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Humans Are the Largest Problem When it Comes to Driverless Cars

Author: Vineeth Joel Patel   

With the majority of automakers and tech companies targeting sometime with the next decade as the release date for fully-autonomous vehicles, engineers, developers, and everyone involved with getting self-driving tech to be safe have an uphill battle. A report by IEEE Spectrum points towards other humans as one of the major problems that self-driving cars will have to face on a daily basis. 

Current autonomous technology has to detect other vehicles, road conditions, animals, pedestrians, and more. In a recent report Marketplace, claimed that self-driving companies were having a hard time with detecting animals, mainly kangaroos. The report indicated that the animal's size and elusiveness made it difficult for driverless vehicles to avoid getting into an incident with the animals. 

Why Driverless Cars Might Have Trouble With Pedestrians

Humans, especially pedestrians, have the same sense of elusiveness as kangaroos, which could make them difficult for driverless vehicles to detect. As the report claims, pedestrians are unpredictable and behave differently depending on the type of environment they are in. IEEE Spectrum brings up pedestrians in a few different situations as an example. 

The first example, as the outlet explains, deals with pedestrians in a residential area. In the writer's neighborhood, houses and three-story apartment buildings line narrow streets, which, as the outlet states, are mostly one-ways with few pedestrian crossing markings. As IEEE Spectrum points out, its common knowledge to allow pedestrians to cross at any place in the road, which is something that drivers and pedestrians adhere too. 

In more rural areas where stop signs break up continuous travel, pedestrians walk alongside the road and assume that they have the right-of-way. Drivers are expected to come to a stop before allowing pedestrians to cross the road. Before doing so, though, pedestrians look for some sort of affirmation from the driver. In inclement weather, though, the situation changes, as pedestrians choose to walk on the road. 

The situation changes in urban areas where marked pedestrian crossings are more regular and pedestrians are more likely to use the marked locations, as things tend to be a little more hectic. Even then, drivers and pedestrians interact with hand signals, eye contact, and more. Without the human driver behind the wheel, IEEE Spectrum believes that self-driving cars won't be able to accommodate for pedestrians, as smoothly as a human driver. 

Complex Situations Could Confuse Autonomous Tech

IEEE Spectrum believes that complex decisions, like the ones self-driving cars will face when pedestrians walk in the road, will overwhelm the technology. The majority of drivers would pass the pedestrians in a safe manner. A driverless vehicle might have trouble with the situation and, when deciding on what to do, could cause a large traffic jam or even an accident. 

The outlet also believes that an intersection could be problematic for a driverless vehicle if two pedestrians are present. As IEEE Spectrum points out, if pedestrians are present at an intersection, but are conversing, waiting for a vehicle, or simply standing idly by, how long will it take for the autonomous car to realize that they aren't crossing the road? 

While self-driving cars will be able to detect pedestrians in the road, like Telstra V2P app, learning how to read their body language, and guessing what they're going to do next will be a difficult task. One, that some individuals don't think will happen until a few years down the road. 

via: IEEE Spectrum/Photo By: Reuters 

Vineeth Joel Patel
Joel Patel has been covering all aspects of the automotive industry for four years as an editor and freelance writer for various websites. When it comes to cars, he enjoys covering the merger between technology and cars. In his spare time, Joel likes to watch baseball, work on his car, and try new foods
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