General Motors is taking all its self-driving cars off the road. They have so many accidents that it is no longer responsible to send them on the road. Various initiatives by other companies regarding self-driving taxis have also failed. However, there is also hope. For example, GM states that it plans to regain consumer confidence, including a thorough safety investigation.
What appears to be a particular problem with self-driving cars are sudden situations. For example, they do not understand that they have to react differently when, for example, an ambulance arrives. It could have far-reaching consequences, in fact, it already has: self-driving taxis clogged things in San Francisco to such an extent that an ambulance patient died.
We don’t see it yet in the Netherlands, but in San Francisco there are many tests underway with self-driving cars and taxis. And that is not on a small scale. Previously, 950 vehicles have been taken off the road when a pedestrian was struck. In America they are much more relaxed about self-driving cars: they are even allowed to drive on the road without a steering wheel. That is unthinkable in the Netherlands, but our roads (especially in cities) are a lot tighter and more complex due to cyclists and mopeds, for example.
But even in the United States it is not said that the flexible rules are actually such a good idea. For example, the CEO of Oxa (an autonomous car company) recently said that he thinks we are still decades away from fully self-driving. According to him, this is more due to the training: so much data is needed for training, it is almost impossible to train a car properly. He also believes that those cars must know the environment very well and that there must therefore be a lot of all-round knowledge, such as what to do with ambulances?
But again, there is hope. After all, there are different degrees of what a self-driving car may be. Level 5, truly fully self-driving, is indeed still a long way off, but there are still many levels in between to try out. The only question is whether cars are really ready to do that in real life, because things do happen where real lives are at stake. Of course, this is the same case with cars with people behind the wheel, where fatal accidents cannot be prevented either. However, as GM has already shown, an accident involving a self-driving car has a significantly greater impact on the entire world. And something will first have to be done about the image before it can really excel technically.