In previous blogs I wrote about the emerging trends in autonomous vehicles, and the risks inherent in the new technology. [GPS Blog - The Future is Here] [GPS Blog - Technology with Risks]. I specifically referenced well publicized accidents involving the autonomous vehicles, and the rapid response of the potentially liable parties in reaching settlements to avoid findings of liability in a court. Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board, in a long awaited decision regarding the incident on March 18, 2018 in Tempe, Arizona involving an Uber self-driving vehicle, determined that the immediate cause of the collision was the failure of the operator to monitor the road and the automated driving system. It also determined that contributing to the crash was Uber Advanced Technologies Group’s (Uber ATG) inadequate safety risk assessment procedures; ineffective oversight of the vehicle operators; and a lack of adequate mechanisms for addressing the operator’s automation complacency. The Board determined that these were consequences of Uber Technologies Inc. division’s “inadequate safety culture.” According to NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt “The collision was the last link of a long chain of actions and discussions made by an organization that unfortunately did not make safety the top priority.”

The Board called on federal regulators to create a review process before allowing automated test vehicles to operate on public roads. Specifically, the Board recommended to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require entities testing or intending to test autonomous vehicles on public roads to submit a safety self-assessment to the agency, and to establish a process for evaluating the self-assessment reports. It also called upon Uber to implement a safety management system for automated driving system testing that includes safety policy; safety risk management; safety assurance; and safety promotion.

Unfortunately, as many autonomous vehicles have already been on the roads for extended periods, the new call to arms might be just more window dressing in a race to the finish line by autonomous vehicle manufacturers looking to cash in on the emerging technology. This advancing technology appears to have few boundaries, and the checks and balances are slow to catch up to the risks that it creates. The next crash is sure to be just around the corner. Stay tuned.


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