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What Self-driving Cars Can’t Recognize May be a Matter of Life and Death


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Road warning signs for autonomous vehicles.

Distinguishing between animals that could run into the road is part of the constant engineering struggle to identify and teach these types of differences to vehicles powered by artificial intelligence.

Credit: Washington Post illustration/iStock

To understand the complexity of programming self-driving cars, experts on autonomous vehicles say, consider a deer, a moose or a cow — all rust-colored, four-legged mammals you might find roaming along the side of the road.

Human drivers know they also behave differently. A machine might not.

"If the system was never trained on that, it would recognize, 'Oh, there's something here,' " said Danny Shapiro, senior director of automotive for NVIDIA, which is developing self-driving technology. But "it has no idea how it's going to behave or what it's going to do."

Distinguishing between animals that could run into the road is part of the constant engineering struggle to identify and teach these types of differences to vehicles powered by artificial intelligence.

Companies including Alphabet-owned Waymo, General Motors' Cruise division and Lyft-affiliated Aptiv have been racing to train their vehicles to drive themselves in Silicon Valley, as well as Phoenix, Las Vegas and other cities nationwide. The technology is envisioned to eliminate the need for car ownership and revolutionize the way people get around — something particularly helpful with an aging population.

 

From The Washington Post
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