PUNY HUMANS STILL SEE THE WORLD BETTER THAN SELF-DRIVING CARS
A CONFIDENCE BOOSTER for you, puny human: The machines don’t have you beat. Yet.
Yes, the autonomous car is coming, and fast. Tesla delivered the first of its much-anticipated Model 3s last week, complete with the Autopilot feature that allows the cars to drive themselves on well-marked highways. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class can conquer a roundabout on its own. Companies like Google, General Motors, and Uber are testing autonomous vehicles in crowded cities like San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Boston, racking up miles and learning new tricks. In the next few years, they will invade at full speed.
But it is still dawn in autonomy-land, and at least for now, humanity holds an advantage: For all their sensors and computers, robocars still don't see or understand the world as well as we do with our eyeballs, ear canals, and brain folds. That's the takeaway from a new paper by University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute researcher Brandon Schoettle, who breaks down today's man vs. machine battle with a focus on the capabilities of those sensors that dot autonomous vehicles.
"You’re probably safer in a self-driving car than with a 16-year-old, or a 90-year-old," says Schoettle. "But you’re probably significantly safer with an alert, experienced, middle-aged driver than in a self-driving car." (Vindication for those 40-somethings feeling past their prime).