29 October 2016
In order for autonomous cars to share the road with normal drivers, autonomous cars will have to be able to understand and predict what humans around them are trying to do. At UC Berkeley, researchers have come up with a way for autonomous cars probing to actively gather information about the human drivers around them.
Humans drivers are notoriously irrational. We all have different intentions, goals, preferences, objectives, driving styles, and we may or may not be looking at our cell phones. At UC Berkeley, researchers have come up with a way for autonomous cars to actively gather information about human drivers. At IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Dorsa Sadigh, S. Shankar Sastry, Sanjit A. Seshia, and Anca Dragan presented a paper on an algorithm that can plan robot actions to gain information about humans. In other words, it gives robots ideas on how to use little nudges to get a better sense of what humans are thinking.
Here are some examples of the kind of actions that the algorithm plans for autonomous cars probing to determine whether the human drivers around them are passive, aggressive, or paying attention:
Scenario 1: Nudging In to Explore on a Highway
The autonomous car actively probes the human by nudging into her lane in order to infer her driving style. An attentive human significantly slows down (timid driver) or speeds up (aggressive driver) to avoid the vehicle, while a distracted driver might not realize the autonomous actions and maintain their velocity, getting closer to the autonomous vehicle.
Scenario 2: Braking to Explore on a Highway
The robot slows down to actively probe the human and find out her driving style. An attentive human would slow down and avoid collisions while a distracted human will have a harder time to keep safe distance between the two cars.
Scenario 3: Nudging In to Explore at an Intersection
In the active condition, the autonomous car nudges into the intersection to probe the driving style of the human. An attentive human would slow down to stay safe at the intersection while a distracted human will not slow down.
Once an autonomous car has collected this data, it can then adjust its behavior to compensate for whatever the humans around it are doing. For example, if autonomous cars probing consistently notice that particular humans drive aggressively, perhaps they could label them as such, and share that information with other autonomous cars, or even with other human drivers. Or insurance agencies.
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