Autonomous vehicle vs. human. Who shall win the battle?
It has already been a decade of controversies around self-driving vehicles and their possibilities and hidden dangers. It seems like currently there are more questions than answers concerning multiple aspects around the issue. In this article Rydar Team gives you the insight of state-of-the-art autonomous car situation and whether rideshare drivers can become redundant.
Is there any autonomy subdivision among self-driving cars?
There are various self-driving cars with different levels of human driver replacement possibility. There are 6 of them, to be exact. According to the accepted classification, cars range from Level 0 when a car is not automated (besides forward collision warning systems and lane departure warning systems) to Level 5. A car belonging to Level 5 has a possibility to totally replace a driver under inclement weather conditions making a ride safe and comfortable. Unfortunately, nowadays no car can qualify for Level 5.
Tesla’s autopilot system falls under Level 2 that presupposes the necessity of driver’s corrections, however a driver is no longer in control of speed, steering and parking. Still a driver shall not be distracted from the driving process by any means.
Under Level 3 the system is in complete control of speed, steering, and monitoring the environment under specific conditions. A driver must be ready to take action any time, otherwise a ride may end up in a crash. That said, a driver has the opportunity to freely respond to messages, however such car is not a place for watching a show or dozing off. It seems to be one of the reasons why Uber’s Volvo XC90 SUV killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona this year.
Level 4 car, in its turn, totally controls a ride which makes driver’s presence redundant, but still such system works only in clement weather. For instance, Waymo self-driving car is currently the closest one to qualify for a Level 4 autonomous vehicle.
We have recently covered Uber autonomous vehicles back on the road again under new testing conditions and Lyft’s new Senior Director of Autonomous Safety and Compliance that is supposed to propel its self-driving car testing to the next level. Perhaps, we will be able to see and estimate what Uber and Lyft autonomous vehicles have in store for us soon as they are heading for the upcoming IPO.
Are fatalities involving self-driving cars really caused by the autonomous car system?
One can barely deny that self-driving cars have a great potential in terms of solving aggravating congestion, air and noise pollution situation. But there have always been certain safety concerns. Surprisingly, some investigations say that autonomous car systems are far safer than human driver road behavior. Can that be true? Let’s take a closer look.
There are 4 major cases involving self-driving vehicles in course of which people got killed.
The first one involving Tesla Model S took place in January 2016 in China. Tesla crashed into a cleaning vehicle killing a 23-year-old driver who had not attempted to stop the car.
The second one involving Tesla Model S took place in May 2016 in Florida. Tesla crashed into a white semi-truck killing a 40-year-old driver. “Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied,” stated Tesla.
The third one involving Uber’s Volvo XC90 SUV took place in March 2018 in Arizona. Uber ran over a 49-year-old pedestrian crossing the road in an inappropriate place. The tester of the Volvo was watching a TV show at that moment and failed to stop the car.
The fourth one involving Tesla Model X took place in March 2018 in California several days after an Uber fatal crash. A 38-year-old driver got killed having received “several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive, and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision”.
The above mentioned crashes resulted from the combination of human and autonomous vehicle errors (in these cases, possibly, semi-autonomous). One cannot deny that not paying attention to the road when one is supposed to is a great deal in situations of the kind which leads to no possibility to correctly assess contribution of a human and that of a vehicle to such a grievous outcome.
According to Axios, however, human error is the most frequent cause of California-based road accidents involving autonomous vehicles.
Can autonomous car system fully substitute a human driver?
The majority of rideshare drivers do not take autonomous vehicles seriously since one of the main aspects of the ridesharing business is still interaction between a driver and a passenger. They are asking reasonable questions, for instance:
How is it possible for an autonomous vehicle to find a passenger in an extremely busy street of a cosmopolitan city?
What if there is no designated parking place, and a car becomes a source of a traffic jam while waiting for a rider?
How is it possible to help a rider handle heavy luggage or child/ children?
How is it possible to help a disabled person get into/ out of a car?
What if a passenger has any requests or simply feels bad?
What should a passenger do if a car breaks down in the middle of a busy street?
How to timely control and maintain broken cars and avoid traffic accidents resulting from unattended instant breakage?
How is it possible to clean up after a ride and file a clean-up reimbursement complaint?
How is it possible to handle unlawful actions taking place in a car?
How to record damage inflicted by a rider?
All of that can theoretically be solved by technological advance, both hardware and software. It takes time, however the possibility of driver substitution remains a topical question. Not to mention that drivers are the major expenditure item for all rideshare services. All of that means that drivers substitution by autonomous car system can become a contingency measure for providers in future.
We at Rydar leave it to our users to decide what they really think of self-driving cars and whether such cars may rob people of work. We would be happy to know your point of view in the comments section.