AI News, Autonomous vehicles cannot be test-driven enough miles to demonstrate their safety

Autonomous vehicles cannot be test-driven enough miles to demonstrate their safety

Under even the most-aggressive test driving assumptions, it would take existing fleets of autonomous vehicles tens and even hundreds of years to log sufficient miles to adequately assess the safety of the vehicles when compared to human-driven vehicles, according to the analysis.

'Our results show that developers of this technology and third-party testers cannot drive their way to safety,' said Nidhi Kalra, co-author of the study and a senior scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

'It's going to be nearly impossible for autonomous vehicles to log enough test-driving miles on the road to statistically demonstrate their safety, when compared to the rate at which injuries and fatalities occur in human-controlled cars and trucks.'

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of premature death in the United States and are responsible for over $80 billion annually in medical care and lost productivity due to injuries.

Autonomous vehicles hold enormous potential for managing this crisis and researchers say autonomous vehicles could significantly reduce the number of accidents caused by human error.

Self-Driving Uber Car Kills Pedestrian in Arizona, Where Robots Roam

Most testing of driverless cars occurs with a safety driver in the front seat who is available to take over if something goes wrong.

California requires companies to report the number of instances when human drivers are forced to take over for the autonomous vehicle, called “disengagements.” Between December 2016 and November 2017, Waymo’s self-driving cars drove about 350,000 miles and human drivers retook the wheel 63 times — an average of about 5,600 miles between every disengagement.

Waymo, which has been testing autonomous vehicles on public roads since 2009 when it was Google’s self-driving car project, has said its cars have driven more than 5 million miles while Uber’s cars have covered 3 million miles.

Autonomous Vehicles Cannot Be Test-Driven Enough Miles to Demonstrate Their Safety; Alternative Testing Methods Needed

Autonomous vehicles would have to be driven hundreds of millions of miles and, under some scenarios, hundreds of billions of miles to create enough data to clearly demonstrate their safety, according to a new RAND report.

Under even the most-aggressive test driving assumptions, it would take existing fleets of autonomous vehicles tens and even hundreds of years to log sufficient miles to adequately assess the safety of the vehicles when compared to human-driven vehicles, according to the analysis.

“It's going to be nearly impossible for autonomous vehicles to log enough test-driving miles on the road to statistically demonstrate their safety, when compared to the rate at which injuries and fatalities occur in human-controlled cars and trucks.”

The research was conducted in the RAND Science, Technology and Policy program, which focuses primarily on the role of scientific development and technological innovation in human behavior, global and regional decisionmaking as it relates to science and technology and the concurrent effects that science and technology have on policy analysis and policy choices.

The RAND program is part of RAND Justice, Infrastructure and Environment, a division of RAND dedicated to improving policymaking and decisionmaking in a wide range of policy domains, including civil and criminal justice, infrastructure protection and homeland security, transportation and energy policy and environmental and natural resource policy.

Former Uber Backup Driver: 'We Saw This Coming'

Both of the former employees CityLab spoke with said that eliminating the second human operator was premature because that person played an indirect role in maintaining safety.

An Uber spokesperson said that the second operator had been there strictly in a note-taking capacity and that the reduction was a carefully considered step in the technology’s progression towards higher levels of autonomy.

She stated: We decided to make this transition because after testing, we felt we could accomplish the task of the second person—annotating each intervention with information about what was happening around the car—by looking at our logs after the vehicle had returned to base, rather than in real time.

From his perspective, even as the technology improved, “the car still wasn’t ready for that second set of eyes to be removed.” Both former operators also expressed surprise that Uber’s self-driving technology had failed, too.

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