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Zaku's avatar

What's the supposed advantage of a driverless robot car?

Asked by Zaku (26896points) June 21st, 2015

In reading the answers to this related question , I began to wonder, of the people who think driverless robot cars are a good idea whose time has come, or which will eventually replace cars with human drivers, why they think that?

Even if it were easy to do well (which I don’t think it is) I’m hard-pressed to think of reasons why one would particularly prefer a driverless car. All I can think of are these:

* Some people can’t drive (children, intoxicated people, certain disabled/debilitated people).
* It could be convenient if you’d were someplace without a car, to be able to summon one without paying a lot for a taxi driver.
* It could maybe help some parking and traffic situations (though also create more traffic and use more fuel) to be able to have the car drop people off and not have to park and sit close to where the driver is until the driver is ready to leave. You could also do things like embark a canoe up-river and then have the car come pick you up downstream.
* If many private cars were replaced by public taxis, then there could possibly be less cars needed. Though, this is already possible with human taxi drivers.
* For cargo and ferrying purposes, in some situations you’d have another empty seat, saving the weight and time of a driver.
* Some people don’t like to drive, so this seems like a great convenience to have a robot do it.
* Some people think robot cars would be safer (as a simulation & AI programmer, this seems extremely unlikely to me).
* Some people are appalled at many other human drivers and afraid of accidents and unpredictability, imagine that robot drivers would be better (again, I don’t think so).

I also think of many problems and disadvantages:
* Difficulty of making robot drivers smart enough at understanding conditions to really replace human drivers.
* Gung-ho companies wanting to be first to sell robot cars, deploying them when they are still not really safe.
* Situations where robot drivers think they understand what’s going on, but don’t, so they make bad moves and bad decisions, which would be not just dangerous but terrifying.
* Eventual reduction of number of competent human drivers.
* Computer bugs and failures leading to new types of problems.
* Computer hacking leading to new kinds of crime, assassination, etc (this is already a problem with many modern cars, where a hacker with a wifi laptop could make some cars slam on breaks, turn, or accelerate). Or, hackers hit central traffic database and give robot cars false data about where traffic or even roads are. Computer virus spreading to cars could immobilize many cars.
* What are these AI’s going to do in human situations that an AI isn’t going to be able to understand, such as road rage, health emergencies, or criminal activity?
* I and others like driving cars ourselves, and would not like or trust a robot car.
* Part of driving safely is watching other drivers and predicting what they will or will not do, and communicating by looking at the drivers and gesturing, etc.
* As an Artificial Intelligence (AI) programmer myself, I can’t believe anyone thinks (correctly) that it’s a good idea to replace all of the decision-making tasks of a human driver with an AI. Not only would it be a ridiculously complex task to even make an AI that can understand all the situations that can occur, but to have a program making decisions which can mean life or death, seems not only insanely (probably impossibly) difficult (since they can be debatable even for humans sitting down and analyzing a situation after the fact), but undesirable to have a computer making those decisions rather than human drivers.
* And then there are the legal implications, such as the one in this question .

To me, this adds up to “not ready for prime time, would be dangerous, and even when perfected, it only seems desirable for some circumstances, not all or even most.”

So I wonder, for those who think it’s coming soon and/or eventual, am I missing some advantages?

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29 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

You are feed up to do tasks, like brush your teeth or have a coffee.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

For some I think ,they feel a computer driven vehicle will make less mistakes not become distracted as so many drivers do in this day and age.
I’m with you as how about changing road conditions, very steep curvy mountain roads ,and so on, some may think they can kick back and take a nap, surf the web, or text a friend or so on, but for now you still have to be behind the wheel monitoring whats going on,and probably be ready to take it over manually if something goes wrong.
I guess there could be advantages ,but I truly hope I am dead and gone before the driverless car becomes the norm.

jaytkay's avatar

Remember how fast the Internet became essential to the economy? Driverless cars will come on like that.

The REALLY HUGE advantage of driverless cars is you don’t need to own a car. They make car sharing much easier.

It’s silly to pay for a car that sits in your garage at night and sits in a parking lot at work all day.

You’ll take a car to work in the morning. Then the car will carry other people around on errands during the day. At quitting time, a car will show up and take you home.

It will take time for people to adjust to this. People are emotionally wrapped up in car ownership and its “freedom”.

Once a critical mass of available cars is reached, the change will happen fast.

josie's avatar

I did not read the details.
Sorry. I’m too busy right now.
I will answer the question as asked.
Answer: So the vacuous Millennials can text and ride in a car at the same time without killing themselves or others.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@jaytkay that sounds sweet, and wow it won’t have to sit on my property when not in use, who is going to pay for things like repairs, tires,fuel, and who gets to keep the damn thing clean,if all I need it for is an errand ,what do I care if I throw my burger wrapper on the floor?
A lot of things need to be addressed before these things ever think about becoming the norm.
Also what about people who live in remote rural setting.

kritiper's avatar

To remove the flawed human element. However, the “robots” would have to be linked by electronic control so the robots could act accordingly with one another, without the willy-nilly bull-in-the-china-shop road hog mentality/results like some of their human counterparts.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

To work as well as you say they will have to be on their own highway system,or human drivers will just have to be outlawed.
Same I still wish to be dead and gone before any of this becomes the norm.

jaytkay's avatar

who is going to pay for things like repairs, tires,fuel, and who gets to keep the damn thing clean,if all I need it for is an errand ,what do I care if I throw my burger wrapper on the floor?

Full disclosure: I belong to a car sharing service, so that’s why I see it as a feasible thing. You pay by the hour and repairs, fuel, and insurance are included in the rental.

If you leave a messy car and the next driver calls it in, you pay a cleaning fee ($50 or $75 I think).

Right now car sharing only works in dense urban areas – the cars are always sitting somewhere near a potential user.

But autonomous cars will be able to deliver themselves to the next user.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@josie Also, don’t forget that the state will be able to shut people’s cars down whenever their movements are deemed suspicious.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@dappled_leaves now I can see that happening, not only shut ya down but easily track where your coming from and where your going, YIKES! big brother is always watching.

JLeslie's avatar

I wouldn’t have to pay attention to the road.

If everyone was in them traffic would flow better I would hope, resulting in fewer traffic waves.

kritiper's avatar

@jaytkay It will be in whole or in part of a public-owned mass transit system. You need a ride, you push a button and a “car” comes for you, and/or you have a “car” scheduled to come on certain days at certain times. You program it for where you want to go and it takes you there. The “cars” travel in an underground or overhead tube or cable system that is electrically operated. No stop signs, no traffic lights, all computer controlled. When not being used or there is an excess of “cars,” they go back to the storage/service/discharge area for cleaning/storage/repair/etc. If you dirty a “car” excessively, your account is docked for the repair/cleaning.

jaytkay's avatar

The “cars” travel in an underground or overhead tube or cable system that is electrically operated. No stop signs, no traffic lights, all computer controlled

We have that already. It’s called the L or subway.

It’s only cost effective in dense urban areas, and with trains carrying dozens or hundreds of people.

Zaku's avatar

The tracking and shutting down of cars can be done without having a robot driver.

As jakkay explained, the car sharing is already being done without robot cars too, but I see it could be easier with robot drivers (if they really worked…)

jerv's avatar

“Some people can’t drive (children, intoxicated people, certain disabled/debilitated people).”

Actually, most Americans can’t drive. Figure, about 20% are underage, and I’m fairly certain that the combined number of elderly, disabled, incarcerated, those with revoked/suspended licenses and other non-drivers over the age of 16 is comparable to the number of children. That means nearly half of America is legally incapable of driving in the first place.

Of those that are left, many lack the skill. In fact, driving isn’t the only area where opening it up to the masses has caused issues. It used to be that driving was reserved for those that could actually repair their cars when (not if when; cars from over a century ago weren’t really reliable) then only those that could use three pedals, and now anyone with $50 and a birth certificate can get behind the wheel. We’ve all seen the people who don’t know how big their cars are, or can’t do the same speed as the rest of traffic, right?

Just as GUIs allowed people with zero computer skills to publish dick-pics to an audience of billions due to a lack of understanding of how privacy settings work, technology allows lazy people to exercise their “God given right” to hit the road without learning a damn thing. A self-driving car frees the operator from the hassle of even displaying basic competence, so they don’t even have to take a 20-question multiple choice test to be free to travel as they please.

In the end, the biggest advantage is freeing people to be even more intellectually lazy than they already are.

kritiper's avatar

@jaytkay We may have that in some places but not everywhere And it’s not personal/individual enough. When I take my car, I want to go directly to where I want to go, not where the train goes and then have to get off and on another train. I may want to stop and pick up a drinking buddy or a hot date. I want a ride when I want to go, not when the train leaves

jaytkay's avatar

We may have that in some places but not everywhere And it’s not personal/individual enough

Exactly. Building rails and tunnels everywhere is unnecessary and pretty much impossible.

We already have roads everywhere already.

Driverless cars, car sharing and services like Uber already exist and they run on the existing roads. There’s no need to make something radically different

kritiper's avatar

I assume @jaytkay doesn’t think driver-less robot cars have any advantage over what may or may not exist already.

jaytkay's avatar

@kritiper you can read my first post above if you want to know what advantage I see.

kritiper's avatar

@jaytkay OH! Glad you could contribute to the advantages like I did!

Silence04's avatar

Our brains don’t know what all of the other drivers on the road are thinking or planning. An automated driving network would know. There wouldn’t be a need to traffic lights, becuase there wouldn’t be traffic.

LuckyGuy's avatar

There are a other advantages to driverless cars.

Their reaction time is much faster than a human. We are lucky if we can see a threat and respond in 250 ms, ¼ second. The driverless car can react in 5 ms, ½00 second.

They can communicate with other vehicles continuously and participate in autonomous herding. That means they can bunch up and go faster without taking up a lot of road space.

They can constantly alert the cars around them of their intentions so they can make smooth lane changes and other maneuvers without having to fight with aggressive jerks.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

You do have a point @LuckyGuy my concern would How about when these wonderful machines start getting worn?
and how about very dirty?
With my semi we have had more trouble with sensors than anything really mechanical,oops I lie we did have the water pump go last summer but so far that was it,and it has over 600,000 kilometres..

LuckyGuy's avatar

@SQUEEKY2 Sensors already have redundant functions, e.g. if your MAP sensor stops working the ECM infers MAP from TPS and RPM. OBD II diagnostics are running continuously. By the time driverless car are ubiquitous we’ll be running OBD XX with circuits that heal themselves.

jerv's avatar

@LuckyGuy Some do it better than others. Take, for instance, ABS. I had a ‘94 Corsica with ABS, but whenever it activated, the whole vehicle jerked and my foot took a beating as it was only going 4–5 times a second and you could hear the thinking. My wife’s ‘98 Saturn was better at 7 times a second, clicked instead of thunked, and merely tickled the foot. The best ABS I ever had was in my ‘94 Legacy wagon which was so quick that there was no feedback through the brake pedal and you could only hear it if you had the radio and vents off.
I’ve seen similar variations in programming sophistication in engines and electronically-controlled automatics. Most have a delay in shifting, sometimes taking longer than non-electronic transmissions, while my Subaru would shift instantly unless doing so would push the engine past 5000 RPM. On the other hand, my wife’s Saturn had enough fuzzy logic in it that you could tell who drove it last by how it behaved to subtle throttle inputs, and it was the only one that would automatically downshift when going downhill; no other car I’ve driven took low engine load with increasing speed as a sign of possible need for engine-braking.
Given how many automakers are concerned with the bottom line, I imagine that we won’t see an end to such varying levels of sophistication anytime soon; sophistication increases manufacturing cost, and those that don’t shave costs down either get less profit or price themselves out of the market.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Exactly @jerv like the semi that can drive itself anyone seen the price tag to that rig??
Compared to a normal semi?
Can’t see companies adopting them anytime soon,going to have to stay with the ole human driver much cheaper for now.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

One thing I would like to know is the on coming of the driverless car really an advantage or will it make society dumber than it already is?
Hell driving will be one less thing we have to think about,what’s next, walking?

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