Self Driving Cars – Do We Know They Are Safe?

Jan 9, 2017 | Safety Information

The pros and cons of self-driving cars have been discussed extensively in the news, on social media, and even in law offices. Since Uber sent their self-driving cars to San Francisco for testing, there has been a great deal of controversy regarding their safety.

The California Attorney General’s office has threatened to pursue legal action against the billion-dollar company if they don’t remove the self-driving test cars from roads used by the public. Uber has not complied with the necessary documentation to test the cars even though the Attorney General’s office threatens legal action.

Uber vs. California DMV

The controversy centers around the fact that the test vehicles by Uber do not have DMV permits, which Uber insists is not necessary due to the systems within the vehicles that offer advanced driver assistance. Anthony Levandowski heads up the autonomous car program for Uber, and he said that the company does not intend to comply with the California DMV because the ruling does not apply to their self-driving vehicles.

According to California Vehicle Code Section 38750, the DMV has regulations to monitor the use of autonomous cars in California that are for public use or testing. California law defines self-driving vehicles as a type of technology that can be physically controlled or monitored by a tester.

Collision Avoidance Systems and Autonomous Cars

Within this same section, however, vehicles with automated emergency braking systems, traffic jam and queuing assist, lane keep assist, electronic blind spot assistance, and lane departure warning, all part of collision avoidance systems, are excluded. The letter from the DMV sent to Uber on December 14, 2016, stated that autonomous vehicles need to have a permit to ensure that the people testing the self-driving cars are properly qualified, will report accidents, and will take adequate financial responsibility.

Safety for Pedestrians and Cyclists

Of course, one of the areas of concern with self-driving cars is the possible threats to other vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists. While most testing has proven that the cars are adequately safe, there is still a great deal of uncertainty regarding particular situations. With more self-driving cars on the road, it is likely that the public and government officials will continue to question whether the self-driving vehicles are safe.

For over a month, Uber tested the self-driving cars in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Pennsylvania. The latest test in San Francisco involved eleven Volvo SUVs. The vehicles were tested in a variety of ways including logging, mapping, and even picking up riders. Over twenty other businesses have contacted the California DMV to test self-driving vehicles, including Ford, Google, Nvidia, and Tesla, and all have been approved.

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