The Future of Driverless Vehicles

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January 18, 2019
Edward Smith

The Future of Driverless Vehicles

Autonomous or driverless vehicles are considered the safest way to travel today. However, even the most reliable methods of transportation can become dangerous in certain conditions. While eliminating human error as a collision factor may reduce traffic injuries and fatalities, that is not always true in most cases. Taking the human element out of driving can potentially increase the chances of an auto accident for situations that require critical thinking and swift reaction time, not computation.

Evolution of Vehicle Safety Features

Innovative safety features in today’s motor vehicles are aimed at preventing injuries and saving lives on the road. Some of these crash avoidance technologies include:

  • Automatic Emergency Braking: The brakes will be automatically applied for the driver if the system detects a vehicle directly in its path slowing or stopping suddenly. This system will be standard equipment by 2022.
  • Blind Spot Detection: If a vehicle is detected in a driver’s blind spot, it will alert the motorist that it is unsafe to change traffic lanes. The system may provide an additional alert to warn the motorist of another car traveling in the adjacent lane when the turn signal is on.
  • Forward Collision Warning: An alert will be sent to the driver by this system to help identify a slowed or stopped vehicle ahead of them. It works by calculating the car’s following distance and warns the motorist to take evasive action.
  • Lane-Centering Assist: A vehicle is maintained and centered in its lane by this system and relieves the driver from steering. Since these systems are dependent on visible lane markings, they may not function as intended while traveling along roads with old or covered lane markings.
  • Lane Departure Warning: A front-facing camera monitors a vehicle’s lane position and alerts the driver if the car is drifting out of the lane. In some motor vehicles, the system may safely veer the vehicle back into the lane by applying light braking or steering.
  • Rearview Cameras: These are mounted along the rear of a car. A viewing screen of the rearview camera is mounted on the dash to help maintain driver visibility and control.
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Alert: When a vehicle is reversing, this system notifies the driver of an object that is approaching. It operates through sensors installed along the rear of the car to detect cross traffic.
  • Rear Automatic Emergency Braking: If objects are detected by this system while backing up, it may apply the brakes if driver action is not sufficient. This is useful in safely reversing vehicles and reducing the incidence of pedestrian and bicycle crashes.

A combination of software and hardware such as radar, cameras, and sensors work to help vehicles identify safety hazards so they can alert the motorist to take immediate action to avoid or mitigate a collision. Automated cars are believed to have the potential to protect drivers and passengers as well as pedestrians and bicyclists from crashes. This is due in part to human factors being removed from the collision equation, which accounts for 94 percent of severe motor vehicle accidents on average, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Benefits of Self-Driving Cars

The transition from human-driven to autonomous vehicles is expected to have a significant impact on the economy and society. A study by NHTSA showed traffic accidents in 2010, the year for which comprehensive data is available, cost $57.6 billion in loss of workplace productivity, $242 billion in economic activity, and $594 billion due to decreased enjoyment of life caused by traumatic injuries or loss of a loved one. Self-driving cars are believed to reduce a majority of these crashes caused by human error and eliminate these costs.

Filling the roads with automated cars may smooth the flow of traffic and lessen traffic congestion. In 2014, an estimated 6.9 billion hours were spent by Americans in traffic delays. This has been found to increase vehicle emission and fuel costs as well as cut into time with family or at work. With automated cars, the money and time invested in commuting can be put to better use.

Independent living or employment relies on the ability to drive. This freedom can be extended to many through the use of automated vehicles. With 53 million Americans having some form of permanent disability and 49 million people over the age of 65, this can provide new mobility options and employment opportunities for everyone.

Mixed Public Opinions and Outrage 

The future of driverless vehicles is in the hands of businesses such as Uber or Waymo, the company known for the Google automated car project. With the self-driving car crash claiming the life of a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona in March 2018, many feel indifferent with this new technology on the road. Some residents in this Arizona city have reportedly attacked driverless vehicles owned by Waymo as they do not want them on the road. A parent has also said their 10-year-old son was nearly hit by an autonomous vehicle owned by Waymo while playing in a cul-de-sac. Conversely, the company has not yet taken action against those who have threatened Waymo employees or caused damage to their vehicles. Despite these incidents, Waymo has continued to focus on autonomous vehicle testing in Arizona and California.

Requirements for California Driverless Testing Permit

Waymo was the first company to be issued a driverless testing permit by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on October 30, 2018. The company has been authorized to test autonomous vehicles on public roads including streets, highways, and freeways within the cities of Sunnyvale, Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, Mountain View, and Palo Alto, in Santa Clara County. To receive a permit for driverless testing, manufacturers must certify they meet a number of vehicle registration, insurance, and safety requirements including:

  • Showing proof of a bond or liability insurance equivalent to $5 million
  • Verification of autonomous vehicles being a Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) automation level 4 or 5 and meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Standards in addition to being capable of operating without a motorist
  • Confirmation of self-driving cars having been tested under controlled conditions similar to those of the planned locations of operation
  • Notification of local government entities of planned autonomous testing in the area
  • Constant monitoring of vehicle testing status and providing any occupants in the vehicle with two-way communication
  • Developing guidelines with information to authorities and other emergency personnel on how to interact with test cars
  • Providing remote operators with training on the autonomous technology being tested
  • Submission of annual disengagement reports
  • Any traffic accident involving a vehicle used for self-driving testing must be reported to the DMV within 10 days by the driverless testing permit holders

Watch YouTube Video: The following video by CNBC Television discusses the future of driverless vehicles in the United States and Waymo being granted the first permit to test autonomous cars on public roads in California.

Who is at Fault in a Driverless Car Wreck?

Specific regulations and laws regarding driverless vehicles and liability have yet to be established. However, fault in a self-driving car crash may lie with multiple parties. These may include the developer if there is a problem with the software or the manufacturer if the hardware is faulty and/or there is a defect with the vehicle. Since determining responsibility in an autonomous car crash can be difficult when personal injury damages are involved, consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Sacramento can help.

Recoverable Damages in an Autonomous Traffic Collision

Those who have suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident involving an autonomous vehicle may be entitled to compensation for their losses. The areas of recovery for a personal injury claim may include medical expenses (past and future), wage loss (past and future), mental anguish, physical pain, permanent disability, and diminished quality of life. In the case of a loved one’s wrongful death, costs of a funeral and burial, lost income for the family, emotional distress and mental anguish caused by the death, and loss of companionship may be recovered. As with any case of auto products liability, negligence must be proven on the part of the entity to recover resultant damages. For more details, reach out to an experienced Sacramento car accident lawyer.

How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

Recovering after a motor vehicle collision is never easy, especially when a serious injury is involved. Experiencing emotional, physical, and financial hardship after an accident can make it even more difficult to recover. An experienced self-driving car accident lawyer can help in these situations by holding negligent entities responsible for losses incurred in an autonomous vehicle crash. If this has happened to you or someone in your family, do not hesitate to ask for help when it is needed.

Auto Accident Attorneys in Sacramento

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento auto accident attorney. Injuries from a self-driving car accident can result in high medical expenses, wage loss, and other expenses. When an autonomous auto accident is caused by negligence, you may be entitled to recover fair compensation for those expenses. If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident involving a self-driving car, please call me at (916) 921-6400 in the Sacramento area or toll-free at (800) 404-5400 to receive free, friendly case advice.

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The Future of Driverless Vehicles: Ed Smith, a Sacramento Car Accident Lawyer

Image Attribution: By “Sarmad Mughal” via Pexels / The Future of Driverless Vehicles

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