Safety data for self-driving cars may be long way off
Google’s self-driving cars may have driven themselves 1.5 million miles since 2009 – but it could take hundreds of years for robot-car makers to prove safety at the current testing rate, a new study reports.
“Given that current traffic fatalities and injuries are rare events compared with vehicle miles traveled, we show that fully autonomous vehicles would have to be driven hundreds of millions of miles and sometimes hundreds of billions of miles to demonstrate their safety in terms of fatalities and injuries,” according to the Driving to Safety report from the Rand Corporation.
The report noted that self-driving cars have the potential to reduce the nation’s 32,000 traffic fatalities by taking human error out of the equation. But for report authors, the problem with determining robot-car safety lies in the comparatively low rate of road injuries and deaths versus miles driven. Although the 32,000 annual traffic deaths is a large number, it’s small compared to the 3 trillion miles Americans drive every year. To find the rate at which self-driving cars crash and cause injuries or death, which would determine whether the vehicles are safe – and safer than humans – virtually astronomical numbers of testing miles would need to be driven, according to the report.
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Earth Day birthday celebrated in Rock Hill
Learn what you can do to help protect the Earth at Earth Day Birthday, a free family event with activities, games, live entertainment and more than 30 exhibits, each with a hands-on environmental message. The event will be 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday at the Museum of York County, 4621 Mount Gallant Road, Rock Hill. Details: www.chmuseums.org/myco.
New bird-friendly garden at Nature Museum
Audubon North Carolina, the Mecklenburg Audubon Society and Wells Fargo partnered with the Charlotte Nature Museum on Saturday to plant a bird-friendly exhibit garden in front of the the museum. The free-admission garden seeks to foster understanding of the connection among birds, pollinators and plants native to North Carolina. The museum is at 1658 Sterling Road. Details: www.charlottenaturemuseum.org.
Lecture explores clash of science, pop culture
Do people still trust science? In such controversial topics as climate change, vaccinations, gluten-free diets and GMO foods, there appears to be a growing gap between what the public believes and what the science says.
“Popular Culture Versus Science” will explore this trend Thursday at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 W. Jones St., Raleigh. The 7-8:30 p.m. presentation in the Daily Planet Cafe will be given by Timothy Caulfield, research director of the Health Law Institute at Canada’s University of Alberta. He will explore the evidence about a range of controversial science topics and the forces that influence what we hear, including celebrity culture, publication practices, market forces and our own psychological biases.
Caulfield is the bestselling author of “The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness” and “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash.”
Admission is free of charge. Details: www.naturalsciences.org.
Found: Fossil evidence of North American monkeys
Seven tiny teeth tell the story of an ancient monkey that made a 100-mile ocean crossing between North America and South America into modern-day Panama – the first fossil evidence for the existence of monkeys in North America.
The find provides the oldest fossil evidence for the interchange of mammals between the Americas and challenges long-held views of South America as an island continent that evolved in isolation before the Isthmus of Panama was formed and animals began crossing between the continents about 3.5 million years ago, said Jonathan Bloch of the Florida Museum of Natural History.
The unearthing of P. transitus – which probably looked a lot like a capuchin or “organ grinder” monkey – extends the record for the beginning of the modern diversification of New World monkeys by more than 5 million years, Bloch said.
Scientists uncovered the teeth belonging to the 21-million-year-old forest-dwelling primate during recent excavations related to the expansion of the Panama Canal.
Study findings are detailed online in the journal Nature.