The discussion concerning driverless vehicles has changed over the years. At one point this type of technology was considered to be something out of a futuristic work of fiction. But thanks to modern developments, autonomous vehicles on the roadways have become a reality.
While modern driverless vehicles still have a driver (and sometimes other personnel) inside, the vehicles are design to completely pilot themselves while remaining a safe distance from other vehicles, avoiding obstacles, and reacting to traffic shifts safely – all without the driver having to be involved in the process for the vast majority of the time.
Drivers need to touch the wheel at certain intervals in order to prevent the system from going off. This ensures that the personnel in the vehicle are ready should the system experience problems.
These vehicles are poised to offer many benefits including more efficient performance in the commercial freight industry, more options for public transportation, and new vehicle choices for consumers. But the technology is still in its infancy, and although test drives and deliveries have been made in the past, not all of these runs have been without issue.
Headlines were made when a Tesla vehicle equipped with self-driving technology was recently involved in a fatal accident. Of all the benefits concerning driverless vehicles and the allure that comes with never-before-seen advancements, there was one primary concern that the public had concerning this technology – is it safe?
When a Model S crashed in Indianapolis killing the driver and the passenger, many were concerned about whether or not the autopilot component in this vehicle was safe. The thought of a system like this failing brings up many concerns about whether it was moved to the highway too soon. An article by Neal E. Boudette for The New York Times noted that the autopilot system was blamed for the death of a Chinese Tesla driver earlier this year.
But Tesla, who confirmed they were cooperating with Indianapolis police during an investigation, proposed that the autopilot component of the system may not have been on at all during the crash. Those who observed the event claimed that the vehicle was traveling at a speed higher than 35MPH when the accident occurred. The significance of this figure is noted in that Tesla’s autopilot system is only designed to function at certain speeds.
The rate of speed and the damage to the vehicle seem to indicate that it was traveling in excess of 35MPH when the accident occurred. Given the way the system is designed, this would mean that the autopilot component of this vehicle wouldn’t be to blame in this instance.
Tesla expressed remorse over the accident and its severe nature, and the company has been diligent about working with lawmakers and transportation experts to ensure this potentially world-changing technology can be implemented safely.
While other accidents have been reported involving these autopilot features, one of the main strategies used to keep things safe during the testing phase is an approach to limiting the speed. More information will be available as the investigation develops and authorities determine whether the system was indeed disengaged.