It’s amazing to think that children born today could just be driving a fully self-autonomous car by the time they are in their 20s or 30s. Currently, Americans are very much divided when it comes to their readiness for this new wave in driving, with some 48% surveyed by Deloitte stating that they believed fully autonomous cars would be unsafe, and 58% stating they would spend over $500 for autonomous vehicle tech in a new purchase. Recent accidents by self-driving vehicles ( Tesla crashes have killed three people) have heightened worries, with further crashes (13 by Tesla alone) leading passengers to wonder whether or not they are relying too heavily on autonomous technology. If you’re worried about negotiating a driverless highway, don’t fret: experts stay that we are still decades off a scenario in which passengers can enjoy the comfort of a fully automated drive while resting assured they are safer than in a driver-led car.
Worlds Away From The Jetsons
To understand how far we are from full automation, it helps to lay a little groundwork. There are six levels of autonomy for self-driving vehicles (zero to five). Level One involves a small degree of autonomous control (for instance, a car might be able to control braking or steering, but not both functions at once). Level Five involves full automation. Currently, manufacturers are somewhere between Levels Two and Three. This means that in some vehicles, drivers are able to take their eyes off the road for a moment; in others, the car can handle both steering and braking simultaneously, but the driver still has to pay full attention to the road.
One of the biggest worries about autonomous cars is safety. Personal injury lawyer demand is likely to increase if drivers become too dependent on this autonomous technology before it is fully ready to deal with all the complexities of the road. Problems include confusion with lane lines, which can lead to crashes and injuries. A vehicle may fail to identify a pedestrian lane, for instance, or enter the wrong lane. According to Carnegie Mellon University engineering professor, Raj Rakumar, the recent Tesla crash in California may have occurred because the vehicle was on Autopilot. The vehicle could have mistaken an exit ramp for a freeway lane, plowing into a vehicle ahead of it because the exit line was mistaken for a freeway lane. Clearly, flaws such as these have big repercussions in terms of both passenger and pedestrian safety. Drivers are still very much advised to keep their eyes on the road at all times, even when relying on partial autonomous features.
How Safe Will Autonomous Vehicles Have To Be?
Around 90% of all vehicle-related deaths are related to driver error. Fully autonomous vehicles promise to make the road a safer place, with a 2017 RAND study showing that the sooner these high tech vehicles are employed, the more lives will be saved. This is the case even if the vehicles are only slightly safer (10% safer, to be precise) than human-driven cars.
If you are one of the many people who prefer to control your vehicle yourself, the good news is that you will be able to do so for many years. On the downside, self-driving cars with high-level technology have the potential to be significantly safer. Clearly, more testing and a cleaner record are required before drivers begin to see self-autonomous vehicles as the panacea they were meant to be, rather than something to be feared.