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The Dangers of Autonomous Cars and Current Autonomous Features

October 18, 2018

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

The United States is one of the most dangerous developed nations, if not the most dangerous developed nation, in which to ride a bike or walk. In fact, it is also one of the most dangerous developed nations to drive in a car as well, with a fatality rate per 100,000 licensed drivers of 16.9, according to Statista. In contrast, many European countries have rates that are half or one third of ours. What makes it so unsafe to drive, walk, and ride bikes in the U.S. and here in Philadelphia? In short, our culture. Our road systems are built for maximizing speed. Safety comes secondary. Oil is cheap in the U.S., which encourages people to drive heavier SUVs, which can cause serious crashes with smaller cars. Americans drive longer distances due to urban sprawl, and use their cars for almost all trips, which causes congestion and necessitates wider roads, both of which reduce safety for all drivers. Some are placing their hope in autonomous cars—vehicles that use artificial intelligence to navigate the streets without a human driver. The idea is that once the human driver is removed—a driver that is prone to speeding, cutting others off, texting, and driving drunk—not only will the flow of traffic improve, but the streets will become safer. However, we are still a long way off from that technology.

Are Autonomous Cars Safe Yet?

Autonomous cars have been tested sparingly and all have had human drivers sitting in the driver seat ready to take control in case something goes wrong. While their track record is good—few serious collisions have been reported, and most have been caused by the other driver—a pedestrian was killed in Arizona by an autonomous Uber car when it failed to sense her, as reported by The Economist. In the aftermath of this tragedy, autonomous vehicle venture capitalist Andrew Ng responded with, “What we tell people is, ‘Please be lawful and please be considerate,’” referring to pedestrians, as reported by Bloomberg News. Instead of focusing on the problem with autonomous technology, Ng and others want to “reprogram” pedestrians.

Current Autonomous Features Allow Drivers to Pay Even Less Attention

The idea that autonomous cars will fix all of our transportation problems in the near future is flawed. While inventions of the past and computer technology have saved us many times in the last century, it is dangerous to place all of our hopes in technology coming in and saving the day. In fact, autonomous features such as adaptive cruise control are being introduced into virtually all new cars these days. Tesla’s ‘autopilot’ feature aids the driver with automatic forward collision control, lane keep assist, and steering assist. These features sound like a good idea to prevent collisions from occurring, but they are causing drivers to get even more distracted, and pay less attention to the road.

A Philadelphia Traffic Collision Attorney Can Recover Your Damages

If you were injured as a passenger, pedestrian or cyclist in a traffic collision that was caused by a fully autonomous car, or by a driver who was relying on an autonomous feature and not paying attention to the road like they should have been, you deserve compensation. Contact the Philadelphia personal injury attorneys of van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim today for help.


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