Identifying artificial intelligence “blind spots”

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A novel model developed by MIT and Microsoft researchers identifies instances in which autonomous systems have “learned” from training examples that don’t match what’s actually happening in the real world. Engineers could use this model to improve the safety of artificial intelligence systems, such as driverless vehicles and autonomous robots.
The AI systems powering driverless cars, for example, are trained extensively in virtual simulations to prepare the vehicle for nearly every event on the road. But sometimes the car makes an unexpected error in the real world because an event occurs that should, but doesn’t, alter the car’s behavior.
Consider a driverless car that wasn’t trained, and more importantly doesn’t have the sensors necessary, to differentiate between distinctly different scenarios, such as large, white cars and ambulances with red, flashing lights on the road. If the car is cruising down the highway and an ambulance flicks on its sirens, the car may not know to slow down and pull over, because it does not perceive the ambulance as different from a big white car.

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