A driverless car that may seem like a futuristic dream to most California residents will be ready for the road in 2018, according to Google, whose engineering is furthest along. Other manufacturers working on similar projects are GM, Toyota and BMW. California is one of three states in which these cars are street-legal. The purpose of these cars is to provide transportation for people with disabilities or who are unable to drive for some other reason.
The biggest problem that Google is working on now is whether they can be kept safe and free from car accidents. While the cars have many talents, such as measuring whether a parking space is large enough and not tailgating, they cannot obey traffic signs or see people in the roadway. This problem, along with erratic behavior in bad weather, makes it apparent that they are not ready to go out in traffic at the present time. There has been one accident reported for a Google car, but apparently it was operated by a person, not the computer, at the time.
There have been indications that these cars will cause fewer accidents, which would lower insurance rates as well as potentially eliminate issues that claim thousands of lives each year currently, such as distracted driving or driving under the influence. It has even been speculated that driver’s licenses will be obsolete by 2040. A more definite implication, however, is that automotive laws will be changed.
There are many legal issues that need to be straightened out regarding driverless cars that may currently concern police, accident attorneys and insurance companies alike. Where does the liability lie if the car causes injury or property damage without a driver, and will this be blamed on a computer problem? Who would be held responsible for a traffic violation? We will definitely be staying informed on all this promising new technology from the auto industry.