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Is it Possible For Autonomous Cars to Perform Too Well?

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【Summary】Self-driving cars are overly-cautious on the road, completely obeying all of the rules of the road – unlike the majority of humans – which is making them the victims of numerous accidents.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Oct 20, 2017 9:40 AM PT
Is it Possible For Autonomous Cars to Perform Too Well?

Human drivers, unfortunately, don't follow the rules of the road all the time, which is why we have police officers to enforce said laws. As drivers, we speed, come to rolling stops at stop signs, try to miss red lights by speeding up instead of slowing down at yellow lights, and don't use our turn signal to indicate where we're going. But these are things that the majority of drivers know and we've come to anticipate bad drivers on the road. What we don't do well with, apparently, are drivers that follow the rules of the road to a tee. 

Self-Driving Cars Are Boy Scouts On The Road

According to a report by Bloomberg, self-driving cars follow every single one of the rules of the road, making the vehicles the best drivers on the road, which is making them clear targets for human drivers. "They don't drive like people. They drive like robots," said Mike Ramsey, an analyst at Gartner Inc. "They're odd and that's why they get hit." 

It's no secret that automakers and tech companies are testing their autonomous vehicles on public roads. Uber, for instance, has been testing self-driving cars in Arizona and Pittsburgh for some time now, but the ride-sharing company has run into a few bumps, as its driverless Volvo SUVs have been hit by human drivers in a few automotive-related accidents. The problem, as Bloomberg points out, involves how safe autonomous vehicles are. 

According to the outlet, driverless vehicles are overly cautious, coming to a complete stop and setting off in a safe, easygoing manner. That, as pointed out before, isn't what average human drivers do. Developers and engineers are now having to find a way to make autonomous cars drive like humans, which is worse. 

Being Perfect May Be Scary

"If the cars drive in a way that's really distinct from the way that every other motorist on the road is driving, there will be in the worst case accidents in the best case frustration," said Karl Iagnemma, chief executive officer of driverless software developer NuTonomy Inc. "What that's going to lead to is a lower likelihood that the public is going to accept the technology." NuTonomy started testing autonomous vehicles in Boston, Mass. earlier this April

As Iagnemma claims, autonomous vehicles may feature a ton of sensors and cameras that let them see the road better than humans can, but that doesn't exactly equate to being able to drive like humans. Autonomous vehicles, as Bloomberg states, have trouble predicting what lies ahead on the road and dealing with new scenarios that they haven't dealt with before. 

As Bloomberg reports, only California requires companies and automakers to fill out reports on accidents involving autonomous vehicles. According to records the outlet obtained, since 2016 self-driving vehicles have been rear-ended 13 times. Driverless cars have been involved in 31 automotive-related accidents since beginning to test in the state, claims Bloomberg, citing the California Department of Motor Vehicles. 

An interesting aspect of the incidents, as Bloomberg points out, is that the majority of them take place at intersections. Accidents also take place at low speeds, resulting in what's known as a "fender bender" with no injuries. "You put a car on the road which may be driving by the letter of the law, but compared to the surrounding road users, it's acting very conservatively," said Iagnemma. "This can lead to situations where the autonomous car is a bit of a fish out of water." 

When autonomous vehicles first hit the road, everyone was concerned that they wouldn't be able to perform similarly to humans. And, as it turns out, they perform much better, making them targets for accidents. 

via: Bloomberg

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