There has been a lot of talk on the status of autonomous vehicles. Tech leaders are quick to announce their status as the first company to achieve full autonomy in cars, surely changing the world as we know it. Progress on this disruption has been widely-reported for many years, and yet people are not sure where we stand in our finish line. With extravagant promises and underwhelming results, it’s no surprise that faith in the industry has been tested. The truth is, no one is ready to claim first place in the self-driving race, and it has been deeply irresponsible to suggest otherwise.
Current State of Tech:
Teaching an inanimate object to think like a human has proven to be difficult. Currently, cars are fitted with cameras, sensors, radars, and black boxes which track and monitor the behaviour of drivers, training the car to operate through supervised learning. While companies have successfully implemented a method to collecting the vast data required, a car still won’t contain the cultural or behavioural instincts needed to navigate around unpredictable and irrational human behaviour. These cars have the eyes to see the roads, but they do not have the brains to process and react to unique situations and challenges. Therefore, we can end these rumours right now and confirm that no car, no company, can achieve level 5 autonomy without the use of unsupervised learning. The vehicle must be able to process and interpret information in the same way humans do. Basically, they need to learn how to think.
Analogy for the Lehman:
Modern cruise control has been available to drivers since 1948. A system which can maintain a vehicle’s speed ‘unsupervised’ is indeed helpful in its assistance to the driver. To suggest that this level of ‘autonomy’ removes the responsibility of the driver is foolish. Of course, each driver must ensure that they remain alert and safe, in the likely event that they must intervene. The exact same analogy can be applied to the current state of vehicles produced by tech giants today for tomorrow.
Company Promises and Credibility:
Companies like Tesla have been under fire for their ambiguity in their progress. Their vague definitions cause confusion among future consumers who believe that they will be able to fall asleep in their moving cars, or watch a film during a commute, or – perhaps more dangerously – rely on the car in the evenings when drunk. Tesla, Uber, Waymo, and GM have not clearly specified just how much interaction the driver will need to have, and so herein lies the problem with our collective definitions.
What is needed?
So, what can we do? As the public prepares for the implementation of self-driving fleets on to more of our roads around the world, it is imperative that we are all on the same page. We must stop the hyperbole and disappointing deliveries that are tarnishing the reputation of the leaders. We have to get real about our capabilities and our restrictions. Companies must inform and educate the public; everyday people who are being thrown into the middle of transportation disruption. If we don’t know where we are or where we’re going, we will be unable to turn these changes into the biggest success stories of our century. Because that’s exactly what it can be.