[ExI] self-driving cars again

spike spike66 at att.net
Sun Jul 15 17:49:12 UTC 2012

>... On Behalf Of spike

>...They had a robot car racing up Pikes Peak. ...BillK

BillK, you gave me an excellent idea.  About 20 ago, I drove that road up
Pike's Peak.  It was a memorable experience, most of it dirt, stunning
scenery, but you could see it would be dangerous as all hell if you were
racing.  One miscalculation, over the side you go, and goodbye cruel world.

Yahoos have been racing up that road in hotrods since as long as there have
been hotrods.  The best times are so fast, it would require an expensive car
to challenge even an average human driver.  But what about racing down Pikes
Peak?  There you need really good brakes, which are cheap compared to really
good engines.  

But something else occurred to me.  Humans can't really accept more than
about a 1% chance of doing the old rotating scenery routine, for we are
delicate meat bags and have only one life.  But if you are a robo-car, you
can accept a much higher risk of going over the side.  If you are a cheap
robo-car, built with standard drivetrain and modified brakes, you can accept
a 50% risk of failure: your software survives the crash undamaged, and
plenty of the expensive actuator hardware can probably be salvaged from the
crumpled heap at the bottom of the ravine.

Another thought: if we were to make a Pikes Peak downhill racer from a
standard used car lot refugee, you could reduce weight by taking off
everything that you don't need since there are no apes aboard.  So much
stuff could be recycled or sold as spare parts: the seats, the dashboard,
the doors, windows, air conditioner, the bumpers, the body panels, hell,
most of the car could come off, reducing weight and possibly generating cash
for the cost of recovering the wreckage if it goes over the side.  The
environmentalists should like that part.  Top speeds on that road would be
low enough that increased wind resistance wouldn't be much of a factor.  All
you really need is engine, drivetrain and brakes.  

For that matter, a bare-naked stripper would be a good uphill racer for the
same reason: much lighter by removing all human interface stuff and way
higher tolerance for risk.

In some ways, the software is improved by the unsuccessful run: after the
accident, it now knows exactly how fast it can't quite go, and exactly where
it can't go that fast.


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