Britons’ bad driving skills to inspire technology that can make driverless cars ‘think’ on the road
Tailgating, speeding, cutting people off on roundabouts and illegal U-turns are some of the worst moves made by Britain’s drivers — and now they are being taught to driverless cars.
Oxford University scientists are using drivers’ bad habits to train autonomous vehicle technology to think like a human and react to the challenges they will face on the road.
Footage from thousands of CCTV cameras and drones are being analysed by technology that uses computer vision to track road users’ movements.
Machine learning technology then extracts the predictability within natural human behaviour to create real-life simulation scenarios and teach driverless cars how to cope with them.
“It’s raw video, so the quality of the driving is exactly what you see when you are on the road yourself,” he said.
“We don’t want to learn perfect behaviour, we want to learn naturalistic behaviour, and if people drive badly we want that to be what they [driverless cars] capture and learn.”
The technology also analyses the movements of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcycle users to predict their behaviour in an infinite number of scenarios.
This technology is being used in two government-funded trials worth £7m, which aim to test driverless vehicles on real roads from the start of next year following virtual trials.
Companies have ramped up their efforts to produce functional autonomous vehicles, spending almost $80bn between 2014 and 2017 alone according to US think-tank Brookings Institute; but none have yet been able to tackle real driving scenarios.
Many safety features that manufacturers are working on will cause vehicles to be very slow, and potentially cause gridlocks and accidents, critics have said, rendering cities as little more than a “mobile and very slow-moving parking lot”.
Prof Whiteson claimed the driverless car market is a “Wild West” as the government works to determine whether these cars are safe to drive ahead of 2021 when they are expected to be allowed on the road.
“Everyone is trying to decide how this should be regulated and what the standards should be. We are trying to influence that debate,” he said.
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