News of the first death associated with autonomous driving has brought out the doubters.  Is this a good thing?  Will concerns over the safety, security and privacy hold up innovation and ultimately delay deployment of such technologies? 

Benefits to all parties will in practice continue to drive this sector.  The benefits include increased safety, greater convenience, flexibility and more functions for users. The technology also promises considerable savings in cost and insurance, and a less congested, greener sharing economy.

All the key automakers have been vocal in support of the potential. But it's no coincidence that Volvo is leading the charge here.   Volvo’s recent spin-off with Autoliv is a clear statement that Volvo believe the future is safer.  Uber’s autonomous test fleet in Pittsburgh is supplied by Ford and the doubters have to ask why an automakers with a heritage built on safety would bet on autonomous cars if there were any doubts. 

Lest we forget the US authorities say 94% of road traffic accidents are caused by human error.  Any competent engineer would bet on NVidia’s DRIVE PX2 AI chip (or similar tech) to control hardware resources better than a human can.  This is a chip that can fuse data from multiple cameras, as well as lidar, radar, and ultrasonic sensors. It allows algorithms to accurately understand the full 360-degree environment around the car in real time, including static and dynamic objects. Use of Deep Neural Networks (DNN) for the detection and classification of objects dramatically increases the accuracy of the resulting fused sensor data. 

The security and privacy concerns will be addressed too.  After all, neither held up the proliferation of the smart phone.  Although the prospect of a fatal accident seems like a more immediate concern, the real ramifications of failed smartphone security are at least as worrying. 

Automakers need to take into account "privacy/security by design". In other words the software and hardware should take into account privacy and security requirements from the outset. This is a mandatory obligation derived from the e-Call Regulation and GDPR in Europe and also the SPY Act in the USA (which was enacted immediately after a connected car was remotely hacked on the summer of 2015). 

There are already signs of growing consensus in the sector. In the USA, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers agreed the Consumer Privacy Protection principles for vehicle technologies and services (November 2014) and in Europe, the EU Ministers signed the Amsterdam Declaration for cooperation in the field of Connected and Automated Driving (April 2016).

Technical failures have costs lives in the automotive sector since its inception. Automakers need to prioritize these issues but we should not expect early deployment issues in autonomous car technology to derail the progress of the sector as a whole.