A recent review of the BMW G32 640iGT 2017 by Honest John reveals that when set to semi-autonomously follow road markings, the car will force drivers to execute close passes of cyclists unless they use their indicator.
Honest John writes: “If the road ahead is clear apart from a solitary cyclist, you do need to signal to overtake him, otherwise the steering wheel will fight you and you could pass him uncomfortably close.”
The flaw touches upon issues raised at last week’s IAM RoadSmart/RAC Foundation/Pirelli ‘Driver Ahead?’ Conference, at which experts sought to “map a safe route to the driverless car.”
Opening the conference, guest speaker Victoria Coren-Mitchell introduced the concept of “death by code,” and challenged attendees to decide whether deaths caused by a computer were better or worse than those caused by human error.
Professor Neville Stanton, Professor and Chair of Human Factors Engineering at Southampton University pointed out that driverless technology also brings the danger of switching the driver from underload to overload – where he or she has had nothing to do, then has to intervene in an emergency situation, only to end up panicking and creating a tragedy.
He said: “The problem with automation is that it is not currently powerful [enough] to render the driver completely redundant. It requires the driver to monitor continuously and intervene occasionally. The car needs to support, not replace the driver.”
There was also concern that some drivers would misuse vehicle systems, or find a way round them because they found them too complicated.
Professor Nick Reed, head of mobility research at Bosch, said: “Any system needs to be aware of the effective use or misuse of it.”
Professor of Human Factors at University of Nottingham Sarah Sharples, added: “People will break unbreakable technology if they find it inconvenient. What’s more, people pranking and having fun will cause security risks.”
Nic Fasci, lead engineer for vehicle engineering and homologation at Tata Motors European Technical centre, said: “The key to autonomous vehicles is training, training, training. The skill of driving must be robotic before the software can be developed. The skill of driving is being eroded and this can be seen every day.”
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, concluded that drivers would require a great deal of re-educating before entering the world of the autonomous vehicle.
“There is a myth that the car will do everything for the driver. It is clear the driver will always have a part to play – but is the driver ready for his new role? Clearly not. That’s the reality we have to prepare for.”
In related news, the BBC reports that driverless bus pod tests are now underway in Cambridge.
The RDM Group is testing self-driving pods along the guided busway to gauge the feasibility of running 10-seater shuttles along the route.
Findings will be announced in June 2018.
Richard Fairchild, from the RDM Group, said: "It is segregated from the highway, allowing the pods to whizz up and down without traffic congestion slowing them down. It is also segregated from pedestrians and cyclists, meaning it is a really safe route."