A new industry report by Cambridge-based independent market research provider, IDTechEx, claims that “Autonomous vehicles will soon be safer than humans, some already are”.
Released on 12 September 2023, the “Autonomous Cars, Robotaxis & Sensors 2024-2044” report was authored by Dr James Jeffs, Senior Technology Analyst at IDTechEx.
Self-driving in California
Predicting rapid growth in the number of cities that will offer robotaxi services in the next few years, it highlights the issue of ‘coning’ in San Francisco – where protestors attempt to render self-driving cars inoperable by placing a traffic cone on the bonnet.
There are obvious parallels with the recent attacks on Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) cameras in London.
The most interesting element of the research, however, is the key metric that IDTechEx uses to monitor autonomous vehicle safety: miles per disengagement.
It then analyses the miles per disengagement, measuring how frequently the autonomous vehicle safety driver needs to intervene with the autonomous system.
Safety driver interventions
In 2022, Cruise led when it came to disengagement. During its 863,000 miles of testing, safety drivers only needed to intervene nine times. What’s more, IDTechEx concluded that four of these nine disengagements were caused by the poor performance of other nearby drivers.
The study then applies a slightly spurious method – assuming that each disengagement would lead to a collision… and comparing this to the average US human driver performance of approx. 200,000 miles between collisions – in order to justify the ‘some AVs are already better than humans’ claim.
It isn’t an exact science, but the important point stands. Self-driving cars are getting safer year-on-year.