After years of hype over how all our roadways will be crawling with driverless cars, the tech and auto companies that are developing this technology are finally tapping the brakes particularly after public outrage over several accidents involving these vehicles, including one fatal crash in Arizona. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, at the CES tech show in Las Vegas, straight talk about robot vehicle safety and scaled-back expectations have replaced past years’ boastful claims of completely driverless cars flooding cities.
Challenges Facing the Industry
The immediate future of autonomous vehicles seems much more subdued now. Companies are limiting their experiments to plodding shuttles that drive around the block and cars that travel in confined well-practiced routes with not one, but two safety operators inside. So, what changed? The Uber crash in Arizona where a female pedestrian was struck and killed turned out to be a wakeup call for the industry. It essentially made everyone understand that this technology has a long way to go before it is ready for primetime.
Developers of driverless cars are dealing with a number of basic scenarios from making unprotected left-hand turns to judging whether an idling car is double-parked. Often these developers deal with the robot’s confusion by having the vehicles slow down or stop. But, this could create even more confusion as other drivers grow impatient or pass the robot car illegally.
Safety Should Be First
Companies that are researching and testing driverless technology should slow down and pay attention to safety. It took loss of lives for them to stop and pay attention. Driverless cars may be inevitable sometime in the future. But that time is not now. There are still several glitches that need to be ironed out.
These crashes and incidents involving driverless cars are also putting a dent in the trust the public has in such technology. A recent AAA poll showed 73 percent of American drivers would be too afraid to drive in a self-driving car compared to 63 percent who expressed such sentiments in late 2017. Only 20 percent of the respondents said they trust a driverless car.
Driverless cars should not be on a public roadway until they have been vigorously tested and all glitches have been removed. Tech companies and automakers who are investing in driverless technology would not have faced this additional challenge of fading consumer trust had they gotten their act together in their first place.