Autonomous Driving and Safety

There’s been a lot of news lately on self-driving cars, AI, and the safety regarding their use on public roads.  Both UBER, and even Waymo (a Google company), have been guilty of incidents with their autonomous car driving tech.  And while I won’t go into the specifics of each accident, I will ask the broader question - is it really safe or safer than a human driving?

I bring this up because of a recent article regarding the death of a woman that occurred close to home.  An UBER vehicle equipped with self-driving tech struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona.   You would think the car, with all it’s sensors, would automatically brake, but it didn’t.  Nor did the human behind the wheel.

In fact, it was recently revealed that the technology responsible for detecting if a human is in front of it, did actually recognize her, but the programming algorithm threshold was set too low, thus resulting in a false positive and preventing the car from braking.  But why?  Well, it was stated that it was set low because there was to be a human also paying attention that should’ve stopped the vehicle.  

And honestly, this makes sense.  We still don’t have a 100% accurate system for our self driving cars.  If we did, they’d already be approved and on the road.  If UBER were to up the algorithm to be overly sensitive, it would panic brake all the time, and while that may save people who jump out onto the road without looking, it also means any vehicles behind them (that may not be autonomous), will slam into their rear end.  Imagine of somebody in front of you just brake-checked you all the time…”just in case”.

I still think having a computer watch the road for us is a good idea.  Yes, computers make mistakes, but humans make mistakes way more often and are more susceptible to distractions, ailments, tiredness, etc.  Remember, roughly 30,000 to 40,000+ people die each year to car accidents in the US.  If anything, it’s another set of eyes on the road for now.  And until we can obtain a very highly reliable AI for self-driving cars, I’m still open to having them help out on the road than not.

Using Format