Driverless car revolution to take decades


So you’re suggesting that I should sell my vehicle that’s in great shape, comfortable, and highly reliable and buy a newer used car of unknown reliability and history simply for a bit fewer particulates? And, of course, that won’t take my car off the road, it’ll only change its ownership. And have me driving someone else’s used car. It’ll keep producing whatever it currently is producing, the driver will just change.
Sorry. I’ll pass.

Propane, I absolutely agree.


@Propane_Car I agree with you, too. As does the Ford guy in the article. Its that 20% of the cars over 15 years old that will be still on the road another 5 years or so.


HUH? How did you conclude that? Of course you should keep your car…In fact that’s what I’ve been saying all along. Where did I say anything else.


That’s extremely unlikely since airplanes/ships and other shipping vehicles depend on it.


You say this after reading a long discussion in which it’s been put forth multiple times that no one who advocates for self-driving cars thinks 100% accident-free is realistic, and that all it has to do is be less accident prone than humans, and then you eagerly ignore all of that to accuse me of rejecting reality.

Want to try again?

Nice try, but I’d wager I can outdo you in aviation knowledge. I’m fully aware of airways, but what you’re glossing over is that they aren’t physically painted in the sky, so the argument that faded physically painted lines on the road would render computers helpless is asinine.


Another issue with self driving cars to think about. When was the last time you bought a 5 year old computer? The technology obsolesces happens so rapid, that your 5-10 year old self driving car that you get rid of and one of the many poor Americans would then buy will be obsolete. Up until very recently, the computers on cars were pretty simple. They control the the engine performance.

Time will tell with the reliability of the new car computers and how well the continue to function over time. Another huge concern is the malware that will end up in the self driving cars. The car will need to be hooked up to the internet to receive software updates and map updates. Sounds like the bad guys will always be 2 steps ahead of the good guys to me.


Almost every time you buy a car (or any device) with an imbedded computer. Car computers are NOT state of the art.

Extremely unlikely if not even impossible. These systems will not be open systems that will allow access to any and all intrusions. Dedicated protocols will be established to even communicate with these systems, so the likelihood of any intrusion is damn near zero. This is what I do for a living. I’m an engineering manager and lead architect for a telecom company. We have systems that are extremely secure. A few of our systems are installed in the middle-east and had MILLIONS of attacks and not one ever got through. The systems on the cars should be even more secure since they would be extremely closed systems.


Something people often don’t realize is that systems in even the most advanced vehicles are usually miles behind what most people think of as modern technology.

Heck, the shuttle’s computers were easily outclassed by budget PCs, and they managed to launch, orbit, dock, and land it. The upgraded glass cockpit displays, which began installation on Atlantis in 1998 and first flew in 2000, were powered by a 386. Those of us building home computers were already using Pentium IIIs by then, so the shuttle was 4 generations behind just on its cockpit systems - which themselves were much more powerful than the shuttle’s main computers.


Fair enough. Apologies if I misunderstood your implications.


Back in the day gps signals were degraded by selective availability, to prevent high precision gps, national security at the time, wonder if that switch is still out there.

Then again cellphone users may have issues, "Last month headlines buzzed with Apple’s new patent for an infrared signal that would instantly disable the cameras on all equipped cellphones in the vicinity, preventing anyone from photographing or video recording in the direction of the signal."

Or block coverage
Right before militarized police advanced on activists at the No Dakota Access Pipeline (#NoDAPL) protests last week, protestors cell phone signals suddenly disappeared. Their lifeline to the rest of the world was gone.

Carry a paper map, hands on the wheel the only answer I see.


I have an old Thomas Guide in my garage :slight_smile:


It’s worth mentioning that ALL GPS users are merely “piggybacking” on the Dept of Defense’s system; we use it as it pleases the DoD; and the DoD can, at a moment’s notice and for any reasons they see fit, degrade it, or terminate it indefinitely.


That’s extremely unlikely since airplanes/ships and other shipping vehicles depend on it

In the near term, yes. In the long run, in a time of national crisis, it’s certainly plausible that GPS could be either turned off, or “detuned” to prevent it from being used against us. Right now, model rocketry buffs have found they cannot use GPS units intended for commercial sale in the USA: apparently, there’s a “max speed/max altitude” limit, at which point the GPS unit assumes you’re a missile, and turns off.

If some group of crazies got ahold of some Cessnas, some dynamite, and put them on autopilot with a GPS coordinate or twelve…I could see the DoD clamping down mighty quick. AFAIK, neither shipping nor aviation has abandoned traditional navaids entirely, probably for this reason.


On the long term there are private GPS systems already being designed. Probably launched by space-x


Not a likely scenario-

  1. There are still plenty of people willing to do the task. That is far less expensive proposition.
  2. Look what happened the last time. They did not shut down GPS, they shut down the entire aviation system.This would be the safe bet again. Anything in the air doesn’t belong there and gets shot down.
  3. The genie is out of the bottle. SA would not have really stopped anything. Using a combination of GPS and terrestrial signals was shown to easily overcome the SA limitations and restore accuracy. That’s why it was abandoned as a method of control.


I did read the posts concerning self driving cars not being yet capable of 100% reliability. Because none of the posts were yours I erroneously accused you of not accepting reality. Thank you for the clarification.

I have no clue concerning the extent of your aviation knowledge. Since you are fully aware of airways you certainly have far more than average aviation knowledge. I have been very interested in aviation since the age of 4 so I guess I have 60 years of studying and 30 years military of doing. Of course airways are not painted in the sky. They are “painted” on IFR sectional maps. As a navigator I programed airways into my Inertial Navigation System (INS) but was still required to have the physical maps handy in case they were needed. We used radio navigation (HF, VHF/VOR, TACAN (Military), and LORAN which relied on external signals (like GPS). Doppler RADAR and INS which were stand alone (not relying on external signals).


All of those things you mentioned can be replicated in car auto-drive systems. GPS can be used for “how do I get from A to B” pathing, and cameras, lasers, and other sensor technologies can be used for precise real-time positioning and obstacle avoidance.

To add to that, we can do things that the aviation systems you used couldn’t - you probably wouldn’t have been comfortable with 50 or so F16’s flying in a line, with only a foot or so separation nose to tail while the pilots read magazines, but with instant intra-car communication and coordination, that would be possible, safely, with autodrive cars on the freeway. If the lead car has to slow down, it transmits a signal and all cars brake simultaneously, which is something humans could not possibly replicate as our reaction times would slow us down.

Such systems would eliminate many of the causes of today’s traffic jams. Rather than thousands of selfish humans jockeying for the best position for them, you’d have all vehicles cooperating with each other. A new vehicle needs to enter the highway? Simply make an appropriate hole by slowing the relevant cars down by half a mile an hour, then speeding up again once the new car is slotted in.

Obviously, there will be problems. If the lead car suffers a blowout, the trailing few cars may wreck because of their following distance. The rest of the line can swerve and stop.

But look at what happens now. Drivers playing on their smartphones rear end other cars all the time. That wouldn’t happen with autodrive cars. Drivers maintain their vehicles poorly and cause wrecks all the time. That wouldn’t happen with autodrive cars because they would be programmed to refuse to move if they were not safe for the road. Drivers brake for stupid reasons, or cut each other off for selfish reasons, and cause a ripple effect that ends in a 2 hour traffic jam. That wouldn’t happen because computers wouldn’t be acting like the dumb selfish apes they’re replacing.

Drivers get angry with each other and engage in road rage incidents up to and including shooting each other. That wouldn’t happen because… Well when’s the last time you got enraged at traffic while riding a bus? It’s much less rage inducing to deal with traffic if you aren’t the one having to deal with it.

In short, while there will be accidents, and even deaths, it is entirely probable that there will be far fewer such things with computers running the show than there are now when we humans are in charge.

The aviation example is actually a pretty interestingly relevant one - as you well know with your experience, pilots are much more highly regulated in what they can and can’t do than drivers are. The licensure requirements are vastly more difficult. Pilots in controlled airspace are expected to do what ATC tells them to do. Period. The only exception being if they physically can’t (Piper Cub climb to FL380) or they realize it would be dangerous - as when a controller gives a bad instruction that would risk violating minimum separation, etc.

They don’t get to ignore ATC’s instructions just because they don’t want to wait in the pattern and instead want to land right now, and if they do ignore ATC, they stand a decent chance of losing their license.

Aircraft, too, are highly regulated. You rarely if ever see the aviation equivalent of the guy in the 1978 Buick with the rusted out, twisted frame, blown shocks, and bald tires barreling down the interstate. I see something like that almost every day on the road.

In short, modern aviation is much closer to what a fully computer-controlled driving system would be like, simply because we’ve insisted that pilots bow to coordination that might go against what they really feel like doing.

We’re never going to get people to agree to such a system for driving. Even suggesting that driving tests be harder, or that people should have to be medically certified in order to keep their licenses, is enough to get most politicians voted out of office. But if people were kicking back watching movies or doing work while the car did all the driving, you’d get past all of that opposition and end up with a safer system.

It won’t happen today, or next year, but it will happen, and right now is a great time to be talking about it because it’s going to have a lot of effects, good and bad, on almost every aspect of life.


I am not a technophobe. I have witnessed the incredible advances. I certainly enjoy motor vehicles which start at the turn of a key (mine) or currently push of a button and can be almost immediately driven. The aviation technology I posted was late 1970s technology in U.S. Army Grumman OV-1 Mohawk twin turbo prop aerial surveillance aircraft (my avatar). The inertial navigation was at that time state of the art and attractive to military as it would theoretically function following an ElectroMagnetic Pulse (EMP) I had one. Commercial passenger airliners usually had three (triple redundancy). I had an opportunity to test the INS when unexpectedly hit by lightning late at night. Thunderstorms were 30 miles away but mother nature has a cruel sense of humor. Fortunately my pilot was the best for this situation. He was former Air Force F-86D pilot who had experience with a lightning strike. All but one radio were dead. Our intercom with no external antenna was fully functional. We still had FM which was not a navigation radio and only monitored by our flight operations personnel. We were about 60 miles away from them who were located at our destination airport (Astoria, OR). They were able to telephone Seattle center and inform them of our radio problems. We were cleared to descend to 5,000 feet and visually follow the very large Columbia river to our destination. INS appeared to be functional but we decided to do a position fix only for possibly valuable information. We chose the Trojan nuclear power plant and I determined it’s exact coordinates using my Universal Transverse Mercator (Army grid coordinates) map. It involved overflying the landmark and when the pilot said now I pushed the “POS” button which froze the INS display. When compared to the map coordinates we were well within tolerance. We made an uneventful landing at the airport. The aircraft was flown by our senior maintenance pilot to our Army Aviation Support Facility (AASF) home base in Salem, OR. It took nearly a month to chase down and repair everything that was “fried”.