Self-Driving Cars: When will it become mainstream, and would you purchase one?

mauf

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Import78 said:
 
I'm not sure about this.  The Teamsters Union is pretty strong and I'm sure they would be up in arms about the loss of jobs possible safety issues.  My wife is terrified of semis on the interstate.  I bet she would quickly succumb to the argument that a truck without a driver is more dangerous than one with a driver.  That may not be true, but the optics will probably sway her.  My bet is that unless a company has the bankroll to switch over a large chunk of their fleet at once it won't happen any time soon.  It probably won't get mandated by the government either.  Who's going to vote to eliminate that many jobs?  
 
I would like to see it, I'm just not sure it will happen before it takes over the private/domestic sector.
There are a lot of small players in the trucking industry. Once the technology is proved out safety-wise, some of those small players will bet big on the technology -- and they will be able to deliver goods faster and cheaper than their competitors, particularly over long distances. Competitors will be forced to adapt quickly. Unions might be able to stall the safety approvals on the front end (particularly if there's a Democrat in the White House), but once the technology is in the marketplace it will be irresistible.
 

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maufman said:
There are a lot of small players in the trucking industry. Once the technology is proved out safety-wise, some of those small players will bet big on the technology -- and they will be able to deliver goods faster and cheaper than their competitors, particularly over long distances. Competitors will be forced to adapt quickly. Unions might be able to stall the safety approvals on the front end (particularly if there's a Democrat in the White House), but once the technology is in the marketplace it will be irresistible.
Yeah. The economics will force it. Insurance and gas will almost certainly be cheaper with automated trucks, and then you'll eliminate a lot of dead time--trucks will be able to be on the road almost continuously, decreasing overhead substantially.
 

MainerInExile

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I was thinking about parking yesterday. When you drive in to San Francisco, you pay about $30 a day for your $30,000 piece of equipment to sit there unutilized. If cars don't need drivers, why would anyone do that?

I for one can't wait for millions of autonomous electric cars driving around near-fully utilized, waiting to bring us where we want to go.
 

timlinin8th

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Yeah. The economics will force it. Insurance and gas will almost certainly be cheaper with automated trucks, and then you'll eliminate a lot of dead time--trucks will be able to be on the road almost continuously, decreasing overhead substantially.
I'm sure there'll be some kind of happy medium as the generation of existing truck drivers gets weeded out - the union will force the companies to keep them onboard to "manage and protect the truck and its payloads", so even though they aren't DRIVING anymore they'll still have a job at their current salary (and any people hired in the future it will be at a significantly decreased payscale).
 

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I would imagine that self-driving cars not only would be safer, but also would cut down on traffic jams a lot.  I believe that a huge amount of traffic jams come about thru the vagaries of human driving: rubber-necking, variable speeds, random braking, etc -- all of which would be eliminated by robotic driving.
 

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Tesla's started shipping semi-autonomous updates for the Model S (as mentioned last page); a review from a guy who actually used it:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/16/automobiles/tesla-adds-high-speed-autonomous-driving-to-its-bag-of-tricks.html?_r=0

"Thursday morning, Tesla owners woke up to discover that their vehicles can wirelessly download the new autopilot feature as a software update. That means the next time you see a Model S cruising next to you on the interstate, look closely: It may be driving itself.

Autopilot is not free (the download costs $2,500), and it is not yet perfected (clear lane markings are needed, and bad weather can affect its abilities), but it works remarkably well under normal circumstances.
...
If the system loses confidence in its ability to read the road ahead, however, either because of bad lane markings, weather issues or anything else, it signals the driver with a blue message on the dashboard, followed by audible alerts, indicating the driver needs to take the wheel. Ignore those sounds and the autopilot will disengage, bringing the vehicle to a stop.
...
So as long as the autopilot system is working properly and is confident in its road-scanning, drivers, as I did for long stretches this week, can let the Model S do the driving."
 

Blundatola

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I wonder how far off they are from being able to operate well in adverse conditions. That's the big game changer for me. (Well, that and being affordable!) As it stands, leaving aside the safety aspect, I like driving when the conditions are good. However, if the car can do the driving at night or in the rain, that would be amazing.
 

dirtynine

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Saints Rest said:
I would imagine that self-driving cars not only would be safer, but also would cut down on traffic jams a lot.  I believe that a huge amount of traffic jams come about thru the vagaries of human driving: rubber-necking, variable speeds, random braking, etc -- all of which would be eliminated by robotic driving.
 
Assuming all cars were autonomous and there was a standard communications protocol, you could almost imagine an end to traffic signals in some locations.  The cars could be routed with optimum efficiency like packets on a network. 
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pbAI40dK0A
 

lowtide

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I have a car with adaptive cruise control. It does the brake and gas to maintain your your speed and distance from the car in front of you. Yes, it is very uncomfortable the first few times you use it and very disconcerting the first few times it hits the brakes. But after you get use to it, it's wonderful. Driving down the Cape in driving rain last weekend, the adaptive cruise control did a much better job (and with considerable less effort) maintaining distance than I would have. Also made the drive in the rain no problem, whereas many other people were complaining how difficult the drive was.
 
I think just having cars drive themselves on the highway is a much simpler problem which could be addressed right now. Just drive the car onto the highway, let it go, then you take over when it is time to get off. Imagine a drive from say Boston to Cleveland where you just put the car on the Pike; stop for gas once, then arrive in Cleveland with only having to navigate the gas stop. Of course, nothing can help you being in Cleveland.
 

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IdiotKicker said:
A couple companies have begun highway testing in the last year or two actually. The biggest problem with the tech right now is that it is essentially too cautious, and there have actually been accidents because of it. An example would be a driverless car coming to a full stop for two seconds at a stop sign with no other cars in any direction, and it gets rear-ended by a car who thought it would do a rolling stop and move on like a person would.
 
If a human rear-ended another human for stopping at a stop sign, whose fault would it be?  This was not caused by self-driving car.
 

IdiotKicker

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MainerInExile said:
 
If a human rear-ended another human for stopping at a stop sign, whose fault would it be?  This was not caused by self-driving car.
I know, that's my point. The only accidents Google's cars have had have been because people around them expected them to drive worse and hit the car as a result. So they're actually working on programming the car to drive more humanly now in order to remedy it - things like rolling stops, taking corners tighter, etc.
 

MainerInExile

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IdiotKicker said:
I know, that's my point. The only accidents Google's cars have had have been because people around them expected them to drive worse and hit the car as a result. So they're actually working on programming the car to drive more humanly now in order to remedy it - things like rolling stops, taking corners tighter, etc.
 
Put another way: computers are already better at driving than humans, and Google engineers are programming the cars to avoid stupid humans even better.
 

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Wouldn't the government just ban driving altogether when the only accidents in 20 years are caused by human drivers? I could see the liberal states like California going ahead with this first. Cars will inevitably be cheaper because currently the ones we all buy spend 95% of the time parked. Imagine if you could just hail a car to go anywhere, the price of a ride from an autonomous car that is running 90% of the time would be incredibly cheap. Cars by then would also be electric cars charged via solar panels. I'd imagine electricity costs in the future would also be lower. The next 20 years will be about Silicon Valley disrupting almost every industry in the world but transportation will endure the biggest transformation.

Unions won't like it but every time an accident happens that is caused by a human driver (99% in normal conditions, maybe less in rougher conditions), it'll just be another argument for banning human drivers.
 

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If you really think about how fast technological change occurs, it's possible, maybe even likely, that the next car you buy will be the last car you'll ever buy.
 

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We haven't really talked this (or maybe I just missed it and we have mentioned it) but I would think that one of the single most important safety advances of self-driving cars is the elimination of drunk driving.

I'm as anxious as anyone to enjoy the other benefits of the technology, but eliminating this one risk factor will cause mortality rates to plummet.
 

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Apisith said:
Wouldn't the government just ban driving altogether when the only accidents in 20 years are caused by human drivers? I could see the liberal states like California going ahead with this first. Cars will inevitably be cheaper because currently the ones we all buy spend 95% of the time parked. Imagine if you could just hail a car to go anywhere, the price of a ride from an autonomous car that is running 90% of the time would be incredibly cheap. Cars by then would also be electric cars charged via solar panels. I'd imagine electricity costs in the future would also be lower. The next 20 years will be about Silicon Valley disrupting almost every industry in the world but transportation will endure the biggest transformation.

Unions won't like it but every time an accident happens that is caused by a human driver (99% in normal conditions, maybe less in rougher conditions), it'll just be another argument for banning human drivers.
Which will end first: legality of human driving or legality of gun ownership?  "Cars don't kill people; human drivers kill people."  No, wait.  "Human drivers don't kill people; cars kill people."  No.  That's not right, either.
 
I honestly don't see any chance that human driving is ever banned.
 

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I'd like to understand a little more about the Tesla system because it kind of scares me.

If the car decides it can't navigate safely (due to faded lane markings or whatever), it alerts the driver, and if the driver doesn't take over, the car just stops. In the middle of the highway.

That seems like a major accident waiting to happen.
 

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Joe Sixpack said:
I'd like to understand a little more about the Tesla system because it kind of scares me.

If the car decides it can't navigate safely (due to faded lane markings or whatever), it alerts the driver, and if the driver doesn't take over, the car just stops. In the middle of the highway.

That seems like a major accident waiting to happen.
 
Currently if the driver dies or falls asleep or goes unconscious the car careens to one side or the other and crashes into a guardrail, ditch, or another car.  
 
There's no ideal in that scenario, but braking safely and stopping seems like there's at least a chance for it to end safely (unlike the current state of affairs).  Hopefully cars will be able to try to detect a shoulder and move over there in the fairly near future.
 

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derekson said:
I don't really get why the Model S driving itself on the highway is big news or why people act like it's innovation. The Mercedes S class released 2 years ago could already do this: 
http://money.cnn.com/gallery/autos/2013/07/26/mercedes-benz-s-class-review/index.html
 
It's an incremental improvement--the S Class did a lot of the same stuff, but the Tesla adds hands-free driving and lane changing.  And the Tesla's upgradable computer system offers the promise of future improvements (Musk has said they're working on short-distance/slow unattended driving, to let you summon the car in the parking lot and the like).
 

crow216

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I would purchase one immediately. If these things can have a feature where I can send it home and then pick me up from places too, that'd basically be the best thing of all time.
 

mauf

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Saints Rest said:
Which will end first: legality of human driving or legality of gun ownership?  "Cars don't kill people; human drivers kill people."  No, wait.  "Human drivers don't kill people; cars kill people."  No.  That's not right, either.
 
I honestly don't see any chance that human driving is ever banned.
I think we're at least 10 years away from widespread use of self-driving vehicles in commercial applications (trucks, taxis, and so on), 20 years away from widespread consumer adoption, and maybe 30 years from human-driven cars no longer being widely available for sale. I could see an effort to ban human-driven cars gaining traction 35 or 40 years from now, by which point there will be few of them left on the road. So I guess there's a chance I'll live to see the death of the automobile as we've known it, though I'll be a old man by then. I'm rather certain I won't live to see a sweeping change in our gun laws.
 

mauf

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Apisith said:
If you really think about how fast technological change occurs, it's possible, maybe even likely, that the next car you buy will be the last car you'll ever buy.
Zipcar has been around for more than a decade, but most city-dwellers who need to use a car more than occasionally still own one. I don't think self-driven cars will dramatically alter that calculus.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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I would imagine that self-driving cars not only would be safer, but also would cut down on traffic jams a lot.  I believe that a huge amount of traffic jams come about thru the vagaries of human driving: rubber-necking, variable speeds, random braking, etc -- all of which would be eliminated by robotic driving.
I know a guy who runs parking garages. He's thinking that in the next five to 10 years, we're going to start to see self-driving cars begin to effect parking garage rentals and within 20 years or so, they are going to start being obsolete. Not sure I agree with him (sure you're self-driving car can drop you off at your office but do you really want it driving all the way back home?) but if he was younger, he'd definitely be thinking about another line of business.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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I'm not buying the complete transition, but even a substantial one, is he young enough to worry about that, but too old to find another line of work?
 
He's old enough that he'll probably be retired before it impacts him professionally.  But he is on the side of self-driving cars disrupting the parking business.
 

mt8thsw9th

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wade boggs chicken dinner said:
I know a guy who runs parking garages. He's thinking that in the next five to 10 years, we're going to start to see self-driving cars begin to effect parking garage rentals and within 20 years or so, they are going to start being obsolete. Not sure I agree with him (sure you're self-driving car can drop you off at your office but do you really want it driving all the way back home?) but if he was younger, he'd definitely be thinking about another line of business.
 
I wouldn't want it driving home, but I'd want it out making fares while I was at work rather than just sitting idle for 8 hours. 
 

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ConigliarosPotential said:
How much more gas are you going to be using if your car is driving itself home in the morning and then back to your office in the evening to pick you up?
 
Will there be gas-powered driverless cars?
 
To the previous point re: parking garages, I think they will transition more toward EV charging stations, and away from the park-all-day model currently in place. It will be interesting to see how current companies innovate, or even simply evolve to stay relevant in the age of the driverless car. It would probably make more sense if they are owning fleets of vehicles as more and more people go away from car ownership, and more reliant on on-demand usage (be it the Uber or Zipcar model).
 

mauf

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ConigliarosPotential said:
How much more gas are you going to be using if your car is driving itself home in the morning and then back to your office in the evening to pick you up?
 
 
That gas will cost a lot less than parking in any major urban center during business hours -- and that's assuming these cars aren't electric.
 
But we're a long way from having such broad acceptance of self-driving cars that they're allowed to operate without some kind of human override mechanism, let alone without a human present in the car. By that time, work and leisure patterns will have changed so much that many of the uses we're brainstorming now will be outdated -- for example, how many people will still be commuting into traditional business districts 30 years from now? Manhattan and The Loop will still be there, but the business districts of smaller cities have been emptying out for years, and that trend is only going to continue.
 
My point was that from an environmental perspective, the idea of having cars consume extra power (whether gas or electric) just to make an extra round trip so you can avoid parking fees doesn't necessarily sound like a no-brainer idea. Of course, should we ever get to the point where self-driving cars don't need a human override mechanism, we'll probably have figured out any number of other technological workarounds which might make that point moot. Heck, you could even start with the amount of parking space you might save simply by ensuring parked cars are always jammed as close together as possible - automatic parking systems would operate on the basis that all occupants will leave a car before it is parked.
 

LondonSox

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It's going to happen and probably fast than we think.
The testing is very clear, and every accident has been human error, either another driver or a driver taking over driving and doing something dumb.
 
If you're in trucking, be afraid, I don't see anyway that these things aren't going to be doing trucks soon. Like within the next 3-5 years. At the lower speeds trucks can go, the efficiency and 24/7 nature is going to be huge, They'll need someone to pump gas though so yay.
 
Then you'd think taxis etc too, ubers. Instead of parking you just put your car in uber mode and let it go earn some money while you shop etc!
 
The scary thing for the economy is, while this is all great overall, driving is the largest employment skill in America. Those people will need new careers.
 
Longer term, I expect a few things. One the steering wheel will retract or hide, making it feel less weird, and probably the seats will rotate to the middle - which will bring new safety challenges.
This is interesting stuff though because it could change property prices etc, if I have a good driverless car, I can live an hour drive out of the city. I can work or sleep on my way in, that's a very different thing for the commute. If it's an office on wheels, the hour in the car with full wifi is productive. 
 
Much longer term I agree with others the tech will allow cars to communicate via a central hub etc, there'll be driverless car lanes etc, where everyone HAS to be in driverless mode, and the speed limit will be much faster, as the cars will know if there is a problem. They'll be high speed and need much small gaps.
Eventually I'd think that most cities etc will eb driverless only, as people have mentioned the mix of driver and driverless will be the big issue. People freaking out when no one is driving, assuming they do a human thing, not the safe/ correct thing etc. 
 
It's clearly more efficient, safer and better in the long run. The fact it should be faster too makes it inevitable for me. The question in the long term is how many will even allow a manual mode on their cars.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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Will people even need cars? Once public transportation goes driverless, I assume during most of the day they will have a continuous flow of buses/vans among major destination points that one can just hop on and off as they see fit. After "peak" hours, I would think they would incorporate an Uber-like model where people can request vehicles to pick them up and drive them places.

And while I know that we are going to have to pry to cold hard fingers of union members off the steering wheels of public buses/metros/trains, but budgets are so stressed, but it's inevitable.
 

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wade boggs chicken dinner said:
Will people even need cars? Once public transportation goes driverless, I assume during most of the day they will have a continuous flow of buses/vans among major destination points that one can just hop on and off as they see fit. After "peak" hours, I would think they would incorporate an Uber-like model where people can request vehicles to pick them up and drive them places.
I live near Seattle. How do I go ski for a week at Whistler in that world?
 

mauf

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wade boggs chicken dinner said:
Will people even need cars? Once public transportation goes driverless, I assume during most of the day they will have a continuous flow of buses/vans among major destination points that one can just hop on and off as they see fit. After "peak" hours, I would think they would incorporate an Uber-like model where people can request vehicles to pick them up and drive them places.

And while I know that we are going to have to pry to cold hard fingers of union members off the steering wheels of public buses/metros/trains, but budgets are so stressed, but it's inevitable.
 
I don't think driverless technology will fundamentally alter mass transit. In theory, the money saved on drivers could be reinvested in more vehicles, but given the financial straits of most of these systems, I think it will instead be spent on deferred maintenance or simply dropped to the bottom line.
 

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HriniakPosterChild said:
I live near Seattle. How do I go ski for a week at Whistler in that world?
Seems like it would still be significantly cheaper to just rent a car for these situations.  A self driving rental car would be awesome.
 

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A friend I carpool with has a Tesla and he used a beta version of some auto pilot and auto lane shift features on the way to work this morning. The car turned itself with the curvature of the highway, shifted lanes with a click, and slowed down/sped up to maintain a set distance to the cars ahead of us pretty reliably. I was super nervous the entire time but it seemed to work ok. Apparently this version relies on the lines drawn on the road to steer, which seems like not the most reliable thing in the northeast where our roads are pretty terrible.
 

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Slight hijack

Yesterday, Consumer Reports revised it's opinion of the Tesla S from greatest car ever to rolling piece of shit. Tesla's stock dropped 7%.
 

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Rosey Ruzicka said:
A friend I carpool with has a Tesla and he used a beta version of some auto pilot and auto lane shift features on the way to work this morning. The car turned itself with the curvature of the highway, shifted lanes with a click, and slowed down/sped up to maintain a set distance to the cars ahead of us pretty reliably. I was super nervous the entire time but it seemed to work ok. Apparently this version relies on the lines drawn on the road to steer, which seems like not the most reliable thing in the northeast where our roads are pretty terrible.
 
My main concern wouldn't be so much the roads, as you could easily just take over when necessary. My main concern would be its ability or inability to react to someone doing something stupid - which, as we all know, happens all the time. You have the ability to read a situation and preemptively react to it but an automated car may not. You have years of experience and intuition that tell you the car rolling up to the intersection on the cross road is coming up a little too fast and may not stop, whereas the automated car may not. What then?
 
I despise driving because it stresses me out like nothing else in this world, so I would welcome this technology with open arms. But there's no way I would buy into it until all cars on the road have that technology. I just wouldn't feel safe knowing that there would still be people out there fucking around with their cell phone (or whatever the mobile communications technology of the day is) while driving and endangering everyone around them. At least I know I can spot that driver and I can react accordingly.
 

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Isn't the elephant in the room the inevitable likelihood at some point the technology will fail? Computers, smartphones, iPods, GPS's, at some point they all get glitchy. Which doesn't present a life-threatening problem, but when it's a car on the freeway...
 

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The likelihood of a crash is much lower than the likelihood of a human failing, which happens far too often. Add to the fact that driverless cars create huge efficiencies by taking out the human element (idiots failing to go at a green light, slow drivers, slow people in the passing lane, people blocking the box, etc.) that the time saved will actually save far more lives than it will harm. Plus cascading effects like parents having an extra 10 minutes to spend with their kids each night over the course of the year; all of this stuff adds up.
 

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Bosoxen said:
 
My main concern wouldn't be so much the roads, as you could easily just take over when necessary. My main concern would be its ability or inability to react to someone doing something stupid - which, as we all know, happens all the time. You have the ability to read a situation and preemptively react to it but an automated car may not. You have years of experience and intuition that tell you the car rolling up to the intersection on the cross road is coming up a little too fast and may not stop, whereas the automated car may not. What then?
 
I despise driving because it stresses me out like nothing else in this world, so I would welcome this technology with open arms. But there's no way I would buy into it until all cars on the road have that technology. I just wouldn't feel safe knowing that there would still be people out there fucking around with their cell phone (or whatever the mobile communications technology of the day is) while driving and endangering everyone around them. At least I know I can spot that driver and I can react accordingly.
 
If that car in your scenario is an automated car as well, they will all drive per the rules of the road and you won't have this issue. 
 
I personally probably have one of the shortest commutes in here, but I am an early adopter and plan to purchase a car with this technology in the next 5-7 years I would guess. To me once it is adopted to a high percentage the risks associated with it decrease greatly, and the improvement to congestion are going to be incredible.  
 

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HriniakPosterChild said:
Are self-driving cars okay on 2-lane roads that are at "chains required " status, or do they just work when they can see the lines painted on the roadway?
Right now they only work when you can see lines on the road.  I'm not sure how or if that will be solved in the future but it's perfectly reasonable to auto pilot from Seattle to Vancouver and then you take the wheel for the rest of the journey.
 

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bostonbeerbelly said:
 
If that car in your scenario is an automated car as well, they will all drive per the rules of the road and you won't have this issue. 
 
I personally probably have one of the shortest commutes in here, but I am an early adopter and plan to purchase a car with this technology in the next 5-7 years I would guess. To me once it is adopted to a high percentage the risks associated with it decrease greatly, and the improvement to congestion are going to be incredible.  
Right, *if* the other car is automated.  But what if it isn't?  Is this like gun control, where if we could live in a world where there were no guns we'd all be okay with that but good luck getting there so give me my gunz!?  Is it reasonable to expect a world where all cars on the roads are automated?  Otherwise my smart car may be able to go 60 mph five feet from the car ahead of it thanks to technology, but if the car ahead stops short and my car, being so smart, can stop short in time to not hit it but the non-automated car behind me cannot, then we've got a problem. I don't know how we get past that, but I am looking forward to eventually getting there.
 

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Oil Can Dan said:
Right, *if* the other car is automated.  But what if it isn't?  Is this like gun control, where if we could live in a world where there were no guns we'd all be okay with that but good luck getting there so give me my gunz!?  Is it reasonable to expect a world where all cars on the roads are automated?  Otherwise my smart car may be able to go 60 mph five feet from the car ahead of it thanks to technology, but if the car ahead stops short and my car, being so smart, can stop short in time to not hit it but the non-automated car behind me cannot, then we've got a problem. I don't know how we get past that, but I am looking forward to eventually getting there.
 
Precisely. It's not my automated car or other automated cars on the road that would worry me. It's the manual cars with distracted drivers that would worry me. Until such a day that there are more automated cars than manual cars and the risk from riding in an automated car is lower than the risk of controlling the car myself, I will be controlling the car myself. But the joy of the day I give up the wheel will be right up there with the birth of my daughter.