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When driverless cars can't cut it
Posted: 8 January 2018

I spent Christmas in Canada, and besides being an awesome White Christmas experience, it was unusually cold, with heaps of snow. After driving from Montreal to Toronto in what was at times a light blizzard, it struck me that driverless cars and trucks are absolutely useless in those conditions. Yet human drivers cope quite well.

On a busy highway, crammed with trucks and cars, and patrolled by snow ploughs, people managed to navigate mostly in safety for over six hours, and at productive speeds. There were only a couple of accidents, and in over 600km I counted only three vehicles that had slid off the road, despite the fact that for most of the journey, the lane markings were covered in snow, and visibility was poor.

There's no way that current autonomous car tech could do that journey without failing over to manual. Which means that in anything other than clear roads and fine weather, driverless cars will always need a human driver, alert and ready to take over, when the autopilot kicks out.

MindBullet logo WHEN TECHNOLOGY FAILS TO FAIL
Critical system failures that don't trigger corrective action cause disasters
Dateline: 21 March 2016
Yet another airliner has fallen out of the sky without warning. And the reason is fail-safe systems that fail to alert the pilots to the real problem when they fail. If that sounds a little confusing, that's exactly what human operators experience, when autonomous systems default to manual control - the ultimate fallback when there are critical failures. Even double-redundant systems can be ...
 
 
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