← News Jul 22nd 2016

Recent Tesla Crash. Are Self-Driving Cars Safe?

Tesla S

Self-driving cars, also called autonomous cars, are those that can drive with little to no manipulation by the driver. Some of them require a bit of intervention, while others can drive without anyone inside of them. As more of these self-driving cars roll out of factories, many people are questioning their safety.

Some autonomous vehicles work in varying levels. Most such cars work in levels from 0 to 5. At level 0, the driver is doing all the work. As the car progresses to level 5, the car is taking over more and more of the functions until a human driver isn't needed at all. This allows a person to take all, some or none of the control when operating the vehicle.

Right now, it's not legal for cars to drive past level 3 in most states, though some are allowing up to level 5 for testing purposes. Nevada is one of them. Therefore, there is a lot of legal work that still needs to be done before self-driving cars are on the road. Much of this has to do with having the manufacturers prove that the cars are safe to operate.

One of the biggest issues that manufacturers are facing right now is the amount of time it takes a human driver to regain control of the car. With an up to 10-second delay time, tests are finding that the cars aren't giving drivers enough notice for intervention, which can cause accidents and injuries.

In addition to Audi and Tesla, there are some other car companies working on self-driving models. That includes BMW, Daimler, Volvo, Ford, GM, Honda and Jaguar, among many others. With so many manufacturers creating autonomous cars, people are wondering if they can be assured safety if they buy one. While testing continues, a recent Tesla crash that resulted in death is raising obvious questions.

In a recent test drive in Florida, a Tesla test driver was killed when his autonomous car collided with a truck. Reports indicate that he was using the autopilot mode, but was traveling at 74 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone. Apparently, a large blueberry truck turned in front of the Tesla, but its color blended with the sky and the Tesla autonomous braking system did not engage. By the time the human driver realized the danger, it was too late and he was killed when his Tesla went underneath the truck, came out the other side and ran into a pole.

While some reports indicate that in the many millions of autonomous car testing, this is the first death, it makes people wonder if they are entirely safe allowing their vehicle to do the driving for them. As a result of the Tesla crash, the company is breaking its relationship with Mobileye, which supplies the technology that is supposed to detect surroundings and brake or accelerate the car accordingly.

So are self-driving cars safe? Clearly more testing needs to be conducted to ensure that the systems in the vehicles work properly before the cars can be sold to the public. The Tesla incident makes it obvious that there are going to be glitches in the cars and human intervention is likely necessary in these instances. The trick is getting the timing and warning systems in place. For now, you can't drive a fully autonomous car on the streets, but they appear to be making headway in the safety realm and you could find them becoming more and more common in the months and years to come.

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