The Significance of Human Touch in Autonomous Cars

Auto Tech Outlook | Monday, September 19, 2022

Tens of billions of dollars have been invested by autonomous vehicle startups on the promise of creating self-driving vehicles, but industry executives and academics say remote human supervisors may be required indefinitely to assist robot drivers in difficulty.

FREMONT, CA: Autonomous vehicle startups have raised billions of dollars to build self-driving cars. However, industry leaders and academics think remote human supervisors can permanently be required to assist robot drivers in difficulties. Much of the research and investment in autonomous vehicles has been motivated by the fundamental idea that computers and artificial intelligence will significantly minimise accidents brought on by human error. It is challenging to create robot cars that can drive more safely than humans since self-driving software systems cannot forecast and assess risk as rapidly as humans can, especially when confronted with unexpected situations.

Like air traffic controllers, human supervisors could be stationed hundreds of miles away, watching video feeds from various AVs and occasionally controlling them with a steering wheel, ready to intervene and restart stuck robot drivers. AVs always stop when they are unable to determine what to do. Some individuals’ scepticism regarding technology grows due to the possibility that human supervisors will continue to exist. The optimistic implementation timelines for truly driverless vehicles were forecast just a few years ago, but they are now far behind.

For a completely autonomous car without a steering wheel, brake, or accelerator pedal that would join its commercial ride-sharing fleet in 2019, General Motors applied for U.S. government certification in 2018. The Cruise Origin is currently not expected to start production until spring 2023. The CEO of Tesla stated that a million robotaxis would be available next year in 2019. However, the company's full self-driving offering has been criticised because its vehicles cannot drive independently without a human being in the driver's seat and are not prepared to take manual control in an emergency.

Nowadays, many AV startups also employ safety drivers who sit in the driver's seat and act as remote supervisors. These remote humans add to the cost but aid in handling edge circumstances for self-driving automobiles. These could be as simple as an unexpected set of lane closures due to road work or more complex, like erratic, unpredictable conduct by pedestrians or human drivers.

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