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Robot Cars Can't Count on ­S in an Emergency


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A driving simulator at the Toyota Research Institute.

Automotive engineers, computer interaction designers, and even lawyers wonder if self-driving cars will ever really be able to count on us in an emergency.

Credit: Credit Christie Hemm Klok/The New York Times

Many automotive technologists are skeptical that autonomous cars will be able to trust humans in emergency situations.

Self-driving car technology currently is focused on humans taking over when the computer cannot decide what to do, but some experts think the challenge of quickly bringing a distracted driver back into control of a fast-moving car cannot be overcome.

Research by Stanford University scientists found that most distracted drivers needed more than five seconds to regain control of a car when they were suddenly required to refocus on driving. They also found regaining control at a high speed is markedly different than in slower-moving vehicles.

Nevertheless, the auto industry is investing extensively in artificial intelligence to elevate car safety before implementing full autonomy.

Roboticist Gill Pratt says technologies that perceive risks as much as 15 seconds ahead of time may be needed to realize a self-driving car that humans can safely commandeer in emergencies.

From The New York Times
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