Driverless cars

This video has been dropping jaws all over the tech blogosphere. It’s a model of what a (freaking huge!) intersection would look like if traffic signals and human driver decisions were eliminated in favor of total computer control: individual computers controlling the cars, which are driverless, and an “intersection manager” computer controlling all of the input from those cars as they approach and move through the intersection. The idea is to maximize traffic flow, and as you can see, these cars zip past one another with inches to spare.

Frankly I think it’s a good thing the cars will be driverless, because most of the would-be drivers will probably expire of cardiac arrest while traversing that intersection. (And heaven help any cyclists or pedestrians!)

Yesterday’s bantering about OS X vs. Windows vs. Ubuntu aside, no operating system is perfect and no software is perfect, and that’s not even considering things like power outages or wireless interruptions. This system had better have fifty redundancies and backups!

And now, just to give you a sample of that future heart attack, here is a video of pretty much the same traffic management system for real — but for human-driven traffic, in India. (Watch the white car that temporarily backs up traffic, and then watch the pedestrian it passes.)

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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4 Responses to Driverless cars

  1. Lilaine says:

    Better be ‘hackers-proof’, too, this system… ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
    Reminds me of an old video game, though the score would be null for this game: no hit! ๐Ÿ™‚

    There’s something to say about the way people in India know(have known for a long time) how to ‘function’ all together, sharing space and resources.
    Even a (sacred) scared cow could make her way safely through such an intersection. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. kepler20f says:

    That is some impressive designing/programming. Is there an interactive version where you can add more cars/lanes, or more complex intersections, highway exits… bike lanes? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Google has been making a lot of progress in driverless cars. I may have been misinformed, but somebody told me that Nevada already passed a bill authorizing them. Not sure under what kind of controls or restrictions.

    Now… from my experience driving in the U.S. for almost 6 years, and especially around cities and commuting routes, I have had the opportunity to fly past many a traffic jam, by benefiting from a) Carpool lanes and b) the fact that I had a whopping number of 2 people in the car, including myself.

    My guesstimate is that over 80% of cars here usually contain one single person – the driver (95% on commutes). So the concept of driverless cars is an amusing one of sorts.

    Of course the idea is not to have the driver seat empty, rather to have routes where the driver would give away controls of the car.

    Which also means he/she would be able to hold not one but two giant Slurpees or 20oz. Starbucks cups, or just one and use the other hand for the urgent mandatory “texting”.
    OK, no difference there, so maybe they will come up with something else.

    On a positive note, one out of 1000 cars on the roads here now seems to be a Smart, a Mini or a Cinquecento. Who would have thought?

    • oregon expat says:

      Which also means he/she would be able to hold not one but two giant Slurpees or 20oz. Starbucks cups, or just one and use the other hand for the urgent mandatory “texting”.

      Okay, that made me laugh out loud, because it is SO true. Don’t forget the eyeliner and lipstick for the women, and the battery powered electric razors for the men! Heck, future cars could come with a whole built-in bathroom/bar area.

  3. CathyW says:

    that was brilliant, the first one had me mesmerised, trying to track an individual ‘car’, was it the Atari game of tennis from way back when? the Indian intersection was poetry in motion, amazingly free flowing

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