LIDAR and self driving cars need to get a lot better

In 2017, Austin Russell, CEO of Silicon Valley LIDAR startup Luminar, said the first generation of self-driving cars will cost $300,000-$400,000.

* Current systems have a “critical failure rate”—how often they fail to “see” an object—of one error in 1,000 miles. To be acceptable for use on public roads, that rate will have to drop to one in 5 million miles, Russell said. But lidar hasn’t achieved a significant performance improvement “in decades,” he said.

Instead of focusing on improving performance, lidar developers have concentrated on bringing down costs, in order to make the technology more attainable, Russell said. But he believes companies should pay more attention to optimizing the technology, which will drive up costs. That will make fully-autonomous cars too expensive for most people to own.

Arxiv – Failing to Learn: Autonomously Identifying Perception Failures for Self-driving Cars (March, 2018. 8 pages)

RAND – Driving to Safety – How Many Miles of Driving Would It Take to Demonstrate Autonomous Vehicle Reliability?

Given that current traffic fatalities and injuries are rare events compared with vehicle miles traveled, we show that fully autonomous vehicles would have to be driven hundreds of millions of miles and sometimes hundreds of billions of miles to demonstrate their safety in terms of fatalities and injuries. Under even aggressive testing assumptions, existing fleets would take tens and sometimes hundreds of years to drive these miles — an impossible proposition if the aim is to demonstrate performance prior to releasing them for consumer use. Our findings demonstrate that developers of this technology and third-party testers cannot simply drive their way to safety. Instead, they will need to develop innovative methods of demonstrating safety and reliability. And yet, it may still not be possible to establish with certainty the safety of autonomous vehicles. Therefore, it is imperative that autonomous vehicle regulations are adaptive — designed from the outset to evolve with the technology so that society can better harness the benefits and manage the risks of these rapidly evolving and potentially transformative technologies.

Key Findings
* Autonomous vehicles would have to be driven hundreds of millions of miles and sometimes hundreds of billions of miles to demonstrate their reliability in terms of fatalities and injuries.
Under even aggressive testing assumptions, existing fleets would take tens and sometimes hundreds of years to drive these miles — an impossible proposition if the aim is to demonstrate their performance prior to releasing them on the roads for consumer use.
* Therefore, at least for fatalities and injuries, test-driving alone cannot provide sufficient evidence for demonstrating autonomous vehicle safety.
* Developers of this technology and third-party testers will need to develop innovative methods of demonstrating safety and reliability.
* Even with these methods, it may not be possible to establish with certainty the safety of autonomous vehicles. Uncertainty will remain.
* In parallel to developing new testing methods, it is imperative to develop adaptive regulations that are designed from the outset to evolve with the technology so that society can better harness the benefits and manage the risks of these rapidly evolving and potentially transformative technologies.

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