In assessing who’s ahead in the race to first commercially deploy AVs, companies, pundits and media have been using the number of hours each company spent on robocar testing on public roads as the yardstick.
This might be the wrong criterion. Phil Koopman, safety expert and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, stressed that to deploy AVs, the industry must “get past the notion that road testing is enough to ensure safety.”
The industry today is “still trying to get vehicles to work properly on an everyday basis,” Koopman observed. This hardly ensures the safety of AVs. “No reasonable amount of road testing will address the gap between ‘seems to work pretty well’ and ‘safe,’” he stressed. “True safety isn’t just about the everyday stuff — it is also about handling edge cases, component failures, and other rare but critical events.”