By B.N. Frank
No matter how much proponents (see 1, 2) insist that Automated Vehicles can save lives, it doesn’t change the fact that like humans, computers make mistakes too. Unlike humans, they can also be hacked.
Now an Uber whistleblower is confirming what seems to be totally obvious, and attempts that are being made to keep the public from the truth. From The Truth About Cars:
Over the past year the automotive industry has carefully walked back the expectations surrounding autonomous cars. Yet pretty much any change in rhetoric constitutes retracted goals. With numerous companies predicting self-driving fleets of commercial vehicles before 2021, the bar couldn’t have been set much higher.
A lack of progress is partly to blame. However, a bundle of high-profile accidents have also shaken public trust — especially after it was found that Uber whistleblower Robbie Miller was trying to alert the company to issues with its self-driving program just days before one of the company’s autonomous Volvos was involved in a fatal accident with a pedestrian.
That’s not the half of it. In April, Miller released a study claiming self-driving vehicles were actually recording incident rates higher than that of your typical motorist. Contrasting data from the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) and the California DMV, he concluded that autonomous test vehicles created more injuries per mile than the average human motorist with a few years of practice.
That’s not what we’re being sold. Automakers have repeatedly suggested that AV testing is a gateway to a safer world, with major breakthroughs close at hand. But Miller argued that focusing on the number of miles a manufacturer covers with its self-driving fleet doesn’t yield much more than reduced public safety.
“I want to make the road safer,” Miller, a former Uber operations manager and current chief safety officer at a California-based company developing advanced driver-assist systems for the trucking industry, explained to Automotive News. “Other programs out there, you know, they’re basically spouting science fiction about things that are years away.”
In his study, he alleged that too many automakers and tech firms rely on misleading benchmarks, reframing setbacks, and focus too much on the amount of testing vs technological progress.
A more practical and less expensive solution to safer roads would be to take away licenses from reckless drivers. But that would be too easy.
Image credit: Pixabay
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