April 21, 2020

Bryan Reimer quoted in Fast Company

The hype about autonomous vehicles misses one key point: Humans will still be vitally necessary for a very long time. “The biggest myth about automation is the more automation, the less you need human expertise. Actually, the more you automate, the more you need to educate, where, when, how etc.,” observes Bryan Reimer, PhD, a research scientist at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics, a researcher in the AgeLab, and associate director of the New England University Transportation Center.

Dr. Reimer, who has studied driver behavior as it relates to automation, raises an interesting point: As our automobiles assume more and more of the tasks of their operation, there is a risk that human beings will lose some of the real-world driving experiences that make us seasoned drivers. This is fine as long as the car remains in control. But in a world of semiautonomous vehicles, the drivers may become less equipped to handle the complicated maneuvers that would stump the software.

As Dr. Reimer notes, “We unfortunately will get worse at driving, as humans learn from doing. The less we do, the less we learn. That’s why a lot of the risks of this mixed system go up over time. If we’re no longer doing, we’re no longer learning. So, that means the future is one of novice drivers, and we all know that novice drivers are even more risky than established, trained drivers.”