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As the technology for driverless cars continues to improve we inevitably approach the point where we want this amazing technology to go mainstream. There will be resistance to allow these cars on our roads on a number of fronts though.
At some point in the future people will die or be seriously injured as a result of a driverless car accident. To think that this will never happen is ridiculous. However this shouldn’t be the first thing we think about. People seem to be afraid of introducing driverless cars because they don’t know who to blame, or hold accountable when this happens.
At the moment we have a system where drivers are licensed and held responsible for their actions. Car owners must register their car and meet regulatory requirements to ensure their car is roadworthy. Car manufacturers are accountable for the quality of the cars they produce in regards to meeting safety standards and legislated requirements. And governments are accountable for the system of road rules and safety standards that cars must meet. Obviously the only thing that changes in the driverless car scenario is the removal of the driver.
A driverless car is still owned and registered by someone – they are the ones who would be accountable for the actions of their car. Manufacturers could provide some kind of surety / guarantee about the quality of their car, and perhaps provide liability insurance or protection on behalf of the owner in an attempt to sell the car and assure them it was safe.
The frustrating thing is that this ‘problem’ which will delay the introduction of driverless cars is a problem of skewed perception. I am confident that the introduction of driverless cars will dramatically reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our roads. We don’t need these cars to be perfect, they only need to be better than the current system of human driven cars.
Currently we measure the number of people who die on Australian roads each year in the hundreds. This is way too high, and doesn’t mention the thousands of people who are seriously injured as a result of road accidents. If the introduction of driverless cars cuts this in half – wouldn’t that be amazing?