It has long been obvious to me that testing prototypes of vehicles should be done at automotive proving grounds, not on public roads. Now, a self-driving vehicle being tested on a public road has killed a pedestrian.
Still, carmakers have been encouraged to continue to use public streets and thoroughfares to try out unproven vehicles. Yet that is what the car companies established proving grounds for decades ago.
We still haven’t figured out what safety standards these autonomous vehicles should adhere to, and yet there are hundreds of them running around -- some without a test driver to take over should something go wrong.
No company will want to have the exposure to lawsuits that will come with these crashes.
Autonomous vehicles may be the best thing that was ever invented, but until they are proved trustworthy in all sorts of conditions, including fog, snow and rain, we must keep them off public streets.
If the auto companies and suppliers continue to use our roads for testing, there will be more crashes and deaths and injuries. That is unacceptable. There are many suitable proving grounds around the world that would allow for safe testing of these vehicles.
For some reason, these companies are rushing headlong into an arena in which they simply have no experience. Most consumers still have not expressed a desire to own an autonomous vehicle. While all this testing is going on, the marketing teams not only must determine if there is a demand, but at what price.
Meanwhile, if companies are willing to be exposed to testing unproven vehicles on public roads, they should be willing to install proven advanced driver-assistance technology on their existing vehicles now.
There is no reason why all companies that have developed automatic braking, for example, should not put these devices on cars and trucks today, rather than wait. Rear-end crashes kill and wound thousands, and these numbers could be lessened dramatically with universal installation of automatic braking.
But it is time to get vehicles that are testing unproven technology off public roads and onto private proving grounds. We should do it today.