Texas residents should understand the difference between self-driving vehicles and e with driver assistance technologies.
Human error has long been noted as a primary contributor in motor vehicle accidents. For this reason, Texas residents have watched curiously as different automobile manufacturers or technology companies push forward with the development and implementation of automated driving features.
Driving technology in action today
Among the companies actively pursuing technology-assisted driving is Tesla. It currently sells a vehicle with a feature it calls autopilot. This is significantly different from the self-driving vehicles in testing by Google as noted by the Washington Post. The Tesla vehicle is equipped with a variety of individual functions designed to reduce the responsibility put on drivers. The functions are never meant to fully eliminate the responsibility of drivers, however.
Examples of technology assistance include cameras that can see and read road markings and signs or sensors that can detect other vehicles or objects. They are in a way like the next step forward from things like cruise control or collision avoidance.
Fatal crash exposes risk
This spring, a 40-year-man who was operating his Tesla vehicle in the autopilot mode died after his car drove into and under a semi truck after failing to detect it. According to Fortune, this was not the first such accident for a Tesla autopilot car. Another one was all but identical except that there was no driver and the impact was at a lower speed, therefore no fatality occurred.
In both crashes, it appears that there is a glaring oversight in the Tesla technology. The cameras or other sensors on the vehicles cannot detect items beyond a certain height, including semi trucks. These large trucks comprise up to 25 percent of traffic on the road, opening up a serious accident risk.
The Tesla opinion
The Los Angeles Times reports that the owners' manuals for the Tesla cars indicate that drivers should keep their hands on the steering wheels even when autopilot is engaged. However, it is unclear as to whether or not that a statement in a manual would sufficiently protect the company from liability.
Tesla has also reportedly indicated that between the automated features, if drivers maintain control or the ability to take over control, accidents should be avoidable. This, however, seems to somewhat contradict the fact that human error is a frequent cause of auto accidents.
Regulation seems to be lacking
The Center for Auto Safety is calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to institute safety standards specific for automated driving technologies like those found on the Tesla cars. Currently, none exist.
With or without laws in place regarding these vehicles or their technologies, Texans who are injured or who lose loved ones in crashes caused by technological failures deserve help. Contacting an attorney after such an accident is recommended, especially with the lack of clear regulation today.