Technology has come a long way in a short time. From cell phones to laptops to GPS, the devices we use on a daily basis have improved by leaps and bounds in just twenty years. Cars have advanced as well. Today, our cars have features such as Bluetooth technology, satellite radio, and backup cameras that make driving more convenient and safe. And companies are not stopping there. Several companies have developed self-driving cars. While these vehicles are far from the level of technological advancement that you see in science fiction movies like I, Robot or Minority Report, the cars are capable of driving without the assistance of a person. However, like most new technology, there are still some kinks to work out. Google recently had its self-driving car run into a bus and Tesla's self-driving technology caused the death of the driver of the car. We've come a long way, but we still have far to go.
Google's Self-Driving Car, Sandbags, And A Bus
The accident occurred on Valentine's Day of this year. According to The Guardian, Google's self-driving cars have been in accidents before, but the company has always blamed the other driver in those incidents. However, this time, the tech giant "accepted at least partial responsibility for this crash." The accident occurred on the streets of Mountain View, CA. The Google car, a Lexus SUV, was going to make a right turn when it detected some sandbags near a drain by the curb.
According to an accident report filed by Google, "[t]he right lane was wide enough to let some cars turn and others go straight, but to avoid driving over the sandbags, the Lexus needed to slide to its left within the lane." When the Lexus moved to the left, it hit a bus that was heading straight. The Google driver assumed that the bus driver would let her over, to move past the sandbags, but her assumption (and the car's as it turns out) was wrong. No one was hurt in the crash, which occurred at very low speeds.
Tesla and The Fatal Turn
Unlike the Google accident, the driver of a Tesla Model S in self-driving mode did not make it out of his accident. The accident occurred in May in Florida. The New York Times reported that "the crash occurred when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of the Tesla, and the car failed to apply the brakes." Tesla stated that the reason the car failed to stop and let the car pass was because "Neither autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor-trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied." The man who was killed was a Navy Veteran.
Human vs. Technology
With new technology comes new legal questions. In a crash that is caused by a failure of technology, who is responsible? Is the driver responsible for not paying attention to what the car is doing? Is it the company that designed the self-driving system? Is it the car manufacturer? As self-driving technology becomes more prevalent, likely these questions will be brought up in accident lawsuits and the courts are going to have to decide whether to hold the human responsible or the technology.