Driverless Cars Could Increase Reliance on Roads

google self driving carDriverless vehicles could intensify car use — reducing or even eliminating promised energy savings and environmental benefits, a new study finds:

  • A 5 to 60 percent increase in car energy consumption due to people choosing to use highly automated cars in situations where they would have previously taken alternative transport (e.g., trains).
  • People who currently find it difficult or impossible to drive, such as the elderly or some people with disabilities, will have increased access to road transport with the advent of the new systems, resulting in an estimated 2 to 10 percent increase in road energy use for personal travel.
  • Possible higher speed limits because of the improved safety of autonomous cars (7 to 22 percent) and demand for heavy extra equipment in driverless cars such as TV screens and computers (0 to 11 percent) might also tend to reduce efficiency savings.

Read more: Help or hindrance? The travel, energy and carbon impacts of highly automated vehicles, Transportation Research, Volume 83, April 2016. Summary: Driverless cars could increase reliance on roads. Via Road.cc. Picture: Google. Previously: Self-driving cars: A coming congestion disaster?

Self-Driving Cars: a Coming Congestion Disaster?

self driving cars“A suburban father rides his driverless car to work, maybe dropping his daughter off a at school. But rather than park the car downtown, he simply tells it to drive back home to his house in the suburbs. During the day, it runs some other errands for his family.

At 3 pm, it goes to the school to bring his daughter home or chauffeur her to after-school activities. Then it’s time for it to drive back into the city to pick up Dad from work. But then, on a lark, Dad decides to go shopping at a downtown department store after work, so he tells his car to just circle the block for an hour while he shops, before finally hailing it to go home.”

Read more: Self-driving cars: a coming congestion disaster.

The Case For Dangerous Roads and Low-tech Cars

car accident in poland wikipedia commons“The design of automobiles has tended toward insulation, offering an ever less involving driving experience. The animating ideal seems to be that the driver should be a disembodied observer, moving through a world of objects that present themselves as though on a screen.”

“We have throttle by wire, brake by wire, and electrical assist (versus hydraulic assist) brakes, as well as traction control and anti-lock brakes that modulate our driving inputs for us. What all this idiot-proofing and abstraction amounts to is a genuine poverty of information reaching the driver.”

“What’s more, the information that does get through is presented in a highly mediated way, conveyed by potentiometers and silky smooth servos rather than by the seat of your pants. It is therefore highly discreet, and does not reflect fuzzy, subtle variations. Nor is it sensitive to changes that haven’t been anticipated and coded for ahead of time, for example the vibration that might arise from a brake caliper bracket that has come loose or cracked. Perhaps most troubling, the electronic mode of presentation means that information about the state of the car and of the road is competing with information from other electronic devices that may be a lot more interesting.”

Read more: The Case for Dangerous Roads and Low-Tech Cars, Matthew B. Crawford. Picture credit.

How To Buy a Low-Tech Car

You might not guess it after strolling through a few dealerships, but cars and trucks with limited technology still can be found if you are willing to work at it. And there still are plenty of low-tech used vehicles: even some that haven’t yet been classified as classics. To find them, though, takes patience and willingness to compromise.

simple carThere has been huge growth in the number and complexity of electronics features on passenger vehicles, says Paul Green, a research professor at the University of Michigan. In tracking just one model, the Infiniti G, over a seven-year period, Green found that the total number of pages in this entry-level luxury car’s multiple owner’s manuals grew by an average of 30 a year.

That means the owner of a 2013 Infiniti G has to read the equivalent of a small novel to understand how to operate all the new features added since 2006.

Just as all cars are not alike, technology-averse car shoppers don’t all slip from the same mold. There are, of course, the traditional Luddites: people who believe technology diminishes humanity and want nothing to do with it. But there also are those who’d rather avoid complex technologies because they can’t, or won’t, take the time to learn how to use them. Some want to avoid technology that they see as increasing distraction because it requires drivers to look at information screens while operating the vehicle. Some are concerned about the trend toward cars with greater connectivity to the Web because of their potential for being hacked. And there are motoring purists who want nothing to come between them and the hands-on driving experience.

How to buy a low-tech car — car shopping tips for technophobes, a practical guide from automotive website Edmunds. Via WSJ.

Automated Ethics & Driverless Cars

ethical driverless cars“Modern motor vehicles are safer and more reliable than they have ever been – yet more than 1 million people are killed in car accidents around the world each year, and more than 50 million are injured. Why? Largely because one perilous element in the mechanics of driving remains unperfected by progress: the human being.”

“Enter the cutting edge of machine mitigation. Back in August 2012, Google announced that it had achieved 300,000 accident-free miles testing its self-driving cars. The technology remains some distance from the marketplace, but the statistical case for automated vehicles is compelling. Even when they’re not causing injury, human-controlled cars are often driven inefficiently, ineptly, antisocially, or in other ways additive to the sum of human misery.”

“What, though, about more local contexts? If your vehicle encounters a busload of schoolchildren skidding across the road, do you want to live in a world where it automatically swerves, at a speed you could never have managed, saving them but putting your life at risk? Or would you prefer to live in a world where it doesn’t swerve but keeps you safe?”

Quoted from: Automated Ethics, Tom Chatfield, Aeon Magazine. The image is from Ethical Autonomous Vehicles, a research project and video by Matthieu Cherubini. Three distinct algorithms have been created – each adhering to a specific ethical principle/behaviour set-up – and embedded into driverless virtual cars that are operating in a simulated environment, where they will be confronted with ethical dilemmas. Via InternetActu.

Africa Teaches the West How to Build a Car

Smati turtle 1 african car

Today’s cars look like spaceships and are built by robots in futuristic factories. At least, that’s the picture in the developed world.

In Ghana, West Africa, both the cars and the auto industry look rather different. In a neighbourhood called Suame Magazine, an estimated 200,000 artisans take apart discarded western cars and use the parts to build easily repairable vehicles that are suitable for African roads. All this happens manually and in open air.

Artist Melle Smets and researcher Joost van Onna, both from the Netherlands, set up shop in Suame Magazine and built a unique African concept car in collaboration with the local community: the SMATI Turtle 1. Their project calls into question western ways of dealing with technology, waste, employment and automation.

Picture: The SMATI Turtle 1

[Read more…]

What’s the Amish community’s stance on cars?

“To the extent that you are mobile in an automated or motorized way with something like a car or motorcycle or fast moving tractor, you’ve increased your radius of contact with other human beings, but at the same time you dilute the quality of contact within that radius.

So you can have more contact with a lot more people, but the quality of your relationships with those people, especially the people who are your immediate neighbors, is diluted. You don’t rely on them as much. It really drastically undermines the community.

The Beachy Amish — that’s a sect within the Amish — they decided to adopt cars. Then most of the young people left the group because they got exposed to the rest of the society and — poof! — they’re gone.”

Read more: Despite horses and buggies, Amish aren’t necessarily ‘low-tech’.

Disneyland’s Magic Highway USA (1958)

Magic highway usa “As in the past, the highway will continue to play a vital role in the progress of civilization. It will be our magic carpet, to new hopes, new dreams, and a better way of life for the future.”

Watch the movie. Previously: Magic Motorways (1939) / London Traffic Improvements (1938) / Roadtown (1910).

Metropolis II by Chris Burden

Metroplis II “The California artist Chris Burden may be in his 60s, but he is still playing with toys. The thing is, the older he gets the more outrageously complicated the toys become. ‘Metropolis II’ includes 1,200 custom-designed cars and 18 lanes.”

Cars as they should be: toys. Metropolis II by Chris Burden.


Parts of 1909 Automobiles

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