3 Potential Dangers of Self-Driving Cars

Inventors are always looking for ways for technology to make our lives a little easier. Imagine sitting in a traffic jam or on a long road trip and being able to catch up on work, watch a movie or take a nap while your car does all the driving for you. That’s the direction we seem to be moving in with the introduction of the self-driving car.

While we know that technology isn’t perfect, we also know that new technology in particular seems to come with its own set of issues and a serious learning curve. Such is the case with the death of the driver of an autonomous Tesla vehicle that was killed after the car’s autopilot system didn’t recognize the white side of a tractor-trailer.

The autonomous driving technology has been under scrutiny for some time and is even more so after the Tesla fatal accident, especially as more manufacturers look to introduce their own self-driving model to the market. While there are a myriad of risks, here are three of the major dangers that self-driving cars pose.

1.Technology imperfections.

The self-driving technology that’s been released to date still requires drivers to remain vigilant. This is because while computers are programmed to react to certain situations, they are not programmed to deal with what is unexpected. For example, in a particular level of sunlight, the car’s computer may not be able to read a traffic signal. The car’s computer also wouldn’t be able to read a direction given by a crossing guard. In such instances the driver will need to overtake the car. Therefore, distracted driving would still present potential safety threats with autonomous vehicles.

2. Road conditions.

Another factor in self-driving car dangers are road conditions. If, for example, a stretch of roadway is old and the lane markings are flawed, the car’s autonomous system won’t be able to do its job of using those markers for staying in the appropriate lanes. This is a major concern when you factor in that the U.S. Department of Transportation has said that as much as 65 percent of the nation’s roads need work.

3. Device hacking.

While most electronics are inherently prone to hacking, studies are finding the problem even extends to our vehicles. Self-driving or not, what many people may not know is that these days cars are operated by computers that tell the mechanics inside the car what to do.

Wireless carjacking is a real thing. Just last year, Wired Magazine exposed how a vehicle can be hacked by someone who is virtually assuming control over the vehicle from windshield wipers to even acceleration.

In light of these risks, the Obama administration introduced new policies on Tuesday, September 20 to help regulate these issues. According to Ryan Beene in an article that appeared on Autonews.com, the automakers will have to provide documentation on 15 different topics including how the computers will detect objects on the road, how the drivers will be shown this information, and details on cybersecurity measures.

While we may be quite a few years away from self-driving cars being the new normal, it’s important that as consumers we are aware of how to use this new technology responsibly. Even with regulations in place, accidents happen. A serious accident that is the result of faulty mechanics of the autonomous system may be the responsibility of the manufacturer in a product liability case. While much remains to be unseen, both on the road and in the court of law, safety should always be a top concern.

Reference Articles:

Chang, L. (2016, September 10). Just how dangerous are self-driving cars? Retrieved September 19, 2016, from http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/self-driving-cars-doj-tea/

Greenberg, A. (2015, July 21). Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway-With Me in It. Retrieved September 19, 2016, from https://www.wired.com/2015/07/hackers-remotely-kill-jeep-highway/

Truett, R. (2016, August 30). The other bump on path to driverless cars: Crumbling roads. Retrieved September 19, 2016, from http://www.autonews.com/article/20160830/BLOG06/160829854/the-other-bump-on-path-to-driverless-cars-crumbling-roads?cciid=email-autonews-daily

McFarland, M. (2016, July 1). Tesla’s autopilot probed by government after fatal crash kills driver. Retrieved September 19, 2016, from http://money.cnn.com/2016/06/30/technology/tesla-autopilot-death/index.html

Beene, R. (2016, September 19). U.S. guidelines set clearer path for autonomous cars. Retrieved September 20, 2016, from http://www.autonews.com/article/20160919/OEM06/160919836/u-s-guidelines-set-clearer-path-for-autonomous-cars?cciid=email-autonews-blast