11 October 2010

Robot Drivers and Driving Tests

If we require training and licensing of humans to fly aircraft and cars, then how do those standards apply to software that pilots these things for us?

A key is situational awareness. You wouldn't easily give a blind pilot a flying license, yet effectively that is what Airbus tried to do with an engine control system that "landed" a test plane in a forest. It's one thing having a robot hospital cart that negotiates around people's ankles at walking speed, quite another to do that at road speeds, or while attempting to keep an airliner within its flight envelope.

Perhaps the human pilot or driver is expected to remain in control, on standby and ready to override the robotics? Good luck with that, as attention wanders and distractions take the foreground in the human's mind.

I see Google's already had cars driven by software logic on public roads. I wonder what the traffic cops would have to say about that?