Driverless Cars: The Safest Option?

Driverless Cars: The Safest Option?

2014-03-04_Geneva_Motor_Show_1186As the world prepares to usher in the future with driverless cars, experts are questioning how this new technology will integrate with our current lifestyles and the complications we face on the roads each day. We take a look at the progress of driverless cars, and the safety implications that come with them.

Driverless development

The UK is part of a series of tests and trials that will determine over the next three years how these cars can integrate with current road and traffic structures, and investigate the various legal and insurance issues that may arise. Collisions and crashes have been a large concern for many, who believe that the legal implications have not been discussed in enough detail.

It is said that human error is to blame for 90% of all collisions on the road, which many take to mean that driverless cars could reduce the number of crashes and fatalities. This is believed because in theory the cars would be able to react to situations much more quickly than humans, and predict outcomes more effectively with panoramic cameras, radars and advanced computer programming.

How does the car react to an unavoidable collision?

People are not predictable, and with pedestrians and manually driven cars on the street there will always be potential for dangerous situations. Usually, if a collision was imminent, a driver would potentially have to make the decision between swerving into the path of other traffic or into a pavement, building or other object. Simply slamming on the brakes could also cause a serious accident in fast moving traffic.

Driverless cars would have to be programmed to analyse the situation and choose the best action to take. However, this action could still cause damage to people or possessions.  If the scenario called for the car to choose between hitting another vehicle and hitting a pavement full of pedestrians, it’s assumed that the car would decide to hit the vehicle, an option that could cause serious injury to those in the car.

If the situation was going to result in the car hitting one of two vehicles, it is again assumed that the car would choose to hit the larger vehicle (with the idea that a larger vehicle would be safer for those inside). However does this mean anyone buying a larger car is at greater risk for collision?

Would this be reflected in insurance premiums?

These decisions will have to be written into the programming of driverless cars before they leave the manufacturer. These companies must decide to opt for the least damage or find a different way to decide how the car should react.

There are many issues around driverless car technology still to be solved, and the process of introducing these new vehicles to our roads will no doubt be a long and ever-changing process. It is believed that driverless cars shall one day be seen as the norm, another efficient way to travel from A to B. Until the various issues this new mode of transport throws up have been resolved, mankind will have to settle for manually manoeuvred vehicles.

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