Seems there’s a problem with those self-driving cars we’re all going to be forced into before you know it.
People with Dark Skin at Higher Risk of Being Hit by Self-Driving Cars, Study Finds
The study concludes that the existing recognition technology used in self-driving cars has a harder time recognizing humans the darker their skin is. The authors write:
We give evidence that standard models for the task of object detection, trained on standard datasets, appear to exhibit higher precision on lower Fitzpatrick skin types than higher skin types. This behavior appears on large images of pedestrians, and even grows when we remove occluded pedestrians. Both of these cases (small pedestrians and occluded pedestrians) are known difﬁcult cases for object detectors, so even on the relatively “easy” subset of pedestrian examples, we observe this predictive inequity.
The study is long and complicated, filled with details and big words that I had to look up. And the study is also important. Whether we like it or not, our society is moving rather quickly toward having more and more things automated. Self-driving cars will eventually be ubiquitous. Because of that, it’s comforting knowing that people much smarter than me are attempting to uncover potential problems with the technology in order to find solutions. But none of that is why I pitched this article to my editor.
Now, this glitch isn’t a huge thing, amounting to a five percent differential between the two groups. It’s a testament to the designers’ thoroughness that it even got picked up at all, I think. You might assume it’s bound to be a matter of the sensors having a hard time with contrast, right? Lighter objects would have to be easier to distinguish from cluttered or dark backgrounds, with the problem being worse at night, no?
So one might think, but that’s only because one is stupid, or insufficiently woke at best. So go ahead, H8RRR, try to guess what this is REALLY all about.
It’s an article published by Relevant magazine that caused me to sit up and take notice of the study. Tyler Huckabee opens his article by lamenting the racism of self-driving cars:
It’s easy to start fretting about the coming robo-takeover and all its attendant Terminator and I, Robot-esque predictions about how artificial intelligence is coming for humanity. But for the moment, the real concerns about new technology aren’t so different from the old concerns: systemic bias against people of color.
Systemic bias against people of color in self-driving cars? What?
To be fair, Huckabee does toss in the caveat that the designers of self-driving cars aren’t meaning to be racist, but “their own implicit biases work their way into the algorithms they create.”
It never ends.