Much has been said about the safety potential for driver-less cars as we get closer to them becoming a reality. Essentially, the public won’t have to worry about these cars driving aggressively, succumbing to road rage or even driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
But there are some safety hazards that will have to be addressed, such as the autonomous systems being hacked by unauthorized users. The threat of braking or acceleration systems being controlled at inopportune times by a hacker is definitely a problem.
However, the way that autonomous cars may react to human drivers may be a hazard that will have to be addressed as well. A recent Time.com article highlighted a person’s accounts of Google’s driverless cars and how they may pose a problem adapting to normal traffic conditions. Essentially, the man observed that the cars were very slow to accelerate, drove very conservatively (i.e. below the posted speed limits) and were slow to make appropriate lane changes. Suffice it to say, the cars drove like what he described as “your grandma.”
So what can be expected if you are in an accident with a driverless car? After all, can a computerized navigator be blamed for not using reasonable care while behind the wheel? This is a legal question that will eventually have to be answered; especially considering how malfunctions can affect the car’s ability to function safely.
In the meantime, the expectation to share the road will fall on human drivers, regardless of whether autonomous functions exist.