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Apple Asks California DMV to Make Changes to Autonomous Vehicle Testing Policies

Apple has asked the California DMV to alter the rules that require it to publish detailed public reports about the success of Apple's self-driving car tests, according to papers shared by the DMV. If the DMV complies with Apple's request, less information would be included in the reports. [PDF]

In a letter, Apple says it is "investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and goes on to say the company is "excited" about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.

One of the SUVs Apple is using to test its autonomous driving software, courtesy of Bloomberg

The company then proposes that the DMV "amend or clarify" its positions in the areas of disengagement reporting, definitions, and testing without safety drivers. Apple is concerned that inconsistency in how permit holders reports disengagements can lead to media coverage that causes public confusion and misunderstanding. Apple wants disengagement reports to cover times when a driver takes control of a vehicle to prevent a crash or traffic violation, and little else.
Apple suggests the following changes to the disengagement reporting requirements to achieve an objective set of data to accurately and clearly inform the public about the safety of the automated vehicles being tested

A disengagement should be defined as an unexpected event or failure that requires the safety driver to take control of the vehicle in order to prevent a crash or traffic violation.

A disengagement should not be reported for the following:
- Operational constraints where either the safety driver has been trained to disengage the system, or when the system detects the constraint and disengages automatically. For example, a system that requires the safety driver to navigate through a construction zone.
- System errors or failures. For example, a software bug or sensor dropout that does not affect the safe operation of the system.
- Discretionary decisions made by the safety driver. For example, when the safety driver perceives a vehicle is approaching too quickly and opts to disengage the system.
- Any tests that are planned to result in a disengagement.
- The end of a test or experiment.

Additionally, the proposed requirement in §227.50(b)(3)(B)(vi) to describe the type of incident that would have happened without the disengagement should be removed. It requires speculation about future events that have not occurred.
Apple two weeks ago was granted a permit for testing autonomous vehicles on public roads, and has already begun to do so. The company has three Lexus SUVs equipped with sensors and cameras, presumably running the autonomous driving software the company has been working on for the last several months. Those SUVs have been spotted on Cupertino roads this week.

By participating in the DMV's Autonomous Vehicle Testing Program, Apple will need to publicly share many details about its testing process, which will make it difficult to keep development on the software under wraps.

Related Roundup: Apple Car


Top Rated Comments

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19 months ago
Sooo Apple wants to remove safety regulations in self driving cars.....

I hope to God I'm never near one of them on the road then! I do sincerely hope the regulators tell Apple where to go. If others have to follow the rules so can Apple NO EXCEPTION!

As for: "Apple wants disengagement reports to cover times when a driver takes control of a vehicle to prevent a crash or traffic violation, and little else."

Is that not an attempt to gag any stories about when these cars screw up and crash? It reads like that to me!
Rating: 22 Votes
19 months ago
I think all disengagements should be reported. I especially think if the driver has to take over due to construction workers, etc it should be reported.
Rating: 20 Votes
19 months ago
Noooooooope!!! I sincerely hope the DMV tells Apple to pound sand and either follow the policies or exit the autonomous vehicle testing. Less disclosure is not a benefit to anyone. Period.

There's a reason so much disclosure is required. Public safety. Apple's desire to shape the narrative with selective disclosure shouldn't be given any weight by the DMV. This isn't commodity consumer tech products and shouldn't be treated as such.
Rating: 19 Votes
19 months ago
So, apple want secrecy? How about No.
Rating: 18 Votes
19 months ago

Or you could have read the article and understood that this is Apple asking the regulators to cover up loopholes that prevents competitors to cheat in tests.

Not sure if you actually read the article. This has nothing to do with closing loopholes or cheating. It's about having the ability to selectively report disengagements. Apple doesn't want to report all of them. Says so right in the article.
Rating: 15 Votes
19 months ago

A disengagement should not be reported for the following:
- Operational constraints where either the safety driver has been trained to disengage the system, or when the system detects the constraint and disengages automatically. For example, a system that requires the safety driver to navigate through a construction zone.
- System errors or failures. For example, a software bug or sensor dropout that does not affect the safe operation of the system.


These are exactly the cases where it should be reported...

Less disclosure in something safety-sensitive is not acceptable. There are literally lives at stake when these products hit the road. Fortunately iTunes has not learned to drive a car yet.
Rating: 14 Votes
19 months ago
Cover ups are never good. DMV should deny Apple's request.
Rating: 10 Votes
19 months ago
If anything the rules should be made even more open and all details should be released. This is serious AI territory we're heading into. Yes you need to protect your corporate business but not at the safety of others.
Rating: 9 Votes
19 months ago

I disagree - slightly - on this one. In late 2014 & early 2015 I was integrating some high end lab equipment in a location on a major Apple competitors campus. I can't say what it was for, but it wasn't the self-drive program.

I asked them about their very visible - and at the time, in the news - vehicle program. They were frustrated because all the data they provided was being cherry picked and reports being written by media with only 20% of the available information. What was in the news at the time was essentially click-bait

"______'s autodrive test cars have been in 6 accidents in the last two years!!"

Well, the news completely ignored the fact that in none of those were ______'s vehicle found to be at fault. And in only one was it determined that a human operator might have been able to avoid the collision as 4 or 5 of them were strikes from behind by inattentive motorists.

And all of that was after the test fleet had collectively logged over 1.1 million miles of autonomous driving.

I say all this, because that was in my mind when I read the article. When looking through that lens, it makes some sense to only have to go "full public" with the most essential bits, even if the DMV still has the rest available on file, or at least requires the company to have it available within 24 hours any time they request it.

You and I agree on a lot of topics but I'm gonna take a hard pass on that and disagree strongly. What's being reported is just a part of doing business. It not only affects the tech industry but every facet of society. The media reports what it wants to report. That is not, nor should it ever be, a reason for not reporting the data on autonomous driving. More importantly, the media is a moot point that has nothing to do with any of this. I'll explain.

Do me a favor, go back and read the article. This has nothing to do with disclosure to the public. Apple is requesting to not report the information to the DMV, not the public. If the disengagements don't have to be reported to the DMV, then there is no record for them to have on file. The public only comes into play because the information is open to the public. Transparency is the only way to do this properly and safely so the public has full confidence in the information being disseminated. When we start excluding what's being reported, we start fomenting mistrust. Mistrust is the last thing autonomous driving needs.
Rating: 9 Votes
19 months ago
If Apple can't handle paperwork, they should not be in the car business.
Rating: 8 Votes

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