Government and Transport Technology

Further to Spartacus’ rant the other day about the pathway to the elimination of cash, consider the evolution of self driving cars.

Lets us not fool ourselves. Self driving cars are coming.  Don’t believe Spartacus. Listen to Bob Lutz, a former vice chairman and head of product development at General Motors and also former senior executive with Ford, Chrysler, BMW and Opel. According to Mr Lutz:

The end state will be the fully autonomous module with no capability for the driver to exercise command. You will call for it, it will arrive at your location, you’ll get in, input your destination and go to the freeway.

We are not there yet, but it is not a matter of technology.  The technology is pretty much here already.  What is not yet developed is the social and regulatory architecture.

Consider for example a car hurtling along when a young child runs out in front. There is not sufficient time or space for the car to stop and its only options are either to hit the child or to swerve away and hit another car killing its occupants. What should the driver do?

With a human driver, given the limited time to decide, the driver will revert to instinct or reflex and the outcome would have a randomness to it.  But with self driving cars, the car’s computer would be programmed to make pre-determined assessments. The car’s response could be random or the car’s response would be to preserve other drivers on the road or to preserve the child.  The self driving car’s computer may even have an algorithm that estimates the age of the “road runner” and may have different options depending on the age of runner.  These decisions would need to be decided and coded in advance. And the legislative and insurance architecture would need to be in sync.

But consider if all the cars on the road were self driving. In the scenario above, the car could swerve away from the child and the other car will synchronously swerve away too, thus protecting everyone. But that synchronization could only happen if both cars are self driving.

And so it will be argued that it is safer for everyone if no-one drives and so for this and other reasons governments will outlaw human driving. Fewer accidents. Less traffic because of speed and navigation optimisation across cars.

So now with every single payment and receipt being tracked and logged because of the elimination of cash, most every single movement will be tracked and logged also. And in a bonus, because the transport will have to be paid for, the payment for the movement will also be tracked and logged.

Now there are clearly some pluses to this. No more traffic fines. No more parking fines. No more parking meters. But don’t think for a second that state and local governments will re-engineer themselves for a lower tax revenue life. Perhaps they will start selling your movement data.

But the big state is about to get even bigger.  All in the name of consumer outcomes.

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43 Responses to Government and Transport Technology

  1. 1735099

    Given that travelling in a motor vehicle is the most dangerous activity that most people are routinely exposed to, an increase in taxation to cover the necessary infrastructure would be a very small price to pay.

  2. pbw

    Car buyers are a very tough market to sway. I think there will be insurmountable resistance to taking away one of the last liberties.

  3. OneWorldGovernment

    But who will think of the ‘car-jackers’.

  4. Bruce of Newcastle

    There’s actually two issues here. One is the coming of fully driverless cars. That is likely. Second is the model which is adopted. That can be characterized by this statement:

    You will call for it, it will arrive at your location, you’ll get in, input your destination and go to the freeway.

    This has nothing to do with driverless cars. Indeed you can get exactly the same service now a number of ways. And that is the issue. Despite Uber and taxis people like having a car. That is freedom, and prestige.

    So the question isn’t about driverless cars at all. It really is about the statist model versus the libertarian model. State controlled or individual choice.

    I bet the individual model will win. People love their cars.

    And they hate waiting for a slow arriving state controlled vehicle which has been chundered all over by the last occupant who has left soiled underpants and used needles on floor.

    It’s really easy when you think logically about this a little.

  5. Roger

    Car buyers are a very tough market to sway. I think there will be insurmountable resistance to taking away one of the last liberties.

    So the leisurely Sunday drive to nowhere in particular will no longer be possible, except for the very wealthy.

    No thanks.

    And what about the prospect of hacking?

  6. A Lurker

    Self-driving cars? Hmmm.
    Such a good way for the State to eliminate troublesome citizens – just blame the techology if a vehicle suddenly and violently veers at high speed into a tree or a wall. Or it stops suddenly, locks doors and windows, trapping the occupants until they are removed by enforcers from the State.

  7. struth

    I think this is another inner city, inexperienced in the real world of driving , brought about technology.

    This will never work in Australia on country roads……………….NEVER.

    From pot holed undulating surfaces, to trees down and caravanners speeding up on the fast lane, to towing things, roadwork night lights and directions given poorly by stop and go people, the odd roo or cow, slippery cowshit to oil patches, an understanding of heat and tyres, being blinked around by a road train, etc etc etc etc.

    Maybe one day they may be used around inner cities as taxis.
    Other than that, they’ll be as popular as an STD.
    But lets just stick with poor quality roads and weather

  8. struth

    These things are only considered viable by people from inner cities and the CEO’s of the manufacturers trying to push the product, and to do it via Corporatism.
    That is , to get the governments to legislate for it’s introduction.
    Lives won’t matter.

  9. How will this scheme accommodate those who need to tow caravans, boats, horse floats, trailers etc?

    How will this scheme accommodate trades vehicles, delivery vehicles, heavy transport?

    How will this scheme accommodate motorcyclists?

    How will this scheme accommodate those who go off-road for camping, fishing, hunting etc.

    How will this scheme accommodate the carrying of goods, babies, disabled, short distance trips etc?

    How will this scheme accommodate rural folk?

    Every one of these situations will call for human controlled vehicles amongst autonomous vehicles.

  10. duncanm

    how do I get a self-driver across the Simpson ?

  11. John Michelmore

    I can just see it now, computer driven cars relying on a satellite nav system controlled by another country. This would mean that any hiccough in satellite system, a war dictating that the system will be shutdown/destroyed or modified would mean absolute transport kaos. Besides the state will never be able to afford to run this kind of system by owning the cars. It will burn money. Hate to think what happens when there are bushfires and floods! I guess 4 wheel drives in the bush might need exemptions,or be banned.

  12. JohnA

    Driverless cars (and trucks, and everything else on the roads) are as likely as the paperless office.

    Try to imagine the swerving to avoid a child scenario with some barriers at the side (gutters and street furniture, footpaths, buildings, freeway walls) and then figure out how the on-board computers will handle the situation of “nowhere to go.” The end result will be a massive pile-up of every car in the vicinity plus a lot to the rear.

    And if you want to imagine prevention as a society strategy, then you are saying that the child’s will is to be overridden by society’s will, and s/he will be forcibly prevented from placing themselves in danger. Yeah, right!

    Yes, the technology is already available (maybe) BUT human nature being as it is, Bruce’s comments above will win the day.

    Some niche robotic systems will certainly be deployed but the level of State control involved in the entire nation going that way will represent a far worse dystopia than Isaac Asimov ever imagined in his robot worlds.

  13. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    So now with every single payment and receipt being tracked and logged because of the elimination of cash, most every single movement will be tracked and logged also

    “Our records show that that’s the fourth time you’ve been to the bottle shop this week. In the interests of safe drinking, and your health, we won’t take you there again”

  14. struth

    The truth is we have vehicles now with much higher safety levels than the roads they are travelling on, and that is the problem.

    Car manufacturers being pressured by governments to come up with something to take the human error out of driving.

    There is by far greater human correct driving than human error driving.
    The desire to stay alive keeps the driving standard very high, if drivers were measured as machines.
    The daily avoidance of disaster by thousands of drivers around the world hourly, is a testament to it.
    If self driving car manufacturers could produce anything like the performance of the human driver they would be over the moon.
    They can’t and they never will.
    We could bring out statistics on Km driven safely all up around the world and it would be astounding.

    Driverless cars are a sideshow for government trying to make the narrative about human error when it is actually about government negligence.

    Our roads are infrastructure.
    They are unforgiving goat tracks in Australia.

    The slightest mistake, after years of driving safely in terrible conditions, far better than a driverless car would have coped, can see you dead.
    Our roads give us death and disaster.
    There is no room for the smallest mistake.
    It’s hard to have a head on when driving on a dual lane carriageway, something by now should have been the case on all our major intra and interstate highways.

    Australia is fucked.
    Let’s not talk about driverless cars, it’s pure fantasy in this country.
    Let’s kick the government’s arse hard and without let up over it’s criminal negligence with this infrastructure.

  15. Roger

    Barnaby Joyce contemplating removing remaining tariff on overseas manufactured vehicles – after all, there’s no local industry to protect anymore – to make them (slightly) more affordable for people presently driving older cars with negligible modern safety features.

    I suppose the peons should be thankful for small mercies from their masters.

  16. Stimpson J. Cat

    But consider if all the cars on the road were self driving. In the scenario above, the car could swerve away from the child and the other car will synchronously swerve away too, thus protecting everyone. But that synchronization could only happen if both cars are self driving.

    This is a f$cking fantasy.
    A. I. is not smart enough or fast enough.
    Think of how many variables are involved in ONE car swerving away from a child.
    Now multiple it outwards.

    Again, the only thing we will get is sex robots.
    Everyone knows this.

  17. nemkat

    A couple of sex robots with a sunny disposition would be enough for me to forget about owning a car and being bled white for the privilege.

  18. Boambee John

    Stimpson

    The other car will swerve to avoid the now approaching first car. In doing so, it will hit the child.

    I have said it before, and now say it again, and expand on it. The government that attempts to ban (or price/regulate off the road) self driven private cars, trucks, trailers, caravans, etc, will suffer a massive election loss. Should the opposition go to the election with the same promise, both parties will disappear, being replaced by a congeries of independents. They will prove far more effective then the current showers of excrement.

  19. nemkat

    It’s already well underway in Brisbane.
    A network of cycleways and busways is well established, and continuing to be built.
    Suburban streets will be bollarded, vehicle traffic will only be possible on fenced main roads.

  20. Joe

    What a lot of technophobic frightened little cry-babies. Good grief, anyone would think driving is an indispensable skill required by nature.

    Autonomous vehicles will enable CHOICE. The elderly will be able to travel without relying on others. They will have the choice to own, lease or rent – just as we currently have.

    The young will be able to travel without their hormones fouling up the trip. Speeding, anti-social road behaviour will be a thing of the past. Going through RED lights will not happen.

    It’s a good to be looked forward to.

    To those who say it will never happen, I say, well, I don’t say anything to you, because you’re irrelevant. The history of nay-sayers is one of spectacular failure.

  21. Dr Faustus

    A state-controlled autonomous driving system is definitely a thing in the future. And, absent some quantum leap in public engineering, it will be just as stable and reliable as the NBN. However the consequences will be more severe than slow downloading of Game of Thrones.

    Government will never participate in determining moral decisions such as who to kill in an accident. The best we can hope for is some sort of political ‘net social gain’ approach.

    Given the huge potential for claims for injury and economic loss – and endless liability disputes between government and autonomous car makers – the state system will come with legislation that removes/restricts redress for citizens mown down by government-controlled systems. All risk will be pushed onto riders in autonomous vehicles and anyone straying into their paths.

    A brave new world.

  22. Joe

    Government will never participate in determining moral decisions such as who to kill in an accident. The best we can hope for is some sort of political ‘net social gain’ approach.

    Rubbish, legislators in the USA are already pushing for autonomous vehicles to PROTECT their occupants FIRST.

  23. Dr Faustus

    I recently picked up a hire car in Frankfurt. Pulling onto the Autobahn, I was startled to find myself wrestling with the steering when I changed lanes without indicating. I pulled over and (after wrestling with the handbook and finding that Fahrerassistenzsystem is a thing) discovered that the Driver Assistance System was attempting to correct/resist my deplorable, illegal manoeuvre.

    Citizens, the technology is here to have your car autonomously dob you into the authorities for all infractions of the road rules – even the most minor and unconscious ones.

    The future includes an automated official download of your driving peccadillo file and a corresponding financial penalty attached to your income tax assessment. Elfinsafety demands no less.

    This will happen.

  24. rich

    Rubbish, legislators in the USA are already pushing for autonomous vehicles to PROTECT their occupants FIRST.

    You may want to re-read Faustus’s prediction again. Basically automated cars will kill people, but neither governments or makers will be liable- occupants and pedestrians will be instead.

    I don’t think it’s a valid prediction but it doesn’t excuse failing to read and going off half-cocked.

  25. rich

    You think big, ponderous, bloated government is scary?

    How about small, efficient, nimble government- which runs a Stasi style police and electronic surveillance state. Every citizen will be tracked from cradle to grave, and the concept of individuality and freedom will be excised.

  26. To those who say it will never happen, I say, well, I don’t say anything to you, because you’re irrelevant. The history of nay-sayers is one of spectacular failure.

    No one has said that it can’t/won’t happen, it’s simply to what extent it will become feasible and practical. Taxis etc will very likely become autonomous.

  27. Dr Faustus

    Rubbish, legislators in the USA are already pushing for autonomous vehicles to PROTECT their occupants FIRST.

    US legislation is still a very long way from allowing fully autonomous vehicles to roam free. The debate on legal liability issues is just getting underway.

  28. Dr Fred Lenin

    Bemused ,the questions you raised are easily fixed by the comrades ,you will not be allowed to tow trailers ,you will get the state transport commisariat to carry things ,there will be no motorbikes,you will not be allowed off road , as short distance transport will be banned ,rural people will stay at home .As Zulu said ,all trips will be monitored and logged in your personal file ,you will be questioned about any dubious ,or politically incorrect trips . Remember citizens. The Benevolent Big Brother is watching over you all.

  29. Ainsley Hayes

    Sorry if I repeat others’ comments but I’m watching the cricket at the SCG and don’t have time. However, this just reeks of bad policy, utopian dreams and future rivers of gold for some.

    Try flagging down an empty driverless car for help or waving at it to slow down or move ahead.

    What about motorcycles, trucks, tractors and pulling a trailer? How about those of us who ride and drive for pleasure?

    Who wants 42.5 t of heavy combination coming at them without a driver? If there is a driver he will be more fatigued and distracted by not doing anything much on a long haul.

    Would you put your young kids in some random hailed vehicle and wave them goodbye as it heads off into traffic to school?

    What if the people before you threw up in there?

    What about the deterioration of skills from generally not driving then being legally forced to take over in a sudden situation?

    What about the vast majority of Australian roads that are and will remain dirt and unmarked?

    Lidar plus radar is starting to produce results but fog etc is still a problem. Volvo still can’t deal with roos.

    If the tech is perfect why don’t we have pilotless planes already? Why are pilots still to blame if plane automation is so much better than them?

    I for one welcome our new mobility surveillance overlords. When I buzz round these droids on my bike like a helicopter pilot in the Top End it will freak them out and they’ll all come to a halt in a cluster as I leave them for dust, hahaha.

  30. rich

    Automated driving is coming. What remains to be seen is how successful the state will be at mandating it.

    And trying to manadate it will create its own competition even if that, in this case, we would be forced to move or leave Australia.

  31. struth

    The future includes an automated official download of your driving peccadillo file and a corresponding financial penalty attached to your income tax assessment. Elfinsafety demands no less.

    This already happens to truck drivers who regularly get their trucks computer “sucked”.

    Steady down Joe, you great big cool dude of fearless future grabbing enthusiasm.

    Us dinosaurs are just pointing out it is a long way off and in countries without the road infrastructure of the quality of the States or autobahns of Europe, like Australia and many South American of African shitholes, it is a very long way off.

    FMD, look at Dr Faustus experience.
    In Australia , most of the white lines are faded or invisible, especially in rain etc.
    The computer won’t know where the next lane begins and it’s ends.
    Self driving cars on goat tracks is akin to plugging your guitar amp into a tree.

  32. JohnA

    Joe #2601326, posted on January 5, 2018, at 12:37 pm

    Government will never participate in determining moral decisions such as who to kill in an accident. The best we can hope for is some sort of political ‘net social gain’ approach.

    Rubbish, legislators in the USA are already pushing for autonomous vehicles to PROTECT their occupants FIRST.

    Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics:
    1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
    3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

    Good luck getting those kinds of laws to work, though. Most of Asimov’s robot stories, short or long, were about how the logic of the laws worked out in complex situations (ie. real life). They usually began with a scenario where something had gone wrong.

  33. manalive

    I see no problem with driverless cars, as long as they are escorted by a gentleman carrying a red flag.
    It will be a sad day when the miserablists ban those beautiful German and Italian sports cars from public roads and the owners are forced to enjoy them on private tracks.

  34. Stimpson J. Cat

    The elderly will be able to travel without relying on others.

    The elderly will all be euthanized long before we get robot cars.

  35. Anthony Park

    Now there are clearly some pluses to this. No more traffic fines. No more parking fines. No more parking meters.

    Also, no more registration, TAC rates will fall dramatically along with deaths and serious injuries. The disabled and those without a licence will have more freedom of mobility.

    Not to mention the large optimization of the economy (less need for carparks, garages, on street parking and trains/trams likely to become obsolete).

    As to the downsides. If the cars are all controlled via WiFi and GPS, then it stands to reason the network will be hacked and passengers killed by cyber-terrorists. However, our current cars do not need to be networked. Self driving cars can signal each other via indicators (like we do) or short range radio.

    If passengers don’t want to use their credit card, anonymous options do exist.

    If passengers are afraid of companies or governments spying on them using the public network, people can privately own a car. Indeed, I suspect off-road enthusiasts will keep private SUVs, motorbikes etc, likely, they will be fitted with autonomous technology for freeway driving… but when you reach the bush, manual driving is activated.

    Lastly, in line with the rise of self driving vehicles we have seen new ‘peacefully anarchist’ technology like BitCoin. Most likely, entrepreneurs who believe in privacy will have a profitable market to sell privacy protecting technology irregardless of what the government or the do-gooders want.

  36. But consider if all the cars on the road were self driving. In the scenario above, the car could swerve away from the child and the other car will synchronously swerve away too, thus protecting everyone. But that synchronization could only happen if both cars are self driving.

    As an example of AI mechanisms, watch the intelligent fast responses by these robot soccer teams.

  37. Chris M

    Lets us not fool ourselves. Self driving cars are coming.

    Sure they are. But to what extent?

    Want to hail a robot taxi, sure but it won’t just pull off to the side of the road next to you it will go searching for the nearest legal parking spot. You feel crook and throw up in the back of robot taxi…. no problem, it is blissfully unaware and tootles off to pick up its next passenger.

    Being all perfectly legal is great but this necessitates everything is slower and more cautious so don’t expect much of an efficiency boost or reduction in traffic jambs. In addition the robot has no empathy so won’t be pausing to let some old chap (or some ducks) cross the road or to let in the merging car that’s been waiting for ages. All robot drivers may work but a blend would likely be messy.

    Probably they will have to force this stuff on us, for our own good.

  38. Boambee John

    Chris M at 1534

    Probably they will have to force this stuff on us, for our own good.

    Given the attachment many Australians have to their cars, this is a recipe for a massive election loss.

  39. Entropy

    Millennials can’t be fagged enough to go get a drivers licence. They don’t care about cars. They care about iPhones.

  40. Entropy

    They will order their car on their subscription app on their iPhone.
    The oldsters who want their own car will long ago be shipped off to the carousel.
    ALL vehicles, delivery, tradies etc will be driverless.

    Just like hardly anyone knows to ride and look after a horse, no one will know how to drive and look after a car.

  41. BT

    1. All the reasons why I stopped using public transport are present. Your safety is less secure.
    2. I live in a semi rural area. The GPS can’t get the speed limits right let alone deal with gazetted roads.
    3. Living in Queensland a lot of the rural roads are one lane of single bitumen. You have to watch for other traffic which often means looking ahead (not straight on the road but robut they are not going to take over.und corners) and then getting half off the road to pass.
    4. I have dogs I trial and therefore are in the car often. Dogs are not allowed on public transport here.
    As a past programmer, anticipating all eventualities or having a database that can be used in all circumstances is not possible. It is why some areas operate best in AI than others. Increase the complexity the possibilities magnify the problems.
    Automated cars may become useful in city areas or on highways that are well defined, but they are not going to take over. The Government has failed to get people to take public transport for many of the reasons expressed above.

  42. Mitch

    If a young child runs in front of a car, autonomous or not, the parents are responsible. Not that they should be held legally so, but they are. We really need to swallow some hard truths and bring personal and parental responsibility back into our culture.

  43. Jonesy

    Really? Futurists just keep dreaming….we should have flying cars by now!!!!

    The hard reality is the grey mass sloshing around in a skull cavity of the most dull of humans is way beyond that of the smartest AI wrt abstract thought. Driving is not linear for all outcomes. Construction industry as opposed to the mining industry. Close the loop with all possible and probable outcomes before even thinking about tge autonomous vehicle.

    Take aviation and, indeed, pilot training. Our asian cousins are showing a worrying trend to allow the automatics to do everything. When something comes out of left field…like a certain 777 that required a visual approach and manual landing resulted in landing short at a major US airport. We call them Children of the Magenta Line.

    Our digital prowess doesn’t work too good with open ended outcomes. Build a housing estate from paddock to finished house. Yes, build cars and make machines to build a finished product from components….monkey work but roll a guard from raw aluminium for a one off restoration…

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