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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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BehindTheBikesheds replied to mike the bike | 6 years ago
1 like

mike the bike 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!

 

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.

In most cases a motorvehicle onstructs the view of the following vehicle, thus when overtaking something/one where you would have to change your line significantly when doing so that requires signalling. To use the excuse that it might confuse others oncoming for instance is a load of BS. Either when you overtake there's enough room for the thing/person you're overtaking AND oncoming traffic or there isn't. It matters not then if there is an oncoming vehicle and a junction because the overtaker will have taken the distance and the oncoming driver would have acknowledged they were overtaking another vehicle.

To dumb it down to not indicate when it benefits other road users (particularly thosw behind) in case it sends the wrong message is patently bollocks and sets dangerous precendence.

I guess not indicating for a turn or at a roundabout would also be equally acceptable in the same circumstances?

Clearly for learner drivers it wouldn't and would lead to a fail in the test, to not signal to overtake is no different a scale, in fact it's far more important especially around vulnerable road users.

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miffed | 6 years ago
1 like

 

I think this is all too focused on a journalist making a throwaway statement about his poor practice to just “nip” round a cyclist when driving rather than indicating and moving fully over into the next lane and giving the cyclist plenty room. With more experience of the car I bet it would be intuitive to flick the indicator negating the issue.

 

Surely this is an issue with all stay in lane technology esp in combination with cruise control. If this is truely a smart car I’d hope it would also have collision avoidance braking that could detect cyclist and automatically apply the brakes, now that is a technology I’d like to see, esp if it works for cars pulling out of or into junctions (ie. 360 degrees around the car)

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miffed | 6 years ago
2 likes

 

I think this is all too focused on a journalist making a throwaway statement about his poor practice to just “nip” round a cyclist when driving rather than indicating and moving fully over into the next lane and giving the cyclist plenty room. With more experience of the car I bet it would be intuitive to flick the indicator negating the issue.

 

Surely this is an issue with all stay in lane technology esp in combination with cruise control. If this is truely a smart car I’d hope it would also have collision avoidance braking that could detect cyclist and automatically apply the brakes, now that is a technology I’d like to see, esp if it works for cars pulling out of or into junctions (ie. 360 degrees around the car)

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darrylxxx | 6 years ago
10 likes

If it either can't spot a cyclist it shouldn't be allowed on the road. And if you have to wrestle it rather than it reverting to driver control it shouldn't be allowed on the road.

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Rod Marton replied to darrylxxx | 6 years ago
3 likes

darrylxxx wrote:

If it either can't spot a cyclist it shouldn't be allowed on the road.

Just like the average human driver, then.

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earth | 6 years ago
1 like

We need to set out minimum requriements for driverless cars to be sold in this country.  We already have type approval for cars so it can addded to those tests.  If BMW follow this line then their cars can be banned.

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Bigfoz | 6 years ago
7 likes

|This on top of the youtube video of the Nissan autonomous vehicle executing a close pass on a cyclist during demo, in spite of passenger highlighting it, the driver did nothing to intervene, having blind faith in the car's ability to "miss". No contngency was applied for the cyclist todeviate from his trajectory.

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TedBarnes | 6 years ago
1 like

I think public understanding is vital but a lot of the media coverage is vague to say the least when talking about "driverless" cars. I couldn't quickly find any detailed info on what the BMW is actually doing. All the linked review says about the BMW is: 

"You can drive it or you can set it to semi-autonomously follow the road markings.

But a word of warning about that. 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."

To me, that is not semi-autonomous; it's driver assist at most.  More formally, I'd say it's level 1, possibly level 2 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_car#Levels_of_driving_automation). It's only level 3 and above where you can supposedly stop concentrating. 

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.

To be honest, I think level 2 is dangerous enough - if you are driving, you should be concentrating.  Expecting people to maintain that attention when they're not actually doing the driving ignores what humans are like - with the best will in the world, your attention will wander if you're not directly involved and not expecting to do anything either for 99% of the time. 

Levels 4 and 5 though - that is a different matter. Properly done, I am very optimstic about this. My greatest concern is that in a rush to market, level 3 automation will be used inappropriately and unsafely, or that Level 4 or 5 will be released too soon. 

 

Edit: Ninja'd by Andy.

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scouser_andy replied to TedBarnes | 6 years ago
0 likes

gw42 wrote:

Edit: Ninja'd by Andy.

 

Sorry dude. Great minds and all that though!

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scouser_andy | 6 years ago
3 likes

Autonomous vehicles are claassified 0 to 5; 0 being the Vauxhall Astra you used to pass your driving test in a few years ago, to 5 meaning fully autonomous and can operate in all weathers.

Level 3, where the vehicle takes on most functions, but the driver has to be alert to take back control at any moment, is the most dangerous due to drivers switching off. The insurance industry and Government are of the same opinion on this, that we should skip this level to Level 4 - the next vehicle can operate fully autonamously in all but extreme weather. I work for the insurance industry and have been to meetings with Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles/DfT in drafting legislation for a legal framework for insurance.

Not skipping Level 3 can lead to issues highlighted above, and if drivers do not take back control, then collsions can and will occur, with disasterous conqueuences.

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arowland replied to scouser_andy | 6 years ago
2 likes

scouser_andy wrote:

Level 4 - the next vehicle can operate fully autonamously in all but extreme weather.

Hmm, if drivers have to recognise when the weather is bad and switch to manual drive... good thing they're really good at that already and switch on headlights when it is dull or raining! Also great that drivers will suddenly have to drive at the time they need the greatest level of skill, but probably won't have driven normally since last winter so even the basics are getting rusty.

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Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
7 likes

The dream is almost reality!

//media.giphy.com/media/yEueiCb5wIAnu/giphy.gif)

 

 

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PRSboy | 6 years ago
1 like

AFAIK, what it does is that the steering wheel would vibrate and there would be some very modest resistance/force feedback if you attempted to move cross the white line without indicating.  It would not 'force' the driver to close pass any more than cruise control would 'force' you to drive straight into the back of a queue on the motorway.

This is a long way from autonomous driving, its intended as a driver aid, much like cruise control, lane keeping assist, etc.

Autonomously changing lane on a single carriageway potentially into oncoming traffic/pedestrians will require a degree of human interaction for the time being.

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OldRidgeback | 6 years ago
4 likes

I was a passenger in an early generation driverless vehicle and found the experience deeply alarming. It had so many flaws it was unsafe for the road, though it was used on road with human back-up. The technology has been improved since then, but not enough. The systems are still not sufficiently sophisticated to understand the differing behaviour of cyclists and motorcyclists from four (or more) wheeled vehicles.

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CygnusX1 | 6 years ago
23 likes

I wasn't aware BMWs came with indicators, never seen one in action! 

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StuInNorway replied to CygnusX1 | 6 years ago
5 likes

I've seen them in use (I believe they are optional extras though)
I was following an X5 into a roundabout and it signalled left (we drive on the right here so he was heading around the roundabout) and promptly turned RIGHT out the first exit... <DOH>

They are also used when parking illegally to scare away parking wardens/attendants. 

Most commonly seen though is the 4-way flasher mode, which means "I have a BMW so I can can leave it wherever i want, such as here in the middle of the road and those flashy things mean 'Yep, that's absolutely fine'  .  .  ."

 

CygnusX1 wrote:

I wasn't aware BMWs came with indicators, never seen one in action! 

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WashoutWheeler replied to CygnusX1 | 6 years ago
1 like

CygnusX1 wrote:

I wasn't aware BMWs came with indicators, never seen one in action! 

Similar malfunction with Merc's Audi's Range Rovers and Prius!

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wycombewheeler replied to CygnusX1 | 6 years ago
1 like
CygnusX1 wrote:

I wasn't aware BMWs came with indicators, never seen one in action! 

Come with indicators but the controls are on the secret stalks and not many can find them.

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whobiggs replied to CygnusX1 | 6 years ago
0 likes

CygnusX1 wrote:

I wasn't aware BMWs came with indicators, never seen one in action! 

 

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Samtheeagle | 6 years ago
5 likes

So, my enthusiasm for the driverless car as an answer to cyclist and pedestrian deaths is on the wain. People struggle with the level of competence required to drive on our busy roads with current distractions and the need for constant vigilance. THis new model appears to offer greater opportunity for distraction and resistance to the necessary intervention that could save a life. Lose Lose rather than Win Win! At least there will be a chance of a big payout for corporate manslaughter?

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to Samtheeagle | 6 years ago
5 likes
Samtheeagle wrote:

So, my enthusiasm for the driverless car as an answer to cyclist and pedestrian deaths is on the wain. People struggle with the level of competence required to drive on our busy roads with current distractions and the need for constant vigilance. THis new model appears to offer greater opportunity for distraction and resistance to the necessary intervention that could save a life. Lose Lose rather than Win Win! At least there will be a chance of a big payout for corporate manslaughter?

This sort of thing is exactly why I've never felt very optimistic about 'self-driving' vehicles. It means de-skilling drivers and encouraging them to do other things and not pay attention, while still expecting them to be ready to intervene and make critical decisions at any moment.

Plus AI is just harder to do than the hype makes out, and the commercial incentives may not inspire the programmers to give a high priority to the safety of non-customers.

You do hit on the only counter-point - which is that juries are likely to be far harder on corporations than on fellow human drivers, at least when it comes to civil proceedings and financial punishments/compensation. The 'there but the grace of God...' factor doesn't apply if the defendant is a corporation. But on the other hand, corporations can afford the best lawyers.

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Grahamd | 6 years ago
16 likes

Bloody awful, well done Honest John for highlighting  the issue.

Am sure that there we be a typical BMW driver response.

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goggy replied to Grahamd | 6 years ago
1 like

Really? You're that narrow-minded as to assume that bad drive rbehaviour is base don the make f car you drive? Sad...

 

Grahamd wrote:

Bloody awful, well done Honest John for highlighting  the issue.

Am sure that there we be a typical BMW driver response.

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hoski replied to goggy | 6 years ago
7 likes

goggy wrote:

Really? You're that narrow-minded as to assume that bad drive rbehaviour is base don the make f car you drive? Sad...

 

Grahamd wrote:

Bloody awful, well done Honest John for highlighting  the issue.

Am sure that there we be a typical BMW driver response.

 

Bingo! And there it is!

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burtthebike replied to goggy | 6 years ago
4 likes

goggy wrote:

Really? You're that narrow-minded as to assume that bad drive rbehaviour is base don the make f car you drive? Sad...

Well, perhaps you aren't as observant as you think?  Of course BMW drivers aren't all the same, but a lot of them do seem to want to give the marque a bad name.

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