While the prospect of people riding in cars without drivers may seem like a fanciful notion seen in science fiction movies, the reality of self-driven vehicles dominating U.S. roadways is close enough that federal safety regulators are now expressly warning of potential dangers. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently recommended that states pass laws requiring special driver’s licenses for motorists who operate cars that are self-driven and to mandate that someone with the special license be situated behind the steering well at all times.

While public regulators have acknowledged the potential safety benefits that could be experienced by removing the risk of distracted, intoxicated and speeding drivers from streets and highways, there is concern about the technology being implemented before it is safe. Several states including Florida, Nevada and California have already enacted legislation that allows Google and car manufacturers to experiment with self-driving cars on public roadways. Further, there are a number of other states considering allowing the technology to be tested on the roads within their state.

Self-driven vehicles are viewed as the next evolution in traffic safety by some vehicle safety experts, but there are concerns about companies rushing to be the first to mass market the vehicles without adequate safety testing. “The last thing we need, the last thing the public needs, the last thing the industry needs, is a bad actor to get out ahead of the technology,” explains NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman.

The potential value in this technology is reflected in the fact that approximately 90 percent of all crashes are caused by driver error according to Bob Joop Goos, chairman of the International Organization for Road Accident Prevention. Drunk drivers alone claim the lives of 10,000 people per year which could be eliminated by self-driven vehicles that provide a designated driving option for motorists. Similarly, the issue of using a cell phone to talk or text could also be eradicated by vehicles that do not require a human driver.

Because of concerns about potential malfunctions, vulnerability to hackers and other theoretical problems with the technology, the NHTSA has announced a four-year research program into the safety of self-driven vehicles. The federal vehicle safety agency has also recommended states enforce other rules for vehicles that do not require a human driver, including the following:

  • Requiring drivers to be in a position to take control of the vehicle at all times
  • Mandatory reporting of a crash or near miss
  • Accumulation and analysis of data relating to an any malfunction of the systems

Although this may sound like a hypothetical debate about potential future vehicle innovations, Google engineers have indicated in media reports that self-driven vehicles should be on the market within five years. For the time being, careless and inattentive driving continue to be the primary cause of motor vehicle accidents.

Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law has been fighting for the rights of accident victims and helping families get the compensation they deserve for 30 years. If you or a loved one is injured or dies because of a negligent driver, our Georgia car accident lawyers at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.

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