SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. The recent self-driving car accident that resulted in the death of a pedestrian has some wondering whether self-driving technology is ready for the road. Self-driving technology is still very much in the testing phase. One way companies have gotten permission to test the technology on public roads is by having back-up drivers behind the wheel. Yet, recent news about what caused an autonomous vehicle crash suggests that an overreliance on backup drivers can be dangerous, too.
According to the Atlantic, a series of errors resulted in the recent accident that left a pedestrian dead in Arizona. It appears that Uber disabled the car’s emergency brakes in order to allow for a smoother ride, thus placing more pressure on the backup driver. Unfortunately, the backup driver was also asked to perform tasks while behind the wheel that could take the driver’s attention off the road.
According to City Lab, humans are always prone to distraction. When you put a human driver behind the wheel of a car that largely drives itself and rarely makes mistakes, people’s guards will be down. This might make a backup driver largely ineffective should something go wrong. Accidents happen largely because they are unexpected. Furthermore, when humans are bored, they may be more likely to be distracted. This can lead to errors when it comes time to take over the wheel.
Many autonomous car designers understand that there is a risk in making a vehicle that is only partially autonomous. This is why companies like Waymo and others only want to release cars onto American highways until they are fully autonomous.
The risks of back-up drivers has not stopped companies from hiring them. Nor has it stopped other companies from offering the possibility of remote drivers taking over should a situation demand it when vehicles are made autonomous. The same problems that plague back up drivers: distraction, boredom, and errors will also plague remote backup drivers who may be far away from the scene.
The systems are only as good as they can be at alerting back up drivers. In the case of the recent autonomous vehicle pedestrian death, warning systems on the car did not alert the backup driver that there was a problem.
At the end of the day, when companies use back up drivers, these drivers and the companies may ultimately be held responsible if something goes wrong. Until self-driving cars get good enough to achieve overarching approval, individuals are ultimately responsible when they get behind the wheel.
The Law Office of Ralph C. Petty are car accident lawyers in Salt Lake City, Utah who are closely watching how technological developments might impact personal injury law. If you or a loved one was hurt in a car accident in Salt Lake City, you may be entitled to seek damages to cover your medical costs and lost wages. Visit us at www.ralphpettylaw.com to learn more about how our firm may be able to help you seek damages and protect your rights.
 

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