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Uncle Sam rules on self-driving cars

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"Self-driving cars have remarkable potential to make a significant dent in the $160bn worth of time and gas that Americans lose stuck in traffic every year"

So self-driving cars don't get stuck in traffic like ordinary cars? Are they made of dark matter or something so they can just drive through?

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The Quantum Slipstream Drive is a additional paid feature. The other options are the cars drive trough yards or on sidewalks to make things quicker.

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Anonymous Coward

The idea is if all cars are self driving and chatting to each other, then traffic jams will reduce.

All it takes is some idiots to be too close to each other, so that they are forced to brake instead of slowing down if the traffic decreases in speed and before you know it it, that motorway (freeway) comes to a complete halt.

Add to that, reduced crashes, higher density on a carriageway and the jams soon start dropping.

Of course the flip side....all those that, for whatever reason cannot drive now, may be allowed to have a car. After all, if they are truly self driving, why can't blind people, children, severely physically disabled people all be allowed one?

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Anonymous Coward

>> "Self-driving cars have remarkable potential to make a significant dent in the

>> $160bn worth of time and gas that Americans lose stuck in traffic every year"

> So self-driving cars don't get stuck in traffic like ordinary cars? Are they made

> of dark matter or something so they can just drive through?

At this point, I'm tempted to make a cheap gag at Tesla's expense along the lines of "no, but that doesn't stop them trying to anyway."

But that wouldn't be nice, so I won't do that.

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Of course the flip side....all those that, for whatever reason cannot drive now, may be allowed to have a car. After all, if they are truly self driving, why can't blind people, children, severely physically disabled people all be allowed one?

In most US states there is no law that disallows anyone from buying a car with perhaps the exception of minors who aren't legally allowed to sign a contract but even then I'm sure there are some states who would allow anyone with adequate cash from buying one regardless of age. As to whether they can register it, insure it, or drive it on a public way that's a different story but buying a car in many states is little different from buying a bicycle other than the cost.

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TRT
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No-one...

has commented on their remarkable potential to make a significant dent in each other?

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Anonymous Coward

Think

Please have a really good think about the implications of self-driving cars, and consider scenarios depending on different cost points for the systems.

Because, if you do, I think you'll realize that this is about way more than just person-in-driver's-seat-not-driving.

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Pint

"...$160bn worth of time and gas that Americans lose stuck in traffic every year..."

LaF hand-waved about some ill-defined magic... "The idea is if all cars are self driving and chatting to each other, then traffic jams will reduce."

The immediate effect of self-driving cars failing to park and turn off their engine, is that they head back out on the road, taking up space and consuming fuel. As opposed to being harmlessly parked in the basement.

Advantage, the basement can be used for purposes other than parking cars. Perhaps there might be slightly fewer cars, except rush hour would concentrate the demand.

Disadvantage, these cars are driving around empty to pick-up their next fare. So there are cars moving that are empty. More traffic (not less) and more fuel (not less).

It's basically the same as Manhattan. A sea of yellow cabs, very few with passengers. Road clogged up solid with cars headed somewhere to pick-up their next fare. Taxi cabs (and their self-driving equivalent) are LESS efficient than private cars in terms of road use and fuel.

The initial first order effect is an INCREASE in traffic and an INCREASE in fuel consumption. It's amazing that hardly anybody can think straight on this point.

Secondary magic relying on ill-defined optimizations comes later. Maybe.

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> All it takes is some idiots to be too close to each other, so that they are forced to brake instead of slowing down if the traffic decreases in speed and before you know it it, that motorway (freeway) comes to a complete halt.

On the flipside, all it takes is ~10% of drivers to observe 2 second following distances and drive courteously for those traffic snarlups to dissipate rapidly, so there's a good chance having enough automatons in control of individual vehicles will mean that these kinds of events become rarer.

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Vic

So self-driving cars don't get stuck in traffic like ordinary cars?

Most traffic jams are caused by people doing unbelievably selfish things. Like slowing down to look at a crash on the side of the road. Or fighting to make sure you get into the merge before the guy in the other lane, despite it being his turn if you were to apply "merge in turn" rules.

By doing away with such petty behaviour, traffic jams will be significantly reduced.

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

"Most traffic jams are caused by people doing unbelievably selfish things..."

And here I was thinking it was due to the equivalent of trying to pack 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag.

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Vic

And here I was thinking it was due to the equivalent of trying to pack 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag.

Ultimately it becomes so - but the only reason we've got the 5 pound bag is because some fucknugget insist on driving 10mph below the speed limit in the middle lane. If it weren't for that, we'd have a 15-pound bag...

Vic.

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Happy

Upvote for fucknugget, plenty of uses for it where I work.

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Anonymous Coward

In the UK...

The regulation should be one line:- "Manufacturers of autonomous vehicles should be able to demonstrate their vehicle's full compliance with the Highway Code."

Be interesting to see how some of the parents at my kids school react get when their autonomous car gives way to oncoming traffic rather than playing chicken when the other driver who has right of way. This would of course be followed by the autonomous car refusing to park in an unsafe way blocking half the road on a blind bend, resulting in it finding a parking space approximately the same distance from the school as the child's own house....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: In the UK...

Some of the worst driving I've seen has been around schools. You'd think having their "little darlings" on-board would make them pay attention, but noooooo...

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Re: In the UK...

"Manufacturers of autonomous vehicles should be able to demonstrate their vehicle's full compliance with the Highway Code."

"rather than playing chicken when the other driver who has right of way."

Clearly the need to have a better understanding of the Highway code than you then.

There is no such thing as right of way!

Quote:

"This section should be read by all drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders. The rules in The Highway Code do not give you the right of way in any circumstance, but they advise you when you should give way to others. Always give way if it can help to avoid an incident."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: In the UK...

@A.N Other

That's my experience, too, and it's only been getting worse.

New influx of children at the school opposite... new influx of stupidity in the form of parents.

Shame as some do seem sensible. Shame as the number of sensible is on the decline...

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Re: In the UK...

I work in schools. You are indeed right.

In previous schools, we've actually had to BAN parents from dropping their kids off because they are so dangerous.

They will park on the zig-zags. They will abandon their cars for minutes in the middle of the road to walk their little darlings 100 yards into the school (and then chat with parents, teachers, etc. for ages). They will zoom into the road / playground / driveways if they think they or their children are late. They will go no room for doors opening on what's quite clearly a drop-off area, and will beep and force their way out into the road when they want to go.

At my current school we have even had staff verbally abused for telling parents to slow-down in the driveway (which ONLY goes to the school and has hundreds of pupils being dropped off in it), had taxi drivers get into fist-fights when they are told they aren't to park in the main driveways. Occasionally, a more senior member of staff has to go out and have words but that shouldn't be necessary on a school site, and sometimes even they get abuse (I know we've suspended kids - from a private school - for their parent's behaviour in that regard).

And, I hate to say it, it's the 4x4's that are "safe for my little darlings" that are the worst culprits. Closely followed by sports-car drivers and convertibles. Why you feel the need for speed when dropping off little Johnnie outside his primary school, I can't fathom.

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Re: In the UK...

Err... Autonomous vehicle designers have an awful lot of real world practices to learn.

Never switch on your headlights when visibility is reduced. Sidelights (and yes, I do own a vehicle with real sidelights and trafficators) or parking lights (as our colonial cousins call them) suffice for all driving conditions.

When instructed to self-park, autonomous vehicles should hunt around for a space within 100 metres before placing themselves on the pavement.

Vehicles with four circles on the radiator grille are exempt from traffic laws. Even so, brave it out in chicken run games when you identify the four circles.

Hazardous load warnings on the rear of lorries exist to discourage tailgating. Most tankers on UK roads transport molasses. What's all this tosh about oxygen cylinders, too? Oxygen is just air, innit?

After pulling over for an ambulance or fire tender to pass, appropriate action is to belt along the road after it.

When approaching a light controlled pedestrian crossing (a pelican crossing) on green lights, always place your car half way across. You never know when a car from an alternative universe will be teleported into the gap in front.

Indicator lights (including trafficators), when human operators can be bothered, are used to signal change of direction to other vehicles. Pedestrians and cyclists are totally unaware of their existence and may be ignored.

Overtaking manoeuvres require a 1% speed difference. That's why the middle lane on motorways exists.

So, more seriously, how many of those scenarios are being tested by autonomous car developers?

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Re: In the UK...

"Why you feel the need for speed when dropping off little Johnnie outside his primary school, I can't fathom."

Having dropped off little Johnnie, I might need a blast in the country. A blast in the countryside, in the comfort knowledge that Lee D looks after my sprog.

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Re: In the UK...

Trafficators?

How old are you, exactly?

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Re: In the UK...

"How old are you, exactly?"

None of your business. But a few years younger than the vehicle.

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Def
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FAIL

Re: In the UK...

Some of the worst driving I've seen has been around schools.

In Norway, some of the worst driving I've seen has been around...

...fucking everywhere. People cannot drive for shit up here.

In all fairness, their monumentally vague and totally un-thought-through traffic laws don't help much. But even so... you'd think at least one person would have heard what an indicator is by now.

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Re: In the UK...

"In Norway..."

Try SE Asia. Outside of the the more urbanised countries it's sheer chaos.

People don't indicate because the moment you do, drivers will close the gap to prevent you changing lanes, etc.

But at least you don't have to worry about hitting a moose.

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Pint

Re: In the UK...

@Def

I was thinking of a motorhome holiday in NO one of these days, is it worse in the cities or the rural areas?

Icon: About £7.50 at current rates.

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@Lost all faith... Re: In the UK...

> There is no such thing as right of way!

As I've pointed out in the past, "Right of Way" is defined as the right to "pass and re-pass" across a piece of land, ie you can do it when you want, without needing to ask permission.

The correct term is "Priority", ie who should get to go first.

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Def
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Re: In the UK...

@WraithCadmus

There's not a whole lot of difference on where you are, I don't think.

The things that irritate me the most (in no particular order) are as follows:

Driving in the left or middle lane of the motorway when the middle or right lanes are empty. I swear if there was a road with 17 lanes, Norwegians would still only use the left two lanes. (Overtaking on the right is technically illegal, but anyone who gives you a ticket would have to be a massive hypocrite for not also giving everyone else a ticket for not driving in the right-most lanes - which is also illegal.)

Not indicating at all, indicating halfway through, or indicating after the manoeuvre. Roundabouts are particularly bad here because Norwegian law recommends you indicate left when entering if you're turning left, but it's not mandatory so half the driving instructors say you should indicate, the other half say you shouldn't. As a result hardly anyone does.

Staying with roundabouts for a second: No roundabout exits are marked, so if you don't remember where you're going after you pass the sign warning you about the roundabout, you're fucked.

Incredibly slow driving. 5km under the speed limit isn't unusual. Until there's an opportunity for people to overtake - then you have to speed up as much as possible to limit the ability of anyone behind you to pass. Norwegians love to lead processions. If I could see through the red mist that regularly accompanies my commuting to work, I wouldn't be surprised if they're all wearing clown outfits too.

Part of the insistence on driving slowly could be due to the fact on non-major roads you have to give way to cars pulling out from the right. (I kid you not.) This is one of the more dangerous laws I've ever encountered anywhere. (I believe New Zealand has one that beats it, but that's another story.) So if you're driving on a minor road, anyone could pull right out in front of you without warning. Legally speaking, they have right of way - unless they're pulling out of a car park, private driveway, or they have signs directing them to give way (but you can't see those signs, so you'll never know). In my experience this tends to be more guesswork than actual knowledge as to who has right of way. (Major roads are marked with yellow diamond signs *after* intersections.)

Generally speaking the quality of the roads are pretty terrible and there are hardly any motorways outside of Oslo. (Most Norwegians driving to the far north of the country first drive east to Sweden and then head north.)

With all that said, I totally recommend seeing Norway. The scenery up the west coast is incredible. :) Just don't forget to re-mortgage your house before coming.

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Re: In the UK...

Thanks for the hints! Slow driving I can deal with (being a somewhat timid motorist myself) and I guess if I were in a motorhome I'd probably be tucked in with the lorries anyway going 90 at most.

It's odd you mention priority-from-the-right, as that was a constant source of worry for a Belgian-raised friend, they still have it but just made every junction a give-way, apart from when you get to the really rural bits when you have some old boy with his eyes shut, will in one hand and copy of the Code de la Route in the other...

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Vic

Re: In the UK...

Trafficators?

How old are you, exactly?

I used to have an A30 with trafficators...

Vic.

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Self-driving cars have remarkable potential to make a significant dent...

And that was the best choice of words, was it? Really?

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Welcome to The Register!

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Go

"Last year over 35,000 people were killed in motor vehicle incidents in the US"

That is a horrific statistic that seems to be largely accepted.

Yet every time an autonomous vehicle is involved in an accident it's headline news. This technology can't come soon enough but there'll be a lot more FUD thrown up in its path.

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Re: "Last year over 35,000 people were killed in motor vehicle incidents in the US"

"Last year over 35,000 people were killed in motor vehicle incidents in the US"

"That is a horrific statistic that seems to be largely accepted."

35,000 people die from lung cancer each year.

35,000 people die from liver cirrhosis each year.

35,000 people die in Zimbabwe from TB each year.

A quick google, just for "35,000 deaths" (so not even including all those things with MORE than that), literally pulled out dozens of things that kill exactly as many people each year - and most of those facts only covered, say, the UK (which has significantly less people than the US), and many of them are entirely avoidable (e.g. liver cirrhosis)

Hell, 35,000 elephants are poached in Africa each year and 35,000 people attempt to climb Mt Kilimanjaro each year.

35,000 people each year is honestly NOTHING.

The US has gone from 24 fatalaties per 100m people to less than 1m. It's probably safer to drive now than ever before.

But that doesn't mean it has ANYTHING to do with self-driving cars or that self-driving cars will be any better.

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"autonomous" cars drove less than 1/35000th of the miles

Given the number of miles driven overall compared to the tiny number of miles driven "autonomously" (hint: Telsas are NOT autonomous vehicles, the idiot who died only thought it was) yes it is justified that it makes the news. And considering it forced Tesla to correct some of their poor practices that made it easier to use their vehicles as de facto autonomous cars, it was a good thing it made the news. Probably saved some lives.

People are much more willing to accept deaths they view as accidents, since in a car they at least feel a sense of control (well if they're driving I suppose) That's why they went nuts over 9/11 that only killed as many people as die every month on the roads. That's why many people feel so much stress or even outright fear when flying, even though they are statistically more likely to die in a car crash on the way to the airport.

In the minds of the average person, dying in an autonomous vehicle will be more comparable to dying in a plane crash than dying behind the wheel in a car crash because of that lack of control. They will find such a death much less acceptable, so even when autonomous vehicles eventually reach the point where they are safer than human driven vehicles, that will not be sufficient to gain public acceptance. They will need to be MUCH safer. A minimum of 90% fewer fatalities per mile (across ALL conditions, not just the most favorable ones where autonomous vehicles will be used initially, and where Tesla's "autopilot" only works today)

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Here's hoping ...

Here's hoping that no car manufacturers program in some detection of the test environment in order to change the driving behaviour accordingly. If being tested, drive ever-so carefully, else take more risks.

You know, like we humans do.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Here's hoping ...

Too early to tell, VW haven't brought out their autonomous vehicles yet...

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Re: Here's hoping ...

The only way that will happen is if humans have some control over how their car drives. You know, like being able to root their car so they can tell it to go 10 mph over the speed limit to get them to their destination faster.

I do hope all the people who decry Apple's control freakery don't freak out when they are banned by law from doing stuff like that to "their" car like they do to their PC or Android phone.

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Re: Here's hoping ...

If you root your car, then legal responsibility when it breaks something (or someone) is yours.

Oh, and you'll probably find your insurance has been voided.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Here's hoping ...

My rooted phone doesn't weigh a tonne and it doesn't have to figure out how to position itself in respect of the other phones around it. If I drop it then it's not gonna cause a pile-up or risk the lives of the other phone users around me.

Rooting a phone would have zero effect on its surroundings. Rooting a car would be incredibly selfish but it's inevitable that someone will ignore the potential consequences for all the people around them and try it anyway.

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Re: Here's hoping ...

"root their car so they can tell it to go 10 mph over the speed limit"

That's not much different from the people who get their engine management system remapped to boost the car's performance. However, doing so will void your warranty, and if you don't inform your insurer that you've done it you'll invalidate your cover as well. The corollary would be that anyone rooting or otherwise messing with the behaviour of their autonomous car's systems will find themselves fully liable for anything the car subsequently does, and the manufacturer will be off the hook.

Now, the really interesting thing will be when some enterprising black hat finds a "drive by" (pun not intended) exploit on the car that allows them to modify its firmware - who is going to be liable for what happens next?

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"self-driving systems can be considered a driver"

IANAL, but... This has very interesting implications in the lawsuit-happy climate over here. And by "interesting" I mean pretty calamitous for everyone except those in the legal profession. If the car itself is legally considered a driver, then it could be legally responsible for any accident or injury it causes. Since the car is not legally a "person", then one presumes the owner and the manufacturer become jointly responsible. On one hand, the manufacturer probably wouldn't be held 100% responsible for the same reason that firearms manufacturer Colt isn't (currently) legally responsible for person A using a Colt firearm to kill person B. On the other hand, the car in this scenario is, by definition, capable of autonomous action, something the average firearm is not, and therefore COULD render the manufacturer and vehicle owner fully responsible. The only real argument would be which percentage of responsibility is applied to the owner and which to the manufacturer. And then, of course, there is the probability of "remote control hack/attack" which may or may not be provable in a given situation.

This is something the courts will agonize over for years and the practical upshot for us regular folks who just want to get from point A to B is that a legal quagmire could set this entire process back decades. I sincerely hope to be proven incorrect.

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Re: "self-driving systems can be considered a driver"

"This is something the courts will agonize over for years"

No, the UN has formed a group to address these issues and then formalise global best practice.

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Re: "self-driving systems can be considered a driver"

"This is something the US courts will agonize over for years" in one of those all-too-frequent situations where the only winners are the lawyers.

OK, clarified my comment.

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Re: "self-driving systems can be considered a driver"

If the owner/"driver" doesn't have any control over the car other than giving it a destination, I don't see how they can have any liability for accidents the car gets into. A gun is a TOTALLY different thing, because someone has to load it, point it and pull the trigger, it doesn't do those things itself. It is a dangerous weapon, designed to kill, and leaving it accessible to say your small child who can't realize the consequences of using it leaves one clearly culpable in a way that telling your car "take me to the grocery store" does not.

So in the long run, liability insurance will be provided by the manufacturer, or some sort of "group" policy that covers many cars of the same class that people will pay for one way or another (even if the manufacturer provides it, you still pay for as part of the sales price) There is no way they'll hold individuals responsible for what their car does, any more than you are held responsible for paying credit card charges made by a thief who stole your card number off a merchant's POS system.

There will be a transition though, because autonomous cars aren't going to be introduced able to drive everywhere without human help or the possibility of human intervention. That's where legislation will be needed, to figure out how to handle insurance when the software can only handle certain driving tasks (i.e. expressway) but not everything so the owner must drive at times.

I think it is likely that once insurance companies are able to establish relative losses between autonomous and self driven miles, as autonomous miles get safer and safer relative to self driven, that driving yourself, especially by choice versus being forced to by the car being unable to handle certain conditions (i.e. gravel road in fresh snow) will quickly be priced out by rising premiums.

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Re: "self-driving systems can be considered a driver"

I fail to see what makes you think the UN will be any quicker with their hand wringing than the US court system?

The group may come back with guidelines within 5 years but once they get put in front of every country for discussion ...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "self-driving systems can be considered a driver"

"as autonomous miles get safer and safer relative to self driven"

There's a very big assumption lurking in that statement - why do you think it is a given that the self driving car will necessarily be safer (and hence cheaper to insure) than a human driver?

For competent drivers who drive to the conditions (i.e. within their own stopping distance etc.) most of the risk of an accident is in the hands of any third party who you happen to be sharing the road with - this part of your insurance cost is entirely outside of your control, and will be just as expensive for autonomous cars as it would be for self driven ones. Sure, the autonomous cars have faster reaction times, but as more cars are fitted with auto braking systems (which will probably become mandatory eventually) even that factor will begin to disappear. The risk factor could actually go the other way here, as 3rd party drivers will quickly realise that they can cut up self-driving cars with impunity, but not other human driven ones, and you'd be a fool to think that people won't actually make use of this "feature".

The risk of causing an accident yourself is still on the table, but to win here the self-driving cars will have to become better at reading the road ahead than a human driver - in all possible conditions. This is way beyond the capabilities of current self driving systems, and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future. Being able to really understand what's going on on the road ahead is a lot more than just reading road signs and sensing the road conditions, it's a much more subtle problem. Like seeing a group of small children playing football on the verge, and knowing that if the ball goes towards the road a child may well run out after it. This is heading into the territory of hard AI problems, so there's no reason to think that autonomous cars will crack this aspect of driving quickly, if ever.

So, unless you are a serial traffic offender with a poor insurance record expect autonomous cars to have higher premiums at first, which *may* eventually drop to become comparable to that of the average human driver. Humans with a good safety record probably have many years ahead where they can save money by driving themselves around (both in insurance, and in the cost of the car itself).

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Anonymous Coward

Jeff Zients, director of the National Economic Council, said: "Self-driving cars have remarkable potential to make lots of people's jobs redundant" FTFY

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"....lots of people's jobs redundant"

Yes. At least 140 million worldwide, plus the support industries that rely on them.

The future will have far fewer roadside greasy spoons.

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Meh

Ok, HAL, listen up, I would like you to perform an emergency stop when I strike the dashboard with this 'ere clipboard.

Zzzzzt - Oi!, that bloody well hurt, what are you doing . . . . nooooo!

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"Here I am, Brain the size of a planet and what do they want me to do? Bloody act as a chauffeur, and here I am with a pain in my systemd..."

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