NTSB Warns Self Driving Cars Compromising Safety

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a statement on the 19th of November condemning the oversight on the part of state and federal bodies for testing autonomous vehicles for safety. The report was delivered alongside the findings that a 2018 fatal Uber crash was due to a distracted driver depending too much on the car’s autonomous system. The NTSB further criticized the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for not properly instituting and regulating road safety tests for autonomous vehicles.

Voluntary Guidelines Exist

The NHTSA has created guidelines for autonomous car manufacturers, but submitting to testing is optional for these manufacturers. Of the 62 companies that have registered to do testing within California, only 16 of them have so far filed reports to the NHTSA. The state has relaxed its regulations regarding self-driving cars because of the potential to save lives in the long run.

Still Needs Human Attention

The crash in question that led to this report involved Uber’s self-driving technology that was supposed to have a human at the wheel for emergencies. Unfortunately, the person that was tasked with doing this was distracted. When the cyclist appeared in front of the vehicle, the AI system was unable to determine what type of obstacle it was. In this case, the operator was supposed to apply the brake. The failure of the system could be considered a human error, but this distinction makes no difference to the NTSB’s recommendations.

Required Reporting May be Coming

The NTSB, in its report, urged states to make voluntary reporting for testing autonomous vehicles compulsory. The NTSB itself has no jurisdiction to implement these recommendations. Still, they can suggest strongly to the NHTSA what should be done to reduce the incidents of these autonomous vehicle crashes. In addition to the compulsory reporting, the NTSB also states that companies should require a human operator with necessary checks in place to ensure that they are paying attention. This crash, being the first autonomous vehicle accident in history, which resulted in a fatality, offers essential information to both safety organizations and self-driving car companies to improve the safety of their product.