Autonomous Vehicles and AI Future of Transportation

With Reid Hoffman of Greylock Partners and Jennifer Haroon of Nauto

How does it work?

So much of the work and thought around autonomous vehicles has been about the technology and mechanics of how it works. Since this tech is such a radical change to our society, that makes sense.

Well -- that is until you listen to Reid Hoffman, Greylock Partners, and Jennifer Haroon of Nauto. They’ll tell you we should be focusing on the human component first. After that, the technology, mass adoption, and autonomous vehicle success will come.

Human behavior is the key.

That’s because it’s human behavior while behind the wheel, including how we perceive other drivers, risks, and interactions while driving. Also, a growing part of the need to understand this behavior is the distracted driving segment that reveals a lot about reaction time.

Having this intelligence can assist in solving certain issues now in the way of mass adoption, including road safety and driver uncertainty about driving on the road with autonomous vehicles. From there, transitional phases can be planned and implemented related to infrastructure, urban planning, space and road dynamics.

Intelligent camera systems.

With that in mind, Nauto is already hard at work with installation of its intelligent camera system in today’s human-driven vehicles. Using deep learning, the cameras are collecting information about what each driver is doing. That includes tracking why human drivers are using some assisted driving features while others are turning them off.

Additionally, Nauto’s technology and research is helping to determine where human drivers are the most distracted to have a better idea of the reality of how autonomous vehicles will change or be influenced by this human behavior.

What's the next transition on the road?

Even more intriguing to Nauto is to then study the next transition on the road, which will be a mixed environment of human drivers, drivers using vehicles with assisted vehicle feature, and fully autonomous vehicles. That’s because human behavior will be that much different in terms of having to navigate how they feel about these autonomous vehicles and reacting to how those driverless cars are doing on the road.

For example, if those autonomous vehicles are following the rules of the road unlike humans who often leave those rules open to interpretation or how they feel that day, then, there may be some human drivers who become frustrated but are at a loss of how to react.

Could this create a whole new version of road rage.

 Haroon and the team at Nauto note that this question is an important one to study before the next phase of autonomous vehicle introduction.

Therefore, it makes to think that before autonomous vehicles become commonplace on the road, there will be many transitional periods to get us there in a way that makes the most sense. That means designing autonomous vehicles around what people are thinking and all the potential road confusion factors that will emerge when human drivers are on the road with many of these autonomous vehicles.

Critical human factors.

Part of these transitional periods also involves other critical human factors. That includes the change in industry environment with a blend of existing automakers and tech startups as well as new companies with fresh perspectives.

Humans will also play a role in the regulatory environment that will be different across nation-state policy. While some countries may want to standardize data access and completely remove humans from the road, others like the U.S. that is so reliant on the “car culture” may look to develop a happy medium.

It's an exciting time in history.

While it’s an exciting time to be involved in this industry, there’s a lot to think about and work on. Those within the industry see the benefits in terms of calmer commutes and huge reductions in accidents and fatalities. But, there is so much yet to get through to truly understand human behavior behind the wheel.

For those thinking of getting into autonomous vehicles, Haroon encourages anyone who wants to get involved in something that will have such an impact on human history.

However, there is considerably more investment needed, especially in education. The lack of talent in robotics and AI needs to be filled with more investment in the human aspect to get to the end game.