Technology's wonderful, without humans

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By Qual IT | 28 October 2015

Google driverless car

It’s the lament of many a technology expert - their brilliant innovations would work perfectly if it wasn’t for the intervention of humans.

Self-drive cars have been lauded as a way to reduce accidents, minimise traffic congestion and lessen the negative environmental impacts of transport. Widespread adoption is a long way off however. According to a recent New York Times article, the main barrier to the success of Google’s self-driving cars seems not to be the technology itself, rather its people.

The article offered the example of a Google self-drive car getting stuck at a four stop intersection where having to share the road with humans challenged the machine’s logic.

At four stop intersections the rule in many US states is that the first arriving car at the intersection has right of way. As humans we continually edge forward jockeying for that primary position, whereas the Google car rationally wanted to decide who’s actually first. The result was the car simply stayed stuck, unable to judge when to go.

Other examples include swerving rapidly to avoid what it thought was a car pulling out from the carpark, when it had simply been poorly parked by its human owner. Or pulling off the road quickly while approaching a traffic light-controlled intersection as it judged a human-drive car was not slowing quickly enough and could run the red, when in fact the other driver was just doing the typical human thing of not paying enough attention and then slamming on the brakes at the last moment.

Human unpredictability can unseat the best technology, making a good quality process important to getting the right outcomes from your information technology. A thorough and well planned testing regime will help you identify those unanticipated human responses to new technology or the new business processes technology helps automate, and design a workable solution.

A simple example is performance testing, where the impact of consumer demand on an online business can be hard to predict. The worst scenario for an online business, or a business with a significant online channel, is that it can’t meet unanticipated demand from potential customers.

Qual IT has developed a white paper on performance testing, “Performance Anxiety”, to help you step through the key issues with managing performance testing. Download it here.