Self-driving cars seem like an inevitable future. They already exist, even though they are not yet ubiquitous on U.S. roads. Some modern consumer vehicles have driver assist systems, but they are not fully autonomous. With that said, some of these assistance systems – like sensor packages that help with forward collision warning systems – are similar to tech used by self-driving cars.
People tend to be somewhat split regarding their opinions of these vehicles. There are those who believe that they are going to make the roads much safer, and there are those who swear they will never ride in a self-driving car because the technology seems so dangerous. Who is correct?
Why they may help
Most car accidents happen because of human error right now. There are examples of crashes caused by mechanical errors or road design errors, and some accidents are caused by weather. But most of the time, the issue is just that a human driver makes a mistake and causes an accident.
In theory, self-driving cars could minimize or eliminate the risk of driver error. A driver may get distracted and look down at their phone, but an autonomous vehicle is always monitoring traffic conditions. Even if the driver would have otherwise failed to hit the brakes in time to avoid a rear-end crash, a self-driving car could automatically apply the brakes and prevent an accident without any input from the driver.
Why they may inspire new concerns
Yet, the concern remains that self-driving cars will inspire new safety issues. Some people allege that it will be easier for outsiders to hack these vehicles. Could a computer hacker theoretically take over the vehicle and tell it where to go, drive it off of the road, or turn off the safety systems? This is a valid concern, but cybersecurity is something that automakers are looking at. They need to be sure that the computer systems on these cars are safe and secure before they are released to the public. Technological errors and gaps can be as dangerous as human error if they aren’t headed off at the pass.
Self-driving cars are certainly going to change the way people approach the road. But they will likely not eliminate all accidents. Those who have been injured by a self-driving car – or any other vehicle – will, therefore, continue to need to know how to seek financial compensation in the event that they experience harm due to another’s conduct, technological missteps, etc.