The topic of self-driving vehicles draws many different reactions.
While some people think that having algorithms and hardware interfaces pilot a vehicle could be beneficial, others claim it’s a terrible idea that could put people at risk.
Many people worry whether autonomous technology has been refined enough to deliver safe results in practice. Those same individuals jumped at the chance to confirm their suspicions when it was announced that a self-driving vehicle in Las Vegas crashed – only two hours after being deployed.
The shuttle was capable of transporting a dozen people, and was developed by France-based company Navya. It went through successful tests earlier this year. Dozens of people had lined up to get a ride on the vehicle, which had no steering wheel and no brakes.
The shuttle did have an attendant, which is common in many self-driving vehicles. Attendants, engineers, and technicians are usually along for the ride just in case something goes wrong with the system. However, it was up to the machine itself to make a successful trip.
It was not to be, at least not on this day.
Shortly after being put into operation near the Freemont East area, the shuttle encountered a truck backing into a driveway hit. The truck hit the shuttle with one of its tires, but the accident caused no significant damage. In addition, authorities state the shuttle was not at fault during the incident.
The city released a statement, saying: “The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that it’s sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident. Unfortunately, the delivery truck did not stop and grazed the front fender of the shuttle. Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided.”
Initial headlines made it seem as if the shuttle had simply lost control of itself, but it was the truck driver who was cited by police for illegal backing.
Autonomous vehicles use cameras and sensors to register their surroundings so that the vehicle can react just like a human would. In this instance, it is questionable whether a human driver behind the wheel wouldn’t have been able to avoid contact with the truck either.
The technology behind autonomous trucks has been used (in more simplified variants) for years. Solutions like backup cameras and automatic brake-assistance systems involve machines making decisions based off pre-established algorithms to help humans.
The idea of driverless vehicles has become less of a fiction and more of a reality in recent years, with big names in the transportation industry making their entry into this mysterious field. Self-driving startup Otto was purchased by Uber in 2016, signaling the beginning of many prototypes and test models for driverless vehicles in both the personal and commercial categories.
The Vegas shuttle is being operated by Keolis, a transportation company, and the vehicle only goes 15 mph. Despite the mishap, driverless vehicles still offer great potential and could one day become as safe (and as common) as their human-piloted counterparts.