Are Americans Really Ready For Self-Driving Car Technology?

Self-driving cars have impressive safety and convenience features. However, people may assume these vehicles can do more than they actually can.

Marty McFly and Doc Brown might have seen fully-automated vehicles by the year 2016, but science fiction fans have found the actual present to be mundane and disappointing. Drivers in Oregon and across the country still drive cars that are operated in much the same way they were decades ago. For this reason, it should come as no surprise that people everywhere were excited to hear about groundbreaking new self-driving technology being developed by Google, Tesla and other manufacturers. Finally, this new tech may propel transportation into the future - or will it? Exactly how safe and effective is self-driving technology?

According to CNBC, a study by PTOLEMUS predicted that by 2030, 380 million vehicles containing autonomous technology will be in use. As this technology is further developed, it is expected to reduce car crashes by about 30 percent. However, during self-driving tech's infant stages, people may expect too much of it, or fail to understand how it is meant to be used.

Current self-driving vehicle features

Tech Insider describes the current Autopilot features of the Tesla car to include the following:

  • Auto-steering capabilities, with restrictions
  • Ability to automatically parallel and perpendicular park
  • Capability of changing lanes automatically after the driver uses the turn signal
  • Ability to use cruise control to manage speed in traffic and around curves

While impressive, these features might lead consumers to believe their vehicles are capable of much more than they actually are, and could be seriously injured in an otherwise preventable accident. In other words, "self-driving" cars are meant to assist drivers in their driving tasks and to augment a vehicle's safety features, but they do not take over all aspects of human driving.

Tesla crash highlights concerns

In fact, representatives from Tesla confirm that drivers should always keep their hands on the steering wheel and be aware of their surroundings. Some safety experts are worried that people will assume automated features will allow them to "tune out" while behind the wheel, thinking their car will do most, if not all, of the driving work.

In a recent accident that resulted in the death of a Tesla owner, the vehicle's cameras did not recognize the side of a tractor-trailer turning into its path, and failed to activate the brakes. According to The Register Guard, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently investigating the crash.

It may still be several more years, involving a great deal of further testing and developing the technology, before fully-automated cars become a reality. If you are injured by the negligent actions of another driver, you may wish to contact an experienced Eugene personal injury attorney to discuss your compensation options.