Re: Domestic Drones

1

As far as ground transportation goes, I'm unhappy that the whole Segway thing didn't take off. That would have been great.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 6:52 AM
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I would bet on a more gradual process toward robot cars. First there'll be cars that let off the accelerator when you get too close to another car. No one could object to that, right? Then the cars will start hitting the brakes for you too. Then they'll take over the steering wheel. What happens after that will be familiar to anyone who's seen "Maximum Overdrive" so I guess that means it'll be a complete surprise to everyone.


Posted by: Todd | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 6:57 AM
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First there'll be cars that let off the accelerator when you get too close to another car. No one could object to that, right? Then the cars will start hitting the brakes for you too.

Both of these already exist on ordinary cars you can buy in the UK.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:02 AM
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Maybe already accepted technologies could be used as an interface to control robot cars.

"Siri, drive me to Trader Joe's."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:02 AM
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2 and 3 are correct. There'll be a gradual shift towards self-driving cars (begun decades ago with cars that change gear for you).


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:04 AM
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And there are cars on the market that will parallel park for you.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:04 AM
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Cars changing gears for you was, at least in the beginning, entirely mechanical. That seems different.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:05 AM
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We agree self-driving cars are obviously technologically good to go, but too eerie for public consumption.

We do not.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:11 AM
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Our new car has AWD and ABS, which means a computer already has control of the brakes and transmission. It has proximity sensors in the back that works great despite one of them being held on my tape. It does seem like all the pieces are being assembled and put into mass use. You just need to combine them for a self-driving car.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:11 AM
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Whenever the Democrats have power in Ohio, they dust off a plan to restore regional rail. (Long ago, you used to be able to travel between any two points in the state using only municipal trolleys.) The standard plan for regional rail includes a commuter train using existing freight tracks that will have a stop 500 ft from my house, and another stop about a mile from my work.

So here is the question: which will happen first?

a. I commute to work by a regional rail line, using 100 year old technology.

b. I commute to work in a self driving car.

c. Neither event will be possible in my lifetime.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:12 AM
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8 is right. We will get used to it as automation does more and more of the work - like highway before city driving.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:12 AM
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Here's the problem with a self-driving car: if you're behind a self-driving car, and a pedestrian steps into the street in front of that car (and you can see the pedestrian do that), does the self-driving car do something you expect, or something you don't expect. If it does something you don't expect and you rear-end it, is it your fault? Or is it not your fault, because it didn't behave like a human driver would?

Should be some fun court cases, anyhow.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:13 AM
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I mean the bigger problem is when it fails to detect the pedestrian, but whatever.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:13 AM
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13: The pedestrian is almost certainly carrying a smart phone and thus monitored by more than just visual means. Which is creepy, but still.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:18 AM
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I don't know, Heebie, those Amazon drones look awfully small to be able to lift you up.


Posted by: Heebie's mom | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:19 AM
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The difference with ABS and traction controls is the computer is reacting to your braking or accelerating action. It's not detecting obstacles for you. The driver still has to do that part.


Posted by: Todd | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:19 AM
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We need to get all the pedestrians on Segway drones, then they won't do stupid things.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:19 AM
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16: Right. That's why I mentioned that it already has proximity sensors.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:20 AM
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if you're behind a self-driving car, and a pedestrian steps into the street in front of that car (and you can see the pedestrian do that), does the self-driving car do something you expect, or something you don't expect.

What are the options here, in terms of things the self-driving car might do that you wouldn't expect? It's either going to brake, swerve to avoid the pedestrian, or plow into the pedestrian, right? How is that different from a human driver? Maybe it's braking reaction time will be better (or worse), or maybe it's capability for swerving will be better (or worse, although that seems unlikely), but I don't see what it could do that would take an alert driver behind it by complete surprise.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:21 AM
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I wonder if this is going to be another American exceptionalism thing. I'd be amazed if people are flying in unpiloted (as opposed to remote piloted) planes before they're driving in automatic cars in the UK. I don't really sense any meaningful cultural opposition to the latter here, beyond obvious and reasonable safety concerns and particularly issues around driverless cars sharing streets with ordinary cars. Just last week the government announced a review of legislation that might be hindering the development and testing of driverless cars and funded a £10m incentive for a town to become a test site.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:22 AM
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21

I don't think the proximity sensors work at enough distance to enable travel at road speeds. I'm just pointing out that a start in that direction has been taken.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:22 AM
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re: 16

And autonomous cruise control with full stop and go, and distance control is already available on a range of cars. As are a range of collision prevention systems, some of which will stop the car for you.

The only thing missing from fully autonomous driving is active control over the steering, and that is already available with automatic parking systems.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:23 AM
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I should buy a new car, but I'm saving up for a Segway.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:24 AM
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I don't think the proximity sensors work at enough distance to enable travel at road speeds. I'm just pointing out that a start in that direction has been taken.

There are definitely new cars that will prevent you from tailgaiting on the highway (because their proximity sensors will slow you down to back you off, and stop you suddently if the person in front of you stops suddenly). If that's what you mean.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:24 AM
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re: 21

They already exist [sensors that work at distance], as mentioned, on a wide range of road cars.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:25 AM
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I'm a little confised by this comment thread. Comment 3 applies to the US as well. We already have cars with all of this technology, driving on the roads today. I think most of it has been around for at least 2-3 years, although presumably it's getting better quickly.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:26 AM
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24, 25: I believe you. I just haven't seen them. My "new" car is a 2006.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:27 AM
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I'll eat my hat if that Amazon drone thing delivers anything at all. Among other things it requires one fulfilment centre every 20km.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:27 AM
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Flying people around is way too expensive. We just weigh too much. Amazon was talking about packages weighing under five pounds.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:29 AM
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"I'd be amazed if people are flying in unpiloted (as opposed to remote piloted) planes before they're driving in automatic cars in the UK. "

People have been flying in unpiloted planes since 1912, when the autopilot was invented. (Admittedly with a pilot still in the aircraft, just not controlling it.) And thousands of people commute to work every day in London on driverless trains.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:30 AM
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||
I have to buy a present for a baby's first birthday party. The present will go into a time capsule, which she will open in 2030 on her 18th birthday. What should I buy?

Constraints:

The party is this Saturday so it has to be something I can obtain quickly.
I don't really want to bring something someone else is likely to bring.
My girlfriend had the brilliant idea of giving a current issue of Entertainment Weekly, which will might be an interesting snapshot of what people found entertaining 17 years in the past, plus paper magazines will probably be weird artifacts by then like phonographs are now. So I can't bring anything too similar to that.

I tried thinking of things that were around the year after I was born, that I would like to have found in a time.capsule on my 18th birthday. It turns out that 1986 was the last year Polaroid cameras were made, so that would have been awesome to find in a time capsule. Have any similarly iconic products been discontinued recently?
|>


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:31 AM
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32

If it does something you don't expect and you rear-end it, is it your fault?

I thought it was always your fault, if you rear-end someone else. You either were following too closely for the speed/conditions (you should have been able to stop quicker but couldn't) or you weren't paying enouch attention.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:31 AM
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33

Half of ttaM's twitter stream is bitching about trains. Do those have drivers?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:31 AM
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34

32: That's what I thought also.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:32 AM
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In other words, I think that unpiloted planes will definitely precede driverless cars in the UK.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:33 AM
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People have been flying in unpiloted planes since 1912, when the autopilot was invented. (Admittedly with a pilot still in the aircraft, just not controlling it.)

Well, yes. It's the without a pilot in the aircraft bit I'd be amazed at happening before cars get the equivalent.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:33 AM
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I'm pretty sanguine about self-driving cars, at least on large well-mapped and well-signed roads.

Here is an interesting article about Google's efforts. The existing control systems require good data, previously acquired. You won't be able to take one of these from Belo Horizonte to La Paz.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:34 AM
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The amazon drone thing is so stupid. It's not in any way an actual plan, or even a proposal, or even a plan to consider a proposal, or plan for the possibility of planning for a proposal. It was literally Jeff Bezos speculating about hypothetical future possibilities. And yet it gets reported in every news outlet in the goddamn country as breathlessly as if he'd announced that drones will be delivering all amazon packages for the remainder of the holiday season.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:34 AM
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39

Well, no, 38 is unfair--I guess they actually do supposedly have some R&D effort focused on this. I suspect that R&D effort is being led by their marketing team, but whatever.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:37 AM
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Omnipresent mapping drones in the hands of local police bother me, though.

On the other hand, they're clearly very useful for national parks and for local authorities where people might be snowbound for a long time. Well, that's just one more of those boundary-setting problems well-suited to life in a functioning democracy with an informed electorate.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:37 AM
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re: 33

Yes, not only that, but one of them forgot to stop at my stop a few weeks back. Literally drove right through Slough and only realised his mistake when a bunch of us cornered the train guard.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:38 AM
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It's the without a pilot in the aircraft bit I'd be amazed at happening before cars get the equivalent.

Why? Drones don't have a pilot in the aircraft and they've been flying for ages. And people are perfectly happy to go on autonomous trains. But there are a lot of hurdles still to go before you get a workable autonomous car. You could have a workable autonomous airliner tomorrow.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:39 AM
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43

He was probably confused about how the pronounce "Slough".


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:39 AM
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44

Or even how to pronounce it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:42 AM
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45

It turns out that 1986 was the last year Polaroid cameras were made

Are you thinking of a particular model? I'm pretty sure Polaroid camera were made up until 2007.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:42 AM
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46

I saw a street view mapping car for a company that wasn't google. I don't remember what company it was though so that's a marketing failure.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:46 AM
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47

drove right through Slough and only realised his mistake

This is clearly some new definition of the word "mistake" of which I was previously unaware.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:46 AM
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32, 34: well, sure, when you rear-end a person. But what about when you rear-end a robot that did something crazy! Self-driving cars will have much faster reaction times than people, right? So they can start braking instantly! Is it fair for them to have the same rules as human drivers?

(I mean the obvious answer to this is "yes, probably" but I think it'll be a mess.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:47 AM
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Automated cars will (in the foreseeable future) mostly be like autopilot in a plane, not true "drones" -- you take the car onto the sensor-controlled highway, it does all the driving for you on the highway until you press some button and it gets you off of the highway. They'll still be an option to switch it off and you'll still need to actually drive the car for some things. The technology is pretty much there for this right now. I have a gut level resistance even to this idea but it would manage to solve a large number of traffic problems very impressively, though if they make it completely impossible to drive yourself, then fuck you you'll take the steering wheel from my cold dead hands.

Maybe -- maybe -- the drone cars will eventually come together to create a giant PRT system so you don't have to park the car, just get out and it zips off to another person to use. OTOH PRT ideas have been around forever and don't exist anywhere except sort of for a two mile loop at the University of West Virginia.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:49 AM
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19: so, for instance, say that you could avoid the pedestrian by deviating a couple of feet across the yellow line (there is no oncoming traffic) or you could avoid the pedestrian by coming to an immediate complete stop. Would you ever expect a human driver to do the latter?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:49 AM
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31: All I can think of for discontinued items is Twinkies (and I know, not exactly). Should be fine in 18 years! Maybe a bottle of wine that will age well? If you have a recent-ish photo of her parents (group photos are good for this), you could put it in a frame.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:51 AM
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re: 45

Yeah, you are right that the last Polaroid cameras were 2007-ish. Fuji still produce cameras that use the film. And Hasselblad and [I think] Mamiya make medium format cameras that'll take 'instant' film and any number of large format camera makers still produce cameras that can use instant film with the right interchangeable 'back' for the camera.

Polaroid themselves stopped making film about 8 or 9 years ago, although Fuji still make it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:51 AM
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38, Because the government can't do anything anymore, the only people who are allowed to be seen as visionaries by the media are big businessmen, since they are the only people who could conceivably start some sort of big initiative.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:52 AM
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Automated, person-carrying-drones would be hella fun, but would consume tons of energy carting fat Americans through the air. They would require either super-cheap liquid fuel, or super-light batteries.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:52 AM
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50: yes! I would anyway. The trouble with swerving to avoid pedestrians is that the pedestrian will often swerve to avoid you in the same direction and you'll end up hitting them anyway. I was trained to stop rather than swerve whenever possible.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:52 AM
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driverless trains

well, more like "remotely operated, with a human operator aboard who can drive them in some circumstances" if you mean the DLR.

You might think it would be easy to get a driverless tube train working. It doesn't steer and the signalling takes care of keeping them apart, and there are few wanderers on the tracks.

The Tube's experience is interesting - the new signalling on the Jubilee line provides automatic train operation in some circumstances, which apparently provides a small but significant performance boost, but the more realistic the operating mode, the more you need a driver. Especially if you need to recover from some sort of disruption, which is every day, several times a day. The French have one line, after years of hard work, and that one (Paris line 14) was built from the ground up.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:53 AM
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People seem to be hitting a lot of pedestrians around here lately. It's one of the reasons I'd be happy with robot cars. The other reason is that I hate driving.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:53 AM
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56.last: The Tube is down from the ground.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:55 AM
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50: really, truly: yes. I've had people do that not only for pedestrians (which I can see), but for shit like a squirrel running into the road (which I couldn't see).

Honestly, I would think one of the major advantages to autopolit cars would be dramatically narrowing the range of unpredictable driving behavior. Humans do some stupid shit.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:57 AM
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Humans do some stupid shit.

Very true. Excepting for divided highways on stretches with Jersey barriers (and I'm not 100% sure about that), there's not a single place in Pittsburgh where somebody hasn't tried a U-turn, failed to make the curve, and completed a 3-point turn.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:01 AM
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(59 is not meant to imply that stopping for pedestrians (or even squirrels) is stupid, of course.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:01 AM
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I had someone pull up on the inside of me the other day when I was stuck in traffic, on an ordinary road, not a 2 lane road. There was a space just slightly smaller than her car, so she was sort of trying to nose into me to get me to move out. When I lowered the window and asked what she was doing [I thought she was trying to pull some kind of mad undertaking stunt] I got a mouthful of verbal abuse about how she was 'fucking parking'.*

I felt quite smugly serene about not informing her that it was only her gender saving her from a punch in the mouth.

* on a set of double yellows, partly blocking an alley.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:01 AM
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Automated, person-carrying-drones would be hella fun, but would consume tons of energy carting fat Americans through the air. They would require either super-cheap liquid fuel, or super-light batteries.

Some light aircraft today get better fuel efficiency per passenger than some cars. You could easily get 15 mpg from a light aircraft. Some experimental models get as much as 50 mpg.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:02 AM
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Halford, we now have a working PRT right here on knifecrime island! Running between various bits of Heathrow Terminal 5 and the car parks! It slid right several times but now it works!

Now I need to get a car so I have an excuse to use it.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:02 AM
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Okay, I really should have predicted 55 and 59. Anyhow, my larger point is that I think people actually have an enormous amount of theory of mind about other drivers, and the way that's going to intersect with algorithms is not trivial to predict, and likely to be messy. It's essentially the problem of a videogame NPC who mostly behaves coherently but occasionally will run into a wall for no reason, except with actual several-thousand-pound pieces of metal travelling at speed. It's not like these kinds of problems are going to happen often even in the worst case, but if they happen ever (that is, an accident caused by a self-driving car behaving in an incoherent/inherently non-human way) it's going to be a massively thorny legal issue.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:02 AM
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61: Stopping for squirrel is stupid.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:03 AM
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67

well, more like "remotely operated, with a human operator aboard who can drive them in some circumstances" if you mean the DLR.

The DLR is not remotely operated, it's autonomous. (Or rather it's remotely operated by a computer.) The Copenhagen underground is both autonomous and uncrewed.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:07 AM
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Driverless cars means fewer people on the road doing 40 in the fast lane of a 65 mph highway while yacking on their cell phone. That's a win to me.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:08 AM
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It's essentially the problem of a videogame NPC who mostly behaves coherently but occasionally will run into a wall for no reason, except with actual several-thousand-pound pieces of metal travelling at speed.

See, from my point of view, this is how humans behave on the road anyway. Walking out into the middle of Oxford Street at rush hour without looking, sudden U-turns, sudden stops, bizarre signalling...


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:09 AM
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Some light aircraft today get better fuel efficiency per passenger than some cars.

Fixed wing aircraft at high speeds over long distances, perhaps. But those will only take you airport to airport, which I think is a different model than the idea of drones envisioned as point-to-point, every day transport. For that you would need rotors, which are energy hogs.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:10 AM
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...crashing through red lights, sideswiping into bus lanes, flinging open doors without looking, undertaking...


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:10 AM
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or you could avoid the pedestrian by coming to an immediate complete stop. Would you ever expect a human driver to do the latter?

I know that is deprecated in Boston (the Registry probably tests for that and marks down if one even slows down), but in the rest of the country this is quite common.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:12 AM
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"I'm a friend of Sarah Connor. I was told she was here. Could I see her please?"


Posted by: Opinionated Copenhagen Underground | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:13 AM
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On postview, I was piling on.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:14 AM
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70: tiltrotors not quite so much, maybe. The Terrafugia people reckon they can get 21 mpg. A Transition that didn't have to be a car as well might be even better.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:14 AM
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Modern passenger airliners are capable of fully automated takeoff and landing, as well as cruising. It's really only a matter of gluing together the already existing bits and pilots could be dispensed with altogether. You really only need the pilots to deal with emergencies, which are rare. Presumably the cabin crew could be given a big red button that said "LAND RIGHT NOW" which would handle the majority of in-flight problems. I still prefer a human at the controls, but that's pretty irrational given that there are plenty of crashes caused by human errors that would not have been made by a computer.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:15 AM
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There is definitely room for some innovation in quad-copter/tilt-rotor hybrids. I had a brilliant design for one once, but I was stoned at the time, and it has since been lost to me.

The same thing happened to me when I invented the Tivo back in the mid-1990s, but failed to cash in.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:21 AM
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I suppose we'll see self-driving long haul trucks before self-driving passenger cars. Then self-driving taxis.

Rob's question about how he's going to commute to work has another answer: with ever fewer employment opportunities, more and more people aren't going to have to choose between self-driving cars or self-driving trains to get to the job they don't have.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:21 AM
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"The life of everyone on board depends upon just one thing: finding someone back there who can not only push the big red button, but who didn't have fish for dinner. "


Posted by: Opinionated Dr. Rumack | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:22 AM
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64 -- I'd forgotten about the Heathrow parking lot PRT. They finally got it to work!

65 -- the technical issue is hard but the legal issue will ultimately be pretty simple -- there will have to be something like strict liability for injury from the company (ies) whose machines control the robot car, probably with some kind of comparative fault analysis. That's enormously expensive for the companies (which is why one of their main regualtory priority is figuring out ways to limit liability) but you won't be getting lawyers arguing to a jury "my client the robot was thinking like a robot, and you should let robots think like robots."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:24 AM
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Presumably the cabin crew could be given a big red button that said "LAND RIGHT NOW" which would handle the majority of in-flight problems.

The rest could be handled by a sign that said, in large, friendly letters, "DON'T PANIC".

(Or possibly "PLEASE DO NOT PRESS THIS BUTTON AGAIN".)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:24 AM
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you won't be getting lawyers arguing to a jury "my client the robot was thinking like a robot, and you should let robots think like robots."

The logical next step appears to have eluded you: robot jurors.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:25 AM
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83

What could really spur a ton of innovation is cheap carbon fiber. Carbon fiber-based materials really need to make the leap from luxury canoe paddles to everyday items that would benefit from their lightness and strength. Cheap carbon fiber would make flying cars far more practical, and regular cars quite a bit more efficient as well.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:26 AM
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Stopping for squirrel is stupid.

Surely this depends on how many squirrel are gathered in the road.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:27 AM
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83: or wood. It was good enough for the finest aircraft of the Second World War, it should be good enough for a minivan.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:28 AM
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re: 85

I bet you could do something really clever with some sort of laminated wood/carbon composite material.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:31 AM
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Modern passenger airliners are capable of fully automated takeoff and landing, as well as cruising

people really don't get that the pilots are working during an autoland, do they? or that it's really sensitive to the weather and the equipment on the ground. also, the only two aircraft I can think of that could do a blind (but still manual) take-off were the Avro Vulcan and Concorde.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:31 AM
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I bet you could do something really clever with some sort of laminated wood/carbon composite material.

HMS Habbakuk will live again!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:34 AM
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85: My grandfather was a navigator on one of those (the night fighter variant).


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:34 AM
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Stopping for squirrel is stupid.

Stopping for moose is smart.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:35 AM
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Awesome. Did you know De Havilland used to cook the thermosetting plastic soaking the three or four different kinds of timber veneer steambent into shape on a hydraulic jig using a really powerful radio beam?


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:38 AM
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84 has me wondering if Urpleland might be seeing the beginnings of a Rasberry Crazy Squirrel infestation.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:40 AM
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Mid-century Brits seem to have tackled every engineering problem by first of all saying "I know, let's use RADIO!", rather like the Soviets with nukes or the US with moar power or the Germans with chemistry.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:41 AM
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Halford-Harrowell 2016: vote Techno-Halfordismo for an open standard on every database, a Mosquito in every garage and a bison in every pot.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:42 AM
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you won't be getting lawyers arguing to a jury "my client the robot was thinking like a robot, and you should let robots think like robots."

Of course not. You will get lawyers arguing to a jury "my client was thinking like a human, and the other party was thinking like a robot, which my client could not have anticipated, ergo this accident where my client would otherwise be clearly at fault should be on the other party". At least, that's what they should do. And they should hire expert witnesses for tons of money to attest to the severity of the mismatch between human theory of mind and actual robot car performance in emergency situations. And then those expert witnesses will become rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and... where was I going with this?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:44 AM
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I'd expect cars to have a fully automated option first, if only because the tech will be deployed in stages and people will get comfortable with it. And honestly, given the drivers around here, a googlecar probably can't do worse.

I think a lot of people imagine that they have great driving skills that would be superior in a crisis to the googlecar but odds are pretty good that these are the same people who are totally okay with making a left turn from the far right lane, or who think to themselves, "gee, traffic along this snow-covered road in a snowstorm is going twenty; this would be the perfect opportunity to pull out from behind this purple Fit, speed up to pass, lose control, and miss side-swiping it by an inch!", so I think people are mostly deluding themselves about their driving skills. 4WD is not magic traction glue.

60: I remember as a kid studying for the driver's test, reading the legal restrictions on U-turns, and concluding that there's really nowhere in the tristate area where one could pull it off.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:44 AM
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The situations that will be tough for self-driving cars are ones like flagman at a construction site, someone directing traffic around an accident, etc. Maybe people will get used to tuning out and tuning back in for things like that. The more straightforward solution is to just get rid of people altogether.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:45 AM
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93: except on their cars, where the go-to solution seems to have been "let's use leaky tubes full of air!"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:45 AM
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The first person who DDOS's a highway full of self-driving cars by dumping a bucket of reflective chaff off a highway overpass is going to be a bad, bad person.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:47 AM
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So will the second person, but less creatively so.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:51 AM
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91: I had no idea, but that's pretty cool.

Every time I stop by a hobby store in the US I look for a decent model of a Mosquito, but can't find one due to the bloody provincialism of this country. I remember hobby stores in the UK having models of all manner of stuff, from Soviet tanks to Japanese destroyers. Out here it's all either US or Nazi stuff. My search isn't urgent enough to go to the internet (actually maybe I will get myself one for Christmas, now I think of it).


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:52 AM
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What will be really useful is when we have not just self-driving cars but self-driving cars that can go by themselves to the grocery and send the list of requested purchases to the store's automated fulfillment center, where robots will find the requested items and bring them out to the car, and it can return with all your shopping needs taken care of.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:53 AM
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The more straightforward solution is to just get rid of people altogether.

Isn't it always?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:54 AM
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Isn't 102 basically just peapod grocery delivery with a driverless car?

Everyone using their own car for driverless shopping missions seems like it would be inefficient. Better to let the merchants use their own specialized cars and ship to you.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:56 AM
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Be quo, doesn't this whole thread mean that you should put a small drone in the time capsule?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:57 AM
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4WD is not magic traction glue.

As I commented a couple of winters ago, when I got caught in a severe snowstorm on the M1, I drove -- in my small French car -- slowly past people in 4x4s who were spinning completely out of control, or stuck fast in the snow. I'd say that the correlation between being able to keep moving safely in the snow, and having four wheel drive was almost zero.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:57 AM
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101: If you're ever in NYC, there's a really neat model shop on Lex at maybe 93d? The east side of the street. I couldn't guarantee a Mosquito, but they've got lots of stuff. Sally and I used to go in and windowshop on the way to swimming.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:58 AM
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I have to buy a present for a baby's first birthday party. The present will go into a time capsule, which she will open in 2030 on her 18th birthday. What should I buy?

A pack of cigarettes.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:00 AM
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re: 108

Nice. But, more practical maybe, a really good bottle of whisky/bourbon/wine.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:03 AM
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109: our bizarrely late drinking age, let me show you it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:05 AM
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109: Which, if I recall correctly that Benquo is in the US, the recipient will be unable to legally drink when the time capsule is opened.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:05 AM
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Dammit.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:06 AM
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107: it's probably been said before, but you are raising that girl right.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:07 AM
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107: I am occasionally in NYC. I'll take a look next time I'm there. I love browsing in real physical shops as opposed to the internet. OTOH I just found a flying model Mossie with a 55 inch wingspan that is calling to me. No idea where I'd put it, but it would be a fun toy to have.

106: During the big snowstorm in this area a few years ago I did perfectly fine in a rear wheel drive car while watching AWD vehicles spin out into the ditches on the side of the road. The key issue seems to be whether you fight the snow or not. If you try to overpower what the snow is doing to your vehicle you end up in the ditch. Driving with a light touch and steering into the inevitable little skids seems to be the key.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:07 AM
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101. You can get the a href="https://www.airfix.com/shop/aircraft/a03019-de-havilland-mosquito-mkiivixviii/">Airfix one on line, though you'd need to get the paint and put it together. How good do you need? If you want something bigger, there's this. A bit dearer, too.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:08 AM
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Pretend I can do HTML.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:09 AM
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Just Sunday, we had a brief squall of snow. Somebody in a brand new Lexus (which I assume has all sort so traction-related computer stuff) couldn't make it up a hill that everybody else was going up just fine. You need to know what you are doing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:10 AM
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Only read the first 30 comments so far, but let me clarify: making the processes increasingly automatic isn't the creepy part. As long as it's framed as helping you drive, people are on board. People get creeped out when they cede a sense of ultimate control. As in, you can read and pay attention to something else, because this car is being driven. That's not going to happen, but it could happen with the drones.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:14 AM
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Why would you expect 4WD make any difference at all once you're moving on a snowy road? The difference is in getting going in the first place, where there's a of course a real difference since you have four wheels pulling for you instead of two. Some 4WD vehicles do drive better in snow for other reasons, like different tires, or balancing or (in AWD) torque distribution that don't have much to do with being 4WD.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:14 AM
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Somebody in a brand new Lexus (which I assume has all sort so traction-related computer stuff) couldn't make it up a hill that everybody else was going up just fine. You need to know what you are doing.

Boy, do I love people who seem to think that poor traction means they need to accelerate harder.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:15 AM
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Why? Drones don't have a pilot in the aircraft and they've been flying for ages. And people are perfectly happy to go on autonomous trains. But there are a lot of hurdles still to go before you get a workable autonomous car. You could have a workable autonomous airliner tomorrow.

It's not a technological thing (mostly). It's a cultural thing. And I'm not saying it won't happen, just that I think cars will come first (and comfortably within the next decade, on a fairly small scale). As you say, people are used to travelling in unmanned (to greater or lesser degrees) trains, but people get scared just flying normally, let alone in a drone. The regulatory culture is very different as well - automotive regulation is much more tolerant of thousands of deaths every year than aviation regulation.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:16 AM
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118: I saw some thing where they were interviewing people about self-driving cars, and they talked to this one girl who said "that's awesome! I won't have to worry about driving home from the bar wasted anymore!"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:16 AM
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Thought process:

(1) I usually press the accelerator to make the car go. And press it harder to make it go faster.
(2) I'm pressing the acclerator, but my car isn't going.
(3) I must need to press it harder!


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:17 AM
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Hopefully low altitude commercial drones will die when people figure out how totally fucking annoyingly loud they are, but my time living on the east side of LA does not give me much hope on that count.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:17 AM
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There's that as well. There's an obvious consumer upside to PRT which isn't there for air travel, beyond marginally cheaper tickets I guess.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:17 AM
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This particular person was just not accelerating hard enough. It was the strangest thing I've seen in a while. I had to sit and watch this for a while because they decided to reverse down the hill and I afraid to get anywhere near them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:18 AM
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126 to 120.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:18 AM
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Hmm... okay maybe I wouldn't have made it up that hill either, because I'm not sure what you mean.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:24 AM
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I mean, would they have made it up the hill with no snow? Because if they just flat don't know how to drive up hills, period, that seems like a real problem.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:26 AM
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I think they just looked at got scared.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:26 AM
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at s/b and


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:26 AM
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My first impulse at the thought of low flying drones buzzing around my neighborhood is to buy a shotgun and try to blast them out of the air. Plus if you succeed you get a bonus of whatever the drone was carrying, though it might be peppered with birdshot.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:27 AM
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119: I don't know, but the thought process seems to be:

a) I have a big 4WD car!
b) 4WD is good in the snow!
c) AM INVINCIBLE.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:32 AM
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I like people who think that AWD makes their brakes work better. Where by "like" I mean "dislike, and also judge unfavorably".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:36 AM
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re: 133 and 123

Yes, I think those are the combined thought processes.

re: 119

These were people struggling for traction, and getting bogged down. So I'd assume, with modern 4WD transmission with traction control, that it'd help. But I think driver idiocy was over-riding any advantage of the tech.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:43 AM
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New Yorker piece just out about self-driving cars. Don't we all feel stupid that we already used "automobile?"


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 10:29 AM
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Maybe we could go back to "horseless carriage".


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 10:42 AM
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I think driver idiocy was over-riding any advantage of the tech.

Not really in their defense, but, a couple of years ago I drove out on a road that was pure mud, and what the traction control required was that I keep the gas almost floored, and change my steering strategy from "car" to "dirigible." Anyone driving by would have thought that I had no control of my car (mostly true!) but I did get back to paved road (half-mile, mile, something like that), which would have been more difficult if I'd had to modulate the power to the wheels myself.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 10:44 AM
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Thank goodness you had those dirigible piloting lessons, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 10:49 AM
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Everyone should learn to code pilot a dirigible.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 10:53 AM
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It's a lot more stable than a monorigible.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 11:02 AM
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Everybody needs a bosom for a dirigible.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 11:05 AM
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Everyone should learn to pilot a dirigible.

I'm holding out for an ekranoplan.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 11:15 AM
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||

Has this gone under the radar, or is the deluge still to come?

|>


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 11:17 AM
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144: movement conservatives are already exploding in outrage, yes, though not nearly so much as they are over the selfies that Obama took at the funeral. He's such a narcissist!


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 11:23 AM
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It's on Buzzfeed, so I assume it will blow.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 11:24 AM
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Okay, having just read the article linked in 144, I note two things: first, the selfies are mentioned (puke); and second, this paragraph:

The America civil war in which Lincoln upheld the union and human rights ended when the two opposing generals, Ulysses S Grant and Robert E Lee, shook hands in Appomattox court house, Virginia on Palm Sunday 1865. Can the handshake at the FNB stadium end the freeze between America and Cuba that is one of the last legacies of the Cold War?

Double puke.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 11:25 AM
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143: ponarke nanama!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 11:26 AM
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Selfies At Funerals. Now with moar president.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 11:26 AM
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I'm holding out for an ekranoplan.

...till the end of the night
It's got to be large
And it's got to be Soviet
And it's got to be less than ten metres above ground level.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 11:27 AM
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Next, Human League with "Don't You Want My Ekranoplan Baby".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 11:28 AM
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Here you go, Chris. When John McCain dies, I'm fleeing the country -- maybe I'll travel to Cuba -- in order to avoid the avalanche of bullshit encomia that will surely bury us all.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 11:44 AM
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152. Needs a new scriptwriter.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 12:00 PM
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I rode my bicycle home from work tonight through a moderate bit of wintery mix, and on my first hill, I passed a cop helping a tow truck winch a car off the sidewalk. The cop told me to get off the (plowed) road, and ride on the (unplowed, with bonus car) sidewalk. A frustrating experience.


Posted by: Light Rail Tycoon | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 4:55 PM
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How does 118 square with the existence of cabs?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 5:13 PM
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You should have pointed at the car on the sidewalk and said that the street is safer.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 5:14 PM
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I wonder if he told the car the same thing he told me?


Posted by: Light Rail Tycoon | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 6:03 PM
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Omnipresent mapping drones in the hands of local police bother me, though.

I want drones so bad. Choppers are just too damn expensive and aerial views along with thermal imaging make things like car chases and nighttime searches for running suspects much safer and more effective.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:08 PM
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Why, with drones you could keep enough in the air to have more than one hovering over every hot spot all the time. Even outside of the benefit if something did go down, the omnipresent noise would make it impossible for the residents of those areas to forget they were there, which would have a terrific deterrent effect.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:12 PM
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Being a full time drone pilot for a metro pd would be a pretty badass job.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:29 PM
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158: I remember your department being very open minded about the weaponry you could bring in from home. Surely they wouldn't object to your rigging up an RC quadrocopter with a wireless camera on it. You could be the SLC NSA.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:31 PM
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They've got stingier about that stuff lately. The Saiga 12's are no longer approved shotguns. Probably going to sell mine and go back to a tweaked 870.

We've got a big new public safety building that opened this summer and the fourth floor has an outdoor patio with a barbeque. It'd be pretty badass to be launching a drone from there while grilling up some bison.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 7:41 PM
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Autonomous cars will be much more appealing if we stop subsidizing parking. Cf cabs, Car2go.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:23 PM
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clew is Matthew Yglesias?!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:30 PM
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Do autonomous cars not need to be parked? Or would they not be privately owned?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:36 PM
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165: The latter, at least the way people tend to talk about them in these contexts, but that also implies the former to some extent (in that when one person is done with one someone else can use it rather than it having to park).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:41 PM
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You could tell them to go home (or somewhere cheap, or rent themselves) until needed.

Yg? Please. Straight from Shoup.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:43 PM
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Basically like taxis, but cheaper.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:44 PM
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Straight from Shoup.

Yes, that's where he gets it too.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:44 PM
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P(rivately o)wned.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:45 PM
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167: If everybody tells their car to go home and then come back to pick them up, it might increase fuel use enough to offset the fuel savings you'd get from fewer traffic jams and such.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:49 PM
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166: I can still toss my chicken carcass in the back seat, yeah?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:50 PM
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Way back in ought-four we were talking, at the campus newspaper, about outfitting an RC helicopter with video pickups in order to track the next hockey riot with less risk of photographers getting pepper-sprayed. Never quite made it happen, but there were several serious discussions on the subject.

Drone proliferation is the kind of hook that would make for a good Gernsback era SF story, where some newly ubiquitous technology (a) seems to have come about without any intervening improvements in other technologies, and (b) has had absolutely no effect on social relations.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:50 PM
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I think I was in the Flocking Road Cones discussion Shoup cites. Around, anyway.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:51 PM
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I can still toss my chicken carcass in the back seat, yeah?

I suspect you'll have about as much success with that as you currently do in a taxi.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:54 PM
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Hm. I'll have to run some tests.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 8:57 PM
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Be sure to report back!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:00 PM
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Keep chucking that chicken.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 9:01 PM
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