SANTA MONICA, California — Self-driving cars have "hundreds of billions of miles" to go before they can be safely delivered into the hands of car shoppers, according to a new Rand Corporation report released on Tuesday.
"Under even the most aggressive test-driving assumptions, it would take existing fleets of autonomous vehicles tens and even hundreds of years to log sufficient miles to adequately assess the safety of the vehicles when compared to human-driven vehicles," the report said.
Simply put, there isn't enough data to prove the worth of autonomous cars.
"Our results show that developers of this technology and third-party testers cannot drive their way to safety," said Nidhi Kalra, co-author of the study and a senior scientist at Rand, a nonprofit research organization. "It's going to be nearly impossible for autonomous vehicles to log enough test-driving miles on the road to statistically demonstrate their safety, when compared to the rate at which injuries and fatalities occur in human-controlled cars and trucks."
The researchers are recommending alternative testing methods, including virtual testing and mathematical modeling, to speed the development of self-driving cars.
Google's March self-driving car report said the tech giant's fleet has logged 1.5 million miles in autonomous mode since 2009. Autonomous means the software is driving the vehicle and the test-drivers are not touching the manual controls.
Google said it averages around 10,000-15,000 autonomous miles on public streets in places such as Mountain View, California and Austin, Texas.
Without mentioning Google specifically, the Rand report said such numbers do not "come close to the level of driving that is needed to calculate safety rates."
The researchers said it "may not be possible to establish with certainty the reliability of autonomous vehicles prior to making them available for public use."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said self-driving cars may eventually lead to zero traffic fatalities.
Edmunds says: Another indication that the steering wheel will not leave your hands in the near future.