Many believe that self-driving cars will take over American roads in the very near future. If these changes are to happen, however, automotive companies and government regulators must work closely to ensure the rollout of these vehicles is as safe as possible.
The initial signs are not encouraging. Too often, self-driving car companies test their vehicles on American roads without seeking permission from the government agency. Uber, the transportation company, is the most recent company to flout the law.
On December 14, the New York Times and other news outlets reported how Uber introduced a fleet of 16 driverless cars to San Francisco roads without seeking permission from state authorities. The California Department of Motor Vehicles provides that companies that test self-driving vehicles must take the following steps:
- Apply for and receive a permit
- Show proof of financial responsibility
- Acknowledge any accidents, as well as when it was necessary for a human driver to take the wheel
Uber reportedly never applied for permits from the state of California. Its defense was that these vehicles were not self-driving, since each vehicle had a driver onboard who could take control of the vehicle at any moment. California's Department of Motor Vehicles reportedly rejected this argument and it was reported that the California DMV revoked the registrations of these vehicles after one week.
Self-driving cars continue to violate traffic laws
Uber's self-driving cars in San Francisco reportedly were breaking traffic laws. San Francisco's CBS affiliate reported that an Uber self-driving vehicle ran a red light, but Uber claims that one of its onboard drivers was driving the vehicle at this time.
Multiple news organizations, including The Guardian, reported that Uber vehicles made quick lane changes while crossing bike paths. This maneuver is known as "right-hooking" and can cause serious or fatal injuries to bicyclists who are in the path of the vehicle. While no one has yet been injured or killed by a self-driving car's right-hooking, the Guardian reports that Uber has acknowledged issues with turning into bike lanes.
San Francisco is a city with more than 200 miles of bike paths. While Uber has removed its self-driving cars from San Francisco roads for now, company officials have stated that they remain undeterred in Uber's quest to put these vehicles in mass circulation. In fact, The Detroit News reported that Uber will soon be opening an "advanced technology office" in the Detroit suburbs in the first quarter of 2017 to work with domestic automakers to integrate self-driving technology in their vehicles.
Lessons from Uber's failed pilot program
Uber's attempt to put its self-driving vehicles on San Francisco roads without seeking permission demonstrates automotive and transportation companies need to work together with government agencies that must act swiftly and decisively to hold these companies accountable to all safety measures.
Companies like Uber must place the safety of passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians ahead of profits. When these companies fail to do so, our court system must be ready to hold these companies accountable when they injure or kill others. That means rushing technology to put these self-driving cars on the road may cause more harm than good.
For decades, the attorneys of Clifford Law Offices have been leaders in the field of personal injury litigation. Our lawyers have achieved successful outcomes for individuals and families who have been injured in all types of automobile and transportation accidents.