Humans still make safer drivers

IAM RoadSmart’s view that the safety benefits of autonomous driving will only fully be realised when connected cars are ubiquitous has been backed up by a paper produced at the University of Michigan.

The UK charity believes that the human driver will hold the edge until all cars can actually ‘talk’ to each other and predict what is happening over the horizon.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said, ‘The ultimate win-win situation is a place where information from each vehicle is shared with the vehicles around it, add that to human experience born from a lifetime of ‘trial and error’ and you have the ideal double-act to spot crashes before they happen.’

The white paper comes from Brandon Schottle from the University of Michigan called Sensor Fusion: A Comparison of Sensing Capabilities of Human Drivers and Highly Automated Vehicles.

The report states, ‘Machines/computers are generally well suited to perform tasks like driving, especially in regard to reaction time (speed), power output and control, consistency, and multichannel information processing. Human drivers still generally maintain an advantage in terms of reasoning, perception, and sensing when driving.

‘While no single sensor completely equals human sensing capabilities, some offer capabilities not possible for a human driver.

‘In the short to medium term AV [autonomous vehicle] sensing systems will still be critical for detection of any road user or roadway obstacle that is not detected and shared by connected vehicles which is where the human brain comes in.’

Brandon Schottle pointed out a number of circumstances in which both human capabilty and a connected vehicle’s perception can be compromised – thus increasing the need for each party to work together – such as extreme weather, excessive dirt or physical obstructions, darkness or low illumination, large physical obstructions and dense traffic.

The report also pointed out where the human brain wins out over a vehicle’s ‘brain’; it said in the areas of memory, reasoning, sensing and perception, human involvement is both desirable and advantageous.

IAM RoadSmart is organising a conference in co-operation with the RAC Foundation in London on 4 October 2017 on how to safely manage the transition to autonomous cars. Individuals wishing to register their interest in attending the conference should email