Driverless Vehicles – Drivers Become Passengers? Really?25 Oct

Considerable media buzz is heralding the arrival of driverless vehicles. Most major auto manufactures are proceeding ‘full throttle’ to make driverless vehicles a reality. Google and Tesla are at the forefront of this charge. The hardware on a driverless vehicle could include GPS, a laser, visible/infrared videos, and acoustic sensors. This hardware and their vehicle locations are illustrated in the following link.

Potential advantages of self-driving vehicles include improved safety, shorter commuting times and reduced fuel consumption. However, what about safety? At some point, a driverless vehicle might suffer hardware breakdowns, software glitches, or undertake wrong turns to avoid hitting non-existent objects, etc. These and other issues are described elsewhere.

A worrisome factor is the possible erosion of driving skills upon prolonged use of a driverless vehicle. This effect has been a subject of much study by the airline industry where pilots have little to do in the cockpit of advanced aircraft. This has been noted by several sources (refs. 1, 2).

Issues: The use of self-driving vehicles implies that a ‘driver’ is free to do other things (i.e., read, gaze out the window, etc.) while motoring. However, common sense (i.e., sometimes a rare commodity) requires that a driver should be vigilant about possible system failures, and be prepared to take control. This nebulous, gray area about level of driving awareness is totally distinct from the binary cases of either full driving attention at all times or completely disengaged from navigating due to travel in other modalities (i.e., trains, planes). How can ‘drivers’ in self-driving vehicles be trained to deal with this confusion? How would such training be different for age and gender variations?

J. H. Everson SBIR Consultant

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About Dr. Everson

Prior to forming this SBIR consultant practice, Dr. Jeffrey Everson was director of business development for QinetiQ North America’s Technology Solutions Group (previously Foster-Miller, Inc.).

Dr. Everson has won and been the principal investigator for several SBIR programs, including a Phase I program for NASA, a Phase I project for the U.S. Air Force, and Phase I and II contracts from the U.S. Department of Transportation. For the Phase II program, he received a Tibbetts Award for exemplifying the best in SBIR achievement.

Previously Dr. Everson held senior scientist positions at Battelle Memorial Institute, The Analytic Sciences Corporation (TASC), Honeywell Electro Optics Systems Division, and Itek Optical Systems Division.

He holds a PhD in physics from Boston College and a MS/BS in physics from Northeastern University.


For more information about how JHEverson Consulting can help your company with its SBIR and STTR proposals, please contact Jeff Everson.

JHEverson Consulting is based in the Boston area but consults for clients throughout North America. It also is supported by affiliated consultants.