To Survive the Streets, Self-Driving Cars Must Learn to Think Like Humans

Next time you’re driving down the road or walking down the street, pause to consider how you read your surroundings. How you pay extra attention to the kid kicking a soccer ball around her front lawn and the slightly wobbly, nervous looking cyclist. How you deprioritize the woman striding toward the street, knowing she’s heading for the group of friends waving to her from the sidewalk.

You make these calls by drawing on a lifetime of social and cultural experience so ingrained you hardly need to think about it. But imagine you’re an autonomous car trying to do the same thing, without that accumulated knowledge or the shared humanity that lets you read others’ nuanced behavioral cues. Treating every pedestrian, cyclist, and vehicle as an obstacle to be avoided might keep you from hitting anything, but it could just as easily keep you from getting anywhere.

“We call it the freezing robot problem,” says Anca Dragan, who studies autonomy in UC Berkeley’s electric engineering and computer sciences department. “Anything the car could do is too risky, because there is some worst-case human action that would lead to a collision.”

Expect a thaw. Researchers like Dragan are tackling the challenges of interpreting—and predicting—human behavior to make self-driving cars safer and more efficient, but also more assertive. After all, if every machine screeches to a stop for every unpredictable human, we’ll have soon millions of terrified robots choking the streets.

To prevent the clog, those researchers are leaning on artificial intelligence and the ability to teach driving systems, through modeling and repetitive observation, what behaviors mean what, and how the system should react to them.

TU Delft

That begins with recognizing that people are not, in fact, obstacles. “Unlike, say, a tumbleweed moving along the street under the wind’s effect, people move because they make decisions,” Dragan says. “They want to do something, and they act to achieve it. We’re first looking into inferring what people want based on the actions they’ve been taking so far. So their actions are rational when seen from [that perspective], and would appear irrational when seen from the perspective of other intentions.”

Say a driver in the right lane of the freeway accelerates. The computer knows people should slow down as they approach exits, and can infer this person is likely to continue straight ahead instead of taking that upcoming off ramp. It’s a basic example that makes the point: Once computers can estimate what humans want and how they might achieve it, they can reasonably predict what they’ll do next, and react accordingly.

Machines en Scene

The key, even with machine learning, is to look beyond the individual elements of a scene. “It’s important to make strides there, but it’s only seeing part of what’s going on in a roadway setting,” says Melissa Cefkin, a design anthropologist at Nissan’s Silicon Valley R&D center. “We’re really good as human beings at recognizing certain kinds of behaviors that look one way to a machine, but in our social lens, it’s something else.”

Imagine you’re driving down a city block when you see a man walking toward the curb. The robot driver might calculate his speed and trajectory, determine he’s about to cross the street, and stop to avoid hitting him. But you see he’s holding car keys, and realize he’s stepping into the street to reach the driver’s side door of his parked car. You’ll slow down to be sure, but no need to stop traffic.

“The ways people move through the environment are already culturally and socially encoded,” Cefkin says. “It’s not always people-to-people interactions, but people interacting with things, too.”

Again, that’s a simple example. Cefkin points to what she calls the “multi-agent problem,” in which pedestrians and other drivers react to everyone around them. “If a pedestrian is going to cross in front of me, rather than looking at me they’re just as likely to look out into traffic for a gap,” Cefkin says. “So now I’m trying to figure out whether or not it’s safe to keep going based on what the rest of the traffic is going to do.”

Buying Time

If it seems the world is now headed for some sort of drivers-ed hellscape, don’t worry. Teaching AI-based autonomous systems to navigate the eternal weirdness of the human wilderness is tough, Cefkin says, but hardly impossible. In the Netherlands, where cities buzz with pedestrians and cyclists, researchers are doing the work. Dariu Gavrila, who researches intelligent vehicles at Delft University of Technology, training computers for the challenges like road debris, traffic police, and, things as unusual as someone pushing a cart down the middle of the street. The goal, he says, is to develop a more adaptive driving style for the machines—and thus enhancing social acceptance of the new hardware.

That work means factoring in the context around pedestrian traffic—proximity to curbs, the presence of driveways or public building entrances—and the norms of behavior in these environments. It extends all the way to individual movement, such as a person’s head looking one direction while their torso is pointing in another, and what that might mean. “Recognizing pedestrian intent can be a life saver,” Gavrila says. “We showed in real vehicle demonstration that an autonomous system can react up to one second faster than a human, without introducing false alarms.”

TU Delft

There are practical limits to what the computers can do, though. “This is no Minority Report,” Gavrila says—no one’s telling the future. “Uncertainty in future pedestrian or cyclist position rapidly increases with the prediction horizon, how many seconds in the future we’re trying to model. Basic behavior models already stop being useful after one second. More sophisticated behavior models might give us up to two seconds of predictability.”

Still, that second or two of warning might be all a computerized system needs, since it’s well within the scope of the human response times. But other autonomy experts think we might be setting our machines up to actually overthink every microsecond of driving.

“When you’re essentially trying to predict the future, that’s a massive computational task, and of course it just produces a probabilistic guess,” says Jack Weast, Intel’s chief systems architect for autonomous drive systems. “So rather than throw a supercomputer into every car, we just want to ensure that the car’s never going to hit any of those people anyway. It’s a much more economically scalable way of doing things.”

Getting Aggressive

There’s another wrinkle here. The ideal robocar won’t just comprehend its surroundings, it will understand how it itself changes the scene. Many robotic systems, Dragan says, come with a built-in flaw: Their makers assume the presence of an autonomous car won’t change how other actors move. “An autonomous car’s actions will influence human actions, whether we like it or not,” she says. “Cars need to start accounting for this influence.”

That’s why Dragan and her team have built a system that includes a model of human drivers’ responses to the car. “Our car is no longer ultra-defensive, because it knows it can trigger reactions from people, too,” she says. “Like other vehicles slowing down when our car merges in front of them. We’ve also looked at actively estimating human intentions, again by leveraging the autonomous car’s actions. In that case, our car might slow down gently to see if the person wants to be let in.”

That sort of assertiveness training will likely be key to traffic flow in the future. The key to a working robocar may be giving it not just human-like awareness, but a healthy dose of human-like entitlement.


The Future of Work: It’s Already Here… And Not As Scary As You Think

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Singularity University Summit in San Francisco on The Future of Work. After months of research on the topic, reading dozens of books and articles on AI, robotics, and economics, I came to a simple conclusion: the future of work is already here. And we all have to deal with it.

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Q&A: Network admins only. Do you think cloud computing is real or just a catch phrase?

Question by identity: Network admins only. Do you think cloud computing is real or just a catch phrase?
give reason why?
is this the future or just something more to the daily aspects of a administrator.

Best answer:

Answer by John S
I think its potential, but right now no cloud computing isnt “real”.

Give it 5 years and serious investment and it could be a serious technology with major use potential.

but right now, im just not convinced sadly.

Give your answer to this question below!

Q&A: What do you think about Cloud Computing ?

Question by Nimesh: What do you think about Cloud Computing ?
Hey.. What’s your opinion about Cloud Computing ?? 🙂

Best answer:

Answer by Space Space
I do not know much about it, however I have seen videos explaining it. It seems cool.

Give your answer to this question below!

what do you think this means?

Question by Erik: what do you think this means?
My cry will ascend to heaven and cut through hosts of angels. Feather and flesh will shriekingly fall
from atop the clouds onto my childhood.

Best answer:

Answer by stephen k
What he is saying is that his paina nd anguish will bring aobut the destruction of heaven

Give your answer to this question below!

What do you think?

Question by Dami F’sho hates HOES: What do you think?
In the article “Sex, Drugs, Disasters, and the Extinction of the Dinosaurs,” Stephen Jay Gould puts forth three explanations that have been given for the demise of the dinosaurs: sex, drugs, and disaster.

Disaster: There is a site in the Yucatan where a large comet hit the earth approximately 65 million year ago. The hypothesis is that as a result of this comet hitting the earth there was the formation of a huge, worldwide dust cloud, which blocked sunlight, suppressed photosynthesis and drastically lowered worldwide temperatures. The resulting changes in temperature and available sunlight caused the dinosaurs and a host of other creatures to go extinct.

What do you think?
Does this constitute a valid scientific hypothesis? Why or Why Not?
Is it a likely explanation for dinosaurs extinction? Why or Why Not?

Best answer:

Answer by Craig H
Yeah, I think it constitutes a valid hypothesis. It explains it well because the lack of sunlight and heat caused the plants to die. The herbivores that eat those plants die following that. The carnivores who ate the herbivores had a lack of food and then hunted eachother, slowly depleting their populations, posibly resulting in cannibalism as well. They eventually over a few decades kill themselves extinct.

yeah, makes sense to me.

Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!

what do u think of this story so far?

Question by friend: what do u think of this story so far?
The Legendary Wolf Bane Eyes that was the name that changed my life forever so let me tell you my story that starts at the airport in the country of Canada where my family, which consisted of me my brother and my mother, moved to live a new life in the country were we felt safe in because of our relatives who lived there. Now as I said we were in the airport were we had just arrived and were waiting for our bags when suddenly the lights went out it looked at a power outage at first but a few people and me notice that there should at least be a small amount of light coming from outside the airport but when I looked out side the window it was as if there was a massive power outage that was all around the world as the only light we could use to see was the light of the moon. The staff rushed to get a few lanterns and flashlights that they kept at the basement while the security guards tried to calm down the people who were panicking as they found at that there was no light at all even outside the airport.

All the passengers in the planes were required to leave until power returned to the area but than it happened the start of the big change that was about to occur in my life, one of the planes exploded and burst into flames everyone was told to stick to the ground and take cover but after a few seconds the one to it’s right exploded in the same manner and it wasn’t long till the third exploded and before I knew it all the planes were in flame after the explosions stopped people started to take a look and started standing up as the relief of surviving those explosions clouded their thoughts and made them think they were safe but for some reason I was the only one who saw the big picture which was that all the planes were the same distance away from the airport and there was no danger at all as not even one window glass was shattered or at the least cracked in fact the only danger there was, was the danger of a group of screaming people.

At that I had my suspicions that the whole thing was just a staged act to impress the first time visitors but when the smoke cleared up I saw that the planes were completely destroyed with a big amount of pieces on the floor with smoke rushing out of each burnt piece and eventually darkening the sky and the thing that changed my mind was that all planes that exploded were not of the same company and so either it was all a big act by a really rich guy or something was definitely going down that all the people were blind to see. Suddenly we heard a very loud scream of many people coming from the place that the staff members went to get what we needed. The loud noise lasted for about ten seconds and when it was done there was a dead silence in the area. I had to go and check it out but my family didn’t let me leave so I had to stay put but I something supernatural was going on and I wasn’t going to stand around and wait for my death.

I noticed a slightly open door and saw a sign of stairs so I decided to go and try to find out what happened to the staff members. I snuck away from my family and carefully entered the door but after that I rushed to the stair case. Looking at the ceiling I quickly went down the first four steps but then as I expected to step on the fifth, there was nothing there and I was about to fall if I hadn’t hanged on to the fourth step with my hand. As I looked down I was shocked at what I saw and do you know what I saw nothing, nothing at all. My eyes opened wide the hole bottom section of the airport was gone and I could see the foundation or at least what was left of it. It’s hard to explain but it was like a piece of the airport was gone but not any piece it was like a spherical section was gone and where my hand was, was probably where the tip of the sphere was.

I pulled myself up but as soon as I made it to the platform that the stair was connected to I felt a stabbing pain in my eyes, it was like a thousand swords forced into each of my eyes at once. The pain kept increasing and the pain drove me to a point where I started screaming and punching walls, it was unbearable to open my eyes. Suddenly the pain stopped and my eyes felt normal again, hoping that I didn’t attract that much attention I headed back to my family although I was still unsure of what was happening. I couldn’t believe my eyes there was no one there not my family no one, I looked around quickly while my mind was trying to comprehend what happened but I saw no one.

Best answer:

Answer by Olliebean
It has a weak opening paragraph. Try not just saying things directly, show them instead. Hope that helps.

Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!

Still think it’s the Undertaker?

Question by : Still think it’s the Undertaker?
So we now know that the WWE likes to play games… We see shoes get out of a limo, they are high heels, we are expecting a woman, we are most expecting Stephanie McMahon, we know that HHH is set to face Taker at WM… It would only make sense…

Now, the lights are out, the tron is showing strange stormy cloud like patters, the trons around the arena are going out one by one… could it be? A bait and switch? Is this where the rumors of a Sting appearance come true? Could Sting be hosting WM?

IF YA SMELL!!!!!… Wow… though before even tuning in to RAW, my guess was that the host would be The Rock… but there were a few twists and turns… Now, take a look at this… Why would the WWE hype up a Taker return so much?

A good point to pay attention to is that Taker was buried by Kane, a SD star… He wants revenge… he won’t be coming to RAW so why would the promo be aired on RAW, for a Monday date (2-21-11 is next Monday)… It is obviously not Taker… plus, on the video aired last night… there are obviously two superstars pictured. Think about it… How awesome would it be?
Bobby, how much of a jackass are you going to feel like if it is Sting? I am not saying that it DEFINATELY 100% is… I am saying that it is not Taker… or at least not JUST Taker… Don’t be rude.
Why do people who disagree with this feel the need to insult me? It’s completely childish.

Best answer:

Answer by WeaverOfNightmare™
It could be both Sting and Taker. If you think about it; In the first promo we see a man outside the house. Second promo, the man walks into the house. Third promo, the man(obviously taker) is inside the house, while at the end of the promo, yet another man shows up(pretty much same attire like The Undertaker) Could only mean one person… Sting.

You can clearly see The Undertaker in the window, his chest and half of his face is shown, so obviously one of the two persons is The Undertaker.

Give your answer to this question below!

What do you think of this Idea, Im 18 and going on a business trip !!?

Question by : What do you think of this Idea, Im 18 and going on a business trip !!?
Im 18 and I’m starting my own Social Network, I already have the logo and everything but the problem is that I’m from Amsterdam. And there aren’t any web designers which can do that !!

so I JUST PAID 700 Euro for tickets to LA !! 🙁
I know its a lot, but i have a budget of 2500 Euro, i already bought the domain name website. but without the hosting. so I’m going to LA to meet with a web design company.

I need a social network where people can be members and sign up, plus it needs a video format like youtube my own video format with the logo on it and sound file like the one of sound cloud.

Please tell me what i can hear, I’m afraid to hear big prices. because I’m still a student and i only have 2500 Euro which is 3345 $

Im doing all of this and I’m going for it completely, its like my life hangs out of it and its my dream to make this website. Its a big social network which is going to be a really new hit. And i believe in it.

So, how much would they ask for money, Plus the website is connected to a Dutch domain service, without hosting,
Are the people in LA helpful ?, Maybe i can move it to or any other server.
Should i switch it first to a hosting package or should i wait and see what they will say ?

Im going alone to LA, And I’m staying in my friends garage,
so I’m doing all of this just to reach my goal. So if you won’t motivate me and bring me down please don’t say anything.

Thank You

Best answer:

Answer by Jo W
It’s great to have goals, but if they are unattainable you’ll create your own disappointment. Trying to set up the sort of project you have in mind is probably going to need a budget of hundreds of thousands, and with no guarantee of success.

Be very clear what you are trying to achieve and then see if anyone else is already doing it…I think Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube might have got there first!

What do you think? Answer below!

what do you think this line means?

Question by Erik: what do you think this line means?
My cry will ascend to heaven and cut through hosts of angels. Feather and flesh will shriekingly fall
from atop the clouds onto my childhood.

Best answer:

Answer by zuzyzuzy
your childhood was lonely that even the angels anguished and willing to share the joys with you.

Give your answer to this question below!