Private test tracks are where autonomous vehicles drive risk-free

In tandem with real roads and virtual worlds, dedicated proving grounds can accelerate the deployment of potentially life-saving technologies. By Freddie Holmes

Today’s automotive industry relies on three types of vehicle testing: via computer simulation, on real-world public roads, or behind closed doors at a private test track. Approaches vary, but a combination of all three approaches is deemed vital in order to safely introduce highly autonomous vehicles (AVs).

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Deploying an AV without any prior training—virtual or otherwise—would be fraught with danger, and relying purely on real-world miles alone would take too long; it is believed that around eight billion miles of incident-free driving is required for an AV to operate without human oversight. That figure comes from a 2016 report by the RAND Corporation, a non-profit research organisation. Simulation can speed things up by accurately replicating millions of driving miles in a short space of time, but virtual miles are not enough on their own.

For this reason, private test tracks have…