Robot Cars are here – only if the insurers allow

July 18, 2013

Robot cars are here. The waiting is over. Get used to it – but only if the insurance companies let you!

The fact is that robot cars have in fact been with us for five years already, as noted by FuturePundit back in 2006:

Skepticism about the feasibility of computer-operated vehicles became harder to maintain when the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s Grand Challenge periodic contest for autonomous driverless vehicles finally produced winners in October 2005.

So why aren’t the car showrooms full of self-driving robot cars? That’s a great question. One that was answered, for me, at the Singularity Summit Australia a few weeks ago here in Melbourne by James Newton-Thomas.

James spoke about his career with AI (artificial intelligence) – way back in the 1980s he had developed loan officer systems that the human loan officers came to rely upon! Through the 1990s he worked on autonomous vehicle AIs for Caterpillar (the big name in mining vehicles.) The comment that really piqued my interest was this : having developed a robot vehicle to replace human operators, the stumbling block to implementation around the year 2000 was that the insurance premium was so high that it wasn’t a financially viable option.

Now that is really interesting. This means that ten years ago JNT had developed a robot vehicle that was ready for work in the mining industry but was essentially blocked by the insurance industry!

Why was the premium so high? I am not an insurance industry expert, so I couldn’t tell you. James did mention that his impression at the time was that since there was no history, no set of facts upon which to calculate the risk, the insurers erred on the cautious side (as they should be wont to do) and went high. Really high.

So that’s where we were until this week. Robot cars are certainly possible, because they have been built. Sure, not in mass production. Sure there are still limitations, but those are being rapidly eroded.

Then everything changed – Google announced on October 9th, 2010 that they not only had built robot cars, but that they had driven them over 225,000km in San Francisco!

Our automated cars, manned by trained operators, just drove from our Mountain View campus to our Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard. They’ve driven down Lombard Street, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, navigated the Pacific Coast Highway, and even made it all the way around Lake Tahoe. All in all, our self-driving cars have logged over 140,000 miles.

Wow – that means there’s over five thousand driving hours (assuming 25mph average urban speed) of robot cars. In an urban environment.

Is that enough data for an insurer to make a better assessment? We can only hope so.


Today’s Tweets

July 16, 2010
  • 09:39 Good morning! Nomming coffee & cinnamon porridge is perfect for a day like today #Melbmorningphoto yfrog.com/5bpp0cj #
  • 10:48 @joshsharp congrats! I had a $2.94 adsense click yesterday – meet you in the Bahamas! #
  • 10:50 Struggling to find an ADSL modem without wireless – do they exist?? #
  • 11:05 @maxcelcat I think it was some kind of brain fail at online searching … if you have a spare I’d be very grateful for it. Pretty please? #
  • 11:06 Thx @dfg77 @awmitchell I’ll look into the Billion & Linksys, it seems www.umart.com.au have a section for non wireless even ;) #
  • 11:28 @lord_baconation that’s what we’re here for. #
  • 13:31 RT @stokely: Yep, I’m sucked in too. Customise your Old Spice guy voicemail message, thanks to Reddit. via @zee bit.ly/9PT85C #
  • 15:28 @maxcelcat I miss my computer cluttered house – my wife helped me to leave most of it in Sydney… #
  • 17:08 @maxcelcat My bad – I assumed I was … All followed now ;) #
  • 17:09 Sweet site RT @CADbloke: @aDB Router finder – bit.ly/amk3YM #

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Today’s Tweets

July 15, 2010
  • 09:33 Happy Bastille Day! How shall we celebrate today? #
  • 10:04 Generating some coins with www.bitcoin.org/ – Long live the revolution! #BastilleDay #
  • 12:07 Tonight’s dinner will be lamb shanks in red wine twitpic.com/2533ib #BastilleDay #fb #
  • 17:44 I see that in #melbevents The Domain are meeting tonight : www.the-domain.org/calendar.html with Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer.com #
  • 18:01 Not going to the domain meetup tonight as it is too rainy outside & the meet isn’t french enough for #BastilleDay ;) #
  • 22:07 @johnconn you’re a brave man! I hope it works out for you (perhaps it can get me more motivated to scan too ;) #
  • 22:43 @TiVoAustralia if TunerFish/Miso/TiVo etc could tell if I’ve seen an episode or warn if I’m seeing eps out of order – that would be useful! #
  • 23:14 @smperris I share your affliction. I’m writing mine down now, to try and at least get them out of my head #

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Today’s Tweets

July 14, 2010
  • 12:17 First coffee down. Noice, even though I overheated the milk … #
  • 12:41 The wind is making my window sing. Curious soundtrack to a day… #
  • 13:28 Google’s Wonder Wheel is not working for me in Chrome at all, and in Safari I get the wheel & spokes, but no text. WTF? #
  • 14:18 @Wolfie_Rankin whatever international access code (like 0011 here) then you’d call 61 (Australia) 3 (Melbourne) then the number #

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Today’s Tweets

July 13, 2010
  • 11:07 .@TiVoAustralia turns out they switched the TiVo remote to DVR2 while putting batteries back in after a drop :-) Easy fix! #
  • 11:12 @TiVoAustralia I think the time is right for Miso, but then I’ve had TiVo since 2003, you could call me an early adopter :-) #
  • 13:04 @TiVoAustralia not sure about auto-updating … the concept is a must-have though, ‘4sq for tv’ thx for pointing out Tunerfish & Starling #
  • 18:05 First night for the new Joey mob at 9th Brunswick – we’re ready, wondering if any kids will show up! (@ 9th Brunswick Scout Hall) #
  • 19:46 Ahh well, no Joeys to be seen this week as the word had not yet gone out :( Next week for sure! #

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Today’s Tweets

July 12, 2010
  • 02:23 Seriously? *That’s* how the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles ends? Is there an explanation somewhere? #
  • 02:56 Oh I see. T:tscc was another show cut down by Fox. That explains the wrapping up nature of the last few episodes … #
  • 02:57 So how are the audience funded tv business models coming along then? #
  • 11:36 Alright twitter – is it 7-eleven free slurpee day or what? @Iloveslurpee? Hello? #
  • 11:42 @joshsharp I’ve been able to do it on both 11/July & 7/November in Sydney in past years … but no signs on 7eleven.com.au I can see #
  • 11:52 Also the FaceBook page www.facebook.com/pages/Slurpee-Australia/284777428637 and @slurpeeOZ are very quite on the 7-eleven day issue #
  • 11:52 s/quite/quiet/ d’oh #
  • 12:01 @joshrowe yes, it is looking like just the November date (if at all) downunder. Thanks! #
  • 12:16 Time to get out of the pjs and into the last day of the school hols – prepping for term three! #
  • 12:52 Att Scout leaders: what one activity would you run for the 1st meeting of a brand new section in a group? (Joeys 6-8yo) #
  • 16:53 @renailemay @bernietb See barkbusters.com.au/barksol.htm @barkbustersAUS for a letter to your neighbours re: their noisy dog #
  • 16:54 Uh-oh – our TiVo remote may just have died… #
  • 22:58 Looks like I missed something – marshals clearing debris… (watching Formula 1 via @gomiso) #
  • 22:58 I was just awarded the "TV Newbie" badge on @gomiso! #

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Today’s Tweets

July 11, 2010
  • 14:12 Recovering from Mr 13’s birthday in time to scramble everything ready for a new school term & our return to leading a Joey mob. #
  • 14:45 Bargain hunting at closing time (@ Preston Market) 4sq.com/8twbwT #

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