AI CONFERENCE:Future of driving

AI Conference at The University of Portsmouth

Thursday 13th June 2019 was the launch of the Intelligent Transport Cluster by The University of Portsmouth. One of our instructors, Liam had the good fortune to attend along with 144 other delegates and had the opportunity to listen to a wide range of speakers covering all aspects of transport.

Various points, by various people, were made concerning AI and transport. Such as:

  • We are at a turning point with how the technology will migrate to the ordinary user
  • The opinion of this is to crawl, walk…then run
  • Technology needs to be smart, efficient and sustainable
  • The future will be different from how we imagine it will be

Transport is fundamental to us as people and efficient transport means an efficient economy.

However, technology and transport merging could have a number of problems:

Legal problems are bound to arise, regulation and insurance will most definitely be affected but it seems as though we cannot predict the diverse problems we might incur. Particularly if we’re talking about self-driving cars. Liam is of the opinion that technology may lag behind its capabilities due to courts and legislation.

As an example, an insurance company will at some point be facing a large claim and will want someone else to pay it. Think of the Selby rail crash 2001 caused by a Range Rover. The insurer sued the DoT for part of the £22 million pound settlement.

If the driver is ever expected to take over the vehicle in the event of the unexpected and they are doing nothing on these journeys. How are they going to keep up a level of attention to do so? Will insurance companies offer cover on vehicles where the driver is regularly unable to maintain full attention?

On trains, there is a device called the dead man’s handle. It requires the driver to always be holding it and therefore awake. Telsa have a device that requires you to hold the steering wheel however, other companies sell devices that allow you to circumvent this so you can have a nice sleep.

Stakeholders

Which will be inertia and focus. There are already systems in place so why change? Any change will require an investment that goes far beyond the mere physicality of a thing. There will be new routines and behaviours to be learnt. New pecking orders and turf to be established. There will have to be some clearly defined benefits from change.

Will the focus be in the right place? As an example, with traffic flow, would some paint in the road be a better solution than a smart system for monitoring it? Would a dedicated bicycle lane solve a lot of the congestion and air pollution problems?

Ultimately we will have electric vehicles and they will be part of Intelligent Transport Systems. But where should the focus be? How will we solve the problems of now and the future? These questions will get answered by how the budget is set. Put your money where your wheels are.

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Driverless Cars: Legality and Insurance

Driverless cars are frequently referred to as CAV, meaning Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and it is recognised that there are a number of stages. The stages start at zero, where the driver performs all the driving tasks and it moves through the different stages until we reach level 5 where all tasks are performed by the car. This is a process of moving from control to autonomy.

 

0 1 2 3 4 5
Driver Feet off Hands Off Eyes off Mind off Passenger
All tasks Limited tasks Enhanced tasks Shared tasks Specific tasks All tasks

 

As we move through the stages we are moving towards autonomy. Level 2 is already starting to happen but it’s progression to level 3 and beyond that begins to raise questions.  

 

These questions might be legal challenges. Where will the liability lay in the event of an accident? There is talk of ethical bots having to make these decisions but they will be decided in a courtroom.

 

Decisions about driverless cars must go through the courts where these will affect how driverless cars are regulated and insured. But there’ll be a discrepancy in the timeline as technology will move a lot faster than the law. 

 

When driving we are expected to obey the law. In addition, there is advice we are expected to follow. This advice might not be the law itself, but it could be used in a court of law.  To drive in a busy urban environment without at some point breaking a rule in the highway code will be very difficult.

 

The reality is, at some point, we all might do something that is not strictly within the rules. A solid white line must not in law be crossed. But if a large vehicle in front was holding up the traffic by waiting to turn right and there is a bus lane to the left. Who amongst us (having first checked it was safe) would not quickly nip through in order to maintain traffic flow? 

 

This along with making way for an emergency vehicle and to avoid an accident are mitigating circumstances. But whether you should go over the line and how long for comes down to opinion. Opinions differ. No doubt over a period of time algorithms will answer that problem. But remember, we won’t suddenly all go over to autonomous vehicles. We will be in a mixed fleet with different levels of autonomy and human drivers still having control of their vehicle or the driver wishes it. 

 

What about insurance? All the way up to level 4 there will have to be some kind of driver insurance. In addition to this, when the car is in an autonomy mode presumably the manufacturer of the car will have to have general insurance to cover product liability. It’s possible that other suppliers of hardware and software will also need this cover. 

 

When it comes to insurance and the driver, why would an insurance company give cover to a driver who, in order to speed his journey up has assumed control of their vehicle to either break the law or disregard some safety advice? 

 

The process of moving from control to autonomy may seem simple when broken up into stages but we have a long journey before these cars are on our roads. 

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Driverless Cars: The Driver

What about driving in a driverless car? If you remember, last month we spoke about the different stages of CAVs. All the way up to stage 4 someone is expected to be able to drive the vehicle. The situations in which someone is expected to take over and drive aren’t necessarily easy ones. At the moment engineers are thinking about situations such as extremes of weather.

Driving is a skill and for us to be good at a skill, we must practice. If our cars are driverless, how and where will we get that practice? When the vehicle is in a controlled mode with a human driver, how will that affect the autonomous vehicles around us? And what will happen when lots of inexperienced drivers suddenly having to take control of their vehicle in an extreme weather situation?

How will insurance companies view this possibility? Will the driver have to maintain their licence by continuous driver training? Will your vehicle be aware of your driving capabilities and insurance status? Will control only be handed over in a very structured way? What will be the default options be? Should the vehicle pull over and park safely until the situation has been resolved?

At stage 4, would not journeys become very tedious but we may still have to take control? Drivers are already starting to sleep and let the vehicle do the job. For example, Telsa has already had drivers crash while asleep and have pointed out that the driver was at fault, not the car.

Insurance companies routinely only cover certain types of risk. Risks that have been carefully monitored and evaluated over time. What would happen if that risk was one of the driver’s inattention due to extreme tedium? Would companies refuse to cover if the driver was not actively involved in the drive? Because the vehicles will be routinely safer will it matter anyway?

Will people be able to assume control of their car to take advantage of other cars that will be programmed to give way? You are on a piece of road that goes from 2 lanes into one lane. Most people keep left, but a few push past as far as they can. Will autonomous vehicles allow for you to override then overtake?

Will your car report you to the police if you break a driving law when you are in control? Will your car have a duty of care towards you or others on the road? Could it be able to measure the air in the car and decide you are not fit to take control because there is alcohol on your breath from last night? What about if there was too much C02 and you were tired?

As we learn more about Autonomous vehicles, it seems as though there are more questions than answers. There are so many possibilities that we can’t even fathom and each time the subject is discussed, new questions pop up! What do you think? How do you feel about CAVs?

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