WHEN people learn to drive, they subconsciously absorb what are colloquially known as the “rules of the road”. When is it safe to go around a double-parked vehicle? When pulling out of a side street into traffic, what is the smallest gap you should try to fit into, and how much should oncoming traffic be expected to brake? The rules, of course, are no such thing: they are ambiguous, open to interpretation and rely heavily on common sense. The rules can be broken in an emergency, or to avoid an accident. As a result, when accidents happen, it is not always clear who is at fault.
All this poses a big problem for people building autonomous vehicles (AVs). They want such vehicles to be able to share the roads smoothly with human drivers and to behave in predictable ways. Above all they want everyone to be safe. That means formalising the rules of the road in a precise way that machines can understand. The problem, says Karl Iagnemma of nuTonomy, an AV firm that was spun out of the Massachusetts…Continue reading