Sarina Hannon

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How do you imagine self driving cars will change the future?

Lets say this design will be (and will be seen as) a total success.
Lets assume safety will skyrocket.

I'm especially interested in the options freedom from crashes would allow for car design.

Couldn't cars communicate?

How about people? could driving become more socially connective if people were free from staring at the road?

I want to hear about social networking opportunities! :D

Add in anything you find interesting! :D Thanks!

  • Mar 31 2011: This should be the future for driver-less parcel delivery.
    I imagine driver-less carts, about the size of a shopping trolley, that deliver items from A to B, without the need for a driver.
    They would be web connected and take the most efficient rout from A to B, depending on traffic.
    They would have no driver and therefore could be lightweight, and fuel efficient.
    You could go to a web site, order one to come to your house, fill it up with packages, and send it to your friend.
    You only pay for the time you use it, then it drives away to run an errand for someone else nearby.
    These autonomous couriers could be electric and take them selves to charging stations, or maybe you get a discount if you charge it yourself at your home.
    - less fuel used
    - more reliable
    - reduced traffic
    - more convenient
    - facilitates new efficiencies in supply chain

    These could change the way shopping is done.
    Currently all the goods need to be trucked from the various factories to the supermarket.
    In the future that model could change.
    If you just need a new toaster, your driver-less courier pod could drive directly to the white goods warehouse, which may be closer than the supermarket. That warehouse would not need a shop front.
    Basically, the pod would look at your shopping list and only go the the places it needs to, and do it in the most efficient way.
    As a result, new efficiencies would be possible in the supply chain.
    • Apr 1 2011: You just blew my mind. Trucks don't need drivers any more. Only people who wants to go from A to B needs to be inside the vehicle.
    • Apr 1 2011: The technology of military drones could easily be ported to use on the roads, so what you imagine could be implemented quite easily. The issue is one of the acceptance of driverless vehicles. For passengers, this probably wouldn't be a problem -- many airports have driverless train systems connecting the terminals, and nobody seems bothered by it. But acceptance by other live drivers might be harder. On the other hand, it shouldn't be any worse than getting stuck behind the old guy in a Cadillac driving slowly in the left lane...
    • Apr 1 2011: I imagine the future of "shopping" will be pretty different than the present, and that relying on the old concept of having to go to a special marketplace to shop will not be the case. Just look at the amazing progress in 3D printing - people creating their own custom items - plates, cups, forks and other small objects, for now. But I can see how designers & developers could sell software licences or create free, open source designs for more complex items, all ready to print and use. Information used to be told by word of mouth, then written down by hand, then printed using a mechanical machine, then digitized and almost instantly transported across the globe. I don't see a reason why this couldn't happen with materials & goods.

      The only application I can see for traditional goods exchange is larger or more technologically advanced items that couldn't be printed, and food delivery to some extent, since we've all seen the boom of home-grown or locally-grown food. Growing food in vertical farms in the city will ultimately change the delivery process. I could even see the pneumatic tube being reborn for in-building or even city-wide delivery of goods.

      Now, we're not even talking about catoms & claytronics, which will also be a game changer one day. Having reusable and reprogrammable matter is probably the highest level of technology I can think of, save teleportation and time travel.

      TL;DR: The future is going to be pretty awesome.
    • Apr 10 2011: The best discussion so far on this.

      My mind has been spinning ever since the video. Here's how I see it.

      Firstly, personal car ownership will go the way of the dodo. Imagine Vodafone or Sprint but for cars. You will sign up to a monthly plan which covers 1000km + 5c/km.. for example.

      Secondly, the majority of vehicles will be super-light. No steel required to protect one's self.

      Thirdly, these fleets would definitely be fuelled by electricity generated by solar or wind power. Even if you were taking a journey longer than the car could handle (say.. 1000km+), another car could meet you and take over.

      Fourth, pretty much anyone who works on the ground level in logistics or transport will lose their job.. as will those associated with mechanics, auto parts dealerships, petrol station attendants, car parts manufacturers, car insurance, car finance, car sales, cute car accessories...

      Fifth, these vehicles will not only travel with a small gap, they will very often travel with zero gap, automatically linking up with one another in an enormous improvement in aerodynamics much like cyclists. Given that these cars will begin to emerge while other cars are still on the road, they will probably occupy the far lane in order not to get in the way of human drivers

      Sixth, the need to park will be eliminated, thereby dispensing with all parking stations, parking spots and inner-city congestion... probably killing off many inner-city roads which could be converted to parks, public space or additional housing.

      Seventh, the roads will probably start seeing vehicles that specifically sell products to those who are moving - coffee, lunch, whatever..

      Eigth, the cost of housing construction, food and most basic necessities will drop as more space becomes available and very importantly the huge cost of logistics evaporates.

      Ninth, contrary to expectations an enormous rise in cycling on the now-safe roads
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        Apr 10 2011: Hmmm "linking up" that is a clever bit that I had not imagined.What if the larger freeways had power strips so you were actually recharging for the bulk of a long journey?What if your drone just clamped on the back of long train of drones being pulled by much larger vehicle?
    • Apr 10 2011: this link was posted above and pretty much nails it until the bizarre road tiles concept
    • Apr 10 2011: If that is implemented lot of drivers would be jobless. But for risky jobs, such implementation is thumbs up.
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    Apr 7 2011: Convenient relocation is the issue to solve for are only a part of that, regardless of what they run on or what drives it.

    The attraction to send a self driving car out on its own, will be an unending one. We don't need to go as many places as stuff we have to pick up or ship.

    Closed courses are inevitable......otherwise .the insurance companies will have a field day with this.

    And an unpopulated vehicle will be a target.

    Reducing the need for cars is how related deaths will be reduced. Robots will not save us from ourselves.
  • Apr 6 2011: I've been looking at this issue as a non-specialist in the field for some 25 years and have finally put my ideas on the future of transport in three blogs, which you can find at:

    This forum would seem to be the ideal one for this kind of discussion. The debate might also give some ideas as to how the industrialised nations, given their inability to compete with the low-wage economies, could start to kick start their home-grown manufacturing, transport and automotive sectors, at the same time generating vast employment opportunities for the young.

    Roll on the future. The 'driving experience' promoted by the car manufacturers is for most just one long (and getting longer) source of frustration.

    Cheers to all
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    Apr 6 2011: How wonderful to regain that time lost commuting. I'd still like to keep "human" driving for those winding roads in New England though.
  • Mar 31 2011: "Couldn't cars communicate?"
    I love that idea. As soon as more than one car is automated they can communicate with each other making traffic flow, fuel efficiency and crash handling nearly perfect. Thats the ultimate benefit of this technology. Simulating human driving is just the first step to get there.

    "How about people? could driving become more socially connective if people were free from staring at the road? "
    There will be lots of fornication going on, lol.
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    Apr 12 2011: No according to my opinion a much creation of havoc would be then the reason
    due to this achievement of science. looking at the perspective put up a much intelligent
    phase of science is highlighted would frame up as very comfortable, but other side
    might provide much of its part.
  • Apr 11 2011: some thoughts:

    As for design, the basic shape probably wouldn't change that dramatically. Cars will still need to balance aerodynamicity with comfort, although an aerodynamic design would become paramount if these cars are able to travel faster. Safety features can not be eliminated either. Even though roads will be safer, accidents can happen. If a car swerves or stops suddenly in order to avoid an obstacle, unsecured passengers could be injured quite severely.

    The question of inter-car communication/social networking is intriguing. Presumably, if each car has a programmed destination, cars with similar destinations could form a caravan like the one Matthew Newton describled. Passengers could then chat, though I imagine it could be awkward if the conversation petered out quickly and the rest of the trip was spent in uncomfortable silence. And really, if you have a bunch of cars travelling to the same destination, it would be much more efficient to replace the caravan with a bus/train.

    Like any new technology, driver-less cars have their costs and benefits. Eliminating drivers would make public transportation more affordable, but it would also mean putting a lot of people out of work. I can see this system working beautifully when everyone has a self-driving car, but there would be a very long, potentially diffucult transition period.
  • Apr 9 2011: Yes, all cars will eventually communicate to each other.

    I see the largest potential for autonomous vehicles in highly populated areas such as New York and other major cities.

    I would like to see the results of a simulation of a city using only autonomous vehicles verses what the traffic flow of the city is currently.

    I imagine a law will need to be made, "illegal to walk into the street with an autonomous vehicle approaching at 50 meters or less." Although they can stop when they detect objects in the way, I could easily see people forgetting how dangerous a two ton vehicle traveling at 50-150 mph is.
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    Apr 7 2011: Keeping people interested in riding in the car is the most important thing......I doubt the positive presence of surrogate drones......
  • Apr 7 2011: I look forward to having these automated cars but I really hope that we can find a solution to extremely long commutes, congestion, and toxic emissions. I hope that most people won't need to commute (work from home or nearby office network) and that these innovative cars will be used primarily for leisure purposes.
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    Apr 6 2011: If cars were to be driving themselves, I think the first thing that would have to change would be the seating arrangements. Instead of 5 seats in one direction, try 6 seats facing a table in the middle. This would allow more family face-time and much more conformability.

    Roadways would have to change too, I believe. They’re designed in a way that allows everyone to logically travel together. In such a scenario, we would no longer be concerned with judgment of the individuals, but quick access on the roadway.

    I had an idea concerning car-to-car communication.

    What if there was some sort of holographic sign above every car (almost like a portable "twitter" status), which gave more insight on mood of the driver, or urgency of their situation. For example "Medical emergency", "In labor", "New driver", "Road rage", "In a hurry"

    I don't know too much about such a technology, but I know that a little more communication than flipping the bird would create happier traffic.
  • Apr 6 2011: As I see it the self driving car solves one problem at the cost of making another problem worse, or at the very least upholding that problem in its current state.

    The personal vehicle has served to separate us from our fellow humans. Vehicles and computers can bring us together physically and virtually, but often from lonely and separated lives. It is a patch, not a remedy.

    I think that public transport should be a focus, rather than the outdated model of everyone gets a vehicle to him or herself. That way of thinking leads to congestion and separation. Both of which I see as things to be avoided.

    I'd much rather wake up every morning among my friends and family, travel with my friends and family and other people I don't know, than do it all by myself. I see strangers not as the potential threats that they actually can be, but as opportunities to get to know another living soul, alive at this moment with me, right here right now. Just as we all have the capacity for the greatest evil within us, so too do we have the capacity for the greatest good.
  • Apr 6 2011: UCB was researching self-steering cars in the late 1980's using magnets in the road, and in the 90's the federal DOT had a program to study the road-car architecture that included driverless cars. This driverless car program was largely a bust because the feds insisted a whole new highway system would be needed, posing a terrible chicken-and-egg problem, which finally killed interest in the program.

    The driverless car, possible mechanizations and implications are discussed in 'Tomorrow's Transportation: Changing Cities, Economies, and Lives' by Garrison and Ward, shamelessly mentioned here by Ward.

    One thought not mentioned in this thread is removing the driver significantly removes design constraints on the vehicle, making the design of special-purpose vehicles much easier and potentially more efficient. Like little bug-like vehicles delivering groceries to the home, or the missing part to the worker.

    Now anyone can drive, 8 or 80, drunk or sober (frightening thought, isn't it).

    It's the terrorist's dream.

    We'll need a lot of rules and restrictions.
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      Apr 6 2011: Ooo you're right. Car designs even with people in them will be totally re-inventable! No need to worry about crashes, get rid of seat belts, forget about facing forward, the seats can face each other. They can be lighter and in cooler shapes if they don't need to ever sustain impact! I LOVE the idea of 'cars' of any size. wow that's a cool thought. if there was a fist sized car for some reason, it could literally drive along on the same roads as cars the size of whales, two inches away without any issues. Now even motorcycles get in trouble because people can't handle different sizes around them! GREAT point!!
      It frightens me more that something so mechanical is under human control... drunk, distracted, bored human control. hahah yikes.
      On the Terrorist idea, a terrorist can drive a car all they want anyway... without any regulation, virtually. It wouldn't give them more accessibility anywhere. Do you mean it would reduce the need for suicide-terrorists as cars will be empty? Explain what you mean, I may be missing your point.
      • Apr 6 2011: Sarina, I meant just what you alluded to; it will be no longer necessary to commit suicide to be a successful terrorist. If I were planning to be one, that would be a BIG plus.

  • Apr 5 2011: I would probably spend my time behind the wheel sleeping.
    I think one of the things many of us like best about eletronic social networking is that people are connected by interests rather than accidents of geography.
  • Apr 5 2011: I feel this is the only obvious next step for transport the question is how do you implement it? People who watch TED talks are open to this kind of development, but the common man doesn't always trust machines or at least doesn't know that he does. Do we make a law or just add it as an optional extra, like cup holders and tinted windows?
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    Apr 5 2011: I'm very excited with the idea of robocars. First platform can be there in 2050 on a base of some little town or special junctions arteries at big cities. Just look at Google, they already ran such a car using gps and gmaps.

    What can it bring to us? More comfort, more free time during drive, smart traffic, less crashes, no parking problems (the car can park in 10 minutes away from you by itself).

    However, all of this wouldn't change our behavior pretty much: it's just a car, not a portal or flying machine.
  • Apr 3 2011: I would like to spend a few words on the social aspects of a self-driving-car. Why would people prefer to take a self-driving-car instead of using public transport? The obvious answer in our day is because it’s more efficient to get you from A to B. But considering that our public transport will develop in the same rate as most of our technologies do, it will also become more and more sufficient. I dare to state that our time profit in taking a self-driving-car, instead of public transport will be negligible by the time it is implemented.

    So what other obvious reason can there be for maintaining the concept of a car? The biggest difference in taking public transport an taking a car it that of privacy. Only in a car can you choose who rides with you and who doesn’t. If this is the main argument for maintaining the concept of a car it wouldn’t stimulate our social interactions at all.

    People who chose to take –the probably more expensive option to public transport-, the self-driving-car, do this for privacy and time management. Time management in the sense that you can do your morning rituals in the car on your way to work. All things like; doing your makeup, hair, shaving your face, drinking coffee and reading a morning newspaper, have breakfast, prepare your big talk with the boss. The self-driving-car would become an extension of your house. And to be honest; who would like to do some networking while in the bathroom?
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    Apr 3 2011: i agree with some on the peoples comments. Some cars will become a mobile lounge where you can read the morning paper with your favorite cup of coffee right before it drops you off at work. Sure there are people out there who will love such a thing, but there are people out there, like me, who still wants to experience cars in their rawest form. Actually sitting behind the wheel with you foot on the petrol and steering wheel in you hand, making the decision about what is going to happen next.

    80% of motoring incidents are caused by human error. So I wonder if it is really such a bad thing if computers control our daily move abouts. Where human error is taken out of the picture. We will see a huge drop in mortalities...and that is a good thing. 
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      Apr 3 2011: I agree: the main reason I drive is the thrill of having control - and the mini-races you get in, every day, in traffic. Although it would be (great) for accidents and stuff like that, I still think the concept is too far-fetched. Will people really let go of the control issue that easily? i doubt it.

      Also, it is true that we don't all need cars. In Montreal, where I live, 99% of people most certainly don't. However, we still have something like 80% of the population that either own or lease one. And that's even with horrible traffic and gas prices.
  • Apr 3 2011: I imagine that the car journey will become a personal transit lounge that we can ether work in or play in. This could be the same experience as sitting on a plane and watching the latest movie, while you travel towards your destination. The irony of playing on a driving game in the safety of your fully automatic car. Personally I would like a motorbike, that traveled at great speeds, in total safety from impact. All I would have to do is hang on! Maybe there is a compromise that gives the driver a sence of control, until it needs to take it back in case of emergency or general incompetence!
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    Apr 3 2011: It will be a long, long time until cars as we know them will be obsolete. Maybe 100, maybe 200, maybe 300 years. What I think will happen in the interim is that safety and energy efficiency will continue to be the driving forces of innovation and in that regard cars will continue to be an important part of global economies and will drive us into the 22nd century.
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      Apr 3 2011: There it is, the collective wisdom of the masses. You are probably correct in saying the wants of the masses will continue to be served regardless of the consequences.
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      Apr 4 2011: I'm guessing earlier. Petroleum will already be too expensive in a few decades.

      I think there will be fleets of electric, computer-controlled cars in the CBD's of many major cities in the world within about 20 years, running alongside computer-controlled buses, trains and trams.
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        Apr 5 2011: Yes, in terms of safety and fuel efficiency things will continue to change rapidly. Cars will become more and more computer-controlled for safety. Cars will become less and less dependent on fossil fuels and more and more eco-friendly.
        But in terms of infrastructure and use, I still think things will be slow to change - except maybe that technology will continue to make it more and more possible for us to never leave our homes!! Not a good thing...
    • Apr 5 2011: The thing is the cars will be far more efficient as the driving style will be able to be controlled. Also things like all the cars at a traffic light starting at exactly the same time which, if automated, would be possible will save countless hours in traffic and tons of fuel. This kind of development although driven by safety can improve many of the problems we face with currant transport systems.
  • Apr 1 2011: This is pretty much how I imagine things will be in the future:
    Self-driving, public, zero waste, almost free as in "free beer", and completely free as in "free speech". The 20th century concept that having a car means freedom has been obsolete for a long time. It was a perception-shifting marketing trick (as described in Peter Drucker's "Innovation and Entrepreneurship").

    Having a car nowadays usually means spending a whole lot of money on repair and maintenance just to be able to commute to work everyday. Sometimes, the most expensive technology you can have is one that isn't fully utilized and used. Just like cargo ships, trains, cranes and heavy machinery, cars fit in this category. Not having to own a car also means not having to own a garage, an anti-theft alarm, repair gear, etc. And not having to drive it meaning no need for a license, insurance or countless hours wasted and nerves lost to stress.
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    Apr 1 2011: Then I'll be able to ride my motorcycle with less fear of preoccupied drivers. Looking forward to it!
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    Apr 1 2011: In this future, what would be the purpose of cars as an individual and independent transport system? Maintaining archaic concepts of such transport, even self-driving cars, can hardly form part of a logical futuristic design.

    That is unless the habit of spreading a petroleum-based aggregate surfacing over and above our ground water-tables remains a priority. Lime-based road surfacing hardly improves matters. Recycled tires as a road surfacing option is moving in a better direction but is still off the mark.

    Would flying or hovering cars be any better? How much of the biosphere must humans dominate for transportation?

    Urban dwellers do not need cars. Fill in boulevards, roads and freeways with housing to increase the density utilization of space. Maybe another park or two could be thrown in. Why take up perfectly usable living and growing space to accommodate something like cars? Rural dwellers are exempt of course.
  • Apr 1 2011: Well when you don't have to focus on driving anymore... I guess it'll be easy to install different devices which let you communicate with different people. But then again some people would prefer to catch some sleep or perhaps read a book.
    But it will be a long time before any law will allow this I think.
  • Mar 31 2011: There was an article in Popular Mechanics on this very same topic. I think they were predicting it within 20 years. The article was published around 1960 if my memory serves me correctly.
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    Mar 31 2011: No need to take driving licenses, means driving for anyone ... and maybe more cars
    • Apr 10 2011: here is one more video with car done in freie university berlin (Autonomous lab). You don't need steerings as you can drive with your mind. Really you would not need license, if such car would be reality some day. In video you can also see a gadget and software that was shown in TED. I forgot its name but anyway.