AI News, 2017: The Year of Self-Driving Cars and Trucks

2017: The Year of Self-Driving Cars and Trucks

But whether you think the advent of self-driving vehicles is going to destroy our economic systems or save our cities, the total automation of driving is certainly going to transform the way we live.

Singapore has to be proactive about self-driving cars, as Ackerman points out: The city-state’s 5.6 million people are packed into just over 700 square kilometers, making it the third most densely populated country in the world.

Rice University’s Moshe Vardi, interviewed in advance of the Humans, Machines, and the Future of Work Conference he organized in Houston last month, explained the many positive impacts self-driving vehicles will have on us and our environment, “until you start to think about what it will do to the job market.” And that’s because, in the United States at any rate, the most common job in more than 50 percent of U.S. states is that of driver.

Not to mention the tens of millions of people who work in the infrastructure that supports cars, trucks, and drivers—motels, restaurants, gas stations, you nameit—some 15million by Vardi’s estimate.

Autonomous cars without human drivers will be allowed on California roads starting next year

The California Department of Motor Vehicles will allow autonomous cars without steering wheels, foot pedals, mirrors, and human drivers behind the wheel to be tested on its roads starting next year.

California is an obvious hotbed for autonomous vehicle testing, so changes made to the state’s rules governing these tests are followed closely by companies like Google and Uber that are developing fleets of self-driving cars for public use.

Today, the DMV released a number of small revisions, including new provisions requiring manufacturers to notify local governments when they plan on testing autonomous vehicles in their cities or towns.

The DMV is also issuing a new template for manufacturers to report the number of times the vehicle forced the human driver to take control because it couldn’t safely navigate the conditions on the road.

But Congress is considering increasing federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) exemption caps from 2,500 to 100,000 — which is a wonky way of saying that it would allow automakers and tech firms to test (and eventually deploy) tens of thousands autonomous vehicles without components designed with humans in mind and required by federal safety standards.

Autonomous car

An autonomous car (also known as a driverless car, self-driving car, robotic car[1]) and unmanned ground vehicle is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input.[2] Autonomous cars use a variety of techniques to detect their surroundings, such as radar, laser light, GPS, odometry and computer vision.

Also in 2016, SAE updated its classification, called J3016_201609.[40] In SAE's autonomy level definitions, 'driving mode' means 'a type of driving scenario with characteristic dynamic driving task requirements (e.g., expressway merging, high speed cruising, low speed traffic jam, closed-campus operations, etc.)'[41] In the formal SAE definition below, note in particular what happens in the shift from SAE 2 to from SAE 3: the human driver no longer has to monitor the environment.

Udacity is developing an open-source software stack.[44] Autonomous cars are being developed with deep learning, or neural networks.[45] Deep neural networks have many computational stages, or levels in which neurons are simulated from the environment that activate the network .[46] The neural network depends on an extensive amount of data extracted from real life driving scenarios.[45] The neural network is activated and “learns” to perform the best course of action.[46] Deep learning has been applied to answer to real life situations, and is used in the programming for autonomous cars.

Company estimated that widespread use of autonomous vehicles could 'eliminate 90% of all auto accidents in the United States, prevent up to US$190 billion in damages and health-costs annually and save thousands of lives.'[66] Autonomous cars could reduce labor costs;[67][68] relieve travelers from driving and navigation chores, thereby replacing behind-the-wheel commuting hours with more time for leisure or work;[7][65] and also would lift constraints on occupant ability to drive, distracted and texting while driving, intoxicated, prone to seizures, or otherwise impaired.[69][70][9] For the young, the elderly, people with disabilities, and low-income citizens, autonomous cars could provide enhanced mobility.[71][72][73] The removal of the steering wheel—along with the remaining driver interface and the requirement for any occupant to assume a forward-facing position—would give the interior of the cabin greater ergonomic flexibility.

Safer driving is expected to reduce the costs of vehicle insurance.[67][80] Reduced traffic congestion and the improvements in traffic flow due to widespread use of autonomous cars will also translate into better fuel efficiency.[73][81][82] By reducing the (labor and other) cost of mobility as a service, autonomous cars could reduce the number of cars that are individually owned, replaced by taxi/pooling and other car sharing services.[83][84] This could dramatically reduce the need for parking space, freeing scarce land for other uses.

The vehicles' increased awareness could aid the police by reporting on illegal passenger behavior, while possibly enabling other crimes, such as deliberately crashing into another vehicle or a pedestrian.[11] In spite of the various benefits to increased vehicle automation, some foreseeable challenges persist, such as disputes concerning liability,[85][86] the time needed to turn the existing stock of vehicles from nonautonomous to autonomous,[87] resistance by individuals to forfeit control of their cars,[88] customer concern about the safety of driverless cars,[89] and the implementation of legal framework and establishment of government regulations for self-driving cars.[90] Other obstacles could be missing driver experience in potentially dangerous situations,[91] ethical problems in situations where an autonomous car's software is forced during an unavoidable crash to choose between multiple harmful courses of action,[92][93][94] and possibly insufficient Adaptation to Gestures and non-verbal cues by police and pedestrians.[95] Possible technological obstacles for autonomous cars are: A

Self-driving cars could potentially be loaded with explosives and used as bombs.[114] The lack of stressful driving, more productive time during the trip, and the potential savings in travel time and cost could become an incentive to live far away from cities, where land is cheaper, and work in the city's core, thus increasing travel distances and inducing more urban sprawl, more fuel consumption and an increase in the carbon footprint of urban travel.[115][116] There is also the risk that traffic congestion might increase, rather than decrease.[73] Appropriate public policies and regulations, such as zoning, pricing, and urban design are required to avoid the negative impacts of increased suburbanization and longer distance travel.[73][116] Some believe that once automation in vehicles reaches higher levels and becomes reliable, drivers will pay less attention to the road.[117] Research shows that drivers in autonomous cars react later when they have to intervene in a critical situation, compared to if they were driving manually.[118] Ethical and moral reasoning come into consideration when programming the software that decides what action the car takes in an unavoidable crash;

or swerve elsewhere, potentially killing its own passengers or nearby pedestrians.[119] A question that comes into play that programmers find difficult to answer is “what decision should the car make that causes the ‘smallest’ damage when it comes to people’s lives?” The ethics of autonomous vehicles is still in the process of being solved and could possibly lead to controversiality.[120] In 1999, Mercedes introduced Distronic, the first radar-assisted ACC, on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W220) [121][122] and the CL-Class.[123] The Distronic system was able to adjust the vehicle speed automatically to the car in front in order to always maintain a safe distance to other cars on the road.

In an episode of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson demonstrated the effectiveness of the cruise control system in the S-class by coming to a complete halt from motorway speeds to a round-about and getting out, without touching the pedals.[124] By 2017, Mercedes has vastly expanded its autonomous driving features on production cars: In addition to the standard Distronic Plus features such as an active brake assist, Mercedes now includes a steering pilot, a parking pilot, a cross-traffic assist system, night-vision cameras with automated danger warnings and braking assist (in case animals or pedestrians are on the road for example), and various other autonomous-driving features.[125][126][127][128][129] In 2016, Mercedes also introduced its Active Brake Assist 4, which was the first emergency braking assistant with pedestrian recognition on the market.[130] Due to Mercedes' history of gradually implementing advancements of their autonomous driving features that have been extensively tested, not many crashes that have been caused by it are known.

Due to the safety features, Schumacher was unable to crash the vehicle in realistic scenarios.[134] In mid‑October 2015 Tesla Motors rolled out version 7 of their software in the U.S. that included Tesla Autopilot capability.[135] On 9 January 2016, Tesla rolled out version 7.1 as an over-the-air update, adding a new 'summon' feature that allows cars to self-park at parking locations without the driver in the car.[136] Tesla's autonomous driving features can be classified as somewhere between level 2 and level 3 under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) five levels of vehicle automation.

the investigation revealed that for Tesla cars, the crash rate dropped by 40 percent after Autopilot was installed.[149] According to Tesla, starting 19 October 2016, all Tesla cars are built with hardware to allow full self-driving capability at the highest safety level (SAE Level 5).[150] The hardware includes eight surround cameras and twelve ultrasonic sensors, in addition to the forward-facing radar with enhanced processing capabilities.[151] The system will operate in 'shadow mode' (processing without taking action) and send data back to Tesla to improve its abilities until the software is ready for deployment via over-the-air upgrades.[152] After the required testing, Tesla hopes to enable full self-driving by the end of 2019 under certain conditions.

In August 2012, Google announced that their vehicles had completed over 300,000 autonomous-driving miles (500,000 km) accident-free, typically involving about a dozen cars on the road at any given time, and that they were starting to test with single drivers instead of in pairs.[153] In late-May 2014, Google revealed a new prototype that had no steering wheel, gas pedal, or brake pedal, and was fully autonomous.[154] As of March 2016[update], Alphabet had test-driven their fleet in autonomous mode a total of 1,500,000 mi (2,400,000 km).[155] In December 2016, Google Corporation announced that its technology would be spun-off to a new subsidiary called Waymo.[156][157] Based on Google's accident reports, their test cars have been involved in 14 collisions, of which other drivers were at fault 13 times, although in 2016 the car's software caused a crash.[158] In June 2015, Brin confirmed that 12 vehicles had suffered collisions as of that date.

The need for traffic signals could potentially be reduced with the adoption of smart highways.[165] Due to smart highways and with the assistance of smart technological advances implemented by policy change, the dependence on oil imports may be reduced because of less time being spent on the road by individual cars which could have an effect on policy regarding energy.[166] On the other hand, autonomous vehicles could increase the overall number of cars on the road which could lead to a greater dependence on oil imports if smart systems are not enough to curtail the impact of more vehicles.[167] However, due to the uncertainty of the future of autonomous vehicles, policy makers may want to plan effectively by implementing infrastructure improvements that can be beneficial to both human drivers and autonomous vehicles.[168] Caution needs to be taken in acknowledgment to public transportation and that the use may be greatly reduced if autonomous vehicles are catered to through policy reform of infrastructure with this resulting in job loss and increased unemployment.[169] Other disruptive effects will come from the use of autonomous vehicles to carry goods.

Google had further lobbied for an exemption from a ban on distracted driving to permit occupants to send text messages while sitting behind the wheel, but this did not become law.[179][180][181] Furthermore, Nevada's regulations require a person behind the wheel and one in the passenger’s seat during tests.[182] In 2013, the government of the United Kingdom permitted the testing of autonomous cars on public roads.[183] Before this, all testing of robotic vehicles in the UK had been conducted on private property.[183] In 2014 the Government of France announced that testing of autonomous cars on public roads would be allowed in 2015.

Uber immediately blamed the violations on 'human-error', and has suspended the drivers.[191] As of April 2017 it is possible to conduct public road tests for development vehicles in Hungary, furthermore the construction  of a closed test track, the Zala Zone test track[192], suitable for testing highly automated functions is also under way near the city of Zalaegerszeg.[193] Individual vehicles may benefit from information obtained from other vehicles in the vicinity, especially information relating to traffic congestion and safety hazards.

Finally, respondents from more developed countries (in terms of lower accident statistics, higher education, and higher income) were less comfortable with their vehicle transmitting data.[203] The survey also gave results on potential consumer opinion on interest of purchasing an automated car, stating that 37% of surveyed current owners were either 'definitely' or 'probably' interested in purchasing an automated car.[203] In 2016, a survey in Germany examined the opinion of 1,603 people, who were representative in terms of age, gender, and education for the German population, towards partially, highly, and fully automated cars.

Experts suggest introducing a tax or insurances that would protect owners and users of autonomous vehicles of claims made by victims of an accident.[207] Other possible parties that can be held responsible in case of a technical failure include software engineers that programmed the code for the autonomous operation of the vehicles, and suppliers of components of the AV.[208] Taking aside the question of legal liability and moral responsibility, the question arises how autonomous vehicles should be programmed to behave in an emergency situation where either passengers or other traffic participants are endangered.

This industry alone generates an annual revenue of about $220 billions, supporting 277,000 jobs.[214] To put this into perspective – this is about the number of mechanical engineering jobs.[215] The potential loss of a majority of those jobs due to an estimated decline of accidents by up to 90% will have a tremendous impact on those individuals involved.[216] Both India and China have placed bans on automated cars with the former citing protection of jobs.[citation needed] Intelligent or self-driving cars are a common theme in science fiction literature.

Colorado to protect road crews with a self-driving truck

The Colorado Department of Transportation will use the 'crash truck' to shadow road crews, and act as a shield to protect workers from being struck by speeding vehicles.

One unlucky worker is tasked with driving the crash truck behind a road crew that may be mowing, painting lines or performing other maintenance.

The job is dangerous given the risks of being at the wheel of a slow-moving truck that may be crashed into by vehicles moving at 75 mph.

Road crews have long relied on crash trucks because it's far safer for a hulking truck to be hit than an unprotected worker standing on the road.

But now Colorado has found a way to keep road crews safe, without risking a human life in the crash truck.

The lead vehicle transmits its location and path to the self-driving truck via radio waves.

U.S. House unanimously approves sweeping self-driving car measure

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House on Wednesday unanimously approved a sweeping proposal to speed the deployment of self-driving cars without human controls by putting federal regulators in the driver’s seat and barring states from blocking autonomous vehicles.

The House measure, the first significant federal legislation aimed at speeding self-driving cars to market, would allow automakers to obtain exemptions to deploy up to 25,000 vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards in the first year.

Advocates hope self-driving cars can help reduce U.S. road deaths, which rose 7.7 percent in 2015, the highest annual jump since 1966.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a 2014 study that U.S. traffic crashes cost society $836 billion a year in economic loss, with human error behind 94 percent of crashes.

The policy group Transportation for America said cities are worried the House “legislation will preempt local authorities from managing their own streets and fail to give local leaders the confidence that manufacturers and operators will be aware of and follow local laws and regulations.”

The House bill would also require automakers to add a driver alert to check rear seating in an effort to prevent children from being left behind, and to consider performance standards for headlights.

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