Robotaxis Face ‘Heightened Scrutiny’ While the Industry Plans Expansion

Robotaxis Face ‘Heightened Scrutiny’ While the Industry Plans Expansion (



from the car-talk dept.

Besides investigations into Cruise and Waymo, America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also announced it’s examining two rear-end collisions between motorbikes and Amazon’s steering wheel-free Zoox vehicles being tested in San Francisco, Seattle, and Las Vegas.

This means all three major self-driving vehicle companies “are facing federal investigations over potential flaws linked to dozens of crashes,” notes the Washington Post, calling it “a sign of heightened scrutiny as the fledging industry lays plans to expand nationwide.”
The industry is poised for growth: About 40 companies have permits to test autonomous vehicles in California alone. The companies have drawn billions of dollars in investment, and supporters say they could revolutionize how Americans travel… Dozens of companies are testing self-driving vehicles in at least 10 states, with some offering services to paying passengers, according to the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association. The deployments are concentrated in a handful of Western states, especially those with good weather and welcoming governors.

According to a Washington Post analysis of California data, the companies in test mode in San Francisco collectively report millions of miles on public roads every year, along with hundreds of mostly minor collisions. An industry association says autonomous vehicles have logged a total of 70 million miles, a figure that it compares with 293 trips to the moon and back. But it’s a tiny fraction of the almost 9 billion miles that Americans drive every day. The relatively small number of miles the vehicles have driven makes it difficult to draw broad conclusions about their safety.

Key quotes from the article:

  • “Together, the three investigations opened in the past year examine more than two dozen collisions potentially linked to defective technology. The bulk of the incidents were minor and did not result in any injuries…”
  • “But robotic cars are still very much in their infancy, and while the bulk of the collisions flagged by NHTSA are relatively minor, they call into question the companies’ boasts of being far safer than human drivers…”
  • “The era of unrealistic expectations and hype is over,” said Matthew Wansley, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law in New York who specializes in emerging automotive technologies. “These companies are under a microscope, and they should be. Private companies are doing an experiment on public roads.”
  • “Innocent people are on the roadways, and they’re not being protected as they need to be,” said Cathy Chase, the president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

I’m always looking for a new idea that will be more productive than its cost.
— David Rockefeller


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