Why the Car Industry Needs to Take Lessons From Aviation to Make Autonomous Tech Safe
The autonomous car industry can learn a thing or two from recent aviation failures.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
Before autonomous vehicles become fully autonomous, they were developing a range of driver assistance tools to help us navigate the roads safely and effectively. These tools aren’t always as straightforward as they sound, however, and various studies have illustrated how long it takes a human to regain safe control of a vehicle if they haven’t been concentrating on the road.
While these sorts of challenges are still relatively unfamiliar in a motoring context, they are very familiar in aviation, where difficulties in navigating the human/machine interface have caused numerous incidents. It’s a lesson a recent paper suggests we are not heeding.
The authors argue that various driver assistance tools, from hands-free driving to pre-collision warning systems will begin to hit the mainstream in the coming year, and that the car industry is not doing nearly enough to properly educate drivers on the safe usage of these features.
“We saw how working with automation sometimes taxed pilots’ ability to pay attention and manage distractions — ones often introduced by the automation itself,” they explain. “We saw how automation changed the job of flying in fundamental ways. Today, it is standard practice to provide pilots with a basic understanding of humans, machines, and what happens when the two are combined. All the while, we enjoy a historic low in the aviation crash rate.”
Understanding the Interface
The researchers were among the many who worked with the aviation industry to better prepare and manage the interface between man and machine to reduce the number of incidents that occur. One of the core problems identified in the cockpit was that pilots struggled to retain attention on what was happening when autopilot was in action, and then struggled to navigate the software when it came to regaining control of the plane again. This basic insight prompted significant changes to pilot training, with safety levels improving as a result.
Various experiments testing how humans respond to various driver-assistance features show similar flaws, whether in terms of a fundamental failure to understand the technology or significant lags in their ability to safely regain control of the vehicle if needed. Indeed, one survey found that a decent number of people thought they could happily doze off whilst the highway pilot feature was engaged.
The researchers examined the owner manual of a number of high-tech vehicles and discovered quite significant limitations in the training and explanation offered about the driverless functionality. For instance, some pre-collision warning systems don’t operate if pedestrians are too short, yet this flaw is not always adequately explained to drivers.
It’s a lesson that the aviation industry eventually learned. As driverless tech becomes more mainstream, it’s vital that the car industry heeds these lessons so that driver-assistance tools increase road safety rather than cause an increase in accidents.
Published at DZone with permission of Adi Gaskell, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.