Image Source Hyundai Motor Group
Limitations & Public Knowledge About Autonomous Cars
There has been a large scale misunderstanding between auto manufacturers and a large portion of they consumers. Mainly that the new semi autonomous cars are completely self driving. Despite the car giving obvious signals that you are supposed to stay alert and ready to reassume control at any moment, many people still trick the system so they don’t have to pay attention. This includes activities such as placing objects to simulate a touch on the steering wheel to avoid the car turning autopilot off. In some extreme cases the driver hops over to the passenger seat and attends the warnings from there. Both are incredibly dangerous and not how the system was intended to be used.
Image Source PC
A recent report of a Tesla model S, smashing into a tree only 500 feet away from its starting location sent chills down the spines of autonomous car owners. It was an unfortunately costly wake up call. The fiery and fatal crash was investigated and there’s a case to be made that the car had nobody in the drivers seat. There is footage showing the driver enter the driving seat at the moment of leaving, but further information is still unclear. It did make one thing clear though, that not many autonomous vehicle owners know the limitations of their cars.
Image Source GCN
Improving Public Knowledge
Naturally, a crash like above is a bad pr day for an autonomous vehicle retailer. So to move forward on the incident there are some topics that should be addressed. First comes the overstating and somewhat exaggerated claims from Teslas CEO, Elon Musk. Musk makes many claims about his cars and their future, and it should be made more clear to the consumer that while cars of the future may deliver on these promises, the current technology does not. Please enjoy some relevant quotes below:
When you tell somebody that they don’t have to be responsible, that this part of the driving task is going to happen for you, you are giving them an indication that they don’t have to pay attention – Sam Anthony
The reason human beings can do it so well is that we are smart, we can empathize, and we know what other people are most likely to do. – Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research Institute.
Can Cars Make Choices
The ultimate limiting factor in autonomous cars is their inability to make choices that are not hard baked into their code. But recently new AI technology has shown us that computers are cable of understanding a lot more than we give them credit for. Understanding context in conversations could be translated to understanding context in self driving cars. This would lead to more sensible decision making. Things such as travel speed, the age of the pedestrians or the damage incurred depending on what choices of impact are available.
Mercedes took an interesting approach to this issue where it always placed the car and its driver in the lowest priority position. The car would sooner crash and injure the driver than hit somebody else. This is an interesting moral choice since the driver or consumer of the product is the one most likely to be put in harms way. But it’s also the consumers choice to use the technology, unlike the totally innocent pedestrians.
In the end we will likely land on a regulated standard for what is qualified as road legal for autonomous vehicles. As it stands there is always the legal requirement for a human to be present at the wheel of a car, even if it’s driving itself.