Matt Kimberley profile picture Matt Kimberley a year ago 36

Autonomous Car Drivers Could Face A Mid-Journey Distraction Ban

Drivers of autonomous cars could be banned from doing any other tasks, like reading, even while the car is driving itself, according to researchers

Remind me later
Autonomous Car Drivers Could Face A Mid-Journey Distraction Ban - News

One of the main advantages of autonomous cars could be wiped out, if a new study’s recommendations are adopted into law.

‘Autonomous vehicle consortium’ Venturer has issued advice that all owners of such cars might have to be banned from carrying out any other tasks while the car is in control. That means we could kiss goodbye to the idea of reading, studying, eating or watching Alex’s latest CT videos while the car is driving.

To clarify, if these recommendations were made law, you would simply have to sit there and attempt to concentrate on safety. As we discovered in the Uber crash that killed a homeless woman, human attention wanders when it isn’t put under specific demands.

This would remove one of the chief benefits of having an autonomous car in the first place. Being able to use your time more productively is essential to the core appeal of the concept. Not everyone is as bothered about the relative safety benefits as certain campaign groups might like to make out, and selling self-driving cars on that basis alone won’t be enough.

Autonomous Car Drivers Could Face A Mid-Journey Distraction Ban - News

Venturer’s research suggests that autonomous car ‘drivers’ need around two seconds to regain full control of the car after a warning was sounded. At 50mph that means 45 metres travelled with the car effectively in limbo.

Professor Sarah Sharples, the snappily-titled Associate Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange and Professor of Human Factors at the University of Nottingham, was part of the study. She said:

“It is… important to understand the implications of increased autonomy on the capability of humans to maintain vigilance and attention in order to be able to respond to an emergency situation.

“It may also be necessary for the rollout of highly autonomous vehicles to be accompanied with the advice – or even law – that in some or all circumstances the driver must maintain attention to the driver situation and that other activities should be minimised or avoided.”

Autonomous Car Drivers Could Face A Mid-Journey Distraction Ban - News

Reading between the lines, this would put the accident liability onus firmly onto the human rather than the software engineers at car makers. In turn, it would mean that drivers simply couldn’t afford to take their eyes off the road just in case there’s a glitch in the programme. That sounds even more stressful than driving can already get…

Source: Auto Express