Recently, the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled “Who’s Behind the Wheel? Nobody.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443524904577651552635911824.html?KEYWORDS=who%27s+behind+the+wheel+nobody
The article suggests that robot driven cars are in our very near future because autopilots never get distracted, sleepy, angry, or intoxicated. The article summarizes research and testing of robot driven vehicles from big corporations like Google, Siemens, Volkswagen, Honda, Volvo, and Ford. Current testing of robot driven trucks demonstrate that they can follow at very close stopping distances forming long train-like caravans because the robots are all communicating through wireless networks regarding what lies ahead and the need to brake or slow down.
The research scientist conclude that use of such robot driving and communicating vehicles will significantly reduce accidents, reduce congested highways, and conserve fuel, however, it seems that the transition to robot driven cars may be a very difficult transition. Americans love their independence and nearly everyone polled believes themselves to be an above-average-driver, so will Americans really give up their right to steer their own car? What if only some drivers adopt the autopilot technology? Will the human-driven cars then become the most dangerous and unpredictable vehicles on the road? What if the government outlaws human drivers or creates financial incentives / disincentives so great that nobody can afford to drive their own car? If all cars on the road become robot driven and a serious auto accident occurs, due to a computer glitch or virus, then who is ultimately liable for the damages, injuries, and potential loss of life? These will be interesting questions that our future lawmakers will have to grapple with as we transition to robot driven cars.