Baidu’s Research Puts Self-Driving Cars in the Spotlight

Self-driving cars have been the subject of many controversies, especially when it comes to the legal aspect, but, lately, the discussion has been rather silent. We’ve all seem to come to terms with the fact that self-driving vehicles will be a reality, and that the manufacturers will manage to find a way to ensure the cars do not represent a breach of the law.

However, according to Baidu, self-driving cars still have a long road ahead of them, as many other obstacles need to be dealt with before the cars can be released to the public.

This isn’t because they have something against autonomous technology since Baidu is working on their own self-driving vehicle, which they aim to release on the market around 2018.

This explains why they not only analyzed potential obstacles but why they also did their best to find possible solutions.

This is what we can take away from what they had to say:

Emergency situations are still an issue

For the moment, self-driving vehicles have no way to communicate with emergency vehicles, like ambulances for instance, while on the road. And, unfortunately, not a lot of manufacturers seem to be looking into this.

In the case of ongoing road constructions or road accidents, self-driving cars must have a way of interacting with construction workers or traffic cops, since the cars, in their current state, cannot interpret hand signals.

Baidu suggests that the best way to solve the latter issue is by developing an app that would allow the workers/cops to tell self-driving cars where to go. A guiding beacon would work as well.

The way self-driving cars interpret traffic signals is not yet foolproof

Self-driving vehicles already have a way to interact and understand traffic signals, so that is not the problem. Put simply, they take photos of them and then interpret them.

However, the issue nobody, except Baidu, has considered is the glare that might occur on particularly sunny days. That phenomenon can interfere with the quality of the photos, and cause the car to misinterpret the signals, something that can cause fatal accidents.

The solution Baidu came up with is practical, but might be considered a little extreme. The idea is to add more traffic signals, or adjust the existing ones, so they face different angles to avoid the chance of glare affecting the quality of photos.

Sure, it’s a difficult task and much work, but, at the moment, it’s the only solution available. Baidu might come up with other answers, or maybe other self-driving car manufacturers can find a more convenient solution.

Self-driving technology can understand road maintenance signs, but it needs some help as well

This is not a huge concern, but Baidu thought it best to bring it up. While self-driving vehicles can scan and understand road maintenance markings, it’s still important to remember one thing: Those markings must be extremely visible. 

Same goes for lane markings as well. The slightest smudge could cause the cars to misinterpret the markings. However, there is still work to be done in this case to find the best solution.

According to Baidu, self-driving cars will need a makeover

It will be nothing too drastic, but Baidu says that self-driving vehicles must have more lights and signals installed on them, so they can efficiently communicate with other self-driving cars on the road.

They might look too flashy, but it’s a risk worth taking if it means ensuring the safety of everyone on the road.

Also, Baidu recommends outfitting self-driving vehicles with clear markings that will let other drivers, or police officers for that matter, know that the car is self-driving. It’s similar to the use of shoshinsha marks by new drivers.

Do you think self-driving cars will overcome these challenges?

Baidu has clarified that they’re trying their best to find solutions, but it might still take some time. Until then, what are your thoughts on this research? Do you have any solutions you might think will solve these problems?

Share your thoughts in the comment section below, as I would be delighted to hear your opinions. 

Roberto De Simone