For Road Trip 2015, CNET talks with the University of Michigan’s Peter Sweatman about the rapid merging of computers and cars, and the fake city in Ann Arbor where it’s being put to the test.
Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.cnet.com
This is an excellent article and interview with Dr Peter Sweatman, who will coincidentally be speaking in New Zealand next month as a guest of ITS NZ. ITS stands for Intelligent Transportation Systems and ITS NZ is part of a global network of Government, Corporate and Technology companies with a variety of strong interests in motoring technology.
The interview is well balanced and its interesting to read that while most of us are still reading a lot about concepts, in Michigan they are already generations into testing including MCity, a fake downtown area that looks like a normal city, where they can test systems in cars, such as Vehicle to Vehicle V2V comms and Vehicle to Infrastructure V2I.
A lot of the investment and development is coming from Michigan DOT who are building smart corridors using dedicated short range communication DSRC (our industry has a love affair with acronyms) where vehicles communicate with each other and with the network. Vehicles know what the traffic signals are doing, they know the current speed limits, they can tell when the vehicle 3 cars in front of the big SUV (which is blocking your entire forward vision) is putting on the brakes.
You might think, because of media interest that their key focus appears to be autonomous or driverless cars, however as I’ve blogged before, lots of this technology is appearing in ordinary cars today. Cars are parking themselves, some brands like Volvo and BMW have technology that allows their own brands and key models to communicate with each other, thus things like adaptive cruise control gets smarter.
Some of the reasons these things are really important is because many of the systems we use are currently not intelligent at all. For example I set the cruise control in my car at around 100km per hour. Going up hills and on the flat the 4 liter car is very steady. Going downhill it’s weight becomes obvious and on some of the hills on my commute I can easily be doing 106-108 and liable for a speeding fine. Of course the majority of ‘navigation’ systems today don’t know what the normal or current speed zones are and aren’t aware of maintenance programs with temporary speed limits or normal everyday safety speed recommendations that we see every day.
Given that today’s technology is fallible, plus we don’t have smart roads yet; and we have a very dated car stock, where it will be many years, at least a decade before there is any visible number of autonomous cars on the road, will we be safer? I’m looking forward to hearing Dr Sweatman talk and ask him about the tension between driven and driverless cars. To quote him from the attached article, ” Humans cheat. They’re pushing the envelope all the time, whether speeding or going through traffic signals. The machine does what it’s programmed to do. It doesn’t cheat.”
When you go on your next road trip (In NZ we have several long weekends coming up) you will see a lot of cheating. People stuck behind congested traffic, illegally speed to make up the time they lost when they pass the accident that caused it. They overtake at illegal speeds on blind corners on the wrong side of the road. People die or are seriously injured as a consequence. Panel-beaters and car painters look forward to this time of year.
I agree with him, driverless cars, or cars hooked into ITS systems will be inherently safer. However, will they be able to protect us from drivers who are fatigued, have a lead foot, suffer road rage, are distracted, or under the influence of a substance that reduces their cognition and response times, or as I so often hear in the countryside “I know this dirt road like the back of my hand”.
Will the people who fall into the above categories want cars that stop them from reckless behaviors? I doubt it.
What do you think?