Renault's chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, says the first semi-autonomous vehicles will appear this year with a fully autonomous car expected to be on the market by 2020. However, he also said that cyclists were proving one of the biggest stumbling blocks when it came to refining the new technology.
"One of the biggest problems is people with bicycles, because they don’t respect any rules usually,” said Ghosn.
He told CNBC that cyclists ‘confuse’ driverless cars. “From time-to-time they behave like pedestrians and from time-to-time they behave like cars.”
In August, a cyclist doing a trackstand paralysed a Google self-driving car as it struggled to judge whether the rider was in motion or not. If in doubt, the car remains stationary, leading to a bizarre standoff between the two.
Jason Torrance, policy director at Sustrans, reminded Ghosn that it was Renault’s responsibility to develop a product fit for use.
"Advocates of driverless cars often forget that people live next to roads and use them regularly, so safety must be prioritised, especially when normal unpredictable and legal human behaviour comes into contact with driverless machines."
One of the main issues with driverless technology thus far has been the degree of caution which is necessarily built into the software – the incident involving the cyclist above being a case in point.
A recent study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute concluded that accident rates are twice as high for driverless cars as for regular cars, but the majority of incidents involve the driverless car being hit from behind in a slow-speed crash by a human driver unaccustomed to a vehicle being driven so cautiously.
There has even been a case of one of Google's cars being pulled over for driving too slowly – moving at 24mph in a busy 35mph zone, traffic was backing up behind.
Dmitri Dolgov, principal engineer of Google’s driverless cars project says the firm is now looking to make its cars more ‘aggressive’ while still operating according to traffic laws. He argues that this is necessary so that they can fit into traffic more naturally.