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Warning: self-driving cars are absolutely not ready to go to market

27 Mar 2016
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Warning: self-driving cars are absolutely not ready to go to market

Many of the autonomous driving enthusiasts are racing to bring self-driving cars to market. However there are no less engineering scientists who speak about the risks and the immaturity of the self-driving technologies at the moment.  This is Missy Cummings' opinion, an engineering professor and human-factors expert at Duke University who argued self-driving cars are "absolutely not ready for widespread deployment." 

As a professor, Cummings is leading a National Science Foundation-funded study of how pedestrians interact with self-driving cars. As one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots from 1988 to 1999, she says that in certain respects driving is even more complex than aviation. Even though you're moving in three dimensions in aviation, road environments are a lot denser.  And the people are significantly less trained.

Humans certainly can adapt to a high-complexity environment and they can learn to work with complex self-driving cars too. The question is how much training a person needs to do it.  As it doesn't take much training to get a driver's license in the USA, and we're not going to move to a society where you have to go to school for six months just to operate a driverless car. Still, we'll need to be sure everyone from ages 16 to 96 can operate these things.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration needs to start setting guidelines for testing and set certain levels of certification so companies know what's expected of them, and know what is a safe enough system under certain conditions. Self-driving cars are the future. There's no question that is where we should go. The question is: How do we get there? And how fast do we need to get there? And things shouldn't be imprudently hastened.

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