back to article KFC: Enemy of waistlines, AI, arteries and logistics software

Brits suffering through the nationwide KFC famine can enjoy with wry amusement the fact that an AI can be fooled into thinking an image of Colonel Sanders and the restaurant's logo are a stop sign. The fast food famine arose after KFC UK last week switched from logistics provider Bidvest to rival DHL. The result was delivery …

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Facepalm

Yet...

On the everyday news, in the popular press etc., self-driving cars are here, now.

Disconnect, much?

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In many places, defacing traffic control signs is a sport done by kids with a can or two of spray paint such as speed limit signs for "30 mph" become "80 mph". Or one I saw a few months ago: "Stop" became "Squat". I wonder how the car would react to "Squat"?

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Or the infamous:

Speed

1 Hit

$5

in the window of a certain Stanford House ...

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One would think that, given the advances in GPS and mapping, that any self-driving cars need to stop 'looking' at traffic signs and have the relevant information already encoded in their maps. There is no complex recognition required, and regular updates can be done (even on-the-fly through mobile ata, same as 'live-ish' traffic updates). Local temporary changes could be signalled through a radio transmitter beaming the local changes to any vehicles passing by.

Of course there still would be security issues, in particular the car would need to be hardened gainst attacks to the update system and to the 'local warning' system. BUT these would work on quite specific and well-known channels - encrypting and authenticating small packets of data is actually a well-advanced technology even if in many cases it's woefully applied. It's certainly more easy to secure than relying on an artificial "Intelligence" that is based on a neeural net where even the designers don't know exactly how recognition/classification decisions are being made

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Given that my modern and newly updated gps, unaware of the queensferry crossing. urges me to drive through a concrete divider and down an 45% embanking in a desperate attempt to get to the Forth Road bridge every time I drive to Edinburgh I'd personally pass on relying on gps/mapping solutions, Along the same stretch of road it frequently thinks I'm driving on parallel non-motorway roads and there are so many cases of fleshware drivers blindly following out of date directions to drive the wrong way up one way streets etc that I'd be factoring in a hefty amount of scepticism of GPS in any AI I was building.

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Near me, some one has taken it upon themselves to spray "ish" underneath the speed on the signs.

Makes me chuckle.

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"One would think that, given the advances in GPS and mapping, that any self-driving cars need to stop 'looking' at traffic signs and have the relevant information already encoded in their maps. "

Just plough past the guy holding the stop sign at the road works then? After all, it's a 60 mph straight bit of road.

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Coat

Shitbottle.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CVYpztvWoAAs2us.jpg

https://youtu.be/TvHlD7Lg5x0

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Terminator

Signs that don't move could be made into RFID "signs" which would be more accurate that using machine learning. Temporary signs and traffics lights could also be fitted with RFID. It wouldn't entirely eliminate the problem as cars need to be able to spot things like Police stopping traffic, animals running out etc.

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Pint

RFID Signs

RFID in its typical form would then depend upon every self driving car betting fitted with an RFID Reader. Readers "illuminat" the tag with RF (e.g. 13.56MHz or 125kHz) to power it up. Given the distances to traffic signs, the vehicles might need the 50,000 watt version of the RFID Reader.

Perhaps there are other options.

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Ah, that brings back memories of driving to visit my grandparents in Dunbar. The sign always made me laugh.

There was a similar one near me on the A22 for the "River Uck" which was always defaced. East Sussex County Council finally gave up the battle and removed the sign completely,

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Unfortunately, updating map databases tends to be VERY labour intensive, as any change can require very extensive QA checks to ensure the integrity of the whole database. It took the regular sat-nav databases for the UK about 2 years to include the newly built road on which I live - and Google Maps still hasn't got it after 6 years!

Further, it would be impossible to react in real time to temporary speed limits such as those imposed by road works - which might only be there for a few hours, or even be constantly moving in the case of works such as renewal of white lines etc.

There will always be a need for some sort on local indication of speed limits etc., so as to cope with these situations.

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So what happens when a construction worker forgets to turn off the stop sign after packing up. Every autonomous vehicle sees his van as a stop sign while he drives back to the yard.

Or someone could decide that it would be fun to hide one of those stop signs beside a major motorway. Instant long tailback while the plod search for a small device in the undergrowth.

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"Shitbottle."

Yes, that was my first thought too. It seems to be a sport up there to see how quickly the recently replaced/repaired/cleaned road signs can be defaced again.

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Re: RFID Signs

the vehicles might need the 50,000 watt version of the RFID Reader

I'm sure Photonic Induction could cobble something together that would do the job. Althought 50 kW is probably a low estimate of what he'd come up with.

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"Or one I saw a few months ago: "Stop" became "Squat". I wonder how the car would react to "Squat"?"

Depends whether or not you paid the extra for the air suspension upgrade...

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Re: RFID Signs

the 50,000 watt version

In old money, that's the best part of 67 horsepower, just to drive the transmitter. Seems impractical to me.

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@Lost all faith

If you read the whole of my post not the bit you quoted...

"Local temporary changes could be signalled through a radio transmitter beaming the local changes to any vehicles passing by."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RFID Signs

Yep, I have given this some thought. You would place visual markers on lamp posts or install transmitting ones that map the road layout. These would need to be interconnected and if they weren't working or incorrectly placed the car should then report this back to the company tasked with fixing them. As there are multiple lamp posts on both sides of the road the car would be able to confirm if one was incorrect and not working as they would create redundancy for each other on both sides of the road. It maps the road itself before the car gets there and is constantly mapping for changes, pedestrians and other cars. The perfect back up for the cars own sensors.

Sure this only works where there are lamp posts but it would be a start.

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I may have done that exact modification a few dozen times in my youth... We used to use ¾" black tape to make it look kosher...

See also River Browney(e) near Durham for similar japes.

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Oops, did it again.

So we're right back to the same problem - local temporary changes can be INDUCED via a simple, low power radio transmitter.

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Re: RFID Signs

betting -> being

illuminat -> illuminate

Apalogies four the spillng mistekas. Normal service will resoom shorty.

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Re: RFID Signs

Let the people who have never typoed cast stones and aspersions ... The rest of us will relax, have a homebrew and thank the gawd/esses that we're not prefect.

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Anonymous Coward

One would think that, given the advances in GPS and mapping, that any self-driving cars need to stop 'looking' at traffic signs and have the relevant information already encoded in their maps.

Driving in Spain is fun with GPS. There's the "Where the f**k, did that roundabout come from? It's not on my satnav!" and there was a stretch of road where I would have to do the complete opposite of the satnav.

"Turn left"

"No, you stupid bitch, there is a no-entry sign, I have to turn right"

"Turn around now"

"How???? I'm on a dual carriage way with a big f**k off concrete barrier down the middle - wait till we get to the roundabout signposted ahead!"

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Anonymous Coward

Unfortunately, updating map databases tends to be VERY labour intensive, as any change can require very extensive QA checks to ensure the integrity of the whole database. It took the regular sat-nav databases for the UK about 2 years to include the newly built road on which I live - and Google Maps still hasn't got it after 6 years!

Same with speed cameras - driving on motorways, satnav will warn about 50mph speed cameras. I'm assuming that was down to roadworks and speed restrictions that have long since gone....

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Rearranging anything to be misinterpreted as a hexagonal red sign on an intersection (or not as such) takes some doing. What's inside that hexagonal sign isn't as important as the shape and colour.

Ditto an upside down triangle on an intersection. (yield/give way)

The lines on the road give an important secondary clue,

At least some of these attacks are bring over/under thought and OCR is for hoomuns more than machines.

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Have I missed something?

Why would autonomous cars (when they arrive in 2080) need to read road signs? Sure they have to read the road, looking out for wayward pedestrians, footballs, cats and the like but surely all set variables (like speedlimits, stop sign location, etc.) will be coded into the maps they use. I don't get this.

Just as i finished typing the sentence last sentence it occurred to me: roadworks but then again surely any roadworks could have custom (doesn't have to be a sign) transmitter to inform the car of the rules of traversing any ongoing works. This just seems like another "look how we can confuse weak AI" schtick. Be more interesting to read about how they solve these problems.

This is all just a bit "got your nose"

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Re: Have I missed something?

You know how your satnav often gets it wrong due to old data? This is the same * 1000. Autonomous vehicles have to be able to see and understand traffic signs.

Also if roadsigns, even just the temporary ones, had to use custom transmitters they would all need replacing or modifying.

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Re: Have I missed something?

Don't use the satnav mate, but I understand that maps on the device need updating.

I think the whole idea of trying to make a car (AI) understand the world around to perform the simple task of driving is nigh on impossible and thats before you've got to the interesting morality questions that have been posed. e.g. When the car has no option but to crash does it place the lives of the car occupants above those on the street.

If the world does want autonomous cars then I believe there will have to be changes to the infrastructure to make sure they can work reliably and safely. How does a visual AI check that what it thinks it is seeing is correct (as someone pointed kids with spraypaint, we get it all over here). I guess it would check a known database of good data which I would expect the manufacturer to update as required.

Since roadworks are by their very nature temporary (supposedly) then this would not mean replacing All road signs (not my point) just providing a way to interact with the car without having to rely on Visual AI for exceptions such as roadworks.

if they crack a self driving, morally upright car that needs no updates, set road data, can master driving different conditions, no infrastructure changes etc, etc, etc, etc, etc then they might as well build Skynet.

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Re: Have I missed something?

Why would autonomous cars (when they arrive in 2080) need to read road signs?

Let me quote you the oldie but goldie from the other side of the wall dating back to the early 1980-es:

Protocol of the weekly meeting of the Police Union.

The Union met today and discussed the following agenda items:

1. Application by Snr Constable Petrov for financial assistance due to temporary hardship.

The Union decided:

1. To approve the application for financial assistance of Snr Constable Petrov

2. To issue Snr Constable Petrov a temporary movable STOP and 30km/h per limit stop signs.

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Re: Have I missed something?

Speak for yourself. The maps on my phone get updated a couple of times a week, on average, without any action on my part. If that's available as standard on a low-grade Android, I find it hard to believe that a $30,000 car can't match it.

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Re: Have I missed something?

"Just as i finished typing the sentence last sentence it occurred to me: roadworks but then again surely any roadworks could have custom (doesn't have to be a sign) transmitter to inform the car of the rules of traversing any ongoing works."

Again this is not the exact issue, it is the serious disconnect between the claimed ability of AI to deal with the real world that meat-bags do a half-passable job of in order to work for the decades it will take to transition from drivers to robots on the road.

If your AI can't tell a KFC and STOP sign apart, just how good/safe will it be? Even if you think "oh just put up a transmitter for robocars at road works" how will they deal with any other sort of outage/problem that meat bags could deal with by using their (admittedly often limited) intelligence to work around? Finally when there is a a fatal/serious injury crash involving a megacorp's robo car and some lawyer can show such shitty AI discrimination of the obvious, do you think the fines for knowingly unsafe design will be Ford Pinto style or not?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Have I missed something?

Not a lot of use when the nature and position of the limit changes through the day then. Think repainting the road markings as an example.

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Re: Have I missed something?

"morality questions that have been posed. e.g. When the car has no option but to crash does it place the lives of the car occupants above those on the street."

This is a straw man. The trolley problem is a thought exercise to which there is no "correct" answer. It's not even known for any given human driver whether they would prioritise themselves / their passengers / anyone outside the car. Quite possibly, any human driver who THINKS they would react in a given way when it's a thought exercise could react in a different way when it's for real. So giving the car AI simple hardcoded instructions for collision avoidance priority will be sufficient.

There are many problems to solve to be able to get self-driving cars. Morality is not one of them.

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Re: Have I missed something?

One correct answer to "the trolley problem":

Hold the lever to keep the switch gear between the two tracks in an attempt to derail the train & thus save everybody.

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Re: Have I missed something?

any roadworks could have custom (doesn't have to be a sign) transmitter

In ENGLAND? By 2080 that will simply mean that they have a robot holding a 'Stop/Go' sign and repeatedly saying "Don't ask me guv, I only work here".

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Re: Have I missed something?

Why would autonomous cars (when they arrive in 2080) need to read road signs?

Well, two obvious reasons.

Firstly because they convey mandatory information to which the vehicle must adhere immediately, not once someone gets around to updating the map. Getting a dozen speeding tickets because what was a 30mph limit on Friday is now a 20mph limit on Monday and your map hasn't been updated yet, is going to be annoying, and expensive.

Secondly because non-automated road users (other cars, trucks, vans, pedestrians, cyclists etc) will be using the signs to inform their decisions - understanding what those road users are likely / supposed to do next will be a key part in not running them over.

The problem seems readily solvable - use a better image set for road signs, and make sure the car understands that not everything at the side of a road is a mandatory road sign - some are just adverts for the village fete, or hangover food.

Some signs cover a wide, changeable, and semi-unpredictable area. "Wild ponies or horses" being a good example, or riding schools. Many horses apparently confuse plastic bags stuck in hedges to be a vortex to another universe, and are likely to misbehave. It'd be best for all if the AI doesn't assume the horses will be in the fields, or moving slowly at the side of the road.

Temporary road closures for say road races (running etc) won't always be known about in advance in CA. or wherever the update is done, and if you're relying on humans to ensure the maps are correct at the time of use, then you're going to get human error. Anyone having lived in Newcastle-under-Lyme will be very familiar with truckers getting lost looking for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, at least in the days before GPS. People make mistakes, so cars relying on maps updated or created by humans are going to need to drive to the conditions in play on the road at the time of arrival, not what they should be according to the map.

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Re: Have I missed something?

"Hold the lever to keep the switch gear between the two tracks in an attempt to derail the train & thus save everybody."

Should be "Hold the lever to keep the switch gear between the two tracks in an attempt to derail the train & thus kill some, or all, of the people on the train".

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Re: Have I missed something?

There was a story (was it here at the Reg?) about Tom Tom ceasing support for various models of SatNav, some of which aren't that old. I can't see support for built in units being any better, so am a bit sceptical about those, and whether they'll be much use once the vehicle is 5+ years old.

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Re: Have I missed something?

When the car has no option but to crash does it place the lives of the car occupants above those on the street.

Ultimately, yes. Even if that is not the default behaviour, people will produce modifications that will allow such decisions to be predetermined.

That's no different to a human driving though, is it? It requires truly selfless reasoning and balls that'd shame Superman to crash into a tree instead of a person in the road, if doing so is likely to kill you. Maybe I could bring myself to do it if its a child in the road and my child is not in the car, but if my child is in the car, then whoever or whatever is in the road is shit outta luck. Sorry. You'll not find any parent make any other decision either, despite the howls of protest that will doubtless follow.

I don't see why society expects AI to behave better than they would themselves - even if it did, they'd start changing it because they wouldn't like the outcomes - does your smart home dob you into the police because it can detect weed being smoked? Perhaps your smart home could tell your GP the truth about how much you eat, drink (alcohol), smoke, and your fitbit can explain just how little exercise you really do? Any limitations on such behaviours won't be technical.

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J P

Re: Have I missed something?

The satnav in my wife's 7 year old Landrover cheerfully tells us we're doing 60mph across a ploughed field each morning (they built the bypass 6 years ago). We could of course get the maps upgraded, but it's rather more expensive than the alternatives, so haven't bothered. However, if it was a legal requirement then we'd... probably sell the car. Most likely to someone who simply wouldn't bother, and take their chances. But to write off all that physical hardware, just for a software upgrade? It's a completely different set of equations for natural resource consumption considerations than we've ever used before.

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Re: Have I missed something? - SMITCH79

Note to the utopians - people drive cars, and perhaps more importantly lorries full of stuff, across borders. It's going to be handy for autonomous cars to have some idea of what the human-controlled visiting vehicles are going to do in response to the locally perceived physical environment, including roadsigns, in real time - not just try to predict it based on a theoretical cyberspace model where the no-entry and one-way-street signs *haven't* all just been reversed by jolly rag week students.

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Re: Have I missed something?

Speak for yourself. The maps on my phone get updated a couple of times a week, on average, without any action on my part.

And you still find places where it's wrong.

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Re: Have I missed something? - SMITCH79

not just try to predict it based on a theoretical cyberspace model where the no-entry and one-way-street signs *haven't* all just been reversed by jolly rag week students.

Or the town council want to try out something new like change all the one-way streets around.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Have I missed something?

"I find it hard to believe that a $30,000 car can't match it."

I find that very easy to believe. I was using a hire car last week, and rapidly resorted to using my phone because of the poor quality of the GPS built into the car. (A Toyota Auris with a bit over 1000km on the clock when I picked it up.)

For the record, I was in Norway and my phone uses "Navman Navigator" and OpenStreetMap data.

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Re: Have I missed something?

"use a better image set for road signs"

The AI also needs the ability to parse and understand the printed instructions on the temporary yellow roadworks signs which, although designed to fit within the regs, are not standardised in the wording.

Also, part of the A1(M) northbound was closed yesterday evening and I had to follow the diversion. Luckily I know the area and followed my nose rather the diversion and re-joined further up away from the congestion on the latter part of the diversion route.

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Re: Have I missed something?

Should be "Hold the lever to keep the switch gear between the two tracks in an attempt to derail the train & thus kill some, or all, of the people on the train".

It's called the Trolley Problem, not the Train Problem. Trains don't often come into conflict with pedestrians at points.

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Re: Have I missed something?

"so am a bit sceptical about those, and whether they'll be much use once the vehicle is 5+ years old."

Hopefully this is something that will be addressed as AI car legislation is introduced. Manufactures will be legislated to provide update for the life of the vehicle. Hopefully the lawmakers will consider what the true "life" of the vehicle is and not assume that everyone gets a new car every year or two like they do. It's already difficult enough for the less well off to keep and maintain a car in the current MoT/anti-pollution regime we are in now. Someone running an old banger isn't really in a position to take advantage of "scrappage" schemes. The cashback/discount is no where near enough to being a new car price down to their level.

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Re: Have I missed something? - SMITCH79

"Or the town council want to try out something new like change all the one-way streets around."

Apart from during a transition period, that's probably a very good example of something that could become very easy to do. If the vast majority of cars are AV/AI and permanently connected, it would be obvious have a national mapping infrastructure such all cars have the same map updates, with pretty much real time access.

This would also pretty much eliminate the need for road signs.

Whether we'll ever get to that stage is another matter, but the transition period is going to require far more complex and expensive systems than will be required once (if!!) AV/AI vehicles become the norm.

Taking just the UK, if all road vehicles were AV and connected at all times, even the tiny little rural roads with 10ft hedgerows such as in the south west should be usable since each car will "know" about all the other cars in the area long before they come into view and be able to negotiate who goes where and when, maybe just adjusting speeds slightly so opposing cars arrive at passing places together or re-route, effectively creating dynamic one-way systems.

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Re: Have I missed something?

Round me, most of the drivers don't understand the world and environment around them ........

What chance does an autonomous car have??

Temporary roadworks... the best example of an oxymoron....

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