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Cautious driving is resulting in human motorists driving into the back of them

Accident rates are twice as high for driverless cars as for regular cars, according to a study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan. However, self-driving vehicles were not at fault in any of the incidents looked at. Typically, they were hit from behind in slow-speed crashes by human drivers who were unaccustomed to other road users moving with such caution.

“They’re a little bit like a cautious student driver or a grandma,” said Dmitri Dolgov, principal engineer of Google’s driverless cars project, speaking to Bloomberg.

In November, one of Google's cars was pulled over for driving too slowly in Mountain View, California. Moving at 24mph in a busy 35mph zone, traffic was backing up behind.

Cyclist doing trackstand leaves Google self-driving car confused

“The right thing would have been for this car to pull over, let the traffic go and then pull back on the roadway,” said Sergeant Saul Jaeger, head of the police department’s traffic-enforcement unit. “I like it when people err on the side of caution. But can something be too cautious? Yeah.”

More recently, also in Mountain View, a self-driving Google car attempted to turn right on a red light – a legal manoeuvre, but a complex one necessitating that it assess the movement of traffic from multiple directions. The car came to a stop, switched on its indicator and began creeping slowly into the junction to get a better look. Another car stopped behind it and also began rolling forward, but rear-ended the Google car at 4mph.

Brandon Schoettle, co-author of the Michigan study, said that other incidents have been caused by sudden, unexpected braking. “These vehicles are either stopping in a situation or slowing down when a human driver might not,” he said. “They’re a little faster to react, taking drivers behind them off guard.”

Dolgov says Google are now looking to make their driverless cars more ‘aggressive’ while still operating according to traffic laws. He believes this is necessary so that they can fit into traffic more naturally, meaning that human drivers will be better able to predict their behaviour. “Driving is a social game,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Commons transport committee said that the Department for Transport (DfT) needed to prepare for a transition period when autonomous vehicles first come into use. It pointed out that the full benefits of driverless technology cannot be realised until there is wide uptake. AA president Edmund King described that period as being ‘a potential nightmare.’

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

16 comments

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mattsccm [363 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

Wht they need is a bloody big pointed thing sticking out the back. That would encourge decent driving.

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brooksby [2919 posts] 2 years ago
5 likes

So google have to programme for the fact of other drivers being arses?

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BigYin [27 posts] 2 years ago
1 like
brooksby wrote:

So google have to programme for the fact of other drivers being arses?

 

Yep, much as we, when we're driving (or riding bikes, or motorbikes) have to take account of other drivers (ahem) lack of thought/skill/observation.

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Rich Berry [3 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

These cars are involved in collisions or crashes, not accidents!

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brooksby [2919 posts] 2 years ago
1 like
BigYin wrote:
brooksby wrote:

So google have to programme for the fact of other drivers being arses?

 

Yep, much as we, when we're driving (or riding bikes, or motorbikes) have to take account of other drivers (ahem) lack of thought/skill/observation.

Well, yes, but the article makes it sound as if Google are going to try and programme their cars to be arses too. Which is a step up from trying to avoid/anticipate the arses.

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wycombewheeler [1257 posts] 2 years ago
1 like
mattsccm wrote:

Wht they need is a bloody big pointed thing sticking out the back. That would encourge decent driving.

Flamethrower

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DaveE128 [981 posts] 2 years ago
3 likes

Seems to me that they have started off with an ultra cautious algorithm with a very large safety factor, to prove that driverless cars can be safe (which they have) and they are trying to reduce the safety factor to something less excessive now. That doesn't necessarily mean that they will start doing anything dangerous soon.

However, I've always suspected that once there is competition between different makes of car, it will end up with different approaches to safety - I bet Audis will drive the most aggressively, as it's clearly what their customers will demand!  3

Avatar
Initialised [330 posts] 2 years ago
1 like
wycombewheeler wrote:
mattsccm wrote:

Wht they need is a bloody big pointed thing sticking out the back. That would encourge decent driving.

Flamethrower

EMP

Avatar
FluffyKittenofT... [1976 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
DaveE128 wrote:

However, I've always suspected that once there is competition between different makes of car, it will end up with different approaches to safety - I bet Audis will drive the most aggressively, as it's clearly what their customers will demand!  3

I think that's a very good point. Self-driving-cars will have to please their potential purchasers, so, while they might make fewer outright 'mistakes', I don't see one can assume they will be hugely safer than human-driven ones, as those purchasers will tend to want cars that drive like them - which in many cases will mean putting their own speed and convenience above the safety of anyone outside the vehicle.

I remain skeptical about the things. Especially as they may well just hugely increase the number of car-users and hence the political power of the car lobby to remould the world to suit them.

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brooksby [2919 posts] 2 years ago
1 like
DaveE128 wrote:

Seems to me that they have started off with an ultra cautious algorithm with a very large safety factor, to prove that driverless cars can be safe (which they have) and they are trying to reduce the safety factor to something less excessive now.

It still seems pretty poor that they are having to reduce their safety factor because of the poor driving and poor reactions of the other motorists. Wasn't their whole selling point that they would be safer - and would drive safer - than human-controlled cars? And yet they are now having to make them less safe because other cars ran into the back of them when they braked (the article says that “These vehicles are either stopping in a situation or slowing down when a human driver might not. They’re a little faster to react, taking drivers behind them off guard.”).

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kev-s [283 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

In the end most manufactuers will make cars that will not put the owner at risk, i mean who would want to buy a car that can decide to kill you rather than kill someone else?

 

Personally id like that to be up to me and i would hope i would rather kill myself not someone else but you just dont know until your in that situation

 

Mercedes have even said their driverless cars will protect the occupants before pedestrians in no win situations

 

http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/mercedes/97345/mercedes-autonomous-cars-wil...

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Yorkshire wallet [1704 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes

I really don't think anyone who's interested in being an arse on the road will buy a car that 'potentially' can be an arse. Just be one yourself and it'll be ten times more arsey than whatever the AI will come up with. 

Go to Bradford to see how your average Audi is driven and I guarantee Audi will never come up with an AI that does that. 

"Alexa, do 60 in the 30 zone and mount the pavement at the next queue"

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JimKillock [15 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

I can't personally see how driverless cars can reasonably be anything other than very cautious. If they cause an accident, then we have a problem that is expensive for the owner / designer to resolve.

They may try to eliminate less risky behaviour (that appears risky to a computer to start with) but this can't be at the expense of actually incurring costs through accidents.

Of course, part of the problem with computer-driven cars will be their compatibility with unpredictable people-driven cars, and the potential for humans to 'game' the caution of the computer-driven vehicles.

I would expect that either human driver behaviour will need to adjust (and become safer, more risk averse) or else humans ought to hand over driving to the robots.

In the longer run, handing over driving to computers ought to be more predictable, safer and cheaper. The style of driving could be much more efficient, as each vehicle could communicate its intent and negotiate it in real time: however, this is not very easy if people are still in the mix.

Where that leaves cyclists may be harder, but the simple answer may be to segregate cyclists out of traffic to increase traffic predictability for the automated vehicles. 

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oldstrath [953 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
JimKillock wrote:

I can't personally see how driverless cars can reasonably be anything other than very cautious. If they cause an accident, then we have a problem that is expensive for the owner / designer to resolve.

They may try to eliminate less risky behaviour (that appears risky to a computer to start with) but this can't be at the expense of actually incurring costs through accidents.

Of course, part of the problem with computer-driven cars will be their compatibility with unpredictable people-driven cars, and the potential for humans to 'game' the caution of the computer-driven vehicles.

I would expect that either human driver behaviour will need to adjust (and become safer, more risk averse) or else humans ought to hand over driving to the robots.

In the longer run, handing over driving to computers ought to be more predictable, safer and cheaper. The style of driving could be much more efficient, as each vehicle could communicate its intent and negotiate it in real time: however, this is not very easy if people are still in the mix.

Where that leaves cyclists may be harder, but the simple answer may be to segregate cyclists out of traffic to increase traffic predictability for the automated vehicles. 

Oh look, the main reason for the cycling "safety" review.

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Morat [287 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

I would imagine that the passengers in driverless cars will be watching TV or updateing Facebook rather than looking out of the windscreen. I'd also guess that any design features that trigger a memory of actually driving will be removed to prevent people grabbing for imaginary steering wheels or stepping on imaginary brakes when the car does something a human couldn't compute. Eventually they'll probably have big TVs instead of windows anyway so you can live your "Digital Life" on the go...

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reliablemeatloaf [108 posts] 4 months ago
1 like
Morat wrote:

I would imagine that the passengers in driverless cars will be watching TV or updateing Facebook rather than looking out of the windscreen. I'd also guess that any design features that trigger a memory of actually driving will be removed to prevent people grabbing for imaginary steering wheels or stepping on imaginary brakes when the car does something a human couldn't compute. Eventually they'll probably have big TVs instead of windows anyway so you can live your "Digital Life" on the go...

Soon the Woody Allen joke will apply to cars:

"We  went to St. Kitts this winter."

"Oh! Where is it?"

"I don't know - we flew."