Despite new advances in self-driving cars, it’s unlikely fully autonomous vehicles will hit the road en mass in the near future, says the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
In a recent interview with MIT – which got little attention from the press – chairman Christopher Hart says recent accidents involving the autopilot systems used in trains and planes suggests that humans can’t be fully removed from control of cars.
“I’m not confident that we will ever reach that point; I don’t see the ideal of complete automation coming anytime soon,” he said. “Some people just like to drive. Some people don’t trust the automation so they’re going to want to drive.”
“There’s no software designer in the world that’s ever going to be smart enough to anticipate all the potential circumstances this software is going to encounter.”
Even if drivers are eliminated, there’s still the significant chance of human error by the people who programmed and designed the cars, Hart pointed out.
He also warned that self-driving cars will make ethical decisions that could kill the owner.
“My automated car is confronted by an 80,000 pound truck in my lane,” he said hypothetically. “Now the car has to decide whether to run into this truck and kill me, the driver, or to go up on the sidewalk and kill 15 pedestrians.”
“That would [have to] be put into the system. Protect occupants or protect other people?”
Hackers can also compromise – or even take control – of self-driving cars and cause massive accidents.
You could end up dying on the way to work because you forgot to download the latest security patch!
“Hacker Jonathan Petit was able to launch a denial-of-service attack against a self-driving car by overwhelming the car’s sensors with images of fake vehicles and other objects,” Sophos.com reported. “As Petit describes in a paper he will present at Black Hat Europe, he recorded the pulses emitted by objects with a commercial lidar (light detection and ranging) system that self-driving cars use to detect objects.”
“By beaming the pulses back at a lidar on a self-driving car with a laser pointer, he could force the car into slowing down or stopping to avoid hitting phantom objects.”
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