Driverless or self-driving cars just received the green light from federal auto safety regulators. A recent New York Times article titled: "Self-Driving Cars Gain Powerful Ally: The Government" sheds positive light on driver-less cars and the government regulation that favors the booming automated vehicles industry. There could be real public safety concerns to be addressed, however, especially given recent crashes of semi-autonomous cars.
Safety experts point out current motor vehicle accident statistics should be considered in any regulation moving forward:
Motor vehicle deaths were 8% higher in 2015 than they were in 2014 - the largest year-over-year percent increase in 50 years according to the National Safety Council.
● 38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads, and
● 4.4 million were seriously injured meaning 2015 likely was the deadliest driving year since 2008.
There are already major safety concerns regarding distracted driving; self-driving cars just add another layer. Just this year, there have been two examples of catastrophic loss of life at the wheel of a self-driving car. A man was killed in May when his Tesla, in Autopilot mode, crashed into a tractor-trailer on a Florida highway. Another fatal accident in China involving a Tesla Model S whose inboard video camera shows the vehicle not braking before it slammed into a street cleaning truck.
Tesla's crash avoidance autopilot system is being investigated to determine the cause of both accidents, but the carmaker reported that a "technical failure" with the braking system may have been at fault in both cases. Other companies like Google reportedly are working on driverless technologies that are installed in vehicles and equipped with different sensors that are trying to avoid accidents like these. Read more about the investigations here:
The recent NY Times article quoted Karl Brauer, senior editor at Kelley Blue Book "who said the new guidelines struck a balance between ensuring safety as automakers develop self-driving cars and making sure the introduction of lifesaving technology is not delayed unnecessarily."
"We are in this weird transition," Mr. Brauer said. "It's a tough balance for the regulators. You want to get this technology out, but you don't want to move too quickly."
The fact remains that it looks like self-driving cars and the technology around them is here to stay. It's important to make sure companies who are sure to gain financial reward during boom times don't put profits before safety.
If you or a family member have been injured due to a self-driving car, contact Clifford Law Offices at 312-899-9090.