Would you travel in an automated vehicle?

Autonomous automated vehicle

The National Transport Commission is asking whether motorists would travel in an automated vehicle in its latest promotional video. The question to riders should be whether you feel safe riding on a road with automated vehicles around you as there is still concern about the ability for the technology to identify motorcycles on the road.

Here’s their leading video:

NTC boss Paul Ritter admits there are important issues about safety, but says “evidence suggests that automated vehicle technology has the potential to improve safety”.

However, a recent Dutch study found that the sensor technology currently being tested by autonomous vehicles still cannot see motorcycles, scooters and bicycles.

Over the past few years, there have been several instances of crashes involving autonomous vehicles, including a Tesla Model S rear-ending and seriously injuring a female rider’s bike in Norway in 2015 and a Chevy Volt knocking a lane-filtering rider off his bike in San Francisco last year.

This video seems to show that a rider scan be seen by a Tesla “Autopilot” autonomous drive function.

However, the Netherlands Vehicle Authority study of the Norway incident involving the Tesla has found that even though cars equipped with adaptive cruise control (ACC) systems can detect motorcycles, riders at the edges of the lane could disappear from the car’s sensors.

It found that motorcycles only needed to stray about a metre from the centre of the lane to be missed.

And that is usually where most riders would position their bike in a 4m-wide American lane.

Automated vehicle safety

Autonomous automated vehicle
An automated Tesla follows a motorcycle

Meanwhile the NTC boss says they are addressing safety and legal issues “in collaboration with all levels of government to create an end-to-end regulatory system for automated vehicles”.

The NTC will soon release a regulation impact statement for public consultation on a

safety assurance regime which aims to ensure that vehicles at all levels of automation are safe as

they come to market.

It will be interesting to see if motorcycles are mentioned.

The NTC will also look at how existing driving laws should be amended to allow for automated vehicles, how motor vehicle injury insurance schemes could be affected and how government will access and use the data generated by these vehicles.

“Manufacturers are progressively introducing automated features, such as braking, acceleration and steering,” he says.

“They still envisage a human driver taking control of the vehicle at some point in the journey or if something goes wrong.

“We aim to have an end-to-end regulatory system in place so that all levels of automated vehicles can operate safely and legally on our roads from 2020.

“Our focus is on ensuring the regulatory system remains flexible enough to accommodate evolving technologies as they come to market while always prioritising public safety.”

More information on the NTC’s automated vehicle work can be found on the NTC website.

6 Comments

  1. I don’t think they will become normal. There will always be software glitches, things not envisaged in the programming, and other ongoing problems that never get a mention. Like what if the sensors are dirty? What if a sensor is broken or intermittent? I agree somewhat with B that cars should be less automated and also that the driver must carry a current licence before the car will even start. Police should be able to enter a rego number into a device, point it at the car and cause its engine to stop, no more chases needed.
    People using mobile phones should have the phone smashed on the spot as well as the usual fines and points.

  2. Mister T is correct.

    I don’t know if this is an urban myth but I have heard over the years that motorcycle fatalities increased somewhat after compulsory helmet laws were introduced into Australia in 1972. Meaningful statistics on motorcycle deaths have only been kept since 1998, but after 1972, the number of road fatalities increased and didn’t drop below the 1972 levels till 1979. It would be reasonable to assume that the representation of motorcyclist in the stats would follow similar, if not a rising trend.

    My point? Maybe riders felt a bit safer when they were forced to wear helmets (a secondary measure), as helmets were supposed to save lives, and I’m sure they did, but did the compulsory wearing of them actually change riders behaviour on the road? I’m sure that with technology based primary safety initiatives such as ABS, stability control etc have had a downward force on the stats, but I also wonder if have safer vehicles gives people a greater sense of safety that might change their behaviour?

    So if any of that has any correlation with reality, what will the effect of more autonomous vehicles have an behaviour? I suspect it won’t make better drivers or riders, but worse ones. One interesting situation on the box the other day was about a Tesla driver in the US who was killed when his Tesla him an unbuffered lane divider. Tesla dictate that the drive must maintain control of the vehicle at all times, but they also say that data shows that the driver last touched the wheel 6 seconds prior to impact.

    Nah, I know that autonomous vehicles rely on many technologies, but I’d prefer to not be put at risk by some computer programmer making an assumption/mistake/loop in their code that could result in an autonomous vehicle killing anyone in my family.

    Also, I was interested to watch a doco on autonomous trucks and how they can be programmed to safely move with traffic by following the lead truck. Great stuff, until they get to the bit about each truck have a driver on board just in case! Sounds a bit like Tesla telling drivers to use all these great aids, but always maintain control yourself. As if when it comes to the general public. We’re still trying to work out how to stop idiots on the roads to stop using their phones and killing themselves and other road users.

    Any safety device need to work with the person controlling the vehicle, not give them an excuse to clock off. Maybe even worse still, it will give even more people as excuse as to how they killed someone; the car did it not me! Thats all we need in this day and age when few of us actually accept personal responsibility for our actions.

  3. Yes I agree Mister T.
    I also would like to see automatic transmissions banned. Every week you hear about someone being accidently run over when the driver was in the wrong directional gear. Cars are so powerful now this happens in the blink of an eye. This is impossible to do in a manual. If you can’t drive a manual maybe you should not be driving.

  4. No, I wouldn’t feel particularly safe with many autonomous vehicles around nor riding around in one either, particularly in version 1 or 2 examples. Mind you, there’s plenty of individuals we are forced to share roads with now that make me feel the same – they aren’t in control of their vehicles either.

    If someone doesn’t want to drive but still must go door-to-door, we have had taxis for years. Yes, I know… taxis have become a unpleasant experience. There’s so much endeavour and hot air apparently going to the autonomous vehicle thing. It’s an indictment on how the stupid and ignorant people now become when heading out their driveway and poor function of the Nation’s transportation systems.

    ‘And an interesting afterthought in the video about Government data collection and usage [read ‘tracking’]. Think about it.

  5. Fully AI vehicles still have a long way to go.
    What standards will there be for “safety”? How do you even set a standard for safety? There will always be unforseen circumstances.
    Then come the legal aspects. The tech is easy in comparison. If two AI cars collide, who’s fault is it? The software company? The hardware supplier? The systems integrator? Russian hackers?
    Perhaps every AI car should have a sign on the dash that says “All care taken, no responsibility accepted”.

    Getting past semi-AI tech where a driver is still required to pay attention and take over if necessary is a major hurdle.
    It is already difficult enough to expect drivers in non-automated cars to pay attention to the task of driving without being consumed by smartphone addiction or some other in-car distraction.
    Recent innovations such lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and autonomous emrgency braking all seem to be designed to encourage drivers to piss about with their phones because their car will look after them.
    Any variety of AI that could feasibly require human intervention is destined to fail bacause of the human element. The recent Uber test car crash in Arizona is evidence of the complacency that will inevitably creep in.
    For a human to take over control and perform some sort of effective correction in an emergency situation, that human needs to be fully aware of the situation as if he or she had actually been driving. So, in practice, you would have to be sitting in the driver’s seat expecting the technology to fail. How many drivers would be capable of that sustained concentration? Apparently not a particular Uber test car driver actually paid to do just that.
    Then there is the delay involved in perceiving that failure. How long do you wait for the tech to kick in before you decide that it won’t. By then it may be too late to properly avoid an incident.

    One of the greatest potential contributors to defensive driving are being replaced through recall campaigns around the world. Those dubious Takata air bags that could take your face off when triggered are a great incentive not to be involved in a collision. Don’t recall them, publicise them instead.
    Who needs lidar, radar, sonar and loads of processing power when all you need to make people concentrate on driving is an explosive device in the middle of the steering wheel which may or may not kill you in a collision.

    1. Excellent response Mister_T.
      I firmly believe making vehicles difficult to drive, instead of easier or semi-autonomous, and dumping all the dash-gadgets would force humans to DRIVE, instead of blundering all over the place.

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