Self-Driving Car Industry Needs Better Metrics, DOT Official Says

Autonomous vehicle manufacturers need a better yardstick to show that their products are safe, said Derek Kan, under secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The metrics that are most widely used by self-driving car developers — miles driven and the frequency of human intervention — alone are insufficient to demonstrate the safety of an autonomous automobile, Kan said at a conference in Washington on Tuesday.

Kan’s comments strike at a key aspect of the driverless car industry’s competition for public perception, where companies such as General Motors Co. and Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo unit tout millions of test miles traveled under computer control and the number of times a test engineer had to intervene to measure the vehicles’ self-driving progress.

Both of those metrics have flaws, Kan said. For one, all miles aren’t created equal.