Live in a major city? Then it’s getting more and more likely that you’re unwittingly participating in autonomous driving beta testing, as residents of Shenzhen, a Chinese city home to over 17 million people, recently discovered.
The city legalised autonomous cars last month, clearing the way for a modified MG Marvel R SUV fitted with DeepRoute.ai’s autonomous driving to be set loose on a 14-mile route through the city. As you’ll see, it contends with cars running red lights, impatient drivers, crazy scooter riders and pedestrians with a death wish. With no driver behind the wheel, the way it avoids collisions is impressive.
But we wonder if the system is an improvement on a real, fleshy human driver. The self-driving car is programmed to stop if it spots a hazard, but at times it’s indecisive, stopping when a human driver would make the decision to carry on. Much to the frustration of following cars, causing unexpected stops and potentially dangerous overtakes.
At times the MG also seems to change lanes erratically, apparently without indication. There’s even a point where it stops in the middle of an intersection, a van coming alarmingly close to the front of the SUV. At other points, the MG’s computer brain blocks box junctions and even gets stuck behind a parked car.
We don’t know exactly how this system will cope with roadworks or poorly defined road markings so it’s hard to tell exactly how good it is. Do you think it’s better than the Tesla Autopilot system? And would you trust it?