A self-driving vehicle owned by Google's Waymo has been involved in a smash in Arizona when it was hit by a car that swerved across multiple lanes.
Driverless Mode – But With Person On Board
The Google car was in autonomous / driverless mode at the time of the crash, but had a test driver in the driver's seat. The lady occupant is reported to be recovering from the incident.
A discussion is now underway as to whether the driverless car system or the test driver on board could have done anything more to avoid being hit by the other vehicle.
Waymo and Jaguar
Waymo is the self-driving car company that is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, and has been testing driverless vehicles since 2009. It has been reported that Waymo wants to purchase 20,000 Jaguar electric vehicles as part of its plans to launch a robotic ride-hailing service in the US.
It is understood that Waymo’s link-up with Jaguar will mean that from 2020 to 2022, UK-based (owned by India's Tata Motors ) Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) I-PACE electric cars will be providing up to one million rides per day in the service. It is thought that Jaguar cars will appeal to more upmarket customers, thereby already showing the possibilities for segmentation in driverless ride-hailing services.
The ride-hailing service will be launched on a small scale in Phoenix, Arizona, first in the coming months.
Not The First Autonomous Vehicle Accident
Although the Google car did not cause the crash, this is not the first time an autonomous vehicle has been involved in a serious incident. Back in March, Uber suspended all self-driving car tests in all North American cities after a fatal accident a 49-year-old woman was hit and killed by one of its autonomous vehicles as she crossed the street in Tempe, Arizona.
This was the second time that Uber has pulled its self-driving cars from the roads after an accident. A year earlier, also on Arizona, an Uber Volvo SUV in self-driving mode ended up on its side after another vehicle "failed to yield" to the Uber car at a left turn.
Autonomous Lorry Convoys on UK Roads This Year
Last year, the UK government announced that ‘platoons’ (mini-convoys) of self-driving, partially autonomous lorries are to be tested on British roads before the end of 2018. The so-called ‘platoons’ will take the form of several lorries driving closely together in a line in the inside lane, with the lead lorry wirelessly controlling the acceleration and braking for all the lorries, and with the following lorries responding to the changes in speed.
It is understood that for the tests which have been promised since 2014 and will be carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), a human driver will be in the cab of the lead lorry, and will be able to take control if things don’t go entirely to plan.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Autonomous vehicles and vehicles with autonomous elements are already being tested and used in commercial environments and as part of the transport system in the US and the UK. The combination of driverless vehicles powered by electricity and using AI technology could provide a more environmentally-friendly solution to a variety of different transportation and delivery challenges, and to hopefully reduce traffic accidents.
The accidents involving driverless vehicles to date have, however, prompted some commentators to warn that the technology is being deployed before it is ready. Clearly, it is still early days for autonomous vehicles which means that there are still many untapped opportunities to use autonomous vehicles commercially, and there are of course many challenges and issues to consider around safety, insurance, regulations and reliability.
Autonomous vehicles are likely to be adopted more quickly on closed sites first, but operators who decide to adapt such sites to work for autonomy could expect significant improvements in productivity and safety.
Despite any bad press from the unfortunate crashes involving test autonomous cars in the US, having an emerging industry such as autonomous vehicles, with all its talent, technology and development centres here in the UK represents a huge opportunity for UK businesses as potential suppliers, beneficiaries of the technologies and products, and spin-off market opportunities. It also represents an opportunity for UK insurers.
Whereas the UK has a skills gap in many areas of the technology market, with the right amount of support and backing from the government and other investors, the testing, developing, and production of autonomous vehicles and the necessary technologies could be one area where home-grown talent is tempted to stay in what could become a world-centre of excellence for autonomous vehicle / AI technology.