Some behind the scenes tech at how a Waymo computer system can process the world around it in full 360 degrees. With so many eyes on the road, and each item's location and speed being tracked and predicted, how could there be any doubt that this is not just almost equivalent to what a human could do, but is actually two or three orders of magnitude more than a human could accomplish. This tech knows how fast all the cars and peds are moving, simultaneously, on a very busy street! It even knows if a car is about to run a red light and slows down to just miss it, and then continue. This will save lives. AV will save lives and should be embraced sooner, not later. PRISM Engineering is supportive of a full adoption of implementing AV tech in Smart Cities that can take advantage of Vision AV0, where autonomous vehicles and grade separations are the answer to reducing vehicle fatalities. We need this sooner than later.
Bike and Pedestrian Fatalities Higher than Ever in USA. Current Methods of Safety Not Working to Reduce Fatalities
If there are 37,000+ vehicle related deaths each year in the USA, and Pedestrians account for 15% of these, and they used to be only 11%, then this 4% increase represents 1,500 MORE pedestrian deaths each year compare to just 10 years ago. The 37,000+ number is also at a peak.
Obviously, whatever is the mainstream safety push for transportation is not working to even bring down the number of fatalities each year in the USA, in fact, it is going the opposite direction. Current methods are clearly not working and should be reconsidered as a whole. Nobody quite understands this counter-intuitive result, but the Governor's Highway safety Association is aware of it. Here is what they are saying:
"IT IS ALARMING," says GHSA* executive director Jonathan Adkins, "and it's counter-intuitive." (*Governor's Highway safety Association).
We need to pay attention to the facts, the accident history. "There's been an assumption that, because of increased safety of vehicles as we move toward semi-autonomous vehicles, that traffic deaths were going to go down," Adkins says. "We're seeing just the opposite, unfortunately, with a particular spike as it relates to pedestrians and cyclists."
from NPR's Pedestrian Fatalities Remain At 25-Year High For Second Year In A Row:
New traffic methods for PEDS/Bikes have not moved the needle. They LOOK good, but... Cycle Tracks and XWalks are not solving it. PED bridges are not cutting the fatalities (UP! to 40k / year in USA) ...no improvements! "Vision Zero" as currently envisioned seems beyond reach. We need new Engineered & real solutions that will eliminate mixing of vulnerable travel modes with vehicles. J-Walkers, PEDS crossing paths with vehicles, cyclists mixing with cars/trucks assuming safety, while traveling along side some incompetent or risk-taking drivers: HUMAN factors... and not Improving.
The assumption that any kind of "new and improved" traffic control device specifically for PEDS or BIKES will make them safer needs to be questioned, since the accident fatality data does not bear this out. The needle has been moving in just the opposite direction, and we can no longer assume that more striping, different striping, or even complete streets will make pedestrians safer. What needs to happen is a realization that MORE pedestrians mingled with Vehicles on roadways where cars/trucks can hit people directly, is turning out to be a dangerous thing.
1) In order for AV to be effective and yield safety results (VisionAV0) for cars, bikes, and peds, you need a new roadway INFRASTRUCTURE, a smart one, and that also separates the modes of travel.
2) No longer is it safe to mix pedestrians, bikes, and cars / trucks in the same real estate on the roads, without barriers or grade separations. Our accident rates and data prove this. They are going up in recent years despite new traffic controls, and are currently unacceptable. 40K fatalities each year in the USA is a terrible statistic, unacceptable, and status quo is no longer acceptable especially when we CAN find a solution(s).
3) New solutions are required. It will require planning and engineering coordination at all levels of government... civil engineering and transportation planning to bring this together in a meaningful and effective way. While I don't necessarily agree with Bill Ford's assessment that this will take lots of time, it doesn't have to...because as a Traffic Engineer who's main goal is the safe movement of people, I want to see safety first, capacity and throughput second. We have a huge safety problem NOW. We need to take action for safety's sake, use the latest technology, not put lipstick on a pig, but redesign and retool our infrastructure in smart ways... and AV can help and is in fact, the answer to our safety problem.
Daimler Mercedes Benz is one of the leaders in AV. Thinking away ahead, and planning, implementing. Thinking society too.
GM is Launching Robocars with NO STEERING WHEELS or PEDALS next year in 2019.
In case anyone is wondering how fast this is coming... GM is also in the running. But there many others. In fact, ALL car companies are in on the action and are attempting to define how this is all going to play out, because their very existence depends on it. And in their defense, they own it, they are in the driver's seat. They have the vehicle technology which is so advanced, that companies like Apple and Google are literally playing catch up. While Google and Apple think about and work on making software that controls some robotics in the car, the real tech is in the engine,
from the WIRED article:
"After more than a century making vehicles for humans to drive, General Motors has ripped the heart out of its latest ride, and is now holding the grisly spectacle up for all the world to see: A car with no steering wheel. And it plans to put a fleet of these newfangled things to work in a taxi-like service, somewhere in the US, next year.
And no, this robo-chariot, a modified all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, doesn't have pedals either. This is GM's truly driverless debut, a car that will have to handle the world on its own. No matter what happens, you, dear human passenger, cannot help it now.
Terrifying? Maybe. But it's also a major step in GM’s aggressive bid to maintain its big dog status as the auto industry evolves away from individual ownership and flesh-and-blood drivers. And it’s just the beginning for the Detroit stalwart. “We’ve put together four generations of autonomous vehicles over the course of 18 months,” says Dan Ammann, GM’s president. “You can safely assume that the fourth generation won’t be the last.”
While Waymo, Uber, and others in this..." (read more at WIRED.COM)
Often depicted in way over simplified conceptual drawings, the Autonomous Vehicle is consistently misunderstood.
Autonomous Vehicles: In order for there to be compelling reason to incur the impact and expense of potentially retooling the entire vehicle industry, there would need to be compelling improvements to safety, capacity / efficiency, as well as the environment. The autonomous vehicle has in principle, the capacity to improve all three, but the conceptual illustrations one can find today on the internet when searching for "autonomous vehicles" leave much to be desired... they generate more questions than answers in one's mind. They are confusing. Such as why does a picture show all this "connectivity and sensors" from each vehicle, but the traffic pattern on the freeway is identical to existing conditions? Where is the benefit? Capacity increase? Or why would one think that it would be a good idea to show vehicles criss-crossing past each other at right angles in an uncontrolled intersection, narrowly missing bumpers, as if that is a safe idea or design? Logically, it's not. A roundabout would be a much better idea, lower speeds, and significantly reduced conflict points (goes from 9 potential conflicts down to just 1). In fact, it doesn't make any sense to introduce such a fallible and dangerous situation where serious injury can take place if technology fails in any way. Also, what about bikes and pedestrians in such a situation? Its as if there were no serious thought put into these concepts when it comes to having Complete Streets.
UBER Autonomous car hits pedestrian. news makes it look like autonomous is not safe
what components are in an autonomous car ?
Stopping Sight Distance = PERCEPTION TIME + REACTION TIME + BRAKING TIME
Autonomous vehicles theoretically change this equation to: SuperFast PERCEPTION TIME + SuperFast REACTION TIME + BRAKING TIME where the braking time remains the same because it is a function of tires, speed, friction, etc., but the Perception Time is a fraction of what humans need to make a decision that they need to brake...theoretically, and the Reaction Time is greatly shortened because no human foot has to move from the floor to get above the pedal to push it.
Any Autonomous Vehicle solution MUST also take into consideration the entire body of transportation modes, especially pedestrians and bikes. A pedestrian or cyclist will never be in the autonomous category, so these are mixed transportation use situations.
Good examples of extreme traffic situations can be found in China where density is consistently very high throughout urban cities. n Chongqing China there are residential and business skyscrapers that go on and on for miles and miles, averaging 30 stories tall.
THIS is a compelling reason to implement such an expensive change for the benefit of all, including drivers of vehicles. 90% of residents in Chongqing do NOT own or drive a car. As one watches the video of regular drivers on these massive 9-lane roadways, one can think of what benefit would come to the system if all vehicles were autonomous. In my view, safety would not only improve, but efficiency as well and capacity could be tripled as vehicles perfectly coordinate the merging, with tighter headways, and regulated speeds.
So What will an Autonomous Vehicle transportation system look like? What must it look like?
First of all, it must be safe for pedestrians. In the China video above, the pedestrians are completely separated from the vehicle traffic, because it is not safe or practical to ever have these meet in such high numbers. So there must be separation. There must be grade separation (or in the case of the China video above, a complete separation of vehicle traffic by tunnel if necessary). Grade separations are expensive, but to have a truly autonomous system and remove the human error factor that introduces accidents, often fatal accidents, a separation is needed. If a car is going 60 mph autonomously, and a child runs in front of it, the car no matter how automated, cannot stop in time, and fatality may occur, traffic will come to standstill, etc. We grade separate freeways, and now all roads with autonomous vehicles will need some method of separation in order to achieve the desired levels of safety, of capacity, of efficiency, even the environment and air quality. Fences. Ped and Bike bridges. Even signal systems tied in to the autonomous computer system, coordinated and optimized for safety of peds and bikes.
The future of traffic engineering will be to develop solutions that actually make sense, are safe and efficient, and which can take existing right-of way and turn it into a system where cars are separated from the pedestrians and bikes to improve safety, capacity, efficiency and air quality.
The USA is once again Leading the World on the forefront of auto-technology!
It is possible, NOW, to have a car get around without any lights and so the cameras on board are not really cameras at all. They are LIDAR devices, a kind of radar that many engineering firms use to survey terrain, buildings, and all conditions of the environment.
It's not just Google doing this stuff.
Ford is testing dozens of these vehicles all over. So are other car companies. This phenomenon is happening all over the world. The auto makers know it is coming, and being pushed by Google they are moving quick to implement.
Google is also expanding its self-driving car test program, but Google lacks the car manufacturing capability, for now.
FORD / GOOGLE ALLIANCE last week
a week ago... Ford and Google Teamed Up (alliance) to Support Driverless Cars!
The nation’s top auto safety regulator, Mark Rosekind, said the federal government wants to reduce the death toll in auto accidents, and thinks driverless technology could help reduce the annual death toll from traffic accidents: 32,675 people died in auto accidents in 2014! He said 90 percent of vehicle accidents are human error.
It seems like a no-brainer that computers can do a better job at reducing these mistakes, many of which are from distracted driving, something a computer has no problem with.
Self driving cars will change everything, for the better. They will increase capacity of the roadways by three times minimum, and that means more room for bike lanes, ped lanes, and medians and rail. It means a lot of good things. Its not just Google pioneering on this, far from it. Giant Tech companies are way ahead in my opinion, because they actually BUILD cars, and Google is making things from scratch, hence the little bug like cars. Recently, Google announced that it would be testing its prototype of a driverless car on roads in the summer of 2016 inside of California. Many still think that Self-driving cars are a futuristic idea, decades out. This simply is not true. Numerous car companies are ALL working on it, all independently. Ford, Mercedes, BMW, and Tesla, etc. all have self-driving features in the works.
I believe we should be embracing this technology because it is going to vastly improve the quality of life and help lower vehicle miles traveled, lower or eliminate congestion, eliminate accidents, reduce the death rate of 30,000 dead each year by significant margins. They will also enable the idea of shared vehicles with businesses like UBER leading the way in changing the culture of vehicle ownership vs. shared vehicles.
But Bullet Trains are still the rage in some countries, like China where I lived for 2.5 years. I rode these fantastic trains. They are awesome and useful and BEAT the car ride HANDS DOWN because you go much faster and also don't have to have the stress of driving.
But let's bring that to the USA and see how it fits here. First of all, 100% of the people here have a car, or two, or more. In China, only 10% have cars and in very poor cities, even less. This is such a huge and significant cultural difference in how we move about. So the transportation market to choose to ride a train is much much higher in China than in the USA because of this little talked about demographic: Car ownership. If those people without a car in China want to travel to a nearby city they have to take a train, or for more money, a bus. If they can afford a Bullet Train ticket, they will take a Bullet Train and get there 4 or 5 times faster, but for a corresponding increase in price. Most ride the cheap trains out of necessity.
Once a bullet train gets installed in California, China will be another decade ahead of us in terms of infrastructure installed and possibly technological advances in HSR. They already have, right now, these trains connecting at high speeds between ALL major cities in that country, and we have nothing like that. In fact, we have nothing even similar because the antiquated AMTRAK train is just that. The Bullet Train in California when finally fully constructed in 20 years will be a start but it will serve a very small demographic of people who live here, and it may be less than state of the art in the world.
How Googles Self Driving Car WORKS--
TWO YEARS AGO: One of Google's safety drivers takes a ride in their second generation vehicle, the Lexus, to understand how Google's self-driving technology works on the road.
Now they feel they are READY FOR THE ROAD!
Grant Johnson, registered Traffic Engineer, shares insights and experiences from around the world.