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They can afford to do their own cheerleading

Monday, Mar 18, 2019

* Tribune editorial

Transportation planning experts have told us Chicago isn’t doing enough to ready itself for a driverless future. The [mayor’s mobility task force report] agrees. “Chicago is behind many other cities in (driverless) technology deployment,” the report states, adding, “without active engagement by the city … technology deployment will likely be disjointed, poorly organized.”

The task force suggests setting up a working group that can brainstorm what infrastructure changes the city needs for the advent of a driverless world. It also recommends that the city should consider pilot projects that introduce Chicagoans to driverless vehicles and “help build trust” in the technology.

Cities shouldn’t have to alter their basic infrastructure to accommodate “driverless” technology, which doesn’t even exist yet. As if there’s even room to do that in places like Chicago.

If manufacturers think they can make driverless cars, then they need to work in the real world. If your car can’t be trusted to drive itself down Western Ave. and navigate a school-zone pickup, then don’t put it on the street.

And there is zero reason for state and local governments to “help build trust” in what is now vaporware. Let the for-profit companies which are spending billions on this project handle the public relations.

Assistive driving is great. Don’t get me wrong. Things like automated parking and radar work pretty well in good weather. But there’s always a line like this buried in otherwise breathless stories about these so-called autonomous vehicles

Two Kroger markets in Houston are rolling out a self-driving car program, in which orders can be placed online and delivered right to your home without a driver. […]

“There will still be safety drivers in them.”

* And the tech is not just around the corner, either

Many luxury cars now have level two autonomy, as defined by America’s Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

It includes partial automation in some situations, but still requires a driver to be in control at all times, something most level two cars warn drivers of.

The dream of full autonomy — known as level five — appears many years away.

Last month BMW and Mercedes-Benz — two of the most advanced manufacturers with driverless technology — announced they would be joining forces on the development of autonomous technologies.

However, the two German automotive giants are only forecasting level four autonomy by 2025.

The goal of having no driver at all appears well beyond that.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

28 Comments
  1. - ChicagoVinny - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 12:15 pm:

    The problem with autonomous self-driving cars is the last 10% of the problem is 90% of the work - right now we have a bunch of companies that have done the first 90%.


  2. - Huh? - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 12:22 pm:

    When a self driving car can safely navigate a snow drifted gravel road in a whiteout blizzard, they will be ready for Illinois. Until then, they will be rich boys toys to be brought out on a sunny day.

    Until there is a uniform standard for operation and communication with and between vehicles and infrastructure, there is nothing to discuss. Right now the proponent companies are developing their own software rather than a universal system.


  3. - Montrose - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 12:27 pm:

    I’ve heard a rumor that our roads and bridges are crumbling, and that we are in desperate need for a capital bill to address a backlog of disrepair. Maybe we should focus on that before creating landing pad infrastructure for flying cars.


  4. - Sox Fan - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 12:27 pm:

    Maybe I’m off base, but my feeling is that governments role in the oncoming “driverless revolution” would be upgrading and enhancing public transportation options that can ultimately complement use of a driverless auto


  5. - Anon - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 12:27 pm:

    Chicago’s traffic lights don’t even have detector loops and rely on the same clock-based signal timings like in the 1950s. What infrastructure is a self-driving car supposed to talk to?


  6. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 12:27 pm:

    A good first step in this journey would be for these companies and the universities to pilot some of the new advanced technologies that monitor and help smooth traffic flow on the roads and expressways. That’s good for everyone, right now, today.

    Some of that, they are doing now, where your GPS can suggest route changes in realtime in reaction to sudden blockages ahead… but it’s going to need to advance at some point. When those systems can talk to autonomous cars interactively, traffic management will benefit and that’s valuable whether or not autonomous cars ever become a thing.


  7. - Blue Dog Dem - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 12:30 pm:

    I have often wondered how a driverless auto could be programmed to make a right on red.


  8. - Not a Billionaire - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 12:36 pm:

    I would like might vision to avoid the deer and drinks who don’t have their lights on.


  9. - Anon1234 - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 12:38 pm:

    Driving assist technology is already here and is advancing rapidly. While full self driving will be slower to get to the midwest, certain cars already have nearly autonomous driving on the highways. These features are no longer just for super rich folks. You can get it all for around 40k on the Tesla Model 3. Not cheap, but not ridiculously expensive either.

    The sooner we get the infrastructure, the sooner we can have safer roads.


  10. - Huh? - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 12:39 pm:

    “programmed to make a right on red”

    With great difficulty. The computers can be spoofed into misreading the signs by adding some strategical located stickers.


  11. - Anon1234 - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 12:44 pm:

    Stickers and the visible lights won’t be used by future cars. I’m guessing cars will receive wireless transmissions of the state of the lights, which is the infrastructure that is needed.


  12. - Annonin' - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 12:44 pm:

    Heck we had a driverless state for 4 years that should put us in the lead.


  13. - lakeside - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 12:46 pm:

    Last time we changed up cities to meet the needs of automakers, we allowed them to dismantle streetcar networks of public transportation in most cities. Not to mention the creation of jaywalking (good history here: https://www.vox.com/2015/1/15/7551873/jaywalking-history)

    We’ve spent the last 10-20 years trying to make the city more transit, walking and biking-friendly. Total lack of interest in helping Tesla and Uber, etc. put more cars on the road and have us act as subsidized guinea pigs. “help build trust” sheesh.


  14. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 12:59 pm:

    The solution is already well documented on this blog, Rich.

    We need narrow, jagged death-tunnels through which Tesla-brand autonomous electric cars(equipped with special, optional side-wheels) can move at slow speeds with three, even four passengers.


  15. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 1:17 pm:

    –“Chicago is behind many other cities in (driverless) technology deployment,” the report states,–

    Good. Let the other chumps be the guinea pigs.

    Meanwhile, we have quite a full plate right now maintaining our extensive networks of roads, bridges, rail lines, rolling stock and buses.


  16. - indianbadger1 - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 1:17 pm:

    All this assumes that the Trolley Problem is solved. When there is no solution for that. The question of liability is what is going to doom this as a mass transport solution. The only place I can see this happening is long haul trucking; at night; with a mother truck leading a convoy; after telling people to stay off the highway right lane during midnight to 6 AM. Anything beyond that is fantasy.


  17. - brickle - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 1:17 pm:

    ==Driving assist technology is already here and is advancing rapidly. While full self driving will be slower to get to the midwest, certain cars already have nearly autonomous driving on the highways. These features are no longer just for super rich folks. You can get it all for around 40k on the Tesla Model 3. Not cheap, but not ridiculously expensive either.

    The sooner we get the infrastructure, the sooner we can have safer roads.==

    Tesla is still a very long ways from actual self-driving cars, even if they call adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping “autopilot.”

    We need infrastructure built for mass transit, not more individual cars.


  18. - Norseman - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 1:20 pm:

    === If manufacturers think they can make driverless cars, then they need to work in the real world. If your car can’t be trusted to drive itself down Western Ave. and navigate a school-zone pickup, then don’t put it on the street. ===

    Hear, here.

    (My response instead of a like button.)


  19. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 1:34 pm:

    I’m guessing the tronc edit board doesn’t spend a lot of time riding the el or buses if they think this is a pressing transportation need.


  20. - thechampaignlife - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 1:41 pm:

    I would not call 5600 miles per human intervention vaporware, but I agree that we should not heavily subsidize proprietary technology of uncertain long-term value.

    I mean, putting the streetcar tracks back in the roads would be an easier sell. It would have value for actual streetcar usage, it is proven technology compatible with multiple modes of transit, and it could be leveraged by self-driving cars as a guide rail in inclement weather.


  21. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 2:03 pm:

    ===5600 miles per human intervention===

    lolol

    Americans now drive an average of 13,476 miles per year https://www.autogravity.com/autogravitas/money/whats-average-miles-driven-per-year-car-lease-guide

    3.2 Trillion Miles Driven On U.S. Roads In 2016 https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pressroom/fhwa1704.cfm

    So, yes, it’s vaporware.


  22. - Huh? - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 2:17 pm:

    “Americans now drive an average of 13,476 miles per year”

    I wish. That is about 3 months worth of commuting.


  23. - A guy - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 2:32 pm:

    I’m pretty sure I’m encountering “driverless” cars every day on the roads.


  24. - a drop in - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 2:46 pm:

    “…experts have told us Chicago isn’t doing enough to ready itself for a driverless future”

    We have more than enough liability lawyers.


  25. - thechampaignlife - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 3:08 pm:

    ===Americans now drive an average of 13,476 miles per year===

    And every one of those miles required constant human intervention. They also kill 33,000 people and injured 2.2 million people in 5.4 million accidents. That is an accident every 600,000 miles. Waymo had 1 at fault accident in 5 million miles. Granted, many of those miles were probably highway in good weather, so it is not a fair comparison. However, CA vehicle accident death rates are close to the national average, and NY reports 1 accident per million miles on controlled access divided highways. So, I would argue that a car that can drive NYC to LA and back without human intervention is more than a concept.

    Again, not to say they deserve massive public investment but, with lives at stake both from trying and failing and from not trying at all, there is an important public interest here.


  26. - Nanker Phelge - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 4:09 pm:

    === If manufacturers think they can make driverless cars, then they need to work in the real world. If your car can’t be trusted to drive itself down Western Ave. and navigate a school-zone pickup, then don’t put it on the street. ===

    AMEN! No reason for taxpayers to fork over money to help the entrepreneurs play with their toys. The private sector needs to figure out on its own how to make it work (or come up with the money itself to update the infrastructure). If they really believe there is money to be made with self-driving cars, they should be willing to make the investment.


  27. - Last Bull Moose - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 4:19 pm:

    I see this technology first showing up in places looking like Sun City, AZ. Retirees there drive golf carts now.

    Flood the area with interconnected sensors and limit where the vehicles can go. Let the senior citizens lead the way.


  28. - Uncle Ernie - Monday, Mar 18, 19 @ 4:23 pm:

    The Peoria area is home to one of the most forward thinking and planning Autonomous vehicle development. Autonomous Stuff was early entrant to the A/V world. Autonomous Stuff is located in Morton IL and has partnered with a larger company recently. This summer A/S will be driving the streets of downtown Peoria (not like Chicago) but a good test area. Illinois and Peoria Area is a leader in this technology.


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