Because in this strange new world of complex interactions between people and robots, it’s as much about machines adapting to humans as it is humans adapting to machines. Determining the intent of pedestrians will help, but it won’t be easy. “Knowing the intent of pedestrians would certainly make [autonomous vehicle] deployment safer,” says Carnegie Mellon roboticist Raj Rajkumar, who works in self-driving cars. “It is, however, a very difficult problem to solve perfectly.”
“Consider Manhattan,” Rajkumar adds. And consider a big group of people crossing, specifically a person on the far side of a group from a robocar. “Among this group, one person is either short or starts running to cross quickly after the vehicle has decided to make a turn. Machine vision is not perfect.” And machine vision can get confused by optics, just like humans can. Reflections, the sun dropping low on the horizon, alternating light and dark patches on the road, not to mention heavy rain or snow, all can bamboozle the machines.