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How Does GM Train Humans to Monitor its Driverless Cars?

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【Summary】The way the company trains its Autonomous Vehicle Testers (AVTs) was recently revealed in an addendum, which was submitted after the automotive giant issued a safety report to the US federal government.

Michael Cheng    Jun 22, 2018 8:15 AM PT
How Does GM Train Humans to Monitor its Driverless Cars?
author: Michael Cheng   

GM is rapidly growing its autonomous driving program in the US. Last year, the automaker reportedly doubled its test fleet in California, over a three-month period. Cruise Automation, GM's driverless car division, also received $2.25 billion in fresh funding from SoftBank's venture capital arm (SoftBank Vision Fund) in May to take development to the next level.

Such rate of expansion is impressive; as human operators are required to monitor the self-driving cars during trials on public roads. Called Autonomous Vehicle Testers (AVTs), GM carefully trains each individual, ensuring best practices in safety are applied at all times. The way the company educates its AVTs was recently revealed in an addendum, which was submitted after the automotive giant issued a safety report to the US federal government.

Read on to learn about how GM's AVTs are trained and the type of monitoring standards the business applies to its self-driving fleet.

Autonomous Vehicle Testers

AVTs start their training inside a classroom. Afterwards, individuals must apply the concepts and standards in a stationary car, then on a private test track. The driving records of AVTs are closely monitored during the entire period.

"We are super-excited to share with you this notable point on the journey to large-scale AV deployment," highlighted GM president Dan Ammann.

The entire session lasts roughly one month, which isn't a lot of time to digest boatloads of new information. To address this, a training binder is provided in every autonomous test vehicle. The manual contains applicable rules that must be observed on the road, as well as steps for handling encounters on the road, including collisions and flat tires.

Inside the car, individuals may access a small screen, which is used to monitor the status of various vehicular components in real-time. AVTs are required to take note of odd and unreliable driving maneuvers, with the driver only allowed to verbally communicate his or her observations to prevent distractions.

Keeping AVTs Alert

AVTs are prone to fatigue and boredom, which may arise due to long hours sitting behind the wheel. To prevent such occurrences, GM enforces mandatory breaks for the individuals. Additionally, time on the road is capped to keep AVTs active. During a session, routes that can only be completed within a short period of time are selected.

"While we look forward to the day when autonomous vehicles are commonplace, the streets we drive on today are not so simple, and we will continue to learn how humans drive and improve how we share the road together," said GM in a statement.

It's important to highlight that two AVTs must always be present inside a driverless test vehicle, with one of the two individuals required to keep his or her hands on the steering wheel at all times. In California, GM employs roughly 400 local drivers, for more than 100 test units. According to the company, the standard of assigning two AVTs per autonomous vehicle will continue to be observed until it is ready to roll out fully autonomous driving features.

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