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Automakers and Startups Suggest Fix to Prevent Crashes Like Fatal Self-Driving Uber Collision

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Cadillac’s streaming video rearview mirror

Much scorn and attention are being thrown around in the wake of a self-driving Uber crash that killed a woman who was crossing the street away from a crosswalk. In particular, this scorn sharpened somewhat when video emerged from the incident that showed the safety driver—who conceivably should have been watching attentively for dangers such as this one—wasn’t paying attention to the road, and in fact was looking at something on his lap.

However, as the investigation continues, some automotive companies and startups are already looking at the next question of “what do we do now?”

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The solution, they suggest, is technology already in use—artificial intelligence algorithms that watch the driver’s face via video to detect whether he or she is watching the road.

Rana el Kaliouby, CEO of AI startup Affectiva, said to Quartz, “Imagine if this camera [in Uber’s car] was actually analyzing the driver’s head pose, eye closure rate, eyes on the road or not, various emotional and cognitive states, and in real time was able to alert if the safety driver was not paying attention.”

Such a system is already employed by General Motors in its “Super Cruise” semi-autonomous driving mode, where a small camera on the steering wheel watches the driver’s face, and if it detects the driver isn’t paying attention, the wheel lights up and the car makes a noise, followed by turning on the hazard lights, slowing to a stop, and calling emergency services if attention still isn’t returned.

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Euro NCAP, an independent automotive safety organization, seems to agree with this idea, as it has said its safety ratings will look specifically for driver monitoring systems like this.

All in all, it seems that these solutions will be more useful for current semi-autonomous systems rather than in future, proposed vehicles that wouldn’t have steering wheels or pedals.

News Source: Quartz