The idea of a self-driving car was once a science fiction fantasy. However, the automobile industry is getting closer to developing fully autonomous vehicles every year.
Despite these advances, today’s self-driving cars still need humans to monitor them.
Several auto manufacturers are offering vehicles with advanced safety features that control many aspects of driving that used to be entirely up to the human driver. However, none of these vehicles can currently drive without the supervision of a human. These systems require the input of GPS systems, cameras, high-precision maps and radar, but are only available on some roads. While drivers can safely take their hands off the wheel, they must remain alert and ready to take over at all times.
The vehicle can not handle every situation. Tricky driving, such as through construction zones, or areas where the vehicle does not have enough map data, require the human driver to take over. The cars attempt to ensure that drivers are paying attention by tracking their eyes and setting off alarms or even shutting down if the driver is not paying attention.
Tesla’s self-driving technology has played a role in some high-profile deadly crashes. With over half of new vehicles on the market featuring some self-driving features, the law may need to adapt to specifically address the role of self-driving vehicles in car accidents.
It is clear that human drivers still bear a responsibility to monitor their vehicles when using self-driving features. However, how much responsibility the legal system will place on auto manufacturers to develop self-driving vehicles that enhance, rather than imperil, human safety on the roads remains unclear.