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Communications of the ACM


Still Waiting for Self-Driving Cars

moving car in a background of streaking lights

Credit: Phonlamai Photo

Over the past decade, technology and automotive pundits have predicted the "imminent" arrival of fully autonomous vehicles that can drive on public roads without any active monitoring or input from a human driver. Elon Musk has predicted his company Tesla would deliver fully autonomous vehicles by the end of 2021, but he made similar predictions in 2020, 2019, and 2017. Each prediction has fallen flat, largely due to real-world safety concerns, particularly related to how self-driving cars perform in adverse conditions or situations.

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The State of Self-Driving Cars Today

Despite such proclamations from Tesla, which released its optimistically named Full Self Driving capability for AutoPilot in October 2021, fully automated self-driving cars have not yet arrived. Instead, most manufacturers are offering systems that feature capabilities that generally fall within the first three of the six levels of autonomy defined by the Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE), which range from Level 0 (no driving automation) to Level 5 (full self-driving capabilities under all conditions).


Andrew Wells

The article mentions 'perceptual affordances'. The concept of affordance was developed by the ecological psychologist J.J. Gibson in the 1960s and 1970s. Gibson's ecological psychology was strongly critical of contemporary information processing theories of human cognition. Affordances can, however, be given, a computational interpretation. See 'Gibson's Affordances and Turing's Theory of Computation' Ecological Psychology, 14(3), 141-180, 2002.

Andrew Wells.

Keith Kirkpatrick

Thank you for comment, Andrew, and for putting the concept of affordance into context.

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