Autonomous Car Techies Say Pedestrians Are The Problem

Despite self-driving car technology having already claimed lives on the road, certain people within the industry think that it’s not the cars that need reprogramming, but the pedestrians themselves.

So what’s the problem, specifically? Apparently, it’s the fact that people can be unpredictable and make decisions that may seem completely illogical to a logic-based system or AI.

“What we tell people is, ‘Please be lawful and please be considerate’,” stated Andrew Ng, a machine learning researcher working within the industry. In other words, don’t jaywalk.

However, the idea that some people consider humans to be at fault for a certain technology’s shortcomings is simply indicative of how much work needs to be done moving forward.

“The AI we would really need hasn’t yet arrived,” stated Gary Marcus, a NY University professor of psychology who researches both human as well as artificial intelligence. He claims that people like Ng are “just redefining the goalposts to make the job easier,” and that in order to achieve safe self-driving cars is to “completely segregate them from human drivers and pedestrians,” like we do with trains, reports Autonews.

Meanwhile, a robotics researcher and professor at MIT, Rodney Brooks is also somewhat critical of Andrew Ng’s take on autonomous cars, saying that “the great promise of self-driving cars has been that they will eliminate traffic deaths. Now [Ng] is saying that they will eliminate traffic deaths as long as all humans are trained to change their behavior? What just happened?”

However, Ng will argue that humans have always modified their behavior in response to new technologies, including modes of transportation.

“If you look at the emergence of railroads, for the most part people have learned not to stand in front of a train on the tracks.” He also says that people have already learned that school buses are likely to make frequent stops and when they do, small children could run across the road in front of the bus, which leads to drivers acting more cautiously around these buses. He feels as though it should be no different with self-driving cars.

While both sides of the argument make sense, it’s clear that in order for the technology to work as intended, the two philosophies will probably have to meet in the middle.

“There should be proper education programs to make people familiar with these vehicles, the ways to interact with them and to use them,” added Shuchisnigdha Deb, a researcher into advanced vehicular systems.

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  • Bash

    …. hence we are still years away to a 100% autonomouse vehicles, I guess. And the starting point should be from the current driving schools.

  • MP4-12C

    He has got a point, pedestrians can be incredibly reckless. The same goes for cyclists. Not to say that drivers can’t be complete and utter morons, but they don’t ignore traffic laws to a level the first two groups I mentioned do.

    • Adilos Nave

      Oh please. The first two groups as you say also aren’t controlling a 2-ton object at 60mph+. I see drivers do far and away more dangerous acts on any given day. Crossing the yellow, having 2 wheels off the edge of the road, no signal, excessive speeding, etc. A cyclist simply sticks to the side of the road. But perhaps you are thinking of people riding bikes (not true cyclists) in a city environment. In that regard, yeah, it’s a free for all much like the mopeds used in major asian metropolitan cities like Taipei. That stuff is crazy!! Anarchy on the streets.

      • LJ

        Cyclists shouldn’t be on the same roads as cars. Period. End of story.

        • Adilos Nave

          What about tractors? They move slower than posted speed limits and take up the entire road while bikes travel faster than tractors and only take a small percentage. It’s not end of story, period. Try looking at things differently.

          • LJ

            I guarantee there are far more cyclists on the roads than tractors, and a tractor driver isn’t going to be killed if he’s hit by a car.

            Plus, most tractors are out on country roads where there’s little to no traffic, while cyclists are all over the place.

        • ChrisInIL

          Well, you said “Period. End of story”, so that must be the end of the conversation.

          Except it’s not. In many places in the US, bicycles are vehicles, and thus have the same rights to use roads as any other vehicles.

    • erly5

      I agree. It’s not just drivers that are reckless or careless. When I’m a pedestrian or a cyclist I don’t take risks as I know the vehicles I’m sharing the road with will get the better of me. Simple, but not everyone gets that!

    • Vassilis

      Of course he does, I thought it would be obvious humans are the biggest challenge and that would be what AI systems must overcome.

  • LJ

    Once Skynet eliminates humans, autonomous cars can drive around freely.

  • D3X

    Volvo must be doing something right then, they have had a ‘Pedestrian Detection’ system for years and I’m sure they are even further ahead in terms of research presently.

  • brn

    Deer too?

  • LJ

    Fair point.

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