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Makers of Self-Driving Cars Ask What to Do With Human Nature

An image from the Volvo Drive Me research program.

Some automakers are arguing against the complete elimination of human control in cars.

Credit: Volvo

The push by some automakers to make fully autonomous vehicles a commercial reality is being tempered by others arguing against the complete elimination of human intervention.

Google is one of several companies pursuing fully autonomous Level 4 cars needing zero driver input. However, there are still advocates for Level 3 cars, defined by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as those that can self-drive in specific circumstances, but still require a human motorist to be "available for occasional control, but with sufficiently comfortable transition time."

Shane McLaughlin, director of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's Center for Automated Vehicle Systems, says Level 3 vehicles should not be so quickly dismissed. He says, "we can get the machine to give the person enough time to react." Such systems might feature in-vehicle video and infrared equipment monitoring the driver's attentiveness, while electronic horizon technologies also might extend drivers' reaction time by "seeing" farther down the road, with cars able to automatically talk to one another.

Among the challenges of Level 4 cars cited by Level 3 proponents are making them capable of appropriately handling situations they have never encountered before. Level 3 supporters favor an incremental evolution of autonomous vehicles, as well as the development of industry standards for human-machine interaction in such cars.

From The New York Times
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