Google Is Ready for Self-Driving Cars: Are the Rest of Us Ready?

Google Is Ready for Self-Driving Cars: Are the Rest of Us Ready?

Posted By The Maher Law Firm || 5-Jan-2015

Manufacturers have been working toward building autonomous vehicles for decades, incorporating features such as anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control systems that have been shown to prevent car accidents, save lives and reduce injuries.

The slow, yet steady integration of automated systems into vehicle designs has been deliberate. It has given consumers a chance to adapt to the idea of a more independent vehicle and allowed regulators to make sure the technology is safe.

However, just before the holidays, Google appeared to step up the pace when the company announced that it had finally developed a fully functional self-driving car.

As we move closer to seeing autonomous cars becoming a reality, the question many are asking is whether consumers, lawmakers and transportation officials are ready for it.

Self-Driving Cars Could Be Positive Safety Development

The majority of crashes today are fully or partly caused by driver error - errors that claimed close to 33,000 lives in 2013 and injured more than 2 million people, according to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

By reducing the opportunities for driver errors, self-driving cars could be a positive safety development.

For instance, cars equipped with sensors that can prevent front-end collisions, detect other cars and monitor lane departures are already on the market and showing promise in saving lives. Other features such as parking assist systems, pedestrian recognition and adaptive cruise control are becoming increasingly available not only in luxury vehicles but in less expensive models as well.

Survey Shows Drivers Are Still Leery of Autonomous Vehicles

Google says its self-driving car is ready today with no steering wheel and brake pedal (although testers will have temporary manual controls in case of an emergency). Google is seeking partners to help bring the vehicle to market within five years.

However, according to a University of Michigan survey earlier this year, the public may not be ready yet to give up control to a vehicle computer.

According to the survey of 1,533 people in the U.S., U.K. and Australia, most had heard of autonomous vehicles and even had a positive opinion of such technology.

Still, the majority were very concerned about riding in a self-driving car. They were also unsure whether fully autonomous cars could perform as well or better than human drivers. The respondents were worried about riding in a vehicle with no driver controls and about how the vehicles would interact with other cars.

The NHTSA expressed support for self-driving cars in a policy statement in 2013. The agency stated that it is conducting research to determine the feasibility of a fully automated car. Yet, to date, only four states have enacted legislation allowing driverless cars on public roads.

What Happens If a Driverless Vehicle Crashes?

There are serious questions about whether the law is ready to handle accidents involving autonomous vehicles. If a self-driving car was in an accident that killed or injured someone, how would fault be determined?

On the plus side, these super high-tech machines should have the capacity to record crash data. This would help to determine blame.

Additionally, a products liability claim could assert that the driverless car's manufacturer or other third parties were responsible for an accident. Indeed, there may be a shift toward vehicle accident lawsuits being directed towards manufacturers rather than individual drivers.

For now, we will have to wait and see. Even though Google appears ready to launch, most car experts predict that the introduction of a fully autonomous car probably will not occur until at least 2025.

Categories: Car Accidents
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