Here’s Why AI Self-Driving Cars Need To Cope With Anomalies

Lance Eliot
16 min readFeb 21, 2020

Dr. Lance Eliot, AI Insider

[Ed. Note: For reader’s interested in Dr. Eliot’s ongoing business analyses about the advent of self-driving cars, see his online Forbes column: https://forbes.com/sites/lanceeliot/]

An anomaly is something considered out of the ordinary and often used to describe things or events that seem to be peculiar, rare, abnormal, or at times are otherwise difficult to even classify.

Sometimes an anomaly is unwanted and can be bothersome when performing a task, while in other instances an anomaly might shed new insight that no one previously gave due attention to. It can be hard to know whether an anomaly will be ultimately seen as desirable versus undesirable.

In the late 1800’s, Wilhelm Roentgen was working in his lab on an experiment to make electrons zip through open air. After repeated trials with various cathode rays, he noticed that a barium platinocyanide covered screen at the edge of his table became fluorescent.

This was an oddity.

He could have shrugged it off as an anomaly that was not worthy of further attention.

Turns out that Wilhelm opted to study this aspect and it led him to the discovery of X-rays and X-ray beams.

Wilhelm’s anomaly provides an example of a situation when detecting and acting upon an anomaly paid-off. Sometimes an anomaly can be a fluke that provides no added value to what is being examined or studied.

It could be random noise that happened to be encountered when you were doing something else and thus had no true bearing on the phenomena that you were studying. If you then pursue the anomaly to try and figure out whether it has merit or not, you might be wasting valuable attention and resources on something that has little or no benefit in the end.

When I used to teach university classes on statistics and AI, I would cover the various “exclusion” techniques that could be used to deal with suspected anomalies. One obvious approach is to simply discard the anomaly. This though can create issues since it can leave a somewhat unexplained hole or gap in your research.

Lance Eliot

Dr. Lance B. Eliot is a renowned global expert on AI, successful startup founder, global CIO/CTO, , was a top exec at a major Venture Capital (VC) firm.