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Self-driving cars keep making mistakes

After our already confirmed concerns, the Uber accident in Tempe, Arizona, in March and the role of the software in this, makes clear that driver assistance systems in cars need to be made more safe and that so-called self-driving cars are far from ready to access our public roads.

We were concerned when in 2016 a Tesla hit a motorcyclist in Norway that the sensors and/or the software of modern cars with ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) did not react well to motorcyclists. The report that John Lenkeit presented at the 11th International Motorcycle Conference 2016 in Cologne, “Preliminary Study of the Response of Forward Collision Warning Systems to Motorcycles”, confirmed our concerns

Norwegian incident
After the incident in Norway, our Norwegian member NMCU wrote a letter to Elon Musk of Tesla. We decided to express our concerns to the RDW, the Netherlands Vehicle Authority. The RDW had the Tesla type-approved for the European Union, and we asked them how a type-approval could be issued to cars that seemingly did not notice and react well to motorcyclists. RDW recognized our concerns and even shared them. However, this kind of test was and still isn’t part of the usual procedure. One approval authority cannot change this. To establish the necessity of this kind of tests RDW did some preliminary testing with advanced cruise control (ACC) systems with different cars and motorcycles. In March 2018 they published their report. It turned out that our concerns were justified.

After many small and bigger incidents with self-driving cars and with advanced driver assistance systems  a third indication came up that manufacturers of these systems and these cars expose us to an excessively high risk. This time a pedestrian was mistaken by the software for a garbage bag or another static object and the car did not react when she crossed the road. With another incident the self-driving car did not notice an unmoving police motorcycle.

Photo: NTSB

FEMA General Secretary Dolf Willigers: “It is time for the European Commission to come with proper testing criteria for ADAS and for self-driving cars and for both the European Union and the national governments to stop following blindly the manufacturers which do not have road safety as their primary target”.