The Human Component of Driverless Cars

“You’re scared the first minute. You’re interested the next five. You are bored the rest of the time.”  This is what State Senator Jeff Brandes said after sitting in a self-driving car.[1]

As the autonomous vehicle technology continues to get developed, more attention is being focused on the human component.  This New York Times article describes how “one of the biggest challenges facing automated cars is blending them into a world in which humans don’t behave by the book.” And, in fact, this technology has many human interaction considerations:

  • How will the car respond to unpredictable human activities near the car? Examples include a kid chasing a ball, a cyclist balancing on his pedals while waiting for a stoplight,
  • How will the car respond to manual cars (traditional cars with human drivers), which have much less predictability?
  • How will the car know to slow down or stop for a policeman on the side of the road, but keep going (slowly) for a construction worker?

Here’s a great video of Google’s Chris Urmson talking about how a driverless car sees the road.

Toyota is taking a totally different approach.  As stated in this New York Times article, rather than compete with companies like Google and Tesla, which are developing cars that drive without human intervention, Toyota will focus its effort on using advances in artificial intelligence technologies to make humans better drivers.

Let’s just admit that these machines will never be “perfect,” but they will probably be lot safer than our driving public is today.


About Lauren Isaac

I am the Manager of Transportation Sustainability at Parsons Brinckerhoff. Recently, I won the William Barclay Parsons fellowship for my research proposal to study how the United States government should respond to driverless cars. As I'm working on my research, I thought this blog would help to disseminate my findings and provide a forum for feedback.
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