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“The Latest on Self-Driving Cars”

“The Latest on Self-Driving Cars”

Several months back, we covered self-driving cars in a blog post that outlined the pros and cons of these driverless vehicles. A driverless car is an autonomous vehicle designed to travel without a human driver. The idea for self-driving cars has been around for many years, but when Google announced the developing and testing of a self-driving system in 2010, the race towards autonomy took off.

In late 2017 and early 2018, hundreds of news articles raved about how self-driving cars are the future of transportation. Recent publications are less optimistic since a fatality involving a self-driving Uber, and a pedestrian all but halted self-driving car testing for some companies. Who was at fault? What does this mean for the future of self-driving cars? Are driverless cars still on track to be on the road by 2022? The answers aren’t cut and dry.

The History of Self-Driving Car Mishaps

With the launch of Google’s six self-driving prototypes in 2010, things have progressed rapidly. Tesla, Mercedes, Nissan, and other car companies all have their own versions of driverless technology and are constantly improving their vehicles. As of 2016, advanced semi-autonomous features allowed drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel. By early 2018, Uber and other companies were testing self-driving vehicles in specific areas (i.e., college campuses) and select cities. With millions of test drives under their belt, it seems as if self-driving vehicles are on track for global use. But are they really safe enough for widespread use?

In February of 2016, Google’s self-driving car caused its first crash when it put itself in the path of a bus while changing lanes. A safety driver inside of the autonomous vehicle saw the bus coming but thought it would slow for the AV. Because both the bus and self-driving vehicle were moving at a slow rate of speed, there were no injuries.

Self-Driving Fatalities

In May of the same year, a Tesla test driver died while using autopilot to control his Model S. According to news reports, the fatal crash occurred when the Tesla slammed into the trailer of a large, white 18-wheeler that was crossing the highway. Tesla’s statements blamed a sensor glitch in the crash and admitted that the self-driving vehicle tried to drive under the trailer at full speed instead of stopping.

The driver of the Tesla was traveling at high rate of speed on impact. Later reports confirmed that the driver was watching a movie at the time of his death and did not attempt to stop or reroute the vehicle before it crashed into the truck.

Fast forward to March 2018. Again, a self-driving vehicle was involved in a fatality. This time, a pedestrian crossing an Arizona roadway was killed as she pushed her bike from the median across a northbound lane.

A safety driver was in the vehicle, but video footage shows that he was distracted and looking at his phone as the car navigated itself. Though the pedestrian was crossing at a part of the road where there was no crosswalk, the self-driving vehicle’s sensor should have detected her presence. The vehicle never slowed to avoid impact. Uber has since settled with the victim’s family and suspended test driving on public roads.

Even with these driverless vehicle-related tragedies, it seems as if the move towards driverless vehicles isn’t over. The California DMV is still proposing a pilot testing program that will allow self-driving vehicles to be tested with and without drivers. Though it seems some companies, like Uber, will be out of the game, others will march on.

Even with recent events, we hope that self-driving vehicles will eventually advance to the point that they reduce the number of collisions each year. Until then, Orlando Auto Body will be here to handle all of your collision related repair needs.

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