Horns honk. Hands wave. Lights flash. Fingers fly and eyes meet. This orchestra may seem a mess to anyone stuck in the pit at rush hour, but for the most part, it works.
Humans may not excel as drivers when it comes to paying attention or keeping calm, but we’re masters of communication, even when stuck in our metal boxes.
Robots offer this resume in reverse: all-stars when it comes to defeating distraction, noobs when it comes to negotiating the human-filled environment. And for the folks aiming to deploy fleets of self-driving cars into that chaos, this is a problem.
“The question is how to replace the driver,” says Bijit Halder, the product and design lead for Drive.ai. The Silicon Valley-based startup just started a shuttle service in Frisco, Texas, connecting an office park to a nearby stadium and apartment complex. (It keeps a human in the driver seat, ready to take control if the robot falters.) That pilot project is the product of three years of development work by the company, which was founded by a group that came out of Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Lab and now has more than 150 employees.
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