Would You Let Your Self-Driving Car Take Your Kids to School?
Or put another way: will self-driving cars be safe?
What level of safety are we talking about? Are we talking about at least as safe as human drivers, or safer than human drivers?
Researchers in China tried to answer this question. Researchers at Tianjin University and Zhigang Xu of Chang’an University surveyed 499 people in the city of Tianjin to find out what level of risk would be acceptable for them when it comes to the self-driving car compared with a human-driven car.
Their research results showed that the public would only accept this new technology if it proves to be approximately four to five times as safe as human-driven vehicles.
Question is, can AI deliver?
Well, the very point of departure for anyone working in this field is to make self-driving cars safer than human-driven cars.
We already have Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that keep drivers alerted to constantly-changing scenarios on the road.
AI, machine learning and computer vision make a range of ADAS features possible, which will be part of self-driving vehicles and which is already making human driving much safer. These features include lane departure warning, forward collision warning, rear-end collision avoidance, blind spot detection, pedestrian detection, vehicle detection, and speed limit detection.
ADAS rely on sensors and actuators that communicate over local networks. These systems are laying the groundwork for autonomous cars.
The thing is, all autonomous cars will also be connected cars. And connected cars like all Internet of Things (IoT) devices, are subject to security threats.
We already saw how hackers can interfere with a car’s steering, braking, and other vehicle functions when Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek remotely hijacked the smart system of a Grand Jeep Cherokee in 2015.
No wonder then that a recent McKinsey survey on connected cars found almost half of respondents said they distrust the computers that control autonomous vehicles and 38 % said they feared hacking.
On the other hand, more than half of the respondents said they would be happy to get into a self-driving vehicle if their concerns were addressed.
Fortunately, ADAS technologies already adhere to high safety requirements. These safety requirements will increase as the level of autonomy increases.
Needless to say, ADAS security requirements are very high. Many future ADAS technologies will be rated at Automotive Safety Integrity Level D. This is a classification that applies to components or systems where a malfunction poses the risk of injury or death.
We can be fairly sure that every measure is being taken to ensure that self-driving vehicles will be safe. After all, companies like Ford, Mercedes, Apple, Intel, and Delphi have made major investments to make it happen.
Self-driving cars are still a few years off. Once they become ubiquitous in a couple of years, I’m sure we’ll be only too happy to leave the chore of taking the children to school, to the car parked in the garage.