Autonomous cars are just around the corner. And even glass roofs are making a come-back, although with some serious UV reflective capabilities. But the family of the future playing dominoes together? Well, you can’t win them all.
I don’t want to live in a future where a car drives itself. I just can’t stand the idea. I like to guide the car’s way, not the car guiding my way.
Chrysler sort of implemented the latter twice with Swivel-N-Go in the 2008 Town & Country and Mobile Director in the 1967 Imperial. Neither ever really caught on though.
The kids in the back playing board games was actually one of the first things that came true in the future. A car just wasn’t large enough so it happened with the advent of the RV.
That could be one of the really great opportunities for self-driving vehicles: to be able to take a cross-country, non-stop trip in a self-driving RV. Theoretically, the only reason to stop would be refueling. Even that might be able to be done on the road with tankers so equipped to do it on the move.
I think that Swivel-N-Go pic is about a block away from home. What you don’t see is 5 minutes later when Billy and Susie are kicking each other because their legs are touching and Mom’s reaching for her flask while Dad cranks up the radio to drown it all out.
Sometimes it’s not too hard to predict what would happen in the future, it’s not easy to predict which future, and the timeframe makes a big difference.
If it was as simple as laying “guide wires” in the ground, how hard would it be to implement self driving cars? It would have been done by now, for sure. I think the Google Car (now called Waymo) has the right idea with the spinning Lidar (Wikipedia). In the 50s and going forward, how would you account for road irregularities like construction zones and the like? So as for technology, I think now is the time to implement. Everything in lock-step, seemingly.
As for the concept itself, while I’m not crazy about the idea of not driving anymore as I quite enjoy driving, I’m starting to like the idea of self driving cars the more drivers I meet (myself included, I concede)…
Having a full time valet will be the best! Especially downtown.
Back in the 80’s I worked in a 1.8 million sq ft distribution center and, along with 16 miles of conveyor belts and other toys, we had about 20 “man-up” forklifts that rode an buried guidance wire between the racks, with the driver often 40 feet in the air. The floor had to be perfectly flat and kept immaculately clean, and even then there were incidents where the lift lost guidance. In that situation, the lift simply stopped, however if your autonomous car lost guidance at, say, 70 mph on the expressway, coming to an instant stop isn’t a perfect solution.
As for the concept, I’m okay with it as I figure it will become routine and affordable about the time I reach 80 and really shouldn’t be driving myself around anymore.
Finally, the first serious implementation will take place in the interstate trucking industry. The only difficult driving will be up the entrance ramp onto the expressway, and down the exit ramp off, then the last mile to the distribution center. Human drivers can do the local study and unload the trucks. Long distance drivers are very expensive ($100K per year and up) and most long haul is done by team drivers. Even if the equipment costs $250K per truck, payback on investment is very fast for companies.
If they can make the semis stay in the right lane and obey the speed limit…but there are so many variables. What about a car taking an offramp just in front of a convoy. Do they brake in time? One thing a computer can’t do is anticipate what a driver is going to do. We see them and immediately assess if they’re speeding, not watching, mindlessly erratic or about to do something stupid. We have intuition. What about emergency vehicles?
I foresee very large insurance payouts to the victims of autodriving semis. The companies might not save as much as they think they will. Here is a quote from C/D about the Autopilot system on the Tesla:
“Autopilot can cover scores of highway miles without driver involvement, and yet it occasionally yanked—suddenly and alarmingly—at the steering wheel when it lost the scent of lane markers, causing the vehicle to swerve out of its lane.”
Not good for us, but very good for lawyers.
I recall reading in the October 1967 Popular Science magazine an article about the “Urbmobile”. It was a electric dual-mode electric automobile where you can drive it conventionally on roads but when driven on a specially freeway specifically for the Urbmobile, it could be driven autonomous and power is taken from a third rail pickup that recharged the batteries at the same time.
Spoiler alert. I think cars and roads go away. Autonomous drones will be picking you up and delivering you.
They’re going to have to be mighty big drones to pick up 53′ semi trailers full of stuff being delivered across country, I’m afraid. Or all the corn that gets harvested around here each fall!
I’m driving a truck doing corn and beans right now on the night shift yeah its going to be a very clever self driving rig that can do that,
Autonomous tractors that can keep pace perfectly with an unloading combine have already been in fields for several years now.
Not only that, but everything from tillage to soil amendments, planting (and harvesting as you mentioned) have been made “nearly” autonomous, or at least repeatable down to GPS accuracy. Drones play a big part, too, as one can assess soil conditions or crop growth issues remotely now.
But that’s a bit different from doing away with roads and using drones for everything.
We can’t even get reliable cell phone service where I live. I don’t have high hopes for self driving cars.
Still inaccurate, it will be our personal intelligent robots being shuttled around by the autonomous cars to the stress causing jobs. Afterall, once road fatalities reach zero, all other threats to human longevity MUST be tackled.
But haven’t you heard? We won’t have to go to jobs in the future. Robots will do all the work for us, and we’ll all have a universal income instead.
This will be closely followed by the robots rising up and wiping out their creators…but it’ll be nice while it lasts!
Hah! The very idea of dominos, and not the pizza either. The current infrastructure would make it impossible, as the roads will never again be (wait for it…) _smooth_ enough to play with pieces on a board. They’d bounce around so much a game wouldn’t last a mile.
I heard something one time. The 30s & 40s had great roads and terrible cars. Now we have great cars and terrible roads.
I don’t doubt that the car technology itself will eventually mostly work, sooner or later. But as for them replacing personal cars, it’s not gonna happen. There’s one thing that it seems everyone is overlooking, and it is a classic automation mistake. (I have worked in industrial automation and simulation for over 30 years now.)
Some of you may remember the automated baggage handling system fiasco at Denver International Airport. They installed a state of the art system with autonomous carts to carry the bags. Individually the carts worked great – they were fast, accurate. The problem was… once it dropped off a bag, it wasn’t where it needed to be next. Getting to that place took too long. There wasn’t enough room (or money) to put big queues of carts near each place they were needed. They didn’t plan enough for buffering or the empty trip (deadheading). So they tore it out and replaced it with plain old conveyors.
Same will apply here. The empty trip will be too far (ie slow) and/or there won’t be storage space for enough cars waiting…. Unless you replace every car. And I’d wager that at least 40% of the population won’t be able to afford a new automated car, let alone the maintenance. (Do you want to be in a car near an automated beater?)
As another example the railroads spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.per year optimizing where to store locomotives so the trains can run on time without buying thousands of new ones.
Both of those are relatively small and bounded problems. There’s no way this will be solved for cars.
I don’t understand what you’re saying.
Autonomous cars are essentially here already. They’re out there driving around with someone behind the wheel making sure nothing goes wrong, which very rarely happens.
Cars with autonomous capability will initially be for those that want that capability for their commutes and such, but can still be driven too. That really is just around the corner. Tesla’s new cars have the full set of hardware right now, and it’s capabilities will be expanded step-by-step, as the software has been validated. Fully autonomous function (L4-L5) without driver being ready to take over) will need to be approved by the regulators, which is on the way.
Cars operating fully autonomously will initially be mainly for ride services, like Uber and such. They can’t wait to be able to stop paying the driver.
Autonomous cars will undoubtedly be restricted to certain geographic zones until they can show the capability to take on a wider range of terrain.
I don’t think anyone is predicting that AV will completely replace non-AV in the foreseeable future. No one should realistically fear that they’re not going to be able to drive anymore.
The phasing in of AVs will take time, and there will undoubtedly be challenges and stumbles that could slow down the process. But the prospect of substantially reducing the 30k+ deaths each year at the hands of careless drivers will be a huge factor in the favor of their implementation. If deaths in AVs are lower, they will inevitably become a reality, sooner or later.
No one is predicting all personal cars will disappear. Just that some of them might, especially if folks don’t care to have them. Rides in an AV service should be cheaper than rides in a driven car service like taxi or Uber.
Imagine what happens when the autonomous cars communicate so well with each other that you don’t need stoplights – except for humans .
In the name of “efficiency” of course human drivers will not be allowed to slow down everyone else. Probably start first in urban centers.
Human drivers will slowly be squeezed out.
Another public commons bites the dust
Just like when horses were completely “squeezed out” when cars became commonplace.
I can’t ride a horse to work. They are essentially squeezed out of their role as transportation.
It won’t happen overnight, but it likely will happen. There’s a long ways to go I think before autonomous cars can deal reliably with adverse road and weather conditions.
Yes! I want to see the AV that can deal with a snow-covered road, or one with lane divider lines that disappear on a rainy night (as in Michigan), or a Michigan potholed road, or a two-lane road with one lane closed for maintenance (yes, computer, it’s really okay to go into the oncoming lane for awhile).
These things are dreamed up in the Bay area, where there is no snow, they use those dots to divide the lanes, and the roads generally are in good condition. Sort of like the local-food movement, which is fine if you’re from Berkeley, where you can find all sorts of food year-round.
My grandfather told me an anectdotal story that goes back to early 1910s when Model T’s were starting to replace horses. Seems the “new-fangled automobiles” were viewed as “stupid” since they couldn’t drive themselves home after a long hard day, whereas the horses knew where home was and the rider (or driver of the horse drawn buggy) could doze off and let the horse take him home.
Of course after the automobiles were more commonplace, there was less horse poop on the streets.
Don, here’s Ford’s AV Fusion testing in snow. it’s still early days, but snow can be dealt with.
A friend of mine who worked in IT told me several years ago:
This isn’t about cars, it’s about trucks. Wait till they can unload a shipping container in San Francisco, put it on a truck and it drives itself non stop to a marshalling yard in New York. Then an actual driver does the local delivery.
Interstate driving is relatively straightforward, and I believe that truck driver is the #1 job in North America. Of course once those millions of drivers are out of work they may turn to truck piracy..
There’s no question that trucking will be affected disproportionately, in terms of jobs. And Uber bought Otto (with its autonomous truck) for that reason.
But I wouldn’t say that “it’s not about cars”. It’s going to happen, in phases. Once a person with a long and tedious commute realizes they can relax and hop on the web to work or play, it’s going to be very much in demand.
And replacing the driver in taxis and Ubers is going to be big too.
True, it is about cars too. Just watch out for the pirates..
If it’s all the same to you… I’ll drive that tanker.
To illustrate just how much the illustration above missed the Mark, it shows everyone interacting with each other. If they really had predicted the future they’d all be ignoring each other, wearing earbuds, and distracted by their smartphones.
That’s the problem with predicting the future… all my favorite 1950’s movies about interstellar travel had spaceships with analog dials and big knobs and levers on their control panels
That’s precisely the point of the title: “They got this one half right” Who could have predicted smart phones?
Arthur C. Clarke. In his 1949 story “The Lion of Comarre,” characters use a device whose description very closely matches that of a modern smart phone.
It never fails to amaze me every time I watch 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and see Frank Poole and Dave Bowman watching the news on tablets laying on a table while they’re eating. Clarke didn’t miss that one by much.
Paul, I thought for sure the article would be a setup for the 1956 Motorama film–did I miss a mention of it somewhere?
This is quite bizzare idea that traffic controller will have like 5 minutes chat with every passing car, discussing engine parameters before put it on the automatic pilot.
The prediction of the future is good until you get to the family interaction. The truth will be that everyone in the car will be zoned into his or her own personal VR environment. The ultimate irony would be if the passengers in a self-driving car were engaged in VR driving games.
Well, we were all supposed to be in flying cars by now. At least that Motorama film got one prediction right. By 1976, we DID have Firebirds.
I think too often electronics engineers live in a perfect world where nothing they create ever fails. How many of you have ever had a computer malfunction?
The lawyers will have a field day when one of these autonomous wonders has a software glitch and mows down a bunch of pedestrians!
Happy Motoring, Mark
I think they have a long ways to go before being viable here in Minnesota during the winter.
Software glitches definitely are a real factor, no matter the brand are all fallable, from my Apple devices who pick the worst times to freeze or my formerly trouble free Windows 7 PC that just hasn’t taken last year’s forced switch to 10 well. I imagine hacking will be a thing too, just as FCA cars were recalled for a few years ago. Should be fun to watch though.
Well, this is timely:
From that piece:
“Science fiction can gloss over this issue by assuming some future technology that allows vehicles simply to float off the surface of the planet, without the need for pushing down a massive volume of air. But the point is that this assumes radically new science that has yet to be discovered. ”
I think the author is the only one who didn’t assume that.
I remember seeing those stories about the flying Moller cars in the 80’s. Even as a kid it never seemed realistic to me. If you got past the expense and inefficiency, the thought of the same people you see driving on the roads flying through the air was terrifying.
I always suspend my disbelief when it comes to Star Wars by telling myself their particular galaxy has some sort of matter scattered about that makes it possible, ie the force. I mean I don’t even consider the characters human, they’re aliens, they can seemingly breathe and function on several different planets that we most definitely can’t, so maybe there’s something in the air so to speak that allows this sort of anomaly that also allows for anti-gravity in these particular movies.
Having said that though, nothing wrong with a lofty goal to strive for, the space age optimism gave way to some truly revolutionary technology and scientific knowledge and accomplishment, and most importantly of course, some of the most interesting car designs ever, even if they were as earthbound as a Model-T. The strive for autonomous isn’t rocket science, it’s not even exiting, it’s radar, which existed decades before this illustration, and GPS mapping, a product of the 70s, glued together in silicon valley. Sure you get the initial shock novelty sure, but once everyone settles in it just becomes another lounge to consume junkfood, be obnoxious on social media or be obligated to put even more hours of work in (forget flying cars that turn into briefcases, what happened to the Jetson’s 9 hour work week?!?!) – Where the Jet/Space ages gave us tailfins and afterburner taillights, this is the futuristic aesthetic of the autonomous future…
At least, that thing would endanger fewer pedestrians.
Our military in the US has had antigravity lift and propulsion for decades.
Look up the USAF TR3B Astra.
Its not sci fi, and soon we’ll have big loads in them going everywhere.
Zero point energy will collapse the oil cartels, but it may take some time.
Star Trek is already here. Its just locked up in Unacknowledged Special Access Projects. (USAP.)
––An Intel Community Member
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