Listen to this article Self Driving Cars Must Exceed Human Driver’s 99.999819% Crash-Free Record
The development of self-driving cars is one of the most exciting and rapidly-evolving fields in modern technology. However, as companies race to create fully autonomous vehicles, one of the key questions that arises is how safe is safe enough? Although human drivers still experience crashes on a daily basis, it is generally accepted that a system with fewer crashes is superior to an average driver who is distracted by their phone, even if it is not perfect. But just how good does an autonomous car need to be to beat the safety record of human drivers?
The Challenge for Autonomous Vehicles
The answer is that it is a lot more challenging than you might think. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), American human drivers avoid crashes 99.999819% of the time on average, which means that for autonomous vehicles to surpass this safety record, they will have to achieve nearly six nines of reliability. This means that a self-driving car cannot be 99 percent perfect or even 99.9 percent safe. Instead, it must aim for a crash-free rate of 99.9982 percent or higher.
A recent tweet from Matt Farah inspired the Jalopnik staff to investigate this issue further. While a 99.9% reliable system may seem almost flawless, in reality, a 0.1% error rate is significant. For autonomous vehicles to be considered safer than human drivers, they must avoid crashes more than 99.9982% of the time.
The Importance of Reliability
One of the reasons why the reliability of autonomous vehicles is so important is because even small differences in crash rates can have a significant impact on safety. For instance, if a person drives the average distance traveled by American drivers, which is roughly 14,263 miles per year, and has a 99.9% rate of driving without a crash, they will still encounter a crash every 14.3 miles per year. However, at a crash-free rate of 99.99982%, they would only experience a crash every 0.03 miles per year. As you can see, those additional decimal points can make a huge difference in terms of safety.
Challenges in Achieving Human Safety Levels
Unfortunately, it is challenging to determine if experimental autonomous vehicles are approaching human safety levels. While the NHTSA requires manufacturers testing “Advanced Driving Systems” to report all crashes to the administration, these reports only include the crashes and not the miles driven without a crash. As a result, it is safe to assume that self-driving cars still have a long way to go to surpass human drivers in terms of safety.
In conclusion, the development of self-driving cars is an exciting area of technology, but it is clear that autonomous vehicles must achieve a near-perfect reliability rate to surpass the safety record of human drivers. Even small differences in crash rates can have a significant impact on safety, which is why achieving six nines of reliability is such a significant challenge. While experimental autonomous vehicles may not be there yet, it is clear that they are making progress towards achieving this goal, which will make roads safer for everyone.
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