With all of the talk about autonomous, or driverless cars, the debate on safety is heating up. While self-driving car makers like Google, Apple, Uber, and Tesla claiming that autonomous vehicles will keep drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians safer, others argue that robocars cannot adjust for emergencies, causing more accidents and deaths. Why do critics argue against driverless cars?
Although driverless cars may be near perfect, there are a long list of situations in which they will most likely fail. For instance, will an autonomous vehicle be able to recognize a siren on an ambulance, or police car, and make the necessary accommodations to slow down, pull over, and stop for the emergency vehicles? Will it recognize a police officer directing traffic and be able to adjust for the situation?
What about weather situations? Can a driverless vehicle car recognize a snowflake and take the necessary precautions in a snowstorm to keep its passengers safe? What about floods? Can it recognize water on the roadways? Since the vehicles mostly run on sensors, what will happen if leaves are covering the surface? Any of these situations could cause sensor failure causing an accident.
Many people think that allowing the cars to rely on its human drivers as a backup will resolve these issues. But consider this. What if the human driver is sleeping, on their cell phone or computer, reading a book, or just not paying attention in general. Will the car have enough time to alert its human drivers in time to take the controls and avoid a collision? Many argue that it cannot.
Proponents that are for the autonomous vehicle argue that even though there may be scenarios that cannot be avoided resulting in collision, in general, driverless vehicles are much safer. They are designed to avoid everyday situations that can cause accidents keeping passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers safer. The debate on driverless vehicles will be a long one, but it appears they will have time since the cars won’t be available for a few more years.