Google reveals autonomous vehicle faults

Published: January 13, 2016

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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Within the next five years, Canadians will be commuting and travelling in autonomous vehicles, with most predicting the first models will arrive before 2017 and full autonomy will be achieved by 2025. However, while the benefits of driver-less vehicles are myriad, there are still problems to address according to one of the leading names in the development of the technology.

Google has been a key name in the development of autonomous vehicle technology, the company said that its self-driving cars had detected failures in the technology 272 times between September 2014 and November 2015. It is worth taking into account that this means there were 272 incidents where drivers were needed to intervene with their vehicles to stop an accident.

Mountain View has been testing on San Francisco roads and revealed that aside from the 272 vehicle detected problems, its drivers took over control 69 other times as they thought some accident could occur.

Six major automotive names developing self-driving vehicles also released their data and across the board the companies reported 2,894 “disengagements” on California roads that were being used by the public. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is giving an announcement today in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show. Foxx recently spoke at CES in Las Vegas, discussing the need to push forward with autonomous vehicles, saying at the trade show:

"The wave of technology coming into this sector has to be responded to in a timeframe that allows the best of it to get into the marketplace as soon as possible," Foxx said at the time. "So we are working through our agency on issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, and what they have to have. … We have regulations that say a human foot has to be on a pedal. We're looking at how to adjust our regulatory system to let these technologies take root."

Consumer watchdogs have reacted with worry after Google’s revelation, saying the company’s call to have vehicles without steering wheels is premature. They also urged authorities to put public safety first and make sure autonomous vehicles are really ready to interact with other vehicles on public roads in the near future.

It has been widely predicted that self-driving vehicles will reduce the number of accidents and should result in consumers paying less for their auto insurance policies. Those scenarios are likely to happen, but first manufacturers and regulators need to convince the public that this new technology is safe to use.