Ford traffic jam cruiser, and notes from AUVSI Driverless Car Conference


An update on Robocar News:

Ford, which has already touted the value of robocars, has announced plans to do a traffic-assist autopilot system sometime mid-decade. Ford joins Mercedes, VW/Audi and Cadillac in announcing such systems. Ford's vehicle will also offer automatic parking in perpendicular parking spots. For some time many cars have offered automated parallel parking. Since most people do not find perpendicular parking all that difficult, perhaps their goal here is very tight spaces (though that would require getting out of the car and blocking the rude driver, which I have found out only gets your car vandalized) or possibly parking in a personal garage that is very thin.

AUVSI and Mercedes

On the negative front, Mercedes appears to have backed off their plan to offer a traffic jam assistant in the 2013 S class. Earlier in June I attended the AUVSI "Driverless Car Summit" in Detroit, and Mercedes indicated that while they do have that technology in their F.800 concept car, this is only a prototype. As currently set up, the Mercedes system requires you to touch the wheel every 8 seconds. Honda was promoting this in 2006. Mercedes also showed their "6D" stereo vision based system which demonstrated impressive object tracking. They also claimed it does as well in differing light conditions, which would be a major breakthrough.

Some other notes from the conference:

  • There was effectively universal hate for the term "driverless car." I join the haters, since the car has a driver, but it's a computer. No other term won big support, though.
  • While AUVSI is about unmanned military vehicles, they put on a nicely demilitarized conference, which was good.
  • There were still a lot of fans of DSRC (a car data radio protocol) and V2V communications. Some from that community have now realized they went down the wrong path but a lot had made major career investments and will continue to push it, including inside the government.
  • The NHTSA is doing a research project on how they might regulate safety standards. They have not laid out a strategy but will be looking at sensor quality, low level control system squality, UI for the handoff between manual and self-driving and testing methodology.
  • I liked Mercedes' terms for various modes of self-driving: Feet off, Hands off, Eyes off and Body out. The car companies are aiming at hands off, Google is working on Eyes Off but Body out (which means being so good that the car can operate without anybody in it or without any attention from the occupant) is the true robocar and the long term goal for many but not all projects.
  • Continental showed more about their own cruising system that combines lane-keeping and automatic cruise-control. They now say they have the 10,000 miles of on-road testing needed for the Nevada testing licence, but have not yet decided if they will get one. There is some question is what they are doing requires a licence under the Nevada regulations. (I suspect it does not.) However, they were quizzed as to whether they were testing in Nevada without a licence, which they deny. Continental says their system is built entirely from parts that will be "production parts" as of early 2013.
  • Legal and states panels showed progress but not too much news. States seem to be pleased so far.
  • The National Federation for the Blind showed off their blind driving challenge. They have become keen on building a car which has enough automation for a blind person to operate but still uses the blind driver's skills (such as hearing and thinking) to make the task possible. This is an interesting goal for the feeling of autonomy, but I suspect it is more likely they will just get full-auto cars sooner, and they accept this is likely.


"There was effectively universal hate for the term 'driverless car.' I join the haters ... No other term won big support, though."

What's wrong with the term "self-driving car"?

It sounds like there was discussion about the terms, so apparently people had even more objections to "self-driving car" than "driverless car." What were those objections, then?

About the only thing I can think of is that some people might interpret it as only full "body out" and that "feet off," "hands off," and/or "eyes off" wouldn't count. I think the exact same argument could be made for the term "driverless car," though.

Self-driving car is fine but too long for the public to ever adopt it as the name for the technology. Ditto for driverless car, autonomous vehicle and so on. We might get an acronym like AV or SDC but I was seeking something more compact and meaningful when I went for robocar.

It's a transition term, anyway. Eventually the word will just be "car."

How about "autonomous automobile," which could be shortened to "auto auto"? :)

Actually, since it doesn't seem like many people are using the word "auto" much anymore (at least in the U.S.), that would make a nice single term to use for self-driving cars if people were willing to give it up as a direct synonym for "car" (non-autonomous). Car trade show people would probably balk, though, since they use it in the names of shows like the Detroit Auto Show.

ROTFL. Good one!

This is the only term I hate as much as driverless car. It was the name proposed for the X prize planned in this area but I've been working against it. It isn't something people will want to say either (though a little easier to say than driverless car.)

Sorry it took me so long to get to this.

I wonder why people dislike the term driverless car so much? I like auto auto but overall I share the opinion above that we're going to just end up with the term

"There were still a lot of fans of DSRC (a car data radio protocol) and V2V communications. Some from that community have now realized they went down the wrong path but a lot had made major career investments and will continue to push it, including inside the government"

Interesting, very interesting. Seems we agree on V2V although the Japanese government's announcements as of late make me queasy

*with the term 'car'

Apologies for the typo.

I'm kinda thinking that it should be robocar. Then it's obvious what to call those other vehicles: robobus, robotaxi, robotruck, which all eventually will be shortened as previously mentioned to car, bus, taxi, truck.

However, I'm also obviously geeky and the rest of the public may not like the "robo" prefix.

But, it's short and obvious. What was the dislike for these terms?


I like these terms too. It is obvious what each means.

What is the technological difference among the last three: Hands off, Eyes off and Body out. I'm thinking that as soon as you can do "Hands off", then the "driver" won't be paying much attention, which implies that the car will have to handle "Eyes off" too. In turn "Eyes off" is not much different from "Body out".

Possibly "Hands Off" will have alarms that require the driver to take control quickly, like the vibrating seat in current model cars that warn of a near collision.


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