Autonomous Vehicles Making Small Steps Forward

google carIt has been years since Google (and others) began working on technology for a self-driving vehicle. And while the count is up to 7 companies with autonomous vehicles in development (and currently testing on roads in California) there is still more work to be done.

On the plus side, the latest report from Google (and the California Department of Motor Vehicles) found that, collectively, these vehicles covered 523,958 miles these vehicles covered between September of 2014 and December of 2015, 424,331 were covered by Google.
On the minus side, though, Google’s autonomous vehicle technology defaulted to the human operator 272 times. Perhaps a plus here, though, is that the test driver only felt the need to intervene 69 times.

Or, as Google calls them: “disengagements.”

In terms of these experiments, “disengagements” are defined as deactivation of the autonomous technology “when a failure of the autonomous technology is detected,” or “when the safe operation of the vehicle requires that the autonomous vehicle test driver disengage the autonomous mode and take immediate manual control of the vehicle.”

Of course, there is no way to determine—at least, for now—how many total miles were affected; or what percentage of drives were affected by these interventions (“disengagements”). For now, though, the report simply details that either there is something faulty in the technology or that the technology is not complete enough to warrant full-scale production in a line of vehicles to hit the public market.
In its testing report, then, Google said, “Safety is our highest priority. Test drivers are trained to take manual control in a multitude of situation, not only when safe operation requires that they do so.”

Again, there are 7 companies currently in the process of testing, but 11 companies in total have been approved to do so. Along with Google and Tesla Motors (as you probably know), the others are: BMW, Cruise Automation, Nissan, Bosch, Delphi Automotive, Honda, Mercedes Benz, Ford, and Volkswagen Group of America.

In light of the report, Consumer Watchdog privacy project director John Simpson comments, “Google should also make public any video it has of the disengagement incidents, as well as any technical data it collected so we can fully understand what went wrong as it uses our public roads as its private laboratory.”


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