Convincing people of their safety is the biggest challenge for driverless vehicles, expert tells UK MPs

The author told the Transport Commission that the problem of self-driving cars may be “insurmountable”

A panel of parliamentarians was told the government needs to accelerate the creation of legislation to govern the use of self-driving cars, but the biggest challenge is whether self-driving cars and buses are safe for the general public. persuading them to use it for

Siddartha Khastgir, Head of Verification and Validation of Connected and Self-Driving Vehicles at Warwick Manufacturing Group, told the parliamentary transport committee: Safety is required. “

“The government has come up with this concept that the minimum threshold is a prudent and competent human driver … but we don’t know how to translate that abstract concept into something that can be engineered to be implemented. added Khastgir.

he said: So whatever you come up with in terms of “this is saying it’s safe” is not safe if you don’t define this threshold correctly. “

Ed Houghton, head of research and service design at DG Cities, said they conducted an experiment with self-driving cars in Greenwich, London, and how safe cars need to be for people to feel safe. I asked

“The best reaction we had was that I have to be Lewis Hamilton to sit in that car. We need the quality of Formula 1 drivers and that’s the level of consumer expectations, they don’t have to be as good as what they’re experiencing now, to be able to trust this He says it must be the best experience he has ever had.

“There is evidence that people expect higher levels of safety whenever they are out of control,” said Simon Morgan, chairman of the Society of Road Engineers’ Traffic Signs Committee.

he said: Despite the fact that these modes of transport, especially trains and planes, are hundreds of times safer for every kilometer traveled. “

An automated delivery robot that operates in a gray zone

Lisa Johnson, UK director of public relations for Starship Technologies, which offers autonomous grocery-delivery robots, says an app-controlled robot that travels at three to four miles per hour is more than just a “novelty.” It is said that it became “

But Mr Johnson said he operates in a “gray area” when it comes to law.

“We’ve been operating since 2018, so this is a big gripe for us,” she added.

Epoch Times photo
A woman walks in front of her dog by a Starship delivery robot waiting for an order in Milton Keynes, England, July 23, 2020. (Darren Staples/Getty Images)

The committee heard that the government had launched a white paper in August 2022 (pdf), which has a vision that “By 2025, the UK will start rolling out self-driving cars”.

But Johnson said, “The frustration feels like it’s not happening at this point, even in 2025.”

“So the intentions and the dialogue that we have with the government is great. All we’re desperate for is follow-up legislation to back it up,” Johnson said.

The committee also heard from Peter Stephens, director of policy and external affairs for bus operator Stagecoach.

Stevens said he also plans for a world of self-driving buses, but said workers, known as “bus captains,” will still be on board, but will perform non-driving tasks, such as helping passengers get on and off the bus. rice field.

But Christian Wolmer, a transportation journalist and author of Driverless Cars: Roads To Nowhere, says he believes the technical challenges of self-driving cars may be “insurmountable.” .

He said humans can see “a huge number of details” and computers can see cars as blue boxes and humans as pink cylinders.

Wolmer insisted he was “not a Luddite,” but said of the driverless car, “the techs did more than chew it up.”

“Humans are actually good drivers”

He said he believed it would be nearly impossible to make a computer “recreate driving”.

Wolmar says: “It’s important to remember that this started as Nirvana, as a dream, by various American engineers as a complete replacement for the way cars operate.”

he said: When you send a self-driving car home, you are in a completely self-driving world. And it’s not going to happen now. They admitted it wouldn’t happen. “

Mr Wolmer said the government is spending £250m to encourage self-driving cars, but “it doesn’t really solve any particular problem”.

Wolmer said there have been many innovations over the years, including maglev trains and Elon Musk’s Hyperloop railroad. So many of the technical promises of transportation have not been fulfilled, and basically he’s moving much the same as he did in 1920. “