Has California Slammed the Brakes on Driverless Cars?
California proposes regulations for self-driven cars.
California: Home state of Google, the pioneering company in driverless cars, has just taken steps to make life more difficult — not just for Google, but for all of us who would like to see driverless cars hit the road as soon as possible.It’s not just whiz-bang technology companies like Google that are experimenting with driverless vehicles – traditional car companies are also jumping on the bandwagon.Southfield, Michigan: The self-driving car, that cutting-edge creation that’s supposed to lead to a world without accidents, is achieving the exact opposite right now: The vehicles have racked up a crash rate double that of those with human drivers.
Los Angeles – California regulators have unveiled a roadmap that would let consumers begin using self-driving cars, though manufacturers would have to prove the emerging technology is safe before a licensed driver could get chauffeured around town.SAN FRANCISCO: California motor vehicle department officials on Wednesday proposed self-driving car regulations that included mandating that a person could take the wheel if needed. The company’s Fusion Hybrid sedans have sensors that can detect and track objects in the vehicle’s view to provide a 360-degree view of the car’s surroundings – including street signs and other vehicles.
The approach that California’s Department of Motor Vehicles offered on Wednesday in precedent-setting draft regulations is cautious, though it does allow that Californians could be behind the wheel of a self-driving car by 2017. Obviously, this would be an enormous setback for Google’s programme, which is evolving toward smaller, lower-speed vehicles with none of these things.
Ford now has one of the largest automotive research centres in Silicon Valley, with more than 100 researchers, engineers and scientists on staff at its research and innovation centre in Palo Alto. This may sound like the right way to program a robot to drive a car, but good luck trying to merge onto a chaotic, jam-packed highway with traffic flying along well above the speed limit.
Google, which is pushing to get cars without a steering wheel or pedals to consumers, expressed “grave disappointment” with the rules, which the tech giant said would slow deployment of technology with huge life-saving potential. California rules-of-the-road for self-driving cars would have the potential to set precedent, and the proposed regulations were seen at sure to slow down the speed with which the technology would go mainstream. “The primary focus of the deployment regulations is the safety of autonomous vehicles and the safety of the public who will share the road with these vehicles,” DMV director Jean Shiomoto said in a release. Earlier this week, the DMV published draft regulations stating that truly driverless cars will be “initially excluded” from operation until their safety can be assessed.
The first is the way that most automakers have chosen: You innovate system by system, starting with a car that can handle some tasks on its own (like cruise control), and eventually arriving at a car that can handle all of them. And I would be one of those people.” Last year, Rajkumar offered test drives to members of Congress in his lab’s self-driving Cadillac SRX sport utility vehicle. If robots are driving us around, delivering our meals, baby-sitting the elderly, replacing doctors in operating rooms and fighting in wars, can we trust them to behave safely? “This is the most essential question of the whole matter,” said Andrew Platzer, who researches car, aircraft and robotic safety at Carnegie Mellon University. “It’s a very difficult question, how you can know for sure that the system itself is actually really safe.” The emerging presence of robotics is happening in a wide range of disparate fields, so these innovations are largely falling into a regulatory black hole, challenging the way our society is set up to evaluate safety.
There’s a big problem with this approach, however: the lag between when the car realises it can’t handle a problem, and when the human can grab the wheel. The US internet giant has held five face-to-face meetings with the Department for Transport (DfT) in the past two years, according to documents obtained by the Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act. They suggest that Google sees the UK as a key market for its driverless cars, due to the country’s forward-thinking approach to regulation, and its interest in how the vehicles should be insured. There are no comprehensive federal rules addressing the technology, and as the largest auto market in the US, rules in California are a landmark in the development of self-driving technology. Other traditional car manufacturers are also developing their own autonomous vehicles, including Mercedes , Audi , BMW and Volvo, and other big tech giants like Apple are also reportedly hoping to get it on the action.
People expect more of autonomous cars.” Turns out, though, their accident rates are twice as high as for regular cars, according to a study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Under California’s framework, manufacturers would receive a permit for three years, during which time consumers could lease the cars but manufacturers would be required to keep tabs on how safely they are driving and report that performance to the state.
Driverless vehicles have never been at fault, the study found: They’re usually hit from behind in slow-speed crashes by inattentive or aggressive humans unaccustomed to machine motorists that always follow the rules and proceed with caution. It’s similar to the thorny ethical issues driverless car creators are wrestling with over how to program them to make life-and-death decisions in an accident. He added: “California’s proposed rules are fantastic news for Texas.” Austin’s mayoral spokesman Jason Stanford said his city’s government already believes self-driving cars are “legal and safe” and is “thrilled to host innovative ideas like this.” California’s DMV has said it wanted regulations to protect public safety, but not be so onerous that they would stifle development of a technology that could prove safer than human drivers.
If you’re not used to making driving decisions, you’re going to be slower to make them in an emergency, which is when you most need to think quickly. After all, cars that can safely drive themselves under all conditions wouldn’t rely on drivers who may be drowsy, distracted, buzzed or unable to drive because of their age or a disability. Google cars have been in 17 minor crashes in 2 million miles (3.2 million kilometres) of testing and account for most of the reported accidents, according to the Michigan study.
The most recent reported incident was Nov. 2 in Mountain View, California, Google’s headquarters, when a self-driving Google Lexus SUV attempted to turn right on a red light. The DMV “did exactly what they should do, which is put the public safety first,” said John Simpson, privacy project director at Consumer Watchdog and frequent Google critic.
He didn’t issue a ticket — who would he give it to? — but he warned the two engineers on board about creating a hazard. “The right thing would have been for this car to pull over, let the traffic go and then pull back on the roadway,” said Sergeant Saul Jaeger, head of the police department’s traffic- enforcement unit. “I like it when people err on the side of caution. At the very least, we should want both of these kinds of systems running in parallel, to see which one pays off (and of course, there’s no reason that both approaches can’t deliver insights and techniques that help developers on the other track). Forcing Google to put wheels and brakes back into its cars means reintroducing the very problems of human error and folly that we’re trying to engineer away. Calo, the Washington professor, envisions a government group that specializes in robotics and advises agencies around the country that are struggling with related issues. There are so many rare situations, what experts call edge or corner cases. “It’s the question we’re all struggling with right now,” Eustice said. “It’s really hard to get test coverage on some of the functionality that we’re talking about.” Mike Wagner, a Carnegie Mellon robotics researcher, tests the software behind autonomous vehicles.
While a believer in the overall improvements autonomous technology will bring, he cautioned that such systems will be imperfect, like the humans who build them. “Developers are human beings that are being asked to build something extraordinary that’s never been built before,” Wagner said. “Everyone’s getting hacked.
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