Wednesday 23 January 2019

Self-driving car industry warned it must go slowly after fatal US crash

Norihiko Shirouzu

The Chinese owner of Volvo has said that the autonomous driving industry should move forward prudently after a fatal accident in the US that has rekindled a debate about safety.

Li Shufu, the head of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group said at an event in Beijing it was important for carmakers and governments to look at regulations and what sort of standards were needed to keep people safe.

"One accident can kill the whole industry... So we must move with caution," Li, who took a $9bn (€7.2bn) stake in German carmaker Daimler last month, said at a Volvo-sponsored event on connected and automated cars.

He said excessive haste would backfire, and that a single accident could delay progress by as much as a year. "The accident reminds us that no matter how fast we develop, safety is the number one priority," he said. "If safety cannot be guaranteed, no automated cars (should be allowed)."

The comments come as the global industry reels from a fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona, involving an Uber self-driving car - the first death attributed to a self-driving car operating in autonomous mode.

Uber has suspended North American tests of its autonomous vehicles after the fatal collision on March 18. Its partner, chipmaker Nvidia Corp, said this week it has also suspended self-driving tests across the globe.

The accident has ramped up pressure on the industry to prove its software and sensors are safe.

Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson said accidents were unfortunate and the industry had to move carefully, but that "saying no to technology would be the wrong answer" given human error was also a big factor in many collisions.

"Technology is still the most promising answer to reducing (accidents)," he said at the event in Beijing.

In China, official support for driverless technology remains strong. The government gave its consent to internet firm Baidu to test self-driving cars on city streets just days after the fatal accident in the United States.

Baidu, which has a self-driving project dubbed Apollo, is leading China's push in driverless technology, with the government keen to keep up with global rivals such as Tesla and Waymo, the self-driving arm of Google parent Alphabet. (Reuters)

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