New research suggests that semi-automated vehicles are already influencing how people move and drive. Half-automated electric cars can control speed and steering with the input of sensors that scan the environment. According to the report, autopilot has encouraged people to drive more, as it takes away the big burden of driving. Although fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) are not there yet and might take decades to go mainstream, the acceptance of AVs is gaining traction. Legal responsibility and security are two issues that need to be resolved before driverless cars become the norm.

According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA), 94% of vehicular crashes are caused by driver error. Hence, partially and fully autonomous cars can improve the statistic significantly. Unfortunately, in the event that a self-driving car crashes, destroys property, causes injuries, or claims lives, it’s not very clear who has the legal responsibility for the accident.

For example, ride-sharing service Lyft is accountable for the risky and negligent actions of its driver that result in injuries, lost wages, or destruction of property. Lyft claims are processed by legal representatives and insurance providers so that you can get compensation for the cost of your injuries and their impact on your daily and future life. Uber operates under the same regulation that accidents caused by negligent drivers are the responsibility of the company. However, in fully autonomous vehicles, the software and car manufacturers are expected to assume responsibility for collisions and crashes. When a driver operates the car, it is the driver who will take the blame for accidents. The bottom line is that accountability and liability are difficult to establish if there is no consistent national regulation.

Vehicle Safety

Another issue that affects the mass rollout of autonomous vehicles is their safety and security. Driver-assisting technologies can potentially reduce mortality, prevent injuries, and decrease accidents. These include lane depart assist, helping drivers avoid drifting into another lane; automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems; and cameras and sensors that check the environment for threats. If fully-automated vehicles are deployed that can even detect and act faster than humans, errors that result in fatal crashes and collisions could be avoided altogether. However, they can also give the driver a false sense of security.

Unfortunately, glitches in technology can cause a malfunction of the system in driverless cars, which may threaten the security of its occupants. Moreover, the car may not be able to anticipate and navigate situations such as heavy rain, snowstorms, complicated traffic, or icy roads, compromising the safety of the operator and passengers.

Driverless vehicles have the potential to improve road safety, decrease accidents, reduce mortality rates, and lessen property destruction. However, there are still outstanding issues that need to be resolved, such as legal liability and vehicle safety.