Self-driving cars may hit people with darker skin tone

Technology used in self-driving cars has a racial bias that makes autonomous vehicles more likely to drive into darker skin tone people, a new study claims.

Self-driving cars may hit people with darker skin tone

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that detection systems, such as the sensors and cameras used in self-driving cars, are better at detecting people with lighter skin tones.

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That makes them less likely to spot black people and to stop before crashing into them. Tests on eight image-recognition systems found this bias held true, with their accuracy proving five per cent less accurate on average for people with darker skin.

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To prove the hypothesis, the scientists divided a large pool of pedestrian images into two groups of lighter and darker skin using the Fitzpatrick scale – a scientific way of classifying skin colour.

Even when changing the time of day or obstructing the image-detection systems view, the average accuracy remained the same. 

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It is not the first time that machine learning and vision systems have been shown to have an in-built bias. 

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that Amazon’s facial recognition software Recognition had a harder time identifying a person’s gender if they were female or darker-skinned.


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