Driverless Cars: The Future of Transport?

Sep 07, 2011

One of the most prevalent causes of traffic accidents is, quite simply, driver error.  Whether it is texting while driving, poor visibility or simply missing a change in traffic conditions, most accidents happen because the driver of the car makes a mistake. That’s why many companies are working towards creating cars that remove the human element and stop accidents… by driving themselves.

Technology has already been developed to help drivers avoid collisions and even automatically correct their course, but a fully automatic vehicle could be on its way to mass production in the near future. A driverless Chevrolet Tahoe was able to navigate an Air Force base populated with other vehicles and pedestrians for 55 miles in 2007, and a test of several new driverless vehicles is scheduled to take place this October at Walt Disney World. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that connected vehicles could reduce accidents involving unimpaired drivers by 80 percent.

The technology is still not perfect; in August, a driverless car belonging to Google was found to be at fault in an accident near the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, CA. While the vehicle had already driven over 160,000 miles without incident, it does show that the technology in these vehicles is not perfect, and raises some questions. Would such connected vehicles be tracked at all times? And how would accidents be handled? Most proponents of driverless cars say that drivers would still be responsible for any accident their vehicle was at fault for, but others claim that the manufacturer should handle the burden.

Regardless of how things go over the next few years, the prospect of a driverless car is certainly an interesting one. Would you feel safe riding in a car with no driver? Or sending one out on business for you? Let us know how you feel in the comments section.Photo courtesy of Elias Gayles and re-used under the Creative Commons license.