New Study Demonstrates That Fully Autonomous Cars Are A Long Way Off
Our Car Accident Attorneys in Georgia Discuss a New Study That Demonstrates How Fully Autonomous Cars Are A Long Way Off
Street signs obscured by graffiti can fool an autonomous car programmed to them and follow their commands. This development creates an apparent problem for next generation automakers and safety advocates who believe that autonomous vehicles will make our roads a safer place. Unfortunately, a computer can only work in accordance with its program and cannot reason beyond the algorithms programmers commanded it to obey. This development has the potential to set the technology back. The development also raises a number of liability questions. At Montlick & Associates, our Georgia car accident lawyers will continue to monitor emerging technologies and determine who might be liable for damages if autonomous vehicle technology fails.
Autonomous car manufacturers endeavor to program a vehicle's camera to read signs and interpret what those signs mean. The car must then comply with the programmed information. If a person alters that information, then the vehicle may be rendered useless as a purely self-driving car because it would be dangerous to put on full auto mode. For autonomous cars to be strictly self-operating, the vehicle must interpret signs and other information, discard what is misleading or insufficient, and then analyze the information correctly. The most recent study proved that this is not always possible.
The onboard cameras that act as the "eyes" of the autonomous vehicle perceive information at changing angles. Other environmental factors alter the accuracy of the vehicle's ability to decode and respond to the sign appropriately. For example, the atmospheric lighting might challenge the accuracy of the image the car is decoding. Also, debris on the vehicle's camera could obscure the image viewed. A programmer's challenge is to create a scenario in which the car correctly interprets images 100% of the time correctly. Anything less creates a hazardous condition
According to the study performed at the University of Washington, three factors play a role in how an autonomous vehicle characterizes a particular sign. The first is distance. A camera will repeatedly take images as the vehicle approaches the sign. The level of detail increases as the car gets closer to the particular street sign. The next factor that plays a role in sign characterization is the angle of the camera in relation to the sign. Angles will change depending on the the location of the sign and camera. Lastly, designers indicate that resolution of the photos could distort the image the cameras are attempting read. The picture can be distorted because of atmospheric issues such as severe weather.
The study concluded that minor alterations to the appearance of certain street signs could trick the computer into performing a different function. For example, stickers on a standard stop sign tricked the car into driving 45 miles per hour. Another tested faded the color of a lane arrow. The vehicle's computer interpreted that defect to be a stop sign or the addition of a new lane. Of note is that neither the street signs' colors nor shapes were altered in any way. The researchers changed only the wording or symbol on the sign.
The purpose of the study was to demonstrate how vulnerable autonomous cars are to attack from extraneous sources that could render the vehicle killing machines. Human drivers would have no problem reasoning through the alterations researchers made to the street signs.
In the end, the researchers performed a valuable service for automakers by learning of this limitation before autonomous vehicles become commonplace.
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