DETROIT (AP) – A new study says that while autonomous vehicle technology is promising to reduce accidents, it may not be able to prevent all accidents caused by human error.
Auto safety experts say people cause about 94% of U.S. accidents, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety survey says computer-driven robocars will only stop about a third of them.
The group says that while autonomous vehicles will eventually identify hazards and respond faster than humans, and they won’t get distracted or get drunk, stopping the rest of the accidents will be much more difficult.
“We will still see some problems, even if autonomous vehicles react faster than people. They will not always be able to respond immediately, “said Jessica Cicchino, research vice president and co-author of the study.
The IIHS studied more than 5,000 detailed cause accidents collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distinguishing the causes caused by “perceive and perceive” errors such as driver distraction, poor visibility, or failure to recognize sailed until it was too late. Researchers also distinguished between accidents caused by human “disability”, including drivers with alcohol or drug disorders, falling asleep or drivers with medical problems. Self-driving vehicles can prevent these, the study found.
However, the robocars may not be able to prevent the rest, including prediction errors such as an incorrect estimate of how fast another vehicle is driving, planning errors such as driving too fast for road conditions and execution errors, including incorrect evasive maneuvers or other errors when driving vehicles.
For example, if a cyclist or other vehicle suddenly enters the path of an autonomous vehicle, it may not be able to stop fast enough or start in time, Cicchino said. “Autonomous vehicles should not only perfectly perceive the world around them, they should also respond to what is happening around them,” she said.
How many accidents are prevented depends very much on how autonomous vehicles are programmed, Cicchino said. More accidents would be stopped if the robo cars comply with all traffic laws, including speed limits. But if artificial intelligence allows them to drive and respond more like people, fewer accidents will be stopped, she said.
“Building self-driving cars that drive as well as people do is a huge challenge in itself,” said Alexandra Mueller, researcher at IIHS. “But they should actually be better at keeping the promises we’ve all heard.”
Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, a group with many self-driving vehicle companies as members, said on Thursday that the study falsely assumes that superior perception and lack of distraction are the only ways autonomous vehicles can drive better than humans.
For example, autonomous vehicles can be programmed to never break traffic laws, which accounts for 38% of accidents, according to the study. “The assumption that this behavior can be changed by passengers in a way that drastically reduces safety is inconsistent with what our members tell us about the culture they bring to AV development,” said a group including Ford, General Motors, Waymo, Lyft, Daimler, Volkswagen and others.
Research figures show that autonomous vehicles would prevent 72% or accidents, the group said, but the vehicles are so complex that the ultimate impact is just a gamble.
But Missy Cummings, a professor of robotics and human factors at Duke University who is familiar with the study, said preventing up to a third of man-made accidents gives too much credit to technology. Even vehicles with laser, radar and camera sensors don’t always perform flawlessly in all conditions, she said.
“Chances are that even if all three sensor systems come in handy, obstacles can be missed,” said Cummings. “No car company without a driver has been able to do this reliably. They know that too. ‘
Researchers and people in the autonomous vehicle sector never thought the technology would be able to prevent all the now man-made accidents, she said, calling that ‘the layman’s conventional wisdom that somehow this technology way will become a miracle cure that will prevent all death. ‘
IIHS investigators assessed the causes of accidents and decided which could be prevented, assuming all vehicles on the road were autonomous, Cicchino said. Even fewer accidents are prevented as self-driving vehicles are mixed with human-powered cars, she said.
Virginia-based IIHS is a non-profit research and education organization funded by auto insurance companies.
More than 60 companies have applied to test autonomous vehicles in California only, but they are yet to start a fully robotized large-scale ride service without human backup drivers.
Several companies, including Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise from Alphabet Inc., had pledged to do so in the past two years, but those plans were delayed as the industry pulled out after an Uber automated test vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian in March 2018 . Tempe, Arizona.
Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk promised last year that a fleet of autonomous robotaxis would start operating in 2020. But recently, he said he hopes to deploy the system in early 2021 with people monitoring it, subject to regulatory approval.
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