07 Sep

Apple’s new autonomous vehicle, part of its ‘Project Titan’, has joined an expanding list of self-driving car prangs.

What Autonomous Vehicle?

Apple is reported to have been working on vehicle projects since 2015 under the name of ‘Project Titan’. Ever since the early reports, there has been much speculation about when an iCar will come onto the market.

The evidence, that this would be likely, came in the form of reports of hundreds of Apple employees working on a car project, hints during an interview with CEO Tim Cook back in June 2007, reports of two Apple computer scientists publishing research about a 3D detection system (that could be used in an autonomous car), and in July this year, news that an ex-Apple employee had been charged with stealing trade secrets from Apple to take to a Chinese car start-up.

Apple is also reported to be working with VW on a driverless vehicle to shuttle its employees to and from work.
The Apple car involved in the recent accident is a Lexus SUV that is being used as part of the testing for its autonomous car project.

In Driverless Mode, But Rear-Ended

In this case, even though the Apple autonomous vehicle was in driverless mode at the time, the cause of the crash (last month) is thought to be that the driver of a Nissan Leaf rear-ended the Apple car while it was doing less than 1 mph, trying to find a safe space to merge onto Lawrence Expressway in California.

Most Autonomous Vehicle Crashes Caused By Humans

It’s tempting to think that testing autonomous vehicles on public roads is bound to result in crashes caused by faults with the technology. In fact, the statistics tell a different story and indicate that human error has been the main cause of accidents involving autonomous vehicles.

For example, Axios research shows that only 8% of these types of crashes were caused by a vehicle fault, and only one such crash happened when the vehicle was in autonomous mode. In fact, six out of seven accidents happened while a human was driving, and only one of a total 57 accidents to date involving moving autonomous vehicles was caused by a fault with the AI. One more left-field statistic is that self-driving vehicles have actually been attacked by humans 3 times!

That said, and joking aside, it’s worth acknowledging that there has already been one fatality related to driverless cars. It happened when a woman was hit by a driverless car that was being tested by Uber while she was crossing the street in Tempe, Arizona.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Although we may not be entirely convinced yet, or used to the idea of cars, lorries, and even planes operating autonomously on our roads and above our heads, the fact is that all have been tested, and look likely to become a more regular reality. At this time, it is still relatively early days for autonomous vehicles which means that there are still many untapped opportunities to use autonomous vehicles commercially, and there are of course many challenges and issues to consider around safety, insurance, regulations and reliability. For the time being, autonomous vehicles are, therefore, likely to be adopted more quickly on closed sites but operators who decide to adapt such sites to work for autonomy could expect significant improvements in productivity and safety.

As the technology to operate these vehicles becomes more advanced, prices decrease, and technical and operational problems are ironed-out, their potential to add-value to businesses / organisations / cities .e.g. for distribution / logistics, public transport, and many other uses will become apparent. They may also offer cost savings, greater reliability and easier management and planning, which are appealing benefits to businesses.