As a Los Angeles car accident attorney, this is a question I’m asked pretty frequently.
Will driverless cars put you out of business? Will self-driving cars prevent accidents?
As an attorney who helps injury victims, let me say that I welcome improvements in technology that will improve the overall safety of the vehicles on our roads. I have seen first-hand the devastation that comes with the negligence caused by inattentive drivers. I embrace technological improvements that will save lives and prevent injuries.
Google has been developing self-driving cars for several years. You may have seen them driving around, in cities like Palo Alto and Austin, Texas.
Since 2009, driverless cars owned and operated by Google have been involved in 16 accidents. Most of these were fender benders. In the most-recent accident, a Google employee riding in the driverless car was hospitalized with whiplash injuries.
Experts say that Google’s self-driving cars have a major problem: They are too safe and follow the letter of the law too closely. The problem comes when specific driving situations call for exercising independent human judgment.
For example, at a four-way stop, how would the Google car know when to proceed? We all know that this situation requires some assertiveness behind the wheel in the form of inching forward slowly. Yet, according to a recent New York Times piece, Google’s sensors in this situation would keep waiting for other cars to proceed in this scenario, creating a potential roadblock for cars behind it.
Experts also say that interaction between a self-driving car and a human behind-the-wheel can create an imbalance on the road. What if a Google car senses a hazard and stops abruptly–causing a chain reaction for the cars to the rear-of the Google car?
In other words, while self-driving cars may enhance safety, the majority of cars operated by human beings would still be at the mercy of human error.
Of interesting note, many cars now come standard with lane-departing warnings. A recent insurance industry study says that cars with this technology experience a slight increase in auto accidents, not a decrease.
Self-driving cars may very well be part of our future. But we are still years away from a full-fledged implementation of this important technology. And we are further yet from totally eliminating all human drivers from our roads.
You can read the New York Times piece here.
The Rabbi Lawyer will continue to monitor this important topic. For questions about your case, my office is one phone call away!