If self-driving automobiles are supposed to eliminate car accidents, it appears that engineers still have a ways to go. An automated test vehicle recently got into a crash in downtown San Francisco, though state officials blamed the incident on the human inside the vehicle.
The car was a Nissan Leaf that Cruise Automation had equipped with its self-driving technology and was testing out on public streets. According to USA TODAY, on Jan. 8 the vehicle was in automated mode when it began weaving within its lane.
The driver took control, but crashed into a parked car nearby. The crash was minor, with no injuries and some damage to the cars.
Cruise’s device is an aftermarket product, as opposed to the efforts of Google and automakers to produce a self-driving car that is safe and reliable. Companies developing self-driving vehicles say the technology is ready, but that government regulation and insurance guidelines have yet to be created. On top of that is the enormous psychological shift the public will have to undergo to adjust to being passengers in our own vehicles most of the time.
Incidents like this one will not do anything to assure consumers that automated vehicles will keep them safe. Though this crash sounds like little more than a fender-bender, the fact that a self-driving car can get into a crash with a stationary vehicle should give one pause.
Someday, these vehicles will be widely available and increasingly common on San Francisco’s streets. Though the idea is promising, it is possible that malfunctions and defects in the technology will lead to serious crashes in the future.