Truth about autonomous cars
Nobody believes that self-driving cars will be easy to develop. In fact, technology aside, the uncertainty of consumer behavior is a major concern among car OEMs. Car companies are responsible for developing a solid solution that can guarantee driver and passenger safety in semi-autonomous/self-driving cars.
In the 1949 Geneva Convention treaty, one section stipulates that every car must have a live driver behind the wheel. But with so many driving features getting automated in semi-autonomous cars, OEMs today know very little about whether human drivers will continue to pay attention to the road, or start doing something else while leaving the driving to the car.
Carmakers designing a semi-autonomous car platform need to pay attention to "drivers' fatigue and attention levels, while checking their driving styles," said Freescale's Santo.
'Flight' simulator for autonomous cars?
In the next few years, car OEMs will be "collecting, evaluating, and analyzing a lot of data on drivers' behavior in semi-autonomous cars," Santo explained. Some OEMs and tier ones are even running semi-autonomous car simulators, similar to flight simulators, said Santo, to see what happens to car and driver when complex situations arise on the road. Carmakers need to figure out a threshold level as to when the car should return control to the driver.
In designing a semi-autonomous (or ADAS) platform, OEMs are trying to figure out interactions among different ADAS features within a system, especially to prevent any single point of failure. They're emphasizing built-in redundancies wherever appropriate, says Santo.
One could compare drivers in autonomous cars to pilots flying an aircraft on autopilot, but "cars can be much more dangerous than airplanes," said Santo. First, there are more unexpected hazards on the road. But more important, rank-and-file drivers are not professional pilots. Because the vast majority of drivers are amateur operators, the development of self-driving cars at car OEMs and tier ones is driven by a team of experts from multiple disciplines ranging from psychology to fuel economy, Santo added.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times