Experts caution self-driving cars aren't ready for roads

Experts caution self-driving cars aren't ready for roads

Self-driving cars are more likely to hurt than help public safety because of unsolved technical issues, engineers and safety advocates told the government Friday, countering a push by innovators to speed government approval.

Even a trade association for automakers cautioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that a slower, more deliberative approach may be needed than the agency’s aggressive plan to provide its guidance for deploying the vehicles in just six months. The decision to produce the guidance was announced in January and officials have promised to complete it by July.

There are risks to deviating from the government’s traditional process of issuing regulations and standards, Paul Scullion, safety manager at the Association of Global Automakers, said at a public meeting on self-driving cars hosted by NHTSA.

Issuing new regulations takes an average of eight years, NHTSA has said. Regulations are also enforceable, while guidance is usually more general and open to interpretation.

“While this process is often time-consuming, these procedural safeguards are in place for valid reasons,” Scullion said. Working outside that process might allow the government to respond more quickly to rapidly changing technology, but that approach would likely come at the expense of thoroughness, he said.

Mark Rosekind, NHTSA’s administrator, said the agency can’t wait because early self-driving technologies are already in cars on the road, including automatic emergency braking that can stop or reduce speed to avoid or mitigate a collision. Another safety option on some vehicles automatically steers vehicles back into their lanes if they start to drift without the driver first using a turn signal.

“Everybody asks, ‘When are they going to be ready?’ I keep saying they’re not coming; they are here now,” Rosekind said.

Without federal instructions, “people are just going to keep putting stuff out on the road with no guidance on how do we do this the right way.”

Rosekind emphasized that he sees self-driving cars as game-changing technology that can someday save the lives of many of the more than 30,000 people killed each year on the nation’s roads.

A General Motors official recently told a Senate committee that the automaker expects to deploy self-driving cars within a few years through a partnership with the ride-sharing service Lyft. Google, a pioneer in the development of self-driving cars, is pushing Congress to give NHTSA new powers to grant it special, expedited permission to sell cars without steering wheels or pedals.

But many of those who addressed the meeting, the first of two the agency has scheduled as it works on the guidelines, described a host of situations that self-driving cars still can’t handle:

-Poorly marked pavement, including parking lots and driveways, could foil the technology, which relies on clear lane markings.

-Bad weather can interfere with vehicle sensors.

-Self-driving cars can’t take directions from a policeman.

-Inconsistent traffic-control devices – horizontal versus lateral traffic lights, for example.

Until the technology has advanced beyond the point where ordinary conditions are problematic, “it is dangerous, impractical and a major threat to the public health, safety and welfare to deploy them,” said Mark Golden, executive director of the National Society of Professional Engineers.

There have been thousands of “disengagements” reported in road tests of self-driving cars in which the vehicles automatically turned control over to a human being, said John Simpson, privacy project director of Consumer Watchdog.

“Self-driving cars simply aren’t ready to safely manage too many routine traffic situations without human intervention, he said.

Rosekind said automakers are learning from the unanticipated situations the vehicles encounter and adapting their software. At the same time, he acknowledged that self-driving cars, like other systems that rely on wireless technology, can be vulnerable to hacking.

James Niles, president of Orbit City Lab, a New York think tank, told the meeting that there is a complete absence of federal regulations and standards to prevent self-driving cars from being turned into weapons by “bad actors.”

“The concern that an autonomous vehicle could be used as a weapon has gone unnoticed by the general public and probably by the majority of government officials,” he said.

President Barack Obama has proposed a 10-year, $3.9 billion automated technologies program, including large-scale pilot deployments of self-driving cars around the country and funding additional cybersecurity research.

Ola starts e-rickshaw service in Delhi NCR

Transportation app Ola launched the e-rickshaw category on its platform that will enable the users to book rides on the electric vehicle in Delhi-NCR region.

The service will be launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi later in the day as part of ‘Stand-Up India’ initiative, which aimed at promoting entrepreneurship.

“A total of 5,100 Ola e-rickshaws will be launched in partnership with Bhartiya Micro Credit (BMC) at the event and will be deployed across Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad and Ghaziabad. This will be further scaled up in the coming months to more small towns and Tier III cities,” Ola Chief Operating Officer Pranay Jivrajka told reporters here.

The company will charge a 10% commission from the rickshaw pedallers. It will, however, not charge any convenience fee from users as is the case with auto-rickshaws.


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While the fare will differ city to city, users will have to pay Rs 25 for two km and Rs 8 per km for the following distance. They can pay cash or use Ola Money, the company’s wallet service.

“We will soon launch ride sharing options, which will bring down the cost,” he said without disclosing a timeline. Estimates suggest there are five million rickshaw pedallers in the country.

With over 60% of the India’s population residing in small towns, Ola aims to strengthen mobility in these towns with the e-rickshaw initiative, he added.

“Citizens in these cities and towns currently suffer from lack of convenient and reliable mobility options, especially for short distances. E-rickshaws are an affordable and greener alternative in these cities that can serve mobility needs unique to these small towns and cities in India,” he said.

Apart from financial support for procuring e-rickshaws, Ola and BMC will also set up and run skill development centres in these towns to enable continuous skilling and training for thousands of rickshaw driver-entrepreneurs.

Ola already has about 80,000 auto-rickshaws and 3.5 lakh cabs on its platform.

Besides, digital payments company FreeCharge has also come on board as a partner. It will enable customers to connect and pay via chat with e-Rickshaw drivers as part of its chat-n-pay service.

“The drivers can register as a merchant at zero investment, on the Chat-n-Pay platform by simply adding their banking details. For consumers and drivers, Chat-n-Pay will help eliminate the hassle of managing and arranging change and will further offer convenience to pay on-the-go in a seamless and secure manner,” Govind Rajan, Chief Operating Officer, FreeCharge said.

 source-india today

How to bring Alexa into every room of your home.

It’s surprisingly easy to add multiple Alexa devices to a single Amazon account. The Amazon Alexa app for iOS and Android walks you through the process. If you sync control of any smart home devices to one Echo unit, any other Echo products tied to the same account will also recognize them.

Thanks to an audio line-in on the Tap and the magic of Bluetooth, you can link the Tap to the Dot either over a cable or wirelessly. This combination gets you the better speakers and the portability of the Tap with the always-listening Alexa feature via the Dot. Buying both the Dot and Tap will cost $220, $20 more than a single Echo, but it gives you a more flexible set up with portability when you need it — and always-on Alexa convenience when you don’t.




 Another way to extend Alexa is a single Echo and a Voice Remote. That will cost $210 and it will give you the best speaker of the set, plus an Alexa contact point in one room. The Voice Remote uses Bluetooth, and the range proved extensive when we tried it out in the CNET Smart Home. I placed an Echo on the top floor, went two floors down into the basement, and the Echo still responded to my command