“In order for AVs to unlock the safety, mobility, and traffic efficiency benefits they need to operate in a ‘normal’ way and not restricted to very low speed or restricted to stay far away from other vehicles.”
The safety of autonomous vehicles (AVs) could have taken a step forward after an Intel company unveiled a mathematical formula that it says can prevent collisions. Announced by the CEO of Mobileye, an Israeli developer of driver-assistance systems bought by tech giant Intel in August, Amnon Shashua said the formula removes the element of doubt related to accidents, providing “specific and measurable parameters for the human concepts of responsibility”.
Named Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS), Mobileye claims that the technology ensures from a planning and decision-making perspective that any AV fitted with it could not issue a command that would lead it to cause an accident. According to Shashua, that situation was not something that could be said for even the most advanced human drivers who simply don’t have the capabilities to avoid every collision.
“AVs have 360-degree vision and lightning-fast reaction times, can analyse road conditions and available braking power, and are never distracted,” said Shashua.
“Our solution is to set clear rules for fault in advance, based on a mathematical model. If the rules are predetermined, then the investigation can be very short and based on facts, and responsibility can be determined conclusively. This will bolster public confidence in AVs when such incidents inevitably occur and clarify liability risks for consumers and the automotive and insurance industries.”
Critics of AVs maintain that even the most advanced form of self-driving car will still be involved in accidents because no software can be engineered to avoid all accidents, with many prophesising a headache for the insurance industry as to who exactly is at fault in the event of an accident.
Mobileye’s answer to this problem is to enact a complete overhaul of the rules of the road that that currently govern only vehicles driven by humans, arguing that the suspicion around AVs needed to be addressed if progress in the area is to be achieved. “AVs will share the road with human-driven vehicles for decades. In order for AVs to unlock the safety, mobility, and traffic efficiency benefits they need to operate in a ‘normal’ way and not restricted to very low speed or restricted to stay far away from other vehicles,” said Shashua.
To illustrate his point, Shashua, who shared his vision at the World Knowledge Forum in South Korea, used the example of an autonomous vehicle that is boxed in by four other human-driven cars [see main image]. He said AVs should be encouraged to be in such situations if they are to be properly integrated on the road. “If one of the human-driven cars on the outside makes an error and cuts in on the AV, there is no way for the AV to avoid a collision. But the situation happens all the time, so if we forbid the AV from being in that situation, it will be useless. Complete avoidance of every accident scenario is impossible.”
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