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IDOT embraces vaporware

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* CBS 2

The head of the Illinois Department of Transportation said driverless cars are here, and Illinois needs to welcome them. […]

State Transportation Secretary Randall Blankenhorn told the City Club of Chicago, his agency is already talking to companies that want to use autonomous vehicles to deliver goods. But he admits there are some hurdles to overcome.

Blankenhorn said that autonomous vehicles are here, and the Rauner Administration and lawmakers must work on safety regulations and standards for them. He opposes any ban on self-driving cars, despite a resolution passed by the Chicago City Council.

Um, driverless cars are here? Where?

* Forbes

There has been much-fevered talk about the imminence of self-driving cars, leaving the impression with the public that it won’t be very long before the automobiles we buy don’t even have steering wheels or pedals.

This has been fuelled by the car manufacturers themselves as they swap overblown rhetoric about the progress being made thanks to their engineer’s ingenuity and the massive sums committed to these projects.

Britain’s BMI Research hosted a seminar recently where it tried to get the hype and bluster and provide some insight into the prospects of computerized/robot/autonomous vehicles. Perhaps job one should be to decide which of these terms makes the most sense.

But the most important “fact” to emerge from the meeting was that fully-autonomous cars won’t be available for up to 15 to 20 years , according to BMI Research analyst Anna-Marie Baisden.

If it’s 15 years minimum, any regs the state devises today will be hopelessly out of date by then.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

32 Comments
  1. - Southern - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 10:34 am:

    Stop using the phrase vaporware, you sound like a 90’s techno thriller


  2. - The Captain - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 10:34 am:

    “Yeah but in 15 years we’ll finally be beyond our current dysfunction and able to pass a bill” I thought to myself, naively.


  3. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 10:38 am:

    ===Stop using the phrase vaporware===

    I’ll stop using it when driverless car technology is no longer vaporware.


  4. - Huh? - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 10:43 am:

    In Illinois, autonomous cars are going to be fair weather, rich boy toys. When an autonomous car can navigate on a snow covered Township road, they will have arrived. Until then, there is too much hype around these gimmicks.

    Any safety regulations and standards will be at the National level and not the State.


  5. - BlackHawk Boone - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 10:45 am:

    Fully-autonomous will likely take some time. But partially autonomous is on the horizon (~5 years by some estimates). Obviously this will be a difficult topic to regulate .. but should we really be faulting IDOT for being proactive?

    There could certainly be some benefit gained by Illinois getting a jump on this industry. Perhaps if IL has stable regulations in place companies will choose to operate here - we should jump at every chance to claim a piece of an emerging (and eventually, enormous) market.


  6. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 10:47 am:

    ===Perhaps if IL has stable regulations in place===

    How can you write regulations for a product that doesn’t even exist and may not exist for years?


  7. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 10:47 am:

    Shhhhh, Rich. You’re going to mess up Randy’s consulting gigs with the driverless car industry.


  8. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 10:49 am:

    Driverless cars for a driverless government.


  9. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 10:53 am:

    What a weird story.

    The Rauner mantra is that he wants to roll back regulations to “create jobs.”

    Yet his IDOT chief wants to draft regulations for a product and service that doesn’t exist, and won’t for at least 15 years?

    How do you do that?

    Perhaps, instead, he should be in his boss’s ear about a capital plan.

    You know, something real.


  10. - BlackHawk Boone - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 10:57 am:

    Respectfully, Rich, the product does exist. Google tests its driverless prototypes on California roads. A (beautiful) autonomous Mercedes paraded around San Francisco. Just today Ontario issued its first permits for autonomous vehicles, in preparation for testing by the U of Waterloo Center for Automotive Research in early 2017. Tesla’s vehicles currently being produced ALL hold the hardware to enable their Autopilot / Tessa Vision tech. Just a few examples…


  11. - A guy - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 11:03 am:

    Daily I encounter cars that I swear to God are “driverless” until I pull next to them and realize they contain drivers that are merely “senseless”.


  12. - A guy - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 11:04 am:

    Do these non driver cars have horns? If they do, why? I’m just imagining the car shows of the future in towns where the cars just show up. It’s kinda odd.


  13. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 11:04 am:

    ===Just today Ontario issued its first permits for autonomous vehicles===

    It’s a pilot project and we’ll see if it even gets off the ground.


  14. - Columbo - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 11:11 am:

    I’ve been opposed to driverless cars for years, especially in Chicago. They are the #1 reason I can never find a parking space. /s


  15. - Sir Reel - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 11:16 am:

    The only thing that makes sense 15 years out is if driverless cars need changes in road design. It can take a road project 15 years from initial idea to completion. But I haven’t heard of any such changes so it’s a moot point.


  16. - NoGifts - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 11:22 am:

    http://thehill.com/policy/technology/306165-national-highway-chief-self-driving-cars-decades-away


  17. - Threepwood - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 11:26 am:

    To add to BlackHawk’s comments, the Teslas on the road now already do as much partial autonomy as the law will allow. They can and do already effectively drive themseves, and because some minimal driver input is still required, they’re in a dangerous halfway position where some drivers have likely caused crashes by forgetting they aren’t FULLY autonomous. And most new cars come with most of the necessary hardware to do autonomous driving, even if they offer no semiautonomous mode.

    But Rich’s point seems to be about the finished product, and I’ve become pretty skeptical about that being sold soon. There are legitimate teething problems in the public-road testing that’s been going on, and as far as I know the legal groundwork is still a mess. I agree that you need to get laws hammered out at the state and Federal level beforehand, but without a really solid timeframe from manufacturers, you’re chasing a moving window for technology that is by its very nature rapidly-changing. I don’t mind them talking about it, and I very much would not define this as vaporware, but neither do I think they’re going to be actual, commercial products in the next few years. There’s a big difference between what’s good enough in research and what’s good enough to sell to the public. Start writing laws when the industry can start setting serious dates.


  18. - flea - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 11:35 am:

    Vaporware must be the apparatus that gleans information from the air that runs through Blankenships ears…after filtered by Brauer


  19. - Foster brooks - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 11:49 am:

    How will these cars handle the moon scape roads of Illinois this spring?


  20. - Last Bull Moose - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 12:04 pm:

    One could write regulations controlling the function of driverless cars without consideration of the actual technology. Most of the rules of the road we follow today were developed for automobiles vastly different from what we have today.


  21. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 12:10 pm:

    ===Do these non driver cars have horns? If they do, why?===

    How else will your date know you’re waiting for her outside? It’s known as the Bridgeport doorbell.


  22. - northsidenomore - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 12:34 pm:

    No fan of some of this tech stuff say there is a satellite down = driverless car going no place…. I will stick to the rusty pick up any day. When you can yell “Scotty beam me up” I’ll be All In though.


  23. - Threepwood - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 1:20 pm:

    They’re not actually satellite-dependent. GPS is used for figuring out what roads to take, not for actual driving. Staying in the lane, not hitting other cars/people/objects, executing turns, etc, is all handled by on-board sensors and computing. Even for navigation, they could probably read road signs and navigate off internal maps, if programmed to.


  24. - Anon - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 1:22 pm:

    ~~~resolution passed by the Chicago City Council~~~

    Because they can’t decide who should receive any traffic citations?


  25. - Huh? - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 1:30 pm:

    I did a back of the envelope accusation a few years ago and estimated that by 2040, that 5% of the vehicles worldwide would be autonomous vehicles. 5% autonomous vehicles in the traffic stream is nothing, they may as well be red MG convertibles.

    People point at the Google cars and the Teslas as the cars “being here” and ready for prime time use.

    Well they are not here and ready for general use. The Google cars are in sunny climes with an attendant ready to take over when the car gets confused. A teslas has already killed a driver because it didn’t recognize a semi truck that turned in front of the car. The Uber cars in Pennsylvania are driven by the attendant about 50% of the time.

    These cars are experimental vehicles with unproven, proprietary technology. So called dumb cars have been proven to be hackable. So we are to expect that a highly computerized and connected car is secure and hack proof?

    If you want an autonomous car, call a cab, limo or use the ride sharing app of your choice.


  26. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 1:39 pm:

    There’s going to be a lot of unemployed truck drivers out there someday soon. It’d be nice if maybe somebody thought about how those people are going to fare in the Uber economy.


  27. - wondering - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 1:45 pm:

    Rich let the air out of that over inflated tire. Glad someone did…..but: I believe we will see self driving cars before we see Illinois having stable regulations.


  28. - A guy - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 3:19 pm:

    ==How else will your date know you’re waiting for her outside?==

    Actually that’s funny. Wonder how many gals you dated who’s father’s worked second shift? Honk for one of my sisters or one of my daughters, you’d get something, but it wouldn’t be a date. lol.


  29. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 3:21 pm:

    Judging by the focus on the road by the drivers I see in everyday traffic, I suspect that a lot of vehicles are in autonomous mode already. /s


  30. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 3:26 pm:

    One of my son’s friends is a tradesman in the suburbs. He was carpooling with a fellow tradesman, a Tesla owner, to their job sites. One day, the fellow tradesman put his car into auto-pilot and cracked open a beer, claiming that since the car was driving itself, he shouldn’t be on the hook for an open liquor violation. This is the kind of stuff that is starting to happen.


  31. - thechampaignlife - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 3:36 pm:

    ===I’ll stop using it when driverless car technology is no longer vaporware.===

    I’ll stop using it when horseless carriage technology is no longer snake oil.


  32. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 29, 16 @ 9:57 pm:

    Driverless car are already on the road. Uber is using driverless cars in Pittsburg, PA as we speak. According to the Techie/Science magazines driverless cars/semi-trucks will be more mainstream by 2020 (4 years).


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