Autonomous Autos: The Long Road Ahead

March 7, 2018

While we’ve all been counting down the days to have our own KITT from the television show Knight Rider, our days of waiting might soon be over. It may not be a Pontiac Firebird, but driverless cars are slowly making their debuts across the country.

In 2009, Google announced that it would begin developing self-driving cars. The following year, they began testing their vehicles. In 2015, Google again announced that it would begin testing their cars in cities in California and Texas.

Others companies refused to stay behind; Uber and Carnegie Mellon University announced that they would be testing their self-driving cars in Pittsburgh. Other car manufacturers, such as Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and Ford, announced that they too would develop their own self-driving cars. Taking it a step further, Tesla announced that by 2019, a person would be able to sleep through an entire car trip.

With autonomous cars approaching quickly, people find themselves either anxiously waiting for a chance to try one or anxious about being on the road with a computer and not an actual person. Some argue that a computer won’t have the same skill or reactions as a person. Others hope that automated cars could prevent drunk driving, distracted driving and avoid those who fall asleep behind the wheel.

As reliance on robotics, artificial intelligence and automation continue to increase, can legislation keep up with all these technological advances?

Laws Are Already Being Written On Autonomous Cars

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, over 40 states have begun to introduce laws addressing driverless cars.  But only about half of those states have passed laws and most are directed towards testing and early-stage matters. New York and Connecticut, on the other hand have been stricter about their legislation and require a driver on standby behind the steering wheel at all times.

Who is at fault? Car manufacturers, software designers or the owner of the vehicle?

On issues on liability and insurance, state’s laws have been silent. Yet, some auto manufacturers have weighed in on the dispute; Tesla stating, after one of its vehicles was involved in a fatal accident, it would not be liable for its driverless cars, and Volvo stating it would accept liability of their vehicles. It’s likely that we won’t have the answer to these questions until more autonomous cars begin to make an appearance on the road.