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Tech for Autonomous Systems – Self-Evolving Capabilities II

Studies are underway to look at the symbiotic relationship arising from a driver and a self-driving car. How would the control be handed over, when, who takes responsibility and what are the psychological issues involved? Credit: Viriginia Tech

In general one can identify 3 technology areas in situation awareness:

  • Perception
  • Comprehension
  • Planning

As mentioned these areas are pursued, as much as possible in a loosely collaborative way, where loosely reflects the nature of autonomy since each autonomous system, by definition, can exists, and operate, in isolation.

Also, one should notice that in cases where one of the autonomous system is a living being, like a human driver in a self-driving car, a symbiotic autonomous relationship emerges and has to be taken into consideration.

Studies are already underway on these symbiotic relationships and many more are needed. Besides as more self-driving cars will take the road more experience will be gained on these relations from the field.

In general there will be a shift of paradigm from the centrality of the driver (the car should not distract the driver, hence essential interfaces conducive to focus attention on the road) to partial automation, that is functions that are taken away from the driver (stabilization control, braking control) executed through technologies that the driver no longer needs to know. As trust builds up, from the driver side, the risk is one of less attention being paid and more time required if intervention becomes necessary.

Going on there will be partial automation all time or full automation part of the time (e.g. self parking, highway driving). Here the issues are about understanding the shared responsibilities and the capability to take over (both ways, by the human driver and by the car).

The full car automation –all time- complete the paradigm change from attention being the key issue for the driver to situation awareness being the key issue for the car. Notice that in the case of the driver “situation awareness” is a given provided the driver pays attention (this is not always true, as an example an intoxicated driver –drugs, alcohol- may pay attention but no longer be situation aware).

In case of symbiotic relation driver-car, the car that is now experiencing situation awareness should identify if there is something the driver should worry about (e.g. a malfunction, running short on gas…) explain how to worry about and rise the driver awareness.

This shift is likely to transition the driver from paying attention to “not wanting to pay attention” being engaged in other activities and this needs to be taken into account in a symbiotic relation.

These set of issues are already faced by today’s commercial flight pilots that trust the automated flight control (they have to!) and because of that can lose situation awareness. This creates big challenges in situations that are not “in the book”.

Military is rapidly moving into these issues as drones and robots are taking the upper hand in surveillance and combat.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.