Autonomous cars on the streets of London
Autonomous vehicles are now on the streets of London in a major test being run by autonomous technology firm FiveAI. Though the vehicles have safety drivers for now, the goal is for passenger trials by 2020, in advance of the launch of an autonomous car sharing service. Volkswagen has also just announced similar tests in Hamburg.
Dr Sally Epstein, Machine Learning expert at Cambridge Consultants, applauds the programme, but has cautioned that full autonomy remains a long way off: “This deployment by FiveAI is exactly the kind of rollout that should be used to move through the levels of automation. The company is approaching the problem of full autonomy sequentially, mastering each level of autonomy as they go- whilst understanding the nuances of the environment that they hope to eventually operate in.
The goal of passenger trials in 2020 is ambitious, but consumers should know that we’re nowhere near to having genuinely driverless cars on public roads.
Amongst the challenges still to be overcome are:
- Mapping data will become out of date as soon as it is collected. Street furniture is constantly changing, with roadworks, accidents and more, while human movement in the same environment will remain stubbornly difficult to predict.
- Mapping data alone is not sufficient for the challenge. Maps must be intelligently integrated with other sensor data, in order to keep drivers and other road users safe. The best way to integrate this data remains an area of active research, by Cambridge Consultants and others.
- How will vehicle decision-making be understood after an incident? There must be adequate transparency in the system for consumers to trust a vehicle’s decision-making.
- When fully autonomous vehicles do finally arrive, explaining how their decisions are made, particularly following accidents, will be much more important than any statistical proof that they experience fewer accidents that with humans at the wheel.”