Over the past two years, we’ve been updating you on the developments, challenges, and misconceptions around autonomous vehicles on a regular basis. In today’s blog, we’re looking at the misconceptions that pervade the concept of driverless vehicles.
In his article “Top Misconceptions of Autonomous Cars and Self-Driving Vehicles,” Author Alexander Hars with Inventivio GmbH mentions seven areas that are both interesting, definitive, and thought provoking. Some of Hars’ ideas follow. For additional information or to see the full article, click here.
Misconceptions About Developing Driverless Vehicles
Driver assistance systems will evolve gradually into fully autonomous cars.
This is an extremely attractive misconception that you will find repeated over and over. All of the driver assistance systems which are in use today operate only for short times and in extremely limited settings. This changes drastically once the car drives itself continuously for minutes or hours. We can only entrust the driving task to a driver assistance system when we are sure that this system can handle all situations which arise suddenly and require immediate reaction.
The first models of fully autonomous cars will be targeted to the consumer and will be available for purchase.
The first fully autonomous vehicles are much more likely to appear within fleets of autonomous taxis or buses that operate in select urban regions. It may then take several more years until the first autonomous vehicles become available for purchase.
It will take decades until most of the vehicles on the road are capable of autonomous driving.
Increased safety is not the only key benefit of autonomous vehicles: Self-driving cars unleash the driver from the steering wheel and thereby increase available time – a precious and scarce resource. Fully autonomous technology dramatically increases the return on investment and will therefore lead to rapid adoption. If an average driver spends about 1 hour per day behind the wheel this translates to 15 full days of additional time gained each year!
Self-driving care are controlled by classical computer algorithms.
We should avoid conceptualizing self-driving vehicles as machines which are controlled by a detailed, exactly specified and in principle comprehensible software program. Instead we should conceptualize their behavior as being the result of a long and varied program of learning. The capability of such cars can be analyzed through simulation and testing but not just by examining its source code.
Public demonstrations of self-driving cars provide an indication of their capabilities.
It is impossible to judge the maturity of a self-driving car by observing public demonstrations. Difficult situations don’t occur that frequently and therefore these demonstrations can only confirm that a prototype has reached quite a basic level of capability. The enormous difference in maturity between, for example, Google’s prototypes – the current leader in this technology with nearly two million kilometers of testing in autonomous mode and more than 10.000km of testing being added every week! – and the prototypes of all other developers of autonomous car technology can not be appreciated by observing public demonstrations.
Anybody concerned with the safety of self-driving cars needs to consider the dual sided nature of the problem. Not only do we need to avoid self-driving cars being released to the public too early. Because the alternative (human driving) is not safe at all, there is a real risk to releasing self-driving cars too late to the public which will also lead to many traffic deaths that could have been avoided. Almost none of the regulators and safety advocates acknowledge this admittedly very difficult aspect of the regulatory decision problem at all.
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