Driverless Cars Before Decade's End? Developers Say So


As self-driving-car innovators begin offering estimated times of arrival of the technology, the question of whether autonomous automobiles are possible seems to have taken a backseat to the question of who gets sued following a crash. Within a few days of one another, Google and Audi, two leaders in the autonomous-car movement, announced near-future arrival dates.

"We are assuming that a series-built vehicle with a piloted driving function will be technically feasible this decade," Audi CEO Rupert Stadler said in a Jan. 29 statement from the automaker.

Google did Audi one better last week, announcing that its vehicles could be available to consumers within three to five years, according to Bloomberg. Automakers and public officials alike have publicly stated that self-driving cars can reduce crashes and improve overall road and highway safety. Still, with the technology evidently on its way, a formidable obstacle may remain as lawmakers, transportation officials and insurance companies must collectively rethink licensing, insurance and safety standards to address the new liability questions the technology presents.

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By Matt Schmitz | February 7, 2013 | Comments (3)


Driverless cars will come in 4 steps:
* step 0: today’s self parking feature and Google cars
* step 1: partially autonomous driverless cars
* step 2: everyone can operate a driverless car
* step 3: shared driverless cars

“How long end drivers are allowed (technically and legally) not to pay attention to road” will be the most interesting thing to watch for the next 5 to 10 years and especially:
* environmental conditions allowing it.
* the price of the technical features needed.
* reliability.


A quibble with terminology:

Just because they've invented a way to drive a car via "autopilot," that does not imply the car is "driverless."

An airplane or ship on autopilot isn't "captainless," and neither is a car operated similarly. A driver is still needed to monitor systems, make go/no go decisions, and take over when the slilcon quits. That's a big part of being a "driver," over and above manipulation of the controls.


I think the liability will mostly fall on the owner. There will definitely be a requirement for there to be a black box to track whether the sensors were working or if it was the driver who was in control and was the cause of the accident.

If the driver knew the system wasn't operating properly (s)he'll be liable and if he was driving (s)he'll be liable. The only way it would be the producer of the car is if there was something saying it was working when it wasn't but that's pretty much how it already is.

It's up to the owner to make sure the brakes and tires are in good condition. You can't sue Firestone if you failed to change the tires when they were bald.

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