Autonomous (Self-Driving) Vehicles

Self-driving cars and trucks are in the foreseeable future and will impact the lives of every one. The technology is moving faster than many expected, and it is now easy to see that the vehicles will be beyond the current testing phase before the end of the decade.

Changes in technology cause a multitude of disruptions in society – they always have and they always will. Autonomous vehicles will have a major impact on every industry and every person. Car manufacturers will benefit from the change, or be hurt. Some services providers will profit enormously, others will disappear because they failed to grasp change quickly enough or grasped the wrong technology. The need for workers skilled in computer technology will increase, but many low-skilled workers will be forced to re-adapt. The changes will have profound impact on the insurance industry, health care costs, and much, much more.

As always, change gives rise to fear. Some of that fear is justified. Some is not. In 2016, an automotive consulting firm conducted a survey of over 1,500 people aged 18 to 65 regarding their opinions of self-driving cars. Below are a few of the findings:

  • 73% would be interested in purchasing a fully-autonomous car; 90% would want to purchase an autonomous car that they could take control of when they needed to.
  • 55% said they would want a steering wheel in their car—this could be bad news for Google, who hopes to build a fully autonomous car with no steering wheel.
  • When asked who should design the self-driving software, 41% said that Silicon Valley experts would be best.
  • When asked who would be the best choice to actually build the vehicles, Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler (all U.S. automakers) received the most votes.
  • When asked to name a self-driving car, 42% said Google and 23% said Tesla.
  • 79% of respondents believed that car makers should be responsible if an accident occurs when a car is in autonomous mode.
  • 86% of people surveyed felt that the government (state and federal) is being too slow to plan for and regulate autonomous cars.

For several articles about this survey, you can visit http://fortune.com/2016/06/30/self-driving-car/http://www.computerworld.com/article/3089363/car-tech/though-most-back-self-driving-cars-72-in-us-say-driving-must-be-preserved-too.htmlhttp://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/americans-want-tech-firms-not-automakers-steer-self-driving-cars-n601591, and http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/national/2016/07/01/271926.htm#.

When the survey above was conducted, the only tests that had been conducted on self-driving cars were by car manufacturers themselves. Thus, the public had little to no objective material on which to base opinions about self-driving technology. In mid-2016, however, Motor Trend published its first attempt at testing automated car technology. The test included a Tesla, a Mercedes, a Cadillac, and a Hyundai, which were all equipped with varied levels of self-driving capabilities. Not surprisingly, the Tesla was most equipped to drive autonomously and scored the best on the tests, and with such variances in technology, the scores themselves are difficult to compare. What is interesting, though, is that unbiased groups are beginning to test these cars and their self-driving features, offering the public more information about this coming technology. You can read an article about this initial test by Motor Trend here

The goal of the following pages is to help consumers understand the concept of autonomous vehicles, identify the current state of technology and use of it, and identify issues that self-driving vehicles will create. One area of emphasis will be on legal issues in the area of personal injury and wrongful death. How do we take a liability system largely based on fault of individuals and adapt it to a system where we are instead focused on whether there was programming or other errors that caused injury or death to occur? Even more complicated is the transitional period – the several decades during which we will have both computer-controlled and human-controlled vehicles on our roads. How do we determine liability for injuries, death and property damage in such an environment?

Here is a list of the topics covered by this section of our website. Feel free to bring any additional topics or other matters to our attention at driverless@johndaylegal.com.

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