California’s caveat requiring self-driving tech companies to report on disengagement rates — the occasions wherein a safety driver is forced to take control of the vehicle during public testing — has become the de facto statistic for measuring industry progress and competitiveness. Flawed as this metric may be, the alternative is to have no statistical frame of reference at all. Surely, something is better than nothing… right?
No, not quite right. Optimizing an error mitigation metric in such a dynamic and vague environment as “public roads” is a recipe for statistical success at the expense of a viable product. Here are some of the tactics companies could pursue, intentionally or otherwise, to build a worse autonomous car with a better disengagement rate.