Robots Don't Drive...Yet

Defensive Driving During A Crucial Transition

Automatic braking systems, a relatively new safety feature in some vehicles and a critical part of autonomous cars of the future, are facing complaints from drivers who say some are activating for no apparent reason.

-Car Regulator Probes Complaints on Brakes, Mike Ramsey, Wall Street Journal

He added that automakers would have to spend years fine-tuning the design of their autonomous and semiautonomous systems so it became clear to drivers what the capabilities and shortcomings of the technologies were and to push drivers away from risky behavior.

-Tipping Point in Transit, Farhad Manjoo, NY Times Bits Blog

One key challenge will be human driver reengagement. To experience most of the benefits of the technology, human drivers will need to be able to engage in other tasks while the vehicle is autonomously driving. For safety, however, they will need to quickly reengage at the request of the vehicle. Such context switching may need to occur fully and in a matter of seconds or less. Cognitive science research on distracted driving suggests this may be a significant safety challenge.

-Autonomous Vehicle Technology, A Guide for Policymakers, Rand Corporation

car venn diagram

The Challenge

It is no longer speculative fiction, it seems certain that transit will be fully autonomous within the near future. The transition between the techonolgy we have now, and that certain future presents a challenge.

For humans, lack of an overriding algorithm that forces our hands with strict protocol means that we need to be always taking inventory of preventative and defensive actions while driving. This has traditionally been the sole responsibility of the driver, the captain of the vehicle. Now there are opportunities for the ball to be dropped, the responsibility to be muddied.

As the various parts of these technologies are developed and implemented at different stages, we still need to know how to safely and defensively pilot our own vehicles. The challenge will be to adapt to changing and unexpected human behavior due to the effect of these new technologies, and adapt to unexpected behaviors of a computer algorithm or failing sensors.

The Car Will Stop Me...Right?

This driver thinks their car has "Pedestrian Detection" functionality.

Turns out it doesn't.

It also turns out that even if it did, in this case, it wouldn't have prevented the pedestrians from getting hit.

-Would You Stand In Front of a Moving Car?..., Ellie Zolfagharifard, Daily Mail

Sensors and Soup

Like much of technology, descriptions and summaries often end up in a kind of acronym soup, and this is no different when it comes to the sensors and various assisted driver technologies involved with modern vehicles and autonomous vehicles.

Vehicle Sensors and Technology

Assisted Driver Technology

Selected Human Sensors and Technology