August 22, 2019

Will a Driverless Car Brake for Snowmen?

“Picture yourself driving down a city street. You go around a curve, and suddenly see something in the middle of the road ahead. What should you do?

Of course, the answer depends on what that ‘something’ is. A torn paper bag, a lost shoe, or a tumbleweed? You can drive right over it without a second thought, but you’ll definitely swerve around a pile of broken glass. You’ll probably stop for a dog standing in the road but move straight into a flock of pigeons, knowing that the birds will fly out of the way. You might plough right through a pile of snow, but veer around a carefully constructed snowman. In short, you’ll quickly determine the actions that best fit the situation – what humans call having ‘common sense’.

Human drivers aren’t the only ones who need common sense; its lack in artificial intelligence (AI) systems will likely be the major obstacle to the wide deployment of fully autonomous cars. Even the best of today’s self-driving cars are challenged by the object-in-the-road problem. Perceiving ‘obstacles’ that no human would ever stop for, these vehicles are liable to slam on the brakes unexpectedly, catching other motorists off-guard. Rear-ending by human drivers is the most common accident involving self-driving cars.”

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