It seems like all the major carmakers are jumping onto the self-driving bandwagon. Even though that bandwagon is zig-zagging around like it doesn’t have a driver itself, the consensus seems to be that self-driving cars will be exponentially safer than human-driven automobiles. Or will they?
Mercedes-Benz recently announced its E-Class sedan which is equipped with special technologies that aren’t self-driving per se, but they do offer some autonomous capabilities. For example, the technology called Drive Pilot can change lanes automatically when the driver clicks his or her turn signal. There is also Active Brake Assist, which warns drivers about potential collisions and even brakes automatically when drivers are too distracted to do so themselves.
Clearly, these technologies could help prevent accidents in the age of cellphone addiction when drivers seem to be more interested in updating their Facebook accounts than watching the road to avoid getting into a catastrophic car crash. However, there seems to be some hesitation about trusting these new technologies completely. For example, not long after Mercedes-Benz aired its new E-Class television commercial, it canceled the campaign because it was worried that there would be confusion surrounding the true capabilities of their semi-self-driving technologies.
Especially in the wake of a Tesla Motors Inc. vehicle that was involved in a fatal crash when the driver was relying on self-driving tech, many automakers are finding themselves facing worry that they aren’t being realistic about the limitations of their self-driving technologies. Numerous safety advocates and lawmakers have started to investigate the way automotive companies are advertising their alleged self-driving technology.
At the end of the day, it does not appear that any self-driving cars are truly safe enough to be fully driverless at this stage, but it does appear that we are not far away from sharing the road with these autonomous cars. When that day comes, we will also need to face the very real legal questions surrounding liability for an autonomous vehicle crash. Is it the occupants of the self-driving car, the car manufacturer or some other party that will be financially liable for accidents and injuries caused by the autonomous car? Only time will provide the answer to this question.
Source: Market Watch, “Are self-driving car claims too soon for safety?,” Mike Spector, Sep. 04, 2016