Whistlecars and Robocars: Brad Templeton on really automatic transmissions

In the next decade or two, robot cars will be a regular sight on the roads. That’s the hope of Brad Templeton, who explains in this lecture how self-driving cars may integrate into our existing commuting behavior.

Some terminology: Whistle Cars – Self-driving cars that can ferry themselves to drivers in need of a car at low, safe speeds. Smaller cars will be more viable, as customers will be able to order up a car that fits their needs for that day, rather than bigger vehicles that may be needed across its entire lifecycle.

After a whistlecar putters autonomously to its destination, the person renting the car takes over and drives it at standard highway speeds.

Robocars – Completely autonomous cars that take no user interaction to reach their destination. These must be extremely safe before public perception will shift to allow them on the road.

802.11p – A draft amendment to add a standardized wireless access system to vehicles that would facilitate toll collection, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and even vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, so that robocars might be able to talk to a city network of stoplights and have an awareness of traffic patterns.

Programable bumper stickers – The concept that LCD screens, ePaper, and other programmable display technology will allow rented cars to reflect the personal taste of their drivers. Think desktop wallpaper for cars.

Of course it’s all probably a long ways off—one to two decades might as well be never when it comes to prognostication—but it’s a future that even someone like me, who loves the raw experience of driving, would be happy to take advantage of from time to time. [via Future Current]

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11 Responses to Whistlecars and Robocars: Brad Templeton on really automatic transmissions

  1. Brad Templeton says:

    For those who want to read the materials they are at http://www.templetons.com/brad/robocars/ or just http://robocars.net

  2. technogeek says:

    If you don’t insist the car come to you (and are willing to reserve in advance so a limited number of vehicles can meet the need), some of the car-sharing systems are already approaching whistlecar status.

    I’m currently experimenting with that, trying to live without a car of my own and renting appropriate vehicles as needed… and it sorta-almost works, modulo the activation-energy problem. (IE, if I own a car the incremental cost of driving is minimal and I can hop in the car on impulse, whereas renting — even if it’s actually cheaper over the year — puts the incremental cost at the time of use and makes every trip feel that much more expensive.)

  3. Julian Bond says:

    Programmable bumper stickers? With all the number plate recognition systems round here, I could do with a Programmable Number Plate. ;)

    So where’s the instructable about using an old 12″ LCD and some scotchlite to make an arduino powered number plate?

  4. Anonymous says:

    A trillion here, a trillion there… pretty soon you’re talking about real money!

  5. dainel says:

    I want to replace all our roads with rails.

    All cars will be immediately capable self-driving. There’s no need to wait for technology that can navigate cars on highways safely.

    We can have electric (rail) cars today. Without any need to worry about range and battery capacity.

    Eliminate all traffic jams. There’re billions of hours to be saved from not having to get stuck in traffic every day.

    Nearly all deaths and injuries from traffic accidents will be a thing of the past.

    Many unnecessary jobs will be saved. Bus drivers, taxi drivers, driving instructors, parking attendants, traffic cops, red-light camera makers.

  6. Gomi says:

    Combine the whistlecars and the robocars and you could have something that replaces or augments cabs, car rental and car sharing, all at once.

    1) Cars are randomly positioned or wandering the city. Use herd behavior algorithms with greatest value placed on distance from each other and position within the city limits, with preference weighted towards high traffic areas (which can change depending on time of day). That way, the cars are evenly spread throughout the city, potentially minimizing the distance one is from you.

    2) Cars come when called. Use a central automated dispatch point, accessible through web or voice call. Multiple car services can use the same dispatch system, giving the users a choice of service or a “whoever’s closest” option.

    3a) If you have an account with the car service, paid monthly, you can then drive the car like a car sharing service.

    3b) If you don’t have an account, you can pay a larger single-use fee and drive the car, like a car rental service.

    3c) If you don’t know how to reach your destination, and only need the car for one trip, you pay a per-mile fee and the car will drive you there (using the robocar system), like a taxi cab. It’s slower, but possibly cheaper and more convenient than the rental paradigm of 3b.

    4) When you’re finished with the car, leave it wherever you choose. It will re-enter the whistlecar “herd” and it’ll be back where it started.

  7. Halloween Jack says:

    Is there some sort of phrase or nickname for formerly brilliant scientists who go into their alchemy/AIDS denial/flying car phase?

  8. Scixual says:

    Planes mostly are robot-driven these days, right?

  9. Purly says:

    kookoo crazy nuts.

  10. airship says:

    How about:

    (1) Telecommuting?

    (2) Eliminating traffic jams by rotating working shifts? Or eliminating mandatory ‘show up’ and ‘go home’ times?

    (3) Regular old mass transit systems?

    These have all been discussed at length, and are still just discussions.

  11. Brad Templeton says:

    Replacing roads with rails won’t do that, and aside from being incredibly expensive gives you vehicles that, unless they also have tires, can’t go everywhere until the multi-decade replacement is done. Who wants a vehicle that can’t go to somebody’s house if their street is not converted to rails yet?

    Rails would not eliminate jams or accidents. In fact, by removing the ability to swerve or change lanes, they would make them worse. Who wants to be caught behind the broken down or slow car with no way to change lanes or drive around them?

    Truth is, following lines is already well within the capability of robotic vehicles, so the rails do almost nothing — a slight decrease in rolling resistance in exchange for a huge cost.

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