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Self-driving Cars Real-World Safety Tested And Found Okay

The crash rate is a bit higher but also a bit less severe than for human-driven cars

1 min read
Self-driving Cars Real-World Safety Tested And Found Okay
Photo: AP Images

Remember the kerfuffle over crash rates of Google cars? We told you then not to take it too seriously, and two academics now second the motion.

Although their study finds that the accident rate of robocars from Google and two other companies is a bit worse than that for human-driven cars, they add that not a single accident has been blamed on a robocar—and those that did occur tended to be less severe than those of conventional cars. Nobody was killed. 

Authors Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute offer a lot of caveats upfront. The study covered 50 cars that logged a mere 2 million kilometers in tests run by three of the 10 companies working on robocars. And the bulk of the data came from Google, with the rest drawn from Audi and Delphi, the auto supplier.

Finally, most of the trips took place in California, where road conditions are easier than in the snowier states—and where accident rates are lower than in the United States as a whole. Even when Google cars ventured elsewhere, they mainly stayed in southerly parts—notably Austin, Texas.  

The robocars never had front-end collisions, but they were 50 percent more likely than conventional cars to get rear-ended. This makes sense: a robotic car is particularly good at watching where it goes, and the carbon-based driver in the following car is not.

But the sample was too small to be sure. Front-end collisions account for only 4 percent of all accidents, and four percent of 11 accidents rounds to zero.

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Chinese Joint Venture Will Begin Mass-Producing an Autonomous Electric Car

With the Robo-01, Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely aim for a fully self-driving car

4 min read
A black car sits against a white backdrop decorated with Chinese writing. The car’s doors are open, like a butterfly’s wings. Two charging stations are on the car’s left; two men stand on the right.

The Robo-01 autonomous electric car shows off its butterfly doors at a reveal to the media in Beijing, in June 2022.

Tingshu Wang/Reuters/Alamy

In October, a startup called Jidu Automotive, backed by Chinese AI giant Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely, officially released an autonomous electric car, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition. In 2023, the car will go on sale.

At roughly US $55,000, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition is a limited edition, cobranded with China’s Lunar Exploration Project. It has two lidars, a 5-millimeter-range radar, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 12 high-definition cameras. It is the first vehicle to offer on-board, AI-assisted voice recognition, with voice response speeds within 700 milliseconds, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8295 chip.

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