UMass professors awarded grant to study safety of self-driving cars

Hampshire County
UMass union

UMass Amherst awarded a $36,000 grant to two assistant professors to study self-driving cars.

According to UMass Associate News Editor/Science Writer Janet Lathrop, the professors’ pilot study will address the question of when a self-driving car should warn a driver that the vehicle may have to give up control soon.

The study will be conducted by assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, Shannon Roberts, and assistant professor of computer science, Philip Thomas.

Roberts explained that if self-driving cars give warnings after it’s 100% certain it will give up control, it may be too late for the driver to respond. However, Roberts also explained if a warning is given when it’s less than 100% too many times, it may cause distrust in the system making it less effective.

Lanthrop said the professors plan to use a machine learning algorithms based on reinforcement learning recently developed by Thomas to improve the systems.

The professors also plan to use the Human Performance Laboratory driving simulator to test how effective their approach is.

The results of the study will then be used to submit grants to federal sources for further studies. 

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