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Report States Driverless Vehicles Not Ready for Market

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Feb. 2, 2017—Citing disengagement reports from companies testing self-driving cars, Consumer Watchdog claims autonomous technology is not ready to be deployed without human drivers behind the steering wheel.

The study—stemming from testing on California's public roads—was released Wednesday by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Eleven companies with permits to test autonomous cars in the state were required to file this year. Twenty-one companies hold permits for testing.

"Despite the self-serving hype of the manufacturers, robot technology simply isn't ready for our roads without hands-on, behind-the-wheel engagement and supervision by a human driver," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's privacy project director.

The report from Waymo, the new name of Google's autonomous vehicle unit, demonstrates the shortcomings, Consumer Watchdog said. Its report showed self-driving cars had problems dealing with others on the road, construction zones and correctly perceiving their surroundings. In the past the company has said, for example, that its robot cars had difficulty correctly perceiving overhanging branches. There were also software glitches and times when the test driver took over because the robot car made an unwanted maneuver.

Waymo/Google's robot cars logged 635,868 miles on California's roads in self-driving mode during the 2016 reporting period, substantially more than any other company testing in the state. That compares with 414,331 miles in the 2015 reporting period. Waymo/Google said disengagements declined from 341 to 124, or 0.8 per 1,000 miles compared to 0.2 per 1,000 miles. Most of the disengagements came on local streets, not highways or freeways.

Delphi reported its two test robot cars drove 3,125 miles in self-driving mode and had 178 disengagements. Reasons given for disengaging included construction zones, lane changing in heavy traffic, emergency vehicles, poor lane markings, pedestrians, cyclists, failure to detect a traffic light, and unexpected behavior from another driver.

"While there has been an improvement," Simpson said, "the reports show the robots simply aren't ready to be released to roam our roads without human drivers."

View the disengagement reports here.

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