Society must make two big leaps in order to enable truly self-driving cars. The first is technological. Engineers need to improve today's cars (which can warn a driver that he's drifting out of his lane) beyond current Google and Darpa prototypes (which maintain the lane on their own) to the point where automobiles can edge forward through a construction zone while their owners sleep inside.
The technological leap will be good for everyone. Machines are incredibly reliable. Humans are not. Most car crashes are caused by human error (a 2004 World Health Organization report put the figure at 90 percent). As safety technologies like antilock brakes and traction-control systems have taken hold, the number of fatal accidents has dropped 35 percent between 1970 and 2009, even though cars drive more than a trillion miles farther annually. "Robots have faster reaction times and will have better sensors than humans," says Seth Teller, a professor of computer science and engineering at MIT. "The number of accidents will never reach zero, but it will decrease substantially." Don't think of self-driving cars as a convenience—they're a safety system.
The other leap that society has to make is from driver liability to manufacturer liability. When a company sells a car that truly drives itself, the responsibility will fall on its maker. "It's accepted in our world that there will be a shift," says Bryant Walker Smith, a legal fellow at Stanford University's law school and engineering school who studies autonomous-vehicle law. "If there's not a driver, there can't be driver negligence. The result is a greater share of liability moving to manufacturers."
The liability issues will make the adoption of the technology difficult, perhaps even impossible. In the 1970s, auto manufacturers hesitated over implementing airbags because of the threat of lawsuits in cases where someone might be injured in spite of the new technology. Over the years, airbags have been endlessly refined. They now account for a variety of passenger sizes and weights and come with detailed warnings about their dangers and limitations. Taking responsibility for every aspect of a moving vehicle, however—from what it sees to what it does—is far more complicated. It could be too much liability for any company to take on.
The government could step in, though. In a few instances, federal law has overridden state law to protect the public. Under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, for example, vaccine makers have special protection. Consumers can file injury claims through a dedicated office of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and vaccine makers pay out without admitting fault. The act seeks to protect the small number of people hurt by vaccines while encouraging vaccine makers to keep producing the drugs, because to prevent disease an unvaccinated person must be surrounded by thousands of vaccinated ones. Autonomous technology is similar: It won't make us safer until it's in most vehicles. Maybe it deserves special treatment to get it on the road.
would it not remain in the hands of insurers;
if people don't take their cars for regular services, then chances of a fault developing in the car system & robotic driver would increase; same as happens now;
(can imagine w.o.f. checks being ultra expensive, as vehicle testing stations would require highly skilled techie/mechanics)
manufacturers would have same obligations as they do now,
as toyota found recently;
i would suggest that there would be more problems with robotic drivers catching a virus,
only going on what has been reported, of self drive cars using wireless navigation & communicating with other cars & traffic systems;
the term "drive by", may take on a whole new meaning;
I don't think it's that big of a leap. People with self-driving cars would still get insurance as owners or operators of those vehicles. Nobody has to be at fault in a crash. Right now if a vehicle has a mechanical failure that causes a crash, nobody is cited and insurance pays for it. Like anything else that we operate, the liability is on the owner/operator, and that liability is defrayed by insurance.
Certainly the insurance companies would have to reword a few things, and would have to take a good long look at self-driving vehicles to figure out what rates to charge for them. But I anticipate that a safer car means you'd probably pay less for your insurance than one driven by a person. Since cars would likely have an auto mode and a manual mode, the trick will be for the insurance companies to charge you appropriately based on how much of the car's time is spent in manual vs auto modes.
Technology-wise, we're practically already there. In terms of technology that is affordable for those who already own BMWs and Mercedes, we're only 3-5 years away. Probably more like 5-7 years for mid-range cars, and 7-10 for lower-end cars.
That's a good question. The answer depends on the rules set by the owner of the road and the agreement between the owner of the car and the manufacturer of the car.
When I join a club or association of some kind, I often sign a waiver and set of rules which explains what I can do or not, and what the club can be held responsible for and how dispute can be arbitrated.
Similarly, when you buy a product (such as a car) there are a set of implicit and explicit guarantees which the manufacturer makes to the buyer (car owner).
So I see the chain of responsibility as: owner of the road -> owner of the car -> manufacturer of the car.
The terms agreed at each step in this chain will determine how blame is allocated.
This has already been done in Nevada with the autonomous car laws. The responsibility belongs to the cars owner. Period.
If you dont' want to drive a car, then move to a place with public transportation and stop shoving more endless regulation and mandated technological BS down the throat of the average consumer. We don't need autonomous cars. You can easily go cross country in a plane if you don't want to drive, although you will be subject to higher radiation than in a car and most likely a mouth-breather working for the TSA will either look at your naked body on a scanner or they will grope you. But nevertheless, if you don't want to drive, then you already have options around it.
I'm pretty much a tech geek, but I find it amazing that tech is so often credited with better traffic stats.
How about better enforcement, better highways and other non tech changes? DUI enforcement is up and acceptable limits are down in general. All of these things play a part.
I also dispute the reliability statement. The increase in system complexity will cause issues due to the sheer number of parts. ( If you have a 100 parts that fail at an aveage rate of every hundreth hour, your failure rate will be once per hour - make that 100 parts and it's once every tenth of an hour).
And not only are there more parts, there are sensors and control systems that must be remarkably precise. ANd they must continue through years of things like pothole shock and severe weather. (not to mention poor maintenance).
Finally there are the control algorithms themselves, which may have err... bugs. They will, count on it.
So, m,aybe they will get there, but I'm betting that there will be some nasty surprises along the way. Hopefully they will start small and perhaps define a few high accident areas to work with. Then they could also build in some supporting systems in these areas as well to reduce the workload on the vehicle systems.
In my life time so far and seeing history, there has been an extreme variety of vehicles on the road.
I will ultimately hold the driver responsible of the vehicle he drives, be it old and simple or modern and space age. The driver is always responsible for his safety and car and for all the safety of the people and property around him as he drives.
If later it is found the car was at fault, let the driver sew the manufacture. I the driver cause me or my family harm; I will hold the driver responsible.
The insurance companies are responsible to whatever agreement between the driver and themselves.
The states have laws and policies of what is required in the insurance, between the driver and the insurance company.
I will always hold the driver responsible for his actions as he drives. People do have the right to sew the driver of an accident beyond what his insurance company represents for him in a court of law and if the court approves.
Science sees no further than what it can sense, i.e. facts.
Religion sees beyond the senses, i.e. faith.
Open your mind and see!
Sounds sort of like Total Recall....
I blame the manufacturers, the bots should be tried and tested and virus impenetrable. unless it was customized then the owner. Or if it was to crash into a human driver then obviously the other vehicle because of human error.
The question is not who gets the blame
the question is who pay's the claim.
If insurance companies know that robotic car claims are lower, insurance companies will have a lower rate for robotic cars.
When you have an accident the first question will be who was driving and I wouldn't lie because I am sure the car will have a tattle-tale black box.
We already have parking assist, cruise control, ABS braking and traction control.
Every couple of years we give up a little more of our autonomy to the cars on-board systems and intelligence and every year the cars become safer and accident rates drop.
I suspect that many of the authors on this page are below 65 years of age and love driving, but the fact is when you hit 70 your reaction time is much slower than when you were 20.
That said, many of the current generation of 19 year old's will live to over 100 and many of those could, without robotic cars, look forward to 40 golden years in a scooter because they are to infirm to drive.
If you are a hard driving 50 years old, ask your 80 year old dad if he would like a robotic car, I am sure he probably would say yes and his insurance company will say "Hell yes."
Not only are robotic cars coming, but in 20 years, ultra high density highway's will be off-limits to non robotic cars.
Car insurance will be higher for non robotic cars and for some infirm or bad drivers, insurance will be cost prohibitive or just plain unobtainable.
For people who think litigation is the solution to blocking robotic vehicles, a good warm up would be parking assist which is the very essence of the robotic car and I feel the battle has already been lost.
Robots are here to stay and you ain't seen nothing yet.