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Will Google’s Driverless Car Better Avoid Car Accidents?

September 19, 2012 by The Sawaya Law Firm

Google’s driverless car may well revolutionize the world’s highways just like the company’s Internet search engine revolutionized the world’s information superhighway. Google’s engineers have been working on a car that can drive itself through the use of sensors, satellites and computer data.

Google claims this autonomous vehicle will be in fewer car accidents than cars driven by humans because computers do not drink too much, drive drowsy or get distracted by their cellphones. Google also says the cars are safer because a computer can see around itself 360 degrees at all times, unlike a human’s limited vision and focus.

Google says that the only car accidents the autonomous cars have been in during their hundreds of thousands of miles of testing were when they were hit by other drivers. If most people were driving such cars in the future, the cars may also help to ease traffic congestion. This is because the cars will be able to drive closer together and maybe even virtually link up to drive like a train, connected only by a unified computer network.

The Google cars are still a ways off from being driven by consumers. Google wants its engineers to ride in the autonomous cars for at least 1 million miles before the cars go on the market. An automaker will also have to team up with Google to use Google’s robot car technology in its vehicles.

Many companies are already working on putting more technology into vehicles that can help take some human error out of driving ahead of the Google car being on the market. For example, Ford has been installing “lane-keeping technology” in its vehicles to tell if a car has veered out of its lane, which may happen if the driver falls asleep at the wheel. The technology causes the steering wheel to vibrate to wake the driver, and if the car is not corrected, it will auto-correct the car.

Who Will be At Fault if a Robot Car is in an Accident?

Nevada and California are paving the way for robot cars to legally share the road through proposing and passing legislation to regulate the testing of the cars on the states’ roadways and the use of the cars later by consumers. Others states could soon follow, including Colorado. Even though the cars may be seen by some as belonging in the future, the reality is that they will be on our roads before we know it and will change the way we drive.

Being proactive with legislation is probably not a bad idea considering how messy it could become if one of these cars is involved in a car accident. Who would be held liable if there was a crash? The maker of the car or the maker of defective products in the car? Google, for making the software? The driver behind the wheel?

As proactive as lawmakers are, it is likely that these questions will not get fully hammered out until consumers start driving these cars and accidents start to happen. But perhaps Google is right and there will be far fewer accidents to be concerned about.

If you have a question or concern regarding liability in an auto accident, please contact a Denver, Colorado attorney at The Sawaya Law Firm.

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