Autonomous Vehicles Vs. Helping Humans Drive Better - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
10/29/2015
09:06 AM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
Commentary
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
50%
50%

Autonomous Vehicles Vs. Helping Humans Drive Better

For automakers, creating self-driving cars may be an appealing technical challenge, but creating better-driving cars is a more attainable goal. In a report released today, global consultancy McKinsey suggests that technology for helping drivers navigate is likely to become critical for car buyers.

NASA's Apollo Archive: 10 More Breathtaking Images
NASA's Apollo Archive: 10 More Breathtaking Images
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Trying to create a self-driving car represents an attempt to reinvent the wheel, which in this case happens to be the human brain. Our biological wetware allows us to drive reasonably well. While technology can make us better drivers, taking people out of the picture creates more problems than it solves. The idea that Google, Uber, and other companies believe they can create cars that drive themselves on public roads is remarkable for its hubris.

The issue is not technological. It's social, legal, and practical. Google's self-driving cars have proven themselves, but they don't perform as well when they have to deal with people. People can be unpredictable, and they can also be belligerent, particularly when challenged by machines. As the New York Times reported in September, Dmitri Dolgov, head of software for Google's self-driving car project, said that the challenges of dealing with people on the road convinced him that human drivers needed to be "less idiotic."

When fixing the machines proves too difficult, you have to fix the people. If only that were a viable option!

[How will we connect tomorrow? Read 8 Smart Cities: A Peek At Our Connected Future.]

In his new book, Our Robots, Ourselves, David Mindell, a professor at MIT, argues that machine autonomy is a myth. "Yes, automation can certainly take on parts of tasks previously accomplished by humans, and machines do act on their own in response to their environments for certain periods of time," he writes. "But the machine that operates entirely independent of human direction is a useless machine."

That may be an exaggeration. An automated lighthouse may be limited but it isn't useless. However, Mindell is referring to machines operating in more complicated environments. As he sees it, the future of automation involves some level of human oversight.

Outside of companies that view humans as an obstacle, this is already a given. NASA's Mars rovers operate with a high degree of autonomy, but humans continue to run the show. Commercial airlines can operate on autopilot, but they still rely on human pilots. Defense Department policy requires that people oversee autonomous systems.

Tesla Autopilot
(Image: Tesla)

Tesla Autopilot

(Image: Tesla)

For automakers, creating self-driving cars may be an appealing technical challenge, but creating better-driving cars is a more attainable goal. In a report released today, "Advanced Driver Assistance Systems: Pathway to Safer Consumers and Roads," global consultancy McKinsey suggests that technology for helping drivers navigate is likely to become critical for car buyers.

"Assisted driving technologies allow consumers to operate vehicles more safely while the consumers remain ultimately responsible for their respective actions," said Hans-Werner Kaas, senior partner at McKinsey and head of the firm's automotive and assembly practice, in an email. "Such assist technologies provide an 'additional set of eyes' and critical information in all day traffic situations."

McKinsey surveyed 5,500 recent car buyers across China, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the US and found that among the few drivers who already have access to assistive technology, there's high satisfaction and willingness to repurchase.

The firm categorizes advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) in four tiers of escalating complexity:

  • vision assistance (birds-eye view displays, transparent window pillars, night vision displays, and adaptive high beams)
  • warnings and alerts (drowsiness alerts, lane departure warnings, blind spot monitoring, and various collision warnings)
  • adjustments (pre-crash cabin adjustments, braking assistance, lane-changing assistance, and wake-up adjustment)
  • intervention (lane keeping, advanced emergency steering, road hazard avoidance, adaptive cruise control, advanced emergency braking, and pulling over when drowsiness is detected)

Many of these features can be found in current cars such as the 2016 Volvo XC90 and other high-end models. Tesla's version 7.0 software, released earlier this month, implements an autopilot system that can steer within a lane, change lanes on command, and manage speed through traffic awareness.

To facilitate adoption of ADAS technology, McKinsey's report argues, carmakers need to prioritize cyber-security. They need to be transparent about how their systems collect and store data.

"Like with any new technology introduction, car makers and their respective suppliers need to earn or maintain the trust of the consumers," said Kaas, emphasizing the need for testing and validation of the software running assist technologies and for consumer education about potential benefits.

Humans need to engage with and direct their machines, not be driven by them.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio
We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
<<   <   Page 2 / 4   >   >>
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
10/31/2015 | 12:56:51 PM
Re: Road Safety
@mak63 – I think it's just a better way of travelling, now you get to spend the time you take to go to work in a much productive relaxed way. Now you could concentrate of much important things. Imagine someone spending about 2 hours to get to work and 4 hours a day just for transport. 
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
10/31/2015 | 12:54:18 PM
Re: I want to be driven...
@jnskm – The best part of the story is you don't have to drive in traffic, you could just turn on the autopilot and relax. It just eases your mind and helps you relax. 
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
10/31/2015 | 12:51:55 PM
Re: Road Safety
@SunitaT- The acceleration deceleration steering and the brakes are the most critical components that the autopilot system would need to have full control of. 
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
10/31/2015 | 12:49:34 PM
Re: Road Safety
@SunitaT- Almost all vehicles both heavy and light vehicles could have these driving assistant features. We just need to be careful that no one could hack into these systems which could cause disaster. 
shakeeb
50%
50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
10/31/2015 | 12:41:01 PM
Re: Road Safety
@tzubair- I wish this could prevent drink and drive accidents and accidents caused by dangerous driving. This will definitely cut down at least 50% of the accidents if implemented properly. 
tzubair
50%
50%
tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
10/30/2015 | 11:14:33 PM
Re: Road Safety
"How about a goal of creating better drivers? Not just with technology, but also with education."

@mak63: I think that goes without saying. No matter how sophisticated the technology may be, there's no substittue to a better driver who knows and follows the rules. The technology is there as a back up option just in case the driver falters by mistake. Even the best of drivers can sometimes end up in situations beyond their control.
tzubair
50%
50%
tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
10/30/2015 | 11:12:00 PM
Re: Road Safety
"If autonomous systems are really going to help, then they must first get full independent control of the variables that are governing the car and passenger safety."

@SunitaT0: It may sound good in theory, but I doubt how many people will actually be comfortable and feel safe while sitting in a totally autonomous car with no human driver at all. It may become acceptable later on, but I feel people would be just a little reserved even though how good the technology may be at this time.
mak63
50%
50%
mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
10/30/2015 | 4:31:28 PM
Re: Road Safety
@SachinEE "...But it is true in a fully automated driving grid, there would be zero accidents because cars would communicate with each other."

Yep, but where is the fun on that?
Perhaps we might need many more private racing clubs/tracks, to blow off some steam.
mak63
50%
50%
mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
10/30/2015 | 4:16:41 PM
Re: Road Safety
@nasimson I don't know if the drivers have to start from zero, but I'm sure they need to correct what they do wrong. Perhaps it will be a good idea to send drivers to a class, those who get a ticket or an accident where they're at fault. That would be a good start.
"The benefit with cars is that the new model has all the leanings of the old model built in. "
We could say something similar applies to us. When a relationship between teacher and student (or mentor/disciple) exists, wouldn't you say?
SachinEE
50%
50%
SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
10/30/2015 | 3:57:20 PM
Re: Road Safety
@Nasimson. Probably. Or make a software division and roll out software updates for the car just like a computer company. Or make a really good AI that learns from past mistakes. Only problem would be if it goes Rogue.
<<   <   Page 2 / 4   >   >>
News
The State of Chatbots: Pandemic Edition
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  9/10/2020
Commentary
Deloitte on Cloud, the Edge, and Enterprise Expectations
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  9/14/2020
Slideshows
Data Science: How the Pandemic Has Affected 10 Popular Jobs
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  9/9/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
IT Automation Transforms Network Management
In this special report we will examine the layers of automation and orchestration in IT operations, and how they can provide high availability and greater scale for modern applications and business demands.
Slideshows
Flash Poll