The Driverless Car: How Safe Is It?
Although some people enjoy driving, most people don’t enjoy sitting traffic. Nor do they enjoy the amount of time spent in a car driving when they could be doing other things. In fact, an average American spends about 500 days of his or her life commuting. However, in an autonomous car, drivers will not have to focus on the road. Instead, the average American will net about 52 minutes in time to use for work or leisure. The promise of more time is part of the allure of driverless cars.
Even with the possibility of more time, the safety of driverless cars has been questioned since the introduction of the concept. However, it seems that some people cannot decide if human error or machine error is worse. Slate reports that driverless cars will possibly save 3,000 lives a year in America. Compared to the roughly 33,000 lives a year taken by human error, driverless cars may be the safer option.
How perfect do driverless cars need to be?
Because autonomous cars are heavy machines that will operate at high rates of speed, they will need to be nearly perfect. For example, venture capitalist and early Uber investor, Bill Gurley believes that the cars will need to be at least 99.99 percent accurate for a near-perfect safety record for widespread acceptance.
“Humans will be much less tolerant of a machine causing death than human error causing death,” Gurley said. Gurley also believes that truly self-driving vehicles are more than 20 years away.
Even if these machines are near perfect, they will need to be able to handle unusual situations. Some of these situations include an oncoming ambulance, an officer directing traffic or unique weather conditions.
University of Michigan professor, Ryan Eustice, who is developing the algorithms maps for these vehicles will rely on acknowledges these problems.
“To really field this technology in all weather, all kinds of scenarios, I think the public’s been a little oversold to this point,” said Eustice. “There’s still a lot of really hard problems to work on.”
How close are we to driverless cars?
In the coming years, companies will claim to have successful self-driving cars. However, these cars are often tested in controlled situations—not in real-world environments. In fact, driverless cars are being tested in the Western U.S. states and often in good weather. Additionally, most of these tests have been conducted on roads where the most important task is staying in the car’s own lane.
Eustice also points to a specific problem with snowflakes confusing the driverless car’s sensors. Should a human take over in these conditions? This is an idea that Eustice and others are not fond of. They believe drivers will not be paying attention, and the car will not know ahead of time if it encounters a situation it cannot handle.
The amount of people that die on U.S. roads is a huge problem that requires the teamwork of many to solve. Between better roads, more safety features on vehicles and safer car designs, these attempts will have to stay in place until the driverless car’s tough challenges are solved.
A 2017 article from Fortune estimates that driverless cars won’t hit U.S. roads in a meaningful way until 2020. In addition, it estimates that 95 percent of new vehicles sold will be fully autonomous by 2040.
Deaths related to driverless cars
Since May 2016, three Americans have died as a result of driverless vehicles. Of those crashes, two involved Tesla’s autopilot mode and resulted in the death of a driver. The third incident involved a pedestrian and a driverless uber.
Who is liable in a driverless car world?
The answer to liability in a driverless car world is multilayered. One of those layers depends on how autonomous the car is. For example, if the vehicle is partially autonomous (still involves human control), the action led that led to a collision would naturally be assigned to the driver. However, if the vehicle is fully autonomous, the blame may be shared by the manufacturer, service center, and the vehicle owner.
- Manufacturer liability. This would be the case if the vehicle had a design flaw or bug in the software system. In addition, a manufacturer may be liable if the collision and injuries could’ve been prevented by a human driver.
- Service center liability. The center where the vehicle was serviced could be to blame.
- Owner liability. Negligence may fall on the owner if the owner failed to implement a software update from the manufacturer.
In addition to these scenarios, legislators will likely enact new laws to govern driverless cars and liability.
The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
Carlson Law Firm attorneys are paying close attention to the development of autonomous cars. The laws around these types of collisions are confusing and may be difficult to navigate. When it comes to determining and proving liability in a car crash, The Carlson Law Firm is the team you want on your side. Our experienced personal injury attorneys can help you navigate the legal system after a car crash to get the compensation you deserve.
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