Self-Driving Cars: The Road Ahead – KQED QUEST


Narrator:
THESE DAYS, IT CAN FEEL LIKE WE SPEND MUCH OF OUR LIVES
STUCK BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A CAR. SO WHAT IF YOUR CAR
COULD TAKE THE WHEEL? Lipinski:
JUST PRESS THOSE TWO BUTTONS AND LET GO
OF THE STEERING WHEEL. Narrator:
FROM AUDI TO GOOGLE, MAJOR COMPANIES ARE RACING
TO DEVELOP CARS SMART ENOUGH TO HANDLE THE DRIVING. Kalra: SELF-DRIVING CARS
HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO REVOLUTIONIZE
THE WAY WE WORK, THE WAY WE SOCIALIZE. Narrator:
BUT HOW RELIABLE IS TECHNOLOGY THAT BLURS THE LINES
BETWEEN CAR AND DRIVER? Shladover:
IF THE COMPUTER THAT’S
DRIVING THE VEHICLE FAILS, SOMEBODY COULD, INDEED, DIE. Narrator: COMING UP,
HOW SELF-DRIVING CARS WILL SPARK NEW OPPORTUNITIES
AND CHALLENGES ON AND OFF THE ROAD. [ HEART BEATING ] Announcer:
SUPPORT FOR “QUEST”
IS PROVIDED BY…
ADDITIONAL SUPPORT
IS PROVIDED BY…
SUPPORT IS ALSO PROVIDED
BY THE MEMBERS OF KQED.
“QUEST” IS A PROJECT
OF KQED SCIENCE.
Lundblad: HERE, I’M GONNA CHECK
MY RIGHT MIRROR IN CASE THERE’S A BIKE. WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR
IS ANYTHING MOVING. Narrator: DRIVING INSTRUCTOR
JUDY LUNDBLAD HELPS NEW DRIVERS NAVIGATE
THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO AND TACKLE TOUGH MANEUVERS
LIKE PARALLEL PARKING. Lundblad: LOOK AT THAT. YOU GET INTO A NICE,
TIGHT SPACE THAT WAY. AND NOW YOU’RE DONE. I TOLD YOU YOU COULD PARK. Woman: [ CHUCKLES ]
THANK YOU. Narrator: BUT WHAT IF THE CAR
COULD DO THE PARKING FOR YOU? Nair: THIS IS OUR NEW
2015 FORD EDGE. THE VEHICLE
CAN PARALLEL-PARK ITSELF. THIS IS USING
OUR ULTRASONIC SENSORS, SENSING AN OPEN SPOT, REVERSING THE VEHICLE
INTO THE SPOT. [ VEHICLE CHIMES ] THIS VEHICLE
STILL REQUIRES YOU TO USE THE BRAKE
AND THE ACCELERATOR PEDAL. WE’RE WORKING ON A SYSTEM THAT TAKES OVER BRAKING
AND ACCELERATING FOR YOU. Narrator: NEW CARS TODAY
ARE ADVANCED ENOUGH TO SENSE THE DRIVING ENVIRONMENT
AND PULL INTO PARKING SPACES. BUT IT’S JUST THE FIRST STEP
IN A HIGH-TECH REVOLUTION THAT COULD BE
THE BIGGEST GAME CHANGER IN THE INDUSTRY’S HISTORY — CARS SMART ENOUGH
TO DRIVE THEMSELVES. Nair: I’M EXCITED
ABOUT SELF-DRIVING CARS. OVER THE 100 YEARS
OF THE INDUSTRY, THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF GREAT
TECHNOLOGIES INTRODUCED, BUT THE SELF-DRIVING VEHICLE,
I THINK, IS IN A DIFFERENT CATEGORY. Kalra: IT USED TO BE THAT WE WOULD TAKE
HORSES AND BUGGIES AROUND, AND THEN WE HAD THIS THING
CALLED A HORSELESS CARRIAGE, WHICH WAS
THE VERY FIRST AUTOMOBILE. AND NOW WE SEE OUR VEHICLES
AS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THINGS. THERE’S NO RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN A HORSE AND A VEHICLE. AND I THINK
THE AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE COULD MAKE US SEE OUR VEHICLES
IN THE SAME WAY. Computer: SYSTEM IS ACTIVE. Kalra: IF WE DON’T HAVE TO SIT
BEHIND A STEERING WHEEL LOOKING OUT AT THE ROAD, AND INSTEAD CAN BE PRODUCTIVE
WHILE WE’RE IN OUR CARS, THAT CHANGES THE WAY WE WORK. DO WE READ?
DO WE EDUCATE OURSELVES? DO WE PLAY?
WHAT DO WE DO? IT CHANGES WHAT IT MEANS
TO GET INTO A CAR. Narrator:
MASS-PRODUCED SELF-DRIVING CARS
DON’T EXIST YET, BUT PROTOTYPES ARE NO LONGER
THE STUFF OF SCIENCE FICTION. THEY’RE ALREADY ON THE ROADS
IN SINGAPORE AND SWEDEN AND HERE IN SILICON VALLEY. Lipinski: AND THE ONLY THING
I HAVE TO DO NOW IS PRESS THOSE TWO BUTTONS AND LET GO
OF THE STEERING WHEEL. NOW THE CAR’S TAKING OVER
THE COMPLETE DRIVING TASK. Man: IS IT CHANGING LANES
RIGHT NOW? Lipinski:
YES, IT’S CHANGING LANES. WHAT YOU SEE HERE
IS THE FIRST GENERATION OF AN AUTOMATED DRIVING SYSTEM, WHICH IS A BIG STEP, AND IT MEANS THAT THE CAR
DOESN’T ASSIST YOU ANYMORE. IT IS IS IN CHARGE OF DRIVING. Narrator: WELCOME TO THE FUTURE
OF DRIVING. FROM STOPPING FATAL CAR CRASHES TO BOOSTING MOBILITY
FOR DISABLED PEOPLE AND RE-SHAPING CITY LANDSCAPES, SELF-DRIVING CARS
COULD RE-DEFINE HOW WE DRIVE AND HOW WE LIVE. BUT THE ROAD TO AUTOMATION
CARRIES RISKS AND CONCERNS. WHEN ACCIDENTS HAPPEN, IS THE HUMAN OR MACHINE
TO BLAME? HOW SAFE AND RELIABLE
IS SOFTWARE AND HARDWARE THAT BLURS THE LINES
BETWEEN CAR AND DRIVER? FOR NOW, AUTO MAKERS LIKE AUDI
ARE TAKING A GRADUAL APPROACH TO AUTOMATE DRIVING THROUGH ADVANCED
DRIVER-ASSISTANCE SYSTEMS, WHICH ARE DESIGNED TO BOOST
SAFETY AND CONVENIENCE. Lipinski: THOSE SYSTEMS HELP YOU KEEP THE DISTANCE
TO THE CAR AHEAD OF YOU. THEY HELP YOU STAY IN THE LANE. THEY ALSO WARN YOU WHEN YOU TRY
TO MAKE A LANE CHANGE AND THERE’S SOMEBODY
IN YOUR BLIND SPOT. WITH A COUPLE OF NEW SENSORS
AND A LOT OF NEW FUNCTIONALITY, YOU CAN ACTUALLY IMPLEMENT
SELF-DRIVING CARS BASED ON THE SAME TECHNOLOGY
THAT YOU HAVE IN CARS TODAY. WE EXPECT THE FIRST SELF-DRIVING
CARS TO BE ON THE ROAD BY 2020, OR EVEN EARLIER THAN THAT. Narrator: SINCE 2009, TECH GIANT GOOGLE HAS BEEN
DEVELOPING AND TESTING SELF-DRIVING CARS NEAR
ITS OFFICES IN MOUNTAIN VIEW. IT CLAIMS THEY COULD BE READY
FOR PUBLIC USE AS EARLY AS 2017. NIDHI KALRA IS A SAN FRANCISCO
BASED SCIENTIST AT THE RAND CORPORATION
WHO STUDIES SELF-DRIVING CARS. Kalra: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE,
DIFFERENT SENSORS, MACHINE LEARNING,
DIFFERENT COMPUTER CHIPS — ALL OF THIS TECHNOLOGY HAS BEEN
DEVELOPED IN SILICON VALLEY, WHEREAS TRADITIONAL
AUTOMOTIVE TECHNOLOGIES HAVE GROWN UP,
YOU KNOW, OUT OF DETROIT. THAT’S A REFLECTION OF THE FACT THAT CARS ARE NOW COMPUTERS
WITH SENSORS. THEY’RE MACHINES WITH SMARTS. Narrator: CAR COMPANIES SUCH AS
FORD, MERCEDES, AND AUDI HAVE OPENED RESEARCH CENTERS
IN SILICON VALLEY TO ENGINEER
AND TEST TECHNOLOGIES THAT ENABLE CARS TO SENSE
AND INTERPRET THE ROAD. Lipinski: MEET JACK, ONE OF AUDI’S
SELF-DRIVING PROTOTYPE CARS. WHAT MAKES THIS CAR SPECIAL
IS THE SUITE OF SENSORS THAT IS INTEGRATED IN THE CAR THAT ALLOW THE CAR
TO MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS AND MANEUVER THROUGH TRAFFIC. ONE OF THE MAIN SENSORS
IS A LASER SCANNER THAT SHOOTS OUT FOUR RAYS
TO SCAN THE ENVIRONMENT — THE SURFACE, OBJECTS AROUND YOU,
IN CLOSE DISTANCE, AS WELL AS ROAD MARKINGS
AND ROAD SURFACES. ANOTHER INTERESTING SENSOR THAT
WE USE ARE THOSE RADAR SENSORS, ONE HERE
AND ONE ON THE OTHER SIDE. WHAT THOSE THINGS
ARE REALLY GREAT AT IS DETECTING OBJECTS LIKE CARS
IN LONG DISTANCE. THE THIRD SENSOR THAT WE HAVE
IS THE CAMERA. AND THIS IS BASICALLY
THE EYE OF THE CAR. WHAT THE CAMERA
IS PRETTY GREAT AT IS LOOKING AT THE TRAFFIC
AHEAD OF IT AND MAKING DETECTIONS
AND CLASSIFICATIONS OF OBJECTS LIKE PEDESTRIANS AND CARS,
ET CETERA. Narrator: JACK HAS 23 SENSORS, WHICH ALLOW A 360-DEGREE VIEW OF THE CAR’S
DRIVING ENVIRONMENT. THE SENSORS
COMPLEMENT EACH OTHER, PERFORMING BETTER AT SOME TASKS
THAN OTHERS WHILE DETECTING MOVING VEHICLES
THREE FOOTBALL FIELDS AHEAD AND REACTING TO HAZARDS
IN A FRACTION OF A SECOND. BUT TO MAKE THE CAR
DRIVE LIKE A HUMAN, IT NEEDS A BRAIN
SOPHISTICATED ENOUGH TO INTERPRET
THE VISUAL INFORMATION, COME UP WITH A PLAN,
AND EXECUTE IT SAFELY. Lipinski: THIS IS THE BRAIN
OF THE CAR — HIGH-PERFORMANCE COMPUTERS
THAT TAKE ALL THE SENSORS, DATA FOR THE CAR AND MAKE DECISIONS AND EXECUTE
THOSE DECISIONS BASED ON THAT. WE HAVE
A LOT MORE HORSEPOWER HERE THAN WE ACTUALLY NEED
FOR THE FUNCTIONS, BUT WE NEED TO PLAY AROUND
AND FIND THE BEST SOLUTIONS. AND THEN WE TAKE THIS AND PORT IT TO A UNIT
THAT’S THE SIZE OF AN iPAD. THIS IS, BY FAR,
THE MOST IMPORTANT AND MOST INTERESTING PROJECT
I’VE WORKED ON SO FAR BECAUSE IT HAS THE CAPABILITY
TO CHANGE PEOPLE’S LIFE. Narrator:
FEDERAL AND STATE AGENCIES
ARE KEEPING A CLOSE EYE ON EFFORTS TO ACCELERATE
THIS REVOLUTIONARY TECHNOLOGY. Kalra: THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY
TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION HAS DEVELOPED
LEVELS OF AUTONOMY. LEVELS ONE AND TWO ARE WHERE ONE
OR TWO FUNCTIONS ARE AUTOMATED, LIKE ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL OR ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL
AND LANE-KEEPING. LEVEL THREE IS WHERE THE CAR
CAN, FOR SOME PERIOD OF TIME, REALLY TAKE
THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR DRIVING. BUT THE HUMAN
MAY STILL NEED TO JUMP BACK IN UNDER DIFFERENT CONDITIONS. AND LEVEL FOUR IS WHEN THERE’S NO ONE RESPONSIBLE
FOR THE DRIVING TASK OTHER THAN THE CAR ITSELF. YOU MAY NOT BE ABLE TO BUY
A LEVEL FOUR CAR UNTIL 2025, 2030, BUT WE’RE GONNA START
SEEING THOSE VEHICLES COME INTO OUR LIVES MUCH SOONER THAN I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE
ARE ANTICIPATING. Narrator: AMID THE HOPE,
HOWEVER, THERE ARE SKEPTICS. U.C. BERKELEY TRANSPORTATION
ENGINEER STEVEN SHLADOVER THINKS IT WILL TAKE MUCH LONGER
BEFORE CARS CAN SAFELY NAVIGATE ALL THE COMPLEX SITUATIONS
HUMAN DRIVERS ENCOUNTER. Shladover: NONE OF THE VEHICLE
INDUSTRY PEOPLE WILL BE PROVIDING
FULLY AUTOMATED CARS WITHIN THE NEXT 5 YEARS
OR 10 YEARS OR 15 YEARS. I’M QUITE CERTAIN THAT IT WILL BE MANY DECADES
IN THE FUTURE. Narrator: AND FOR DECADES, CAR COMPANIES HAVE ENTICED
THE PUBLIC WITH DREAMS
OF AUTOMATED DRIVING. IN 1956, GENERAL MOTORS SHARED
THIS VISION OF A FAMILY IN 1976 ENJOYING LIFE
IN THE AUTO-PILOT LANE. Man: WELL DONE, FIREBIRD 2. YOU’RE NOW
UNDER AUTOMATIC CONTROL. HANDS-OFF STEERING. Shladover:
TO DEVELOP THAT SOFTWARE
TO THE LEVEL THAT IT CAN BE AS SAFE
AS A SKILLED HUMAN DRIVER, OR EVEN AS AN AVERAGE
HUMAN DRIVER, IS A HUGE CHALLENGE. ON AVERAGE, A VEHICLE WILL DRIVE 3.3 MILLION HOURS
BETWEEN FATAL CRASHES, OR 65,000 HOURS
BETWEEN INJURY CRASHES. THINK OF WHAT IT WOULD TAKE
TO GET A MOBILE PHONE THAT WOULDN’T DROP A CALL OR HAVE A SOFTWARE FAULT IN
MILLIONS OF HOURS OF OPERATION. BUT IF THE COMPUTER
THAT’S DRIVING THE VEHICLE SUFFERS THAT FAILURE, SOMEBODY COULD, INDEED, DIE. Narrator: ROUGHLY
33,000 PEOPLE IN THE U.S. DIE EACH YEAR IN CAR ACCIDENTS. MORE THAN 90% OF THEM
ARE DUE TO HUMAN ERROR, SUCH AS DRUNK
OR DISTRACTED DRIVING. Gerdes:
MY BEST FRIEND GROWING UP, AS WELL AS A COUSIN OF MINE
AND A NIECE WERE ACTUALLY ALL KILLED
IN TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS. SO FOR ME,
THIS IS AN AMAZING OPPORTUNITY FOR ENGINEERS
TO DRAMATICALLY IMPROVE SAFETY WITH AUTOMATED VEHICLES. Soriano:
I HAVE A 15-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER
ABOUT TO GET HER LICENSE, AND I AM TERRIFIED
OF THE THOUGHT OF HER BEING LICENSED TO DRIVE. AND, YOU KNOW,
IT’S NOT THAT I DON’T TRUST HER. WHAT I DON’T KNOW IS HOW PEOPLE
ARE GOING TO DRIVE AROUND HER. KNOWING THAT A SELF-DRIVING CAR IS GOING TO OBEY
THE RULES OF THE ROAD PROVIDES SOME LEVEL OF COMFORT WITH REGARD TO HER SAFETY
WHEN SHE’S ON THE ROADWAYS. Narrator:
COMPUTERS ALSO DON’T TEXT OR FALL ASLEEP BEHIND THE WHEEL. Soriano:
IF THERE ARE CRITICS OUT THERE AND THEY THINK
IT’S A PIPE DREAM, THEY REALLY NEED
TO OPEN THEIR EYES BECAUSE SELF-DRIVING CARS
ARE GOING TO BE HERE MUCH SOONER
THAN MOST PEOPLE REALIZE. Narrator: IN 2012,
CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN SIGNED A BILL THAT REQUIRED THE STATE DEPARTMENT
OF MOTOR VEHICLES TO DEVELOP REGULATIONS
TO ALLOW SELF-DRIVING CARS ON THE STATE’S ROADS
AND FREEWAYS. IN 2014,
THE AGENCY RELEASED RULES FOR TESTING AUTONOMOUS CARS. Soriano: AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES
ARE LEGAL FOR TESTING PURPOSES ON CALIFORNIA’S ROADWAYS. WITH THE TESTING REGULATIONS,
WE WANT TO ENSURE THAT THERE’S A PERSON,
A HUMAN BEING IN THE VEHICLE THAT’S CAPABLE AND QUALIFIED TO BE ABLE TO TAKE OVER CONTROL
IF THERE’S A PROBLEM. Narrator:
TO GET A TESTING PERMIT, COMPANIES MUST HAVE $5 MILLION
WORTH OF INSURANCE TO HANDLE CLAIMS
ARISING FROM ACCIDENTS. Soriano:
WITHOUT REGULATIONS IN PLACE, MANUFACTURERS ARE LEFT TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT
THEIR PRODUCT IS SAFE. AND I WOULD MUCH RATHER
HAVE GUIDELINES SO THAT EVERYBODY’S FOLLOWING
THE SAME RULES, AS OPPOSED TO LEAVING IT UP TO
THE DIFFERENT CAR COMPANIES. Narrator:
ALONG WITH CALIFORNIA, NEVADA, MICHIGAN,
THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, AND FLORIDA
CURRENTLY HAVE REGULATIONS FOR SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES. THIS POSES A CHALLENGE
FOR CAR MAKERS IF THE RULES VARY
FROM STATE TO STATE. Lipinski: WHEN YOU GO
FROM CALIFORNIA TO NEVADA, FOR EXAMPLE,
WE HAVE TO SWITCH LICENSE PLATES EVERY TIME WE DRIVE
OVER THE BORDER, WHICH IS KIND OF NOT USEFUL. WHAT WE’D REALLY LIKE TO HAVE
IS A FEDERAL REGULATION THAT IS THE SAME EVERYWHERE. Narrator: BUT AT THE MOMENT, THERE ARE
NO FEDERAL REGULATIONS. Soriano: REGULATIONS AROUND
SAFETY FEATURES IN AUTOMOBILES ARE DONE AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL. THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY
TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION TYPICALLY IS THE ONE
THAT DEVELOPS THOSE RULES AND REGULATIONS. THEY FELT IT WAS PREMATURE
TO HAVE REGULATIONS AROUND PUBLIC OPERATION
OF THESE VEHICLES BECAUSE IT’S SUCH
A NEW TECHNOLOGY. Narrator: IT’S SO NEW,
UNPRECEDENTED EVEN, THAT IT CALLS INTO QUESTION
THE VERY DEFINITION OF “DRIVER.” Soriano: WE HAVE BEEN IN THE
BUSINESS OF LICENSING DRIVERS, ENSURING THAT DRIVERS CAN
OPERATE THE VEHICLES SAFELY. OUR FOCUS NOW
WITH SELF-DRIVING CARS WILL SHIFT
TO THE VEHICLE ITSELF. IN THE FUTURE,
THE DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES MAY BE LICENSING THE COMPUTER AND ENSURING
THAT THE COMPUTER FOLLOWS ALL OF THE RULES OF THE ROAD. Narrator: BUT WHAT IF
THE DRIVING DUTIES ARE SHARED BETWEEN THE COMPUTER
AND THE HUMAN DRIVER? IF AN ACCIDENT HAPPENS,
WHO IS LIABLE? Peterson: WHILE IT’S BEING
DRIVEN BY YOU, I THINK
YOU WOULD BE RESPONSIBLE. WHILE IT’S DRIVING ITSELF, THEN THE MANUFACTURER
WOULD BE RESPONSIBLE. IN BOTH THE CALIFORNIA
AND THE NEVADA REGULATIONS, EVERY SELF-DRIVING CAR HAS
TO HAVE WHAT I CALL A BLACK BOX, MUCH LIKE THE BLACK BOX
IN AN AIRPLANE, WHICH PRESERVES
THE LAST 30 SECONDS PRIOR TO ANY ACCIDENT. AT PRESENT,
ONLY ABOUT 5% OF ACCIDENTS ARE MECHANICAL FAILURES. AND THE REST ARE HUMAN FAILURES. BUT THAT PERCENTAGE
IS GOING TO CHANGE AS THE AMOUNT
OF HUMAN DRIVING DECLINES AND THE AMOUNT OF AUTONOMOUS
DRIVING INCREASES. Kalra: DEFINITELY,
THERE WILL BE CRASHES INVOLVING SELF-DRIVING CARS. NO TECHNOLOGY’S PERFECT, BUT ALSO BECAUSE THEY’LL
BE WORKING IN ENVIRONMENTS IN WHICH THERE ARE HUMAN BEINGS,
WHO MAKE MISTAKES. THAT INEVITABLE CRASH WILL OCCUR IN WHICH THERE’S A FATALITY
INVOLVING ONE OF THESE VEHICLES. AND WHAT HAPPENS
REMAINS TO BE SEEN. Narrator: THIS TECHNOLOGY
ALSO HAS THE POTENTIAL TO SPARK CHANGES
BEYOND OUR ROADWAYS. Kalra: THIS IS MY GARAGE. AND MY CAR SITS HERE 90%, 95% OF ITS LIFE
WHEN I’M NOT USING IT, LIKE EVERYONE ELSE’S CAR. AND IT’S TAKING UP
PRIME REAL ESTATE IN THE MIDDLE OF SAN FRANCISCO TO JUST SIT HERE
AND BE NOT USEFUL AT ALL. BUT IMAGINE
IF WE HAVE SELF-DRIVING CARS THAT PICK YOU UP,
TAKE YOU SOMEWHERE DOWNTOWN, AND THEN YOU GET OUT, AND THEY
GO FIND PARKING SOMEWHERE ELSE. THERE MAY BE NO NEED FOR URBAN
PARKING, OR PARKING AT ALL. IN OUR MAJOR CITIES,
OUR CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICTS, 30% OF THE SPACE THERE
IS USED FOR PARKING CARS. WHAT DRIVERLESS CARS CAN DO
FOR THE AUTOMOBILE IS REALLY WHAT THE INTERNET DID
FOR COMPUTERS. IT’S REVOLUTIONARY. IT REALLY CHANGES
WHAT WE THINK A CAR IS. YOU COULD CALL UP A VEHICLE
ON YOUR PHONE. IT’LL PICK YOU UP, DROP YOU
IMMEDIATELY TO YOUR DESTINATION, AND CARRY ON
HELPING SOMEONE ELSE. SO, THE NEED TO OWN A CAR
BECOMES LESS AND LESS, AND WITHOUT A DRIVER, IT CAN BE CHEAPER AND MORE
CONVENIENT TO SHARE A CAR THAN IT IS TO OWN A CAR. Narrator: BUT FOR NOW,
HUMAN DRIVERS ARE STILL STUCK WITH THE STRESS OF CITY DRIVING. Kalra: WE’RE ON 24th STREET
IN NOE VALLEY IN THE HEART OF SAN FRANCISCO. JUST GETTING DOWN THE STREET
IS A REAL CHALLENGE. THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF WHEN
I REALLY DON’T LIKE TO DRIVE. Narrator: IN FACT, OUR LOVE
AFFAIR WITH CARS MAY BE ENDING, ESPECIALLY
FOR YOUNGER GENERATIONS. Kalra: THERE’S AN ENTIRE
GENERATION OF PEOPLE LIKE ME, WHERE FREEDOM
IS WHAT YOU DO ONLINE — BEING ABLE TO BE ON YOUR PHONE,
ON YOUR iPAD. BUT THIS IS DIFFERENT. AS LITTLE AS A GENERATION AGO,
FREEDOM WAS BEING IN YOUR CAR. Narrator:
AND FOR AGING BABY BOOMERS, SELF-DRIVING CARS COULD OFFER YEARS OF CONTINUED MOBILITY
AND CONVENIENCE. Peterson: I AM 72 YEARS OLD, AND I CAN’T WAIT
FOR SELF-DRIVING CARS. THE THRILL OF DRIVING A CAR IN
MY TEENAGE YEARS IS LONG PAST. I WANT TO BE DRIVEN. Narrator: BUT TO LEARN
THE LANGUAGE OF DRIVING, SELF-DRIVING CARS NEED
TO HIT THE OPEN ROAD FOR SOME REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE. SO DANIEL LIPINSKI AND
FELLOW ENGINEER MARTIN HEMPEL TAKE JACK OUT FOR TEST DRIVES NEAR AUDI’S RESEARCH FACILITY
IN BELMONT, CALIFORNIA. Lipinski: A PRINCIPLE THAT
WE USE TO TEACH OUR CARS IS CALLED MACHINE LEARNING. WE SHOW THE CAR
EXAMPLES OF THE REAL WORLD AND HOW IT SHOULD BEHAVE, AND THEN THE CAR FIGURES OUT
AN ALGORITHM, A FUNCTION, TO ACTUALLY DO THE SAME THING
IN OTHER AREAS. IT’S LIKE
TEACHING A BABY HOW TO READ. YOU HAVE TO TEACH THE BABY
THE WORDS AND THE SENTENCES FOR IT TO UNDERSTAND AND TO USE THOSE WORDS
LATER ON ITS OWN. AND THAT’S WHAT WE’RE DOING
WITH THIS CAR. WE ARE GONNA TEACH IT
THE OBJECTS, ROAD MARKINGS, EVERYTHING AROUND THE VEHICLE
AND HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO REACT IN ORDER FOR THE CAR TO MAKE ITS
DECISIONS LATER AND DRIVE SAFELY. Narrator: BY PRESSING TWO
BUTTONS ON THE STEERING WHEEL, JACK NOW DOES THE DRIVING,
STEERING, CHANGING LANES, AND FOLLOWING THE SPEED LIMIT
ON THE HIGHWAY. Lipinski: A LONG-DISTANCE DRIVE
TO LAS VEGAS — THAT’S EIGHT HOURS OF DRIVING. YOU TEND TO GET TIRED
AND DISTRACTED AND OCCUPIED WITH OTHER THINGS
BESIDES DRIVING, AND THAT’S WHERE
THE SYSTEM REALLY HELPS YOU AND MAKES DRIVING A LOT SAFER. Narrator: IN JANUARY 2015, JACK MADE A 550-MILE ROAD TRIP
FROM THE BAY AREA TO LAS VEGAS, 90% OF WHICH WAS DRIVEN
WITH NO HUMAN CONTROL. DURING THIS HANDS-FREE
ROAD TRIP, SENSORS KEPT TRACK
OF JACK’S PRECISE LOCATION AND ITS PROXIMITY
TO OTHER CARS NEARBY. Lipinski: A STANDARD GPS SYSTEM IS ROUGHLY PUTTING YOU WITHIN
5 TO 10 METERS OF YOUR ACTUAL POSITION. WHAT WE NEED HERE
IS MUCH MORE ACCURATE, AND THE SENSORS GET US UP TO A COUPLE CENTIMETERS
IN ACCURACY, WHICH IS FAR BEYOND WHAT THE
STANDARD NAVIGATION COULD DO. [ COMPUTER DINGING ] Computer:
PLEASE TAKE OVER STEERING. Narrator: BUT THERE ARE STILL DRIVING TASKS
JACK HAS TO MASTER, SUCH AS GETTING ON AND OFF
THE HIGHWAY. IN DRIVING SITUATIONS THAT
SELF-DRIVING CARS CAN’T HANDLE, THEY NEED TO ALERT HUMAN DRIVERS
TO TAKE CONTROL OF THE WHEEL. AUDI’S SYSTEM, FOR EXAMPLE, STARTS WARNING THE DRIVER
TO TAKE OVER ONE MINUTE BEFORE WITH AN ARRAY OF SIGNALS SUCH AS L.E.D. LIGHTS
AND AUDIO ALERTS. AS TANTALIZING AS THIS IMAGE
OF HANDS-FREE DRIVING IS, IT MAY BE A DECADE OR MORE BEFORE CONSUMERS
CAN BUY A CAR LIKE JACK. THE TECHNOLOGY, FOR ONE,
HAS TO GET BETTER SO THAT THE SENSORS
OPERATE ACCURATELY IN ALL WEATHER CONDITIONS. AND THEN THERE’S THE
UNPREDICTABILITY OF URBAN ROADS. Lipinski: YOU CAN HAVE
POOR ROADS, DOGS, CATS, WHATEVER YOU CAN THINK OF
STROLLING AROUND, RUNNING IN FRONT OF THE CAR, OR OTHER CARS
BEHAVING IN A CERTAIN WAY THAT YOU WOULDN’T FIND WHILE YOU’RE PARKED OR
WHILE YOU’RE IN A TRAFFIC JAM. WE AS HUMANS
HAVE A GREAT CAPABILITY OF INTERPRETING
ALL THAT’S HAPPENING AROUND, BUT WE NEED TO TEACH THAT
TO A CAR. Gerdes: 11 IN RUN. MAN: Starting the test
in three, two, one. Narrator: 100 MILES NORTH
OF SACRAMENTO, A SELF-DRIVING RACECAR DEVELOPED
BY STANFORD UNIVERSITY AND AUDI TOPS 100 MILES PER HOUR
AT THUNDERHILL RACEWAY PARK. Gerdes: TO MAKE CARS DRIVE AS WELL AS THE VERY BEST
HUMAN DRIVERS, WE’VE BEEN STUDYING
RACECAR DRIVERS — HOW THEY ARE ABLE
TO MOVE THE CAR AROUND THE TRACK AS WELL AS THEY DO. THIS MAY SEEM VERY DIFFERENT
THAN SAFETY. AFTER ALL,
THEIR OBJECTIVE IS SPEED. BUT THE PHYSICS OF THE PROBLEM
ARE EXACTLY THE SAME. THEY’RE TRYING
TO USE ALL THE FRICTION BETWEEN THE TIRE AND THE ROAD
TO BE FAST. WE WANT TO USE ALL THE FRICTION
BETWEEN THE TIRE AND THE ROAD TO BE SAFE. Narrator: ACROSS THE TRACK,
STANFORD UNIVERSITY STUDENTS TEST THE LIMITS
OF ANOTHER SELF-DRIVING CAR. Funke: X1 CAN COMPLETELY
DRIVE ITSELF. IT’S A STUDENT-BUILT,
ALL-ELECTRIC VEHICLE. WITH THE TEST TODAY, WE’RE GOING
AT PRETTY HIGH ACCELERATIONS. ON TOP OF THAT, THEN,
AS IT’S GOING INTO THIS TURN, WE HAVE AN OBSTACLE POP OUT,
AND IT HAS TO REACT TO THAT. THERE’S A LOT OF CHALLENGES
WITH THAT BECAUSE YOU DON’T WANT
TO HIT THE OBSTACLE, BUT YOU ALSO WANT TO MAINTAIN
CONTROL OF THE CAR. Narrator:
SO THE COMPUTER INSIDE X1 HAS TO SWIFTLY PLAN
AND MANEUVER A NEW PATH AROUND THIS INFLATABLE ARM
WITHOUT LOSING CONTROL. Funke: REALLY,
WHAT WE’RE STUDYING HERE IS DEVELOPING THE SOFTWARE THAT CAN USE ALL OF THE PHYSICAL
CAPABILITY OF A CAR TO MISS OBSTACLES WHEN POSSIBLE. FOR THE LAST 20 OR 30 YEARS, A LOT OF THE TECHNOLOGY
WITH SAFETY SYSTEMS HAS REALLY BEEN INVOLVED
WITH MITIGATING DAMAGE ONCE A COLLISION HAS OCCURRED. NOW WE’RE STARTING
TO GET TO A POINT WHERE WE HAVE
MORE SOPHISTICATED SENSORS AND THE TECHNOLOGY TO JUST
PREVENT THE COLLISION ENTIRELY. Man: YEAH,
EVERYTHING WENT REALLY WELL. Narrator:
MOST DRIVERS WOULD BE FINE WITH A COMPUTER CONTROLLING
THE STEERING AND BRAKING TO AVOID HITTING AN OBSTACLE
ON THE ROAD. [ TIRES SCREECH ] BUT WHAT ABOUT SITUATIONS WHICH REQUIRE LESS ARTIFICIAL
AND MORE HUMAN INTELLIGENCE? Gerdes:
IF WE COME UPON A VEHICLE THAT’S STOPPED IN OUR LANE, WE WILL PROBABLY
END UP GOING AROUND IT. BUT IF THERE’S A DOUBLE-YELLOW
LINE TO THE SIDE OF US, THAT’S ACTUALLY ILLEGAL. HOW DOES AN AUTOMATED VEHICLE
MAKE THIS CHOICE? THIS IS THE SORT OF SITUATION WHERE OUR OWN PERSONAL DESIRES
FOR MOBILITY AND FOR SAFETY MAY OCCASIONALLY
COME IN CONFLICT WITH THE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS. AND THAT PRESENTS
A BIG CHALLENGE FOR AUTOMATED VEHICLES. Narrator: IN FACT,
FINDING THE RIGHT BALANCE BETWEEN HUMAN AND MACHINE
MAY BE KEY TO GETTING DRIVERS TO SHARE
THE WHEEL WITH COMPUTERS. Man:
HEY, GUYS, HOW’S IT GOING? Lipinski: GOOD. Man: SO, WHAT IS THE STATUS? Lipinski:
SO, IF I WERE TO OFFER YOU A CAR THAT CAN DRIVE
AT THIS POINT, AND YOU WOULD GET
INTO THE BACK SEAT, I’M NOT SURE A LOT OF CUSTOMERS
WOULD ACTUALLY DO THAT. SO CUSTOMER ACCEPTANCE
IS A BIG CHALLENGE THERE. Narrator:
AS MOST BACK-SEAT DRIVERS KNOW, GIVING UP CONTROL OF THE WHEEL
MAY BE HARD, BUT GIVING UP
CONTROL OF THE WHEEL TO A ROBOT MAY BE EVEN HARDER. Terminator: NOW, LISTEN TO ME
VERY CAREFULLY. Kalra: YOU’VE GOT “TERMINATOR”
AND “I, ROBOT” AND ALL THESE
CULTURAL REFERENCES THAT TELL US
THAT ROBOTS ARE BAD. THE WAY WE LOOKED AT ROBOTS
AS A CULTURE IS ONE OF SKEPTICISM
AND A LITTLE BIT OF FEAR. AND IT MIGHT
BE ONE OF THE REASONS THAT GOOGLE’S PROTOTYPE CAR
LOOKS SO CUTE AND ENGAGING IN ORDER TO PROVIDE
A COUNTER BALANCE TO CULTURAL FEARS
ABOUT THIS KIND OF TECHNOLOGY. Narrator: IN JUNE 2015, GOOGLE’S
NEW SELF-DRIVING PROTOTYPES HIT THE ROAD
IN MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA. THEY GO ONLY 25 MILES PER HOUR AND MUST HAVE
A STEERING WHEEL AND BRAKES TO COMPLY WITH THE STATE’S RULES
FOR TESTING AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES. Kalra: THEY’RE GOING
WITH THE DRIVERLESS CAR CONCEPT, WHERE YOU HAVE
A REMOVABLE STEERING WHEEL. YOU MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE
A REAR-VIEW MIRROR. AND IT’S DESIGNED TO OPERATE
AT LOW SPEEDS. A LOT OF AUTO MAKERS
ARE TAKING A DIFFERENT APPROACH, WHICH IS TO HAVE A VEHICLE IN WHICH THE HUMAN DRIVER
DRIVES SOME OF THE TIME AND THE CAR DRIVES
SOME OF THE TIME. Gerdes:
MAKING A ROBOTIC VEHICLE THAT CAN DO EVERYTHING
A HUMAN DRIVER CAN DO IS A HUGE CHALLENGE. THE SOLUTION TO THIS
IS TO LOOK AT SITUATIONS WHERE YOU CAN SIMPLIFY BY LIMITING THE SPEED,
BY LIMITING THE ENVIRONMENT, BY REQUIRING HUMAN INPUT
AT CERTAIN TIMES. Narrator: FOR NOW,
GETTING HUMAN DRIVERS TO EXPERIENCE AUTOMATED DRIVING MAY BE AS IMPORTANT
AS REFINING THE HIGH-TECH TOOLS NEEDED TO DO THE DRIVING. Lipinski: WHEN YOU FIRST
GET INTO A SELF-DRIVING CAR AND THE FIRST TIME YOU LET GO
OF THE STEERING WHEEL AND THE CAR TAKES OVER,
PEOPLE ARE KIND OF WARY. AND THEN IT’S INCREDIBLE TO SEE
HOW FAST THE TRANSITION HAPPENS TO A STAGE WHERE THEY DON’T WANT
TO DEACTIVATE THE SYSTEM. THAT JUST TAKES AN HOUR OR SO. THIS IS THE FIRST SYSTEM
THAT I WORKED ON THAT I THINK IS SO COOL THAT I WANTED IT
EVEN BEFORE IT CAME OUT, AND I WANT IT BADLY. I WANT IT RIGHT NOW. Gerdes:
THIS IS THE MOST EXCITING TIME I HAVE EVER SEEN
WITH AUTOMATED VEHICLES. THERE’S NEVER BEEN
MORE INTEREST, MORE ENTHUSIASM, OR MORE PEOPLE FOCUSED ON MAKING
THIS TECHNOLOGY A REALITY. IT REALLY IS NO LONGER
SCIENCE FICTION. IT’S NO LONGER A QUESTION OF,
“CAN WE MAKE THESE CARS?” BUT A QUESTION OF, “WHEN WILL
THEY IMPACT OUR DAILY LIVES?” Announcer:
SUPPORT FOR “QUEST”
IS PROVIDED BY…
ADDITIONAL SUPPORT
IS PROVIDED BY…
SUPPORT IS ALSO PROVIDED
BY THE MEMBERS OF KQED.
“QUEST” IS A PROJECT
OF KQED SCIENCE.
Narrator:
A KQED TELEVISION PRODUCTION.