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Safety Hurdles in Self-Driving Car Market Expansion

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Fourth-Generation Cruise AV

In recent years, innovators have been working on creating vehicles that are able to drive without the need for a human pilot. These autonomous vehicles have the capacity to significantly change the way that society experiences transportation as a whole. There are, however, hurdles that must be transversed before autonomous vehicles can be adopted on a wide scale.

Consumer safety is the top concern regarding the adoption of autonomous cars nationwide. Top technological innovators and federal and state regulators listed such concerns as a top priority on a recent survey completed by Perkins Coie LLP, a global law firm. Here, we are going to look at the safety concerns associated with autonomous vehicles and why they must be addressed before these machines can be implemented nationwide.

Lack of human error

One of the biggest hurdles in the safety of self-driving cars was the thought that they would be more dangerous than a human driver. This safety hurdle may be partially overcome on one account: driverless cars don’t have the same distractions and reaction time of human drivers.

Studies have shown that over 94% of automotive accidents are the result of human error. These accidents occur for a myriad of reasons, including distracted driving and the limits of human reaction time. For example, a significant number of vehicle accidents occur as a result of drivers being distracted by cell phones.

Driverless vehicles, however, would not be impacted by cell phone use, as the machine would still be focused on the road even if the passengers were using phones. By utilizing computers, which do not have these limitations, scientists hope to decrease the number of serious automotive accidents by utilizing autonomous vehicles.

Liability concerns

Liability concerns top the list of concerns held by technological companies and government regulators on the subject of automated vehicles. It is clear that decisions must be made to place liability in the event of an accident involving one or more automated vehicles.

One such incident occurred in Arizona in 2018, where an automated vehicle struck and killed a bicyclist who was crossing the street.  Incidents such as this beg the question as to where the blame will be placed in the event of an accident involving an automated vehicle. While some manufacturers have declared that they will be liable in the event of an incident, this is a significant issue that needs further discussion before automated vehicles can be mass-marketed.

Discussions about accident liability cannot be had without also taking the issue of auto insurance into account. In automated vehicles with human drivers, the issue of liability will fall onto the shoulders of the insurance-holder who is at fault for the accident. Conversely, in a situation involving automated vehicles without a driver, insurance claims will be handled through the manufacturer’s insurance policy.

Infrastructure changes

In addition to questions about liability, innovators and government officials understand that changes in infrastructure will have to be made for the safety of automated vehicles. Traditional traffic signals are made to be recognized by human drivers. While traditional traffic lights and signs are easily interpreted by humans, changes will need to be made to allow automated vehicles to function at their peak.

There are ideas in the works to combat these safety concerns, though. Radio transmitters may be added to traffic lights to aid automated vehicles. Similarly, we may see weather units along the roadside to transmit weather data to automated vehicles. These infrastructure changes will be necessary to ensure the safety of automated vehicles.

Emergency situations

There are also safety concerns regarding autonomous vehicles that are involved in emergency situations. There are concerns about how the vehicle will handle situations in which there is no GPS signal or if the car were to run out of gas.

Because some autonomous vehicles do not allow for human drivers to take over, these vehicles must have the ability to handle the emergency situation successfully. Innovators and government officials want to ensure that autonomous vehicles would be programmed to handle emergency situations like these so that passengers would not be harmed.

Many believe that autonomous vehicles will come to partially or completely replace human drivers in the future. The adoption of autonomous vehicles has the potential to drastically reduce the number of injuries and deaths resulting from automotive accidents every year. While the future seems to be headed in the direction of autonomous vehicles, safety concerns must be addressed before these vehicles can be released onto the roads. In the meantime, innovators and government officials alike will have to make decisions on how to handle the safety concerns that these devices create.

This is a collaborative article.