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Autonomy

Via The Register, a VW designer talks about self-driving cars:

Huhnke said that his group wanted to find out if drivers passengers in autonomous cars would feel safe: “If you have an autonomous car driving … do you trust your car? Do you really press the autopilot button and let the car drive you at 60 miles per hour?” So they conducted a study — and were surprised by the results.

“We created a car with a second steering wheel in the rear where the driver couldn’t see it,” he told his audience. “He or she pressed the autopilot button and thought the machine would really drive without human help. Someone drove in the rear seat without being recognized by her or him. Well, you couldn’t imagine: after a few seconds, they already took the newspaper and read the news articles. So they trusted already the machine, which was great.”

Huhnke’s group then pushed its luck: “We also initialized some emergency situations: ‘So please, go back to your steering wheel and take over, we need some help from you,’ and they did it. They put the newspaper back, and just controlled the car through the situation. Then what did they do? Immediately press the button and start it again — it was really amazing.”

The question, of course, from a human factors point of view, is how quickly the car can alert drivers to a particular emergency (and what the warning will be; either a vague “emergency” or the exact diagnosis), and how quickly they can respond (and whether it’s the correct response) after they’ve been “out of the loop.” Would a texting driver with eyes and mind off-road be able to respond to a path intrusion warning that comes just as the car detects it?

(thanks Jeff)

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This entry was posted on Sunday, August 29th, 2010 at 7:30 pm and is filed under Etc., Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Autonomy”

  1. Zebee Says:

    I’m not surprised. For most people a car journey is an unavoidable waste of time between where they are and where they want to be. An unpleasant chore with not enough stimulation to be interesting.

    So having someone else do it is attractive. Especially if you think they are better at it than you are, which people aren’t willing to say of other people, but are willing to say to a machine. Because most of the time machines are better – cooked your own toast on a fire lately?

  2. Betty Barcode Says:

    I cannot think of a better example of misapplied technology. We already *have* a vehicle that takes you where you want to go without you having to operate it and we’ve had this machine for a century and a half. It is called a train. If people really want to ride and arrive without having to do the driving, they ought to be lobbying for a restoration of the nation’s rail system.

  3. Bill T. Says:

    This reminds me of a story (urban legend?) about a Saudi who came to the US and bought an RV. Out on the road, he turned on the cruise control and then went into the back to get a drink….

    So, maybe the experimenters shouldn’t have been so surprised.

  4. Tony Toews Says:

    Hmm, I can see some interesting cases in front of the judge regarding drunk “drivers”. “But your honour I never had to touch the controls all the way home.”

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

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