Driverless vehicles, which haven’t even hit the market yet, have managed to rack up a crash rate that is double than that of human drivers. This has led many people to question the safety of such vehicles.
The problem with self-driving cars is that they obey the law all of the time, without exception. These vehicles risk major accidents because of refusing to cut minor corners, such as speeding up to merge into traffic.
While the accidents that have occurred have all been minor instances, there’s no telling if something major could occur in the future. Now, programmers for the vehicles are considering “teaching” the cars to commit minor traffic infractions to prevent accidents.
Co-director of the General Motors- Carnegie Mellon Autonomous Driving Collaboration Research Lab in Pittsburgh Raj Rajkumar said, “It’s a constant debate inside our group. And we have basically decided to stick to the speed limit. But when you go out and drive the speed limit on the highway, pretty much everybody on the road is just zipping past you. And I would be one of those people.”
While the accident rate for driverless vehicles are twice as high as human driven cars, self-driving cars have never once been at fault for an accident. In most cases, they are hit from behind in slow-speed crashes caused by inattentive or aggressive human drivers.
The state of California has started urging caution to the creators of driverless vehicles. Earlier this week, the state proposed rules that would mandate that a human always be ready to take the wheel in the event of an emergency. Additionally, the companies manufacturing the cars would be required to send a monthly report on their behavior. These rules severely impact Google, which has created a driverless car model that has no steering wheel or gas pedal. Next year, Google is planning to make its self-driving cars unit a stand-alone business.
So far over the course of two million miles, Google self-driving cars have been involved in 17 minor accidents. The company is testing its vehicles primarily in California, where it is mandated that all traffic accidents involving driverless vehicles be reported. The company has reportedly been working to make its self-driving vehicles slightly more “aggressive” to better fit in with human drivers.
While there is a very fine line between driving too carefully and too aggressively, companies like Google are working to find the sweet spot. Luckily, these companies have plenty of time to work out such issues before self-driving cars hit the market. The driverless car from Google is expected to hit the market by 2020.