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Self-driving cars face a tough road to acceptance

Self-driving cars are slowly but surely becoming a more common feature on the nation's roads, with manufacturers betting that the adoption of the technology will phase out car accidents due to human error. However, the cars have not been trouble-free so far, and there are further concerns about the risk of an accident involving self-driving cars. These issues have made Americans rather reluctant to fully support switching to self-driving cars for quite a few reasons.

When used properly, self-driving cars are generally safe. They are designed to constantly monitor surroundings, and the controller networks in the cars take all of the radar, GPS and camera information to make fast decisions about the actions to take in each moment. However, the humans using the car need to be aware of where the car is on the self-driving spectrum. Some are merely made with an autopilot-type system that still needs some human direction, while others are meant to be fully autonomous from human driving.

This lack of awareness led to the first reported death in a self-driving car, when a man watching a DVD in a self-driving car slammed into a trailer. The trailer did not register on the car's detection system because the bright sky and the trailer's color were not distinct enough from each other. But because the driver was not paying attention, he could not take control back from the car's network to stop in time.

There have also been minor, non-fatal accidents caused by issues like buggy software and error on the part of a human driving the other car in the accident. These highlight two of the main problems that people seem to have with adopting this technology: the lack of decision-making power and a lack of trust in how the car will react in a bad situation. People want to be able to control the car themselves, especially when faced with a situation in which the wrong move could lead to death. And there is a basic lack of trust that the car's computer would make the same decision a human driver might.

Liability in self-driving car accidents is also a thorny issue. Say a self-driving car swerves to avoid hitting people in the street and kills the person in the car, and the police determine that there would have been no way to prevent either the person in the car or someone on the street from dying. Does that mean the person's family can't sue the carmaker for wrongful death? Would the people in the street be liable at all if they were crossing against a light at the time of the accident?

In a perfect world, there wouldn't be any car accidents, and this is a goal of carmakers. But the safety and liability aspects of self-driving cars will continue to be sticking points with human drivers for the forseeable future. If you or a family member gets in a car accident, whether that accident involves a self-driving car or not, consult with a personal injury attorney who can help you secure the compensation you deserve to facilitate your recovery.  

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