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Autonomous Vehicle Safety Debate & IBM’s Smart Patent

Uber’s autonomous vehicles are back on the road after a high speed accident in Tempe earlier this week left one of the self-driving cars on its side. The vehicle was hit after another driver failed to yield while making a left turn, causing Uber to place a temporary hold on its autonomous vehicle program.  Vehicle testing quickly resumed, however, after finding that the self-driving car was not at fault and that no major injuries resulted. Despite Uber’s continued assurance that self-driving vehicles have the potential to provide safe transportation for its passengers, some still criticize autonomous vehicles for being unable to react appropriately in an emergency.

IBM is one company working to correct that issue.  The company was recently awarded a patent for a “machine learning system” that allows control of an autonomous vehicle to shift back to a human driver when deemed necessary.  The unique system uses a combination of roadway monitoring systems and artificial intelligence to determine if a car would be better operated by a human driver or remain autonomous based on a particular set of circumstances.  A recent press release gives the example: “If a self-driving vehicle experiences an operational anomaly, e.g. a faulty braking system, a burned out headlight, poor visibility and/or road conditions, a comparison may be made by the system as to whether the on-board self-driving vehicle control processor or a human driver is in a better position to handle the operational anomaly.”

Tesla is also working on increasing safety standards when it comes to its autonomous vehicles.  Last year, the company was under scrutiny after a man in Florida was killed when his Tesla Model S, operating on Autopilot, crashed into a truck and ran off the road.  Though the police investigation found no defects in the car’s self-driving system, Tesla has since been working to better its artificially intelligent autos; Currently all of Tesla’s vehicles in production contain self-driving capabilities that, according to the company, operate “at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver.”

Whether or not autonomous vehicles are safer than driver operated vehicles is still up for debate; however, in a 2015 report, the U.S. Department of Transportation found that 94% of car crashes can be attributed to human (driver) error, causing millions of related injuries on U.S. highways each year.  What’s your opinion on the matter?  Share with us, here.