The reality of self-driving cars is here today, and while people everywhere are trying to decide if driving a car without having control is as safe as driving a normal car, many people still can’t yet accept the possibility of driverless cars on the roads. The safety debate rages on while technology races forward to perfect the cars. People far and wide expect that something big will come from these discussions. Are self-driving cars the future of personal transportation?
The Moral Dilemma
The auto industry faces tough decisions soon on how a driverless car tries to avoid an imminent car accident. According to researchers, “the design of self-driving cars needs to balance the safety of others—pedestrians or cyclists—with the interests of cars’ passengers.” Imagine driving on a winding road with cliffs to one side, and a car approaches from the other direction that is veering into your lane. The other car has no brakes, and it’s heading right for you.
You react and make a split-second decision to swerve away from the oncoming car, but you might not have room. The other car has passengers. Does the driverless car know this? How will the computer operating the car respond? It has a choice: Swerve away to avoid the other car and risk having the other car full of passengers skid over the cliff, or your car could expect a collision to keep both cars from falling off the cliff.
The computer on the self-driving car could decide instantly if it’s programmed to react. How should the computer react? The questions of ethics will need more discussion before the world accepts driverless cars as the norm. Advances in technology to prevent accidents still have a way to go, but they are gaining ground.
The Logistics Involved
As the technology sector stays busy with making the self-driving car a reality, other factors come into play that manufacturers and governments will need to consider before integrating them into society. Development of new infrastructure to accommodate autonomous vehicles is underway, but it is still in the early stages. Issues like computer confusion in a vehicle when it senses faded lane markings are an example of the need for more advanced technology.
The Advancements in Technology
As the day when driverless cars outnumber human-operated cars draws ever closer, the technology hurdles and ethics barriers still have a way to go. Although technology is getting better, the day when everyone drives to work in their autonomous car is still farther away than many people have hoped.
Each car uses myriad sensors to find the car’s position and location of objects in and near the road, such as buildings, people, pets and other cars. The onboard sensors and other equipment have their own limitations, and this fact is an example of how the technology needs to advance.
The good news is that with each new advancement, success is closer, and with it comes a heightened hope that solving the problems means that the goal of safe, self-driving cars is not far away.
The Legal Aspects
At present, the method to solve or assess liability in driverless car accidents uses the same rules that apply to human-operated vehicles. The problem of determining liability in an accident still needs clarification. According to car accident lawyers, cyclists and pedestrians are often victims of auto accidents and entitled to legal recourse. But who will be at fault for the accident when there isn’t a human driver to point to? Consequently, liability is a primary concern in the driverless car debate.
A good example is if an autonomous car’s sensors fail, causing an accident involving property or death, who gets the blame? The car manufacturer, the person inside the car or both? This is but one example of liability issues that present a challenge to sort out and resolve.
Self-driving cars add an exciting dimension to personal travel that will eventually lead to autonomous semi-trucks too. Still, full adaptation of this technology may not happen as soon as some proponents would have us believe.
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