Claims that self-driving cars could avoid 90% of road deaths by eliminating human error are untested, says a new report by the International Transport Forum.
In fact, shared responsibility between robot and human drivers can in fact lead to more complex driving decisions, says the report Safer Roads with Autonomous Vehicles?, which was initiated and supported by the Corporate Partnership Board of the International Transport Forum
The unintended consequences might make driving less safe, not more. In situations where humans take over control from robots, more crashes might occur among 'average' drivers who normally do not take risks.
To counter this, the report recommends designing automated vehicles so that safety-critical systems are functionally independent and cannot fail in case of connectivity issues.
The report says this makes it urgent that a Safe System approach to road transport is developed.
This organises all elements of road traffic in a way that when one safety mechanism fails, another steps in to prevent a crash, or at least serious injury. Applying this approach to automated driving means the traffic system will account for machine errors.
The report cautions against using safety performance to market competing automated vehicles.
It adds: “The relative safety level of vehicles … should not be a competition issue. The regulatory framework should ensure maximum achievable road safety, guaranteed by industry, as a precondition of allowing these vehicles … to operate."
Other recommendations include:
- Require automated vehicles to report safety-relevant data.
- Develop and use a staged testing regime for automated vehicles.
- Establish comprehensive cybersecurity principles for automated driving.
- Provide clear and targeted messaging of vehicle capabilities.