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More about the dangers of accidents involving self-driving, autonomous vehicles.

Photograph: Inside of a car showing empty front seat and steering wheel.

Here’s another report from California about how badly self-driving, “autonomous” vehicles operate, recently described by the online tech newspaper The Register:

“Self-driving cars still suck.  On the subject of self-driving cars, a recent report from the California’s Department of Motor Vehicles reveals that autonomous vehicles still make simple mistakes.

The DMV asked eight companies: Baidu, Delphi Automotive/APTIV PC, Drive.ai, GM Cruise, Nissan, Telenav, Waymo and Zoox to identify common failures and how often human drivers had to take over during mishaps.

The rate of disengagements vary, and not every company disclosed this information.  Waymo had the least disengagements per miles driven.

Interestingly, the companies had similar problems. Many like Nissan, Drive.ai and Telenav experienced ‘localization errors,’ where the GPS or maps failed and the vehicle was unable to really work out its position in relation to its environment, so it sometimes braked suddenly or swerved in and out of lanes.

A few had sensor errors.  Cruise said some of the data incoming to the car’s many sensors did not quite match, giving conflicting information and causing the car to behave erratically. Errors included failing to give way to another vehicle trying to enter a lane or not braking hard enough for a stop sign.

More worryingly, some could not recognize vital objects like traffic lights and signs.  Waymo cars have been known to ignore a ‘no right turn sign on red signal.’  Baidu and Delphi Automotive/APTIV also reports similar issues.  Zoox had a range of planning and hardware discrepancies that led to poor driving and localization issues.”

Here is the complete California “Autonomous Vehicle Disengagement Reports 2017” website referred to in The Register article:

https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/vr/autonomous/av_supplemental_2017

And yet, as previously reported in this blog, as of April 2018, California adopted a new regulation allowing the developers of self-driving vehicles permission to eliminate human safety drivers while testing their vehicles live on public streets and highways.

How bad are the current problems with self-driving cars?

Bad.  When Tesla CEO Elon Musk was on a recent conference call with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) Chairman Robert Sumwalt, and he was questioned about the company’s aggressive stance regarding the safety of Tesla vehicles operating on “Autopilot” in the midst of an NTSB investigation regarding a Tesla Autopilot crash, Musk hung up the phone on Sumwalt.  As far as can be determined, no punishment occurred to Musk or Tesla as a result.

Imagine if you or I tried that same tactic. 

Bloomberg News reported the Elon Musk story at:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-04/musk-hung-up-on-ntsb-chief-in-testy-april-call-about-tesla-probe

Self-driving autonomous vehicle testing: your state and Federal governments working hand-in-hand with major corporations to make men, women and children less safe and in danger on public streets, sidewalks and highways.

James Snyder