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Study Says Driverless Cars Should Be Required to Pass Licensing Exams

Posted February 07, 2016 2:00 PM by Jordan Perch
Pathfinder Tags: driverless cars

When they finally hit the road, autonomous cars are expected to be much safer than human-driven cars, but that won't occur before all regulatory concerns are resolved. One of those concerns has to do with ensuring the technology is perfected to the point that driverless cars are capable of dealing with all potential road hazards, including changing weather conditions, complex surroundings and unpredictable traffic situations.


That's why many experts and lawmakers have been suggesting that autonomous cars would have to be regulated and licensed similarly to the way drivers are licensed. That's exactly the suggestion that is highlighted in a new report published by University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.


In their report, called "Should We Require Licensing Tests and Graduated Licensing for Self-Driving Vehicles?" researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle say that self-driving vehicles should be subjected to licensing procedures similar to those drivers undergo now.


They argue that regulators should evaluate autonomous cars' ability for operating in a safe manner under different conditions, requiring them to pass licensing tests, just like drivers are required to.


Researchers note a couple of reasons why they believe driverless cars must be tested like drivers are. For starters, they say that autonomous cars' sensing hardware and software algorithms will vary depending on the manufacturer, which means cars built by different manufacturers might perform differently under the same conditions.


Furthermore, they argue that at the moment, driverless cars are not in a condition to operate flawlessly in inclement weather. Also, researchers note that one of the biggest concerns regarding autonomous cars are the ethical dilemmas that they will certainly face, when they get involved in a potentially dangerous traffic scenario requiring them to decide what action they should take in order to make as low an impact on public safety as possible.


According to Sivak and Schoettle, the graduated driver's license (GDL) system - that some experts suggest as a good system for regulating autonomous cars - is not ideal for this technology. They say that, for example, GDL can help beginner drivers gain more experience in driving under poor weather conditions, but driverless cars will just continue to operate the way the are programmed, no matter how many times they are exposed to poor weather.


"A self-driving vehicle either has the hardware and software to deal with a particular situation or it does not. If it does not, experience in other situations will not be of benefit," they say.


Another example is nighttime driving, which currently presents a problem for this technology. "For self-driving vehicles, experience with daytime driving does not improve nighttime performance. Instead, good nighttime performance requires everything that good daytime performance does, plus sensors that provide the necessary information even at low levels of illumination. Thus, the GDL approach would not be appropriate here either," Sivak and Schoettle add.


To sum up, researchers claim that autonomous cars will have to be tested in some way, and owners will have to obtain a license of some sort to be allowed to operate driverless vehicles, so the only issue that remains to be resolved is what kind of licensing program would be most appropriate for verifying the viability and safety of self-driving technology.

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#1

Re: Study Says Driverless Cars Should Be Required to Pass Licensing Exams

02/07/2016 2:37 PM

They make a good point...driverless cars are as smart out of the box as they will ever be as far as coping with varying driving conditions. So what is needed, (if we feel we have to continue down this path), is a vehicle controller (driver) that improves with practice, i.e., one with a learning algorithm.

I'm skeptical that a fixed, unchanging program can cover any and all driving conditions. I envision a controller (possibly a neural network) that is in a learning mode while the vehicle is being operated by a human driver, increasing its proficiency in all conditions.

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#2
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Re: Study Says Driverless Cars Should Be Required to Pass Licensing Exams

02/07/2016 10:50 PM

Careful now - you're scaring Elon.

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#3

Re: Study Says Driver-less Cars Should Be Required to Pass Licensing Exams

02/08/2016 3:45 AM

Are they serious?

The question is not whether they should pass qualification, the main question is: which qualification to pass.

  1. Primary type acceptance testing
  2. Every car that is manufactured verification
  3. Self check requirements + frequency for each function
  4. Third party technical inspection: what and schedule

2 and 3 can be the result of 1, with some legal guidance on how to set it up.4 will be a general rule as it is now for normal cars.
The recent issues with smart engine management should also warn legislators that they should do a thorough job, independent of the manufacturers.Setting rules that leave no room for interpretation.

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#4

Re: Study Says Driverless Cars Should Be Required to Pass Licensing Exams

02/08/2016 8:16 PM

How will they hold the pencil for the written part?

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Re: Study Says Driverless Cars Should Be Required to Pass Licensing Exams

02/09/2016 2:27 AM

I'm told it will be oral, honk twice for yes.

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