1925: Self-Driving Car Milestones

 Self-Driving Car Milestones Title text: I'm working on a car capable of evaluating arbitrarily complex boolean expressions on "honk if [...]" bumper stickers and responding accordingly.

Explanation

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This comic is a list of milestones for self-driving cars. Some have already been achieved, others are still being worked on, while others are facetious "milestones".

• Automatic emergency brakes: this is another reference to how hard it can be to program human-obvious stuff (add link https://xkcd.com/1425/). A self driving car has to be able to distinguish a danger (cliff, person on foot, other cars coming the wrong way/doing weird stuff) from either the side of the road, the background, the other cars or even a light pole safely standing on the side of the road. Then the car also has to decide whether turn around, just slow down (as danger is not imminent) or actually do the strong brake (and optimally decide what would be the most effective, taking into account weather conditions, road type and traffic). There are big potential advantages for self driving cars, in case of success: computers don't panic, would have faster reaction times than humans, and would have more reliable judgment than humans (add link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_car#Safety)
• Self-parking: already implemented in recent normal cars, that feature is important for the car not to stay in the road after use [citation needed], and is sometimes considered as a difficult maneuver by to-be-drivers (citation?) as it requires a good "feeling" of the car dimensions, as well as of distances and maneuverability of the car. (the latter parameters being easy to compute, with radar and back-camera aide, is made rather easy for computers (citation?))
• First sex in a self-driving car: this is not a milestone for the cars themselves, but just the age-old [citation needed] practice of having sex in cars, performed in a car that happens to be self-driving. Whether or not this would happen while the car is in motion (other than that induced by the passengers) and/or on a public road is not specified, though both are implied. Given the nature of human sexuality [no citation needed], it is quite likely this has already happened [citation needed], but no one recorded the incident.
• Full trips with no input from driver: the main point of self-driving cars, allowing all humans within to act as passengers. As of 2017, self-driving cars require a human to be able to take over just in case, but any such trip where the human never actually took control would qualify for this milestone.
• Full trips by empty cars: a more severe version of the above, since with no humans present, no human can take control. This could be considered fulfilled by the DARPA Grand Challenge (add link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA_Grand_Challenge), as the challenges are racing competitions of autonomous cars with no humans on board.
• Self-refueling of empty cars: this would either require a robotic fuel station (thus, able to refuel cars with humans inside as well), or an ordinary full-service fuel station (that is, one where the station's employee performs the refueling of the car) that happens to service a self-driving car with no humans aboard (which could be arranged as a publicity stunt).
• An empty car wandering the highways for months or years until someone notices the credit card fuel charges: the first completely facetious milestone of the list (since "first sex", despite having little to do with self-driving cars, has probably happened). Cars are expensive [citation needed] enough that, were one to drive itself off and wander, some effort would be made to track it down. As this would require the self-refueling milestone, local fuel stations could be alerted to look for the "rogue" car - and in any case, whatever payment method is used to pay for the fuel would be traced.
• Cars that read other cars' bumper stickers before deciding whether to cut them off: another facetious milestone, implying self-driving cars might obtain artificial intelligence and political opinions that might override safety and efficiency of transit, so this seems unlikely to actually happen.
• Autonomous engine revving at red lights: mimicing the human practice. This has probably been done for show at a race, but that is a robot following a programmed routine that has nothing directly to do with self-driving.
• Self-loathing cars: this would require cars to become sentient enough to understand, and have negative opinions, about themselves. Depending on one's definition, though, self-diagnostic software might qualify, as they would be running on a car's computer and express a negative opinion about the car (albeit limited to the context of the car needing maintenance).
• Autonomous canyon jumping: although it seems unlikely that a navigation routine would ever decide that jumping a canyon is part of an optimal route, a car could be programmed to jump a canyon as part of a stunt or show, with no human driver (or any other human aboard) at the time of the jump. It is questionable how "autonomous" such a car would be, though.
• Cars capable of arguing about the trolley problem on facebook: the trolley problem is a well-known thought experiment in ethics, in which a person must choose between passively allowing several people to die, or actively causing a single person to die. Such a choice could plausibly be forced on the computer of self-driving car. For example, if the car could avoid a high-speed collision only by running down a pedestrian.
• Evaluating arbitrarily complex boolean expressions on "honk if [...]" bumper stickers and responding accordingly (title text): as with the cut-off milestone, this implies development of artificial intelligence unrelated to the basic functions of a car, though still imitating human drivers' behavior. This a joke about Boolean satisfiability, as evaluating an arbitrarily complex bumper sticker and determining whether to honk is NP-complete.

Transcript

Upcoming and recently-achieved
Self-driving car milestones

• Automatic emergency braking
• Highway lane-keeping
• Self-parking
• Full highway autonomy
• First sex in a self-driving car
• Full trips with no input from driver
• Full trips by empty cars
• An empty car wandering the highways for months or years until someone notices the credit card fuel charges
• Cars that read other cars' bumper stickers before deciding whether to cut them off
• Autonomous engine revving at red lights
• Self-loathing cars
• Autonomous canyon jumping

Discussion

This page is, without offense to the creator, a mess. We're gonna need a table for this. 172.68.47.78 19:14, 6 December 2017 (UTC)

• Or at least a list. I have created one, but it could use fleshing out.WingedCat (talk) 19:55, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
List is fine. You don't need a table for everything - especially if this table had only one or two columns...
none taken, it's my first time (I only wrote the first three points from a blank page) 162.158.111.61 09:08, 7 December 2017 (UTC)

I'm going to go with a [citation needed] on that "sex in a self-driving has probably already happened." Are there stats suggesting the amount of coitus per vehicle in the relevant counties?

"This a joke about Boolean satisfiability, as evaluating an arbitrarily complex bumper sticker and determining whether to honk is NP-complete." What? Determining whether to honk has nothing to do with the satisfiability problem; this is more of a joke about getting a computer to evaluate the truth of Boolean expressions that it may have no information about. Checkmate (talk) 22:07, 6 December 2017 (UTC)Checkmate

I believe the "Autonomous canyon jumping" is related to the self-loathing; a self-loathing is likely to autonomously jump off a cliff. 108.162.212.179 22:30, 6 December 2017 (UTC)

"As of 2017, self-driving s require a human to be able to take over just in case, but any such trip where the human never actually took control would qualify for this milestone." I seems like not all places require a human backup driver: https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/7/16615290/waymo-self-driving-safety-driver-chandler-autonomous 172.69.22.146 23:19, 6 December 2017 (UTC)

Time to start printing "Honk if this statement evaluates as 'do not honk!'" bumper stickers! 162.158.63.28 01:24, 7 December 2017 (UTC)

Is this related to the Vsauce Mind Field video about self-driving s and the trolley problem the literally released today, or is it just a weird coincidence?162.158.74.225 05:13, 7 December 2017 (UTC)

The likelihood of trolley-like problems is no lower for an autonomous car than a human-driven one, since it depends on external factors. It might be true that if a significant number of the other cars on the road were replaced with self-driving ones, that would reduce the occurrence of conflicts, and therefore the likelihood and severity of these problems would be lower, but it would be lower for self-driven and human-driven cars alike. The real issue with such debates is that they tend to make a false assumption that existing human drivers are good at solving these problems, when the whole thrust of these thought experiments is to demonstrate that there are no generally accepted solutions to these problems.141.101.104.239 09:33, 7 December 2017 (UTC)

I don't think anyone would argue that human drivers are good at handling trolley-problem situations, and we don't tend to expect humans to make good decisions under pressure. The problem is that a self-driving car would need to be programmed to make decisions in these scenarios in advance, which would involve assigning absolute values to the different options in a trolley-problem scenario. As you said, there's no generally accepted solution to these problems, so the controversy arises from deciding how self-driving cars should be programmed to handle these situations. 162.158.79.161 21:05, 7 December 2017 (UTC)
```"Given the nature of human sexuality, it is possible this has already happened, but there has not been a public documentation of this milestone."
```

Rule 34 applies. --162.158.89.133 12:44, 7 December 2017 (UTC)

that part after the but is an edit from me, because the previous wording was even less plausible:
"but no one recorded the incident." - I changed that to "but there has not been a public documentation of this milestone."
because I didn't find any recording with a quick search on one of the more famous free sites for videos like that (not car videos...) Lupo (talk) 16:58, 7 December 2017 (UTC)

"An empty car wandering the highways" - that doesn't seem so ridiculous; a car costs what, \$9000/year? That's like an EC2 instance and not even the biggest one. Sabik (talk) 13:22, 7 December 2017 (UTC)

Plus you have to factor in the potential for the cost of letting the car wander becoming cheaper than paying for a parking space, in which case it may become a deliberate choice.141.101.104.239 13:24, 7 December 2017 (UTC)
Some stops will provide free electricity so an electric car could keep going that way. Its owner will notice it's missing but they could be sick in hospital or even dead - they may even die in the car from a medical issue if that then counts as an empty car. Why the car's journey never ends is a different question. Maybe it drives the deceased owner to work and back every day. Maybe it's searching for a parking space and charging point but cannot reach the former from the latter before it has to go back and charge again. Robert Carnegie [email protected] 141.101.105.6 16:09, 7 December 2017 (UTC)
My first thought was of a woman who had died in her house, but wasn't found for many years because her bills were all auto-paid.162.158.122.12 14:49, 8 December 2017 (UTC)

Added a bit more to the explanation and formatted everything into a table so it's more organized. --JayRulesXKCD what's up? 13:26, 7 December 2017 (UTC)

Are there any researchers working on cars that can find a parking space? (Instead of just park in one that the human driver finds?) 162.158.111.145 14:53, 7 December 2017 (UTC)

There is a parking space app and parking payment apps. I don't know if smart cars are allowed to use these without human supervision. Robert Carnegie [email protected] 141.101.105.6 16:11, 7 December 2017 (UTC)
Tesla already has software to allow a Model S or X to park itself after dropping off human occupants at their destination. It's not yet released to owners but Tesla is testing it. ----

The first three milestones all come under the heading of recently achieved. 1.Volvo has an auto breaking system on imminent collision detection 2.lane keeping/warning systems are now relatively common. 3.Several models have automatic parking assist.162.158.165.16 04:28, 8 December 2017 (UTC)

Perhaps commenters here are to young to remember Evel Knievel https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evel_Knievel but I feel very confident Randall was thinking of Evel and his Snake River Canyon jump when he wrote the "Autonomous Canyon Jumping" milestone----

The table seems to miss the fact that the comic starts with things which have all been implemented in vehicles and have become commonplace, spending a lot of time talking about hypothetical problems which don't really change the fact that these things are all "done". Automatic emergency braking is available on new cars and appears to be a fairly simple collision-avoidance system. Highway lane-keeping is also definitely "solved" in the current batch of self-driving cars and is a selling point for some mainstream cars and trucks too (and the difficulties with faded lines or whatever is fairly irrelevant to the comic as a whole). Self-parking is also available in a lot of standard cars these days. "Full highway autonomy" is more or less solved now, though of course there are legal issues with it. Without doing any research I think we can all agree that "First sex..." has definitely been done by now. The first milestone that is probably in our future, now, is the "no input" line (though I can't be sure... can a user really just get into the car, give and address and do nothing else to help until it parks at its destination?).141.101.69.33 19:16, 9 December 2017 (UTC)

The bit about first sex brings to mind "What on Earth!" What on Earth!. 172.68.141.82 07:17, 12 December 2017 (UTC)