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A Message to Autonomous Vehicle Drivers, “Wake up, Sleepy Head!”

Google Autonomous Vehicle Testing, California Says "No Sleeping"
Google Autonomous Vehicle Testing, California Says “No Sleeping”

Autonomous vehicles basically drive themselves, so does the “driver” (owner? rider? passenger? transportee?) need to stay awake after assigning the destination?

There are truly a lot of questions to be answered when it comes to autonomous vehicles. If your autonomous vehicle runs a red light, hits a dog, hits another car, or gets you to work late, who’s at fault? If you’re drunk, are you allowed to let your non-drunk autonomous vehicle take you home after the party? It’s a new world, and we’re still struggling to find all the right questions, much less the right answers. So, imagine the scenario. You just woke up, but you pulled an all-nighter getting today’s presentation ready for the boss’ biggest client. You’re up on time, ready to leave, but you could use another hour or so of sleep.

You figure your commute is about an hour, so you say, “OK, Google. Take me to work,” and promptly slip off into dreamland. Since your autonomous vehicle is making all the decisions, judging the best route to take, based on traffic, weather, and road conditions, and knows how to get itself around, do you need to be awake?

True, autonomous vehicles are still in the testing phase, on real roads in real traffic, but there are none actually in owners’ garages yet. Still, California is taking the bull by the horns, and is imposing some pretty strict rules on autonomous vehicles. Manufacturers will be required to carry $5 million in insurance on each vehicle. Operators need to be official test operators, hired by the manufacturer, as well as pass a training program to become certified, which is kind of wierd, because the only training you could possibly need is how to say “OK, Google…” Finally, regarding sleeping, that’s right out, because autonomous vehicle operators need to be attentive at all times. Sorry, big business guy, you should have gotten enough sleep last night. Thankfully, all you need to do is say, “OK Google. Take me to Starbucks.”

Photo credit: stanfordcis


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  1. beepee Actually, thanks to all these advancements in automobile safety, guidance, and stability, today’s average driver isn’t nearly as skilled or experienced in difficult road and traffic conditions. ABS, EBD, ESC, LKA, PCS, etc. Every single one of these has become a crutch, meaning drivers can push themselves and their vehicles past the limits of their own abilities and capabilities. :/

  2. I once owned a car that had “240mph” on the factory speedometer.  Did I ever due 240mph?  Well, let’s put it this way, I know it would easily do 200mph.  My point is that “auto-pilot” probably can not be responsibly used in an automobile while there are “variables” in the “flight path”.

    Almost 2 years ago, I was hit by a driver while on “cruise control”.  His excuse was that someone else contributed to his losing control, traveling across the medium and plowing into oncoming traffic.  This was all complicated by his inability to “hit the break peddle”, maybe not to stop, but to stop the forward progress of his vehicle.

    On the other hand, I do like the concept of “adaptive” cruise control, and BMW has a demo of a professional driver intentionally putting his car into an controlled spin (on a curve) while the BMW itself, corrected the spin.  I guess it’s “drink responsibly”.


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