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Death of Driving
The Revolution Is Coming
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  • Andrew Allison

    Um, the roads upon and bridges over which these vehicles will supposedly travel are falling apart.

  • Jim__L

    Why is this bad news for mechanics? Are mechanics that service fleets of cars (such as for car rental companies, or taxi companies) worse off than their counterparts in the retail world?

    In any case, I don’t have any more confidence in self-driving cars simply because the federal government and the New York Times say I should. In fact, I’m even more skeptical than before.

    • Andrew Allison

      Jim, the point is that the number of privately-owned vehicles will decline. Many people like me who drive very little will not replace their vehicles because the cost of doing so will far outweigh the cost of ride-hailing, some two-car families will conclude that one is enough, etc. Plus, I won’t have to worry about how much wine I drink with dinner [grin]

      • Kevin

        But if the number of mechanics needed is proportional to miles driven (and not vehicles in service), demand for mechanics might actually go up up. If driverless cars make transportation easier and cheaper (and we send unmanned cars all over town on additional unmanned errands too), we might put more miles on vehicles and hence need more mechanics to service them. (Of course other developments might make for more reliable engines that require less service …)

        • Adam Bowers

          I also imagine that the design of cars will change as well. Currently, cars are designed for the driver first, then the passengers. Also, I suspect the cars will be electric, which opens up other design considerations.

        • Andrew Allison

          Doubtful. First because the number of mechanics per fleet mile is much less than the mechanics per private vehicle mile, second because routine maintenance will be performed routinely, and finally because there will be less accidents per mile driven (and hence less repair work).

          • Y.K.

            Judging by the maintenance status of some bus companies I know, I would not be so optimistic about ‘routine maintenance will be performed routinely’ (or even adequately). Also, I believe that examining the incentives of everyone involved suggests car sales will go up, as I posted above in the comments.

  • Dale Fayda

    More utopian mental midgetry from the clueless pundit class. Just like electric cars and “renewable energy”, driverless cars will remain a very expensive and limited use toys of the brainless and the wealthy.

    • Adam Bowers

      I’m guessing your great-grandfather thought the Model T was going to be an epic flop, too.

      • Dale Fayda

        Don’t get snarky with me, dingus. My great-grandfather rode horse carts in Europe and never even laid eyes on a Model T.

        The usability of driverless cars has been discussed to death at this point, but let me present the most basic of arguments to back up my point – the human mind makes literally thousands of mental adjustments (large and small) every few minutes while driving, triggered by a myriad of ever-changing factors, literally too numerous to list. Just like there are currently no robots capable of precisely duplicating the human gait and grip, there also aren’t any capable of making that many subtle (and not so subtle) split-second judgements in real life road situations. This technology may have sort of worked in testing in good weather, on relatively level ground, with vehicles in perfect running order, but this is not how the real world works.

        Right now, cars are expensive and keeping them in running oder is more expensive still. Adding a highly complex and fragile self-driving system on top existing vehicle platforms will make owning and maintaining them prohibitively pricey. And those are just a couple of the more obvious snags.

        • lurkingwithintent

          Plus driving is something that some of us enjoy. I know that doesn’t matter to the hardcore tech fanatics, but I don’t want my car or my robot doing what I like to do and want to do. For technology to sell, it has to take away a task that I don’t want to do. I hate riding in the car now, what the heck do I want with a permanent passenger mode in my vehicle?

          • Dale Fayda

            Another good point.

          • Adam Bowers

            “Plus driving is something that some of us enjoy.”

            Then by all means continue to enjoy doing it. What would preclude you from doing so?

            “For technology to sell, it has to take away a task that I don’t want to do.”

            You mean like take away a grueling, soul sapping, productivity destroying commute twice a day? Who’d want that?

            “What the heck do I want with a permanent passenger mode in my vehicle?”

            No clue. My toaster has a bagel button that I never use. I seem to get along just fine, though.

          • lurkingwithintent

            The difference is that when it comes time and the powers that be decide, the self-driving car will be imposed on all. I don’t have a commute, so it matters little to me one way or the other. But riding in a self-driving car will not likely end that problem and I can’t read or work in the car anyway. The problem lies in whether there will be room for those who want to drive to do so. This isn’t your toaster or your phone, but the means by which one chooses to travel. Government has significant control over how or by what mode I travel and too often they are willing to exercise it.

          • Adam Bowers

            “The difference is that when it comes time and the powers that be decide, the self-driving car will be imposed on all”

            I’m curious as to why you think this is likely to happen. It really doesn’t fit with how new technologies come into the market place. This transition to an entirely driverless world isn’t going to happen all of a sudden (if it will ever happen entirely). All of the current cars aren’t going to disappear overnight. The infrastructure to support will also evolve gradually. It’s much more likely that we’ll start to see things like autonomous only expressways, or in the highly dense urban areas, or some such piecemeal integration.

            “Government has significant control over how or by what mode I travel and too often they are willing to exercise it.”

            How so? Does your local or state government actually have laws that mandate you drive where you need to go?

          • Y.K.

            Of course the government have significant control over the method of travel. Roads have speed limits, some places have bus lanes where most vehicles are banned, high or heavy vehicles are limited from some roads and so on. Eventually the same reasoning used to justify these limits (based on safety and harm to other users of the road) will limit and then remove human-operated vehicles, since these will have two problems in the era of driverless cars:

            A) A much higher accident rate (safety and harm to others).

            B) Many suggested AI technologies for reducing congestion rely on cooperation between different driverless AI cars. Humans are unable to take part in that. Even the presence of a few human-operated vehicles could slow traffic for miles (harm to others in addition to the previous safety harm).

            This can happen only when numbers of human-operated vehicles will be sufficiently low, which IMHO will take a few decades.

          • lurkingwithintent

            I was going to reply, but see that others have done a better job than I.

        • Adam Bowers

          “Don’t get snarky with me, dingus.” “…the brainless and the wealthy.”

          Ah, ad hominem attacks; the mark of a true intellect. In any event, I apologize if you believe I was actually denigrating the wit of your great-grandfather. I was merely making a point that new technology is almost universally dismissed as too expensive and frivolous when it is first introduced.

          Your arguments regarding why we can’t possibly have effective and affordable self-driving cars border on the laughable, especially because they already exist and are already available (in less than fully autonomous fashion) in readily available (and “affordable”) automobiles. You brain comparison is woefully lacking since a modern CPU can process billions of “mental adjustments” a second, nevermind in a whole minute. Humanoid robots are also a reality, if not a work in progress.

          “Adding a highly complex and fragile self-driving system on top existing vehicle platforms will make owning and maintaining them prohibitively pricey”

          Why is the system fragile? What makes maintaining it more expensive than any of the other “highly-complex” .

          Don’t let reality stand in the way of a reflexive political stance, though. If that’s your Waterloo, so be it.

          • Dale Fayda

            “Why is the system fragile? What makes maintaining it more expensive than any of the other “highly-complex”?

            Been to an Apple store recently? Crowds of people with all sorts of computer malfunctions besieging their service dept. and all of them much simpler in design than a driverless car will ever be.

            Dedicated IT departments at every half-way decent sized company, staffed with highly paid professionals, struggling to keep their computer systems running, usually at very high cost in initial investment and maintenance. Why, my own residential internet provider’s servers crash with depressing regularity.

            Now transfer this ongoing clusterf@#k to a situation where the slightest computer malfunction may and will result in death, injury and massive property loss. Now multiply this scenario by millions of cars, in all weather conditions, in all states of repair (or disrepair). Does that answer your question?

            It’s progressive dopes like you that sang hosannahs to the beauty of Obamacare, right before it turned out that even a billion dollars wasn’t enough to build a functioning website. It was liberal utopians like yourself that foisted the high-speed rail on the functionally bankrupt state of CA, right before it turned out that every measurable metric used to sell it to the public was completely wrong.

            Like I said, toys for the wealthy and the brainless,

          • Adam Bowers

            “Been to an Apple store recently? Crowds of people with all sorts of computer malfunctions besieging their service dept. and all of them much simpler in design than a driverless car will ever be.”

            Strawman argument. Smart phones and autonomous systems aren’t the same. You likely don’t understand software development, and that’s fine. I do it for a living. Any modern smartphone is by requirement more complex, software-wise, than a system required to operate a self-driving vehicle. This is primarily due to their semi-open nature (anyone create an app, even if they barely grasp the basics), the broad scope of what they do (broad domain of non-related tasks), and that they are operated by less than optimal meat bags (e.g. you and me).

            “Now transfer this ongoing clusterf@#k to a situation where the slightest computer malfunction may and will result in death, injury and massive property loss. Now multiply this scenario by millions of cars, in all weather conditions, in all states of repair (or disrepair). Does that answer your question?”

            Some bugs are inevitable and there will certainly at some struggles to make these systems as reliable as we wish them to be, but how does that differ from, say, the aviation industry? Are airplanes, which are routinely flown autonomously, more or less dangerous than cars? I can’t speak for you, but I’m more comfortable getting on an airplane than I am driving to work.

            “It’s progressive dopes like you that sang hosannahs to the beauty of Obamacare, right before it turned out that even a billion dollars wasn’t enough to build a functioning website. It was liberal utopians like yourself that foisted the high-speed rail on the functionally bankrupt state of CA, right before it turned out that every measurable metric used to sell it to the public was completely wrong.”

            Ah, more ad hominem attacks. Must have struck a nerve. I fail to see how refuting your luddite argument on autonomous vehicles make me A.) A liberal progressive B.) A liberal utopian C.) An advocate for high-speed rail, D.) Whatever else you think to right your circle.

            Thanks for the chuckles.

          • Dale Fayda

            “Are airplanes, which are routinely flown autonomously, more or less dangerous than cars? I can’t speak for you, but I’m more comfortable getting on an airplane than I am driving to work.”

            Surely, an enlightened technocrat like you is able to see the fundamental difference between airplanes and cars, no? But in case you can’t, here are a few basic points, which blow your analogy out of the water.

            Airplanes operate in a virtually empty air space, able to maneuver in (4) directions (left, right, up, down). From what I know about commercial air travel, its two most dangerous elements (landing and take-off) are still performed manually, with auto-pilots allowed to kick in only in good weather and at cruising altitude. During take-off and landing, planes are also ALWAYS guided by human air traffic controllers. Furthermore, airplanes are routinely inspected literally before every take-off.

            Cars share only a few yards of a paved road with numerous other cars, of all makes, sizes, models and states of repair. The probability of computer malfunction-caused collision is higher by many orders of magnitude. The volume of car traffic on even a moderately busy city street is many, many times that of even the busiest airport.

            See the difference, genius?

            ” Must have struck a nerve. I fail to see how refuting your luddite argument on autonomous vehicles make me…”

            Leave psychoanalysis to the professionals – you’re no good at it. The likes of you discourse learnedly about the latest “wonderful new technology”, which would “revolutionize life as we know it”, yet the reality is NEVER as what you try to sell us.

            “Some bugs are inevitable and there will certainly at some struggles to make these systems as reliable as we wish them to be…”

            You mean like the first few times a malfunctioning driverless car plows through a crowd children during a school pick-up? Or the first few times a driverless car goes off a cliff on a rainy/snow/sleety night? Those bugs?

          • Adam Bowers

            “Surely, an enlightened technocrat like you “.

            You can’t help yourself can you?

            “Airplanes operate in a virtually empty air space,”

            False. Airplanes operate in a crowded controlled airspace. They don’t get to go wherever they like. This crowding, along with other systemic issues, has caused significant delays in our air traffic control system. Google NextGen ATC if you care to. Kudos on knowing the difference between two and three dimensions, though.

            “Leave psychoanalysis to the professionals – you’re no good at it. The likes of you discourse learnedly about the latest “wonderful new technology”, which would “revolutionize life as we know it”, yet the reality is NEVER as what you try to sell us.”

            Wow, that’s a mouthful. I can’t even. Awesome.

            “You mean like the first few times a malfunctioning driverless car plows through a crowd children during a school pick-up? Or the first few times a driverless car goes off a cliff on a rainy/snow/sleety night? Those bugs?”

            So you believe these things only happen in driverless cars? Do you believe they are more likely? Or do you not really care and just want to be angry at something? About 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs358/en/). Do you think a world with driverless cars has more crashes? Why? Do the politics of this bug you more than the fact that it might not be a perfectly smooth transition to a mostly driverless system?

          • Dale Fayda

            “False. Airplanes operate in a crowded controlled airspace”.

            Bingo! Controlled airspace, with the operative word being “controlled”, as in by actual people. Moreover, airplanes may be “controlled”, i.e. directed by these said people to go pretty much anywhere within the practically empty air space. They may be “controlled” to go into a virtually infinite number of circling/holding patterns in the wild blue wonder, because there are only a few hundred aircraft in the air at any one time, even over a country the size of the US.

            “So you believe these things only happen in driverless cars? Do you believe they are more likely? Or do you not really care and just want to be angry at something?”

            No, but they will happen more often with driverless cars AND especially in combination of driverless cars with cars driven by humans on the same roads. Or do you think that ALL cars/trucks will become driverless overnight? Whenever you add a very complex, expensive, sensitive and fragile navigation system to a large hunk of metal moving at high speeds and surrender all control to it, bad things will happen at a higher rate than before. Not for a second do I buy your sanctimony about 1.25 million people dying in road accidents either.

          • Adam Bowers

            “No, but they will happen more often with driverless cars AND especially in combination of driverless cars with cars driven by humans on the same roads.” “Whenever you add a very complex, expensive, sensitive and fragile navigation system to a large hunk of metal moving at high speeds and surrender all control to it, bad things will happen at a higher rate than before.”

            Why do you think this? What evidence do you have?

            “Or do you think that ALL cars/trucks will become driverless overnight?”

            No. I do not think this.

            “Not for a second do I buy your sanctimony about 1.25 million people dying in road accidents either.”

            You don’t have to believe me. Your belief is irrelevant, frankly. Not sure how this makes me sanctimonious. Click the link I provided. The data is available for perusal if you choose not to be lazy.

            I sincerely realize that I’m not going to convince you of, well, anything really. You come across as just plain belligerent. I suspect you really don’t care either way. Enjoy our current non-automaton driver world. Good luck out there.

          • Dale Fayda

            “Why do you think this? What evidence do you have?”

            What evidence do you have that it will do otherwise? You’re the one calling for this radical upending of our lifestyle forever – sell it to us. I just gave you a whole slew of reasons why I hold the opinion that I do and I blew your false analogy between airplane and automotive travel out of the water. What do you have for us?

            “Enjoy our current non-automaton driver world.”

            I do and I will.

          • Adam Bowers

            “You’re the one calling for this radical upending of our lifestyle forever”

            There it is. I’ve got my answer. Thanks dude.

  • Frank Natoli

    This is bad news news for a lot of liability lawyers
    Who in his right mind would write this?
    Today, when an accident occurs, one driver may be held liable.
    Tomorrow, when an accident occurs involving a computer-controlled car, EVERYBODY may be held liable. The auto maker. The software company. The programmers. The sensor manufacturers. EVERYBODY.
    Driver-less cars are a hit-and-run-ambulance-chasers dream.
    They all contribute, 100%, to the Democrat Party, by the way.

  • truthsojourner

    This is the second time AI has published a ridiculous article on this topic. No, they’re not just around the corner. No, they’re not going to be affordable for the average person. No, they’re not going to be the end of driving. Remember Back to the Future 2, when we supposed to have Hoverboards and flying cars by 2015? This article is equally driven by fantasy.

    • rpabate

      I rather enjoy driving and I suspect I have a great deal of company. No doubt the Nanny State will probably outlaw non-self drive cars — there’s the Left again telling people how to live.

  • Y.K.

    The public transport model of AI cars lives only in la-la land. Lets take a lot at the incentives of everyone involved:

    A) Car-making companies want to sell as many cars as possible.
    B) Private buyers have money (AI cars wouldn’t be much more expensive), have parking and are used to having their own car. Note that an own car will always respond faster than an hired car. [Other possible benefit of car ownership: saving delivery costs using zero-occupancy driving, renting own car to to the few others which won’t have a private AI car.]
    C) The government, well, it depends on which government, but the US government likes to see high GDP numbers, and these are formally served better by a private car model where everyone buys cars from American companies even if the social utility of the public transport model could be superiour.
    D) The transition is likely to be phased, and just about everything about the phasing benefits the private car model (taxis will try to use the law to limit car-sharing, the early AI cars may not be 100% autonomous, etc. etc.).

    Guess what’s going to happen? Lots and lots of new cars on the road, this is a private car model of car ownership.
    Making empty promises won’t hurt car companies or even car-sharing companies though.

    • Y.K.

      Another point is that shared AI cars have no sufficient answer to the morning rush-hour where everyone drives to work or school. This along with the other reasons means people will still own cars privately. The more AI cars are owned privately – the worse off the shared AI cars are relative to the private AI cars due to congestion, which leads to more private AI cars (if I must wait in a jam, I might as well have my own AC and music)…

      So I see no future to a public transport model of AI cars – unless massive government intervention would try to force it. It is certain progressive mayors will try to ban privately owned AI cars from their cities. This would be an interesting political fight…

  • ljgude

    There is a category mistake here. Driverless cars are not ‘automobiles’ as we know them – they are a form of public transport. More akin to wee busses or trams. An automobile is a form of personal transport under the control of its driver. It is an extension of our own natural autonomy. The autonomous car removes the autonomy from the human being and places it in a machine. This difference is so obvious that it is evidently indiscernible to a certain mentality that routinely mistakes bureaucratic thinking for visionary thinking. Sorry, I know I am being nasty.

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