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The robo-car revolution hits Mountain View streets

Original post made on Jun 25, 2015

A question kept ringing through my mind as I took my first ride Monday in one of Google's prototype self-driving cars -- Is this newfangled robo-car a better driver than I am?

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, June 25, 2015, 11:45 AM

Comments (27)

Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2015 at 12:23 pm

I applaud Google for being one of the trailblazers in this potentially wonderful development for personal transportation. I also appreciate the fact that Google is putting safety first.

I loathe driving myself; one day, I hope to be able to benefit from this technology.

Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 25, 2015 at 2:02 pm

"There was no steering wheel, no pedals or mirrors and all the car's controls were all located on the center console between the two seats." Did CA DMV laws change? I think this is still illegal to have a car with no steering wheel, pedals (or acceptable equivalent) on public streets. I thought all had to be able to be driven by a licensed driver still.
To google: One big mistake I have seen your cars make recently that can cause an accident is how it handles detours and constructions zones, heavy traffic, right turns. In the first, it went around without understanding the rules (too fast) and in the others, it waits way too long that confuses other drivers and then irritates them.

Posted by Driver_8
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jun 25, 2015 at 2:24 pm

The no steering wheel cars were prototypes displayed on the campus, not the car they rode in.

Posted by mom
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 25, 2015 at 2:30 pm

It's funny when the self-driving car puts their blinker on to go around a curve...

Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 25, 2015 at 2:49 pm

@pedestrian -

"One big mistake I have seen your cars make"

The cars you see around Mountain View are often not in self-driving mode.

Posted by konrad M. Sosnow
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 25, 2015 at 3:38 pm

I think that we have top remember that the Wright Brothers' first flight was only 12 seconds and covered 120 feet, a long way from today's Dreamliner. Today's Google cars are early in the evolution but have a huge potential.

Posted by Hmm
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 25, 2015 at 3:50 pm

No thanks, I love to drive.

Posted by Marsupial
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 25, 2015 at 3:58 pm

A koala isn't a bear.

Posted by @Monta Loma
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 25, 2015 at 4:23 pm

You mean drive BADLY, don't you?

Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 26, 2015 at 9:26 am

Clarification: I have seen it drive when the driver was not paying attention (looking down and sideways at something). there was a worker with a sign asking cars to stop because the other side of the street was blocked and he needed to let those cars through, but he was not blocking the lane. the google car cannot read his sign or intentions and went without slowing against his orders through. Understanding changes in road conditions and auxiliary commands will be hard to handle. But I do have to say they are better drivers than many of the police cars in Mountain View

Posted by 4-way stops
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 26, 2015 at 9:48 am

I got stuck at a 4-way stop (ie, intersection with no traffic lights and stop signs at all 4 corners) with a google SDcar this morning and the poor thing could not figure out what to do.

It was the SDcar's turn to cross, but it just stopped. I waited a bit but the humans in the car just stared at me. I waved them through... no response. Eventually I went through the intersection, though it wasn't my turn. Clearly some challenges with regard to interacting with human drivers. Hope the SDC isn't still sitting at that stop sign...

Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 10:38 am

I wish Google and others would begin selling these self driving cars soon, I plan to be one of the first to buy one.

Posted by PA resident
a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2015 at 12:12 pm

I was involved in a fender bender today with a driver not paying attention and admitted his fault. It made a mess of my day. Hope these safe self driving cars start making the roads safer soon.

Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 26, 2015 at 7:07 pm

Doug Pearson is a registered user.

My wife and I have had only one car between the two of us for many years. I stopped driving about 7 years ago after my last accident but I still ride--driven by my wife, a VTA bus driver, an Airport shuttle driver, a CalTrain engineer, etc.

I look forward to self-driving cars; perhaps we will get one.

Posted by taxman
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Jun 27, 2015 at 6:20 am

So cool, the future is here people I love it..

Posted by Rick Jay
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jun 27, 2015 at 7:12 am

"To google: One big mistake I have seen your cars make recently that can cause an accident is how it handles detours and constructions zones, heavy traffic, right turns. In the first, it went around without understanding the rules (too fast) and in the others, it waits way too long that confuses other drivers and then irritates them."

So it's like the millions of Asian drivers already out there then?

(If you were offended by this obvious joke, you need to get a life. Sterotypes while not credible are good comic relief. I posted this because all the politically correct atmosphere lately is suffocating. You can't simply laugh at something else you're immediately deemed a racist.)

Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 27, 2015 at 9:37 am

I have lived in multiple cities and countries and only in the US is a car a necessity even for long distances, for work, school, daily routines, etc. Why is it that the solution to people dying in car accidents is to make the individual car self reliant and safer and not to build neighborhoods, society that works without individual cars at all. Cars are expensive for someone -- even if you do zipcar someone has to pay for the car and its maintenance. No matter how good the self driving car is, it is still a car on the road per 1.2 people. Traffic will still be bad. Parking will still take up much space. Cities and suburbs and country sides will still be heavily paved to allow people to go and park. Electric cars do not solve the carbon footprint, global warming or energy problems, especially when one takes in that the construction of the electric car (especially its body) takes more energy and provides more to global warming due to its special materials, than the construction and life use of a traditional gas powered car does.

On another note:
When self-driving cars do come on the market, won't the one that says it knows how to drive faster and cut between cars to get around slower google bugs to get its passenger to his/her destination faster with more excitement be also popular with many people? Won't hacks exist to change the way the car drives to make it faster and more aggressive be available (even if illegal)? The thought being that since a fast, unsleeping, undistractable computer is driving, it can predict and handle these situations much better than today (and while these behaviors can cause accidents when done by real drivers, they don't do it often enough to stop these drivers). Also how will one know for sure there isn't malware or a security leak in the car's system? Won't manufactures want to put in all kinds of add-on software to make more money from any 3rd party? How will the problems with cell phones and computers not appear in these cars when such hacks would be far more dangerous. Read IEEE articles to see how current cars are easily hacked to disable breaks or unlock when parked, etc.

Posted by Bill Evans (in Menlo Park)
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2015 at 2:31 pm

@resident of Old Mountain View

The trend in transportation is to automated systems for myriad obvious reasons. For example, in rail the latest metros in the Paris system are fully automated; in aviation all modern passenger aircraft are fly-by-wire and military aircraft are increasingly drones. It should not be surprising that the same evolution take place in road travel.

Automation can address three severe challenges with road travel: safety, arterial throughput, and parking overload. With SDC there will be fewer cars, higher throughput on the roads, and less parking--most of which will be in garages, invisible to pedestrians. Car manufacturers and operators won’t compete based on rudeness any more than they do in rail or aviation. I anticipate that "car transportation" will become a service: Uber without the driver. You order a car for 1 person, 4 persons, or 10 persons for a certain destination. Car service companies compete based on price, historical timeliness, and car amenities.

Cars solve the last-3-miles problem in way that rail transportation cannot…and this problem is acute in areas with low-density housing like California suburbs. Why not take advantage of our assets (great roads, great software) to deliver a better solution than enjoys Paris or Tokyo?

Trains are great for inter-city travel, but will be inferior to SDC for intra-city and suburban travel.

Posted by Oh My! Wait, no nevermind
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jun 29, 2015 at 10:04 am

I had to laugh when I read this:
"Read IEEE articles to see how current cars are easily hacked to disable breaks or unlock when parked, etc."

Ummm, pretty sure we can do all those things now without a sw hack. Wire snips, a coat hanger...yah, we're decades into that risk. Doesn't seem to be a major issue.

Posted by Alex M
a resident of Willowgate
on Jun 30, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Google still has some bugs to work out. My last encounter with one of their self-driving cars illustrated this. Other messages above point out the difficulty the cars have at 4-way stop signs, and failing to recognize road crew construction signs.

Other than the road crew incident, the default behavior in these cars is to stop and stay stopped, like a cautious driver afraid to move.

This happened to me. I was at T-intersection trying to turn left from the leg of the T into the crossbar of the T. A Google car was coming from my right. I wanted to wait for it and turn left to follow behind it.

As the Google car crossed the intersection, I nosed my car out slowly, intending to turn and follw behind it. The Google car sensed me nosing in. In spite of having NO cars ahead of it for an ENTIRE block, it braked suddenly and stopped in the middle of the intersection, throwing the occupants forward. The BEST reaction would have been to accelerate out of my way, but instead it blocked me while I was partway into the intersection, causing us both to obstruct traffic (although there wasn't any other traffic). This lasted a fraction of a second, then it resumed its journey and I turned left into the road to follow behind it as originally planned.

This incident made me realize that some decision logic improvements are in order. The reaction the car had to my nosing into the intersection seemed like the least safe reaction. The best reaction would have been to keep moving.

Posted by A ways to go
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Yah, I think everyone knows this is not the finished product.
If it were all robo-cars your vehicle would not have begun to ease out into traffic until it was entirely clear and everything would have been good, but the human factor, be it impatience or whatever, caused uncertainty which cause the test vehicle to err on the side of caution above all else.
Sounds to me like did the right thing, but again, everyone knows it is not the finished product out there.

Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2015 at 5:32 pm

Just pretend like this car says "Student Driver" because basically that's what it is.

Autonomous vehicles will learn and in time, they will be a better operators than humans for typical non-commercial driving.

Posted by Me
a resident of Willowgate
on Jul 2, 2015 at 4:17 pm

"better operators than humans" is not a very high bar ;)

Posted by bicyclist
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 8, 2015 at 10:18 am

I am eagerly awaiting Google's larger size robot chauffeur car so I can ride my exercise bike and do yoga in my car while being driven around. It can be like executive planes. No worries as they promise a injury free world ahead. No need to worry about traffic jams as everyone now will be driven around where ever and whenever they want in a much smoother fashion.

Posted by Bicycle Rider
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jul 8, 2015 at 2:11 pm

For myself, I'll enjoy the bike lane on my bike...without the moron drivers messing things up. It's gonna be great.

Posted by Dino
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jul 9, 2015 at 7:04 am

I can't wait to have my beers in the back & drink on the way to shoreline whir the car drives

Posted by Not Quite yet
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 9, 2015 at 8:23 am

Law states a driver must be in the driver's seat for now. I doubt you can drink or not have a seat belt either. That's for now but not sure if that'll change or remain in the future.

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