The last week’s tragedy that unfolded when an autonomous Uber car hit and killed a woman in Arizona has definitely brought to surface a couple of lingering thoughts about the imagined autonomous future of the auto industry. Some claim that the accident could’ve been avoided if a different technology was used, while others point the finger at the ones developing the tech used when the tragedy unfolded, but one thing remains a consensus – the public’s perception of safety in autonomous driving.
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BMW, however, won’t be slowing down its pursuit of this next-gen technology. The company recently stated though its BMW board member, responsible for research and development, that the technology they have and the work they have to do won’t be hindered by this unfortunate accident.
“Our estimation about autonomous driving technology remains unchanged even though this appears to be an extremely regrettable accident,” said Klaus Froehlich.
“The path to autonomous driving is a long one. I have spoken about a mission to Mars,” he said for Automotive News. Furthermore, the company confirmed that it will be doubling the size of its autonomous vehicle testing fleet to around 80 units over the course of 2018. Some might think this is a risky move but from BMW’s point of view, it’s a necessity to make sure such tragedies don’t happen anymore, as the Bavarians plan a test regime equivalent to 250 million driven km (155 million miles).
This way, the technology can learn how to avoid millions of possible scenarios in which evasive maneuvers could be needed. Only 20 million km will be done on public roads though, with a supercomputer simulating traffic scenarios based on the info the cars gather for an equivalent of 230 million km. One other solution to avoiding unfortunate events is to have the cities of the future lay out separate lanes for autonomous vehicles, according to Froelich.
“In a dedicated space for only autonomous vehicles, it is easier to anticipate what other vehicles and traffic will do,” Froehlich said. “This makes it easier to program vehicle reflexes and may even allow a car to have fewer sensors and less processing power than a vehicle which needs to navigate normal traffic with things like bicycle couriers.” Of course, that all sounds nice and good in theory but in real life, the already limited space cities have to split between various road-goers is starting to feel insufficient.