Despite all the benefits that motor vehicles offer society and individuals, there are massive safety trade-offs. Collisions are a leading cause of injury and death among most age groups in the United States, and many of these crashes are preventable if only drivers made better decisions at the wheel.
Safety experts are often quick to claim that autonomous or self-driving vehicles will drastically reduce the chances of people getting into motor vehicle collisions. These experts cite the fact that human error is one of the leading causes of collisions as a reason why self-driving vehicles could save lives and reduce the social costs associated with motor vehicle travel.
While it is true that a self-driving car won’t distract itself with a text message or get drunk before driving, there are other risks that neither lawmakers nor safety experts should ignore. Among them is the possibility of human error when creating autonomous systems for driving.
Tesla has already made major self-driving software mistakes
Imagine putting your expensive, self-driving vehicle into autonomous mode and then watching in horror as the vehicle violates traffic safety laws. That is exactly what has happened to some drivers with certain Tesla models thanks to a questionable decision by the experts who programmed the software.
There are several different self-driving modes, with one of them being more assertive than the other two. The problem was that the most assertive driving mode would perform maneuvers that weren’t fully legal. Specifically, programmers taught the car to perform a rolling stop at a four-way stop and then just keep going. The problem with the rolling stop is that it doesn’t comply with the law and therefore puts the driver of the vehicle or possibly the manufacturer of it in a position with significant liability for any collision that might occur.
Self-driving cars will likely prove to be a liability nightmare at first
There have only been a few cases of serious collisions involving self-driving cars, so it will be some time before there is significant legal precedent or much established legal code regarding liability when these crashes occur.
Identifying risk factors for motor vehicle collisions and who is truly to blame for them when they occur can help people get compensation afterward.