Driving and Self-Driving Cars (AI)
We are driving on a rural narrow two-lane highway at night time and it is dark, very dark. We are driving against the continuous week-end traffic streaming back to Montréal from cottage country.
There are headlights blinding us and lots of brake lights going on and off as the traffic is "stop and start".
Of course, a student is driving. Each student has done very well including the student at the wheel and all have passed. We will be in their small town in an hour or so.
I have been watching the traffic for some 10 hours, with 2 more hours to go before I am back home. It has been a long day.
The continuous light of the headlamps and brake lights passing us - almost hypnotic - the student drivers are excellent drivers - I am tired - very tired - and then I see - just for a split-second, red lights going out in that maze of lights - it has to be a car - probably joining our lane. No reaction from the student driver - so - he has not seen the brake lights.
I hit the brakes and sure enough, the car appears in our lane. The student is surprised.
He wants to know - along with the other students - how come I knew about the car appearing.
Good question actually. Super good question. Good peripheral vision? I know that I have. Excellent peripheral vision is essential in driving. Will self-driving cars have it?
Luck? Yes. Paying attention - always - and if something else had caught my attention on my side of the road at the same time - a cat, a dog, a leaf, a pedestrian?
This episode happened 40 years or so ago and I can still picture it now.
The analysis in retrospect:
I see red lights go out in what looks like a driveway on the other side of the road. I don't see a car as it was blocked by the cars on the highway. I surmise it is the brake light of car and the lights move quickly and then they are gone.
Will that car join the traffic coming towards us? Or will the car appear in our lane? If the car joins the ongoing traffic it would have moved slowly - so - it will break into our lane.
How would "lidar" have picked up the lights going off in a maze of lights and silhouettes of moving cars?
At the time this happened I had driven some 17 years, many kilometres on the Autobahn at 160 km and many, many miles on country roads and of course city driving.
Another episode - going through a small town market on a Saturday with the market square dividing a 4 lane road. The car in front of me is signalling left and is in the left lane but it is going slowly and the driver keeps looking both left and right and is looking for something. My dad wants me to pass - I don't want to pass as I don't trust a confused driver.
The driver now makes a right turn.
How does AI figure this out?
I am driving in the Schwarzwald, Germany on a Sunday night - pitch black outside. It is a two-lane highway and no shoulders, just a ditch and Black Forest trees on either side. I am doing 100 km - 120 km and the oncoming traffic is maybe doing 80 to 100 as they are returning to the city after the weekend.
I come around the bend and there is a car in my lane. No place to go. Driving into the trees is death. Driving ahead looks like death. I silently apologize to my aunt whose daughter and her fiance are in the back seat and who, I had promised to deliver safely to my aunt's house.
So - you - the other driver caused this - so - you drive off into the trees - if not - you will also die. I hit the brakes hard and he gets back into his line of traffic.
Dead silence in my car. No one talks for the rest of the trip. 30 years later I meet my cousin again for the 1st time after that episode and the first word are: "Remember back ..." Yes - we almost died that night.
But before the Schwarzwald episode, I am at work and ask a co-worker: "How come you have a big scar on your face and scalp?"
He tells me this story.
"He is driving on a two-lane highway at night from Lübeck to Hamburg and there is a car in his lane passing a truck. No place to go. He decides to drive into the ditch. The truck and the "passing" driver keep going. About 1/2 hour later another car driver sees the headlights in the ditch and decides to stop. Of course, the ambulance is called and the hospital does its magic and he lives."
I am totally angry that the other driver kept going. I ask several times about it and basically, if the driver who did stop had not stopped then he would have bled to death as eventually the battery would have died and he would have only been found in next day in daylight and dead.
Coincidence? The universe works in wondrous ways.
And AI in a self-driving car?