Are autonomous vehicles safe enough?

As autonomous vehicles start to become a reality in areas like Arizona and San Francisco, technology company IDTechEx is predicting rapid growth in the number of cities that will offer robotaxi services within the next few years. At the same time, those same cities have seen protests around the deployment of these vehicles.

In a news release, IDTechEx highlighted the question looming over the automotive industry, which is: are autonomous robotaxis safe enough? The company said it does not believe that self-driving vehicles are currently as safe as humans — not yet. Nor does it believe they are ready for widespread unsupervised deployment.

“Whether you look at miles per disengagement, miles per collision, or miles per fatality, humans still have a better track record than autonomous vehicles,” said IDTechEx in its update. “However, human safety has been fairly stagnant.”

The company said the rate at which humans crash has not changed much. Furthermore, most improvements in this area stem from crash mitigation technologies like automatic emergency braking systems and blind spot detection. However, IDTechEx also said that autonomous vehicle safety is improving “at somewhat of an exponential rate.”

Humans, they said, are unlikely to be able to mimic the speed of this improvement.

“The rate of improvement that autonomous technologies have shown demonstrates that there is the potential for them to far exceed human levels of safety in the future, leading us toward a world in which we stop questioning whether autonomous cars are ready and start questioning whether human drivers are safe enough,” said IDTechEx.

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