Via The Register, a VW designer talks about self-driving cars:
Huhnke said that his group wanted to find out if drivers passengers in autonomous cars would feel safe: “If you have an autonomous car driving … do you trust your car? Do you really press the autopilot button and let the car drive you at 60 miles per hour?” So they conducted a study — and were surprised by the results.
“We created a car with a second steering wheel in the rear where the driver couldn’t see it,” he told his audience. “He or she pressed the autopilot button and thought the machine would really drive without human help. Someone drove in the rear seat without being recognized by her or him. Well, you couldn’t imagine: after a few seconds, they already took the newspaper and read the news articles. So they trusted already the machine, which was great.”
Huhnke’s group then pushed its luck: “We also initialized some emergency situations: ‘So please, go back to your steering wheel and take over, we need some help from you,’ and they did it. They put the newspaper back, and just controlled the car through the situation. Then what did they do? Immediately press the button and start it again — it was really amazing.”
The question, of course, from a human factors point of view, is how quickly the car can alert drivers to a particular emergency (and what the warning will be; either a vague “emergency” or the exact diagnosis), and how quickly they can respond (and whether it’s the correct response) after they’ve been “out of the loop.” Would a texting driver with eyes and mind off-road be able to respond to a path intrusion warning that comes just as the car detects it?
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