Self-driving cars and trucks are here and they have been for awhile. Google has been testing driverless vehicles now for several years. They have logged nearly 2,000,000 miles on city streets and state highways in California.
Many people are skeptical. Some are worried about jobs that will be lost if truck drivers are replaced with driverless trucks. University professors and ethicists have raised deep philosophical issues involving choices the computer programmers are going to have to make to handle real-world situations.
But, like it or not, autonomous vehicles are coming to roads near you soon.
Driverless vehicles are cars and trucks that are, essentially, driven by the built-in computer and the computer programming. To date, no driverless car has been driven in real-life conditions without a human being ready and able to take control of the vehicle in the event of a car accident. As noted, Google has been testing driverless cars as have Tesla, Uber, and other companies.
There are two main reasons why companies are interested in driverless vehicles: safety and cost savings.
In terms of safety, most motor vehicle crashes are caused by human error. If more cars and trucks are piloted by computers, then the number and, presumably, the severity of crashes will decrease.
A decrease in crashes has the potential to save many lives and dramatically reduce injuries. In 2015, more than 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million injured on U.S. streets and highways.
A decrease in crashes also has the potential to save enormous sums of money related to those crashes. In 2014, it was widely reported that crashes cost the US economy $871 billion a year.
Another cost-saving implication concerns truck-drivers and other road-based shipping. Replacing the human drivers will save shipping companies an enormous amount of money in labor costs. Even if human “minders” are required, presumably the skills, certifications and licensures for such “minders” will be much less and, therefore, such “minders” can be paid much less.
There are a host of philosophical questions raised by driverless cars and trucks. Normally, philosophy can be relegated to the classroom and library, but here, there is a computer to program and so real-world choices have to be made.
Take this example from this article:
“A cement truck overturns in front of a driverless car carrying two passengers. The car’s forced it to make a choice: slam into the truck, killing its passengers, or swerve into another lane, striking another driverless car and killing its three passengers.”
The computer-programming question is this: should a driverless car protect itself by swerving, or protect the utilitarian idea that two dead passengers are better than three by not swerving? For most people, this is not a choice. Most of us would instinctively swerve.
In a more realistic example, how are driverless cars going to be programmed to handle animals in the road? Swerve or run them down?
For now, driverless vehicles are rare. And, to date, there have only been a few auto accidents involving driverless cars and only one fatality. Consequently, at the moment, there are few legal and practical issues about which we need to worry. The current state of the law is adequate to the task.
In the future, however, there will be a number of issues such as:
If you have been involved in a motor vehicle crash and were injured by someone else’s negligence, then you should contact the motor vehicle accident attorneys with the Law Offices of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP. You may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages and damages to your car. We have offices on Long Island, and we focus on personal injury and motor vehicle accident related cases. Contact us at (866) 895-0420.