It’s difficult to teach a machine to react correctly when faced with new or unpredictable situations we frequently encounter while driving. Heaps of engineering effort has gone into cracking this problem. But how do we determine when a vehicle is safe enough?
In order to be 95% certain that autonomous vehicles match the safety of human drivers, the cars would need to log 275 million failure-free autonomous miles, according to a report from Rand Corp. And to prove that autonomous vehicles are even just 10% or 20% safer than humans, the requirement jumps to billions of miles. Since 2009, autonomous tech company Waymo’s vehicles have driven a little more than 20 million miles. Either manufacturers must spend potentially decades testing small fleets or the public will wind up taking part in the process of testing them. The latter is only really acceptable if infrastructure is in place to ensure the safety of drivers and pedestrians.