According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than six million police-reported motor vehicle crashes occurred in the United States in 2015. Twenty-seven percent of those crashes (1.7 million) resulted in an injury. With the introduction of self-driving cars, how likely is it that the rate of motor vehicle crashes increases?
The self-driving car is a continually developing technology, and safety standards are still being developed and implemented. Last year, the first death related to a self-driving car occurred in Florida. An avid fan of the technology, Joshua Brown was a test driver as part of Tesla’s public beta testing program. In May of 2016, Brown was riding in the car with the auto-pilot turned on when a tractor-trailer drove in front of the car. The bright light of the sun combined with the white color of the tractor-trailer prevented the car from recognizing an object was in front of it. As a result, the self-driving car did not apply the brakes causing the car to crash into the tractor-trailer.
Despite the tragic accident, the testing phase of self-driving cars has continued throughout the United States. On July 19, 2017, a U.S. House panel approved a proposal to allow 100,000 self-driving cars to hit the roads without adhering to previously-approved safety precautions while prohibiting states from imposing regulations for the cars. The proposal, pushed by companies with a direct interest in the success of self-driving cars, will be voted on by the entire Energy and Commerce Committee the week of July 23, 2017, but will not be brought to the full U.S. House of Representatives until it reconvenes in the fall. The bill is the first to seek to speed the introduction of self-driving cars to the public.
Automakers would be required to submit “safety assessment reports to U.S. regulators, but would not require pre-market approval of advanced vehicle technologies.” Critics say more needs to be done to ensure self-driving cars will not put people at greater risk of being involved in motor vehicle accidents. If safety is not a top priority, more injuries and fatalities could occur. Critics are especially concerned about the individual states’ lack of ability to regulate safety laws regulating self-driving cars. Self-driving cars have the potential to be a helpful resource, especially when taking the place of drunk or distracted drivers, but safety precautions need to be established before the technology should be widely used. Without sufficient evidence that self-driving cars will not contribute to an increased rate of motor vehicle accidents, we should take great consideration in putting these cars on the road.
Shepardson, David. “House Panel Approves Legislation to Speed Deployment of Self-Driving Cars.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 27 July 2017, www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-selfdriving-vehicles/house-panel-approves-legislation-to-speed-deployment-of-self-driving-cars-idUSKBN1AC2K0.
Solomon, Brian. “Tesla Autopilot Enthusiast Killed In First Self-Driving Car Death.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 1 July 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/briansolomon/2016/06/30/the-first-self-driving-car-death-launches-tesla-investigation/#10701ccb7762.
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