Questions for Self Driving Cars Proponents
The idea of a self driving car is being pushed on the American public. Early testing have begun by Google and others. Before I give up the keys to my car, I have a few questions that needs to be answered.
- July 2016
From what I read and learned about this initiative, it is being sold as an improvement on safety foremost and also to help with congestion. Let me begin by stating the obvious. Any system that will be implemented must be able to deal with the reality of transitioning from a people driven environment to a mixed environment to finally arrive at a totally autonomous environment. Some of the issues that I raise may only apply to the mixed environment but never the less important to address. I agree that is probably the harder problem to solve but necessary.
I have driven most of my life and in various situations. I live in the suburbs of NYC and have experienced traffic jams and pot holes. I've also driven in snow and ice storms. The problems I see is not with the day to day driving excursions but the unusual and odd cases that crops up occasionally. The issues I raise are real life examples which I have personally experienced. In fact, many of the near misses are not even accounted because it was avoided by an intelligent and experienced driver behind the wheel. This occurs on a daily basis and I often wonder what would happen if a machine or program has to deal with them. Will it be handled as smoothly or seamlessly?
- A most common issue I run into is when driving with the GPS guiding my way. I love the GPS assistance and wondered how did we ever lived without them. It takes us to our destination turn by turn and even estimate the arrival time based on traffic conditions. Once in a while, a problem occurs when a road that I am on is closed temporarily or due to some major accident or repair. In this case, I've learned how to get around the obstruction by turning off this road and driving a few miles away from the blocked road before allowing the GPS to guide me. The reason is the GPS does not know the road ahead was blocked. It will recalculate the path back to the original road that I was on. The way to defeat it is to ignore the direction at first and keep driving away from the obstruction until a new path is computed that avoids that road all together. My question is this. With an autonomous car, using the GPS as it's guide, how will it deal with this simple scenario? There are two parts to this question. First, how will the car know when the road is closed ahead? and second, how will it get around this obstruction by itself?
- How will autonomous car deal with a pothole? In NYC during the winter months, there are many potholes that crop up daily on the streets. In many cases, as an experienced driver, I learn to maneuver around them to avoid serious damage to my tires or suspension. The most common is when a pothole is located right in the path of one of my wheels. When I see them, I would just simply turn and swerve around it to avoid hitting it right on. This would involve crossing over to another lane briefly and of course avoiding any other cars on the same road. Will an autonomous car be able to do the same?
- What about mirrors and reflectors? Most sensors depends on the fact that objects reflect a signal to the source so that they can be detected. I can envision some objects under certain circumstances where they can cause the sensor to fail or misread the situation. The human eye along with our brain can do a good job of interpreting these situations and mmake the necessary correction or adjustment. How can a self driving car do the same?
I am a big skeptic when it comes to total autonomous driving cars. I just don't see the technology being good enough to handle all situations as yet...
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