NHTSA Redefines Safety Regulations for Driverless Cars
Uber has announced a third-generation version of its driverless car – developed in partnership with Volvo – which it claims has more safety features than before. According to a report in The Verge, the new XC90 SUV will be built to fit Uber’s self-driving technology at the factory level, instead of needing to be retrofitted like prior versions of the car. Uber will start testing the new car on public roads in 2020.
New Driverless Car Safety Features
This time, Uber and Volvo say they are “building more redundancy” into the vehicle. The car will have a steering wheel and pedals, but Uber says it has been designed to ultimately operate without a human behind the wheel. With that in mind, the companies have built multiple backup systems specifically relating to steering, braking, and battery power. Uber says if any of the primary systems should fail for some reason, the backup system is designed to act immediately to bring the driverless car to a stop.
While Uber says these driverless cars will be safer than its predecessors, that remains to be seen. We won’t know how safe it is unless it is put to test in real-world situations. Uber returned to testing its current-generation driverless vehicles on public roads in December 2018, nine months after one struck and killed Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona. Herzberg was crossing a street in Tempe when an Uber self-driving SUV struck and killed her.
The self-driving system spotted her even though there are conflicting reports of whether it flagged her as a “false positive.” It was also later determined that the safety driver behind the wheel of the vehicle was watching a show on her phone when the collision occurred. At the time of the crash, Uber had not enabled the automatic emergency braking system in the vehicle.
Safety of Driverless Vehicles
After that crash, Uber is saying it will not override or disable the automatic braking features of the new Volvo. The new vehicle was unveiled at the third-annual Uber Elevate conference, where the company also showed off electric aircraft that will supposedly make up an air taxi service due in 2023, delivery drones, and of course, electric scooters.
As auto defect lawyers, our biggest worry is that driverless cars are not adequately tested before they are allowed on our roadways. Many of these companies do their testing on public roads, and this is a problem because they put the rest of us in grave danger. We cannot be lab rats for this experiment anymore. More injuries and deaths to further driverless technology would be unacceptable.