US authorities say self-driving cars need better safety measurements
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US authorities say self-driving cars need better safety measurements

According to Derek Kan, the under secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, autonomous vehicle developers need to find some better metrics to show that their products are safe. Kan told listeners at a conference on Tuesday that the way these companies are currently trying to prove safety are insufficient. They largely hinge on the number of miles driven and the frequency of human intervention – but neither measurement is particularly telling.

Aptiv’s share price has declined by 1% over the last five days

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Source: Yahoo Finance

Players in the autonomous vehicle trend often use the number of miles a car has driven unaided, or the frequency of human intervention, as a selling point to the public. But Kan thinks these measurements suffer from obvious flaws. First, who’s to say that one mile is the same as another? Empty highways are one thing – crowded city centres are another. And whether or not an engineer takes control of a vehicle is down to human choice. Kan says measurements like these “don’t provide a very rich data set.”

Kan is far from the only American who has reservations about self-driving vehicles. Recent opinion polls have shown that a majority of U.S. residents are nervous about letting artificial intelligence drive them around. But Kan is hoping that the public – and the companies making this tech – will start to contribute meaningfully to the discussion about how autonomous vehicles could show it was road safe.

He summed up his department’s position with an honest plea, delivered this week to listeners in Washington: “we are now at that point where we’re saying ‘help us think through the right metrics.’” Given the potential for self-driving cars to change the world, answers will likely be forthcoming.

Disclosure
Dominion holds Aptiv and Alphabet – both of which are major players in the trend towards autonomous vehicles – in its Global Trends Managed Fund.


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