Driverless cars hit the road; Americans say they aren’t ready
The goal of vehicle technology is to improve safety, but driverless cars have not yet learned to adapt to the behaviors of human drivers.
Autonomous cars are already on the road in many cities in America, and residents of St. Paul, Minnesota, may be wondering how the vehicles are performing in traffic. The results of the road tests may be surprising. According to Bloomberg News, the cars may not be aggressive enough to perform safely in traffic.
Google’s cars have been programmed to follow all traffic laws, which the average driver might not be so conscientious about. The company continues to improve the technology so that it responds better to human behaviors. However, limitations include maneuvers where uncertainty about the actions of surrounding automobiles may prevent the vehicle from making a necessary move. While a human may be able to predict other drivers’ behaviors well enough to make an important lane change, for example, the self-driving car would continue in the wrong lane and miss an exit, instead.
Not only does the technology lack the ability to adjust for the human factor, the cars also have reflexes that most people do not. As a result, one may respond rapidly to a potential threat, such as a pedestrian on the curb, and the vehicle behind may not be prepared to brake, causing a rear-end collision.
When a vehicle is responding to inclement weather or other road conditions by driving more slowly, even that can cause a traffic issue. In the only case where a driverless car has been pulled over by a police officer, traveling at safe speeds led to an unsafe backup of vehicles behind it. Traffic laws in most areas state that a vehicle must pull over and let others around it when its speed is holding up traffic.
In spite of Google’s rush to get its vehicles out on the road, Computer World reports that drivers in the United States are not necessarily comfortable with driverless cars. A survey performed by an engineering group found that safety is one of the top concerns in this country, and only 35 percent would be willing to let go of the wheel.
Although the roadways may be less hazardous when technology takes over, the number of people behind the wheel is not likely to decrease significantly any time soon. In the meantime, designers of autonomous vehicles may need to find more ways to overcome the imbalance between ideal driving and the ability to adapt to risky human behaviorson the road.
When an accident involving a self-driving feature occurs, determining liability for the event may not be cut and dried. An auto accident attorney may be able to help victims who are eligible for compensation to hold all responsible parties accountable for the damages.