19 thoughts on “Autonomous Cars”

  1. Autonomous vehicles have arrived when: Teenagers who decide to play the “wreck the semi-tractor on the highway game” by jumping in front of an on-coming robotic semi with no safe breaking distance, instead of driving out-of-control and jack-knifing into oncoming traffic, what you see instead are, no tire marks leading up to or away from the red stain on the highway….

    1. And they’ve really arrived when you see token tire marks leading up to the red stain.

  2. They are “better drivers than humans” until someone hacks into the system & crashes/compromises our whole transportation grid. I know the tech boys will assure us such a thing could never happen; let’s hope their optimism will prove warranted.

    1. Also, humans are individuals, cars are products. When a product line kills people, the government isn’t too forgiving.

      Ted might be a bad driver but not all Teds.

    2. As long as *All* of the sensors are working properly…
      Or the AI doesn’t mistakenly ID something…

  3. The X-33 and VentureStar SSTO were designed to be flown completely autonomously, with no pilot intervention even possible (because no pilot on board, even for crewed flights). The flight control software was being trained by a NASA test pilot friend of mine, Steve Ishmael.

    He basically spent all of his time flying the simulators, developing both nominal flight profiles, and responses to the unexpected. That was a pretty advanced approach back then (the late 1990s). Had VentureStar actually ever been built, crews would have been relying on the flying skills of a person who would probably, by that time, have retired!

    Steve was a great person for the job. He had been designated as the transition pilot for the NASA SR-71s, being the pilot who first qualified on them, then trained the other NASA SR-71 pilots. He described for me the pilot workload involved in flying that plane at Mach 3+, and it gave me even more respect for the pilots who did it operationally. On top of that, NASA (at that time Dryden) took some risks the Air Force didn’t, including taking off with a full fuel load. Doing so required such a large angle of attack that the rudders were shadowed by the wings and strakes, and loss of an engine – with the resulting giant yaw moment – would have been, well, interesting. But Dryden couldn’t afford a tanker, and their assessment was that the risk was low enough to accept. Hmmm. A bit O/T. Sorry about that.

    1. Large AoA was also what you got with the B-58 on landing. In fact you landed it blind as I was told by a retired pilot. Real seat-of-the-pants flying. The SR pushed so many dimensions. As did the X-15. They were great experience for our astronauts. Even tho’ there was the ‘spam in a can’ meme going around. Nobody who knew anything about it would say that.

      I don’t give a damn if it is off-topic, that is really interesting and I thank you for posting it.

  4. “In the video above, as the cyclist approaches from the rear right side at a pretty good clip, you can see the autonomous vehicle pull to the left a little bit, increasing the amount of space that the cyclist can use to pass on the right.”

    Wait, these jerks still get to ride bikes in the robocar utopia?

  5. I’ll believe we’re on the road to self driving cars when they can make auto headlights that don’t leave a third of the cars driving with no lights in the morning before sunrise.

  6. Autonomousm trucks will always be traveling much slower than their wet work peers on the highway. There will no longer be a reason for trucks to travel as fast as the cars. Their speed is a constraint imposed on them by the driver who need to travel the most miles possible before they must rest. Autonomous trucks will probably rarely ever shut off. They will drop trailers and pick up another and continue down the road 24 hours a day. Also it will be likely that there won’t be enough room between them to even fit a car into.

    1. Also it will be likely that there won’t be enough room between them to even fit a car into.

      Excellent point. I anticipate future highway laws regulating the length, maximum/minimum speeds and lane occupancy of these autonomous “virtual trains”.

    2. There will be downtime for maintenance and re-fueling/re-charging, unless the trucking companies can get state and federal approval for on-the-go recharging/refueling (see “virtual trains” above).

      I see on-the-go far more likely for recharging than refueling, where the recharging vehicle pulls ahead then into lane of v-train, then lets the lead v-train tractor recharge via connection between the two lead vehicles. When recharge is complete, charging truck pulls away and heads for the next v-train. Also which tractor is in front rotates so that the one with lowest charge is always in front.

  7. This could be a game-changer:
    New wireless electric car charging trial for Nottingham taxis

    Wireless car charging: an explainer

    “Electric vehicle (EV) range, and more specifically battery size, has developed into an arms race for car makers, with new electric cars coming in thick and fast with updated powertrains. Fast-charging is very much on the horizon – just look at the Porsche Taycan, for example – but right now, the longer your range, the better. But the real solution to range anxiety could have nothing to do with range at all; it could be solved by wireless charging.
    If you’ve bought a high-end smartphone in the past few months, you’ll probably be familiar with wireless charging. Just like it sounds, it’s a simple way of putting charge into your phone without the need for cables – and Qualcomm’s Halo technology is essentially a scaled-up version.”

    “It relies on resonant magnetic induction to transfer energy between a pad on the ground, and another under the floor of a compatible EV. The charging pad is around a metre square, while the car’s receiving pad is enclosed in a smaller, dinner dish-sized device under the car. Once the two are aligned, charging can take place at 3.3kW, 6.6kW or 20kW speeds.”


  8. More:

    “Experiments run as part of the European FABRIC project have led to the creation of an induction route in Satory, Greater Paris region (France), on which Renault ran two Kangoo Z.E. vehicles compatible with dynamic wireless recharging. This experiment showed that it was possible to deliver a charge of around 20 kW to a vehicle being driven at 100 km/h.

    By 2022 the island of Gotland in Sweden, thanks to Israeli start-up ElectReon, will be home to an induction route spanning around 1.6 km. It will supply electricity to electric buses and trucks shuttling between the airport and the center of Visby, the island’s capital. This way, local transportation authorities hope to significantly cut down the CO2 emissions related to these regular trips.

    The challenges involved in charging while driving

    If confirmed to be feasible, dynamic induction charging still poses a lot of challenges, especially because its implementation depends on close collaboration between several parties in terms of highway infrastructures, the electricity grid and the automotive world.

    With regards to technical aspects, it also requires rethinking the size of charging devices, how they are to be financed and built into the road, and the specific way the power transfer is to work.

    To sustainably change the energy setup of electric vehicles and reduce dependence on batteries, dynamic induction charging must be able to be shared by the masses, that is, be able to charge vehicles with very different needs. The trail is yet to be blazed!”


    1. If semi-tractor trailers can be standardized with solar cells along the box top, the vehicles may be able to self charge.

      1. “If semi-tractor trailers can be standardized with solar cells along the box top, the vehicles may be able to self charge.”

        Maybe; would probably doubt if the surface area would be great enough to charge given the heavy load requirements of a full 18-wheeler. But every bit helps I suppose; maybe while the truck is parked in the sun somewhere while driver is on break. The idea of the road wirelessly charging a car/light truck in motion is intriguing to say the least; would address permanently the range issue with electric vehicles. Also it reminds me a bit of those “road race” toys some of us had as kids. A electric power supplying strip on the oval track you put the cars on lining up with the adjacent grooves on said track; brings back memories.

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