Construction Zones are Wreaking Havoc on Self Driving Cars

construction zone

Road construction is rarely an ideal place for anything.  It’s unsafe for workers, it causes traffic issues, and nearby businesses can suffer from it.  One more thing can be added to the list, as self-driving cars are also having a hard time navigating construction zones, as well.

For technology companies, like those working on self-driving cars, coding in a static environment can be easy.  But, throw a constantly changing and non-standardized situation at them and things can get infinitely more complicated.  There are many cues on highways that generally look the same, like mile markers, speed limit signs, stop signs, and road markings that autonomous vehicles rely on to navigate.  When road construction is introduced, however, things are not so cut and dry.  There are a variety of different ways that workers can sign and barricade construction zones and those variances are causing issues with coding, according to Wired.

From December 2015 to November 2016, self-driving car companies have gathered data regarding what caused crashes and what caused the humans to have to take control of the vehicle. Construction zones were reported to be one of the more common reasons that humans had to take control.  As Wired points out, a large majority State and local DOTs also do not have a database that shows where currently active construction sites are. Having a reliable database would allow the cars avoid those areas all together.

There are some possible solutions, however, but they will require a lot of work.  The construction zones aren’t really a huge problem for cars that still having a steering wheel and pedal, as long as someone is physically able to operate it.  For those who cannot, or in cars that don’t have a steering wheel or pedals, some companies are planning to open call centers to help the car navigate around trouble areas.

Another option uses short range communication technology to allow the cars to speak to each other which could alert other cars of a hazard up ahead.  According to Wired, “the National Highway Safety Administration plans to mandate that all new cars come equipped with this ‘talking’ tech by 2020.”

While not directly a problem for the construction industry to solve, as self-driving technology becomes more and more viable, some changes will probably need to be made. After driving in different states around the country, it’s clear that standard practices for signage and barricades need to be addressed and enforced, but it’s unclear exactly how that should happen.

Full story: Why Self-Driving Cars *Can’t Even* with Construction Zones | Wired