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The numbers say let Robocars exceed the speed limit


I'm often asked whether robocars will keep themselves to the speed limit and refuse to go faster, unlike cruise controls which let the driver set the automated speed. In many countries, the majority of human drivers routinely exceed the limit which could present issues. On the other hand, vendors may fear liability over programming their cars to do this, or even programming them to allow their human overlord to demand it.

While the right answer is a speed-limit doctrine like the French Autoroute, where the limit is 130 kph/80 mph and few disobey it, until we can come to that answer, the math suggests that travel might be overall safer if the robocars are allowed to speed in the same way humans do, at the request of humans. And indeed, that is how prototype implementations have been built.

I felt this subject (and related subjects about how cars should deal with laws that are routinely broken by human drivers) deserved a special article. Read about it at:

Robocars and the Speed Limit


Could you talk a little, or write an article, about robocars for housing.

Currently it's difficult to live in an RV full-time because overnight parking isn't allowed cities. With robocars continuously moving, it becomes possible for many more people to live on the road. Housing's too expensive for young people and poor in many cities and this robocars could help, even in third world slums. Also, you could choose to live with multiple robocars that self-assemble into a big house. There's probably other cool stuff to talk about.

Much obliged
big fan of robocars, robocarFan

I have touched on this topic, including the self-assembling fleet of RVs. That isn't very energy efficient of course, so I doubt it's for those who are so poor as to not own a house. If this caught on as a style of living, then you would see efforts to eliminate free parking for such vehicles. Places like Wal-mart give free RV overnight parking because the RV owners shop at the Wal-Mart but I think there's a limit to that if you start seeing towns.

But you could be right that this could develop before the world reacted negatively to it. Unlike RVs (some towns prohibit living in a vehicle parked on street, or even on your own land) these vehicles can move themselves from any location they can't stay in, though make sure everything is packed away!

There was recently news on this

A datum: here in Arizona, it is legal to drive up to 20mph over the speed limit if it is safe to do so. This is bounded by a state-wide upper limit (I think 75mph).

A comment: you discuss the issue of a car going slower than traffic even at the speed limit. I have read that having all vehicles operating at about the same speed is safer (within reason) that having some cars operate at the speed limit. Speed variation causes many accidents.

BTW... Back in the '90s I lived in France and also drove the Autobahn. At the time, we always drove around France at about 90mph - even on 2 lane roads. Everyone else did too. On the no-speed-limit Autobahn, it was a pretty wild experience. We went 90mph in our microscopic Ford. The right lane seemed to average 55mph or so, so we stayed in the left, except... a lot of folks were going 160-170mph in that lane. So we had to watch way back for flashing head-lights and be ready to duck to the right quickly when we saw them. All of this somehow seemed to work okay.

I look forward to the Three Laws of Robocars. (And Dr. Susan Calvin will figure out why that car made such a bizarre maneuver!)

Though usually when I write about what I call the "first law of robocars" it's a development rule: "You don't change the infrastructure, you improve the car."

However, when it comes to the vehicle code three laws, they are:

  1. Act safely
  2. Do not unfairly impede others
  3. Obey street specific rules (one-way, metering, lights, etc.)

With minimization of what's done for #3.

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