Audi has looked at the future and decided its self-driving cars should have human habits and manners, even if it’s not really necessary from an engineering safety perspective. Now the German car maker is training its autonomous vehicles to drive more like us for the comfort of passengers and other drivers alike, according to SlashGear.
Someday our roads may be driven only by driverless cars, or maybe there will be dedicated autonomous car lanes. When driverless and human-driven cars are on the road together, however, it could get dicey. Humans are going to need all the help they can get anticipating what an autonomous car is going to do next. We’re going to have a learning curve during this transition to sharing our streets with vehicles running on autopilot.
It may be a few years before we get used to driverless taxis, rental cars, and even our own self-driving vehicles. If you’ve ridden in a big city taxi lately, abrupt lane changes, starts, stops, and precision bus-passing and bicycle avoidance can be unnerving. Imagine what it could be like with a computer quickly reading many sensors and cameras and receiving information about lane traffic and signals ahead.
Part of the problem is that the onboard computer systems controlling autonomous cars are able to base decisions on more data and react with greater accuracy and speed than humans can. This could be disconcerting to human drivers if a driverless car switches lanes precisely, quickly, and without the kind of early notice that human drivers tend to give. And we’re not just talking about using turn signals.
For example, when we drive on the highway and prepare to change lanes, we tend to move to that side of our current lane. That’s exactly the type of human behavior that can distinguish human from autonomously driven cars. And that’s an example of the “human-driving” lessons Audi is teaching its A7 concept car, code named “Jack,” that’s piling up miles on the Autobahn.
Another example of human driving behavior is to move further to the other side of the lane when a large truck is passing in an adjacent lane. That may be a great idea for motorcycles, but it’s not as crucial for cars and SUVs. However, we still do it. Jack has that move in its programming now as well.
As autonomous vehicles come to our roads, their ability to signal human drivers with subtle moves that we’re used to will make the transition easier for the human drivers and passengers. Of course, once the roads have only other autonomous cars to communicate and contend with, we suspect that we’ll see more of the fast, precision driving that fully computer-controlled vehicles can really do. Now, can you imagine a movie plot where the autonomous cars anxiously await reaching stretches of road inhabited solely by computer-controlled cars so they can show off for each other?
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