The Fuse

This Week In AVs: Industry Examines IIHS AV Safety Report; European AV Bus Trial Launched; And More

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | June 11, 2020

Industry Counters IIHS AV Safety Claims
A study released last week by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) concluded that AVs will only stop approximately one-third of the accidents attributable to human error on U.S. roads. The study found that while AVs could stop accidents it termed as “sensing and perceiving” errors and “incapacitation,” self-driving cars will not stop prediction errors, planning errors and execution errors such as incorrect evasive maneuvers, misjudging other vehicles, and driving too fast for the road conditions. “We’re still going to see some issues even if autonomous vehicles might react more quickly than humans do. They’re not going to always be able to react instantaneously,” said Jessica Cicchino, IIHS’ vice president of research and co-author of the study.

However, the AV industry and analysts were quick to point out flaws in the study. Journalists have described the study’s analysis as “strange and quite flawed,” noting that the reason AVs have not been widely deployed yet is because engineers are working on the very problems the IIHS study says self-driving vehicles cannot handle. In a blog post, the nonprofit organization Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) also noted that “the study’s authors write ‘Only about a third of serious crashes could be preventable by AVs if they are not designed to respond safely to what they perceive,’ which is a bit like saying that a marble won’t roll very far if it’s not round,” with the study offering as proof only the fatal 2018 Uber crash in Tempe and the idea that riders may prefer speed over safety.

Autonomous Bus Trial Launched In Five European Cities
Three autonomous bus prototypes are to be trialed across five European cities, as leaders look for more efficient last-mile solutions to public transportation systems. The trials mark the field-testing phase of the FABULOS (Future Automated Bus Urban Level Operation System) project, and has already begun in Helsinki. Subsequent pilots are due to begin this month in Gjesdal, Norway and Tallinn, Estonia, depending on COVID-19 restrictions. This will be followed by Lamia in Greece, Helmond in the Netherlands and an expansion in Gjesdal in autumn.

The three bus consortia—Sensible4-Shotl (Finnish–Spanish), Saga (Norwegian–Canadian) and Mobile Civitatem (Estonian)—are composed of multiple companies, and were each granted up to €1 million to pilot their autonomous buses in two cities. The 50-day field trials will assess the functionality, interoperability and security of the autonomous fleets.

5G Vital For Chinese AV Ambitions
A recent South China Morning Post article examined how the Chinese AV industry is placing significant emphasis on 5G for the future of the industry. The story notes how Guangzhou-based startup WeRide’s AV tests on 4G two years ago resulted in top speeds within safety parameters of just 3 miles per hour—speeds that have since increased to 18-25 miles per hour with 5G. The article adds that China’s AV developers hope to reduce the cost of driverless vehicles by shifting some computing power off the vehicles.

The story also offers a snapshot of the scale of China’s 5G ambitions: China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom—which together serve 1.6 billion mobile subscribers in the country—built nearly 200,000 5G base stations by the end of March out of an annual target of 500,000, according to data from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.