Self-driving cars have been found to not stop for certain obstacles or find themselves in other dangerous situations unless a driver takes immediate manual control, according to a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
During on-road and track tests for BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and Volvo, researchers discovered that self-driving cars repeatedly either failed to recognize obstacles or failed to stop when presented with one.
“The early results underscore the fact that today’s systems aren’t robust substitutes for human drivers,” the insurance trade group said in its report.
In particular, researchers found that the BMW, Volvo and Mercedes self-driving cars did not brake when a vehicle stopped ahead of them in certain circumstances.
The research also found that drivers’ expectations that they are safe increases the tendency for the self-driving cars to crash.
IIHS chief researcher David Zuby said that this presents a real problem for designers.
“If they limit functionality to keep drivers engaged, they risk a backlash that the systems are too rudimentary. If the systems seem too capable, then drivers may not give them the attention required to use them safely,” he said.
The researchers also warned about the viability of testing self-driving vehicles on real roads, pointing to the incident last March when a self-driving Uber prototype hit and killed a pedestrian.