Self-driving cars have featured prominently in the news over the past few years. Sometimes called autonomous vehicles, they may sound like science fiction or just plain wishful thinking. After all, who hasn’t dreamed of getting behind the wheel and kicking back with a book or a cup of coffee while the car does all the hard work?
Although still mostly in the testing stage, the technology behind self-driving cars is very real. Several tech companies and automakers are actively testing their autonomous fleets. The popular ridesharing service, Uber, already has several self-driving cars on the roads in major cities like Pittsburgh.
Proponents of self-driving cars say they will cut down dramatically on traffic accidents. However, a spate of accidents has drawn attention to the potential hazards of autonomous vehicle technology.
If you have been hurt in any kind of car accident, it’s important to get experienced legal help right away. A Virginia auto accident lawyer can explain your rights and help you explore your options.
The Possible Pitfalls of Driverless Cars
The May 2016 fatal crash involving a Tesla self-driving car illustrates one of several potential problems with autonomous vehicles. In the Tesla crash, the vehicle’s computers failed to “see” a white semi-truck’s trailer because it happened to be the same shade as the sunlit sky behind the truck. Tragically, the driver of the test car was killed in the accident.
Critics of self-driving cars point out that there are other instances in which a driverless vehicle could end up in a crash.
- Roads or routes that aren’t included in GPS maps
- Bad weather
- Construction zones
- Potholes and road debris
Some experts say that it’s nearly impossible for engineers to program driverless vehicles to recognize all the various hazards a human motorist encounters on the road. Despite the naysayers, autonomous vehicles seem to be the wave of the future, with more companies jumping on board with self-driving vehicle development all the time.
Volvo has announced that its driverless car will eliminate fatal car crashes by 2020, however, traffic safety experts point out that not all car accidents are caused by human error. Road conditions can change with little notice, requiring tremendous skill and quick thinking on the part of the driver.
Autonomous vehicles also raise difficult questions about insurance and liability in the event of a crash. If your car chose to swerve into traffic, and you had no input in its decision, are you liable for your vehicle’s actions? As self-driving technology evolves, these are issues engineers and lawmakers must solve.
Cutting Down on Distracted Driving
One of the top reasons why so many safety experts champion self-driving vehicles is the growing problem of distracted driving—especially among young people.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 431,000 people were hurt in crashes caused by distracted drivers in 2014. At any given moment in the United States, about 660,000 motorists are sending a text while they drive. It takes about five seconds to send a text—the same amount of time it takes the average car traveling 55 miles per hour to cross the entire length of a football field.
Ideally, a driverless car would eliminate many of these types of accidents by taking over the wheel while the driver takes a figurative back seat.
Call Today If You Have Been Hurt in a Car Accident
If you have been injured in a car accident, you can’t afford to wait to speak to an experienced Virginia auto accident lawyer about your case. Call today to schedule your free consultation.