7 everyday things that confuse autonomous cars
There is no vehicle that can drive safely on its own.
Human error is by far the most common reason for fatal car crashes.
The development of autonomous vehicles aims the reduction of these accidents. The reality is, that at present time, self-driving vehicles are heavily baffled by our planet earth.
Here is my top 7 list of everyday things that give autonomous cars a hard time:
Ever almost kicked a pigeon while walking about in the city? An electric and therefore quiet car does not bother birds either. The US company NuTonomy stated "For the local breed of unflappable seagulls, which can stop autonomous cars by simply standing on the street […], engineers programmed the machines to creep forward slightly to startle the birds."
If weather is dominated by minus-degrees and snow, please leave your autonomous car at home and walk to your destination. It is still not possible for today's detectors to reliably differentiate between snowflakes and solid objects. Further, a scattered signal cannot provide a clear and usable picture for the system.
According to the US American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), "unnecessary or overly cautious" braking was performed by a Tesla Model 3 when tree shadows appeared on the road. Their concern was not that this would "create unsafe conditions", but that drivers would "choose not to use adaptive cruise control and would miss out on any safety benefit from the system."
Yep, if someone gives his car a wash right where your park assist tries to manoeuvre your vehicle around, it might crash into the foamy car. The diffuse surface can absorb the ultrasonic waves and makes the foam covered obstacle invisible for the detector.
If your ultrasonic sensor detects a signal similar to that it has emitted, but which comes from a different source, it causes confusion. "Any sound waves device will interfere with the primary ultrasonic sensor" according to an IEEE paper of 2018 (IEEE = Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) .
A car made to detect other cars has no idea where the other cars are going. When the lane line tracking stops at slow speed, your autonomous car might use the car in front of you to keep the lane. And as IIHS states: “If the lead vehicle exits, the trailing car might, too.”
If the road has a blind spot at the top of a hill or leads across a bridge, your autonomous car is left blind. Whenever there are road marks missing or not visible to the detectors, the system is left with guessing where it is supposed to go. A car that is swerving about in the middle of a bridge might be a bit discomforting.
If road signs are altered by stickers or any other act of vandalism, the system that can automatically detect and read signs is pretty lost.