In June 2017, General Motors unveiled a fleet of more than 150 self-driving Chevrolet Bolt test vehicles, claiming the notable distinction of being the only automaker currently capable of mass-producing self-driving cars. General Motors also announced a $500 million investment in the Lyft ride-hailing app and signaled its intentions to deploy the fully-tested self-driving Chevrolet Bolt vehicles through the company's network sometime in the future.
Three months later, in September, Ford announced that it, too, had partnered with Lyft to develop and test new self-driving vehicle designs and technology with the intention of eventually introducing those vehicles through the Lyft platform.
If the recent announcements from automakers General Motors and Ford are any indication, the day when self-driving vehicles are commonplace on America's roads is inching ever closer. But are Americans ready to accept autonomous vehicles as the new normal?
Purported Benefits of Self-Driving Vehicles
In the past few years, automakers, safety experts and even a bipartisan group of legislators have touted the many potential benefits of driverless vehicle technology. These benefits include:
- Making American roads safer by dramatically reducing the number of accidents, injuries and fatalities caused by human error. Unlike humans, autonomous vehicles are never too tired, too distracted, or too intoxicated to operate safely. Currently, more than 30,000 people die each year in car or truck accidents.
- Improving traffic and fuel efficiency by decreasing the total number of vehicles on the road, reducing both congestion and CO2 emissions.
- Allowing passengers to use time previously spent concentrating on piloting the vehicle for rest, study, or other pursuits.
Challenges Surrounding Self-Driving Vehicle Technology
Until recently, one of the most significant challenges to the mainstreaming of self-driving technology was antiquated safety standards and piecemeal state-by-state legislation that made it difficult for automakers to test the capabilities of these vehicles.
Additionally, in early tests, self-driving vehicles have struggled to navigate in inclement or variable weather conditions, and are not yet adept at handling unpredictable situations. Safety experts hope that autonomous vehicles will eventually replace vehicles with human drivers. However, the technology's inability to adapt to unpredictable situations may make it difficult for self-driving vehicles to safely share the road with human motorists.
Self-Driving Vehicle Legislation
In September 2017, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the House and Senate passed legislation designed to make it easier for automakers to develop and test autonomous vehicle technology. Specifically, the legislation waived laws that require all vehicles to have human driver controls, such as pedals and a steering wheel. The legislation also prevents states from banning self-driving vehicles, while allowing them to retain control of registration, licensing, liability, insurance, and safety inspection matters.
Additionally, if self-driving vehicles prove as safe as current vehicles, the recent legislation would allow automakers to sell up to 25,000 autonomous vehicles in the first year and up to 100,000 in the third year.
The bills passed in the House and Senate both failed to give a green light to the widespread testing of self-driving semi-trucks, as they specifically excluded vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds.
Concerns About Self-Driving Vehicles
While major automakers and lawmakers are decidedly behind the introduction of self-driving vehicles, one key group remains unconvinced: the America public. In fact, according to a J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Tech Choice Study, the public is becoming even more skeptical of autonomous vehicles.
The percentage of people ages 18-to-22 who said that they would “definitely not” trust autonomous vehicle technology doubled: from 11 percent in 2016 to 22 percent in 2017. Additionally, in the past year, the percentage of those over the age of 71 who said they would “definitely not” trust self-driving vehicles rose from 40 percent to 49 percent.
Do You Need a Car Accident Attorney?
While self-driving vehicles may be able to reduce the number of future accidents, this is hardly any consolation for people already seriously injured in a car or truck accident. If you were injured in crash that wasn't your fault, you may be entitled to compensation.
Contact McGartland Law Firm today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case with a legal professional.