Autonomous vehicles hold the promise of a crash-free society, in which passengers can spend their time behind the wheel catching up on work, reading a good book, or, you know, having sex.
At least that’s what the head of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE) believes. According to Canada’s CBC News, CAVCOE co-founder and executive director Barrie Kirk predicts that, “Once computers are doing the driving, there will be a lot more sex in cars.”
No, Kirk didn’t make the statement to incentivize scientists and engineers to speed up the development of self-driving cars, though I’m sure it won’t hurt.
He was actually trying to make a point about how drivers could put themselves in situations in which they can’t intervene and take control of their cars in emergency situations.
At least, I think that’s what he was trying to say.
The issue of “distracted drivers” will undoubtedly become more of a problem when it comes to early versions of self-driving technology, namely semi-autonomous vehicles. As the CBC report points out, a handful of Tesla Model S owners have used the vehicle’s semi-autonomous Autopilot mode beyond how it’s meant to operate. In one video posted to YouTube a driver tried to use Autopilot when exiting a highway and the vehicle attempted to drive off the road entirely.
Tesla’s Autopilot function is designed to let vehicles steer, brake, accelerate, and change lanes without much driver assistance. But the feature is only meant for use on highways and still requires that drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel. In another YouTube video, for example, a driver took his hands completely off the wheel while using Autopilot and nearly veered into an oncoming vehicle.
Lane-keeping technology can be especially finicky, as current iterations require that a car have front-facing cameras that are able to read lane markings to maintain the vehicle’s course. If lane markings have worn away or aren’t visible because of snow, the car can’t maintain its position.
If drivers turn their attention away from the road because they believe their semi-automated cars can drive themselves while they take care of “other things” they could be in big trouble.
I’ve tested several vehicles with lane-keeping technology and can attest to the fact that while the technology is helpful on the highway, the feature runs into serious trouble when lane lines are hard to see.
The only way to prevent behaviors like this is for automakers to clearly indicate to consumers the limitations of their vehicles’ semi-autonomus systems.
And it probably won’t hurt if drivers practice a little self-control of their own.
via: CBC news