This summer, a survey released by the American Automobile Association showed that 78 percent of Americans feared riding in a self-driving car, with just 19 percent trusting the technology. What might it take to alter public opinion on the issue? Iyad Rahwan, the AT&T Career Development Professor in the MIT Media Lab, has studied the issue at length, and, along with Jean-Francois Bonnefon of the Toulouse School of Economics and Azim Shariff of the University of California at Irvine, has authored a new commentary on the subject, titled, “Psychological roadblocks to the adoption of self-driving vehicles,” published today in Nature Human Behavior. Rahwan spoke to MIT News about the hurdles automakers face if they want greater public buy-in for autonomous vehicles.
Singapore and MIT have been at the forefront of autonomous vehicle development. First, there were self-driving golf buggies. Then, an autonomous electric car. Now, leveraging similar technology, MIT and Singaporean researchers have developed and deployed a self-driving wheelchair at a hospital.
In the race to develop self-driving technology, Chinese Internet giant Baidu unveiled its 50+ partners in an open source development program, revised its timeline for introducing autonomous driving capabilities on open city roads, described the Project Apollo consortium and its goals, and declared Apollo to be the ‘Android of the autonomous driving industry’.
We are excited to show off a simulation of a Prius in Mcity using ROS Kinetic and Gazebo 8. ROS enabled the simulation to be developed faster by using existing software and libraries. The vehicle’s throttle, brake, steering, and transmission are controlled by publishing to a ROS topic. All sensor data is published using ROS, and can be visualized with RViz.
I’ve written a few times that perhaps the biggest unsolved problem in robocars is how to know we have made them safe enough. While most people think of that in terms of government certification, the truth is that the teams building the cars are very focused on this, and know more about it than any regulator, but they still don’t know enough. The challenge is going to be convincing your board of directors that the car is safe enough to release, for if it is not, it could ruin the company that releases it, at least if it’s a big company with a reputation.
Judging by the frequency that self-driving cars are mentioned in scientific discussions and the media, they are not only the next big thing, but might actually take over as our main means of transportation. Traditional industries like the railways, on the other hand, seem to have lost that race already. But what if new technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices and Artificial Intelligence (AI), were not only used to create new transportation modes, but to transform old ones as well?
The first VENTURER trials set out to investigate ‘takeover’ (time taken to reengage with vehicle controls) and ‘handover’ (time taken to regain a baseline/normal level of driving behaviour and performance) when switching frequently between automated and manual driving modes within urban and extra-urban settings. This trial is believed to be the first to directly compare handover to human driver-control from autonomous mode in both simulator and autonomous road vehicle platforms.
SoftBank, the giant telecom company, is venturing out into the world of robotics and transportation services. DealStreet Asia said that SoftBank is trying to transform itself into the ‘Berkshire Hathaway of the tech industry’ with the recent launch of a $100 billion technology fund.
UPDATED 5/24/17: SoftBank’s acquisition of 4.9% of the outstanding shares of Nvidia Corp.
SoftBank Group just invested $5 billion in China’s Didi Chuxing, China’s biggest ride-sharing service. Last year Uber sold their China business to Didi resolving (by giving up) all the legal and antitrust investigations it was undergoing in China. In other news, Chris Urmson, CTO of Google’s self-driving car program, left to start a new company and Waymo and Lyft just agreed on a partnership to develop projects and products toward adoption of autonomous vehicle technology.
I was recently asked about the differences between RADAR and LIDAR. I gave the generic answer about LIDAR having higher resolution and accuracy than RADAR. And RADAR having a longer range and performing better in dust and smokey conditions. When prompted for why RADAR is less accurate and lower resolution, I sort of mumbled through a response about the wavelength. However, I did not have a good response, so this post will be my better response.
As the last in our series of blog posts on machine learning in research, we spoke to Dr Nathan Griffiths to find out more about machine learning in transport. Nathan is a Reader in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Warwick, whose research into the application of machine learning for autonomous vehicles (or “driverless cars”) has been supported by a Royal Society University Research Fellowship.
Waymo (Google) has announced a pilot project in Phoenix offering a full ride service in their new minivans. Members of the public can sign up — the link is sure to be overwhelmed with applicants, but it has videos and more details — and some families are already participating.