I’m clever, clever enough to title my last post as Part 1 so I’d be forced to write a Part 2 before moving onto other topics. I’ll focus more on the human factor of car autonomy for this post.
We decided to drive from Fort Meyers, FL to Indianapolis, IN all in one shot. It ended up being a ~20 hour drive, ~1,100 miles. It’s the longest, most exhausting drive I’ve ever been on, and it wouldn’t have been possible without OpenPilot.
Vehicle autonomy is interesting. On one hand, it frees the human from having to perform many observations and actions a second. On the other, it could lull you into a mindset of reduced situational awareness. There is no doubt that mental and physical fatigue is reduced with autonomy, but I feel as if it comes at a cost.
It only takes a second any time that you are driving to be involved in a fatal accident. The above video was during a test loop of OpenPilot on the interstate. Earlier on that drive, I was messing about with my cell phone to dial in live-tuning settings for PID, my awareness was not on the road.
OpenPilot, at the time, did not have stopped vehicle detection, and even if it did on this drive, it’s unlikely that vision and radar would have picked up a black car at night, and a side profile at that. The collision would have been catastrophic, possibly fatal at 75MPH for not only me, but the driver of the spun out car.
Luckily, there was other traffic ahead and I noticed the brake lights of the cars ahead, causing me to pay attention. Even then, the vehicle was difficult to spot. Notice the swerving semi by the end of the video.
Do a favor for me and stop reading this to consider, how do you perceive OpenPilot? Is it some wizbang self-driving thing that you look for opportunities to share with friends and family at every opportunity? Be honest, do you pay less attention and/or play with your car’s infotainment system or cell phone while OP is engaged? Do you frequently drive with your hands off, and away from the steering wheel?
If your sentiment is anything other than an enhanced cruise control system, you are gravely mistaken, and will be for a long time as “self driving” is much, much further out.
- Radar can’t detect static objects, like stopped cars. Otherwise, every single object like sign posts and telephone poles, manhole covers would cause your brakes to slam on.
- Vision radar (new in 0.6.x) CAN detect stopped cars, but shouldn’t be relied upon. The training set isn’t fit to detect stopped cars in all situations, and certainly not situations like where a kid on a bicycle darts in front of your car (true story).
- The cameras in our obsolete phones that run OP can often defocus and not see anything at all in front of you, especially when it’s raining (I had several times where OP focused on the rain beads on the windshield and not the road).
- OP currently relies upon lane lines, with some limited “laneless” path prediction. Count on slamming into a concrete barrier if you go through a construction zone and lane lines are misidentified (and you are fucking around, staring at your crotch on your phone).
The most dangerous aspect of OpenPilot is how good it is, and how much further it has improved, and will improve. It’s to the point where you can achieve a ~80% engagement rate over 3,000 miles; and it’s the slim chance that something CAN go wrong with OP engaged that’ll get you. Humans are interesting creatures. If you drive a few thousand miles, many months with OpenPilot and it acts a certain way all other times, at what point do you loose the perception that OP could not detect a stopped car ahead of you (and you just so happen to be playing on your cellphone)?
At what point do you sit back and slip into pure observation, no longer interfacing with the car actively? Or, what if you come across a situation on the interstate where a car is spun out ahead of you and a snap judgement will be the only thing that saves you? A few people have fallen asleep with OP engaged, one woke up some hours later and was fine. The other smashed into the car in front of them, the accelerator still applying gas after he crashed into them.
One thing became immediately apparent to me. The last few hours of the drive, neither of us were fit to be driving. Our awareness was lapsed due to fatigue, our eyes tired, I was even a little dizzy. Still, we pressed on. It came to the point where it felt dangerous to NOT have OpenPilot engaged as it was driving better than I was.
I don’t want to come across as overly alarmist, but I am trying to scare you a little. You must remain ready, and willing to take over controls at any moment, especially when driving with OpenPilot. You must know your limits and be able to make a judgment call to find somewhere to get some rest, it’ll creep up on you, trust me.
With all of that said, I still greatly enjoy OpenPilot. I wouldn’t have preferred the trip without it. However, one must remain aware, and engaged with their vehicle, ready to take over at a moment’s notice. My advice? Disengage OP and drive yourself every so often to stay acquainted with the car’s controls, especially when tired. It’ll become immediately apparent just how disoriented you are at any given moment.
I love writing and wish to do it daily. However, not all things need to be shared. Writing helps me process, gain introspection.
There is a question of vulnerability and the concept of being vulnerable to those who are close to you. It’s a finite resource, and I’ve yet to find a balance of what I wish to accomplish in private, and the stories that I want to share publicly.
The local airport had an open house. Airplane rides, Huey, food, and socialization. Lola has never been on an airplane before, it was time to fix that.
Amanda climbed into the copilot seat, mom and Lola climbed in the back of the four-seater Cessna.
No matter where we go, what we do, I find myself in love with life, my partner, our little family.
The second the airplane tires hit the ground in Indianapolis we cheered, “We are home!”
Let’s do a recap of the bad first so that I can end on a high note. Turbulence coming into Salt Lake City (SLC) Airport fucking sucked. We were in a holding pattern and looped a few times with 50MPH wind gusts. The wings of the airplane (and our stomachs) were flapping around, some gasps from the other passengers.
I dug in, braced my body and meditated, thought about being on top of a rock. I dug my thigh into the aisle armrest and concentrated on the pain as a grounding point. I could feel my heart trying to jump out of my chest. I continued to hold it together, not vomit or panic (but thought on the edge of such). This went on for what seemed to be forever until we finally hit the ground, controlling my breathing and doing such from my diaphragm.
Amanda (who loves rollercoasters) was rather sick herself from the motion. She comments that we would rent a car and drive 12 hours home if she would have vomited.
Upon boarding the next airplane, I panicked and tried convincing myself, Amanda to rent a car for the rest of the journey. She was supportive and asked what she could do. Once we passed the threshold and boarded the plane, I relaxed and didn’t give myself a way out. I was doing this, the power to be miserable, or enjoy the flight was my choice, my perception.
Once we were in the air, I returned to my normal flight postures. We watched a movie, I spent some time gazing out the window (dusk 30,000 feet up is beautiful), and the air was perfectly smooth the rest of the way home.
Here’s the self-analysis and takeaways.
- Driving home would have sucked (and be more dangerous than just flying the last three-hour stretch). It would have been 12 hours overnight. I would have regretted driving.
- I suffer from motion sickness and would have benefited from medication for such. I had such medicine on me but did not take it as:
- I’ve never taken it before and don’t like taking medication unless I do so first in a controlled environment (like home).
- The turbulence started suddenly and ended within 15 minutes. The medication may not have begun working in time.
- It would be beneficial to try it first at home, then use it as a tool to manage such sensations as a preventive measure next time I fly.
- The anxiety was centered around the sensation of nausea, and my paranoia of vomiting. The same feelings are duplicated by the “Rocking ship” (everyday fair ride), and the centrifuge (space mountain, Disney).
- Exposure to further nausea stimulus would help normalize the experience for me, just as being a passenger in a motor vehicle has over the last few years. I’ve known pilots who sit and spin in a chair to reduce dizziness by becoming exposed, and comfortable to it.
I am proud of myself. I managed the anxiety well and used my tools such as deep breathing and meditation to center myself and not allow the physical sensations to become a recursive mechanism to a full-blown panic attack. I recovered quickly and prepared myself for the next flight; then didn’t give myself a way out past the point of no return.
And I think that overall, I’ve concentrated and led myself to believe that these experiences (over the past week) are seeds which will grow within me. That the more I do, the more I can do. That all experiences, all emotions can lead to growth, or at the least, we have the lenses to choose how we perceive them.
I can be better here; I can be more patient there. I can express kindness when feeling like this, or like that. I can show that I need some time alone now, or then. I can rally and push myself out into something unknown or uncomfortable then, or there. I can appreciate this experience, that one; I can be appreciative of all these experiences.
My body is doing this, or that. Here’s a new sensation, here’s one that’s usually scary, here’s one that is generally warm. Can we observe these sensations from a place of non-judgemental curiosity? What’s the root emotion here? Where does this come from?
Wanting nothing, and appreciating everything. Choosing to see the good aspects of humanity around us. Talking to someone in the airport which seems nervous; asking them their name and about their life. Smiling in the airport, while boarding and carrying love in your bones for others. Wishing people good weekends and giving your eye contact. These things are grounding.
I feel the whole experience away from home, across the country seeded much growth in me. Everytime that I’m anxious, I look back at all the things I’ve done in my life, all that I’ve overcome; and now I have this experience as the benchmark until the next one. You never quite know how strong you are, until being strong is the only option, and I keep looking forward to more opportunities.
And the next time someone asks me to fly with them? Certainly, if I can sit next to you and hold your hand.
“I had a friend tell me that vulnerability to them was the feeling of not knowing whether your nightmare is materializing in front of your eyes or if it is the sun rising to save you. This seems to be a pretty common theme with people. Vulnerability is scary. You can’t hide in vulnerability; you cannot cover up with it and pretend not to exist. There is no such thing as Vulnerability & Chill. Vulnerability is not light or easy. Vulnerability is not the neighbor stopping by with mis-delivered mail or casserole dishes. It does not like to knock politely and wait to be invited in. Vulnerability is a tornado. It is fierce, unexpected, and likely to knock you off your feet.
To me, vulnerability is the reason I am still here. Vulnerability is what makes my life important and worthwhile. It is what makes me feel alive. I want vulnerability in my daily tasks. I want vulnerability to be #1 on my to do list. I want vulnerability in every conversation. I want the rawness that comes with being open to be ever present. Vulnerability is one of the few things that is always worth my time. It is what makes poetry, poetry. It is responsible for your voice shaking when you are getting really honest. It is a release, a realness, an awakening, or a burden finally lifted.”
“First, we have an egocentric bias in how we assess our actions and appearance to others. We’re the centre of our world, which deludes us into exaggerating our importance. To many others around us, what we do is largely a non-event. It’s highly likely that they’re caught up in their own spotlights.
It also makes sense since no one else follows us around the clock and so they don’t see the same things that we do. But we’re so used to seeing things from our own perspective, we struggle to accurately judge what other people’s perspective is like.
Second, there is what psychologists call the illusion of transparency. Here’s an example they provide…”
Continue reading this article on Medium — Spotlight Effect: Why no one else remembers what you did
“But more importantly, there’s no need to be obsessed with what others think of us. The reality is that everyone has greater concerns — themselves. So speak your mind. Take some risks. Be the man in the arena.”
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.Theodore Roosevelt – Citizenship in a Republic