Ridesharing company Lyft, which had suspended testing of its driverless cars earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic shelter-in-place orders, is now back on California’s streets. According to a report in Digital Trends, it is possible that Lyft’s current testing session in Palo Alto may be short-lived because COVID-19 cases are on the rise in California. Still, while it continues, the company insists it is taking the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the engineers who sit inside the robot cars as they navigate the street.
On-Road Testing Continues
Working in pairs, each engineer has to wear a face shield and undergo regular temperature checks. A physical partition has also been placed inside its driverless cars to separate the two engineers. Surfaces inside the vehicle are also regularly sanitized. Lyft’s Level 5 program is geared toward testing technology that will allow a vehicle to drive itself without any human input.
Lyft started testing autonomous vehicles in California in November 2018 with a view to one day offering rides to customers in driverless cars. While it currently operates 19 self-driving vehicles, fewer than 10 of these are on the road, the company told Digital Trends. In addition, Lyft had started to offer rides to employees as part of its testing program. However, as long as the pandemic continues, only engineers will ride inside the cars.
Lyft said in a blog post that while its cars were off the road earlier this year, its team had been able to continue its work developing the technology using the simulation software that can create specific scenarios to test the driverless system. Lyft is not the only company that is back. Waymo, one of the biggest players in the field of autonomous vehicles, also returned its self-driving minivans to the streets of San Francisco in June, three months after it stopped testing. Like Lyft, Waymo has also been keen to talk about how it has continued to develop its technology through the use of simulation software despite the suspension of on-road testing.
Putting Public Safety First
It is not clear how safe the engineers testing the self-driving cars will be with regard to COVID-19. However, the safety of the public also remains a major concern with driverless vehicles. While it’s good that they’ve been developing the technology with software simulations, we already know that even the best simulators cannot fully mimic real-life traffic situations.
We understand that driverless or autonomous technology is inevitable and that it’s only a matter of time before these vehicles are on our streets. But our auto defect attorneys are firm in our belief that these cars should not hit the road until they are 100% ready. Public safety should always come first.