1. Hot pants. So powerful.

        2. There’s more to driving than getting from point A to point B.

          1. But sometimes I am only interested in getting from Point A to Point B.

            1. I agree which is why I like having the option

    2. How do you replicate everything a human driver does behind the wheel in a vehicle that drives itself?

      Teledildonics?

  16. I can’t even get a decent spell checker or touchscreen. Also, bet cops will still give out DUIs.

    1. Would you bet your life or at least safety on the reliability and security of your laptop or tablet? Imagine every time your laptop or tablet froze or had to be rebooted, it put you in serious physical danger. Would you want to own such a device? I don’t think I would and i especially wouldn’t if all it did was do something I already can do and do so easily.

      Of all the burdens of life, driving a car is not one of the bigger ones. P Brooks nailed this technology when he said it is the answer to a question no one was asking.

      1. Yeah, someday maybe but I don’t see this coming anytime soon.

      2. P Brooks nailed this technology when he said it is the answer to a question no one was asking.

        Maybe, maybe not. That’s for the market to decide.

        1. Sure it is. I don’t think they should be banned. The worry is the safety nannies like Bailey will get the government to intervene and make these things mandatory and not let the market decide.

          1. That’s my fear as well. That’s what my autonomous car loving friend is advocating.

      3. I did buy a Samsung phone recently.

        1. How about their washer?

          http://www.consumerreports.org…..fety-risk/

          1. An exploding washer? WTF? How do you make a washing machine blow up? Samsung must have some really exceptional engineers.

            1. It was the Note7 someone left in his pocket.

          2. Crap, that’s the model washer I have!

      4. There is some validity to that.

        OTOH, a lot of times when a phone/tablet/laptop freezes up, it’s because a script got stuck in the internet browser or Microsoft Fucking Update did something dumb.

        The computer required to pilot a car will be much simpler, in a way (really, the program). It will just be straight math from sensor inputs and no sane engineer is going to go without a ton of redundancies for something like that.

        Also, driving is a tremendous burden to some people, so I don’t think it’s a question nobody is asking. 90 minute+ commutes take a huge chunk out of your life. Even 15 minute commutes add up. Imagine being able to actually work or shop for christmas presents or catch the game you DVR’d instead of driving.

        1. Imagine sleeping while your car overnights you to the beach.

        2. Imagine being able to actually work or shop for christmas presents or catch the game you DVR’d instead of driving.

          I have Audible for that. I actually really enjoy being able to listen to an audiobook while driving. I’ve been working through Basic Economics for the last month or so.

      5. But the question has been asked:

        How can I drink what I want and get home safely and economically?

        1. Get a cab. You have to be one hell of a big drunk to think these things are worth it simply so you can drive home drunk now.

          1. Cabs are not economical.

            1. The existence of cab companies all over the world and now Uber and Lyft says otherwise. If they were not economical, they wouldn’t be in business.

              1. Economical vs auto ownership.

                They are great in certain circumstances, but I didnt use them in those.

                In Louisville, trying to get a cab outside the airport or downtown hotels was next to impossible. Uber improved things.

                1. Just use them when you are drunk. Again, just how often are you out drunk?

                  1. Covered 4 mins before your post.

          2. Eh, I have about 5 drinks per week. At home.

            But in my pre-marriage days, I would go out 2-3 times per week and have 2-3 beers. But the places I liked to go were a 20 minute drive away. So if I had the 3rd beer, I would hang out for a while, and sometimes it would have been nice to have another.

            1. 3 beers should not even put you to .08, maybe .05 and you would likely be back to 0 2 hours after drinking them. I mean maybe if you’re a 100 lb woman, 3 beers might make you .08.

              1. I dont drive anywhere near .08.

                I dont want to drive at .04, but that is just me.

      6. Of all the burdens of life, driving a car is not one of the bigger ones. P Brooks nailed this technology when he said it is the answer to a question no one was asking.

        You don’t commute into Atlanta every day along I-20 and the Downtown Connector, do you? If everybody stayed in one lane and maintained one speed you could cut trip times in half instead of spending half an hour every damn day sitting in a twelve-lane parking lot because some asshole doing 105 waits until he’s 12 feet from his exit to cut across 5 lanes of traffic and the ripple effect from the braking screws up the flow for 12,000 cars.

        1. It’s the same way on the beltway here. No one drives the 55-60 MPH speed limit. They are either doing 40 or 90+, no in between, so traffic is constantly stop and go because there’s no flow, and accidents are frequent.

        2. Jerry,

          I used to live in Atlanta and I currently live in Washington DC which is even worse. And self driving cars are not going to work like that. It is not that simple. Anytime you have a line of moving anything, it is naturally going to accordion as the front of the pack hits different road conditions, a curve or obstruction or whatever, from the back. Moreover people don’t change lanes and do other things that slow up traffic always out of spite or impatience. They also do it because they need to get off the road. Cars are going to different destinations. So even self driving cars are not going to just wizz along in a line at a uniform speed. It doesn’t work that way.

          Lastly, what makes a commute a pain is that you are stuck in the car. A commute where someone else is driving isn’t any more pleasant than one where you are driving. In someways it can be less pleasant because at least the driver has something to do.

          1. A commute where someone else is driving isn’t any more pleasant than one where you are driving.

            This. I used to do a commute that was half in the car and half in the train, and the train part was absolutely awful. At least during the car part half of my brain was occupied with driving.

        3. I-285 in Atlanta is named after the two driving speeds.

          First everyone drives 85, then everyone drives 2.

      7. “P Brooks nailed this technology when he said it is the answer to a question no one was asking.”

        P Brooks or John have clearly never been disabled, under 16, or elderly.

        1. I know lots of disabled people who drive. And when I was under 15, I never went anywhere without my parents anyway.

          1. …and? Do you think the might be chance you don’t know all disabled people? or maybe there are some 15 year olds who maybe DO go places without their parents or would if given the chance? You don’t think there is anyone who would benefit from fully autonomous cars?

            1. I think there would be a few. But saying “sure the odd cripple or really independent 15 year old will love this” is a long ways from saying “this is going to replace every car in America.

              The point of Brooks’ statement wasn’t that no one could use these. It was that vast majority were not waking up every morning wanting someone to fix the problem of driving whatever that is.

    2. How about an edit feature?

  17. Sorta related: The Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real Time (AVATAR) is currently being tested in conjunction with the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) to help border security agents determine whether travelers coming into Canada may have undisclosed motives

    Passengers would step up to the kiosk and be asked a series of questions such as, “Do you have fruits or vegetables in your luggage?” or “Are you carrying any weapons with you?” Eye-detection software and motion and pressure sensors would monitor the passengers as they answer the questions, looking for tell-tale physiological signs of lying or discomfort.

    “You have twenty seconds to drop your weapon.”

    1. AVATAR. Lol

    2. As if Canada was not creepy enough already.

    3. motion and pressure sensors

      So you’ll have to get hooked up to a lie detector? Not seeing that happening, myself.

      1. I can definitely see them trying it. What it would inevitably do, I believe, is to creep people out and make them stop traveling to visit any place that requires that level of creepery. But will governments try it? Hell yes. I can see them wanting a retina scan, finger prints, DNA check, and the lie detector on top of the naked body scan every time you cross a border. It’s what we’re coming to.

    4. “Do you intend to smuggle maple syrup out of Canada, eh?”

    1. But the feminists assured me no women could be interested in astronomy because one male astronomer wore a sleazy T-shirt

      1. Yeah, and now she’s dead. COINCIDENCE?

  18. The thought of these things terrified me, ripe for the worse abuses of all sorts. And then I read an editorial in the local paper to the effect that this could be pretty nice for mom and dad as they age and want to stay at home but really shouldn’t be driving, and I thought…. hmmmm, good point. This may not be ready in time for my parents, but I’m beginning to have doubts that I will be the first real Lazarus Long, and the day may even come when I might want to be able to say to the car: ‘I want a nice steak, take me to the market, and let’s stop for a bottle of red along the way’.

    Sometimes, the problem with advanced technology is not its use, but its (admittedly vast) potential for misuse.

    1. And even the young folks might like to have 3 or 4 beers and get home safely and without endangering others.

      1. I can’t see the USA ever allowing anyone to travel in one of these things if they’ve been drinking. I think it will still be a DUI if you get caught trying it. No way are they giving that racket up, it’s big bucks for lawyers and the court systems. IOW, if no one drives anymore, they’ll just change it from DWI to RWI. For the children.

  19. As cars replaced horses, they had to share the road for a time. At first, there were strict speed limits on the cars and laws against scaring the horses because it was the cars that were the exception in traffic. Today, you’re still free to operate a horse, but not on the freeways and there are laws on how horse traffic has to accommodate itself to car traffic. For everybody’s safety, you have to separate the traffic.

    I see the same thing developing with autos, (but naturally with huge amounts of expensive government numbskull-fuckery because the retards are too stupid to allow this thing to develop organically) gradual lane set-asides giving way to limited-access highways and near-universal adoption of the idea that cars are for playing around with and autos are for actual no-nonsense travel. You’ll have high-speed, high-capacity smart highways in and around the cities where the road manages the traffic flow and the regular old dumb pavement in the hinterlands.

    It seems to me the transition vehicle is one the road drives where it’s able with a manual switch that allows the driver to take over if there’s no road control to prohibit it. The default is going to be that humans will not be allowed to operate vehicles on the smart roads just as you can’t operate a horse on the interstate. And as smart roads become more common and dumb roads scarce, you’re going to find it difficult to get around without an auto.

    1. I lived in an area close to some Amish communities and would occasionally have to drive through those areas. Cars hitting horse drawn buggies was not an uncommon incident.

    2. The default is going to be that humans will not be allowed to operate vehicles on the smart roads just as you can’t operate a horse on the interstate.

      Nothing says freedom like being told you can’t assume responsibility for your own safety and autonomy. Seriously, other issues aside, how could anyone find such a future in any way appealing? I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would find such a world anything but a nightmare.

      1. I would find it appealing if about 90% of Maryland drivers were not allowed to drive on 695.

        1. I have lived all over the country and I find all drivers to be about the same.

          1. So have I. The east coast has the worst drivers, by far.

      2. Do you find it troublesome that you can’t rollerskate on the interstate? Or bicycle on the railroad tracks? You can still drive your plain old dumb car, just not on the smart roads. The smart roads will be for getting from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible, if you’re driving for enjoyment you’re going to have to do it somewhere else.

        I see the smart autos as a mid-point between mass transit and individual travel – it’s an on-demand ride that picks up and drops off right at the door. Mass transit sucks so bad because the buses and trains follow their own schedule and have their own origination and destination points and the bus driver won’t swing by the store real quick when your wife calls and wants you to pick up a jar of olives on your way home. If you make the whole map part of the transit system and give everybody their own little controllable seat on the bus, mass transit would look a whole lot more attractive.

        1. Do you find it troublesome that you can’t rollerskate on the interstate?

          No because I never could do that and doing so would be pointless.

          I see the smart autos as a mid-point between mass transit and individual travel – it’s an on-demand ride that picks up and drops off right at the door.

          1. Do you find it troublesome that you can’t rollerskate on the interstate?

            No because I never could do that and doing so would be pointless.

            I see the smart autos as a mid-point between mass transit and individual travel – it’s an on-demand ride that picks up and drops off right at the door.

            That is great but I don’t see it that way. We don’t really have a problem here except that you want to come and stick a boot on my face and tell me I can no longer drive my own car. Why? Well because your robot car doesn’t deal well with me driving. Well tough shit. As long as we have public roads and my tax money goes to build them, you can’t ban my driving on them for your convenience or some fucked up commitment to the common good.

            Drive or move however you want. But don’t pretend you have some right to tell others what they should do.

        2. Do you find it troublesome that you can’t rollerskate on the interstate?

          No because I never could do that and doing so would be pointless.

          I see the smart autos as a mid-point between mass transit and individual travel – it’s an on-demand ride that picks up and drops off right at the door.

    3. You’ll have high-speed, high-capacity smart highways in and around the cities where the road manages the traffic flow and the regular old dumb pavement in the hinterlands.

      + 1 road cities
      “The Roads Must Roll”

      Mebbe we’ll get slidewalks, too.

      1. The interface between the smart roads and the dumb pavement will be . . . interesting.

  20. I drove my Jeep through the El Camino del Diablo. I don’t see a self driving vehicle making this trip. I’ll keep my V8 5.2l Jeep, thank you very much.

    1. I was just wondering if I will be able to get a self driving car / car service to tow my trailer an hour away, wait while I fill it with firewood and then tow me home.

      I am not seeing it.

      1. Amazon drone wood delivery service. One twig at a time.

  21. Remember folks, if we ban self driving cars, we will also be banning all motorcycles. Bailey is a libertarian who loves freedom. Nothing says freedom like the government telling me what vehicle I can use for my own and societal good.

  22. The key is that Ford is aiming for full autonomy, not half-assed autonomy that requires a driver to take over whenever an alarm bell sounds.

    This is as pivotal as it is unintuitive, which doesn’t bode well when it comes to the nanny state. Even ignoring their mixed motives, we are unlikely to find legislators to be capable of conceiving how mandating emergency controls would fundamentally undermine the concept. Simultaneously, other interests will have, well, other interests; for instance, successful implementation implies a complete reorganization of the auto insurance industry, where it is the manufacturer who requires coverage. And then you have those manufacturers who will find themselves left behind, trying to compete with a product that is cheaper, safer, and which comes insured for life, right from the showroom floor.

    That is, if the whole thing isn’t killed by nanny govt, first.

  23. Another thought: Self driving cars in service to ride services without a human monitor in it are going to be full of pecker tracks, spilled food and have gum stuck all over them.

    1. And smell like urine.

      1. And blood.

    2. I can’t even imagine using a service like that if you had to share the ride with other people.

    3. Was it you who first made that point? That is exactly right and one of those small details that people like Bailey never get. Cabs are disgusting as it is. And that is with a driver there to enforce at least a little shame. Take away the driver and people are going to be having sex, shooting up, drunks will be vomiting all over the place and the car won’t know to stop and kick them out.

      I laugh at people like Bailey because they are these fastidious upper class white people who live in this bubble and have absolutely no clue that other people are not like them and in fact are pretty disgusting when you get right down to it.

      1. Imagine one of these things driving around in West Baltimore all day. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

        1. Even in the nice areas they would still be disgusting. People would use them to hook up. Teenagers would ride them and do God knows what. The “some day we will have fleets of self driving cars that will replace your personal car” is one of the more retarded fantasies people have.

          1. Close the door, John. You’re letting all the stank out.

    4. going to be full of pecker tracks, spilled food and have gum stuck all over them

      Like my car isn’t already.

      1. yeah but they are your pecker tracks and that is different than someone else’s.

  24. How will they simulate roadhead?

    1. Geez, do I have to repost the joke?

      Teledildonics.

      Duh.

  25. I asked up on the thread but will ask here because it may be seen.

    The John signal. What will it look like in the sky?

    I need to know these things.

    1. Its a nerdy looking upper class white guy in a self driven echo penalty box of a car.

  26. 1. Fully autonomous cars will be superior in safety to cars with partial automation that give up in stressful/dangerous situations. It should be obvious that “hey, you, human sitting in the ‘driver’ seat! I know you were just reading your book/texting/jackin’ it to porn, but I just noticed a really bad thing and I’m not able to handle it, so here you go! Your steering wheel!” is not a desirable failure mode.

    2. Autonomous cars will be infuriating to people driving regular cars, for obvious and aforementioned reasons.

    3. Fully autonomous cars will be on net, destructive to personal liberty, due to government regulation, limitation, and demand for control. It is analogous to the differences between a cash economy and an electronic payment economy where every transaction can be recorded, tracked, and scrutinized.

    1. Number 3 all day long and twice on Sunday. The thing about autonomous banking is that it really has produced huge economic benefits. They came at enormous cost to our privacy and freedom. Here, the economic benefits are largely illusory. And the costs to our privacy and freedom just as great or perhaps even greater.

      1. #3 is BS.

        Dont blame the technology for the behavior of government.

        The autonomous car will not reduce privacy or freedom. The fact that the government may use it as a tool to reduce privacy and freedom is an entirely unrelated issue.

        1. How am I blaming the tech for the government? I am stating a simple fact, or at least a prediction based on a very long historical record of government abusing technology to limit challenges to its power.

          1. The real question is: What further technology will allow evasion of governmental attempts to use autonomous vehicles to limit freedom?

            In reality, as long as government exerts control over transportation using regulation, there is no such thing as an “autonomous” car, no matter how little control the people sitting in the vehicle itself have. The move toward “autonomous” vehicles is merely a shift in the locus of control.

            1. If you want to avoid government control and knowledge, you better be prepared to go analog. As long as something is done electronically, the government will be there to monitor it and control it.

        2. Dont blame the technology for the behavior of government.

          Technology is not a moral actor. You can’t blame it for anything. That, however, doesn’t make the results of this technology any less predictable. If you want this technology, understand you are going to give up your privacy and you autonomy to the government. You shouldn’t have to but that is how it will work. That is reality not blaming the technology.

          The autonomous car will not reduce privacy or freedom. The fact that the government may use it as a tool to reduce privacy and freedom is an entirely unrelated issue.

          No it won’t reduce privacy and freedom. It will just make it much easier and certain that the government will reduce privacy and freedom. Not locking my door does not cause me to be robbed. It just makes it easier for someone to do so. Same thing here.

          1. I dont whine about doors the way you do about autonomous cars.

            1. That is because you probably lock them. If Ron Bailey were going around trying to sell you on the virtues of unlocked doors, I bet you would.

          2. The problem with that argument is that there is nothing inherent to the concept of an autonomous vehicle that necessarily implies any additional loss of privacy. Quite the contrary, as a successful implementation must be capable of operating truly autonomously — not through reliance on connections with any external system, but just as you do currently, by observing and reacting to the surrounding environment. That is a tall order, but anything less should be seen as not being viable, and destined to fail as a product.

            1. Even a system that wasn’t networked would necessarily keep records of its travels that would be available to the government. Moreover, any electronic system will require code which can and will be controlled by the government.

              One of the big selling points for people like Bailey for these things is how “safe” they are. Lets assume that is right and they really do become perfect drivers that never make a mistake and never violate a traffic law. That right there is a huge loss of freedom. It is the manufacturer of the vehicle and really the government telling me the parameters of how i can use it. I no longer have the freedom to take risks and break traffic laws as I see fit. That power has been removed from me.

              Now to someone as unbelievably nerdy as Bailey, that sounds like a great thing. But to anyone who understands freedom and the necessities of life, it is an enormous loss.

              1. Even a system that wasn’t networked would necessarily keep records of its travels that would be available to the government. Moreover, any electronic system will require code which can and will be controlled by the government.

                Again, such potentialities are in no way specific to autonomous vehicles.

                One of the big selling points for people like Bailey for these things is how “safe” they are. Lets assume that is right and they really do become perfect drivers that never make a mistake and never violate a traffic law. That right there is a huge loss of freedom. It is the manufacturer of the vehicle and really the government telling me the parameters of how i can use it. I no longer have the freedom to take risks and break traffic laws as I see fit. That power has been removed from me.

                If you are worried about such things, then govt is your best friend at this point, because it is through short-sighted chicken little regulation that the market stands its best chance of being killed before it gets off the ground.

                Because, a proper autonomous vehicle need be no different than the one you drive now, except you won’t have to drive it. To other drivers, it will just be another vehicle that obeys the traffic laws, as some drivers do, currently. And if you like to drive, then you will remain free to purchase a traditional vehicle, and pay the insurance premium that will come with it.

                1. Because, a proper autonomous vehicle

                  No such vehicle will ever exist. First, the manufacturer will have a proprietary interest in the source code. So you will never be able to control how it drives to any degree. Moreover, no government is going to resist the temptation to control how everyone drives and moves about. That is just how governments operate. So you will never have the opportunity to own a “proper autonomous vehicle”. You will own a vehicle that drives and and does the things government and the manufacturer thinks it should.

                  1. Again, there’s nothing stopping what you are worrying about from happening with traditional vehicles. Such things already do happen, e.g. every time your ABS does something other than you’d have liked it to, and could happen more tomorrow, e.g. when your vehicle decides to limit its speed based on its knowledge of the speed limit for the road you’re driving. And so forth. The only difference seems to be that the specter of the self-driving car has for some reason caused you to become hyper-aware of the possibility.

                    1. Again, there’s nothing stopping what you are worrying about from happening with traditional vehicles.

                      And I do. It is just a question of degree. Autonomous vehicles are the dangers you described taken to an exponentially greater degree.

                      The only difference seems to be that the specter of the self-driving car has for some reason caused you to become hyper-aware of the possibility.

                      There is an enormous difference between my car knowing how to brake itself when I panic and slam on the brakes on a wet road and my car driving entirely on its own with little or no imput from me. To pretend otherwise is to be completely mendacious and no longer engage in good faith argument.

                      Your entire argument boils down to the fallacy of ‘since you have already lost some of your autonomy, losing a lot more of it really isn’t a big deal” And that is completely idiotic and you know it.

                    2. You’re confusing me with your strawman.

                    3. If it is a strawman then explain why. How am I misstating your argument? Explain that or shut the fuck up. Sorry but “that is a strawman” without any explanation of how I misstated your argument is just you admitting I am right and you have no response.

                      So either come forward and explain why your argument is not as I portray it or understand that you have just admitted to being a dumb ass. Your call

                    4. Very well. Explain how anything I wrote justifies this:

                      Your entire argument boils down to the fallacy of ‘since you have already lost some of your autonomy, losing a lot more of it really isn’t a big deal” And that is completely idiotic and you know it.

                      Be specific.

                2. If you are worried about such things, then govt is your best friend at this point,

                  In a perverse way yes. Sometimes ironic things really do happen. And it very well may be that our freedom ends up being saved because government regulators are so short sighted and intent on controlling everything they kill off the means by which they could have taken all our freedom before it gets off the ground. Stranger things have happened.

  27. Tires spitting gravel, I commit my weekly crime…

    1. One of my favorite songs ever, but the song (and the story upon which is was based) got the ending wrong: There will be no escaping the “gleaming alloy aircar” and racing back to the secure hiding place to race again another day. It will end in a roadblock and a hail of police bullets, or a Hellfire launched from an orbiting police UAV.

  28. I’m probably too old to appreciate it, but anything that facilitates the ability to play with your passenger’s tits while she gives you a blow job is progress in my book.

  29. It makes perfect sense to go the Ford is going. If you do this half-step thing, you are essentially encouraging the drive to not pay attention but requiring that they should pay attention since you may shove control back to them at any moment. That seems to be a recipe for trouble. The Tesla thing works well, or so I am told by a couple of owners, in low speed situations with commuter traffic. Neither of them is comfortable with the car traveling at a high rate of speed without still essentially driving it themselves. (Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road.)

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