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Auto manufacturers refusing to take responsibility for their robot car failures, says campaign group

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Outspoken safety advocate says the same week in which Volkswagen pleaded guilty to felonies in connection with vast emissions deception, the automaker claimed it would stand on its record when it comes to autonomous vehicles

The Safe Autonomous Vehicles Campaign says that out of more than a dozen automakers it challenged to take responsibility for failures in their autonomous vehicle technology, only Volvo has publicly agreed to accept responsibility for their robot cars at some levels of automation.

Meanwhile, the campaign noted that VW, just days after pleading guilty to a massive effort to deceive customers, responded to the challenge by pledging that its “long track record … stand on its own merits”. 

The VW response to the SAVe Campaign challenge read, in part: “It is in fact because of our experienced approach over many years that we have encouraged other players in this field to follow a transparent step-by-step introduction of this transformative technology so that consumers above all find comfort in the long-term societal benefits AVs offer for safety, reduced emissions, improved quality of life in congested areas and greater mobility for the disabled and elderly among us. We will let our long track record and continued pursuit of this philosophy stand on its own merits.”

SAVe challenged executives from Audi, BMW, Daimler, Fiat, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Land Rover, Lyft, Nissan, Porsche, Tesla, Toyota, Uber, and VW to pledge to take responsibility for accidents caused by technology failure in ALL autonomous (robot) vehicles.

The campaign set a deadline of March 15 for the companies’ responses. Only VW/Audi and Porsche responded. None of the companies agreed to be accountable for failures in their technology.

Jeremy Warriner, national SAVe Campaign spokesperson and motor vehicle accident victims’ advocate, says: “To be clear: our campaign supports the development of autonomous vehicle technology.

“We believe self-driving cars may be one of the most significant technological developments of our lifetime. They promise enormous benefit for consumers, if manufacturers establish concrete transparency and accountability standards.”

Warriner, a survivor of a near-fatal car accident that required the amputation of both legs above the knee, praised Volvo for its industry-leading promise of accountability for SAE Level 4 and 5 vehicles, while pushing automakers to go even further.

He says: “The companies we’ve challenged pride themselves on safety and reliability. No manufacturer will want to be known as the risky choice in self-driving cars – or as the company who won’t stand behind its product.”

The SAVe Campaign is a national project to educate the general public, opinion-leaders, and policymakers about the importance of ensuring that automakers take responsibility for their autonomous technology.

SAE International’s levels 2-5 range from partial to full automation. The full list of SAE J3016 levels includes:

  • Level 0 – No Automation: The full-time performance by the human driver of all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even when enhanced by warning or intervention systems
  • Level 1 – Driver Assistance: The driving mode-specific execution by a driver assistance system of either steering or acceleration/deceleration using information about the driving environment and with the expectation that the human driver performs all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task
  • Level 2 – Partial Automation: The driving mode-specific execution by one or more driver assistance systems of both steering and acceleration/deceleration using information about the driving environment and with the expectation that the human driver performs all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task
  • Level 3 – Conditional Automation: The driving mode-specific performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task with the expectation that the human driver will respond appropriately to a request to intervene
  • Level 4 – High Automation: The driving mode-specific performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even if a human driver does not respond appropriately to a request to intervene
  • Level 5 – Full Automation: The full-time performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task under all roadway and environmental conditions that can be managed by a human driver

The SAVe Campaign says it continue to share information of the auto companies’ responses to the issue.


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