Robotic vehicles have been used in dangerous environments for decades, from decommissioning the Fukushima nuclear power plant or inspecting underwater energy infrastructure in the North Sea. More recently, autonomous vehicles from boats to grocery delivery carts have made the gentle transition from research centres into the real world with very few hiccups.
Yet the promised arrival of self-driving cars has not progressed beyond the testing stage. And in one test drive of an Uber self-driving car in 2018, a pedestrian was killed by the vehicle. Although these accidents happen every day when humans are behind the wheel, the public holds driverless cars to far higher safety standards, interpreting one-off accidents as proof that these vehicles are too unsafe to unleash on public roads.