We've already heard about Google's somewhat controversial autonomous vehicle test program which began two years ago using Toyota Prii and other vehicles. It appears now that yet another hybrid has been added to the driverless vehicle list. Said hybrid is a cousin to the Prius, the Lexus RX450h, and it was reportedly spotted traveling along a Southern California Freeway with the autonomous testing gear mounted atop its roof. The sighting comes just days after the California Senate passed Bill 1298, which enables the California Highway Patrol to set standards and performance requirements relating to autonomous vehicle testing. The picture also indicates the testing apparatus has been somewhat modified since earlier tests.
The US Department of Transportation has released its latest set of voluntary guidelines for automated driving systems, a report that builds on previous versions released over the past two years. With Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0, the DOT outlines additional safety principles, updates policy and offers guidance to state and local governments. "The integration of automation across our transportation system has the potential to increase productivity and facilitate freight movement," said DOT Secretary Elaine Chao. "But most importantly, automation has the potential to impact safety significantly -- by reducing crashes caused by human error, including crashes involving impaired or distracted drivers, and saving lives. The report notes that it's meant to be an update to, but not a replacement of, last year's guidance, and it encourages those developing automated driving systems to make public their Voluntary Safety Self-Assessments, which were introduced in last year's report.
Rand Corporation reported in 2016 that autonomous cars would need to be tested over 11 billion miles in order to prove that they're better drivers than humans. With a fleet of a hundred cars running 24 hours a day, that would take 500 years, according to the report. That seems both improbable and impractical, so companies like Cognata are filling the autonomous vehicle testing void with virtual miles. The need to establish the reliability of autonomous vehicles in short order has prompted Emerge Innovation Capital, Maniv Mobility, and Airbus Ventures to invest $5 million in funding in Cognata. The company's simulation system uses artificial intelligence, deep learning, and computer vision to create a virtual environment for testing cars without drivers -- no roads required.