Autonomous cars are learning our unpredictable driving habits

Sharing the road with self-driving cars will mean them learning our driving tics and perhaps even adopting some themselves

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I’m a skeptic. I like that UC Berkeley is doing this research, and it needs to be done, but and I totally bought into Dan Ariely’s book ‘Rationally Irrational’, and that’s pretty much what we are, the problem is the irrational part.

On Sunday I drove for about four hours in some fairly unpleasant weather to watch some children play rugby. I saw almost every last person at various sets of red traffic lights running the red, perhaps because rationally they wanted to get home out of the weather.

I saw a crash on a one-lane bridge where there is only room for cars going in one direction at a time, someone decided on a blind corner, that even though they were required to give way, they didn’t even slow down. The car coming the other way didn’t see them and they met in the middle. One of the cars was no longer drive-able and it took about 8 people to push it off the road.

There was a major crash on our main State Highway 1, north of Auckland and it was closed, so I had to detour along a long winding road which had about 6 of these one way one-lane bridges.

Due to the congestion, at a T-Intersection where our law says the vehicle on the top of the intersection has right of way, a kind soul decided to let a car in from the other side who technically had to give way. In effect kindly breaking the law, letting the car in. Rationally irrationally, the next car did the same and the next. The next one didn’t, but the car who didn’t have right of way had been monitoring the new pattern and assumed it would continue. They met in the middle.

Testing of algorithms for autonomous cars, trying to understand human behavior is very difficult. A work colleague of mine who is teaching his son to driving told him “Treat every other driver as though they are an idiot.” The theory being caution could save your life. It’s true to a point, but then you have the stand off.

We changed our give way laws several years ago and now the person turning left (we drive on the left side of the road) has right of way. This mimics the turn right law in America. People still get it wrong, for me it happens frequently when I want to cross into an minor road from a major arterial where people are approaching me from a blind corner. Several times I have had a Mexican stand off. I know that if out of frustration we both go around the corner and we crash, it’s my fault. I have had to wait there for up to 20 seconds with cars honking their horns behind me for the other person to turn.

Doing a test monitoring people’s behaviour in a driving simulator where they have to push a button before indicating a turn and then making a lane manoevre is a good start, however it is showing body behaviour signals that are not normal. Many drivers don’t indicate until the steering wheel has turn far enough for their finger to reach the indicator lever.

As to monitoring body language, cameras aren’t sophisticated enough in most situations to even tell how many people are in a car, let alone their body movements.

Computers are logical when all their components wok correctly, but sometimes not when the chips have been subjected to static electricity. Humans drive to a logic that suits their state of mind, whether they are in a hurry, what sort of emotions they are feeling, their eyesight, whether they are distracted by their mobiles, or what they are eating, their conversations, or simply based on skill levels. The variables are endless.

Do the research by all means, but don’t bet my life on them if you don’t mind. There has to be more to this than just algorithms.

See on Scoop.itLocation Is Everywhere

About Luigi Cappel

Writer for hire, marketing consultant specialising in Location Based Services. Futurist and Public Speaker Auckland, New Zealand
This entry was posted in driver behavior, human logic, Motoring, UC Berkeley and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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