The future is here: Driverless Cars

driverless carCan you imagine giving your car keys to your teenage son or daughter and not have to worry about their safety? Do you have concerns about an elderly parent about whether its still safe for them to drive? Are you worried about the distracted drivers who drive behind you while texting or using their cell phones? In the not too distant future, these worries may be ancient history.

Google, Uber, Ford Motor Company and others are working on manufacturing the automated, driverless car. According to Google, it currently has 48 driverless vehicles. 25 are currently being used on the roads in California every day. Google claims that they are averaging 10,000 miles per week of driverless testing on public streets. In addition to on the street driving, they test 3 million miles per day in their computer simulators.

How safe are these vehicles? Google reports that in six years of testing.and over 1.8 million miles of driving, their cars have only been in 14 minor accidents. It claims that not one of these accidents was the fault of the driverless vehicle.

You can imagine the complexities involved in trying to design a driverless car. How does the car know whether a moving object is an animal, a cyclist, a motorcycle, a bird or any other object? How does the driverless vehicle “anticipate” what other drivers might do? If you would like to see how the driverless car “sees” the road, and anticipates different situations, go to a TED talk entitled Chris Urmson: How a driverless car sees the road.

How soon will these cars be on the road? The estimates vary. Ford anticipates they will have an autonomous car on the road within five years. Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, thinks the goal can be achieved in five to six years. Nissan claims they will have driverless cars in the showroom by 2020. An insurance think tank, The Society of Automotive Engineers, believes it will take 15 to 20 years before these vehicles are on the roads in the U.S.

Regardless of when these vehicles come on line, imagine the benefits to society. You can let your teenage driver go out in your car without fear. Mom and Pop, no matter what age, will be able to drive wherever they want, night or day. Sight impaired individuals won’t have to rely on public transportation. Drunk driving accidents and other serious type accidents will be a thing of the past. Traffic will be improved immensely as the vehicles will be able sense when it is appropriate to change lanes, slow up, and avoid accidents.

Each year over 33,000 people die in automobile crashes in the United States. Auto crashes are the number one leading cause of deaths of teenagers. As an Alameda personal injury lawyer, I represent a number of people each year involved in serious car accidents. I look forward to the day that technology makes these injury accidents and deaths ancient history.

Resources:

Google driverless cars in accidents again, humans at fault — again, USA Today, July 2, 2015
Driverless Car Market Watch

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