We’re Now in the World of Automated Driving. Are We Safe?

World of Automated Driving - Self Driving Cars

Our Bakersfield Car Accident Attorneys Share Their Thoughts on Self-Driving Safety

If you’re old enough to read this article, you’re probably old enough to remember a time when self-driving cars were still a sci-fi fantasy. It wasn’t so long ago!

My, how quickly the future turns into today. Here at the dawn of 2017, we’re looking down the road, and headlights with no drivers behind them are staring back at us.

Here in California, the state government is already issuing automated driving permits. (And you thought teenagers were scary!)

As a matter of fact, industry experts currently forecast that 10 million self-driving cars will be in active use on roadways by 2020. Some of them already are.

Google has been testing driverless vehicles in real road conditions for several years now. The Audi A7 drove 550 miles on its own in 2015. And an automated SUV has already driven itself across the country.

Eager not to be overshadowed, nearly every major automaker has now committed to bringing an automated driving line to the commercial market within the next two to four years. Those companies include:

  • Baidu
  • BMW
  • Daimler (including Mercedes-Benz)
  • Ford
  • General Motors
  • Nissan
  • Tesla
  • Toyota
  • Volvo
  • And more

Clearly, we are on the cusp of a new horizon. But is it safe? Or is technology moving faster than the world is ready for? Here’s what you need to know about automated driving in California and beyond.

Consumers Are Nervous

If the idea of a car driving itself gives you the heebie-jeebies, you aren’t alone. Despite widespread interest in the old fantasy, consumers have demonstrated exceptional reluctance to embrace the concept as a practical matter.

Safety is the chief concern. Driving is dangerous enough as it is. Are we really prepared to trust our lives in the “hands” of high-speed machines?

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute recently conducted a survey in which 618 drivers from various age groups were asked about their comfort level with three different automated driving concepts:

  • Completely self-driving cars
  • Partially self-driving cars
  • Traditional / modern cars with zero self-driving abilities

Two-thirds of respondents said they were “moderately or very concerned” about the fully self-driving cars, according to The Washington Post.

Only 17% registered the same level of concern about partially self-driving cars, though it isn’t clear that respondents understand exactly what that concept entails.

When asked if they wanted gas and brake pedals and a steering wheel, 94.5% of those surveyed gave an emphatic “yes!”

Notably, Google has tested a driverless car that has neither pedals nor a steering wheel.

Despite Optimism, We Don’t Really Know If Self-Driving Cars Are Safe

It is a simple and unfortunate fact that most car crashes in this country are caused by driver negligence. We can certainly attest to that as Bakersfield car accident attorneys.

Imagine, then, a world where drivers don’t enter the equation. No drivers, no negligence, no accidents! That’s the logic, and it would be nice… if it were true.

So is it? We just don’t know yet. We have only a few years’ worth of data on automated driving, and it’s based on a very small handful of cars. And most of those tests have happened in simulated, off-road environments.

Even with such a small sample size, the track record is disconcerting. Self-driving cars have already caused several significant accidents.

Last year, a Tesla test driver was killed when his self-driving car crashed into a transfer-trailer truck. The car’s computer failed to register the white truck against the bright, sunny sky.

Automakers are eager to bring this technology into the mainstream, pledging to end the era of car crashes altogether. But some safety experts caution that neither the cars nor the consumers are ready.

“This to me is the crux of the problem,” Carnegie Mellon professor and autonomous vehicle expert Raj Rajkumar told The Washington Post. “On one side, you have humans who become too comfortable and stop paying attention. The other side of the equation is that the technology for vehicles to drive themselves is just not mature enough.”

Given the limited data and spotty track record, it is rather astounding that 10 million of these things are already set to hit the open road in less than three years.

Are you ready?

It Might Be Easier to Uber a Self-Driving Car Than to Buy One

There is some indication — perhaps precisely because of the safety concerns — that automakers aren’t actually interested in selling these cars to everyday consumers yet.

Rather, they might have their eyes set on Uber and similar ride sharing services.

For its part, Uber has expressed substantial interest in driverless cars. In the short term, the company might be able to provide specialized training to “chauffeurs,” who would make sure the vehicle operates like it’s supposed to. In the long term, Uber and its rivals might hope to stop paying drivers altogether.

If you identify any potential medical emergencies, call 911 immediately and ask for an ambulance. Don’t delay.

A Legal Gray Area

The law is often slow to catch up with technology. As of 2017, we have very little in the way of statute or caselaw to help us navigate the unpredictable avalanche of litigation that automated driving could trigger.

For that matter, state law hasn’t even quite up caught up with the ride sharing trend yet. The question of who has to pay after an Uber accident, for instance, is still being answered differently all across the country.

You can imagine, then, how complex a self-driving Uber accident could become.

In any of these situations, though, one thing remains the same: if you suffer an injury in a California car crash, there is a good chance that you are entitled to financial compensation.

At The Law Offices of Mickey Fine, it is our job to help you and your family maximize that compensation. We bring years of experience to the table, and we believe in pursuing justice aggressively on your behalf.

Contact Our Bakersfield Car Accident Attorneys Today

Have questions about your legal rights? Suffering from an injury after any California car crash? Contact the experienced Bakersfield car accident attorneys at The Law Offices of Mickey Fine as soon as possible.

Call us, text us, or contact us online. We are here to help.