More Tech Challenges – Grapefruit to Google

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Grapefruit, Active Control Control, Google’s Self-Driving Car

IMG_9183 - grapefruit - 540Yes even buying grapefruit can present you with tech challenges. My local supermarket has recently had grapefruit labelled Israeli (on the shefl) which turned out to be Australian (according to the sticker on the fruit). And vice versa. Most of the time grapefruit is locally grown, but occasionally Israeli or US imports appear.

IMG_9055 Yarra Street Minis 540Then I drove down to the Victoria, Australia beach resort of Lorne from my Melbourne home in Maureen’s new Mini Cooper S, the white one in the lead in this photograph.

It comes with assorted high tech gadgets including self parking and active cruise control. So I left Melbourne, crossed the Westgate Bridge (80kph speed limit), set the cruise control for 101kph (1kph over the speed limit) and for the next 90km all I had to do was steer. If for some reason 100kph wasn’t possible – traffic – it slowed down and then speeded up again as soon as possible. When we came to some roadworks and the traffic slowed to 80kph and then 60kph, so did we. It doesn’t read speed limit signs, like the experimental Google self-driving cars, but if the car in front slows down, so does Maureen’s Mini.

Then we left the freeway and for the next 50km it’s curves, bends, hills, small towns and 50, 60 or 80kph speed limits. Plus other drivers, sometimes proceeding at rather less than the speed limits. The Great Ocean Road to Lorne doesn’t have many overtaking possibilities, but it does have regular ‘pull off’ zones and equally regular signs suggesting that slow drivers should use them to let faster cars past. Do they? Hell no. At one point we were one of about 10 cars queued up behind a couple driving tediously slowly and totally oblivious to the hold up they were creating. Coming back I left Lorne and for the next 20km sat behind a blue Mazda moving at a reasonable pace, but well within the limits and slower than I wanted to travel. Did he make space? No.

So what would Google’s self-driving car do? Would the computer think ‘hey there are drivers behind me that would like to go faster, I’ll just move over for a moment.’ Or what does it do when some car is trying to pull out from a parking space into solid traffic? Will ‘be nice’ be programmed into the Google driving computer?