For a fully autonomous system to be allowed on the road, it needs regulatory approval. There have been many discussions about how to prove it can drive safely enough, but how to develop a system to convince the authorities?
We already have such a system in place. It is called getting your driver’s license. In some parts of the world, you have to demonstrate you can start a car and drive it some yards on an empty parking lot. In other parts of the world, like where I live, you have to navigate the worst big city traffic situations.
I am not suggesting that a half hour with a driving examiner should be enough to certify an AI. We will need a lot of statistical information. And the authorities will need months to analyze it. What kind of situations occurred, and how often?
What is the value and significance of this data? This is a real challenge for big-data data mining. And what is lacking is good data about human drivers to compare the autonomous system to.
This is the point where the human driving examiners come in. They have years of experience evaluating and comparing the level of skill new drivers have. These people know where the worst situations are, how they should be handled, how smooth the handling is, how cautious or how brazen a driver is, and should be in different situations.
I would ask the 50 most experienced Dutch driving examiners to examine the autonomous system for a few days each — in the worst conditions they can find. It will take likely over half a year to go through the process. It should be tested in all kinds of weather. Perhaps even including trips to the arctic, the desert, and high mountains.
The combination of observed behavior by the most critical observers and the statistical data supplied by the applicant should enable the authorities to decide if an autonomous system is good enough to enter traffic without supervision.
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