Driverless cars, even though may sound like something out of a futuristic movie, are in fact something that you will probably be able to see on your roads within the next couple of years. An inevitable invention that is intended to be the answer to the high number of deaths that occur due to distractions behind the steering wheel. However, with new inventions, new problems arise, most often due to the lack of knowledge about a new product and its faults. Even extensive testing can sometimes prove to not be sufficient enough to detect problems, as not all possibilities can be assessed within a controlled environment.
Move from ‘safer’ alternatives
Partly-driverless cars have somewhat existed for a while now, however, the key focus of this article is on fully automated vehicles that can control themselves for lengths of time greater than 20 minutes – the average time span in which a person could drive to a supermarket. Cruise control is one example of a partly-driverless car, when a car is in such setting it will not need any involvement from the driver regarding peddle pushing, although the person would still need to control the steering wheel. This is not a dangerous approach to easing of driving, some physical strain is taken away, however, the person still needs to be mentally active, not allowing him/her to get distracted, unlike a fully self-driving car would.
Understanding the system
First of all, just getting into a driverless car and turning the engine on will not be enough to keep you safe during your journey. Every model will come with its own manual, it can also be predicted that every car will be run by its own unique system, meaning that requirements to operate them would also be different. Level of education when sitting in one of these cars will surely need to be tested too, meaning that speculatively a test on top of a driver’s test might also need to be held. And once educated to the required level, what will be the process of updating the drivers after installing periodic upgrades to the system of their car?
From a legal perspective, we can find even more gaps in delivery of this new innovation – how will the cases of where the driverless vehicle is involved in or causes an accident be assessed? Who will be liable for the damages or in a worst case death of a person? Will the owner of the vehicle have to take the full responsibility or will the manufacturer be responsible in case of a system failure? Currently the law has well established definitions of incidents and terms of charges to their perpetrators in different cases. With introduction of a ‘new driver’ on the road – it will arguably take years to establish new laws.
Drop in driving standards
Reliance on self-driving technology might also mean a great drop in driving abilities of those who choose to use this technology. In an event of system failure and recollection those used to the driverless approach might find themselves struggling to get around without that artificial help while having to drive themselves. Having a computer taking care of noticing various hazards and responding to them quickly, might lead to people giving up their trust to tech too fast. Avoiding double checking for hazards themselves may possibly lead to increased occurrence of accidents. Even minor things such as heavy rain can do serious damage to the laser sensor mounted on the car’s roof, calling into question what role the driver might have to play in the event the technology fails.
The idea of a driverless car has of course come from a place of good intentions, however, are we ready to give up our driving power to technology? There are still too many questions left unanswered when answering this one.