Recent tests on California’s public roads have shown that self-driving cars not ready to ditch human drivers yet. While on many occasions humans had to take control of the smart vehicles over safety concerns, automakers say that there weren’t any close-calls.
The news emerges from a recent report issued by the Golden State’s Department of Motor Vehicles, which has allowed seven companies to test their driverless cars on the state’s streets. From the document we learned that there were cases when a human driver had to take over either due to malfunctions or safety issues.
California officials also reported that not all automated vehicles performed wells during the on-road testing. Nevertheless, the best performing vehicles were those from Google. Other companies said that their vehicles required human intervention fairly often.
Nissan’s self-driving cars, for instance, were involved in 106 incidents which have prompted a human driver to grab the wheel. The car maker plans to bring into showrooms the first automated vehicles by the end of this decade. The company, however, couldn’t be reached for comment on the recent report.
Still, while Nissan’s vehicles only managed to travel 1,485 miles in the tests, Google’s autonomous cars pulled off 424,000 miles. Compared to the distance traveled, the tech company’s self-driving cars performed relatively well with only 341 instances when human intervention was required. But in nearly a dozen incidents its cars would have be involved in an accident, Google admitted.
The tech company recently said that the findings were ‘encouraging,’ but they also reveal that more work needs to be done before eliminating the human factor.
“We’re seeing lots of improvement. But it’s not quite ready yet,”
said Chris Urmson, manager of Google’s driverless car project.
Urmson noted that this is the reason why prototypes are still equipped with a steering wheel and pedals.
The report also shows that in Google’s case, most incidents were caused by technical malfunctions such as failing sensors and glitches in the onboard software. Though the company decline to go into more details, the malfunctions caused cars to not recognize the traffic lights or pedestrians. While several times human drivers had to take over because other traffic participants drove recklessly, most of instances incidents were caused by ‘unwanted maneuvers’ by the driverless vehicle.
The report also shows that human drivers took control of the cars within one second of the vehicle’s alert to take over.
Nevertheless, before starting on-road testing, Google pledged that its robot cars would no longer need a wheel and pedals since human drivers would represent a safety risk.
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