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Automated Cars: Safer Than Human Drivers

Posted on: May 28, 2014 by Platinum Direct

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This week, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in America officially approved a rule to allow the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads. It is a step closer to making the dream of having automated vehicles on the road, a reality.

Google Self Drive Car

Automated cars, by all accounts, are much safer than human drivers. In fact, human error contributes to more than 90 percent of all auto accidents. And the allure of being in a safe driving position while on the road is one that many people are anticipating.

But that said, questions are still being raised about how safe automated cars really are on the public roads. A case in point is what happens when the automated vehicle is going to have a collision into one of two objects – which does it choose?

While human drivers can only react instinctively in a sudden emergency, an automated car is driven by software, constantly scanning its environment with unblinking sensors and able to perform many calculations before we’re even aware of danger. If the automated car gets into trouble and needs to decide that it will hit something to avoid something else, it will rely on an algorithm to make the decision. The algorithm needs to be programed to make that choice but what happens when it makes the wrong ‘decision’? It would seem the company that created the algorithm is potentially liable for legal responsibility.

With Google aiming to have its first fully automated car on the roads by 2017, the gaping legal holes around insurance, driver liability and manufacturing responsibility still need to be ironed out. Chris Urmson, lead engineer on Google’s autonomous Prius and Lexus cars, told a robotics conference in California that they are not worried about these issues. “We’re spending less time in near-collision states. Our car is driving more smoothly and more safely than our trained professional drivers.”

In addition, Urmson showed one test where the Google car was hit by another vehicle. The Google car’s data was then used to create a blueprint of the collision and a map of the surroundings which proved who was at fault. “We don’t have to rely on eyewitnesses that can’t be trusted as to what happened — we actually have the data,” said Urmson.

With the technology getting better and better, the car manufacturers themselves seem sold on the driverless car concept. Indeed, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Toyota, Ford and Volvo are all working on harnessing the technology, while Audi expects to be manufacturing automated cars by 2015, and Nissan has plans to have their cars on the road by 2020.

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