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Give 'bots a chance: Driverless cars to be trialled between London and Oxford

Anonymous Coward

The edwardian railway bridge referred to in boot notes is called the Misbourne Viaduct and it crosses the M25 and A413. It is nowhere near J16 of the M40.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Bugger. I used to live nearby, a proper look at the map rather than a 5-second Google for the bootnote confirms it's between J16 and J17 of the M25, not the M40.

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And of course is the one that has been graffitied with the inspired "Give Peas a Chance" for the last umpteen years.

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Anonymous Coward

J4 of the M40 is where all the action is:

Extra kudos for any self-driving car that can successfully negotiate a lap of Handy Cross...

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I do hope they haven't used the M-5 programming manual for the AI coding.

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Exciting.

Considering most drivers on the south-bound M40 are already on auto pilot, it won't affect anyone too much.

I'd be on the front row (to be a passenger) providing that when the door opens you're greeted with a "Welcome to Johnny Cabs".

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Why?

Just why when there is no evidence that these work even in test environments?

What is the motivation? Data can be collected without any autonomous control.

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Re: Why?

What do you mean "no evidence"? Haven't companies been running driverless cars in tests for ages now? Pretty much the only crashes that have happened have been some meatbag's fault.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why?

Just why when there is no evidence that these work even in test environments?

What is the motivation? Data can be collected without any autonomous control.

Oh yes, but there is mucho money to be pocketed from a government grant, and even more by lawyers when it all goes wrong.

From a government perspective, all is peachy: some politician gets to announce something that appears to be forward looking, the Americans have already invented the phrase "collateral damage" to explain away any unfortunate mishaps and they've just snagged almost £10M from the taxpayer to waste on friends.

If you're a cynic, this was pretty much inevitable. The hype had reached a point where someone was bound to take advantage of it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why?

Pretty much the only crashes that have happened have been some meatbag's fault.

That's not quite true, plus the idea of Artificial Intelligence is that it is supposed to take into account a lack of actual intelligence of other road users on account of being normal, fallible human beings...

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Re: Why?

"Haven't companies been running driverless cars in tests for ages now? "

That's true, so far as it goes. Are all those tests publishing their data? If not, then each company/project/test is effectively starting from scratch rather than standing on the shoulders of giants.

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Repainting the text....

Wouldn't it be good if someone did crowd-funding to get the "Give peas a chance" message repainted - it's looking a bit tatty now. Bet the railway company would never give permission let along the risk-assessment for painting over working motorway.

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Re: Repainting the text....

I always read that as a toungue-in-cheek variant of 'Give Peace a Chance" - even got me a t-shirt - amazing what you'll pick up El Reg

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Repainting the text....

sounds like a perfect job for a drone at 3am (with approval I mean...)

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Re: Repainting the text....

"Wouldn't it be good if someone did crowd-funding to get the "Give peas a chance" message repainted - it's looking a bit tatty now."

Speaking of which (or not as the case may be.

Anyone remember the "Good Morning Lemmings" graffitti, painted on the support posts for the elevated section of the A4/M4. You'd have to be on the A4 under the elevated section (or to have come off the east-bound slip road) towards the Chiswick roundabout to have seen it.

Been a while since I was in that area so don't know if it has been overpainted. Always tickled me, thinking of stationary motorists in the morning rushhour, having to endure this message !!

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Re: Repainting the text....

"sounds like a perfect job for a drone at 3am"

Or one of those: those.

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Re: Repainting the text....

Near where I live, the railway bridge next to Tolworth Station (and above the A240 Kingston Road) had a graffito that read: "Admit you're bored".

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This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

There's a great deal

UK road users are expected to take the risks of "live experimentation", government shell out a few million quid of taxpayer's cash, and bend over backwards to make the law accommodating. And then, if anything comes of it. the software will be bought by a deep-pocketed overseas investor, the rights registered in a low tax location, and all software development offshored. And that's a big "if", given the vast amounts either already invested, or committed by Google, Tesla, Intel, GM, Ford, Toyota et al.

Some may also wonder why the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority are piffling around with self driving cars. Perhaps they'd be be better off doing some serious work to provide us with cheap and secure electrical power?

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Re: There's a great deal

> why the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority are piffling around with self driving cars.

Because Mr. Fusion told them to.

... and also because it is the best way to make other motorists keep their distance. What would you do when you see the car in front has stickers on it saying "Self-driving test vehicle" and "sponsored by the UKAEA" ?

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Re: There's a great deal

'Some may also wonder why the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority are piffling around with self driving cars.'

Thinks to self, now why would people responsible for radioactive material want a driver less car....

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Re: There's a great deal

"Some may also wonder why the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority are piffling around with self driving cars. "

Are they, perchance, electric? I don't think we'll be able to replace ICE vehicles with electric ones without some involvement from the UKAEA. All those spiffing facebook posts "This is the first day we did without coal!" and "UK powered by renewables alone for 24hrs" seem to conveniently forget the amount of hydrocarbons burned daily on the UK road network, and the quantity of electrons that will be required to replace them.

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Re: There's a great deal

Some may also wonder why the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority are piffling around with self driving cars

I'm more astonished at the involvement of Nominet ...

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Re: There's a great deal

I don't think we'll be able to replace ICE vehicles with electric ones without some involvement from the UKAEA.

Probably true. But the required involvement from UKAEA is in the electricity generation sector, not having them waste their time and my money dabbling in cars.

Even then, the problems at Westinghouse, and the unfeasibly expensive Hinkley Point suggest that civil nuclear power - as currently practiced - will never be an affordable energy source.

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Re: There's a great deal

'Some may also wonder why the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority are piffling around with self driving cars. Perhaps they'd be be better off doing some serious work to provide us with cheap and secure electrical power?'

With us falling out of Euratom as a side-effect of Brexit, we won't be partners in ITER and many of the jobs at Culham will go overseas - perhaps UKAEA is going to set up a minicab business?

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Re: There's a great deal

"UK powered by renewables alone for 24hrs"

Can you give a ref. to this ?? I know we managed without coal for 24hrs. but we do have plenty of natural gas stations - it also depends on whether you call nuclear 'renewable'.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There's a great deal

"Can you give a ref. to this ??"

Sure, its happened more than once. The first time I remember this happening was -> https://www.ecotricity.co.uk/news/news-archive/2014/why-nothing-happened

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Re: There's a great deal

It was "NO COAL", not "NO FOSSIL FUELS".

Gas is a fossil fuel, as (technically), is Uranium.

A cynic would claim that the only reason this happened, is because we have had a very mild winter, and the government bribed more big energy using companies to shut down than was actually needed; giving us a mild energy surplus, instead of a fairly hefty deficit.

UK reserves this winter, were between 0.1% and MINUS 20%, depending who you believe; either figure is a long, long way short of the recommended 20%.

I havent checked, but it wouldnt surprise me to find the current UK supply capacity is lower than it was during the power cuts and strikes of the 1970's.

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Re: There's a great deal

"What would you do when you see the car in front has stickers on it saying "Self-driving test vehicle" and "sponsored by the UKAEA" ?"

I would want to know what's in the boot...

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Mushroom

Re: There's a great deal

"Thinks to self, now why would people responsible for radioactive material want a driver less car...."

Based on the recent information that they were driving plutonium around in the back of a car with no escorts, not even a co-driver, back in the day, then yes, I can see why.

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Re: There's a great deal

"I'm more astonished at the involvement of Nominet ..."

Well, all these Internet of Transport (IoT) devices will need a web address.

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Re: There's a great deal

Gas is a fossil fuel, as (technically), is Uranium.

So from which fossilised dead organism(s) does Uranium ore come?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There's a great deal

Even then, the problems at Westinghouse, and the unfeasibly expensive Hinkley Point suggest that civil nuclear power - as currently practiced - will never be an affordable energy source.

Oh, but the current approach IS being revised. The problem is that it is not happening here, but in China.

The benefit of state control is that they can do things more long term. While nuclear energy in the West is still in the hands of those getting fat off selling reactors and then cashing in handily for decades on handling the resulting waste, the Chinese started a couple of years ago with looking at what Thorium could deliver - ironically something that some people have been trying to get going for ages in the US. Thorium happens to be a byproduct of rare earth metal mining, and they stopped exporting the raw material quite a while back for exactly that reason: power (combined with fighting a major pollution issue).

Meanwhile, idiots like Trump are restarting coal driven power to win a couple of votes..

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Re: There's a great deal

"Some may also wonder why the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority are piffling around with self driving cars."

The tiny number of nuclear plants that may eventually get built some time in the distant future are a mix of French and Chinese, while Trident is essentially American. In the absence of any UK involvement in actual nuclear stuff, I guess taking up cars as a hobby at least gives them something to do.

@Ian Emery:

"Gas is a fossil fuel, as (technically), is Uranium."

No, fossil fuels are the remains of living organisms, uranium is just an element. It's not a simple dichotomy between fossil fuels and renewables, it's entirely possible for an energy source to be neither.

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Devil

Re: There's a great deal

So from which fossilised dead organism(s) does Uranium ore come?

Dinosaur politicians? After all, their toxic effect long outlives their actual usefulness..

(I was going to add the joke icon but decided that the spawn of satan was more appropriate)

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Mushroom

Re: There's a great deal

Fast breeder reactors that use uranium are, by all intents and purposes, renewable. Brush up on your differential equations and eat this:-

http://large.stanford.edu/publications/coal/references/docs/pad11983cohen.pdf

p.s. United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority cars. Do they look like this:-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_Pursuit_Vehicle#/media/File:SCARLETSPV.jpg

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Headmaster

Re: There's a great deal

Gas is a fossil fuel, as (technically), is Uranium.

Yes, the word "fossil" literally means "something dug up", and isn't limited to decayed animals and plants entrapped in rock ... but calling Uranium a fossil fuel seems to be taking "technically" a step too far!

... and surely you drill for oil and gas, rather than dig, so "technically" perhaps they're not fossil fuels?

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Re: There's a great deal

"Fast breeder reactors that use uranium are, by all intents and purposes, renewable"

But I don't suppose any were generating electricity on the day in question

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Anonymous Coward

how exactly are they different to the other offerings?

“No company, group or consortium of autonomy experts has ever attempted what Driven is planning over the next 30 months,” It was a bit light on detail. They're autonomous.... so are Waymo (Google's) cars... so what exactly is new here that hasn't been attempted? The UK bit??

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Re: how exactly are they different to the other offerings?

"so what exactly is new here that hasn't been attempted? The UK bit??"

Driving on the wrong left side of the road?

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Re: how exactly are they different to the other offerings?

"so what exactly is new here that hasn't been attempted"

The speed, according to the BBC.

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"Public roads and even motorways"....?

This suggests that Motorways are a problem. Can't see it myself - they're the most regulated road a driverless car is likely to find itself on. Compared to an urban street, the CAR-O-TRON using a motorway will never encounter a parked car half on the pavement, dopey mums pushing a pushchair out into traffic first and looking later, people who think a speed ramp is automatically a zebra crossing or a DHL driver parking in the middle of a box junction to save walking 20ft to deliver a parcel.

Plus the driving can't be any worse than the usual occupants of the M40 on a weekday morning.

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Anonymous Coward

This suggests that Motorways are a problem..

Oh, they are for the greenies. I fear this will be a Ken Livingstone War-on-Cars-as-long-as-they're-not-my-taxis v2: I suspect that the "support" for this trial wil come in the form of another reserved lane now lost to regular traffic.

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Anonymous Coward

"Public roads and even motorways"....?

If the author had listened to the Oxbotica person on the Today program (or perhaps read more than the summary paragraph on the press release) then they'd know the reason why they are avoiding motorways is because comparatively speaking automated driving on a motorway is pretty simple - they want to demonstrate/learn from driving through more challenging environments

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Anonymous Coward

I'd be very interested to know what trials have been done under "laboratory conditions" before self driving cars are allowed on UK roads. I'd hazard a guess that this is actually a lot more tricky than autonomous driving in the US. In no particular order, some of the hazards which will be encountered more frequently in the UK than in (say) California are:-

Pedestrians (There are no jay walking laws here)

Cyclists (You'll see cyclists on more main roads here than in large parts of the US, mixing with traffic. Some of us may even be obeying road traffic laws...)

Bad weather (No need to say more...)

Horses and other unusual (but completely legal) road users. (In the last year I've encountered a steam* wagon** and a steam* roller)

*steam, as in "water made very hot by the heat of burning coal".

**A Sentinel something or other...

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Anonymous Coward

Relax - the AI algorithms have been trained up by hundreds of hours of simulated driving in Grand Theft Auto.

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That's fine, if they make a ROBOCAR-ONLY lane I'll just lash something up with a Raspberry Pi, an old VGA webcam taped to the roof, a few servos and elastic bands to drive the steering wheel and accelerator. Just needs a little screen constantly scrolling through some javascript code (green on black, natch) that I've robbed off some Web Development For Dummies site, circa 2003.

Obvs it doesn't have to work, I'd actually drive the thing, but it needs to look good in case the cops pull me over for being a fleshy human in the OVERLORD LANE.

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Most weeks I encounter horses on the roads, sometimes as a special overtaking bonus challenge in the form of horse and trap, they would definitely be the worst case scenario for driverless car as, in addition to needing to go past them far slower and wider than a cycle as horses can easily spook, ideally want to have "dialogue" (gestures / expressions) with rider & with vehicles coming opposite way as lots of "negotiation" to sort out who goes when as usually involves you passing with a large proportion of your car in the oncoming traffic lane.

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automated driving on a motorway is pretty simple

Indeed. As, as a bonus, they can work out how to network the sensors of separate cars effictively and safely (does that cars sensor readings look wildly different from everyone elses? Ignore it as it's either faulty or pwned. If no other cars around other than that one, rely on your own sensors).

It always struck me that networking sensors on the cars themselves (and a number of static installations) was sensible as long as the process was robust, as crack-proof as possible[1] and reliable.

[1] With the current Idiocy Of Things manufacturers, the phrase "fat chance" springs to mind.

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"horse and trap, they would definitely be the worst case scenario for driverless car"

It'd not surprise me in the least to find that none of the devs have considered this scenario yet and the default action would be to treat it as a slow moving vehicle and just sit behind it until either it or the car turns off.

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