Volvo: We’ll take the blame if our self-driving cars crash – ExtremeTech
Volvo says “blame us” if any of its self-driving cars crashes when it’s in autonomous mode. The company hopes the assumption of liability takes away one concern of the public and spurs the development and adoption of self-driving cars. Volvo says self-driving cars will be here sooner than many believe.
Separately, Volvo called for a single federal set of standards for autonomous vehicles, also to speed up development of the vehicles. Volvo released the top lines on its corporate stance in advance of a seminar on self-driving it’s sponsoring Thursday in Washington.
One US standard … or cede leadership
In a release issued a day ahead of a seminar sponsored by Volvo and the Swedish embassy, Volvo president and chief executive Hakan Samuelsson said, “The US risks losing its leading position [on self-driving] due to the lack of federal guidelines for the testing and certification of autonomous vehicles. Europe has suffered to some extent by having a patchwork of rules and regulations. It would be a shame if the US took a similar path ….”
Perhaps unlike Sweden, the 50 US states are sometimes protective of their turf and might believe they have a better handle on what rules and regulations are best suited for self-driving cars. Not all of them see federal supremacy as a good thing. Nevada might see the importance of high-speed self-driving on open highways, where New Jersey would want to insure the cars could handle heavy traffic and Massachusetts might want to ensure autonomous cars don’t knock down pedestrians in Boston. It’s possible the lightly populated southwestern states without much snow would prefer softer rules — initially — to lure car testing.
And also … we accept liability (but crack down on hackers)
Then, in a Steve Jobs-like “one more thing,” at the end of the announcement the company added almost as an afterthought, “[Samuelsson Thursday] will say that Volvo will accept full liability whenever one if its cars is in autonomous mode, making it one of the first car makers in the world to make such a promise.”
Volvo also wants to see tougher rules on car hacking — “a criminal offense” — obviously a concern where self-driving cars are concerned. According to Samuelsson, “We are constantly evolving defensive software to counter the risks associated with hacking a car. We do not blame Apple or Microsoft for computer viruses or hackers.”
Volvo’s plan for fewer deaths
In 2008, Volvo unveiled Vision 2020, a safety plan for driver assists and better safety features. “By 2020, nobody shall be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo,” said Volvo’s top safety expert, Anders Eugensson, said at the time. “[Volvo has a] long-term vision to create cars that will not crash.” Because of “freak accidents” and the like, Volvo’s vision is moving toward zero deaths.
Most engineers and recognized auto safety experts — as opposed to the lay public with access to the Comment button — believe that driver assists up to and including autonomous driving will push the death rate down significantly. Already dozens of car models offer the components of self-driving 2015 style meaning as long as you keep your hands lightly on the wheel and pay some attention to the road, the combination of adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, and lane departure warning or lane keep assist drives the car on limited access highways. The driver still has to watch out for other crazy drivers as well as the quirks in current-model driver assists, such as ACC that can’t pick up and react to a driver cutting in front of you if the other guy also lets off on the throttle.
Volvo’s plan to regain the mantle of world’s safest brand
From the 1950s through the 1990s, Volvo was considered by many to be the automaker most invested in safety. By the 1990s, however, German automakers with more cash on hand invested heavily in safety, while Volvo suffered more than a decade of lagging technology and aging models after Ford bought the Swedish company in 1999. Under new ownership by China’s Geely Holding Group since 2010 and with a $10 billion infusion of cash, the company has remade itself with new models such as the Volvo XC90 SUV and added more safety features unique for the time being, such as auto-braking if another car turns left in front of you. Volvo was early with city safety (auto braking at low speed) and pedestrian and cyclist safety (auto braking for pedestrians and cyclists).
Volvo’s event Thursday is a reminder that Volvo is laying claim to being at the forefront of autonomous driving research and development.