[Nfbc-info] {Disarmed} Fw: [Blind_Democrats] Fw: [nfb-talk] Fw: Yes, Driverless Cars Know the Way to San Jose.

Lauren Merryfield lauren1 at catliness.com
Mon Oct 29 22:45:48 UTC 2012

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----- Original Message ----- 
From: Kenneth Chrane 
To: Kathryn Wurzbacher Corrigan ; Blind_Democrats at yahoogroups.com 
Cc: j_dougons at verizon.net ; longwave11 at verizon.net 
Sent: Monday, October 29, 2012 12:19 AM
Subject: [Blind_Democrats] Fw: [nfb-talk] Fw: Yes, Driverless Cars Know the Way to San Jose.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Ed Meskys" <edmeskys at roadrunner.com>
To: "sandy meskys" <smeskys at roadrunner.com>; "nfb-talk" 
<nfb-talk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Sunday, October 28, 2012 2:23 PM
Subject: [nfb-talk] Fw: Yes, Driverless Cars Know the Way to San Jose.

> Yes, Driverless Cars Know the Way to San Jose.
> NY Times Sunday, 2012_10_28
> THE 'look Ma, no hands' moment came at about 60 miles an hour on Highway
> 101..
> Brian Torcellini, Google's driving program manager, had driven the white
> Lexus
> RX
> 450h out of the parking lot at one of the company's research buildings and
> along
> local streets to the freeway, a main artery through Silicon Valley. But
> shortly
> after
> clearing the on-ramp and accelerating to the pace of traffic, he pushed a
> yellow
> button on the modified console between the front seats. A loud electronic
> chime
> came
> from the car's speakers, followed by a synthesized female voice.
> Autodriving,' it announced breathlessly.
> Mr. Torcellini took his hands off the steering wheel, lifted his foot from
> the
> accelerator,
> and the Lexus hybrid drove itself, following the curves of the freeway,
> speeding
> up to get out of another car's blind spot, moving over slightly to stay 
> well
> clear
> of a truck in the next lane, slowing when a car cut in front.
> We adjusted our speed to give him a little room,' said Anthony 
> Levandowski,
> one
> of
> the lead engineers for Google's self-driving-car project, who was 
> monitoring
> the
> system on a laptop from the passenger seat. Just like a person would.
> Since the project was first widely publicized more than two years ago,
> Google
> has
> been seen as being at the forefront of efforts to free humans from
> situations
> when
> driving is drudgery. In all, the company's driverless cars --
> earlier-generation
> Toyota Priuses and the newer Lexuses, recognizable by their spinning,
> roof-mounted
> laser range finders -- have logged about 300,000 miles on all kinds of
> roads.
> (Mr.
> Torcellini unofficially leads the pack, with roughly 30,000 miles behind 
> the
> wheel
> -- but not turning it.)
> But the company is far from alone in its quest for a car that will drive
> just
> like
> a person would, or actually better. Most major automobile manufacturers 
> are
> working
> on self-driving systems in one form or another.
> Google says it does not want to make cars, but instead work with suppliers
> and
> automakers
> to bring its technology to the marketplace. The company sees the project 
> as
> an
> outgrowth
> of its core work in software and data management, and talks about
> reimagining
> people's
> relationship with their automobiles.
> Self-driving cars, Mr. Levandowski said, will give people 'the ability to
> move
> through
> space without necessarily wasting your time.
> Driving cars, he added, 'is the most important thing that computers are
> going to
> do in the next 10 years.
> For the automakers, on the other hand, self-driving is more about 
> evolution
> than
> revolution -- about building incrementally upon existing features like 
> smart
> cruise
> control and parking assist to make cars that are safer and easier to 
> drive,
> although
> the driver is still in control. Full autonomy may be the eventual goal, 
> but
> the
> first
> aim is to make cars more desirable to customers.
> We have this technology,' said Marcial Hernandez, principal engineer at 
> the
> Volkswagen
> Group's Electronics Research Laboratory, up the road in Belmont, Calif. 
> How
> do
> we
> turn it into a product that can be advertised to a customer, that will 
> have
> some
> benefit to a customer?
> With all the research efforts, there is a growing consensus among
> transportation
> experts that self-driving cars are coming, sooner than later, and that the
> potential
> benefits -- in crashes, deaths and injuries avoided, and in roads used 
> more
> efficiently,
> to name a few -- are enormous. Already, Florida, Nevada and California 
> have
> made
> self-driving cars legal for testing purposes, giving each car, in effect,
> its
> own
> driver's license.
> Richard Wallace, director for transportation systems analysis at the 
> Center
> for
> Automotive
> Research, a nonprofit group that recently released a report on 
> self-driving
> cars
> with the consulting firm KPMG, said that probably by the end of the 
> decade,
> 'we
> would
> be able to have a safe, hands-free left-lane commute. In 15 to 20 years, 
> he
> said,
> 'literally from the driveway to destination starts to become possible.
> Despite their differing goals, the approaches of Google and the car
> companies
> have
> much in common. They each rely on sensors to gather data about the car's
> environment,
> processors to crunch the data, algorithms to interpret the results and 
> make
> driving
> decisions, and actuators to control the car's movements.
> Most of the sensors are already in widespread use. Radar, for example, is
> used
> for
> features like adaptive cruise control, measuring the distance to the car
> ahead
> so
> that a safe interval can be maintained. Cameras are used in lane-keeping
> systems,
> recognizing lane stripes on the road so the car can be steered between 
> them.
> Digital encoders, specialized sensors that precisely measure wheel 
> rotation,
> have
> been employed for years in antilock brakes and stability-control systems.
> Accelerometers
> have been used to measure changes in speed, particularly for air bags.
> GPS devices are useful for self-driving systems, but only in giving a
> general
> sense
> of the car's location. More important is knowing the car's position in
> respect
> to
> other vehicles and objects in its immediate environment -- information the
> other
> sensors provide.
> You use the sensors in the vehicle to very precisely place you locally,' 
> Mr.
> Hernandez
> said.
> In the move toward more autonomous vehicles, one tendency is to integrate
> the
> data
> from different sensors. Camera recognition systems may be fooled by 
> shadows,
> for
> example, thinking they are objects, but radar is not readily tricked.
> Some automakers are developing a feature known as traffic jam assist, 
> which
> combines
> the information from radar and cameras to allow hands-off driving on the
> highway
> at speeds of about 30 m.p.h. or less.
> We're taking the adaptive cruise control and the lane-keeping and bringing
> them
> together,'
> Mr. Hernandez said.
> Traffic jam assist is a step toward more autonomy, but the car is still 
> far
> from
> self-driving; it won't change lanes, for example.
> A lot of this is getting people comfortable with the technology, showing
> people
> a
> benefit,' Mr. Hernandez said. The idea is the driver is always in 
> control --
> the
> vehicle is there to help you.
> Google's fleet of about a dozen vehicles adds the rooftop laser units to
> gather
> a
> more useful data stream than the cameras and radar systems alone can do.
> Laser
> range
> finders, known as lidar units, have been used by some automakers to 
> provide
> distance
> measurements for their adaptive cruise control systems.
> But Google's lidar is far more complex, consisting of 64 infrared lasers
> that
> spin
> inside a housing atop the car to take measurements in all horizontal
> directions.
> (Lidar systems like this are also very expensive -- about $70,000 a 
> unit --
> so
> cost
> and complexity will have to come down before they can be widely used.)
> The units take so many measurements that, when combined with information
> from
> the
> radar and cameras, a moving map of the car's surroundings can be created 
> in
> the
> onboard
> computer, a fairly run-of-the-mill desktop. It's a highly detailed map --
> the
> lidar
> can distinguish, for example, a pickup truck carrying something on a rack
> from a
> similarly sized, but boxier, delivery van.
> We like lidar because it is actually the most rich sensor you can put on a
> car,'
> Mr. Levandowski of Google said. It helps you separate out people from 
> bushes
> behind
> them, people from each other, people from crosswalks, and it helps you 
> make
> a
> 3-D
> model of the world.
> Still, the key to a car being able to truly drive itself lies in the
> software.
> The
> piece that's missing is not better radars or cameras or lasers or whatever
> we're
> using,' he said. It's really the intelligence behind them.
> Google's engineers tweak that intelligence based on the driving experience
> of
> the
> test cars. Safely coping with four-way-stop intersections was really
> difficult,
> Mr.
> Levandowski said, because a certain amount of assertiveness -- moving into
> the
> intersection
> slightly to see how other cars react -- is required.
> We realized there's subtle communication that goes on,' he said. Once 
> we've
> come
> to a stop, we inch forward a bit to signal, hey, we're ready to go. A
> self-driving
> car that did not assert itself might wind up sitting at the intersection 
> for
> a
> long
> time as other cars passed on through.
> Fundamentally, though, the car has to operate safely, Mr. Levandowski 
> said,
> so
> if
> another car tries to enter the intersection out of turn, the self-driving
> car
> will
> yield.
> The learning is constant. On the way back from the Highway 101 drive, for
> instance,
> an extra-long articulated bus turned in front of the Lexus, which was now
> back
> in
> human-driving mode because the software had been optimized for only 
> highway
> driving
> that day. But all the sensors were still doing their jobs, so the bus 
> showed
> up
> on
> Mr. Levandowski's laptop screen as a string of red dots that stretched out
> as
> the
> bus rounded the corner.
> Awesome bus,' Mr. Levandowski said as he typed a note for other engineers 
> to
> take
> a look.
> The system constantly compares the car's map to detailed maps created by
> Google
> and
> downloaded to the car. Those maps provide a lot of additional information
> that
> helps
> with navigation, but they also help the car know when conditions have
> changed.
> Perhaps construction barrels have just been set up, closing a lane, or a
> mattress
> or other object has fallen onto the road from a car. By comparing maps, 
> the
> car
> knows
> its surroundings have changed, and it has to take some action: continue
> driving,
> alert the driver that it's time to take back control or, if all else 
> fails,
> pull
> over to the side of the road.
> The communication is two-way, so in addition to downloading Google's maps,
> the
> car
> can upload its map to Google. If several self-driving cars upload maps
> showing
> the
> new construction barrels, for example, Google can update the map it sends 
> to
> other
> cars, letting those cars anticipate the hazard.
> This connectivity is critical to Google's approach, and is one reason its
> system
> is more advanced than other efforts. (For current and planned features 
> like
> adaptive
> cruise control, car companies have not needed to consider communication, 
> but
> as
> they
> move toward more fully autonomous vehicles they will have to, experts 
> say.)
> But even Google acknowledges that its system is not there yet.
> We think it is going to be feasible for a computer to drive a car safer 
> than
> a
> person
> can in the not-too-distant future,' Mr. Levandowski said. By no means are 
> we
> there
> today. We are in the process of learning.
> If and when it is introduced, there will no doubt be limits. What's nice
> about
> these
> cars is you can actually confine where they operate and how they work
> because
> they
> know where they are,' Mr. Levandowski said.
> So the system may work at first only on some highways, or in other 
> specific
> situations.
> It's not going to be George Jetson from day one,' he said.. PHOTO: 
> Aside
> from the lidar rangefinder unit on its roof, Google's fleet of 
> self-driving
> vehicles,
> including this Lexus hybrid, look reasonably conventional. (PHOTOGRAPH BY
> GRAPHICS: How an Autonomous Car Gets Around: Self-driving cars that are
> under
> development
> will rely on a number of sensors and other digital devices, many of which
> are
> already
> being used for safety and convenience features. (Sources: Velodyne Lidar;
> Volkswagen
> of America; Google).
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