Stick Len’s rail loop, here come driverless cars

As I said earlier this month driverless cars are the future, not stupid stuck on rails trains.

Don’t get too attached to your steering wheel and brake pedal because self-driving cars could be hitting our roads sooner than you think.

The first privately-owned driverless vehicles could start appearing in New Zealand in as little as two years, once European manufacturers start bringing them to market, Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.

Bridges is in the German city of Leipzig to attend the International Transport Forum’s annual summit, where a lot of the talk has been about the rapid pace of driverless car technology and how it could dramatically reduce the number of vehicles clogging up our roads.

Alexander Dobrindt, the German Federal Minister of Transport, arrived at the summit on Wednesday in a self-driving BMW and predicted the technology would start rolling off German assembly lines as soon as 2017.  

“In just a few years’ time, what is completely digital will be completely normal,” he said.

Audi, BMW and Google are among those developing the technology.

Bridges said widespread use of self-driving cars in  New Zealand was still some way off, as Kiwis would be “technology takers” rather than developers.

“But that said, and while I’m not saying it will happen like this, I wouldn’t be surprised that if in the next two or three years … there will be those who try to bring them to New Zealand, and good on them,” Bridges said. “That will be something we need to be ready for.”

Even Apple is thought to be developing a driverless car.





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  • The real trick would be not owning an actual vehicle though.
    You would own the right to use it and simply hail one when required. Then the closet free car comes to you.

    Of course there is a logistics issue that would soon arise. Everyone wants them at the same time.

    • ex-JAFA

      They’ll be a bit like taxis. At the moment, there’ll be about 20,000 taxis in Auckland not doing anything. But in the wee small hours of New Years Day, there won’t be any to be had for love nor money.

      Whomever runs the fleet(s) of on-call driverless cars will have to have plenty on standby for high demand times such as the daily rush hours – and somewhere to park/charge/service most of them the rest of the time.

  • Justsayn

    Will we be allowed to have virtual road rage? A facebook name should be posted in every rear window so that I can go online and shake my virtual fist at someone else’s virtual driver.

  • Toby

    This is a huge deal.
    Once we accept driver-less cars, there will be a massive social and economic step-change that NZ will have to be prepared for.

    Within 5 years of that point in time…

    – no more taxi or bus drivers, all gone.
    – no more long haul truck drivers
    – no more courier drivers

    Then from there, it isn’t much of a further step to go.

    – no more pilots
    – no more ship captains
    – no more train drivers

    That is a lot of people who will have to find jobs and who currently don’t need a lot of skills.

    • Dave

      No more Taxi drivers……
      The driverless cars might be able to understand English, or any language
      The cabs will not reek of last nights curry, or whatever was on the menu
      The driverless system might use deodorant
      The driverless system will know where they are going.
      Sexual and unwanted advances will cease! (unless drivers program the driverless cabs)
      A peaceful cab ride, no foriegn political conversations, and driverless cars are unlikely to understand Cricket talk.
      You will still have to get your own bag out.

      And I add, imagine the leglislative change needed, no more can i see your license please. Who was in control of the vehicle, the driverless system, the computer, Google??? If in a serious accident accident, who is being prosecuted, who might end up in Jail. “Oh, that thing in the next door cell, its the computer servo unit that controls the steering on a driverless car, they found it guilty of dangerous driving causing death”. Shame really, seems a nice enough computer.

      • andrew carrot

        Insurers will be sh****g themselves. ‘Drivers’-at-fault will be some of the largest companies in the world, and therefore big targets for litigants, ie half of the USA.

      • Toby

        The insurance problem will only be short term.
        Car manufacturers will have to provide insurance, if there is a crash the crashing manufacturer will be at fault.
        This will drive massive improvements in the technology and the number of crashes will trend towards zero over the long time.

        Cars will learn how to deal with scenarios where accidents occur.

        At the moment, if a human screws up and crashes, that learning does not migrate to all other drivers. However, imagine that if a driver-less car crashes, all of the parameters that caused that crash could be captured and the cause determined as well as a solution to avoid. That data would then be uploaded instantly to every other car in the fleet so that scenario never happened again.

        There will be a dramatic decrease in crashes and the cars will eventually become so reliable there will be no crashes ever.

    • Justsayn

      Take it out another 100 years, or 200 years, and there may be very few jobs performed by people. How do we then pay for stuff?

      • James

        Economics of technological changes:

        First rule of economics is that there is no limit to human wants and desires; therefore if you have fewer people ploughing fields / making buggy whips / driving taxis then those people can do other things (many of which we haven’t even thought of yet as we are currently limited in our thinking).

        There is the potential that the first rule is incorrect; in which case we will have reached the point where we want for no more (yippee – we have everything we can possibly desire and we don’t have to work for it (as very few of us desire to work – that is why we have to get paid to do it!)).

        • Don W

          If machines are doing everything for us, what would be left for us humans to do, there wouldn’t be any challenges,Sounds rather boring to me.

          • WeaselKiss

            Don’t worry Don, there will always be plenty of strainer holes for you to dig.
            Well, enough to keep you going until you are ready to be put out to pasture anyway.

          • Hard1

            Humans could end up on treadmills making electricity for the robots.

          • Don W

            I can just imagine these robots saying ” EXTERMINATE EXTERMINATE”.

          • James

            We would use our brains to further understand the world around us. Throughout the history of mankind progress has come through increased leisure, it is the ability to use our brains that allows us to advance.

    • R&BAvenger

      Aircraft and ships would need to be an exception, certainly passenger carrying ones. In the event of an emergency at 39,000 feet I wouldn’t want to leave thing entirely to a computer. History shows people are not infallible, auto pilots even more so.

      • Justsayn

        I’d agree as at now, but as technology improves it may become far more adept at the job, and far more reliable than a pilot… who knows, problems for another day.

  • Mine it,Drill it,Sell it.

    How will they be treated in relation to driving under the influence laws if I own the car and are sitting in the back seat I wonder.

  • So who gets the blame when the software misinterprets an input or something out of parameters happens and an accident happens? The ‘non-driver’? Google? Someone else?

    • Toby

      Initially google.
      Googles insurance will payout.
      Then they will analyse the crash and an avoidance solution and upload it into every car so it never happens again.
      The number of accidents will trend towards zero very rapidly.

  • Gerrit

    Just spent 3 minutes blocked in traffic watching an incredibly skilled driver reverse an articulated “B” train truck (one of those 50 tonner’s) into a driveway (at 90 degrees to the road). Don’t mind sitting in traffic for 3 minutes watching a skilled operator at work.

    Would a computer be able to do that? How much programming would it take for a computer to carry out such a maneuver?

    • Toby

      It will be easy for a computer do that.
      You have to forget current limitations.
      At the moment the limitation is that a human can only operate one steering wheel at a time.

      A driver-less truck could have every single wheel independently controlled with both steering and traction.
      You don’t need a steering wheel, you don’t need a connection between the steering wheel and the wheels. Suddenly you have a lot more options.

      Therefore a driver-less truck could turn on a dime, rotate indefinitely around 360 degrees. It could arrive at a destination and then roll sideways and spin.
      No skill needed.

      Trucks will likely dramatically change form from the way they currently look, you won’t need a cab if you have no driver.

  • Kevin

    No surprise Apple could be making a driverless car. Driverless cars are just computers on wheels after all. And Apple is a direct competitor to Google.

  • CheesyEarWax

    The Apple car will be easy to use and trendy to be seen it, but you won’t be able to install your own car stereo and seat covers.

  • PsychoKea

    Frankly I can’t see this sort of thing taking off in a hurry , maybe AI assisted parking is a good idea but I think people are too attached to being in control of their vehicle, just interesting technology demonstrators for tech companies to waste their money on, right up there with flying cars and jetpacks

  • Rodger T

    So I`m assuming there will be dedicated roads/lanes for these driverless cars for the simpletons that can`t drive a real car and doG knows there`s thousands of those that hit the motorways everyday.
    How does a tradesman who needs a ute or van to carry his tools and materials get into the inner city ?

    I doubt you would use one of these google monstrosities to get yourself from city to city.
    They will be a hit with the inner city greenies but real citizens will avoid them like the plague,you would die of boredom before you reached your destination.

    • Effluent

      I’d use one. I like the idea of being able to read the papaer and have a cup of coffee on the way to work, maybe check my voicemails, etc without endangering the health of other road users. All assuming it’s no more expensive than the bus, of course.

  • Blue West

    These driverless vehicles will yield to everything. Cyclists, cats, roadworks, indecisive drivers, jaywalkers etc etc So technically if you just put your foot down in a regular vehicle all these driverless subservient vehicles will get out if your way! Sounds good!