Recent accidents with self-driving test vehicles — including one incident in which a pedestrian was killed — have made consumers more concerned about the safety issues connected with autonomous vehicles.
In fact, a recent AAA study found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of American drivers report they would be too afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle, up significantly from 63% in late 2017. Cox Automotive also found these attitudes in a recent mobility study.
Amid this climate, Ford Motor Company has released a report for customers and other stakeholders that details the automaker's safety-oriented approach to the development of self-driving vehicles.
The report, "A Matter of Trust," covers Ford's commitment to safety as top priority, outlines how the manufacturer is collaborating with industry and government partners, and explains how Ford is applying technology to solve the transportation challenges faced by our cities.
Ford plans to deploy its first self-driving vehicles in 2021. Its initial wave of autonomous vehicles will be utilized by commercial fleets in mobility services such as ride-hailing and goods delivery, according to the report.
The testing of its self-driving vehicles is a key topic area covered in the Ford report. The automaker notes that the company is confident in its safety processes and procedures, which have been refined over decade of engineering and testing.
Moreover, notes the report, Ford follows its proven safety strategies, including extensive computer simulations and driving on closed-course tracks, before allowing any self-driving test vehicles on public roads.
As for safety operators of autonomous vehicles, Ford states that the company puts them through extensive training so that they are familiar with everything from vehicle dynamics and the local roads to the capabilities of the self-driving system before they take an AV out for a test.
In addition, Ford test vehicles make it easy for safety operators to override the self-driving system in any situation. If the safety operator controls the vehicle in any way, by steering, throttle or braking, the vehicle returns full control with notification to the driver. The safety operator can also disconnect the self-driving system or disable the powertrain completely by pressing a failsafe button in the center console.
Finally, notes the reports, all of Ford's vehicle operators currently work in two-person teams with the driver monitoring the road ahead and the passenger monitoring the self-driving system via a laptop computer.
The report also discusses how Ford is working in partnership with Argo AI to integrate decades of vehicle safety experience with the latest advancements in artificial intelligence to integrate both vehicle hardware and system software into a safe, efficient and enjoyable experience for its customers.
To learn more about Ford's commitment to safety in AV development, read the full report here.