Tesla and a slew of car manufacturers are currently wracking their heads regarding situations wherein the driver takes their hands off the steering wheel. The companies are attempting to come up with a solution that keeps drivers safe and sound in these situations.
The issue arises from this, is that every time with the rise of automatic, self-driving cars, humans are growing increasingly more complacent. And the cars of today are equipped with AIs that are strictly meant to be of help in driving and not a complete replacement. However, users grow complacent and take their hands off when the vehicle appears to doing well on its own and this can leads o accidents.
So, drivers must remain alert and conscious of the situation at all times. While all of these manufacturers have introduced safeguards that should stop the car in case of any issue that is deemed beyond the ability of the AI or if the drivers keep their hands off for too long, the latter have been able to do precisely that.
As per NTSB:
During a 37-minute section of the 41-minute Tesla trip, the driver kept his hands on the wheel for just 25 seconds, putting his hands on the wheel for one- to- three second increments after getting repeated visual and audible warnings.
And this is exactly the crux of the problem. A driver could be looking back and talking to the passenger, and could have one hand negligently laid on the steering wheel. There are a lot of ways this could work out except that this could lead to accidents.
Companies are now taking this into cognizance. For instance, GM delayed introducing Super Cruise precisely so that it could insist on driver supervision.
As per Barry Walkup, chief engineer of Super Cruise:
The system uses a small camera that focuses on the driver and works with infrared lights to track head position to determine where the driver is looking. If the system – which uses facial recognition software – detects the driver is not paying attention.
And if he continues this way, the vehicle is eventually brought to a stop.
Similarly, Tesla is also attempting to monitor the driver and ensure that he is paying attention to the road and not sleeping in the front seat. As per CEO Elon Musk:
It’s not the neophytes, it’s the experts. They get very comfortable with it and repeatedly ignore the car’s warnings and in effect it becomes like a reflex action.
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