The safety of Google’s self-driving cars is under scrutiny following an unexpected crash last month, not here in NYC, but in California. The car involved in the crash was a Lexus SUV which was moving at only 2 mph when it ran into a city bus. Fortunately, the unexpected crash did not result in any injuries. However, it did succeed in damaging the reputation of Google’s self-driving car despite the millions of miles it had already covered.
People in the U.S. are not yet fully sold on the idea of a self-driving auto as they don’t really believe they are as safe as the promoters say they are. However, studies have revealed recently that if Americans did take up the idea that 30,000 lives could be saved as the research indicates that self-driving cars could have a far better safety record than autos driven physically by someone.
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There are certain key reasons that cause accidents, such as driving while under the influence of alcohol, distracted driving when a driver takes his or her eyes off the road momentarily to attend to an electronic device, and speeding. If you think seriously about these three accident causes, no driverless car would have the capacity to carry out such activities. But as has been recently found, driverless cars are not immune to accidents.
Google has 53 driverless vehicles which have so far driven up to a combined total of 1.4 million miles. Seven car crashes have been reported involving them, but none of these accidents have actually been caused by them.
In this recent accident, Google’s car was making a right-hand turn on a red light at a Mountain View, CA, intersection. The car positioned itself on the right hand side of a broad lane on El Camino Real so that it could overtake traffic that was stopped at the red light. But it appears that as Google’s auto came close to the intersection at Castro Street, the path through was blocked by a number of sandbags encasing a storm drain.
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Google’s car did not immediately falter, but tried to negotiate so as to avoid the obstruction by edging its way into a line of motor vehicles situated at the left of the lane. While doing this, it hit a metal structure which was connecting two parts of a double bus travelling at 20 mph. The Google car was moving at less than 2 mph. In this situation there were no injuries, but it does beg the question as to how safe these self-driving cars are and who is to blame if an accident and serious injury does take place.
The understanding at the moment concerning the cause of the crash was that the self-driving car did not recognize that larger vehicles don’t always yield to other road users, but this scenario could now be entered into the car’s computerized system to avoid crashes like this in the future.
However, one of the reasons for self-driving technology is to provide a solution to the thousands of lives that are lost every year on highways due to driver error which is not present in self-driving technology. The experimental self-driving cars are not fully operational and there are currently people present in them that can alter the behavior of the cars if required. There is the expectation that rolling out self-driving cars will begin around 2020, which gives manufacturers a chance to iron out any imperfections.
If an accident does take place involving any type of car, driverless or not, in New York, and the victim is seriously injured, he or she will need to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine fault and decide if a personal injury claim can be filed.
Richard S. Jaffe Esq. is such a lawyer and can be contacted for a free consultation at the Law Offices of Cohen & Jaffe LLP, 2001 Marcus Avenue, Suite W295, Lake Success, NY 11042. Phone: 516-358-6900 or toll free: 800-483-6149.