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Are autonomous vehicles safe enough to go mainstream?

The prospect of autonomous or “self-driving” vehicles becoming commonplace is exciting for some people. On a long vacation or commute for work, who wouldn’t want to take a little break, sit back and let your car do the work? However, these vehicles are terrifying for others, particularly after a couple of recent fatalities.

Congress is still working on legislation that would mandate that specific safeguards be built into these vehicles, including the ability for people behind the wheel to override that automated system when necessary to prevent a crash.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation, says, “There are a number of us who have reservations about simply putting these vehicles on the road, even during the testing period, without guarantees that in fact there will be potential safeguards and also data reporting,”

One consumer advocate who works for Consumer Reports agrees that safety provisions need to be added to the legislation that’s under consideration. He notes that there’s a race among car makers to get these vehicles to consumers as well as to ride share companies. He says that “there’s a race to be first instead of a race to be safe.”

Sen. Blumenthal, who has ridden as a passenger is some of these vehicles as part of his due diligence for working on the legislation, says that the autonomous technology “is at its toddler state of development, and that’s why we need more testing, more guarantees of safety and more protections.”

He notes, “I’m not a Luddite. I’m not simply standing in the way of progress. I believe that autonomous or driverless vehicles will be coming. But in the meantime, while we’re developing them, they have to be safe.”

Safety advocates caution that people who get behind the wheel of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles still have to pay attention to what’s going on around them and be prepared to take control of their vehicle at any moment.

Autonomous vehicles represent somewhat of a gray area for liability in car crashes. Is the person behind the wheel responsible for failing to control the vehicle or is the vehicle manufacturer at fault because the car failed to avoid the crash? Victims of crashes involving these vehicles should seek the guidance of an experienced California attorney to determine what legal options are available to them.

Source: ABC News, “US senator says more safeguards needed for self-driving cars,” Susan Haigh, AP, April 03, 2018