Stories by Danny Shapiro

Expert Voices

To be safe in the real world, AVs must spend time in a virtual one

a stopped car, with colors morphing from "real world" to colorful virtual world
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

To ensure the safety of autonomous vehicles, companies have been testing fleets in San Francisco, Austin, Miami and elsewhere — gathering data and exposing their technology to everyday experiences. However, road tests are a cumbersome form of validation — the Rand Corporation estimates it would take hundreds of millions to hundreds of billions of miles (nearly a century of driving) to prove an AV drives safely.

The big picture: Not all experience needs to come from road tests. Simulation platforms enable the artificial intelligence brain powering an autonomous vehicle to run in a photorealistic world that mimics real-life traffic, exposing its deep-learning algorithms to scenarios and conditions as many times as necessary for the system to handle them perfectly.