Posts Tagged self-driving cars

Self Driving Cars Of The Sea

Posted by on Saturday, 16 August, 2014
Funny cartoon about self driving ship




Self driving cars are already on the roads. In a few years, you’ll own one.  We’re scrambling to get the laws and insurance rules done.

What about ships?

I’m serious.

Remember the Costa Concordia?

It actually hit a rock?

Ships don’t GO that fast. And rocks? They don’t go at all.

Would a computerized pilot get lost in somebody’s baby blue eyes? Would it cruise dangerously close to shore to show off?

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad doesn’t think so.

Why can’t we at least do what several  car models already do – the ones that  “grab the wheel” to save you from killing yourself? If it works for cars at 65 mph, it should work for ships at 19 mph.

You would think.

Ship owners would like to go further. They really like the idea of self piloted “ghost” ships.

Without a crew, ships would be smaller and simpler and more fuel efficient. And what’s a ship worth to pirates if there’s no crew?  Would you pay a big ransom for a scow full of tires?

Oskar Levander, VP of Innovation, Marine Engineering, and Technology at Rolls Royce, says we’re ready to do this. Rolls Royce has a simulated system to show off to potential customers; the company (or at least Levander) sees this as inevitable.

Here’s the thing.

It’s a great idea. But ships don’t get smashed against rocks by foolish captains very often.

The big risks are bad weather and propulsion systems that explode, catch fire, or fail, leaving the vessel to founder in the waves. A ship without power is in extreme danger in the middle of the ocean. Robots still aren’t as fast and flexible and reliable as a human in an emergency.

Would an automated pilot be able to respond properly to an oncoming rogue wave? Would it know what to do if the windows got blown out on the side of the ship?

MISTER Science AintSoBad likes techno stuff. It should, in principle, be possible to replace the crew with well designed, redundant systems but labor unions and regulators will be hard to convince.

Maybe that’s a good thing.



Posted by on Tuesday, 3 December, 2013
Funny cartoon about drones



Cool doesn’t last forever.

Amazon had it. Now it doesn’t.

I need your help, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, told his secret planning group. People expect innovation these days. They were meeting in the “Black Board Room” in a trailer behind the executive offices.

Yeah, Said the woman next to him. We better shake things up some. My kid told his class he thinks I work for Sears.

Oh no!

We’re drying out.

Bezos looked flustered. Drying out?

Like an old pastry. The last creative idea we had was when you copied the idea for those Android tablets.

Yeah. THAT was outside the box! said the guy across the table.

Bezos gave him a warning look.

The woman slumped. Maybe we just accept the fact that we had one amazing,  huge idea. Why not just keep milking it? We’re doing okay.

Except we’ve never made a profit.

Another warning look. Sharper.

Undaunted, she went on. What about drones?

Drones? Like in Afghanistan?

We could say we’re testing drones to deliver packages.

That’s not exactly practical.

If Benjamin Franklin thought that way, we wouldn’t have electricity. It’s kind of crazy, yes. But – you know what? – it would change the subject from “When are you going to make money?”

I’m all for that Bezos said.

Here’s how it would work. You order something, right? That part doesn’t change.. But when you get to the “shopping cart”, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you would find a new shipping method called by drone. If you select it,  an order goes out to the  Amazon Drone Operations Center where the product you ordered is hustled onto a specially equipped Amazon Flying Machine. The rotor spins up, the drone leaps into the air, and, as it is stabilizing itself, the shipping address shows up wirelessly.

No lost time.

The machine then charts the fastest delivery route and, within 60 minutes, carefully delivers the package as close as possible to the delivery point.

I love it, Bezos said. What about the details? What would it do when it arrived at a high rise? One with buzzers? And what about accidents and practical stuff like cost and reliability?

Let me ask you something, Jeff, she said. Did you drive here in a self driving car?

He looked confused. Self driving? I have a driver. . Oh. One of those Google things?

 He paused.

I guess I do see your point. They’ve been yacking about self-driving cars for years. Nobody takes this stuff seriously. It’s only innovation, right? A way to change the subject from profitability?

Ding! Said the woman across the table, a smile spreading across her face.

Call the PR department. We’ll get working on this immediately.

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The drawing is mine. You probably figured that out from the copyright.


Robot:”Slide over. I’m driving. “

Posted by on Friday, 20 July, 2012




Say you’re driving and a brick wall pops into existence right in front of your speeding car. Do you drive right into it?  Or do you jam on the brakes and twist the wheel to avoid a collision? While you’re scratching your head over that tough one, let’s look at one way to  reduce your chances of an accident.

You’ve read about cars that drive themselves right? In two or three years, your car’s gonna be twice as smart as you are. Twice. That’s SOMETHING, huh? While you’re re-reading Fifty Shades Of Grey, your car will take you from point A to point B without crashing into vehicle C .

Sterling Anderson (Mechanical Engineering at MIT) has been concerned that we’re going about this all wrong. He says self-driving cars that follow preprogrammed paths don’t make sense. After all, it’s certainly not what you do in real life.  You’re constantly reinventing how you’re gonna get to the office as you drive . Get squeezed into the left lane? Traffic’s crawling to your right? Might as well stay left till you’re under the bridge (ASSUMING Mister Testosterone will just back off of your bumper). Anderson’s idea is to put in place an electronic “copilot” that doesn’t interfere except when needed. This arrangement lets you do all the driving unless you get out of your “safe zone”‘ If that happens,  Anderson’s “friendly ghost” grabs the wheel. He and his associate from the MIT Mobility Lab, Karl Iagnemma, think you will barely notice. You may even give yourself undeserved credit for an expert maneuver that you couldn’t have accomplished without that virtual tug on the wheel.

Anderson and Iagnemma also point to the cost advantages of their system over a fully autonomous vehicle. Lots cheaper. Less parts. Less complex.

Mister ScienceAintSoBad wishes Sterling Anderson good luck. His impressive new system will, no doubt, win him a well deserved PhD. But he may be underestimating the appeal and robustness of the “competition”. Google’s self driving cars have gone further and with less problems. And the marketing momentum seems to favor Google’s more comprehensive approach.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 5 . Technological tour de force. Commercial acceptance? Time will tell.

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Image credits:  People always wonder about my secret source for high quality artwork such as the above drawing/cartoon. Shocking, I know. But I drew it myself.  MISTER CartoonsAintSoBad.