Hands Off the Wheel in Autonomous Vehicles? A Systems Perspective on over a Million Miles of Field Data.


Autonomous vehicle (AV) technology is rapidly becoming a reality on U.S. roads, offering the promise of improvements in traffic management, safety, and the comfort and efficiency of vehicular travel. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reports that between 2014 and 2017, manufacturer tested 144 AVs, driving a cumulative 1,116,605 autonomous miles, and reported 5,328 disengagements and 42 accidents involving AVs on public roads. This paper investigates the causes, dynamics, and impacts of such AV failures by analyzing disengagement and accident reports obtained from public DMV databases. We draw several conclusions. For example, we find that autonomous vehicles are 15 – 4000x worse than human drivers for accidents per cumulative mile driven; that drivers of AVs need to be as alert as drivers of non-AVs; and that the AVs’ machine-learning-based systems for perception and decision-and-control are the primary cause of 64% of all disengagements.

DSN 2018