Texas A&M University made national headlines over the summer when it announced that self-driving cars will be made a part of life in College Station. The project has since expanded, with cars beginning to drive around Bryan–College Station roads. However, an unintended side effect of this development can be found in a software feature which allows the vehicle to learn local traffic patterns based on interactions with surrounding drivers.
Drivers across College Station have remarked that the cars moving around campus have seamlessly blended into the traffic patterns and habits of the area. “I watched a white sedan with A&M logos all over it shoot out of the H-E-B parking lot and cross three lanes of traffic, before flying through a red light at Holleman,” said Del Spooner, a junior forensic science major. “I didn’t even know it was driving itself until it passed me and I saw the car was empty.”
Other students have noticed the cars’ behavior becoming inseparable from the conduct of other drivers on campus. “I was in Koldus Garage when I saw a car take a right turn down the exit ramp to get out of the garage quicker. I really didn’t think anything of it until I saw that no one was behind the wheel,” said Cap Richards, a senior classics major. “It even honked at a pedestrian about to walk in front of the garage exit before speeding away.”
The transition hasn’t been without victims. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute sought to put the technology to public good by automating the organization CARPOOL. “They always said automation was the future, but I guess I didn’t take it seriously enough when looking at student organizations to join ,” said Giacomo Zapparoni, a senior supply chain management major and former CARPOOL driver. “One night you’re driving people back from Northgate blasting Disney songs, and the next night some freshman is telling you, ‘The future is now, old man.’”
The only malfunction reported thus far is a bug that causes the car to brake suddenly and then speed up several times when taking a right from University Drive onto Texas Avenue, unable to decide the proper course of action. Vehicle data logs also indicate a tendency to speed up when a bike is crossing an upcoming intersection.
—Netflix & Drill