Driverless vehicles – what could possibly go wrong?

Oh my goodness, what could possibly go wrong?

This morning, a fleet of self-driving trucks arrived in the Dutch port of Maasvlakte, completing a cross-continent journey that organizers say demonstrates the future of transport in Europe. The experiment is known as the European Truck Platooning Challenge, and involved trucks from six different manufacturers traveling in miniature convoys.

A driver in the lead vehicle of each convoy sets the speed and the route, while the other trucks follow automatically, a Wi-Fi connection keeping their braking and acceleration (but not steering) in sync.

This isn’t a fully-automated system, but it’s a clear step toward this goal and has tangible benefits of its own. Platooning, as the method is known, could mean less congestion, fewer accidents, and reduced fuel consumption.

whitepaper from Dutch research firm TNO says that each truck in a platoon — both those following and those leading — uses on average 10 percent less fuel per journey. The same report notes that 90 percent of driving accidents are caused by human error, and although a full analysis of the safety of platooning has yet to be undertaken, the suggestion is that automation would lead to fewer crashes.

So, the truck four from the front, for example, passing an intersection, led by the front truck with driver, is hit by a vehicle crossing the other way or ploughs into the corner of a parked car ready to come out into traffic which it does not detect, as it is stationary and all trucks are responding the same way the lead driver is.

And the things the truck responds to are fed in the computer – nothing outside of that is responded to, which comes down to some programmer thousands of miles away.

And for what? For vested interests to show off about driverless vehicles.  All these crap stats about people causing accidents – yes they do but they also prevent them with last split-second decisions the driverless cannot.

As for this heavily controlled experiment on certain roads – law enforcement had the whole thing kettled along the way. What happens when this goes mainstream and there are no protective measures any more.

Driverless Truck: But it was irrational of that human to do that.

Car driver: I just wanted to make that light.

DT: Irrational. Human must not do this.

Judge: But he did.  There are humans on that road as well as machines.

DT: Irrational. Prepare to die. Exterminate! Exterminate!

8 comments for “Driverless vehicles – what could possibly go wrong?

  1. Henry Kaye
    April 11, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    I must admit that I’ve been shaking my head at this development since it first started. I haven’t been able to ascertain how this strange idea is supposed to work – nobody has explained it all properly and I just can’t see it happening; but then, I’m old.

  2. Ed P
    April 11, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Here’s an idea: link the trucks mechanically to each other (like a train) and make the lead truck follow a buried wire in the road (like it was on rails), then have gates shutting off all the side roads as the road-train goes by (like level crossings).
    So it’s a train – no need to reinvent it with some clever/crappy software which is bound to fail eventually.
    And trains are much more fuel-efficient – the savings would be over 50% instead of the 10% quoted.

    • Mudplugger
      April 11, 2016 at 3:37 pm

      Any why promote driverless road-vehicles when they should be doing driverless trains first – trains run in a controlled environment with very limited external human interaction, have no scope for deviation from the track, have limited stops at controlled locations etc. And what’s more, driverless trains can’t go on strike. What’s not to like ?

      Has anyone calculated the effect on congestion of driverless cars ?
      Currently the use of a private vehicle is limited to those capable of passing a demanding skill-test, in reasonable health and having achieved a minimum age, in addition to on-going financial requirements. Once driverless cars become available, every child, cripple, blind person and mentally defective will be able to clog up the roads with a personal vehicle (probably funded on Benefits paid for by the rest of us).
      Add that lot to the M25 and that’s 3 more lanes each way and a two-acre car-park needed outside every Benefits Office in the land. Progress, eh.

  3. Andrew Duffin
    April 11, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    I’m sure it will all be fine, on wide straight American roads where there are no pedestrians, roundabouts, cyclists, or farm animals, all junctions are right-angled and controlled by lights, all signage is new, logical, and clean, and most other drivers obey the rules.

    What’s that? There are other countries in the world where none of this is true? Oh.

  4. Errol
    April 11, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    My journey this morning: tail gated by BMW all the way in a 30 mile limit. He eventually jumped a red light. Was on the telephone the whole way.

    On the way home, car drove at 40mph through Tesco carpark to beat the roundabout. Down busy congested road, tailgated by Landrover so close I couldn’t see out of my car window.

    Humans are stupid, irresponsible, dangerous and moronic. They are driven (no pun intended) by ego, arrogance and brute mania. They don’t care about the law or others. They are holding a gun to everyone’s head with the safety off.

    Replacing the dangerous maniacs in my city with computers that prevent just these sorts of attitudes would be a huge step forward.

    • April 11, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      And lots of yummy carnage of the humans, eh? 🙂

  5. Andrew Duffin
    April 13, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Going back to the topic just for a moment, the Daily Telegraph article about this truck-train, or whatever you call it, written no doubt by some breathless poppet just out of journalism school, largely from a press release, made no mention of the fact that there was a driver in the leading vehicle.

    As far as the DT’s readers know (if they rely on it for the facts) these truck were fully autonomous.

    • April 13, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      That’s the DT’s new generation.

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