Volvo CEO: ‘Autonomous cars not safe yet’
Volvo CEO, Hakan Samuelsson, warns for the dangers of introducing autonomous cars too quickly. “By putting them on the market too fast you undermine the technology that can become the most important lifesaver in the history of the car”, declared Samuelsson.
“It’s irresponsible to put cars on the road that are not entirely safe yet. You undermine the trust of the consumer and the regulator”, he added. He did this declaration at the presentation of two safety items ready to be integrated in production. A camera system that monitors the driver and detects if he’s drunk or using his smartphone.
Aiming at Tesla
There are a lot of manufacturers that already offer autonomous technology in their cars, mostly level 2, like automatic lane keeping, automatic speed regulation, etc. “But by overestimating the capability of these technologies you endanger your clients”, Samuelsson declared in the Financial Times.
By doing so, it’s clear that Samuelsson is aiming at Tesla, although he doesn’t name them. Tesla tends to claim that their ‘Autopilot’ system, which is permanently updated, is already ‘autonomous’. Samuelsson says this false allegation can lead to drivers having too much faith in the car.
Software is the weak spot
Already today the software of recent cars is the most complex ever written. With 100 million lines of code it’s more complicated than the operating systems of Facebook or Windows Vista. A real autonomous car requires at least ten times more, a billion lines of code.
“Modern cars are close to a biological level of complexity”, says professor Chris Gerdes (Stanford University). But with the increasing complexity the risks of failure are rising too. Little errors can eventually cause major failures or even accidents and are difficult to detect.
The more code lines and complexity, the more vulnerable the software is for hacking as well. At the famous hacker conference, Pwn2Own, last week a team of hackers succeeded to hack the software system of a brand new Tesla Model 3.
The rules at the conference are that you receive the product you can hack. So the team ‘Fluoroacetate’ received a Model 3. Tesla is on the alert for these problems and is also giving 15.000 dollar premiums to people who find bugs in the company’s software systems.
Another danger is that the car companies themselves can hide things in the software to avoid regulations, like what has become ‘dieselgate’ inside the VW Group. That’s why a lot of people are pleading that car manufacturers publish their codes, so independent specialists can check them.