Driverless Cars Have Safety Issues and Collisions on Public Streets

Many of us dream of the day we don’t need to worry about driving or taking public transportation. Self-driving cars lend hope to this dream and promise to take out the human error that causes many collisions. However, Consumer Watchdog (based in CA) recently warned the California Department of Motor Vehicles that it must not allow Google, Tesla, and other driverless vehicle groups to push the DMV into inadequate public safety regulations.

Some of Consumer Watchdog’s concerns include: 

  • Weather. Heavy precipitation interferes with the vehicle’s sensors.
  • Human hand signals. The cars can’t interact reliably with hand signals given by another driver or by an officer directing traffic.
  • Sunshine. The Sun behind a traffic light can interfere with the car’s ability to determine the light’s color.
  • Changing road conditions. The car’s sensors and navigation systems have difficulty tracking rapid changes, from large potholes and open manholes to newly installed traffic lights.
  • Pre-mapped roads. Given that Google’s cars rely on mapped routes, a car in an un-mapped area such as a parking lot would not know what to do.
  • Humans. The video sensors can’t reliably distinguish a tree branch from a pedestrian.

The Washington Post also recently reported that although driverless cars are getting into accidents, the police reports are not being made public. Google says of the 11 accidents their cars have had, their cars were not at fault. However, the accident reports were not made public in accordance with California law. As the author of the piece said, “But what would really bolster people’s confidence is if the companies could prove that the autopilot performed well at preventing or avoiding a crash – not merely that it wasn’t the cause of a crash.”

As driverless cars become a reality, we must keep in mind consumer safety, placing people above potential profits.


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