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Aviation Safety Experts Urge Slower Self-Driving Car Release

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Intelligent and Connected Vehicle Technologies Super Cruise

Super Cruise in action
Photo by John F. Martin for Cadillac

It’s the sci-fi fantasy ideal: you get into your fancy, shiny car pod, turn on the car’s automatic driving system, and Pokémon Go all the way home. This ideal program is often compared to autopilot on airplanes, which, when fully functioning, can handle almost all aspects of piloting the plane.

However, there are a lot of issues with current automated driving systems for cars, which has led to aviation safety experts to caution the car industry to slow down its progress and make sure that drivers know what the limits are.

Mostly, the caution is to not treat driving-assistance systems in modern vehicles as mature autopiloting systems, mostly due to the fact that the typical driver goes through far, far less training than an airplane pilot goes through.

“It’s quite ridiculous we would give somebody such a complex vehicle without training,” said Shawn Pruchnicki, a former commercial pilot who teaches air safety at Ohio State University, to the Wall Street Journal. He also added that it is wrong “to assume that the general public is going to be able to jump in and understand what [the] limitations are.”

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Some important limits that car driving systems have include not being able to reliably recognize a vehicle driving dangerously or swerving between lanes. In addition, auto-driving systems do not currently have the ability to detect speed limits. It is because of these limits that car manufacturers with such systems, whether they are currently on the road like Tesla’s Autopilot or in final development like General Motors’ Super Cruise, universally tell drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and stay alert in case of emergency. Super Cruise in particular will apparently take this lesson to heart, making the ability to use the system incredibly limited with warnings should the driver take their hands off the wheel.

So, what can automakers do to help with this problem? One method that Tesla has promised to use is education, as while Tesla CEO Elon Musk has refused to take the carmaker’s Autopilot system offline, he has vowed to increase efforts to educate customers on the limitations of the system.

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News Source: Wall Street Journal (subscription required)