Autonomous Vehicles: Futuristic, But Are They Safe?

Growing up, you probably watched movies or cartoons that featured flying cars, friendly robots, or human living in space. While we might not have all of these things—yet!—we have seen some incredible technical advances in recent years, including the rising prominence of self-driving cars. But when it comes to safe driving, is high-tech always best?

What Is An Autonomous Vehicle?

Self-driving cars, also known as autonomous vehicles, are vehicles that operate entirely or partially on their own. Research into self-driving cars has been ongoing since the 1980s, but they have gained more attention in recent years. One major player in the self-driving car world is Tesla, a company known for its sleek, environmentally-efficient vehicles. Fully automated vehicles are expected to be a reality on the roads by 2020. For now, many manufacturers already offer vehicles that are partially autonomous. In these cases, vehicles allow drivers to use an autopilot setting, which means that the car drives itself but that the driver should still keep their hands on the wheel.

The Benefits of Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars have many benefits. They are more environmentally-friendly than other vehicles, and are expected to help cut down on carbon emissions. They also reduce the risk of human error and could dramatically cut down on drunk and distracted driving. Self-driving cars could also lead to a greater sense of independence for elderly people or people with disabilities that prevent them from driving.

Recent Tesla Accidents

Despite these benefits, many people might still have concerns about handing over control to their car. Some self-driving car accidents do validate these concerns. One accident, which occurred in Florida in 2016, killed a Tesla driver when the vehicle’s sensors failed to detect an oncoming vehicle. A similar accident, also in Florida, happened earlier this year, resulting in the death of the driver of a Tesla vehicle. In both accidents, the vehicles were on autopilot. Tesla defended themselves by saying that the drivers should have still been paying attention to their surroundings, and could have taken control of the vehicle and avoided the collisions. The second accident has led to a wrongful death lawsuit against Tesla.

Accidents like these raise concerns about self-driving cars and their ability to handle common roadwork complications, like roadblocks or a police officer conducting traffic at a broken light. Additionally, there is also the risk of technological errors or even malicious attacks on the car’s software. Some also worry that as drivers become more and more reliant on autonomous technology, they will lose critical driving skills and be unable to cope with challenges that may arise.

Self-Driving Liability

Self-driving cars also raise some complex legal questions, like the wrongful death lawsuit over this year’s crash shows. If no one is driving the car, who is liable for an accident? Does the fault partially fall on the driver, or can the manufacturer or the car be held liable? Since self-driving cars are still fairly uncommon, many questions about liability remain unanswered.

Self-driving cars are cool and futuristic, but they aren’t without risks and complications. Until technology can entirely eliminate both human and software errors, it’s best to stay alert and avoid distractions behind the wheel, even when your car is doing most of the work.

Would You Trust A Self-Driving Car?


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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