There are a number of reasons that self-driving vehicles are a promising technology. With proper safety precautions in place, these vehicles could react more quickly to hazards in the road than human drivers. Plus, they aren’t susceptible to fatigue and other dangers like human drivers are.
These vehicles are still in early development, though. It’s not clear yet that they are ready to be on the roads without a driver. However, one self-driving truck company has taken recent steps toward putting autonomous trucks on the road.
The company in question is Plus, previously known as Plus.ai. It has recently filed a safety self-assessment report describing the goals it wants to meet before putting a fully autonomous truck on the road. Currently, Plus is getting ready to begin mass production in China of its Level 3 self-driving vehicles. Level 3 trucks can make certain decisions on their own, such as accelerating past another slow-moving vehicle, but they still require a driver. Level 4 vehicles are fully autonomous.
Voluntary Safety Reports Under Scrutiny
Plus has outlined two key metrics it wants to achieve before putting Level 4 trucks on the road. The first metric is that the truck needs to be reliable, specifically when it comes to the so-called “middle mile,” meaning it can go from a hub to the highway and back to another hub.
The second key metric concerns safety. The report states that before Plus puts Level 4 trucks on the road, the trucks need to be “safer than a human-driven truck.” The company acknowledged that “billions of real road miles” will be needed before these trucks can be statistically shown to be as safe or safer than human drivers.
With all these factors in mind, safety advocates are concerned about the value of a voluntary self-assessment before putting autonomous vehicles on the roads. The issue is that since these reports are made by the companies themselves, and not outside observers, the data may be inaccurate or distorted to suit the company’s interest. As one observer put it after looking at the report from Plus, these self-assessments “are more like marketing documents than a detailed engineering analysis.”
What Should Be Reported in the Safety Self-Assessment?
Safety is crucial when it comes to autonomous vehicles, particularly in light of a fatal crash in 2018 involving an autonomous Uber vehicle. In light of this crash and other concerns, safety advocates and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have asked companies to include the following in their self-assessments, among other items:
- System safety
- Operational design domain (the area where the trucks are expected to operate)
- Object and event detection and response capabilities
- Validation methods
- How the human-machine interface operates
- The vehicle’s cybersecurity systems
- How the data is recorded
- The relevant local, state, and federal laws
Need Legal Advice? Contact The Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian
Until self-driving trucks become a reality, humans will still be responsible for maneuvering large commercial motor vehicles. Even after this technology is launched, accidents are inevitable. No matter how the future of transportation evolves, the legal team at The Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian is here to help accident victims get their lives back on track after a crash. Call us or visit our contact page to schedule a free consultation.