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Semi-autonomous BMW will ‘fight driver’ to deliver close passes of cyclists

Driverless cars bring up more questions than answers finds ‘Driver Ahead?’ Conference

A recent review of the BMW G32 640iGT 2017 by Honest John reveals that when set to semi-autonomously follow road markings, the car will force drivers to execute close passes of cyclists unless they use their indicator.

Honest John writes: “If the road ahead is clear apart from a solitary cyclist, you do need to signal to overtake him, otherwise the steering wheel will fight you and you could pass him uncomfortably close.”

Never use Tesla Autopilot feature around cyclists, warns robotics expert

The flaw touches upon issues raised at last week’s IAM RoadSmart/RAC Foundation/Pirelli ‘Driver Ahead?’ Conference, at which experts sought to “map a safe route to the driverless car.”

Opening the conference, guest speaker Victoria Coren-Mitchell introduced the concept of “death by code,” and challenged attendees to decide whether deaths caused by a computer were better or worse than those caused by human error.

Professor Neville Stanton, Professor and Chair of Human Factors Engineering at Southampton University pointed out that driverless technology also brings the danger of switching the driver from underload to overload – where he or she has had nothing to do, then has to intervene in an emergency situation, only to end up panicking and creating a tragedy.

He said: “The problem with automation is that it is not currently powerful [enough] to render the driver completely redundant. It requires the driver to monitor continuously and intervene occasionally. The car needs to support, not replace the driver.”

There was also concern that some drivers would misuse vehicle systems, or find a way round them because they found them too complicated.

Professor Nick Reed, head of mobility research at Bosch, said: “Any system needs to be aware of the effective use or misuse of it.”

Professor of Human Factors at University of Nottingham Sarah Sharples, added: “People will break unbreakable technology if they find it inconvenient. What’s more, people pranking and having fun will cause security risks.”

Cyclists taking advantage of driverless cars is a worry, says transport consultant

Nic Fasci, lead engineer for vehicle engineering and homologation at Tata Motors European Technical centre, said: “The key to autonomous vehicles is training, training, training. The skill of driving must be robotic before the software can be developed. The skill of driving is being eroded and this can be seen every day.”

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, concluded that drivers would require a great deal of re-educating before entering the world of the autonomous vehicle.

“There is a myth that the car will do everything for the driver. It is clear the driver will always have a part to play – but is the driver ready for his new role? Clearly not. That’s the reality we have to prepare for.”

In related news, the BBC reports that driverless bus pod tests are now underway in Cambridge.

The RDM Group is testing self-driving pods along the guided busway to gauge the feasibility of running 10-seater shuttles along the route.

Findings will be announced in June 2018.

Richard Fairchild, from the RDM Group, said: "It is segregated from the highway, allowing the pods to whizz up and down without traffic congestion slowing them down. It is also segregated from pedestrians and cyclists, meaning it is a really safe route."

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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55 comments

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kie7077 | 6 years ago
0 likes

This is wrong in so many ways. Some points:

A steering wheel should not be fighting what the driver wants to do period. That sounds incredibly dangerous both to other road users and to the vehicle occupants.

Lane following is a simple technology that probably shouldn't be allowed anywhere other than on motorways.

If the lane following tech can't do safe passes then it shouldn't even legally be allowed.

The lane following technology should have disengadged when there was a hazard up ahead, why didn't it? Lane following technology is over-simplistic, it looks for lines on the road and follows them, clearly that's just not good enough.

If BMW et al don't fix this pronto then they fully deserve a law suit the next time someone is killed / injured and there should be punitative damages to deter companies from deciding it's worth it to kill and injure people.

It looks like car manufacturers are adding semi-autonomous tech to their vehicles without any kinds of standards. Number 1 priority should be that any autonomous system must follow the law and highway codes, it looks to me like this car has failed in that respect. This needs to be enshrined in law if law doesn't already cover it.

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Bez | 6 years ago
5 likes

"It is clear the driver will always have a part to play – but is the driver ready for his new role? Clearly not. That’s the reality we have to prepare for."

If it's clear that the driver will always have a part to play then we should all be quite afraid. There's pretty only one way in which an autonomous car is viable from a safety point of view, and that's when the driver has no role to play in safety (which is levels 4 and 5 of automation). The "underload to overload" problem is so blindingly obvious that it's beyond comprehension that the industry could ever contemplate level 2 and level 3 automation as a stepping stone to levels 4 and 5. Even level 1 is pretty problematic: the BMW issue in the article is a level 1 issue.

It's very easy to be optimistic about autonomous vehicles if you imagine the eventual scenario of every car on the road being at level 5. But getting to that point, if that's even possible (and the main obstacle to that is not technological but societal), is going to be very, very painful in myriad ways.

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burtthebike | 6 years ago
3 likes

So the programmers have managed to duplicate perfectly what most human drivers do; pass cyclists dangerously.  Perhaps we need to cull this lot of programmers and replace them with cyclists.

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srchar | 6 years ago
1 like

I'm not going to bother checking whether I'm the first to say, "I thought BMWs were already fitted with this feature as standard."

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frogg | 6 years ago
0 likes

@gw42 "Personally, the idea of Level 3 sounds inherently dangerous, if it expected that people could be sat doing something else and then take over immediately or within a few seconds."

from what i see everyday, some drivers think their car is already at Level 3 ...

 

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frogg | 6 years ago
2 likes

@Fluffy "But on the other hand, corporations can afford the best lawyers."

corporations can afford  the best LAWmakers ...

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BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
3 likes

How can these systems even be allowed in a live environment when there are obvious safety issues!
We have overtly bright headlights that make driving dangerous far too often, systems that encourages speeding/going too fast for the conditions and by design ignore vulnerable road users and indeed in the case of the Mercedes system will deliberately crash into omore vulnerable/exposed road users than put their occupants at any risk of harm.
DfT are such a bunch of cunts allowing these so called advancements

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BarryBianchi | 6 years ago
2 likes

Come on people, at least have the decency to give them their proper name.  It's "The BMW X5 Twatbox".

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TimC340 | 6 years ago
0 likes

This isn't about semi-autonomous cars, this is 'lane-keeping assist' and it's available in most cars on the market now - I think all 2018 Fords have it as standard. It's in my car, and if it's switched on it will lightly resist crossing a white line to either side. You can force it to, of course, and if you indicate then there's no resistance. But really there's no need to have it on unless you're on a motorway or dual carriageway.

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japes | 6 years ago
1 like

remember that this technology is still in its infancy, problems like this will crop up and then be solved. no car manufacturer is claiming to have completely perfected a driverless system, it is a work in progress. automatic cars WILL be safer than the very best human drivers ever could eventually and I can't wait until they're the norm.

 

it doesn't even have to be 100% safe. it only has to be safer than humans are at the moment to be worthwhile.

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to japes | 6 years ago
3 likes
japes wrote:

remember that this technology is still in its infancy, problems like this will crop up and then be solved. no car manufacturer is claiming to have completely perfected a driverless system, it is a work in progress. automatic cars WILL be safer than the very best human drivers ever could eventually and I can't wait until they're the norm.

 

it doesn't even have to be 100% safe. it only has to be safer than humans are at the moment to be worthwhile.

But how do you know all that? I don't get where you get such confidence from.

Also, your last line isn't quite true. Because even if it's slightly safer than humans at the moment, would that offset the downsides?

Particularly the downside that a far greater number of people will then choose to get around by motorised vehicles. Thus increasing the power of the motor vehicle lobby and increasing the girth of the nation, and possibly even _increasing_ the danger in total, if not on a per-vehicle basis.

I'm not saying I know with any certainty, I just think it's not so easy to predict how this will play out and it shouldn't distract from the idea of just having fewer car journeys.

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japes replied to FluffyKittenofTindalos | 6 years ago
1 like
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

But how do you know all that? I don't get where you get such confidence from.

 

why would it not? it will only get better. 

 

FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

Also, your last line isn't quite true. Because even if it's slightly safer than humans at the moment, would that offset the downsides? Particularly the downside that a far greater number of people will then choose to get around by motorised vehicles.

 

this seems to be arguing that making cares more unsafe for either drivers or pedestrians would be good policy to encourage other forms of travel (would probably be effective tbf!)

i don't believe there exists a significant number of people whose sole reason to eschew travel by private vehicle is because of safety concerns. I would think the opposite would happen. if we could eliminate safety concerns from cycling (ie automated vehicles are much safer than human drivers and become the norm, which obviously we are still a way from) then i would expect an uptake in cycling.

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to japes | 6 years ago
1 like
japes wrote:
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

But how do you know all that? I don't get where you get such confidence from.

 

why would it not? it will only get better. 

How do you know, though? Many past technological promises did not, in fact, get better, because the problems proved to be greater than anticipated. Perfect machine translations between languages, for example, is still not here, many decades after people thought it was just around the corner.

They're still having trouble getting a robot vaccum cleaner to navigate around a house (like the Daleks, they still can't do stairs), and that was one of the earliest gee-whizz ideas about what AI could do for us, dating back to the 1960s.

japes wrote:

 

FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

Also, your last line isn't quite true. Because even if it's slightly safer than humans at the moment, would that offset the downsides? Particularly the downside that a far greater number of people will then choose to get around by motorised vehicles.

 

this seems to be arguing that making cares more unsafe for either drivers or pedestrians would be good policy to encourage other forms of travel (would probably be effective tbf!)

i don't believe there exists a significant number of people whose sole reason to eschew travel by private vehicle is because of safety concerns. I would think the opposite would happen. if we could eliminate safety concerns from cycling (ie automated vehicles are much safer than human drivers and become the norm, which obviously we are still a way from) then i would expect an uptake in cycling.

I think there are a significant number of people whose sole reason to eschew travel by private vehicle is because they can't drive, for one reason or another (lack of confidence, or desire, or aptitude, or being too young or too drunk, or too sleepy, or too lazy...).

Make it easier to take a journey by car and more people will probably take such journeys, whether in preference to taking the bus or to just not making the journey at all.

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davel replied to FluffyKittenofTindalos | 6 years ago
2 likes
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

How do you know, though? Many past technological promises did not, in fact, get better, because the problems proved to be greater than anticipated. Perfect machine translations between languages, for example, is still not here, many decades after people thought it was just around the corner.

They're still having trouble getting a robot vaccum cleaner to navigate around a house (like the Daleks, they still can't do stairs), and that was one of the earliest gee-whizz ideas about what AI could do for us, dating back to the 1960s.

Standards wars: one of the massive obstacles we have here. To have properly driverless cars, and not just a load of driver assist cars like this one trying their hardest to avoid each other (and end up going nowhere), and then panicking and calling for a human, you have to have them talk to each other on a standardised platform. That's a platform that Mercedes, BMW, Ford, VWAG, Mercedes, Tata, Tesla, Toyota, Land Rover, GMC etc etc have to agree to. By now, anyone with any understanding of standards and how car manufacturers are dodgy money-grabbing bastards will be thinking 'impossible'. But it gets even more fun.

Throw Google, Apple and, if rumours are true, Facebook and Microsoft into that mix too.

And they have to make cars that either adhere to one standard or somehow work on competing platforms, and all those models need to be able to drive in London, rural Wales, California, Mexico City, Moscow, Paris, Dubai, Beijing, Mumbai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo....

And all the relevant regulators need to figure out what the hell is going on and bring in relevant laws and regs for their relevant jurisdictions.

The technology is a piece of piss compared to the politics and power bollocks yet to even begin.

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Ush replied to FluffyKittenofTindalos | 6 years ago
1 like
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

Particularly the downside that a far greater number of people will then choose to get around by motorised vehicles. Thus increasing the power of the motor vehicle lobby and increasing the girth of the nation, and possibly even _increasing_ the danger in total, if not on a per-vehicle basis. I'm not saying I know with any certainty, I just think it's not so easy to predict how this will play out and it shouldn't distract from the idea of just having fewer car journeys.

Autonomous vehicles should only be introduced in conjunction with a targeted reduction of the overall number of vehicles.   And they should be limited to the elderly, infirm and otherwise unable to use public transport or bicycles.  

There are just too many people to make individual automobile use viable.

Avatar
davel replied to Ush | 6 years ago
1 like
Ush wrote:
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

Particularly the downside that a far greater number of people will then choose to get around by motorised vehicles. Thus increasing the power of the motor vehicle lobby and increasing the girth of the nation, and possibly even _increasing_ the danger in total, if not on a per-vehicle basis. I'm not saying I know with any certainty, I just think it's not so easy to predict how this will play out and it shouldn't distract from the idea of just having fewer car journeys.

Autonomous vehicles should only be introduced in conjunction with a targeted reduction of the overall number of vehicles.   And they should be limited to the elderly, infirm and otherwise unable to use public transport or bicycles.  

There are just too many people to make individual automobile use viable.

I think a huge advantage of fully autonomous vehicles would be to smooth traffic flow: imagine a motorway during rush-hour, with cars travelling 1m apart at 50 or 60 mph. They could do wonders for capacity.

But I agree that car-sharing needs to be pushed much more. The number of individually occupied cars during rush-hour is shocking.

Avatar
oldstrath replied to davel | 6 years ago
1 like
davel wrote:
Ush wrote:
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

Particularly the downside that a far greater number of people will then choose to get around by motorised vehicles. Thus increasing the power of the motor vehicle lobby and increasing the girth of the nation, and possibly even _increasing_ the danger in total, if not on a per-vehicle basis. I'm not saying I know with any certainty, I just think it's not so easy to predict how this will play out and it shouldn't distract from the idea of just having fewer car journeys.

Autonomous vehicles should only be introduced in conjunction with a targeted reduction of the overall number of vehicles.   And they should be limited to the elderly, infirm and otherwise unable to use public transport or bicycles.  

There are just too many people to make individual automobile use viable.

I think a huge advantage of fully autonomous vehicles would be to smooth traffic flow: imagine a motorway during rush-hour, with cars travelling 1m apart at 50 or 60 mph. They could do wonders for capacity..

They are usually called trains. Coaches work quite well also, without needing to replace the road by permanent way. And without the gee whiz (bang?) technology bollox.

Avatar
davel replied to oldstrath | 6 years ago
0 likes
oldstrath wrote:
davel wrote:
Ush wrote:
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

Particularly the downside that a far greater number of people will then choose to get around by motorised vehicles. Thus increasing the power of the motor vehicle lobby and increasing the girth of the nation, and possibly even _increasing_ the danger in total, if not on a per-vehicle basis. I'm not saying I know with any certainty, I just think it's not so easy to predict how this will play out and it shouldn't distract from the idea of just having fewer car journeys.

Autonomous vehicles should only be introduced in conjunction with a targeted reduction of the overall number of vehicles.   And they should be limited to the elderly, infirm and otherwise unable to use public transport or bicycles.  

There are just too many people to make individual automobile use viable.

I think a huge advantage of fully autonomous vehicles would be to smooth traffic flow: imagine a motorway during rush-hour, with cars travelling 1m apart at 50 or 60 mph. They could do wonders for capacity..

They are usually called trains. Coaches work quite well also, without needing to replace the road by permanent way. And without the gee whiz (bang?) technology bollox.

The technology for trains and coaches is already here, and works, yes. Is it solving the problem of getting people out of cars?

Avatar
kie7077 replied to davel | 6 years ago
0 likes
davel wrote:
Ush wrote:
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

Particularly the downside that a far greater number of people will then choose to get around by motorised vehicles. Thus increasing the power of the motor vehicle lobby and increasing the girth of the nation, and possibly even _increasing_ the danger in total, if not on a per-vehicle basis. I'm not saying I know with any certainty, I just think it's not so easy to predict how this will play out and it shouldn't distract from the idea of just having fewer car journeys.

Autonomous vehicles should only be introduced in conjunction with a targeted reduction of the overall number of vehicles.   And they should be limited to the elderly, infirm and otherwise unable to use public transport or bicycles.  

There are just too many people to make individual automobile use viable.

I think a huge advantage of fully autonomous vehicles would be to smooth traffic flow: imagine a motorway during rush-hour, with cars travelling 1m apart at 50 or 60 mph. They could do wonders for capacity. But I agree that car-sharing needs to be pushed much more. The number of individually occupied cars during rush-hour is shocking.

Tell me, how many vehicles would be involved in the world's most horrendous pile-up if the vehicles were all going at 60mph @ 1m apart and one of them develops a serious fault and crashes into one of the other car-trains?

Avatar
davel replied to kie7077 | 6 years ago
1 like
kie7077 wrote:
davel wrote:
Ush wrote:
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

Particularly the downside that a far greater number of people will then choose to get around by motorised vehicles. Thus increasing the power of the motor vehicle lobby and increasing the girth of the nation, and possibly even _increasing_ the danger in total, if not on a per-vehicle basis. I'm not saying I know with any certainty, I just think it's not so easy to predict how this will play out and it shouldn't distract from the idea of just having fewer car journeys.

Autonomous vehicles should only be introduced in conjunction with a targeted reduction of the overall number of vehicles.   And they should be limited to the elderly, infirm and otherwise unable to use public transport or bicycles.  

There are just too many people to make individual automobile use viable.

I think a huge advantage of fully autonomous vehicles would be to smooth traffic flow: imagine a motorway during rush-hour, with cars travelling 1m apart at 50 or 60 mph. They could do wonders for capacity. But I agree that car-sharing needs to be pushed much more. The number of individually occupied cars during rush-hour is shocking.

Tell me, how many vehicles would be involved in the world's most horrendous pile-up if the vehicles were all going at 60mph @ 1m apart and one of them develops a serious fault and crashes into one of the other car-trains?

Gladly: a metric fuckton fewer than the  number of cars that will crash on UK roads today, because 'people'.

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hawkinspeter replied to kie7077 | 6 years ago
1 like
kie7077 wrote:

Tell me, how many vehicles would be involved in the world's most horrendous pile-up if the vehicles were all going at 60mph @ 1m apart and one of them develops a serious fault and crashes into one of the other car-trains?

What kind of serious fault are you thinking of? As the vehicles would all be travelling at the same speed and could all hit the brakes simultaneously (and the same amount), then I suspect that the actual damage caused would be slight.

Things do go wrong, but it's easy enough to build in safety protocols that the computers can follow to limit catastrophes - as opposed to humans who can't always remember to indicate when turning.

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RMurphy195 replied to japes | 6 years ago
2 likes
japes wrote:

remember that this technology is still in its infancy, problems like this will crop up and then be solved. no car manufacturer is claiming to have completely perfected a driverless system, it is a work in progress. automatic cars WILL be safer than the very best human drivers ever could eventually and I can't wait until they're the norm.

 

it doesn't even have to be 100% safe. it only has to be safer than humans are at the moment to be worthwhile.

Teething problems are OK when you have a call centre to help customers with the bits that go wrong.

In the context of self-driving cars this becomes deadly complacency, I don't want dead cyclists to be the price to pay for the improvements.

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whobiggs replied to japes | 6 years ago
0 likes
japes wrote:

it doesn't even have to be 100% safe. it only has to be safer than humans are at the moment to be worthwhile.

 

But is it really safer if it needs a driver to sit there doing nothing and then expect him/her to suddenly pay attention and react? Surely the driver will doze off/get bored/mind wander/fiddle with phone etc? It's bad enough now on motorways when people switch their brains off.

 

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hawkinspeter | 6 years ago
1 like

Today, I learned that driverless/autonomous now means "having a driver"/heteronomous.

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dassie | 6 years ago
6 likes

It's worse than you think - given that UK driving students are currently instructed not to indicate when passing cyclists - not required apparently!

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brooksby replied to dassie | 6 years ago
3 likes
dassie wrote:

It's worse than you think - given that UK driving students are currently instructed not to indicate when passing cyclists - not required apparently!

Is that true?  Good grief... <face-palm>

Avatar
dassie replied to brooksby | 6 years ago
2 likes
brooksby wrote:
dassie wrote:

It's worse than you think - given that UK driving students are currently instructed not to indicate when passing cyclists - not required apparently!

Is that true?  Good grief... <face-palm>

It was what my daughter was taught in 2016; apparently it potentially creates confusion in the minds of other drivers, who may think the overtaking vehicle might be about to turn into a side road.  Possibly derived from HC 103-106 about not making confusing signals.   

Avatar
wycombewheeler replied to brooksby | 6 years ago
2 likes
brooksby wrote:
dassie wrote:

It's worse than you think - given that UK driving students are currently instructed not to indicate when passing cyclists - not required apparently!

Is that true?  Good grief... <face-palm>

I understand indicating for the benefit of pedestrians is also not recommended.

Avatar
brooksby replied to wycombewheeler | 6 years ago
0 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:
brooksby wrote:
dassie wrote:

It's worse than you think - given that UK driving students are currently instructed not to indicate when passing cyclists - not required apparently!

Is that true?  Good grief... <face-palm>

I understand indicating for the benefit of pedestrians is also not recommended.

You see, now, that explains a lot.

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mike the bike replied to dassie | 6 years ago
0 likes
dassie wrote:

It's worse than you think - given that UK driving students are currently instructed not to indicate when passing cyclists - not required apparently!

 

I'm sure the instructor was simply explaining that whether or not to signal is a decision that requires a little thought.  Each situation is unique and sometimes a signal is essential, sometimes not.

The driver who signals before every discarded cigarette packet is as much a distraction as one who never bothers.

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