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Everyone’s investing in these self-driving cars that are going to shape our future, while governments have no qualms in directing funding to AI-focused programs. Lately, it seems like everyone believes that humans should let machines do the thinking. If that sounds preposterous to you, it’s probably because you’ve heard AI is still struggling to learn common sense and understand human values. So how could a car with sensors and AI keep you safe, with no human intervention? It’s all about taking baby steps.
There are five levels of autonomy, starting from Level 0 where the driver controls everything to Level 5, where cars complete all driving tasks, needing no steering wheels, accelerators or brakes.
Before we get to Level 5, taking driverless cabs to work or spending a small fortune on personal autonomous vehicles, we will get acquainted with intelligent cars. These cars are already equipped with technology that can monitor the human driver behind the wheel.
We are talking about driver monitoring systems, solutions that keep an eye out for unusual reactions from the driver’s part. Kara Grasso, VP of Strategic Planning for Denso, explained this in the context of their Driver Status Monitor product: “[It] evaluates what your eyes are looking at, […] trying to detect whether there’s any kind of unsafe behavior that could put you in a critical condition.”
Their system employs facial image recognition with focus on gaze detection and tracking from FotoNation to see what and where you are looking at. If you’re looking sideways or reaching out for your travel mug, instead of looking at the road, you will hear a warning. This is useful when you’re driving awake and crucial when you’re dozing off.
Denso’s solution is “already in some of the cars today” and Grasso said they are refining the technology as we speak so it will react properly in more situations (see those cases in the video above!).
“Regulation will be the reason why this is approved or not”
“The penetration of this technology is not high yet but it will grow over time”, Kara Grasso added, thinking of the unstoppable autonomous wave. See, such alerts are important not just to humans, but to the cars of tomorrow as well.
Until they reach Level 5 autonomy (passing all the tests, with no human behind the wheel), semi-autonomous cars will be relying on this type of technology to make decisions. Alerts will make the car aware of the driver’s inattentiveness, so it will pull over and stop.
In the end, autonomous cars will be able “to do the thinking” and will keep us safe but only because they looked at human drivers first and followed their cues.