September 10, 2016

Maybe I shouldn't be putting off buying a new car in the hope that there's about to be a self-driving car.

"In a retrenchment of one of its most ambitious initiatives, Apple has shuttered parts of its self-driving car project and laid off dozens of employees, according to three people briefed on the move who were not allowed to speak about it publicly."

57 comments:

Virgil Hilts said...

Apple just realized to its utter horror that the average car driver (whoops, owner) does not tend to replace his or her vehicle every 12-24 months for the newest version.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper to hire an illegal immigrant to be your chauffeur?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I think the project was doomed once rumors leaked that if you wanted to listen to the radio, you needed to buy special earbuds because they had removed the speakers from the car.

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

"Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper to hire an illegal immigrant to be your chauffeur?"

Why not add chauffeuring to the gardener's list of duties? It seems like he has too much free time w/ his bike riding campaigns, anyway.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Maybe I shouldn't be putting off buying a new car in the hope that there's about to be a self-driving car.

There isn't about to be a self-driving car. There are self-driving cars. They are currently way too limited to be of practical value. That is not about to change.

David Begley said...

Where is consumer demand for this? Engineers cooking up a feature in order to add cost to the car.

Humperdink said...

David Begley asked: "Where is consumer demand for this? Engineers cooking up a feature in order to add cost to the car."

I am with you David. Where is the outcry for this? I can only surmise it's a way to get (us) aging baby boomers out from behind the wheel.

Bob Ellison said...

Apple has always removed devices and interfaces too soon. The floppy drive. The optical drive. The bizarre history of changing charging devices.

Some day, they'll remove the speaker and the microphone from the iPhone. And the keypad, and then the screen. Then you'll have to pay $10k to get the latest iPhone implanted in your brain, and you'll re-up every twelve months.

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

"Where is consumer demand for this? Engineers cooking up a feature in order to add cost to the car."

Folks who spend hours in gridlock everyday may like this. And, I don't think it's too expensive for a lot of newer cars to add this. I think the option on a Tesla only adds two or three grand. I'm not sure how truly self driving that Tesla system is, but if it helps in traffic it's probably worth it. I should ask a friend w/ one if the self driving thing works well.

Curious George said...

"PBandJ_LeDouanier said...
"Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper to hire an illegal immigrant to be your chauffeur?"

Why not add chauffeuring to the gardener's list of duties? It seems like he has too much free time w/ his bike riding campaigns, anyway."

Wow.

cubanbob said...

David Begley said...
Where is consumer demand for this? Engineers cooking up a feature in order to add cost to the car."

Excuse me... the liquor industry and the nascent legalized marijuana industry ought to out in full force pushing this feature. Indeed I for one relish the thought of being able to have a long leisurely dinner with two bottles of wine and no worries about driving home.

traditionalguy said...

What we're gonna need is a Second Amendment reinterpretation adding a penumbra finding of the Right To Drive Your own Car without government override.

iowan2 said...

Were's the demand for this?

Like home computers? A college prof explained to me the individuals owning computers was never going to happen.
Car phones? only the very rich, that could afford them and used them as a status symbol and people like lawyers that could charge the expense off against clients.
Now we have computers in our pocket that makes phone calls.
In agriculture for the last ten years or so, GPS has allowed something called auto swathing that auto drives the tractors, combines, and sprayers. Tons of videos on u tube of 4 year olds planting with $200,000 tractors and $350,000planters (with dads, help)
Talked with a friend about helping me, but I assumed he would be busy with fertilizer application. He said no, GPS went out and parts wouldn't be in until next day. Asked why he didn't just do the driving himself, and he explained that the increased accuracy was so important that with saved money on the front end and increased yields on the back end, losing a productive day was a small cost.

My point is, it is very hard to imagine the future, I dont know about self driving cars, but I know enough not to discount the concept out of hand.

Rusty said...

David Begley said...
Where is consumer demand for this? Engineers cooking up a feature in order to add cost to the car.

There isn't any. To refute PB&Js bold assertion that people in traffic want a self driving car. Let me point out that there isn't gridlock everyday. Also your self driving car wouldn't let you go 60 in a 50 zone to keep up with traffic or take advantage of long gaps in traffic. Your self driving car is programmed to obey the law. Much like electric cars self driving cars are a novelty.

stlcdr said...

Where are personal jet packs on the list?

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

"Let me point out that there isn't gridlock everyday."

This depends where folks live, and where they need to commute to and from for work. There are people who have commutes that include slowing, so called bumper to bumper traffic on the good days, and dead stop grid lock start and stop flows on bad days.

Ideally, a lot of self driving cars will not just make commuting less tedious or stressful for drivers, but it will actually allow more cars to more efficiently move over the existing highways, arterials and side streets. For example, traffic engineer type folks say that each person who is slow to get through traffic signals after the light changes to green are piece by piece adding to congestion, which then builds on itself. If self driving cars could always quickly get up to speed and closely follow the cars in front of them, we could get more capacity on the existing infrastructure, which would be a great cost savings. Until then, can all the slow dopes on the roads hurry up to get through traffic signals and please don't have a huge gap to the car in front of you. Thanks.

Virgil Hilts said...

If we perfect them, won't some types of driving increase dramatically? Imagine, living in Phoenix, crawling into your comfortable sleeping bag in back seat of your car at 9pm on Friday night in July, tell car to take you to your Colorado home 500 miles away (gas cost about $30) and then be right outside your cabin when you awake at 5am. Also, I imagine some impact on those beautiful areas that remain uncrowded and affordable because you can only get to them through a long tedious car ride.

dreams said...

My Honda Civic will be 13 years old in Nov and has over 194,000 miles. Goal over 300,000 miles.

Humperdink said...

dreams said: "My Honda Civic will be 13 years old in Nov and has over 194,000 miles. Goal over 300,000 miles."

My Lexus RX300 just rolled over 321K.

Yancey Ward said...

I still don't think self-driving cars will be more than market niche even 25 years from now. The challenges to wide-spread use are quite daunting and not easily solved. However, I don't think that is why Apple is cutting back- it is likely they realized they were not on the cutting edge were likely to never make money on it.

Big Mike said...

I've been tracking the technical issues in the techie literature. Among the technical issues are (1) not always seeing and recognizing red octagonal signs; (2) not always looking up high enough to spot stop lights; (3) unable to read complicated signs (no right turn on red); (4) not recognizing railroad crossing train warnings unless there's a crossing gate; (5) not always recognizing signs painted on the road surface (arrows, "stop", "no entry", etc.). Among other things.

So not quite ready for prime time.

FullMoon said...

I have seen Google's self driving map car three separate times in my city. Kind of creepy actually, but no accidents reported. Rotating camera on top, guy sitting in passengers seat. A lot of defensive driving involves watching other drivers head motion to anticipate what the idiot intends to do. Self driving cars remove that element and will add a little more excitement, I imagine.



Joe said...

The infrastructure needed for all purpose self-driving cars is massive. Unfortunately, most of the players are concentrating on that market instead of something specific, like freeway rush hour self-driving cars, which is much more realistic and which will offer a huge bang for the buck. Just getting "follow" me type technology working could easily boost commuter traffic speeds and reduce accidents.

BN said...

Self driving cars is merely retrofitting a slightly updated modification to an early 20th century technology. It's not much more than sticking a/c or radio into a car (IMO), as far as real change goes. Still a car, still a road, just a different chauffeur (as already mentioned).

I think a better, more visionary innovation would be to redo the whole "mobile" system overlain on a whole new infrastructure. I think we should create a multi-level computerized system of interconnecting monorails and pods, where individual rider units/pods would interlock and disconnect in trains all according to preprogrammed destinations input by the user/riders, with speeds and directions being all determined by computerized systems, traffic all flowing seamlessly at optimum speeds, connecting and disconnecting as needed to deliver user/riders directly to the doors or even floors of their destinations, all with no human interaction at all other than the initial entry of destination, number of riders, and the target ETA.

A pod would show up at your door at the designated time, you (and your party) get in, you ride awhile, you're there. This is what we would build if starting from scratch right now.

It would, of course, require a massive public infrastructure-building project, as well as new manufacturing, etc., systems. Not sure we're up to it, but I do believe we could be if we wanted to, and it's absolutely possible and would be a much more efficient and safer system than what we have now. And possibly less costly overall.

BN said...

I will correct myself a bit by saying that, yes, the AI involved in self-driving automobiles is indeed the biggest thing about self-driving cars, and an incredible technology advancement that requires way more advanced technology than what I am envisioning.

BN said...

But self-driving cars is just a way to monetize the AI currently being developed as soon as possible. It's not a great or very useful application, except insofar as it advances AI technology.

Rusty said...

"Ideally, a lot of self driving cars will not just make commuting less tedious or stressful for drivers, but it will actually allow more cars to more efficiently move over the existing highways, arterials and side streets. For example, traffic engineer type folks say that each person who is slow to get through traffic signals after the light changes to green are piece by piece adding to congestion, which then builds on itself. If self driving cars could always quickly get up to speed and closely follow the cars in front of them, we could get more capacity on the existing infrastructure, which would be a great cost savings. Until then, can all the slow dopes on the roads hurry up to get through traffic signals and please don't have a huge gap to the car in front of you. Thanks."

Which will never exist as long as self driving cars share the road with non self driving cars, truck and motorcycles. And FWIW I commuted for 20years along a very heavily traveled section of suburban Chicago freeway. It would be very helpful to the flow of trafic if the mensa candidates in the left lane refrained from doing their makeup, fixing breakfast and reading the newspaper.

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

My favorite left lane drivers are the ones planted on roads where two lanes go the same direction. On these roads, they go fast when there are no cars in the right lane, but then when they encounter a car in the right land they slow down and only go a hair faster so they create a rolling road block. Once they finally get by the right lane car, they race up to the next one so they can create another road block.

Maybe it's my fault, maybe they don't understand that I'd like to get around them. I'm not a tailgater, so they may not understand that I'm not maintaining a safe gap because I love following them. In the past I got all European on these folks by turning on my left turn signal, but I'm pretty sure that most folks here interpret that as me being an idiot who doesn't know that the turn signal is on.

Anywho, I was hanging in Couer d'Alene recently, so I've got fresh memories of this phenomena from the drive out there. Nobody was doing their makeup, though.

rehajm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rehajm said...

I'm not sure how truly self driving that Tesla system is, but if it helps in traffic it's probably worth it

I test drove in a Model X with Autopilot which included 70 mph interstate speeds and stop and go traffic. My biggest takeaways were 1- how disconcerting it is to keep your hands off the steering wheel while approaching a curve and waiting for the car to steer itself and 2- the number of times the Tesla rep told me to intervene on behalf of the Autopilot feature- when the car you're following drifts to the edge of the lane, when there's merging traffic into stop and go traffic, when entering a tunnel exit, etc...

I can't yet imagine how the technology will allow for the infinite scenarios of light, precipitation, road conditions, wildlife, etc. and still keep drivers safe, or safer than human beings in charge. I can't yet imagine the lawyers won't put a stop them either.

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

rehajm,

Did you get it? If not how close were you?

I tell myself (and others) that I could never drive a hopped up Prius. I tell myself only tree hugger folks drive electric cars. I know they're quick, but still electric car = lame.

Anywho, a friend recently suggested that my anti-Tesla POV is me trying to talk myself out of something I actually like.

Please tell me that you decided those things are awful.

rehajm said...

Did you get it? If not how close were you?

I have range anxiety! I'm a city dweller, walk to work, etc. so one car easily accommodates the household. The Tesla would easily work 95% of the time for me but it's those few long road trips where I'd have to stop and recharge late on Friday night when I'd rather be home, or an emergency trip when the car needed to charge...whatever else I could panic about...

In a two car household I wouldn't hesitate. The quiet power, the acceleration, the road manners...hmmmm...

tim in vermont said...

My car has driver assist features like cruise control that holds the lane and maintains a set distance behind the car in front of you. It will brake if it thinks you might hit something...

It lets you arrive less tired, but I drove my daughter's ten year old Lexus the other day, and I kind of liked the feeling of being more in touch with the road.

tim in vermont said...

A car that can't deal with extreme cold without wasting its battery on heat and can't deal with mountains except by shortening its range better be cheap.

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

"In a two car household I wouldn't hesitate."

You're no help at all.

I'm have seven cars for myself, though several aren't daily drivers.

tim in vermont said...

Typical rich, connected, Hillary supporter.

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

"A car that can't deal with extreme cold without wasting its battery on heat and can't deal with mountains except by shortening its range better be cheap."

This is the sort of thing I tell myself. The problem is that there are folks who have these cars (including some who have spent close to twice the dough of a maxed out Tesla (i.e. 2x 150) on other cars) and say they love them more than any other car.

Anywho, at least you don't need to wait too long for a headline about a Tesla on fire or one that automatically ran into something.

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

"Typical rich, connected, Hillary supporter."

When DJT is elected he will make big tax cuts for rich folks and then the average folks will get rich because the job creators will decide to start paying employees more dough, rather than continuing to keep more and more of the nation's GDP increases for themselves.

Makes sense to me.

tim in vermont said...

The very rich are doing very well under Obama, and will continue to do well under Hillary. It's the deplorables who are suffering, and will continue to suffer under Hillary. But they deserve it, I am sure you think.

tim in vermont said...

This is the sort of thing I tell myself. The problem is that there are folks who have these cars (including some who have spent close to twice the dough of a maxed out Tesla (i.e. 2x 150) on other cars) and say they love them more than any other car.

If you live in moderate climate, not too hilly, and don't drive too far to work, I suppose they could work. Especially if you can afford to have other cars for when the Tesla can't cut it. Like driving from San Francisco to Aspen.

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

TinV,

Come on! Don't start muddying the waters. Just because I appreciated your comment, you don't need to kneejerk decide that you'll pull the rug out from under me by adding qualifiers.

Sheesh.

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

This thread sucks.

rehajm said...

Like driving from San Francisco to Aspen.

Only 'little people' drive from San Francisco to Aspen (lockjaw)...

Rusty said...


Anywho, a friend recently suggested that my anti-Tesla POV is me trying to talk myself out of something I actually like.

No. You are correct. They're a novelty. It;s a great idea if you are commuting short distances. But as soon as you start to turn on accessories the mileage goes way down. So don't count on driving to your grandmas house.

rehajm said...

You're no help at all.

I'm have seven cars for myself, though several aren't daily drivers.


In that case..It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

Iapetus said...

If the same folks who put the many software bugs in El Capitan's mail app and broke Safari are now working on the Apple car, then I'll pass on the iAuto, thank you.

Rusty said...

C'mon PB&J. Ya get what you give.
While obstensively a non political discussion the mention of Tesla can bring out the worst in people.
I wonder how much of the billions in public money that subsidised Teslas is being used to fund Space X

Bob R said...

I don't think this is a good technology to adopt early if you don't have to. The real hope is that the self-driving car will be there when you really need it. My father-in-law (87) recently lost his license. Devastating. My mother (82) is looking at her friends and knows that it is only a matter of time, but she is doing well so far. (Self-aware enough not to drive at night or drive long trips in traffic.) I think the geriatric market will be the driving force for the driverless car. I wouldn't buy one as a novelty or convenience. It will be a "necessity"soon enough.

mishu said...

I don't understand why these self driving car people go after the low hanging fruit. The farming application is in the right direction. The next would be mining. After that, logistics, like at a port or an intermodal train terminal. Why go after consumer commuting and long haul trucking? There are too many variables.

Mac McConnell said...

Agriculture and any large scale dirt moving construction have been using this tech for at least a decade. But, what car enthusiast doesn't want to drive there cars? It's almost un american.

Bad Lieutenant said...

I would be happy if the damn thing could just drop me off in front of my destination and then go find itself a parking space. If not a legal parking space, then any space that will do until a traffic cop comes along, and then it can move off somewhere else.

Bad Lieutenant said...

That is to say, I would be fine with driving myself as long as I was between point A and point B, then I get out and the car parks or stands by itself. And then of course the car has to come when I call it, pull up to me, then I will get in and drive. Call it self valeting.

Bruce Hayden said...

Apple's problem here was most likely that they didn't have an edge here. Their edge or marketing advantage is their industrial design. And, of course, their maestro there is dead, and he was followed by a gay SJW. they were up against Google, plus all the big auto companies, probably led by Mercedes. IBM might be a contender too. They have no edge in this area, nor in AI. We are talking functionality, and not aesthetics here.

I would like it for one of those places where it might be easiest - long distance freeway driving. Easiest since at least the Interstates were designed to be limited access, which means no stop signs, railroad tracks, etc. We currently are living in rural NW lMT roughly 80-100 miles in four directions to the nearest Walmarts. And have places here, AZ, and CO. They range from 800-1200 miles apart, almost all by fairly wide open Interstates. We are doing a circle tour of all three in a bit, but are flying partially because each of the trips now takes us at least two days of driving. They can all be done in less than a day of continuous driving - but we aren't young enough to even consider it any more (though I do know one guy six months younger than Ann who still does the MT/AZ trip in one 22 hour shot, every couple weeks for half the year). The saved motel rooms would quickly pay for such a system.

One problem with self-driving cars is that they would make living in rural America easier. This would be anathema to the AGW freaks and the liberals trying to get us all to move into shoe boxes packed densely together in urban environments. The guy who has the shooting range in the next town over was helping me plan building my own personal shooting range. It is looking like I am going to need maybe 40 acres or so, unless you back up to the National Forest, which would then require maybe 10 acres. And be outside city limits. Can't do that living in one of those dense urban environments. Plenty of open space here in MT to spread out. It is just that it is sometimes a pain to be two hours from decent (but not great) shopping. Why live though cheek to jowl, if you don't have to? And self driving cars will make it easier.

Bruce Hayden said...

@Mac - to be fair, at least the ag applications tend to be a bit simpler. Mostly just computers using GPS to move vehicles and equipment around fields, where it is fairly straight forward to know where everything is. Mostly not going to have to worry about two tractors colliding in the middle of a field. And the computerized sprinklers I have dealt with mostly just go around in circles. I expect that your earth moving applications are somewhat similar, with some centralized control over the equipment.

The interesting thing here to me is that we are mostly talking fairly autonomous self-driving vehicles. Probably because it is probably going to be easier to implement that way, instead of either building the infrastructure into the highway system, or having the vehicles talk to each other. Some of both are probably going to be here soon. For example, recent strides in local GPS allow essentially sub meter accuracy, which is pkenty close enough for staying on a road. But that will require a lot of transmitters, and the technology is weakest in d nose cities. And with vehicles communicating with each other, how do you prevent lying and hacking? In any case, it may take a decade or two before a critical mass of vehicles can be replaced by ones that can communicate, or can take advantage of local GPS (which is still experimental). Still, I think that it is inevitable. Probably a combination of all three technologies- smart vehicles, precise locationing, and vehicle to vehicle communications. For one thing many of our goods move by truck. More so in Europe. And these technologies will likely make moving such more efficient (and retrofitting it makes economic sense for large trucks).

tim in vermont said...

Self driving lanes could be like commuter rail.

tim in vermont said...

Lay highways over rail right of ways for autonomous trucks. Privately funded, of course.

Smilin' Jack said...

I know they're quick, but still electric car = lame.

Electric car = maximum torque at zero RPM. I don't care if someone who is rapidly imploding into a tiny dot in my rear-view mirror thinks I'm lame.