Automakers turn to virtual pedestrians to test driverless cars

In March 2018, an Uber autonomous vehicle failed to detect a woman as she crossed a shadowy area of an Arizona street and struck her. She died, and the self-driving industry took a major hit. As a result of the accident, automakers have taken a fresh look at the way they test autonomous cars in New York and around the world.

The Arizona accident caused regulators to severely restrict automakers’ access to public roads for testing. This has forced engineers to take a different approach to vehicle evaluations. For example, a Swedish company called AstaZero uses a private track to test self-driving vehicles with “virtual humans.” These computerized pedestrians dart out of blind spots and engage in other challenging behaviors to measure an autonomous vehicle’s ability to spot them and take the appropriate evasive actions. Swedish automaker Volvo is one of the company’s clients as well as Swedish truck and bus manufacturer Scania.

As it turns out, testing autonomous trucks is even more difficult than testing cars. These vehicles’ enormous weight and size make them inherently more dangerous to test on public roads. Therefore, they are being tested in enclosed areas with few humans, including mines, harbors and warehouses. For instance, Scania is testing one of its autonomous trucks in a Rio Tinto mine in Australia. At the same time, AstaZero is testing an identical model under virtual conditions on a private track in Sweden. Some of the scenarios used to test both cars and trucks involve simulations from cities around the world, including region-specific roads and culturally specific human behaviors.

New York victims of car accidents could turn to an attorney for assistance. A lawyer could prepare a personal injury claim and push for a settlement that covers a victim’s medical expenses, lost wages and more.