If you didn’t already know it, you don’t have to look to the future – the one you see in sci-fi movies and shows. You are living in it. Our cars already park themselves, hit the brakes to avoid crashes and keep to the correct lane on the highway. Some cars can even be summoned by their drivers. These are the semi-autonomous cars of today. Well, get ready to welcome the fully autonomous or self-driving cars of tomorrow. Before you get all excited, here are a few things you should know about these autonomous or self-driving cars.
1. The term “driverless car” is actually a misnomer. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently said that the artificial intelligence software in an autonomous car is the driver. So, NHTSA will interpret the driver in the context of Google’s vehicle design and not to any of the vehicle occupants. So, the vehicles will not have a “driver” in the traditional sense, but refers to the software that is moving and directing the car.
2. If you live in snow country, you may not want to get into an autonomous car any time soon. Snowflakes can stick to sensors and completely incapacitate the self-driving mechanism in these vehicles. Researchers are still figuring a workaround for this problem.
3. We’re still far away from getting into autonomous cars and being driven to work. It is estimated there will be 12 million of these cars sold annually by 2035, but autonomous cars won’t be widely accessible until some time after 2050.
4. Last year, a car successfully drove itself across the country. Delphi’s Roadrunner drove from San Francisco to New York City navigating 15 states and 3,400 miles over the course of nine days. While the vehicle still had a human driver behind the wheel (just in case), the car reportedly drove itself 99 percent of the time.
5. So far, all accidents involving autonomous cars have been a human’s fault. Advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous vehicles are expected to reduce crashes by 90 percent. Meanwhile, all accidents involving Google’s driverless cars have been the result of human error. In fact, the first reported accident took place when a car driven by a human rear-ended the self-driving vehicle.
6. Self-driving cars could save you $1,000 on car insurance. Based on Google’s no-fault history, insurance company MetroMile calculated that annual car insurance for a self-driving car would cost just $250. It is expected that in a future where all vehicles on the road were fully autonomous, the car manufacturer would likely offer blanket product liability coverage. But that remains to be seen.
7. The autonomous driving technology isn’t just for cars. This type of technology is also being applied to tractors, mining trucks and cargo trucks.
As California personal injury lawyers, we welcome any technology that makes our roads safer. These self-driving cars could potentially erase a number of factors that commonly cause injury and fatal crashes such as drunk driving and distracted driving. But there are also a number of other issues such as insurance and product liability that must be ironed out before we all run out to the dealership to buy these cars of the future.