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How will driverless cars avoid potholes? © Getty Images

How will driverless cars avoid potholes?

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Driverless vehicles are being developed to be as autonomous as possible, but they can't judge actions in response to their environment as easily as humans.

Asked by: Greg Smith, Manchester

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The best driverless cars, such as Google’s Waymo, are aiming for level 4 autonomy – this means they will take over driving in certain locations under certain weather conditions. To achieve this, cars have sensors such as LiDAR (which pulses lasers at objects and measures reflections to calculate their distances) in addition to GPS, inertia measurement, radar and cameras. Even if the driverless cars could detect potholes – which may not be possible in all weather conditions – it may be dangerous for them to avoid them, so it is more likely that they will simply drive slower. Recent reports suggest that our entire road network may need to be upgraded at a cost of billions, otherwise driverless vehicles may all be forced to crawl along in ‘proceed with caution’ mode.


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Authors

Dr Peter Bentley is a computer scientist and author who is based at University College London. He is the author of books including 10 Short Lessons in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Digital Biology: How nature is transforming our technology and our lives.

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