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Understanding new safety data on self-driving vehicles - Part II

In a recent post, we began a discussion about data that was recently released regarding the safety and efficiency of self-driving vehicles. We noted that the California Department of Motor Vehicles asked Google and six other companies to disclose information about these vehicles generally and about the need for trained drivers to take the wheel due to safety issues or technical failures specifically.

We also observed that this data is likely to inform future production, legal concerns, safety discussions and consumer response to these vehicles. It seems that the most significant revelation provided by this data is that self-driving vehicles have yet to assume much use in terms of self-driving capability or safety. This is not to say that these vehicles do not have potential, but they have yet to fulfill their purpose, which is to allow motorists to engage in other occupations while the vehicles drive themselves.

When a motorist is required to take the wheel of a self-driving vehicle due to technical failure or safety-related necessity, the vehicle ceases to be self-driving. And if a motorist has to take the wheel with any kind of frequency, a motorist cannot allow his or her attention to drift for even a moment, in case the vehicle should require him or her to assume driving duty.

Even though automakers and companies like Google are investing heavily in self-driving technology, the recently released DMV data makes it clear that motorists are still so often required to assume control of self-driving vehicles that these vehicles are essentially not performing as a self-driving technology at all.

We noted in our last post that Californians are trend setters. And self-driving technology is certainly a trend born in California. Although in time such technology is likely to become a significant part of the American experience, it seems that it is not yet ready for the public’s embrace and will not be for quite some time.

Source: ABC News, “Questions and Answers About New Self-Driving Car Safety Data,” Justin Pritchard, Jan. 14, 2016

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