Like it or not, autonomous vehicles are coming. Between Google's various efforts and the constant evolution of automaker prototypes, it's only a matter of time before computers take the wheel. Don't get us wrong, either. That's not entirely a bad thing. While U.S. traffic fatalities have fallen to their lowest number since 1949, the reality is 32,310 Americans lost their lives in traffic incidents last year alone. That number marks a decline of around 26 percent since 2005, and analysts believe much of that fall is due to drivers traveling fewer and fewer miles.

So, what if people weren't forced to drive at all? What if a computer, which can't be distracted, never grows tired and is always at peak performance, took over the mundane task of dragging warm bodies to work every morning or off to vacation every summer? Where would our traffic fatalities be then?

In the latest TEDTalks video, Chris Gerdes speaks about how he's been part of a team that's seen Audi tackle Pikes Peak and build autonomous drift cars. But researchers have found something interesting by studying real race car drivers in the cockpit. Namely, human drivers continue to be better at instinctual manipulation of a vehicle than their autonomous counterparts. Pretty cool. Check the video out below.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 23 Comments
      DrSandman
      • 2 Years Ago
      When they pry my cold dead hands from my french-stitched, leather-wrapped steering wheel... I would rather rip the still beating computer heart from my car -- Terminator-style -- and send it back to the 9th circle of Hell from whence this vile succubus erupted in a flaming chariot of death than be driven on a public road by unfeeling, amoral silicon.
      Zeus
      • 2 Years Ago
      Robotic race cars...ok...this is my beef with academia and scientists. Only a scientist....ONNNNNLYYYYY a scientist would think a robotic race car is a step forward. I love TED talks and I think there are some brilliant minds here, but does this guy even get it? Racing is not about autonomous vehicles. Second, I doubt an autonomous vehicle would drive a race car as accurately as a human because of one thing: anticipation. An experienced racer anticipates what will happen where a robot reacts. An experienced driver can see the driver ahead him about to make a mistake before it happens. Years of experience can not be replaced by algorithms. I have so many problems with this talk that I can't even contain myself right now. I very strongly dislike this man and his vision of the automobile. I don't hate anyone, but I hate this mans idea and vision of the future.
        wookiee
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Zeus
        whatever dude... "not my opinion blah blah blah..." the point is ALL of those factors and inputs (seeing a crash, realising the mixture needs adjusted, knowing the inlet temp, etc...) are quantifiable, and a computer can be programmed to take them into account and make a decision. it's the factors that are hard to quantify (like knowing the experience level of the drivers around you) that humans do better than computers. if computers weren't better at getting fuel mixtures right, then why are the majority of people driving fuel injected cars instead of carburetors? BTW, I'm not saying I want to see race drivers replaced by automatons... I just happen to see the point of a robot being able to control a car on the limit and, more importantly, know where the limit is so this technology can be advanced.
          Zeus
          • 2 Years Ago
          @wookiee
          Actualy wookiee in the days of mculloch 2 stroke karting according to my friend who is a 16 time national champion or as you put it "blah blah blah" by the time a computer could make the mechanical adjustment and react to the needed mixture change the motor would have blown up. Running lean for even a couple seconds in these motors can have catastrophic results. The processors are fast, but the mechanical action to adjust the mixture is too slow compared to a human who can anticipate. People are driving fuel injected cars and not carburetors because of emissions laws, not because a computer is better at adjusting the mixture. Remember that the computers were programmed off of existing knowledge people already had. They are modeled on our ideas. Look at Cessna light air craft, the mixtures are still adjusted by hand and the pilot is directly involved in the process. I see more value in teaching people how to drive and making driving requirements higher and better than just automating everything. Thats all.
        RWD
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Zeus
        Yeah, to watch a bunch or robotic cars race each other sounds pretty lame indeed, worse than radio control! But you're wrong about one thing... Antonymous systems can anticipate. Cameras and LIDAR are more sensitive than eyes, computing power will be (and in some cases already is) faster than human reaction time, track conditions & car dynamics can be measured with sensor arrays in milliseconds, and GPS can inform about other car's locations, even with zero visibility. Algorithms can absolutely replace years of experience, and do it with far greater consistency. Is the development finished? No. Will this be exciting racing? GOD no. But without a doubt, this is firmly in our future, sooner than I ever would have thought. Just think, they've barely begun to scratch the surface of this tech, and it's already drifting. As long as I can turn it off and go for an old fashioned Sunday B-road drive, bring it on for commute days!
        RWD
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Zeus
        Yeah, to watch a bunch or robotic cars race each other sounds pretty lame indeed, worse than radio control! But you're wrong about one thing... Antonymous systems can anticipate. Cameras and LIDAR are more sensitive than eyes, computing power will be (and in some cases already is) faster than human reaction time, track conditions & car dynamics can be measured with sensor arrays in milliseconds, and GPS can inform about other car's locations, even with zero visibility. Algorithms can absolutely replace years of experience, and do it with far greater consistency. Is the development finished? No. Will this be exciting racing? GOD no. But without a doubt, this is firmly in our future, sooner than I ever would have thought. Just think, they've barely begun to scratch the surface of this tech, and it's already drifting. As long as I can turn it off and go for an old fashioned Sunday B-road drive, bring it on for commute days!
          Zeus
          • 2 Years Ago
          @RWD
          Yeah for commuter cars I'm all for it because a lot of people can't drive worth dog ****, but for the rest of us who can it should be an option NOT mandated. For racing it should be absolutely banned. Watching a bunch of computers race is about as exciting as watching grass grow.
        wookiee
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Zeus
        hang on a second, are you saying race drivers are psychic? of course they're not! they anticipate what will happen based on observable inputs. those same inputs can be observed, and decisions made based on the likely outcome. or maybe you are saying race drivers can read minds and see the future...?
      VIPER94
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Robots can take our food, our clothes, and our homes. But they will NEVER take our cars." - Dodge Charger - The Future of Driving
        • 2 Years Ago
        @VIPER94
        [blocked]
        VIPER94
        • 2 Years Ago
        @VIPER94
        Oh im sorry, do you want autonomous driving to take over racing? And don't be hatin on the charger
      BrandonF_XXX
      • 2 Years Ago
      This guy isn't saying it in the right way. Think of Autonomous racing like this: RACING WITHOUT SAFETY REGULATIONS. unlimited speed could be very, very interesting to watch. Crashes would be spectacular and its ok, because there would be no driver to protect inside the car.
        ToyotaSupraMan
        • 2 Years Ago
        @BrandonF_XXX
        You mean like Burnout?
        Zeus
        • 2 Years Ago
        @BrandonF_XXX
        You're totally missing the point of why people watch motor racing. The crowd would still be a liability which is why a derestricted series hasn't happened.
      kyle
      • 2 Years Ago
      and this is exactly why i plan to hang on to my mazda 3. while the masses are cruising around in their autonomous big brother mobiles, i'll have a blast swerving around them and going as fast as i damn well feel like going.
        Zeus
        • 2 Years Ago
        @kyle
        Thank you Kyle. Thats what I'm saying. I can't stand the idea of getting in a car even on a commute and not having control. I'm sorry but I don't trust computer systems to do the same job I can. Computer systems can crash, they can be hacked. This opens up the door to so many possibilities of things to go wrong. What we need is better driver training, not autonomous vehicles.
      JR
      • 2 Years Ago
      The big drop in fatalities can also be attributed to much safer cars,great EMS(helicopters and the golden hour) and safer highway design. Automated or not,when things go bad at 70mph,there will still be some carnage.
      David
      • 2 Years Ago
      A great speech! These vehicles are not far away, I'm sure!
      Soul Shinobi
      • 2 Years Ago
      Slightly more inspiring and philosophical than the typical autonomous car mental masturbation project.
      Chris
      • 2 Years Ago
      Think about this would you rather have a drunk human behind the wheel next to you or an autonomous car?
        Zeus
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Chris
        That is about the only good use for these cars. They will come up with some law to get money out of you if you are autonomously driving drunk though. Watch, I guarantee you there will be some law about it or if you do it you have to pay some bullsh*t tax.
      Chris
      • 2 Years Ago
      Those who doubt autonomous cars think about this... would you rather have a drunk human behind the wheel next to you or an autonomous car?
      axiomatik
      • 2 Years Ago
      I will have to watch this when I get a chance. Chris Gerdes was my advisor and one of my professors when I was in grad school at Stanford. He is a car guy through and through, and his research has been fascinating.
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