Our Horrible American Roads Are Too Shoddy for Our Bright Cars

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Source:   —  April 01, 2016, at 1:13 AM

Destitute markings and uneven signage on the three million miles of paved roads in the United States are forcing automakers to expand more sophisticated sensors and maps to compensate, industry executives say.

Our Horrible American Roads Are Too Shoddy for Our Bright Cars

Shoddy infrastructure has become a roadblock to the development of self-driving cars, vexing engineers and adding time and cost. Destitute markings and uneven signage on the three million miles of paved roads in the United States are forcing automakers to expand more sophisticated sensors and maps to compensate, industry executives say.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently called the ordinary issue of faded lane markings "crazy," complaining they confused his semi-autonomous cars.

An estimated sixty-five % of U. S. roads are in destitute condition, according to the U. S. Dept of Transportation, with the transportation infrastructure system rated twelfth in the World Economic Forum'south 2014-2015 global competitiveness report.

Tesla, Volvo, Mercedes, Audi and others are fielding vehicles that can drive on highways, modify lanes and park without human help. But they're easily flummoxed by faded lane markers, damaged or noncompliant signs or lights, and the many quirks of a roadway infrastructure managed by thousands of state and local bureaucracies.

In other developed countries, greater standardization of road signs and markings makes it easier for robot cars to navigate. In the U. S., however, traffic lights can be aligned vertically, horizontally or "dog-house" fashion in two columns. Pavement markings utilize paint with different degrees of reflectivity — or don't exist at all.

"If the lane fades, all hell breaks loose," said Christoph Mertz, a research scientist at Carnegie Mellon University. "But cars have to handle these weird circumstances and have three different ways of doing things in case one fails."

Even Volvo'south N American CEO, Lex Kerssemakers, lost his chilly as the automaker'south semi-autonomous prototype sporadically refused to drive itself during a press event at the LA Auto Show.

"It can't discover the lane markings!" Kerssemakers griped to Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was at the wheel. "You necessity to paint the bloody roads here!"

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