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Professor suggests improvements in autonomous car design

California motorists who are interested in the development of self-driving cars may be aware of a fatality that occurred in March when an autonomous Uber vehicle killed a pedestrian. Video footage from the accident shows the pedestrian stepped into a dark section of road where there was not a pedestrian crosswalk. Although the Tempe, Arizona, police chief says the car was probably not at fault, a professor who works on designing similar types of systems disagrees.

According to the Arizona State University professor, designing cars that drive similarly to humans is a flawed approach. While a human would drive on a dark road with the assumption that there were no obstacles ahead despite being unable to confirm this visually, he says that self-driving cars should not proceed at a speed faster than one that allows them to stop for any obstacles that appear in their range of vision.

The professor studies guaranteed behaviors in computer systems that control physical objects. An example is researching a car that could stop within a millisecond of detecting an obstacle. He points out that for the autonomous car industry, there is little margin for error. A fatality involving a human driver is considered a tragedy, but one that involves a self-driving car could destroy the industry.

Since most motor vehicle accidents happen because of human error, self-driving cars are still expected to significantly reduce the accident rate. However, it will be a number of years before they are widespread. Driving while distracted, drowsy or under the influence of alcohol or drugs are all mistakes humans may make that result in accidents, and when they happen, the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident is usually supposed to compensate injured people for their expenses. Victims may want to contact an attorney to negotiate with the insurance company.

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