As a human driver, I am not immune to driving errors. Being in the wrong lane, going the wrong direction, and even forgetting where I am going are all things I admit to being guilty to. Even on my way home the other night I missed my exit because construction crews had moved the sign for it.
As it turns out, autonomous vehicles don’t like their signs being messed with either. In fact, a recent study shows that vandalized street signs have the ability to confuse autonomous vehicles.
Smart cars not so smart
During this particular study, researchers from University of Washington, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Stony Brook University, and University of California Berkeley set out to figure out how defacing street signs confused the algorithms.
The study reportedly used stickers to alter how the artificial intelligence of the car sees a stop sign. The researchers added “love/hate” stickers on a stop sign and the computer mistook it for a speed limit sign.
It has been proven that self-driving cars are far less likely to cruise above speed limits and are hyper aware of stop signs and other common human driving errors.
The vandalized signs didn’t just disorient the car, it made them totally lost.
The study doesn’t say which kind of car was used but I’d venture to guess that this is a problem manufacturers across the board hadn’t thought of.
The lost cars wouldn’t be such a big deal if there was a human inside evaluating the situation and calling an audible like most drivers already do when something unexpected happens. However, the whole point of self-driving cars is not needing a human to drive it, and so needing a navigator is all sorts of counter-productive.
The next logical step would be to beef up the algorithms and GPS intelligence so that a car could figure out where it is and see traffic patterns, but even then, would they compile a database where all of the signs SHOULD be? That seems a bit ludicrous.
Better now than later
It feels sometimes like we can’t escape discussions about autonomous cars but I, for one, am not upset about hearing about this news.
If the future is really heading towards autonomous cars for everyone, I’d prefer for my car to be able to read signs, vandalized or not, before I get in.