At issue: Guidelines and Regulations Must be Put in Place
The first driverless cars could begin to roll into showrooms by 2025 – if not sooner — a panel of experts agreed during the annual convention of automotive engineers at the in Detroit in April.
“Whether we’re talking about automated features in cars today or fully automated vehicles of the future, our top priority is to ensure these vehicles – and their occupants – are safe,” said .
Legal Questions Top List of Issues:
- …one of the big questions is whether the litigious U.S. legal system will prevent the widespread use of autonomous vehicles even though the nation’s top auto safety official has suggested self-driving cars could reduce by “thousands” the annual American highway death toll.
- “Connected and autonomous vehicles will be the car of the future — cars that don’t crash for drivers who live in a sea of distraction,” proclaimed Peter Sweatman, director of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
- Speaking at the annual Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress, Sweatman stressed that, “Driving is not something humans are very good at.” A look at the data proves his point. At least 10% of the fatalities on U.S. roads last year involved distracted driving. And some form of human error is considered the sole factor in 76% of vehicle crashes.
- Proponents insist that autonomous vehicles, with their cameras, laser and radar sensors, will be able to traverse the nation’s highways without distraction and ultimately outperform even the best human drivers.
- David Strickland, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, recently estimated such technology could save “thousands of lives” annually. He has launched a research project that should lead NHTSA to begin writing rules for autonomous vehicles within the next two to three years.
Tolerance for Error Will be Small:
- Ironically, while proponents see a bright future for driverless technology, anticipating a sharp decline in vehicle collisions, injuries and fatalities, they also warn that the tolerance for error will be small.
- “If a driverless car has just one accident, it will be a whole new discussion,” warned Schumacher.
- In the highly litigious U.S. legal system, plaintiffs’ attorneys are certain to zero in on any crash involving an autonomous vehicle. That, some observers caution, could force the auto industry to hold back on driverless technology, at least in the States, while introducing it in other parts of the world where they might spend less time defending themselves in court.
NHTSA Preliminary Statement of Policy:
. Motor vehicles and drivers’ relationships with them are likely to change significantly in the next ten to twenty years, perhaps more than they have changed in the last one hundred years. Recent and continuing advances in automotive technology and current research on and testing of exciting vehicle innovations have created completely new possibilities for improving highway safety, increasing environmental benefits, expanding mobility, and creating new economic opportunities for jobs and investment.
Read the NHTSA Statement of policy by .