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Kids With Wheels: Should the Unlicensed Be Allowed To 'Drive' Autonomous Cars?

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the ever-heard-of-a-bicycle? dept.

Transportation 437

Hallie Siegel (2973169) writes "From the Open Roboethics Research Initiative: Earlier this month, when we asked people about your general thoughts on autonomous cars, we found that one of the main advantages of autonomous cars is that those who are not licensed to drive will be able to get to places more conveniently. Some results from our reader poll: About half of the participants (52%) said that children under the legal driving age should not be able to ride driverless cars, 38% of the participants believe that children should be able to ride driverless cars alone and the other 10% also think that children should be able to drive autonomous cars with proven technology and specific training."

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no (2, Insightful)

atomicthumbs (824207) | about 4 months ago | (#47095723)

no. the idea of an autonomous vehicle with no possible driver to override it is just plain stupid.

Re:no (5, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about 4 months ago | (#47095747)

no. the idea of an autonomous vehicle with no possible driver to override it is just plain stupid.

The idea of a manually-operated vehicle with no possibility of a more accurate automated system overriding it is just plain stupid.

It all comes down to risk. Obviously today autonomous vehicles aren't ready to take over completely. However, they will steadily improve, and it seems unlikely that human drivers will improve at all. At some point the risk of a computer causing an accident will drop below the risk of a person causing one, and at that point it becomes safer to just not let people interfere with the operation of the vehicle.

Would you consider it wise to give passengers in an airliner the ability to take over in case the pilot makes a mistake? Such a feature is far more likely to cause a disaster than avert one. Once cars get to the point where they can be operated more safely than aircraft (which are already safer than cars are today) then taking control of a car in a crisis will just be getting in the way of the proven driver: the machine.

Re:no (5, Insightful)

sl149q (1537343) | about 4 months ago | (#47095815)

Exactly. By the time this question is germane it will be equivalent of "would you let your kid ride in a taxi without you?".

The long term direction is a far safer driving experience solely based on removing human drivers from all cars. Allowing them to "override" the automated systems just makes them far more dangerous than cars today where at least the norm is drivers who are somewhat used to driving. Letting people who rarely if ever driver override is just a disaster waiting to happen.

Re:no (1)

zwarte piet (1023413) | about 4 months ago | (#47095881)

Russian crash video's will never be the same

Re:no (4, Informative)

msauve (701917) | about 4 months ago | (#47096281)

Russian crash video's what will never be the same?

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096487)

driver splats

Re:no (5, Insightful)

immaterial (1520413) | about 4 months ago | (#47096011)

We already allow kids alone on the streets on foot and on bicycles at parental discretion. As you say, a proper automated vehicle will be safer than a car piloted by an adult human, so it will be far, far safer than a bicycle piloted by a child. I don't see how there's even a question.

Re:no (1)

msauve (701917) | about 4 months ago | (#47096307)

"a proper automated vehicle will be safer than a car piloted by an adult human"

I'll see your straw man, and raise you a spark.

Your preposition is unproven. It may occur at some time in the future, but that remains to be seen.

Re:no (3, Funny)

immaterial (1520413) | about 4 months ago | (#47096429)

Did you think we were discussing all the automated cars on the road right at this moment?

Re:no (0)

epyT-R (613989) | about 4 months ago | (#47096053)

You'd be foolish to give up so much control over your mobility to whoever's in control of the system. They are NOT looking out for your best interests, only theirs.

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096245)

Yeah. While I don't think the concept of self-driving cars is a bad one, it's inevitable that corporations and governments are going to use them to invade people's privacy, use DRM-like nonsense to control what people do and where they can have the car repaired, and generally hide what the car is actually doing. Unless I can see the source code for the software they use, I won't trust these things.

Re:no (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 months ago | (#47096413)

Yeah. While I don't think the concept of self-driving cars is a bad one, it's inevitable that corporations and governments are going to use them to invade people's privacy, use DRM-like nonsense to control what people do and where they can have the car repaired, and generally hide what the car is actually doing. Unless I can see the source code for the software they use, I won't trust these things.

I would just love to see you at an airport.

Re:no (1)

Your.Master (1088569) | about 4 months ago | (#47096409)

People do that every single day:

1. Bus
2. Taxi
3. Airplane (most people are passengers, not drivers)
4. Train
5. Streetcar
6. Subway
7. Carpool
8. Use of public roadways

Why can't passengers fly the plane? (3, Funny)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 4 months ago | (#47095845)

Well, you COULD give every passenger a virtual control stick on a display panel on their back seat, and let democracy fly the plane.

It worked for Twitch Plays Pokémon.

Re:no (4, Interesting)

ADRA (37398) | about 4 months ago | (#47095863)

In my city (Vancouver), trains are basically run automomously under normal circumstances unless there's an interruption, in which case staff at HQ. could manually take control of the vehicles. This is at least somewhat over simplified, as they run on almost entirely isolated railways without much risk of outside risk factors, but a highly advanced car with little more than a GPS (with auto-nav) / stop peddle and an on-star-like communications terminal for emergency stop responses and rescue situations could eventually become a valid and functional road driving system for cities. Even a 'manually driven' option for truly rural areas not covered by the grid could be an option that 'turns off' when entering managed city roads.

I don't see why we couldn't 'have faith' in central city command and control centers which are paid for by road taxpayers to help manage and mitigate risk to public safety. Do you think the added taxes in supporting this would be more or less than the amount lost to accidents/life lost/insurance of a non-managed roadway?

Oh, well, nice dream but I don't see it happening any time soon. Here's hoping I happens before die and..fdsfzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Re:no (2)

epyT-R (613989) | about 4 months ago | (#47096047)

Granting sufficient contextual awareness to free roaming vehicles is too intractable. The computer is clueless about compound cause-effect situations where prevention is better than reaction. You have it backwards. If the automated system can handle 90% of the situational dynamics of driving, you want the human to be able to override it when it's clearly about to get something wrong. I am being 'extremely' generous with that 90% btw.. It's unlikely we'll get that far. computers are faster, but humans have far better intellectual contextual awareness. They can reason preemptively, know what data to filter and what not to (is that a plastic bag or a big rock in the road?), and have an interest in survival, which makes up for their less consistent behavior. The computer is just a complex state machine programmed by cut rate programmers who're not in the car with you taking the risk. If you're concerned about today's shitty drivers, that is what should be dealt with. Your solution just breeds better, more dependent idiots.

Actually, I would. If pilot and copilot are incapacitated, what have the passengers got to lose by trying?

I guess we have different definitions of 'proven'. In the sense of miles driven, humans are the 'proven' machines. We know what the failure rates are, and we know what has to be done to mitigate them (I blame cellphones mainly). The computers on the other hand are 'proven' only in carefully controlled situations, where the human, one who's aware of the internals of the autopilot, can override. Also, they're not secure (they'll be networked wirelessly) and the current status of computer-assist in cars is mediocre at best, and that is only for simplistic control systems (toyota's accelerator for ex). They can't even keep bugs out of the software that drives those console/entertainment systems, so what makes you think the software in more critical systems is any better? These failures are cases of failure to KISS, which a lot of manufacturers for a lot of different things are violating nowadays, leading to unnecessary up front costs and failure rates. 'Safe' to you might be a computer controlled everything robot that makes gross, heuristic assumptions about the reality around it.. 'Safe' to me is a mechanically cabled accelerator, spring-loaded to drop to idle RPM if it breaks, and a human with superior situational awareness capability who cares about his survival behind the wheel. Lets fix the human rather than hobble and distract him with more uselessly complex machines.

Re:no (3, Insightful)

immaterial (1520413) | about 4 months ago | (#47096279)

This is absurd. There is no 'fixing' the human. Driving was already incredibly risky before cellphones (humans are 'proven' to drive terribly, I mean really? Google's automated cars already have a far better record than the average human and the technology is still in its infancy). Humans do not have 360 degree vision or the mental capacity to focus specific attention on dozens of details and separately moving trajectories simultaneously - even if they ARE paying 100% of their attention to the road (which is obviously grossly optimistic).

What if the computer can't tell the difference between a bag and a rock? Then it assumes the highest-risk possibility and takes the appropriate mitigation action with reflexes so quick that it has probably begun before the meatbag in the car even takes note of the bag.

What happens when the perfect driver is checking his side view or rear view mirror right at the moment the rock rolls into the lane in front of him?

Automated systems are never going to be perfect, but I see no reason they can't be far, far more safe than a system guided by a human being.

Re:no (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 4 months ago | (#47096457)

Granting sufficient contextual awareness to free roaming vehicles is too intractable.

That's a pretty bold statement. Human brains can do it, and they're made out of matter. Why wouldn't a computer that is also made out of matter not be able to do the same thing?

I didn't say that it would happen tomorrow. However, at some point computers will surpass humans in driving skill - it seems inevitable to me. It is just a matter of when.

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096261)

So, just so I am clear... When the autonomous vehicle runs someone over because it failed to "see" the person, the CEO of the company making the vehicle as well as the developers go to jail for manslaughter, right? Then I'm fine with it.

Re:no (4, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about 4 months ago | (#47096465)

So, just so I am clear... When the autonomous vehicle runs someone over because it failed to "see" the person, the CEO of the company making the vehicle as well as the developers go to jail for manslaughter, right? Then I'm fine with it.

Sure, as long as when a human runs somebody over we send their parent and every driving instructor they ever had to jail for manslaughter as well.

A CEO who comes up with a car that saves the lives of the 40k people who die every year in the US from car accidents and then fails to save the life of a few odd people is a hero in my book.

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47095749)

The idea of an autonomous vehicle with any override other than "pull over when safe" is just plain stupid.

Re:no (4, Insightful)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about 4 months ago | (#47095751)

no. the idea of an autonomous vehicle with no possible driver to override it is just plain stupid.

The idea of requiring a driver's license to "ride" in an autonomous car is stupid. What's the point if you need to be able to drive?

Re:no (3, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | about 4 months ago | (#47095885)

I think the concern is twofold.

As of yet autonomous vehicles are unproven. It would be nice to have a driver on the wheel just in case. This might not be for emergencies as a person would be reading or whatever and it's dangerous to give him the wheel unprepared and unaware. But we can presume that the computer might just get confused (lets say a construction site) and come to a stop and say "Please, human, guide me here until I can take over again." That's legitimate because the first generation of autonomous vehicles are certainly not going to be perfect.

Second, we don't want kids having free access to autonomous vehicle. 10 year old Johnny is riding in a car with no parents and just cannot resist the urge to take over the controls. 9 year old Amanda just met a really cool adult online that promises her if she goes to this one address, she's getting all the toys she wants.

So maybe not a driver's license, since blind people should have access to this technology after the bugs are worked out, but there should be some regulation.

Re:no (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about 4 months ago | (#47096055)

10 year old Johnny is riding in a car with no parents and just cannot resist the urge to take over the controls.

There is no reason this should even be possible.

9 year old Amanda just met a really cool adult online that promises her if she goes to this one address, she's getting all the toys she wants.

So, exactly the same situation we have today?

Neither of these make any sense when it comes to regulations concerning autonomous cars.

Re:no (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 4 months ago | (#47096231)

i thought on this site at least we were above the 'think of the children' stuff. :(

Re:no (2)

CaptainPinko (753849) | about 4 months ago | (#47096171)

So require a key for override, that way the 9 year old can go to grandma's house but not into a tree. If you need to pay attention and be prepared to intervene at any second then how is this not strictly worse than the current system? It's less convenient than a cab and more expensive than a bus. Pretty useless. And people multi-task with phones and laptops now, what makes you think they'll pay any attention at all when cars drive themselves 99.99% fine on there own?

Re:no (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 4 months ago | (#47096191)

First, unaccompanied children riding in these cars would wait until the cars have proven themselves. I wouldn't support children until it's reached the point that you're dropping the steering wheel.

As for #2, it's easily solved by placing the car into a mode where it only has limited destinations. Worst case, you should readily have records of where the car went and can use that to find the 'cool adult'.

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096341)

Of course. This is why we banned all nine year olds from riding on buses. Oh wait ....

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47095977)

For when things go awry. Much like commercial pilots heavily rely on autopilot but when (not if) things go awry the human can commandeer it to safety.

Re:no (4, Insightful)

ZahrGnosis (66741) | about 4 months ago | (#47095757)

Agreed. If there WERE fully autonomous vehicles (like computer controlled trams in airports are now), it shouldn't matter who drives them. If we get to the point where we trust automobiles to be completely devoid of manual control and override then what difference does it make who's inside?

Until then, no... as long as there are controls or overrides that someone can cause dangerous scenarios then you should have a license. Maybe we can have a different conversation about an "emergency stop" or changing destinations or minor route corrections, but the way the cars are built now allow for pretty complete driving responsibilities, and they should require similar of not identical rules for the drivers.

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47095905)

no. the idea of an autonomous vehicle with no possible driver to override it is just plain stupid.

What's the point then ? An autonomous car means the human doesn't have to drive it.
At this point it becomes inconsequential wether said human is 15 years old or 40 years old or even 90 years old.

If on the other hand by autonomous car we mean a system that "mostly works" except when it doesn't and then you need the human driver to ovveride it, well at that point it's useless don't you think ?

It isn't autonomous if it requires a person. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47095937)

Ergo, the "autonomous cars" of now aren't really what they claim to be, whereas those answering the question as it was given should have imagined far enough ahead to when we would have such cars.

In that future, it makes no sense whatsoever to require an override, although I would like adult drivers to retain the right. It also makes no sense to deny children access to the vehicles under computer control.

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096039)

Have you seen drivers? Not getting rid of them asap is just plain stupid.

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096081)

Yeah, your Little Einstein is going to be enough of a problem when it gets a real license/permit.

please bundle him in earlier, maybe he can make the Darwin Awards this year.

jr

Re:no (1)

hey! (33014) | about 4 months ago | (#47096121)

I'd modify this answer to be: not yet.

At this point we don't understand what the impact of many driverless cars will be. It makes sense *for now* to require a licensed human driver be ready take over the vehicle in case the robotic control begins to conduct the vehicle incorrectly.

Later, as we gain more experience with autonomous vehicles and the systems become both more sophisticated and more proven, we'll reach a point where he have hard, data that proves having a human driver handy doesn't statistically have any benefit. At that point there's no rational reason to require a human driver even be aboard.

Even further down the road, we might even lock human drivers out of control of their vehicles, at least on public thoroughfares. If people want to drive they'll have to do it on closed tracks where they don't endanger anyone.

Re:no (1)

msauve (701917) | about 4 months ago | (#47096259)

The simple solution is to require very significant liability insurance. Or, buy a horse.

Think of it as a train without tracks (1)

aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) | about 4 months ago | (#47096473)

So it's better to have the child driven by a sleepy, irritated or texting parent or, worse, barely legal, sibling? Why not just think of an autonomous car as a trackless train that can take passengers to designated places without worrying about the precise turn by turn navigation? This way, the child would have as much control over the car as a train driver. Put a "brake" or "force stop" button that will park the car in the nearest safe location.

Also, the car AI should already have a built-in restriction against dangerous actions or any actions that violate laws or existing vehiclular regulations. So no driving on the sidewalk, unless absolutely necessary to avoid injury, nor whould the AI "obey" any instructions to "Car, run down that pesky police officer".

Re:no (2)

Richard Elmore (1118249) | about 4 months ago | (#47096497)

It seems pretty clear that there is going to be a transition period where autonomous vehicles will absolutely need to have the ability to let the driver takeover for situations like:

1) Driving in places where you usually are not supposed to due to road work or an accident.
2) Driving in places that no map data is available for yet.
3) Getting a vehicle onto a lift at the repair shop for servicing.
4) Pulling a trailer, this adds an entire new level of difficulty that I suspect autonomous car makers will not tackle in the first wave of vehicles.

Even in the long run it seems like there will be edge cases when you will need to do things that you would typically want the computer to prevent, like:

1) Drive into a lake or river, people do this when launching/recovering boats or when going ice fishing in certain areas.
2) Driving off-road on private property.
3) Intentionally drive into obstacles, I've sometime had to drive my truck through brush to get were I needed to be.

As long as a vehicle has manual overrides to allow for these sort of exceptions then a drivers license should be required.

Well, of course. (5, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 4 months ago | (#47095727)

It's not like the guy sitting in the seat is the actual "driver" of an autonomous car.

And it's not like anyone is actually required to sit in that seat.

Note that if an "autonomous car" that requires someone to sit in the driver's seat and pay attention, you might as well not bother making it autonomous. If I have to pay as much attention as if I were the real driver, I might as well drive it myself, since the act of driving at least helps me keep my attention on the traffic.

Re:Well, of course. (5, Informative)

msobkow (48369) | about 4 months ago | (#47095807)

Oh, by all means, let's have a crying six year old be the sole occupant of a car when it gets in an accident...

Re:Well, of course. (4, Insightful)

immaterial (1520413) | about 4 months ago | (#47095967)

How old does a kid have to be before they can walk to school on their own? How would it be any different in an autonomous car? Leave it up to the parents to determine the independence/maturity level of their own children.

Re:Well, of course. (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 4 months ago | (#47096425)

How old does a kid have to be before they can walk to school on their own? How would it be any different in an autonomous car?

The difference is how far a kid can go in an autonomous car vs walking under their own power.
Even a bike doesn't change the situation all that much, since cars are still several times faster than a child's top speed.

Re:Well, of course. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47095995)

google driverless cars have driven over 300 000 miles without an accident. There isn't many people that go that long without an accident, and this is only gen 1. i would prefer a crying 6 year old in a driverless car, than a drunk in a manually driven car.

Re:Well, of course. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096435)

Actually, some retard managed to hit the google car while it was waiting at a red light. Not that a human driver could have prevented that, not until they equip some decent missiles on it anyway.

Re:Well, of course. (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 4 months ago | (#47096033)

Let's get kids off the lawns of America, and out on the road behind the wheel where they belong!

Re:Well, of course. (2)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 4 months ago | (#47096069)

Oh, by all means, let's have a crying six year old be the sole occupant of a car when it gets in an accident...

Frankly, a crying six year old being the sole occupant of a car involved in an accident is a lot better then a six year old plus a badly injured parent.

Re:Well, of course. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096269)

As opposed to a six-year-old who gets hit by a car when walking or riding a school bus?

And couldn't whoever arranged for the car be contacted more or less instantly and automatically in the case of an incident?

Re:Well, of course. (1)

Karganeth (1017580) | about 4 months ago | (#47096469)

What a great argument. Something going potentially wrong is a great reason to ban that thing outright. That's why they banned six year olds from walking around - they could potentially fall down and serverely harm themselves in the process. LEARN WHEN PRINCIPLES MATTER. You need statistics. Not principles to win your argument.

Re:Well, of course. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47095933)

Manufacturers of the self-driving car should be the ones with the primary liability coming from any "accidents". Driver's Licenses and personal driver's insurance should go the way of the buggy whip. Likely this will also push most all vehicles to being leased rather then owned, most common exceptions possibly being RVs, farm and construction vehicles. After all, the manufacturer will be the "driver" rather than an occupant of the vehicle. This of course after much time in court and changes to laws.

Re:Well, of course. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 months ago | (#47096449)

Lovely. And to think I get the heebie jeebies thinking about On Star.

How is the aluminum foil going to help in this dystopic future?

Re:Well, of course. (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 4 months ago | (#47096461)

right because what I want is a government-mandated autonomous car that I have no control over that I don't own monitoring my every move outside of my own home it's what's best for the masses

20% of fatal accidents involve unlicensed drivers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47095997)

We already let tons of unlicensed drivers on our roads (and I'm not referring to "illegals").

20% of fatal accidents in the US involve an unlicensed driver http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/story?id=118913 [go.com] so it can only make our roads safer if we can put them in even semi-autonomous cars.

Re:Well, of course. (1)

westlake (615356) | about 4 months ago | (#47096219)

It's not like the guy sitting in the seat is the actual "driver" of an autonomous car.

He is the one programming the destination. The one who ultimately decides whether the run is within the car's operational parameters. I don't want to see a young child or an impaired adult making those decisions.

The geek tends to assume that the autonomous car will have complete and accurate situational awareness. That it can plan ahead.

I have my doubts.

I learned to drive on country back roads ---- learning to sweep my eyes right and left watching out for traffic approaching a blind crossroads long before they posed any immediate threat. Learning which roads would be flooded in a heavy rain.

Why this steep narrow cut with an S-curve halfway down had earned its reputation as a suicide hill.

Re:Well, of course. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096299)

Wouldn't those situations be just as dangerous for human drivers who aren't prepared for them? And what makes you think a car would agree to drive at speed into a blind intersection, or over a flooded road, or faster than it can navigate the terrain at-hand? None of those require any exceptional awareness or training or predictive capabilities. I strongly suspect that autonomous cars would outright refuse to drive on any road that wasn't up to its safety standards.

But mostly I think it's irrelevant because the sort of protection you're talking about could all be provided before the journey started; there's a world of difference between requiring a qualified person to set a route and requiring that person to physically attend the trip.

Trains? (5, Insightful)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#47095737)

Should kids be allowed to ride trains/metros all by themselves? Same answer.

Re:Trains? (5, Insightful)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about 4 months ago | (#47095755)

Should kids be allowed to ride trains/metros all by themselves? Same answer.

Trains in Vancouver are driverless and have been that way since their introduction in 1986. Oh the humanity.

Re:Trains? (1)

sl149q (1537343) | about 4 months ago | (#47095821)

Or in Vancouver should they be allowed to ride the Skytrain which are indeed autonomous. No drivers. We do still have drivers in our taxis and buses though.

Re:Trains? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47095911)

Trains and long-haul busses have toilets.
Just sayin'.

The kid needs to be old enough to know to press the "I need to pee" button, or the car needs to be able to understand the verbal command "I need to pee!!!!!"

Re:Trains? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096365)

>> busses

Kisses have toilets now? Weird.

The word you are looking for is buses.

Re:Trains? (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 4 months ago | (#47096063)

Yes, actually, and it's done.

Re:Trains? (1)

alen (225700) | about 4 months ago | (#47096291)

NYC thousands of kids ride the trains to school every day

Robotic chauffeur (4, Interesting)

Jamu (852752) | about 4 months ago | (#47095745)

If the autonomous car is reliable there should be no need for a drivers' license, for the same reason I wouldn't be required to have one if driven by a chauffeur.

Re:Robotic chauffeur (2)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 4 months ago | (#47095851)

If the autonomous car is reliable there should be no need for a drivers' license, for the same reason I wouldn't be required to have one if driven by a chauffeur.

It's even clearer than that, once you consider the bureaucratic and legal implications of it all.

Do you seriously think any manufacturer or government would let a child ride in such an "autonomous car" if it weren't "reliable"? I'm sure before that's the case, any "semi-autonomous car" or whatever will carry strong warnings that it can only be operated by a licensed driver -- and if you don't follow that and let your kid ride in it alone, the company will claim they are not liable. Further, the parents would probably be held liable by law enforcement if anything bad happened -- essentially child endangerment, neglect, negligence, whatever.

Thus, this is an entirely stupid and pointless question. If the car is NOT actually autonomous, there's no way that a kid will be able to "drive," from a legal or liability standpoint. If the car IS autonomous, it will have to be at least as safe as riding with a human parent or whatever (and probably safer), so why should anyone need a license?

Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47095791)

Put a camera in the car so that the helicopter parents can watch their little flower for the entire duration and parents will be putting their toddlers in self-driving cars that autonomously drop them off at the non-custodial parent's house. It is just too convenient for them not to.

Hell, we are going to see autonomous cars with no drivers at all - like home-delivered groceries. Forget amazon's drone PR stunt, we well see autonomous amazon home deliveries before we see drone deliveries.

Doesn't seem like a difficult question (5, Insightful)

quantaman (517394) | about 4 months ago | (#47095803)

Is there a scenario in which the unlicensed will be required to operate the vehicle themselves?

If yes, the unlicensed can't drive.

If no, they can.

For a partially autonomous car requiring occasional driving an unlicensed user obviously can't use it.

For a fully autonomous car there should never be a necessity to drive since an autopilot failure will require a graceful break down mode regardless. Even if there's a manual drive mode an unlicensed user won't be allowed to use it and the car will essentially be broken down on the road.

The only time it comes up is with a partially autonomous car requiring occasional non-driving guidance. Then it's simply a question of whether you design an alternate certification process for the unlicensed and it really depends on the degree of user interaction required.

Re:Doesn't seem like a difficult question (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 4 months ago | (#47095889)

Is there a scenario in which the unlicensed will be required to operate the vehicle themselves?

If yes, the vehicle is NOT autonomous.

Re:Doesn't seem like a difficult question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096343)

If that's the case then vehicles will probably never be autonomous, if by definition they must be 100% always completely unattended under every possible scenario. Even autopilot isn't that comprehensive.

The problem with "autonomous" vehicles is that they will likely never be "fully autonomous", especially by this definition. There may always be some exceptional situation under which the computer either doesn't or can't make the appropriate decision. That is the point at which a person must take control. Given the exceptionality of the circumstances the training and attentiveness of the human "driver" will be a critical factor.

Stop with the ethicism already (3, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | about 4 months ago | (#47095813)

For every Frankenstein pre-emptive handwringing stops, you'll kill a million improvements which will make the world a better place.

Re:Stop with the ethicism already (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 4 months ago | (#47096071)

Better place for whom?

Re:Stop with the ethicism already (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 4 months ago | (#47096455)

Google stockholders. Technicians who fix these autonomous cars. etc.

Would You Leave This Child At Home Alone? (4, Insightful)

kenwd0elq (985465) | about 4 months ago | (#47095853)

The government would jail you for leaving your child at home alone. If your autonomous vehicle is as safe as being at home, then the government should also prevent children from operating such a vehicle. Perhaps the child could be allowed to ride alone only if a parent or guardian programmed the destination....

Or perhaps we need to go back to the 1970's and allow children as much freedom and autonomy as I had when I was eight or ten, when my mother would tell me "Go out and play, and be back before dark."

Re:Would You Leave This Child At Home Alone? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47095879)

> "Go out and play, and be back before dark."

Wow, she sounds like a terrified and scared person. It must have been terrible being ruled by her kind for years. Most parents back then told their kids to "not be back before dark."

Re:Would You Leave This Child At Home Alone? (1)

zwarte piet (1023413) | about 4 months ago | (#47095943)

Would you leave a child in the hand of his biological parents with all the risks involved of abuse, neglect or plain stupidity or would it be better to let certified proffessionals handle raising kids.

Re:Would You Leave This Child At Home Alone? (1)

kenwd0elq (985465) | about 4 months ago | (#47096127)

"Certified professionals" at child rearing tend to do a TERRIBLE job of it. The rarity of the exceptions are remarkable. Abuse and neglect are far more common in boarding schools and government child care facilities. "Child Protective Services" is almost Soviet-like in the inappropriateness of the name. When parents abuse a child, the courts get involved; when CPS abuses children by the dozen, it gets covered up by the government. Here in Sacramento, CA, CPS has been the target of several investigations concerning dead and "missing" children.

However, taking children out of the home and having them reared by "certified professionals" has always been de rigueur among communists, socialists, and leftists of every stripe, so I guess you've made your own position abundantly clear.

Re:Would You Leave This Child At Home Alone? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about 4 months ago | (#47096113)

To be fair, leaving your 8 year old at home alone will get you arrested in many places, while sending your kid outside alone and locking the doors while you leave is perfectly legal.

Re:Would You Leave This Child At Home Alone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096203)

The government would jail you for leaving your child at home alone.

lol

Re:Would You Leave This Child At Home Alone? (1)

kenwd0elq (985465) | about 4 months ago | (#47096355)

I wish it WERE "laugh out loud" funny about this. But read the newspapers; this is all too common. If you're not in the USA, you may have trouble believing this; I _DO_ live here, and I sometimes have trouble believing how far the nation has fallen, and how quickly. This is no longer the nation that I grew up in.

Reminds me of Battlestar Galactica (4, Insightful)

Sasayaki (1096761) | about 4 months ago | (#47095915)

The reimagined Battlestar Galactica copped a lot of (somewhat) deserved flak for its filler episodes, but my favourite episode of the entire series is also one of the more blatant filler episodes ("Scar").

In particular, I loved the scene where it is revealed that Cylon raider-ships also reincarnate, just as their fleshy biological counterparts do. Sharon even spells it out for the characters.

Starbuck: Raiders reincarnate?
Sharon: Makes sense, doesn't it? It takes months for you to train a nugget into an effective Viper pilot. And then they get killed and then you lose your experience, their knowledge, their skill sets. It's gone forever. So, if you could bring them back and put them in a brand new body, wouldn't you do it? 'Cause death then becomes a learning experience.

This is why, I believe, the future will eventually belong to automated drivers. The initial ones are already very good, but there will be holes. There will be headlines like "automated car drives headlong into school, killing 10 of the world's cutest orphans". Human drivers have similar issues and events like that are almost everyday occurrences all around the world. The problem is, as Sharon pointed out, when those drivers die their experience is lost. With an automated system, the skill set improves. Someone discovers that, for example, hey, if a drunk passenger opens the door to a self-driving car at low speed and falls out the system doesn't realise they're gone and blindly drives away.

So the system improves. The car's internal systems track passengers, and if one exits the car, the vehicle will double back and pick them up. Or contact emergency services if the speed is high enough, and form a roadblock so that this person isn't hit again. Or simply lock the doors to begin with. Or any number of more sane actions. The point is: the accident becomes a learning experience. With a human driver, we spend months training people to become drivers. Then one day they make a stupid mistake -- one other drivers have learnt to avoid, but not this driver -- and become a red smear. Their skill set, their experience and training, is lost.

With automated systems, every mistake is an opportunity to grow. I personally believe that automated driving systems are already better than humans, but this massive evolutionary benefit (directly learning from the mistakes of others drivers as though they were that other) ensures that they will continue to improve, whereas human lifespans are finite and so ours will not.

Child Endangerment Plain and Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47095949)

This is just silly. Depending on the laws in your area, you could be jailed for putting a child in a possibly bad situation.

Imagine if there's a breakdown on a hot summer day. An infant or toddler will soon die in a hot autonomous car without someone of responsibility to intervene.

Use your brains, people, instead of getting all giddy about technology.

Not Yet (2)

penguinoid (724646) | about 4 months ago | (#47095957)

First the dirverless cars need to be ridden by people of the general public who can take over if it is necessary. When driverless cars prove to be trustworthy, then it'll make little difference who the "driver" is. All I know is that taxi drivers are going to go the way of the buggy whip makers.

Re:Not Yet (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about 4 months ago | (#47096155)

Humans trying to take over in an "emergency" will end up about as successful as if you started throwing baseballs at random people and yelling "think fast" just before it hits their head. The idea of a human taking over in a fantasy at best.

children "on the road alone" (1)

dltaylor (7510) | about 4 months ago | (#47095965)

Anyone who responded postively to that idea should be neutered immediately.

Unaccompanied minors (4, Insightful)

szemeredy (672540) | about 4 months ago | (#47095999)

There are three broad topics that I feel need to be addressed before allowing minors to ride around unaccompanied in automated vehicles:

Liability: Who is responsible for the safety of an unaccompanied minor in the event of an accident or vehicle malfunction, especially if the vehicle is a long distance from home? More importantly, who will be willing to accept that kind of liability and at what cost?

Capacity: Is there enough room on our roads and in our parking lots to accommodate children riding around in their own personal vehicles? Will the efficiencies of automated vehicle traffic be enough to overcome an overall increase in vehicle traffic? How much will associated expansion projects cost? Can we afford to pay for them?

Energy: Can we afford the increase in energy consumption associated with increasing vehicle traffic at a time when the capacity of available energy reserves is questionable and energy policy is all over the place?

Missed The Point (2)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 4 months ago | (#47096029)

An autonomous car should not allow human input. It should come to a stop if the controls fail and remain stopped until help arrives. This is perfect for getting kids to school and picking them up from school as well. We might even be able to eliminate school buss drivers.

In a perfect world... (1)

westlake (615356) | about 4 months ago | (#47096329)

An autonomous car should not allow human input. It should come to a stop if the controls fail and remain stopped until help arrives

IF it is safe to stop here.

IF help arrives in time AND IF the kids remain in the car until it does.

Re:Missed The Point (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 4 months ago | (#47096481)

If your going to go that far why not just implement autonomous (mini) buses. If you do not control it it's not yours.

People who are under the influence (1)

canadiannomad (1745008) | about 4 months ago | (#47096045)

A common thing that people claim is that this will reduce accidents caused by drunk drivers... I would trust my son or daughter to drive more then I would trust myself to drive drunk.. As I would trust a autonomous car to drive us better then either of us.

Now what really concerns me is what if the computer of a driverless car is under the influence of ethanol? :P

Interference? (1)

Moof123 (1292134) | about 4 months ago | (#47096109)

Out of curiosity, when you pack a bunch of these on the road, will their laser systems ever confuse one another? How much power are they using anyway? I have a hard time thinking they can get away with just a few mW. Any fear of blinding pedestrians?

I have just so many low level questions.

Don't use Slashdot polls... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096117)

Wait.... this "Roboethics Research Initiative" (wtf?) is using a Slashdot poll for semi-serious purposes? Aren't you... not supposed to do that?

Absolutely not! (3, Insightful)

kheldan (1460303) | about 4 months ago | (#47096145)

"Should the Unlicensed Be Allowed To 'Drive' Autonomous Cars?" Hell, no! Not any more than non-pilots be allowed to operate aircraft! It'll be decades, if ever, that so-called 'autonomous' cars are actually reliable and tested enough to be trusted to have no qualified driver at the controls, and even then if I had anything to say about it that will still never happen. People should always be properly trained, tested, licensed, and checked periodically for competency if they are to operate any sort of motor vehicle. It's bad enough out on the roads as it is, the last thing we need are people who have no idea how to drive, or more to the point, what to do in an emergency situation.

2 basic issues (2)

Snotnose (212196) | about 4 months ago | (#47096163)

1) If you need to take control it's probably going to be Right Effin Now!!!! If the car is driving itself what are the odds you're paying any attention to the road?
2) If the car has been driving you around for a couple years with no intervention from you, how good a driver do you think you'll be in an emergency?

children?? how about the elderly? (4, Insightful)

romanval (556418) | about 4 months ago | (#47096175)

In the next few decades there'll be plenty of elderly that need to get around: They're a huge part of active society, yet for simple physical reasons (eye-sight or limb coordination issues) many of them can no longer drive, and a lot of them are homeowners that live in the suburbs, far away from public transportation. I'd say that's a much bigger market, especially in the next 30 or 40 years.

Insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096207)

lets assume that cars are completely autonomous and dont require input should you need a licence probably not but its all up to the insurance agency in the end there will most likely be a minimum age requirement.

Personally i am for a licence for autonomous vehicles because then you know that if the car bugs out and crashes by your fault or other party fault you know that the occupant is "mature" enough to know what to do next.

But in the end this question is a non question until all of the users of the road are autonomous (with all users i also mean bycycles, motors and everybody else who is on the driving surface of the road. yes that is including pedestrians)

so in the end a licence is always required.

More nuanced choices would be nice here. (4, Insightful)

infernalC (51228) | about 4 months ago | (#47096263)

I'm a parent of four precocious kids in a small college town in the mountains of NC.

We have taxpayer-funded public transportation here. 12 years old and up are allowed to ride the bus alone (to go to the library, etc). Would I let my 7-year old if he were allowed? No. Would I let him go with his 12-year-old brother who has a way to stay in touch with me? Probably.

I don't think the issue here is automotive safety. A fully-automated car should be safe enough for kids to ride in by themselves, or it shouldn't be on the road. I think the bigger concern is, when is it okay to let your kids out in public without supervision? 72% of the people who said flat out "no" did so because they have the impression that parents should be attached to their children at the hip, or because there was no option for, say, 15 and up. Maybe kids should be able to earn the freedom of being out without their parents with good grades above a certain age, etc. The survey sucked. There should have been an option for unlicensed adolescents but not younger children, etc. Parental consent and discretion should be part of the equation as well. We're the ones responsible for our kids, and with that responsibility should come some discretion on our part.

On a side note, I think autonomous cars will reduce the need for us to go out for non-social things. I mean, aside from losing the ability to pick the best produce, I certainly wouldn't mind telling my car to make a run to the grocery store for me. For me, shopping is just time I'd rather spend with my family.

It's moot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096293)

Autonomous cars do not exist and will not exist for the forseeable future. What Google has doesn't even come close.

A practical autonomous car requires HAL 9000 level of artificial intelligence. It's not even on the radar. These conversations about policy are hugely premature.

Fully autonomous probably not possible (2)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | about 4 months ago | (#47096297)

I was thinking the same thing about the blind and the blind drunk, but the problem is at the start and end points. The car may not know how to get out of a parking garage (scan for exit signs?), and it probably won't know how to find a parking spot in congested metro areas (heuristic search?) so at some point you're going to have to take over.

Self Driving Van Offering Candy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096401)

It really speaks for itself!

Absolutely: It will happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47096463)

When I was growing up, there was a question: Should kids be allowed to use a cell phone?
In general, the answer was: no.
Realize, the question wasn't "Should kids be allowed to use their own cell phone at school?" Nay, this was just whether they were allowed to use a cell phone. And, like cameras (which used film that cost money, and then converting the film into photos required paying a place called a photo developer), using cell phones cost money. So kids rarely got the parental permission to do this at all, and when children did get to operate the equipment, the usage was generally quite limited.

People discussed the idea of the theory of children having their own cell phones. The general consensus was: if cell phone prices actually did drop, then it could be nice for children to have cell phones. Maybe, perhaps. Although, of course, there would be limits. When children exceeded the allowed talk times, there would be penalties, such as confiscation of the phone ("grounding" them from phone usage). As society and technology develops, the idea seemed conceivable.

Although, no way would society be crazy enough to allow children to take a cell phone into a classroom. Such a thing would only be a possible distraction for a student. There's no way that society would ever be crazy enough to start permitting that.

Okay, so those were the attitudes of the late 1980s. Fast forward 25 years. Now a teacher is told that confiscating a cell phone, because the student was violating the teacher's rules about using it in class, is an infringement on the rights of the student and the rights of the parent who wanted to talk to the student (at 11:30am when the student was in class). Expecting that the parent would call the school's office, so that the school's office could send someone to inform the student of an actual emergency, would be too intrusive of a requirement.

Today, people are asking the question about whether a minor should be permitted to be in a vehicle. Over half of the respondents are saying "no". They probably weren't thinking about how nice it would be for little Suzie to be able to get a ride home from Aunt Marie's house, because this enables Suzie to spend more time with other family members (instead of being at home watching TV).

Society absolutely will find some usage cases on why trusted automated transportation of children will be a good and useful thing. To anyone who thinks that society's current discomfort with the idea will safely protect us from implementing that idea in the coming years, I have this to say: Think of the cell phones.

There's absolutely no way that, since the 1980's, we have sufficiently evolved into heeding the advice so that we avoid being doomed to repeat that recent history.

Driving for the Vision Impaired and/or Epileptics (1)

hozozco (856621) | about 4 months ago | (#47096493)

Hi My daughter is legally blind (achromatopisa if you're noisy). In most of the world she is too blind to drive to see - although there are a few states in America where people with achromatopisa can drive (they can own guns, why not let them drive?). I would love her to be able to use an autonomous car one day. My mother is elderly and has developed epilepsy following the removal of a brain tumor. It would open up her world again if she could drive an autonomous car. Mind you - we've got to get the cars working really, really well but I don't see any real reason why this shouldn't happen.

Goes Automatically to Children (1)

CanadianMacFan (1900244) | about 4 months ago | (#47096507)

I like how when mentioning unlicensed people it automatically assumes children. There are adults that don't have a drivers license whether through choice or not. If the car is fully autonomous then I would hope that unlicensed people could use them.
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