Robocars: Roadblocks on the way


For part three of my series of Robocars, now consider:

Roadblocks on the way to Robocars

A lot of obstacles must be overcome before Robocars can become reality. Some we can see solutions for, others are as yet unsolved. It's not going to be easy, which is why I believe an Apollo style dedication is necessary.


No doubt robocars would need to report their position to the taxi company. This might deter people from using them fearing people spying on them.

People might also fear the government pressuring the taxi company to reprogram the taxi to deliver a "suspected terrorist" into their hands.

I cannot wait for cars to drive themselves. The scariest thing about driving is other people on the road. I know what I may do, but I never know what other people will do. I also know that I will make mistakes while driving. I can hope that when I do, they'll be uneventful, but I'd much rather trust a tested computer system to drive. I get tired. I get distracted. I get bored.

The robotaxi idea is also very intriguing. My primary vehicle is just for in-town, semi-rural use. Sometimes, I have to travel across a few states. I'd rather use a robotaxi for that, if my self-driving primary vehicle is too small and/or doesn't have the range, and sleep (or read or whatever) on the way. I also love the idea of a car that refuels itself.

I'd rather have a robocar than a flying car. Also, it's more energy efficient and could help America's foreign relations. Bring it on.

I believe the legality for issuing driver's license rests with each of the 50 states. So it would be up the state legislatures and governors to legislate driver's licenses for robotic vehicles. I have a feeling there will be resistance to this on scale similar to that against gay marriage, especially if one state does it and the first accident occurs and a person is killed by a robotic vehicle. However, I think once this is hump is surpassed, it will rapidly catch on.

Also, I think people in America love their cars because of the independence it affords them. In a way, robotic cars will give people more independence: there is no law against drinking and being a passenger.

I think we have to understand that, especially when the technology is new, it will fail and some people will be hurt or killed. If everybody will panic and go nuts when a person is killed by a computer error, it will be tough to deploy this technology, even if thousands are being saved. We must not pretend it won't happen, and instead expect it and be ready for it.

This is why it may happen first not just in the most accepting state, but in a different country.

I find your site very thorough, but I couldn't help but think that another obstacle would be what we now call "wrench heads". Guys who spend their weekends tweaking out a 1960's muscle car will be reluctant to ever give up their "raw power" or "feel of the road" to a robot. A minority of all people, sure, but still one in opposition, I'd bet.

No I do have a section on them. I would not expect them to go away. They probably will do most of their power driving in more rural areas, and not so much on city streets, though.

Indeed, I even expect robocar tinkerers as well.

When robocars are very new, people outside of the robocar would probably appreciate a signal indicating when the car
is driving itself. Seeing a car roll by with no driver could be alarming otherwise. Also if a robocar is pulled over or in an
accident then the external indicator can give police a signal that they need to check for "autonomous car" coverage on the

Though it should be obvious. First of all, the cars will have a grid of sensors and cameras, though safer human driven cars will as well.

But I believe it will be necessary for robocars to be able to make "eye contact" with people. This means they will have either servo-mounted cameras or abstract heads with eyes that "look" at people to inform them that the car has seen them. And even to inform the person that the car has noticed the human looking at the car.

Since humans are very good at noticing eyes that are looking at us, it may very well be a physical eye that spins and looks at you, and blinks when it confirms that you have seen it, even if it is using other sensors to see you. But I think it is also likely that the car will come with longer range cameras that it directs to look at people on the street, so that it can confirm they are people, and judge their facial expressions and eye movements. This camera will probably have an eye on it to show you what's going on.

A special design to make all this clear could make sense.

Dear Brad,

What is left out of most of your présentations and prédictions is that there are a huge amount of people
that love "drivers" cars and that LOVE driving. Your entourage puts them down as old generation crankheads but
I believe you underestimate a huge silent global majority here.
As I love PURE driving I order my new cars always without any driving aid systems whenever possible,and I even
pay extra for it plus I follow all kinds of courses and driving academies to improve my skills.
It is very well possible that robo cars drive better then humans. But what is meant with better and who cares?
Safer maybe but defenitely with less fun.
How are you going to tackle the fun part. It is like having driving and mobility compared with "love making" and reproduction. Yes, there are tons of ways to make better and healthier babies then the traditional way but I am
sure that there is a vast amount of people that wil stick to the traditional way.

Kind regards
Marc van Sprang

ps; I read an article about you in the Dutch NRC Handelsblad.

Nobody is going to stop those who love to drive from driving. However, evidence suggests they are far fewer in number, in particular people who love commuting.

How many times a week do you deliberately take a longer route so you can drive more while on your way to or from work or shopping (not road trips?) For most, the answer is zero.

Take any car lover and move them to Manhattan. It takes them 15 minutes to switch.

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