Can driverless cars be safe? Penn State Professor and TerraSwarm PI Rahul Mangharam and team are working on it

Much attention in the area of autonomous cars is focused in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Carnegie Mellon University has positioned itself as a leader in this field. The University of Pennsylvania, along with CMU, is a key player in Mobility21, a five-year, federally funded $14 million program to investigate transportation technology, including autonomous vehicles. Colleagues at at CMU are experimenting with their own autonomous car while scientists at Penn work in a lab driving cars virtually in all types of weather and lighting to test how well the software adapts to the changes it would face in the real world.

Rahul Mangharam, associate professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, is leading a team of six researchers in pursuit of what they describe as a "driver's license test" for self-driving cars. The test involves a rigorous use of mathematical diagnostics and simulated reality to determine the safety of autonomous vehicles before they ever hit the road.

All in service of rating robot drivers, white boards covered in complex equations, shelves full of makeshift toy cars and computer screens displaying video games comprise the environment of the Penn lab. Penn scientists run the autonomous driving software, called Computer Aided Design for Safe Autonomous Vehicles, through both mathematical diagnostics and the virtual reality test drives on Grand Theft Auto to see when the system fails.

"You can never have 100 percent safety," Mangharam said. "You can design a system that would not be at fault intentionally." As much as he believes in autonomous technology, Mangharam is concerned about our society's tendency to neglect regulatory oversight as we embrace a new toy.
See article at The Inquirer

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