Just a few miles outside of San Francisco sit the headquarters of some of the technology industry giants who are in hot pursuit of taking the lead in the driverless car market. Tesla, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Intel are all among the tech firms joining with auto industry icons such as Ford, GM, Honda and Volkswagen in various alliances to be first to market with autonomous automobiles that can drive themselves.
Their motivation is clear. Profit, of course, and lots of it. The global market for this technology is substantial. In pursuit of that profit, these technology giants are selling the notion that automated cars will reduce human error and thereby lower the risk of injury in car accidents. To support this sales pitch, they cite National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics citing the fact that human mistakes cause 94 percent of all motor vehicle crashes. But what new problems will arise with autonomous vehicles? Willie human error simply shift from the roadway to the drafting table and factory?
Google’s driverless car project, has logged more than one and a half million driverless miles in California, Texas, Arizona and Washington. Presently, all of their driverless tests include human drivers, but the company says its goal is to eventually produce cars that do not even have controls for humans to use to steer vehicles. Other manufacturers are doing similar secret testing in both passenger vehicles and large truck and trailer convoys across the Midwest.
It remains to be seen how well driverless cars will perform on crowded urban streets where potential or collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and physical instructions on or near the roadway are everywhere. Similarly, how well autonomous vehicles fare on frozen highways or under challenging weather conditions, on bridges, on roads without clear lane markings and in high-speed situations also remains to be determined.
In the meantime, as long as there are drivers and cars on the roadways all of us must contend with human error and the damage it can cause when people are inattentive, in a hurry, confused , distracted, or careless. The injuries, losses and harms that such drivers produce require attorneys experienced in automobile related personal injury litigation to help accident injury victims protect their rights and interests.