Thinking Outside the Car Edition – Humans

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May 12th, 2017

Thinking Outside the Car Edition


Thinking Outside the Car Edition - Humans


One of the main challenges for self-driving cars is the fact that the Level 5 autonomy we expect and think of when we hear “self-driving” is a long way off. Until the time when Level 5 autonomy arrives humans will still have to be part of the equation.

In conventional thinking the control has to stay with the driver and thus my and many of colleagues’ objections. If humans are still involved it really isn’t any safer or autonomous, is it? But then Nissan decided to think outside the car:

Nissan thinks that by using humans in a control center instead of behind the wheel, the industry can reach its goals of self-driving cars. I have to admit, this isn’t a bad idea. In fact, in my opinion, it is one of the better ideas to solve the problem of controlling vehicles and vehicle to vehicle communication.

Basically, the humans would work like air traffic controllers, but for cars. The people manning a station would orchestrate the movement of cars on the roadways and then pass the info to a cloud and disseminate orders—for lack of a better word—to the rest of the autonomous vehicles on the road.  What’s more, according to The Drive, Nissan is already testing the Seamless Autonomous Mobility system in California, in real time.

This very well may work, but as I said above, if the dangerous humans are the reason we want humans removed from controlling vehicles, why are we still giving control of vehicles to humans, even if they are in a remote location? True, the system works for the airline industry for the most part.  We do not have hundreds or thousands of airplanes colliding in midair. But even then, pilots have to be alert and engaged. So, we aren’t really removing humans from cars at all, just reducing them. And I for one just love to drive and maybe that’s why I don’t like autonomous vehicles.

On the flip side though, The Drive also reported this: According to the research the article presents, if as few as five percent of the vehicles on the road were autonomous, those “phantom traffic jams”—you know the ones, where everyone is stopped for no reason at all and then the traffic disappears—would be eliminated.  Of course, the research was conducted on a closed track in perfect conditions. The data would certainly change once the cars made it onto the open road. (Though the lesson for us drivers would be to maintain a constant speed and pay constant attention to the road.) The article also points out that until larger numbers of self-drivers are on the roads the crash numbers would not decline.

Maybe instead of developing a technology that allows us to text or watch movies or whatever else, we should just practice driving well?

But what do you think?

Post your comments on Twitter @LaurenFix


Final Thought:

In a news of the weird moment I offer you this:

CBS Detroit reports that a truck driver heard a loud thump and thought his trailer was going to fall over while he was driving. Like a good semi-driver, he got out and checked on the safety of his vehicle where he saw a tire sticking out of the top of his trailer.

It turns out that a low-flying plane clipped the tractor trailer and left its landing gear on—in?—the trailer. Thankfully, no one was injured.

How does one explain that to an insurance company?

Post your comments on Twitter @LaurenFix

Love Your Car! See you next week!

–Lauren Fix

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