Hagedorn, who also serves as a Divisional Board Member, Chassis and Safety, at Continental, one of the key automotive technology suppliers based in Germany, paused a few seconds and responded:
"I think you can draw a parallel on the technology -- airplane on autopilot and autonomous car in self-driving mode, but not on the driver" (airplane pilot vs. consumer driver).
In other words, "You can't expect drivers to do extra training for driving autonomous cars," Hagedorn said. "I think self-driving cars are ultimately about drivers achieving 'comfort.' "
Drivers being asked to take more driver education courses and stay alert all the time behind the wheel inside a self-driving car, in a way, defeats the whole purpose of autonomous cars.
Hagedorn noted that in Germany, rules require 10 seconds to hand over control from car to driver. A 10-second transition might seem adequate, but more realistic is the development of an infrastructure that automatically cautions and turns off the self-driving mode when a car is, say, getting off a highway, Hagedorn explained.
Driving a car with an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), let alone a self-driving car, on a regular surface road poses the greatest challenge. Jeff Bier, founder of the Embedded Vision Alliance, recently told EE Times that an after-market ADAS system he bought a year ago "runs rock solid on highways." But off the highway, his car sees random objects -- utility poles, pedestrians, and road signs -- under a variety of weather conditions and "tends to sound off shrill false alarms... There is just an infinite variety of conditions ADAS needs to deal with." With the self-driving car, more and worse complications are likely to crop up.
"Fail safe" is a loaded word for self-driving cars, acknowledged Continental's Hagedorn.
Carmakers must test their systems again and again, and do extensive evaluation on public roads. As Keiji Aoki, research director of the ITS Center at the Japan Automotive Research Institute, noted during the session that unless reliability issues are settled, other non-technical issues will not get resolved. Such thorny issues include the liability of the driver and automated systems, a definition of the human driver's obligations, and other regulatory worm-cans.
How best to design the ideal moment for braking and steering decisions are typical issues for carmakers applying ADAS to their cars. The question of how to define and where to set the point of brake and steer is also critical to autonomous cars.
Will a Volvo, seeing an object, override the driver and hit the brakes, or leave it up to driver's choice? Such refinement, said Hagedorn is "usually left up to a decision by individual carmakers."
During the session, asked about problems keeping autonomous cars out of the real world, Hagedorn said the toughest challenge is the approval of a vehicle. "When there are millions of different driving scenarios, which will take years of validation, how do you approve a vehicle that's safe to put on a road? The industry needs to plan for that."
But in the end, it is left up to an individual driver to ask himself the following question: "Will you be ready when your Google car freaks out on the road?"