Sharing the road with self-driving cars will mean them learning our driving tics and perhaps even adopting some themselves

Autonomous cars are learning our unpredictable driving habits

Mind the dangerously good driver (Image: Martin Roemers / Panos)

IN THE near future, you may have to share the road with a robot. Or perhaps we should say that a robot will have to share the road with you.

At the University of California, Berkeley, engineers are preparing autonomous cars to predict what we impulsive, unreliable humans might do next. A team led by Katherine Driggs-Campbell has developed an algorithm that can guess with up to 92 per cent accuracy whether a human driver will make a lane change. She is due to present the work next month at the Intelligent Transportation Systems conference in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain.

Enthusiasts are excited that self-driving vehicles could lead to fewer crashes and less traffic. But people aren’t accustomed to driving alongside machines, says Driggs-Campbell. When we drive, we watch for little signs from other cars to indicate whether they might turn or change lanes or slow down. A robot might not have any of the same tics, and that could throw us off.

“A robot might not have any of the same driving tics as us, and that could throw us off”

“There’s going to be a transition phase,” she says. “How do you ensure the autonomous vehicle is clearly communicating with the humans, and how do you know the human is understanding what they’re doing?”

Past algorithms have tried to predict what a human driver will do next by keeping tabs on body movements. If someone seems to be looking over their shoulder a lot, say, that might be a sign that they’re thinking of moving lane.

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