In fact, people are the only successful drivers in the world today. Despite decades of programming, we have not been able to create computers that can match a person’s ability to drive a car, especially on roads densely packed with other people.
Why can’t computers drive? Driving is a language. It is not defined by a rigid set of rules but expressed and evolved through millions of individual interactions. We find equilibrium in complex coordination with other people, signaling our intent and responding dynamically to millions of other drivers on our shared roads. The result is an ever changing complex system, one that cannot be described by a simple list of rules.
A good driver should act in ways that are predictable and familiar to other cars on the road. It should also learn, improving outcomes with more experience and evolving behavior as new norms emerge. It is always vigilant, never distracted, ready to react.
A good driver should drive like you.
People rely on a single sensor to move around the world: the eye. The light that passes through our eyes gives us all the information we need to move around the world. We do not use lasers. We do not use radar. We do not use three-dimensional maps.
Our eyes do more than just capture light. They combine images with deeply evolved intelligence to complete our understanding of the world. Our knowledge of time, parallax, and inertia fills in complex details to create a rich understanding of our environment. We ingest only photons but are capable of making complex predictions about what is around us and how it will evolve.
This system has evolved to detect change above all else. Our motor cortex is hard wired to respond instantly to sudden movement, especially when headed right towards us. It is fundamental to our movement and fundamental to our survival.
The right perception system for driving is based on how people see, how people interpret their environment, and ultimately how people move. Others have chased a complex suite of alternative sensors and systems, unable to see the answer is right in front of our faces.
Why do we test shampoo on rabbits? Because we refuse to test on the public.
But this is not how most self-driving companies operate. Instead of testing on animals, they test on us. They simultaneously develop and trial their products, driving around looking for information while they are still in fact learning how to drive. If their cars were safe enough for public roads, they would build and sell them in high volume. They are not safe, they are not for sale, but they are still out on our roads.
People are the only standard today for successful driving. To drive, everyone must pass a test, proving they can match or exceed the abilities of other people on the road. Self-driving companies should be held to the same standard.