Driverless shuttle crashes on first day


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Only hours after initiating service, a driverless shuttle in Las Vegas crashed.

No one was hurt, nor is the accident described in any detail at the link. However, I think this incident highlights a reality about driverless cars: Either every vehicle on the road must be one, or none of the vehicles on the road can be one. It will be almost impossible to program a driverless car to handle the unpredictability of human drivers. If we want to leave the driving to computers (which I don’t), we will have to ban humans from driving.

Such a ban will be a terrible loss of freedom. And not surprisingly, I think the whole a push for driverless vehicles is a push in that direction.

I found a second article that describes the incident as caused by a truck driver backing into the shuttle, thus blaming the human driver (who was given a ticket by the way) and using the incident to argue against human drivers.

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6 comments

  • ken anthony

    I believe your conclusion that it’s all or nothing is unjustified, but agree that others will have the same conclusion. We as a society have already decided that other peoples freedom is forfeit. Too bad for us.

  • Edward

    Finding these kinds of flaws in the system is probably why Google has been testing — in traffic — their autonomous autos for so many years.

    Since cars, shuttles, and buses carry people, defensive driving is going to be paramount. The use of the horn was appropriate in that case, since the purpose of the horn is to warn other drivers of potentially hazardous situations.

    Those people could have been watching a truck barrel out of control at them, knowing that they were going to die if the shuttle didn’t “step out of the way.”

    I think that Google is showing that autonomous and human-driven vehicles can coexist safely. Las Vegas may have merely put into use a system that was not yet ready for prime time.

  • Laurie

    We all need something like this instead:

    http://images.realclear.com/349842_5_.jpg

  • Edward

    Laurie,
    I like the way you think.

    However, I am concerned about the stability of riding a two-legged animal. Maybe four legs would be better. Elephants seem nice and stable, but they are large and probably require a lot of food. Horses are smaller and probably eat less than elephants, yet probably retain similar stability. They may even be easier to mount, probably self-avoid accidents with trucks, and may even be able to find their way back home if the rider is too drunk to steer.

    If we switch from cars to animals for transportation, what could go wrong? Why did we never think of it before? I’m buying stock in a buggy-whip company.
    http://www.nyhistory.org/community/horse-manure

  • Laurie

    Edward,

    All good points ;) I was thinking about speed with maneuverability. I expect they shoo away the parking enforcement officers, too.

  • Edward

    Laurie,
    You wrote: “I expect they shoo away the parking enforcement officers, too.

    I forgot about that. According to the movie “Sideways,” those things are mean.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBS75pQhzXE#t=50

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