Because cell phones have made us accessible 24 hours a day, it has become more difficult to disconnect from work or other obligations. On the other hand, you can now open an app from 300 miles away to see the stranger standing outside your front door, and newer refrigerators give you the ability to order groceries online right from the door panel to be delivered to your home. Technology has, in made ways, made our lives significantly better.
But what about our vehicles? They have been evolving from standard transmission, which requires the driver to be one with their car, to some now being able to parallel park themselves – and vehicle makers are not remotely finished.
While a big push behind the idea of autonomous vehicles is that they will make us safer, they just do not have enough of a track record yet to know whether accident numbers will drop substantially. They also pose some major concerns in terms of safety.
Hacking and software glitches
Computers get hacked and programs get viruses every day. These days, if your lane assist program goes offline, or your backup camera breaks, you are able to physically maneuver your vehicle to safety. When the computer controls the car, however, you lose that modicum of control. If the “glitch” controls your brakes, steering, or gas pedal, you may be powerless to stop a car crash, or to swerve out of the way.
The issue here, then, is one of liability: who is liable if you get into a car accident because the computer malfunctioned? It may be the manufacturer, as it would in a typical product liability claim. It may be another driver on the road, if he or she collided with you. It may be the local government, if the root of the crash was a defective or dangerous roadway. Once the computer controls the car, however, deciding who is liable may become more difficult than it normally would. And if the car is hacked, you could find yourself embroiled in a criminal investigation while law enforcement attempts to discover the culprit.
How vehicles “learn” may impede their ability to keep us safe
One of the more common refrains when it comes to driverless vehicles is how planes are flown on autopilot, and that the software has been proven safe; isn’t it safe to assume cars would be, too? Perhaps not. A recent piece in The Atlantic noted that autonomous vehicles use machine-learning algorithms, and that “[s]uch algorithms are harder to test because they rely on statistical techniques that are not deterministic. Several engineers have questioned how self-driving systems based on machine learning could be rigorously screened.”
In short, we cannot tell if the way self-driving cars “learn” can help keep us safe from collisions. Most companies rely solely on how many miles a car has traveled, as opposed to what the vehicles encountered and how they behaved during those miles. Without the data explaining what the manufacturers are looking for – how cars behave when wildlife enters a road, how trucks react to icy conditions, what the purpose of the test drives was, etc. – we cannot determine whether or not the drives were successful, nor if they were safe.
Can your car make you sick?
One risk that does not get mentioned as often is the increased exposure to radiation being given off by all of the electronic features added to vehicles. Those features have the ability to make you sick – really sick. Vision issues, high blood pressure, and shortness of breath are just a few of the symptoms you might experience.
Aside from immediate dangers that these features may pose, there is also an additional, perhaps unexpected, cost. When you need medical care more often, insurance companies take notice. When they see trends in insurance claims, every company raises rates for everyone in the pool. Whatever money you believe you may save on insurance could be eaten up in other ways.
You do not have to deal with the effects of an injury on your own. If you have been involved in a car accident related to technology failure, you need the knowledgeable attorneys of Harris Lowry Manton LLP on your side. Let us know how we can help you through our contact page, or call our Atlanta office at 404-961-7650 or our Savannah office at 912-651-9967 to schedule a free consultation.