Kentucky drivers know to pull to the side and watch out when they see police cars and fire trucks ahead, lights blazing. However, while self-driving vehicles aim to make the roadways safer, these cars do not yet fully reflect human perceptions of danger or even note the existence of emergency vehicles ahead. This challenge in developing truly autonomous cars was highlighted in a car accident involving a Tesla running its own semi-autonomous software, Autopilot, and a fire truck. The fire truck was parked ahead on a freeway along with police cars, responding to an incident. The Tesla ran into the back of the truck, leading to property damage but no injuries.
Despite the fact that the crash was relatively minor, it drew the attention of regulators and safety experts because the obstacle hit – the fire truck – was so large and visible. Tesla warns drivers against relying on Autopilot, noting that it is still semi-autonomous technology rather than a fully self-driving car. However, several car accidents have been linked to drivers remaining distracted while allowing their cars to operate in a fully autonomous mode. One of the flaws in existing robotic driving technology is the sensors’ failure to clearly detect parked cars ahead.
One of the major draws of autonomous technology is the potential to increase roadway safety, a potential that is borne out by some types of semi-autonomous driving aids. For example, automatic emergency braking, lane-change warnings and blind-spot indicators have all driven down accident rates.
Most car crashes are still caused by negligent drivers and other forms of human error, being distracted or driving while intoxicated. People who have been injured in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence might turn to a personal injury lawyer to pursue compensation for their medical bills, lost wages and other damages.