Technology in the automobile industry is increasing at a rapid rate, particularly with regards to self-driving vehicles. Several companies have already put autonomous vehicles on the roads, albeit with a human conductor in them. However, Waymo, Google’s autonomous car company, is set to test totally driverless cars on California roadways.
Recently, Waymo received regulatory approval to have autonomous vehicles run in California without backup drivers. The vehicles may go as fast as 65 miles per hour. However, the vehicles will still be monitored by a human engineer at a remote location. This person will be allowed to steer and decelerate the autonomous cars if necessary.
However, one must wonder if such advancements are truly safe. One expert likened this rollout to using humans as “guinea pigs.” For example, an Uber autonomous vehicle with a human conductor in it was involved in a fatal collision in another state. If such accidents can take place when a human driver is in the autonomous vehicle, what may happen when that human figure is removed from the equation?
These advancements also bring up interesting legal questions. If a fully autonomous vehicle strikes another motorist or pedestrian, causing injury or death, who is liable should the victim file a personal injury lawsuit? Is it the owner of the vehicle? The person monitoring it remotely? The company that designed and manufactured it? These are all issues that will have to be sorted out as this technology develops.
Autonomous cars may seem to be like something out of a science fiction movie, but they may become part of our reality sooner than we may think. However, technology should not be prioritized over safety. It is important that people are not injured or killed by autonomous vehicles. If they are, they may want to determine what their legal options are moving forward.