Driverless Cars Will Need Their Own Roads Says Expert

Mon 2nd Dec 2019

A future for autonomous vehicles has hit a bump in the road after a leading academic suggested that human drivers and pedestrians could be in danger from driverless cars.

Nick Chater, Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School has said that while major advancements have been made in the Artificial Intelligence required to power an autonomous vehicle, there is still plenty of work to be done for vehicles to interact with other road users.

Driverless cars must be able to mimic other human motorists to be safe, otherwise they may be limited to their own road network.

“Alan Turing famously challenged future generations to create a machine that would be indistinguishable from a person through the medium of written language,” said Chater.

“The future of fully autonomous vehicles depends on science meeting a similar challenge – creating computer systems that drive in a way that blends seamlessly and safely with human drivers.

“This involves addressing fundamental questions at the frontiers of cognitive science, which have not been fully answered.

“Mixing autonomous vehicles with human drivers and cyclists on our cluttered roads seems too dangerous. The best way forward may be to give them their own roads.”

While driverless cars may be able to interact with so-called ‘normal’ traffic situations, the introduction of human interaction such as smiling, pointing, nodding or even beeping a horn may be problematic for AI.

Chater continued: “‘Negotiating the traffic’ is not merely a figure of speech. It involves an actual process of tacit negotiation with other road users in a safety critical environment. It is crucial that everyone reaches the same – or at least compatible – agreements to prevent a potential accident.

“These human interactions are so effortless that we are unaware of the complex reasoning involved. Teaching a machine to mimic that reasoning is a huge challenge. The rate of progress on this challenge may prove a decisive limiting factor in the development of autonomous vehicles.

“One argument for driverless vehicles is that the occupant will be able to focus their attention elsewhere. It has even been suggested they could sleep during a journey.

“If that is the case, a human will not be able to decide how to act in a complex negotiation when they have previously been engaged in some other task.”