|Cars are undeniably evolving in front of our eye, noted Andrew Morris of The Conversation, an analysis and news website, becoming more and more “smarter” just like our favorite electronic gadgets / Photo by: Grendelkhan via Wikimedia Commons|
Cars are undeniably evolving in front of our eye, noted Andrew Morris of The Conversation, an analysis and news website, becoming more and more “smarter” just like our favorite electronic gadgets. But are autonomous or even flying cars somewhere in our immediate future or are they nothing but a dream? If AVs (or flying cars) become our future mode of transportation, can we trust them to do their job? Emily Steward of news and opinion website Vox posed this question about these futuristic cars, “How safe is safe enough?”
The reality is that AVs will bring numerous technical issues as well as moral ones. So far, there are no clear parameters for how a safe smart car is considered safe enough to be deployed on the road. Safety-related questions are not easy to answer, but perhaps there’s still a way to ease our worries about AVs.
The Safety of Self-Driving Cars According to the General Public
Even today, the general public doesn’t trust the concept of AVs. In a survey conducted by research firm J.D. Power and Associates and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), 15% of Americans do not believe there will ever be an AV on the market while 42% said they would never ride in an AV, as reported by Morris and Paul A. Eisenstein of CNBC, a business and real-time financial news site. Moreover, 56% of the respondents would demand 100% safety before riding an AV and another 60% said they would demand 100% safety before letting their loved one ride in a fully autonomous vehicle.
Is this fair? Non-profit independent think tank the Eno Center for Transportation commented, “Driver error is believed to be the main reason behind over 90% of all crashes.” It justified that replacing driver-controlled cars with AVs could make roads safer. While human-controlled driving is safe, it doesn’t mean it’s perfect. In the US, there is approximately 1 death for every 100 million miles driven in 2018, per the findings of independent, non-profit scientific and educational organization the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), a research organization. The HLDI also found that there were 33,654 fatal motor vehicle crashes, in which 26,560 deaths occurred.
How long before we can achieve 100% road safety? It will take years before this happens as AVs will make up just 10% of all vehicles being produced and sold, according to a survey by J.D. Power, wrote Phil LeBeau of CNBC.
In the near future, we will get to see a mix of fully autonomous, partially autonomous, and non-autonomous vehicles on the roads, which may cause problems. For example, cyclists or pedestrians on the road may miscalculate a vehicle’s capability to detect them. Thus, we need to ensure that AVs will be safe and reliable for public use. There have been cases of AVs killing or injuring people when “they did not act as predicted in certain traffic scenarios.” AVs will also need to be operated on certain roads where appropriate infrastructure is in place such as road markings and signs. These signs will enable AVs to “read” the road and know what to do in various situations.
Without these, AVs will either completely shut down, leaving its passengers stranded, hand control to the driver, or do something dangerous.
|15% of Americans do not believe there will ever be an AV on the market while 42% said they would never ride in an AV, as reported by Morris and Paul A. Eisenstein of CNBC / Photo by: PaylessImages via 123RF|
Shared Data May be the Key to a Safe Self-Driving Future
Various leading developers of AV technology have released their road-driving datasets to the public over the past year and a half, reported Nicola Croce, Mohammad Musa, and Tim Dawkins of the World Economic Forum, a non-profit organization. Before, very few data sets were available to academics due to the “resource intensity of resource collection.”
By releasing datasets, researchers in the academia can study and experiment on self-driving technology to jumpstart innovation. Data sharing and safety work in tandem because the latter is the main objective for society when it comes to AVs. Furthermore, this will also encourage the sharing of driving scenarios, which refer to a situation that occurs during driving, along with boundary conditions and environmental conditions.
Sharing driving scenarios should not be controversial at all because it is data that is not connected to the company’s intellectual property or core technology stack. Through data sharing, each company can train and validate their software on a richer and bigger dataset. Building a comprehensive pool of driving scenarios paves the way toward the development of reliable AV safety standards.
Regulators, policymakers, and authorities need to be aware of what is happening on the roads, basing their decisions on real, unified data collected by third-party organizations. Most importantly, a shared pool of data will help promote transparency, which can have an impact on people’s trust, acceptance, and perception of AVs.
Collaboration Is Key
Partnerships between private companies and other stakeholders play a more significant role in the AV industry. Engineers and industry leaders alike have acknowledged that solving autonomy may require going beyond the four corners of their offices. Considering the number of incidences surrounding AVs, greater attention on safety and shared data will be the key to achieving a safer mode of transportation.
Safety issues hinder the public from trusting AVs. Hence, stakeholders need to be transparent with their data to earn our trust before AVs become ubiquitous.
|Safety issues hinder the public from trusting AVs. Hence, stakeholders need to be transparent with their data to earn our trust before AVs become ubiquitous / Photo by: Daniil Peshkov via 123RF|