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Autonomous tech ‘just saves lives’: BMW
BMW pushes to legalise autonomous vehicles, says ethical concerns are minimal
19 Jul 2018
HIGHER-level autonomous vehicles and their advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) should be legalised globally to reduce road deaths, according to a high-ranking BMW Group executive.
Speaking to journalists this week at the i8 Roadster Australian media launch in Victoria, BMW Group vice-president of governmental affairs Andreas Klugescheid stressed that changing laws to accommodate all levels of autonomous vehicles was a must when their positive impact on road-user safety was considered.
“Level 4, Level 5 (autonomous vehicles), you’ll probably see around 90, 95 per cent of crashes being mitigated,” he said.
“We have discussions about autonomous driving, we talk about technology, we talk about legal frameworks … but that (percentage) alone is an extremely good reason to do it and to try and implement that (ADAS) technology as fast as possible. It just saves lives.”
In June last year, BMW Group’s native Germany became the first country to enact a law regulating the operation of Level 3 and 4 autonomous vehicles.
However, further legal adaptations are required by local road traffic regulator Strabenverkehrs-Ordnung (STVO) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE) to make this a reality.
In August last year, the Victorian government in Australia held a three-month trial of autonomous vehicles alongside road operator Transurban to assess how they interacted with traffic signs and lane markings.
Audi’s A8 upper-large sedan and Tesla’s Model S and Model X EVs are all Level 4-capable autonomous vehicles on sale Down Under.
Mr Klugescheid said that while ethical concerns were playing a large part in the autonomous-vehicle debate with governments and regulators, they were based on extremely rare scenarios.
“The ethics are obviously in topic,” he said. “The dilemma situations are often the ones in discussion.
“(Ethical dilemmas are) actually not what is happening in traffic reality … when we went into accident research, we worked all that out … it hardly ever happens.
“The car is not going to decide (who lives) … the car will always decide, so to say, on technical (problems). But, keep in mind, we are talking about marginal, marginal, marginal numbers.
“On the other hand, you have the 90 to 95 per cent of accidents that will not happen at all any-more.”
BMW Group’s research also revealed that fewer crashes would be caused by driver error, with technical mistakes and product liability becoming increasingly relevant. As such, it views existing liability principles as suitable for all levels of autonomous vehicles.
Nevertheless, BMW Group said that prioritising vehicle damage to avoid injuring other road users should be possible, while further improvement of autonomous technologies would help to realise BMW’s vision of zero deaths and injuries.
BMW Group’s model line-up offers up to Level 2 autonomous driving, using up to 23 different sensors, radars and cameras that form parts of its ADAS.
However, one of its ADAS features already provides a measure of Level 5 autonomy, with park assist handling steering, acceleration and braking on behalf of the driver during certain parking manoeuvres.
According to a US study of more than a million BMW Group vehicles, two of these current ADAS features, low-speed autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning, prevented 23 per cent of potential crashes over four years, from 2014 to 2017.
After participating this week in the BMW Group Dialogue international mobility forum in Melbourne, Mr Klugescheid flew to Canberra to meet with federal government officials to discuss several topics, including the introduction of autonomous vehicles and EVs.
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