The July 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Warning: This Robocar Video is NSFL

It's not safe for living. So please don’t do the precise thing we’re about to show you

1 min read
Warning: This Robocar Video is NSFL
Image: VPmagazin


NSFL: Not Safe For Living

When self-operated elevators were new, certain people—okay, mature people—hesitated to ride them. Other people—okay, little boys—punched every button and then jumped out, squealing with self-satisfaction.
Some things never change: new functions are still getting automated, and little boys are still idiots. 
Here, in a video we freely acknowledge noticing only after posted it, some anonymous jokers from Germany show off as the backseat drivers of an Infiniti Q50. As we reported at its debut, the Q50 is the world’s first drive-by-wire car, one in which the main connection between the steering wheel and the wheels being steered is digital rather than mechanical.
The car cruises down a curving highway with nothing in charge but a lane-keeping system—a technology intended to help drivers, not replace them. As a commenter at noted, using it as an ersatz human drive is precisely the abuse the new Mercedes-Benz S class prevents by requiring the driver to lay hands on the wheel every dozen seconds or so.
And, yes, the music you hear is the “Ride of the Valkyries,” from Die Walküre, the second opera in Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle. It’s a fine piece of music. But the guys in the backseat of that Infiniti are still idiots.


The Conversation (0)

Self-Driving Cars Work Better With Smart Roads

Intelligent infrastructure makes autonomous driving safer and less expensive

9 min read
A photograph shows a single car headed toward the viewer on the rightmost lane of a three-lane road that is bounded by grassy parkways, one side of which is planted with trees. In the foreground a black vertical pole is topped by a crossbeam bearing various instruments. 

This test unit, in a suburb of Shanghai, detects and tracks traffic merging from a side road onto a major road, using a camera, a lidar, a radar, a communication unit, and a computer.

Shaoshan Liu

Enormous efforts have been made in the past two decades to create a car that can use sensors and artificial intelligence to model its environment and plot a safe driving path. Yet even today the technology works well only in areas like campuses, which have limited roads to map and minimal traffic to master. It still can’t manage busy, unfamiliar, or unpredictable roads. For now, at least, there is only so much sensory power and intelligence that can go into a car.

To solve this problem, we must turn it around: We must put more of the smarts into the infrastructure—we must make the road smart.

Keep Reading ↓Show less